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Shadows in the Twilight

Henning Mankell

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12


  Translated by Laurie Thompson

  This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

  ISBN 9781849398176

  Version 1.0

  First published in English in 2007 by

  Andersen Press Limited,

  20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SWIV 2SA

  Copyright © 1990 by Henning Mankell

  Original title: Skuggorna växer i skymningen

  First published in Swedish

  by Rabén & Sjögren Bokförlag,

  Stockholm, in 1991.

  Published by agreement with Norstedts Agency

  This translation © Laurie Thompson, 2007.

  This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

  British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data available

  ISBN: 9781849398176

  Version 1.0

  The publication of this work was supported by a grant from the

  Swedish Institute

  Cover design by Nick Stearn


  I have another story to tell.

  The story of what happened next, when summer was over. When the mosquitoes had stopped singing and the nights turned cold.

  Autumn set in, and Joel Gustafson had other things to think about. He hardly ever went to his rock by the river, to gaze up at the sky.

  It was as if the dog that had headed for its star no longer existed.

  Or perhaps it had never existed? Had it all been a dream?

  Joel didn't know. But in the end he decided it was all to do with the fact that he'd soon be twelve. After his twelfth birthday he'd be too big to sit on a rock and dream about a strange dog that might never have existed in the real world.

  Reaching the age of twelve was a great event. It would mean there were only three years to go before his fifteenth birthday. Then he'd be able to ride a moped and watch films in the Community Centre that children were not allowed to see. When you were fifteen you were more of a grown-up than a child.

  These were the thoughts whirring around in Joel's head one afternoon in September, 1957. It was a Sunday, and he'd set out on an expedition into the vast forest that surrounded the little northern Swedish town he lived in.

  Joel had decided to test if it was possible to get lost on purpose. At the same time he had two other important questions to think through. One was whether it would have been an advantage to have been born a girl, and called Joella instead of Joel. The other was what he was going to do when he grew up.

  Needless to say, he hadn't mentioned any of this to his dad, Samuel. He'd been curled up by the kitchen window, watching Samuel get shaved. As Samuel always cut himself while shaving, Joel had decided long ago that he would grow a beard when he grew up. Once, when he'd been alone in the house, he'd carefully drawn a black beard on his face, using the burnt end of a stick of wood from the stove. To find out what it felt like to have hair on his face, he'd also wrapped a fox fur round his cheeks. He'd decided that having a beard was better than repeatedly cutting his face with a razor. But he hoped his beard wouldn't smell like a fox.

  When Samuel had finished shaving, he'd put on his best suit. Then Joel had knotted his tie for him.

  Now Samuel was ready to pay a visit to Sara, who had a day off from her work as a waitress in the local bar.

  Now he's going to say that he won't be late, Joel thought.

  'I won't be late,' said Samuel. 'What are you going to do with yourself this afternoon?'

  Joel had prepared an answer to that question in advance.

  'I'm going to do a jigsaw puzzle,' he said. 'That big one with the Red Indian chief, Geronimo. The one with 954 pieces.'

  Samuel eyed him up and down thoughtfully.

  'Why don't you go out to play?' he asked. 'It's lovely weather.'

  'I want to complete the puzzle against the clock,' said Joel. 'I'm going to try to set a new record. It took me four hours last time. Now I'm going to do it in three.'

  Samuel nodded, and left. Joel waved to him through the window. Then he took out an old rucksack he kept under his bed and packed some sandwiches. He'd put the kettle on to boil while he was doing that, and when it was ready he made some tea and poured it into Samuel's red thermos flask.

  Borrowing Samuel's thermos flask was a bit risky. If he broke it or lost it, Samuel would be angry. Joel would be forced to produce a lot of complicated explanations. But it was a risk he would have to take. You couldn't possibly set out on an expedition without a thermos flask.

  Last of all he took his logbook from the case where the sailing ship Celestine was displayed, collecting dust. He closed his rucksack, pulled on his wellingtons and put on his jacket. He cleared the stairs in three jumps – it had taken him four only six months ago.

  The sun was shining, but you could feel it was autumn. To get to the forest as quickly as possible, Joel decided that the Red Indian Chief Geronimo was lying in ambush with his warriors behind the Co-operative Society's warehouse. So he would have to proceed on horseback. He geed himself up, imagined that his boots were the newly-shod hooves of a dappled pony, and set off across the street. The reddish-brown goods wagons in the railway siding were rocks he could hide behind. Once he got that far, Geronimo and his braves would never be able to catch up with him. And just beyond there was the forest . . .

  When he'd reached the trees he closed down the game. Nowadays he thought that his imagination was something he could turn on or off like a water tap. He went into the forest.

  As the sun was already low in the sky, it seemed to be twilight in among the trees. The shadows were growing longer and longer among the thick trunks.

  Then the path petered out. There was nothing but forest all around him.

  Just one more step, Joel thought. If I take one more step the whole world will disappear.

  He listened to the sighing of the wind.

  Now he would practise getting lost. He would do something nobody had ever done before. He would prove that it wasn't only people who took a wrong turning that could get lost.

  A crow suddenly flew up from a high branch. It made Joel jump, as if it had been perched just beside him. Then silence fell once more.

  The crow had scared him. He took a quick pace backwards and made sure that the world was still there. He hung his rucksack on a projecting branch then took ten paces in a straight line in front of him, in among the trees. Then ten more. When he turned round he could no longer see his rucksack. He clo
sed his eyes and spun round and round to make himself dizzy and lose his sense of direction. When he opened his eyes, he had no idea which direction he ought to take. Now he was lost.

  There wasn't a sound all around him. Only the sighing of the wind.

  He suddenly wanted to pack it all in.

  Pretending you could get lost on purpose was an impossible game. It was being childish, and somebody who would soon be twelve years old couldn't allow himself to indulge in such silliness.

  It struck Joel that this might be the big difference. That he would no longer be able to make believe.

  He located his rucksack and returned to the road. He thought more about whether it would have been better if he'd been born a girl instead of a boy. What would be best, a Joel or a Joella?

  Boys were stronger. And the games they played were more fun than those played by girls. When they grew up they had more exciting jobs. Even so, he wasn't sure. What was really best? Having a beard that smelled like a fox fur? Or having breasts that bounced up and down inside your jumper? Giving birth to children, or making children? Tickling or being tickled?

  He trudged home without being able to make up his mind. He kicked hard at a stone. It had not been a good Sunday. When he got home he would write in his logbook that it had been a very bad day. He had no desire to do the Geronimo puzzle either. He had no desire to do anything at all. And tomorrow he would have to go back to school.

  He bit his tongue as hard as he could, to make the day even worse. There was nothing he hated more than not knowing what to do next.

  Life was a long series of Nexts. He had worked that out already. The trick was to make sure that the next Next was better than the previous one. But everything had gone wrong today.

  He opened the gate into the overgrown garden of the house where he lived.

  There were lots of red berries on the rowan tree.

  The sun was just setting behind the horizon on the other side of the river.

  Nothing happens, Joel thought.

  Nothing ever happens in this dump.

  But he was wrong.

  The next day, which was a Monday with fog and drizzle, something happened that Joel could never have imagined in his wildest dreams.

  He would experience a Miracle.


  The day couldn't have begun any better for Joel.

  When his dad, Samuel, shook him by the shoulder shortly after seven o'clock, he'd been having a nightmare. He'd dreamt that he was on fire. Sizzling flames had been shooting out of his nostrils, just like a fire-spitting dragon. His fingers were blue, a bit like the welding flames he'd seen at the Highways Department workshops, where he used to have his skates sharpened in the winter. Being on fire didn't hurt. Even so, he had felt terrified and wanted nothing more than to wake up. It wasn't until Samuel touched his shoulder that the flames were extinguished. He gave a start and sat up in bed.

  'What's the matter?' asked Samuel.

  'I don't know,' said Joel. 'I was dreaming that I was on fire.'

  Samuel frowned. Joel knew his father didn't like him having nightmares. Perhaps it was because Samuel himself sometimes had bad dreams? Joel had often been woken up in the middle of the night by Samuel shouting and screaming in his sleep.

  One of these days Joel would ask his father about his dreams. He'd noted that down on the last page of his logbook, where he had listed all the questions he didn't yet have an answer to.

  But everything had been fine this morning. Joel felt very relieved when he realised he'd only been dreaming. The fire had never actually existed. He was usually in a bad mood when he woke up and had to get out of bed. The cork tiles on the floor were far too cold for his bare feet. And then he could never find his clothes. His socks were always inside out and his shirt buttons wouldn't fit into their holes. In Joel's opinion the people who made clothes for children were wicked. How else could you explain the fact that nothing went right when you were in a hurry to get dressed and it was freezing cold in the room?

  But this morning everything went much more smoothly. And when he went to the kitchen he found two little boxes of pastilles by the side of his cup of hot chocolate.

  'They're from Sara,' said Samuel, who was busy combing his tousled hair in front of the cracked shaving mirror.

  Two packs of pastilles when you've narrowly escaped burning to death? And on a Monday morning?

  It seemed to Joel that he was in for a good day. And it became even better when he opened the little boxes and took out the enclosed picture cards: they were of two footballers he didn't have in his collection. Joel collected footballers. Nothing else. He sometimes hit the roof when he opened a pack of pastilles and found a picture of a wrestler. That was the worst thing that could happen to him. Flabby wrestlers who were always called Svensson. And their first name was nearly always Rune.

  But this morning he had found two footballers at the same time.

  'Call in at the bar on the way home from school,' said Samuel as he put on his jacket. 'Sara will be pleased to see you.'

  'Why has she given me them?' Joel wondered.

  'She likes you,' said Samuel. 'Surely you know that?'

  He paused in the doorway and turned round.

  'Don't forget to buy some potatoes,' he said. 'And milk.'

  'I won't,' said Joel.

  It was good to hear that Sara liked him. Even though she wasn't his mum, and her breasts were too big and she smelled of sweat. Of course, it wasn't as good as hearing his mother Jenny saying it. But Jenny didn't exist. She had disappeared. And as long as she didn't exist, until Samuel and Joel had found her, Sara was welcome to say that she liked him.

  As usual, he dawdled for so long over his cup of hot chocolate that he would be forced to run in order to get to school on time. Miss Nederström didn't like pupils arriving late. If she was really angry, or if you had been late over and over again, she sometimes twisted your ear and it hurt so much that you had to struggle to hold back the tears. But she only did that to boys. She didn't bother about girls turning up late. That was why Joel sometimes asked himself if it would have been better to be a girl called Joella Gustafson.

  He put on his outdoor clothes, slung his satchel over his shoulder, locked the door and hid the key under Samuel's boots on the landing. He almost cleared the stairs in two-and-a-half jumps and sped off in the direction of school. He had three possible routes to choose from. Today he chose the one along Blixtens gata. He only went that way when he was very late. It was straight and dull, and only involved one short cut, over the courtyard behind the chemist's. But it was the shortest route.

  He ran as fast as he could, and arrived dead on time. Miss Nederström was just about to close the door when he came racing up.

  'Good for you, Joel,' she said. 'I'm glad to see that you are making an effort to arrive on time.'

  School finished at two o'clock. Joel felt pleased with himself. He hadn't been asked any questions that he couldn't answer. And moreover, they'd had Geography, which was the subject he liked best. He liked it just as much as he hated maths. He hadn't a clue about numbers.

  It was the same story as with children's clothes. Whoever invented numbers must have been a wicked person.

  But the best part of the day was when Miss Nederström was angry with Otto because he hadn't been attending during a class. Joel didn't like Otto. Otto was his sworn enemy. He was at the very top of the list of people Joel hoped would always be in trouble. Otto was having to repeat a year, and never missed an opportunity of annoying people. To make matters worse, he was so strong that Joel couldn't get the better of him in the winter snowball fights.