"So this is goodbye." Birgitta Jónsdóttir swallowed hard against the lump in her throat, her eyes burning with unshed tears.
The tears were reflected in the eyes of her sister Brynhildur, three years her senior. Brynhildur was twenty-nine now, and she had lost her husband, Sigurd Tollasson, three years earlier. The official coroner's report had been a stroke, but Brynhildur, Gitta, and their younger brother Böðvar knew better. They all had the gift, and Sigurd did as well. And for the last five years, they had all been hunted. For Gitta and Böðvar, it had just been in their dreams. But for Brynhildur and Sigurd, they were being visited by supernatural entities on occasion, and one had finally killed Sigurd.
Gitta thought back to their conversation almost a month ago.
"It's only a matter of time before they come for you," Brynhildur warned them. "There's something about the land here... draws them. You need to leave Iceland, both of you."
Böðvar had opted to go across the world, to Australia, and he'd left for Sydney just before Halloween. Gitta had finally opted on Scotland.
"Are you quite sure you won't come with me?" Gitta folded her arms. "Or at least let me take the children?"
"I can fight them," Brynhildur said. "I can protect them. You'd just be putting yourself in more danger."
Gitta wasn't so sure of that. Brynhildur hugged her then, holding her tight, as if to let her feel the strength in her arms. "See, I can crush a bear," Brynhildur chuckled.
Then Brynhildur called to her children, who had been playing in the living room. "Magnús, Dagnýr, Sören, come say goodbye to your aunt Gitta."
The three shuffled in. Dagnýr hugged her first, followed by Magnús, and then finally little Sören, who came forth slowly, shyly, his dark eyes wide and solemn. Gitta could feel the sadness in him more strongly than the other two, as if he could sense something was very, very wrong, that despite his mother and aunt's attempts at keeping the news of the move on the up-and-up, Sören knew perfectly damn well it was an emergency. For a four-year-old he was much too serious - as one would expect, having already lost his father. Seeing his mother sad all the time. He was also an exceptionally smart boy, with an advanced level of reading and vocabulary for his age, he even knew a little English. But even expected, it was heartbreaking. He was quiet, withdrawn.
He had his hands behind his back, and when Gitta opened her arms for a hug, Sören opened his arms to reveal a sheet of paper in his hands. Gitta took it and saw, in brightly colored crayon, a drawing of a sheep wearing a kilt.
"Awwwww, thank you, Sören!" She tousled his unruly mop of curls and bent to kiss the top of his head. "You're such a dear boy."
"You like it?" His small voice sounded like he was worried she wouldn't.
"I love it. I'm going to hang it up as soon as I get to Scotland."
A little mischievous smile. "Hi going to hang it up as soon as -"
"My god, Sören." Brynhildur tweaked his nose, and Sören's smile became a grin. It was so rare to see him joke that Gitta found it much funnier than she normally would have.
"I like making you laugh," Sören said to Gitta. "You're so sad."
The tears threatened to come now; Gitta blinked them back. Realizing she probably wasn't going to see much of Sören growing into a young man was hitting her hard. "So are you, little one."
"I know. But it makes me happy when I can make other people happy."
Gitta and Brynhildur both hugged him then, and Magnús and Dagnýr stopped play-fighting for a moment to come over and join in the hug.
"Can we come visit you?" Dagnýr asked finally, his eyes hopeful.
"I'd like that," Gitta said, patting him.
"Maybe," Brynhildur said, giving Gitta a nervous glance. Not until they stop coming for the children. Then I'm just putting you in danger.
I doubt that.
You weren't there when Sigurd died.
It felt like the temperature in the room was rising. There was a flash of images across Gitta's mind's eye, too quick, but in the end she saw the shadow demons swarming him, his last breath. She had to close her eyes, shivering despite the heat.
They drove to the airport, where Gitta would be taking a flight to Reykjavik, and then to Edinburgh, to start her life anew. Hugged for the last time, and then Gitta turned, not looking back, because she knew if she looked back she'd run, insisting to stay, or insisting they come with her. And she wasn't going to fight her sister on this, much as she wanted to. Brynhildur was terrified, and this was the only way she could take back some semblance of control.
And yet, as she flew across the Atlantic Ocean, looking down at the choppy waters from her window seat, she knew she would never see her sister again.
Forty-year-old Ion Nicolae Dooku frowned at the calendar as he and a few of his other colleagues gathered around the water cooler. "I wonder where Tony is," Dooku mused aloud, Tony being a fellow defense barrister and the only other one of them who seemed to have a moral compass. Dooku admired the older man, respected their shared sense of justice, the belief that everyone had the right to a fair trial, that it was better to defend one hundred guilty people than let one wrong innocent person be unlawfully convicted, and to be able to set an example to their clients, who were often on the wrong side of the law due to classism, helping them make connections to get on the right path.
Tony had given some hints that he'd admired him in a non-professional sense. Dooku wasn't blind, and he'd known for some time that he played for the home team, but he didn't do anything about it. He couldn't. It would be career suicide, even if Tony wasn't a colleague. He couldn't risk being outed. So he was never anything more than cordially professional. No dating. No sex.
Dooku was never anything more than cordially professional with anyone, and at nearly forty-one it was wearing on him, but he was married to his job. This was how it had to be.
Sure enough, what followed next reinforced why his life was the way it was. "You didn't hear?" William Hughes said, raising an eyebrow.
"He's in hospital, dying of AIDS." William snorted into his glass of water. "Fucking queer. Glad I won't have to share an office with that anymore."
Dooku fought the urge to tell William that he shouldn't be gleeful at anyone's death, least of all from AIDS, which was a horrible way to die. But he knew if he said anything, he would start to be looked upon with suspicion, and he couldn't afford that. So he said nothing, and felt disgusted by it.
When he came home that evening, alone as usual, he drank, which was not usual. He thought of how he'd dodged that bullet altogether by ignoring Tony's interest, he thought of how he worked with a bunch of bigots, he thought bitterly that the world he lived in would rather condemn people to death for their sexual orientation rather than work on finding a cure for AIDS, and he was perhaps better off alone if humanity was like this.
I need to go on vacation. Dooku pinched the bridge of his nose. His forty-first birthday was coming up in December. He would have some paid leave time. He looked at some travel brochures that he'd taken when he'd entertained the idea over the summer, and of course, hadn't. The Bahamas. Australia. France. West Germany. Which was, as he watched the BBC news with his whisky, about to become just Germany. The Wall was falling.
His parents, dead for some time now, who had come to the UK from Romania after the tyranny of the Nazis, not wanting to live under the new tyranny of communism, would have rejoiced if they could see this now, the Iron Curtain almost a thing of the past.
They would not rejoice to know that he was still unmarried, with no heir, a deeply closeted, celibate homosexual. But they had never rejoiced in his existence. He told everyone he favored being called by his surname because his first name, Ion, was the name of his Nazi collaborator uncle (though he'd been named for his great-grandfather, also), but the truth was he was "you" or "it" to his parents unless he was going to the woodshed, then they used his given name.
I suppose that's why I endure. I'm used to not being loved.
Dooku raised a glass to the screen, to couples kissing, celebrating wildly in West Berlin. "At least someone's happy."
West Berlin, West Germany
Marcus Lauer was with the crowd singing songs, waving their lighters as people from East Berlin scaled the Wall.
Marcus Lauer's name was not actually Marcus Lauer, and it was not the first time he had seen the end of a government regime, the end of an era. It was not even the tenth or the twentieth time.
People were actually flying balloons now, and Maglor heard himself joining in with
Hast du etwas Zeit für mich?
Dann singe ich ein Lied für dich
Von neunundneunzig Luftballons
Auf ihrem Weg zum Horizont
Denkst du vielleicht grad an mich?
Dann singe ich ein Lied für dich
Von neunundneunzig Luftballons
Und dass sowas von sowas kommt
Auf ihrem Weg zum Horizont
Hielt man für Ufos aus dem All
Darum schickte ein General
'ne Fliegerstaffel hinterher
Alarm zu geben, wenn's so wär
Dabei war'n dort am Horizont
Nur neunundneunzig Luftballons
There was beer going around - of course there was. Someone was giving him free beer. Maglor was more of a wine drinker, but he accepted; when in Germany, do as the Germans do. "Danke."
And it seemed like a good time to drink. Most people were drinking to celebrate, and Maglor wasn't unhappy about the Wall falling... he was unhappy about living through yet another profound moment in history, a painful reminder that more time had passed since the death of his family, than the time he had spent with them while living.
He felt very, very, very old. And of course, no one around could know that. He had to pretend to be like everyone else.
The November night was cold, and the alcohol was warming, but there was a chill in his bones, like the fire inside him was starting to die. He was getting very tired of this life.
He looked up at the stars, a silent prayer to his family... those he kept alive in the Song, making himself go on for that.
Father, Uncle, I wish you were here. I could endure this, if you were. You'd like Berlin. You would especially like Berlin, Father. So many artists.
He closed his eyes.
Even though the November night was cold, Dooku needed some air, and a few moments of quiet contemplation, so he stood out in his small, picket-fenced yard, looking up into the night sky, though the light pollution in London was such that he couldn't see so many stars.
I wish I were of an age where I could wish for things and not feel bloody stupid about it.
He sighed. He knew what his deepest wish was, the one he could not name. But he had no hope of ever finding that.
Dagnýr liked to go out and wave goodnight to the stars before bed, and Sören would go with his twin brother. They would often just stand or sit there for a few minutes, mesmerized, no matter how many times they'd seen the sky, a sea of stars in an area where there wasn't much light pollution.
"I wonder if aunt Gitta is looking at it too," Sören said.
"She's probably in bed now. Scotland's in another time zone," Dagnýr said matter-of-factly.
For all the people who said Sören was smart for his age, he felt positively dumb next to his twin. He looked down at his little boots in the snow. "I guess."
"Hey look, a shooting star!" Dagnýr pointed. "Wow, I wonder if it's a spaceship."
"Maybe one of the gods is farting." Sören made a fart noise.
Dagnýr gave him a look. "Sören, that isn't scientific."
"No, but it's funny." Sören made another fart noise.
"You know the ancient Greeks and Romans thought the planets were gods?"
"Is that why they're called gas giants?"
"Come on, make a wish." Sören tugged on Dagnýr's sleeve. "We're gonna be five soon! Wish for something good for our birthday!"
"Why not dream big? Why not for when we're thirty-five?"
Sören's mouth made a tiny o. "Oh my god, Dag, that's old."
"When I'm thirty-five, I wanna be a scientist," Dagnýr said, "and teach people about space, and... stuff."
"When I'm thirty-five, I wanna be. Uh." Sören scratched his head. Then he grinned, thinking of just what would annoy his brother. "I wanna be a god, so I can fart on mean people who do bad things." He made another fart noise.
"Bloody hell, Sören."
"Dagnýr, LANGUAGE!" Brynhildur called from the doorstep. "Now come inside, it's cold out."
"Race you," Sören said, and he and Dagnýr ran to the door, with Dagnýr beating him, Sören wheezing a little when he walked in.
"You OK?" Dagnýr gave him a concerned look and put an arm around him; Sören nodded.
"Bedtime now." Brynhildur ushered them into their room, where the covers were already turned down.
Once they were tucked in, she began to sing, in English.
There's a lady who's sure
All that glitters is gold
And she's buying a stairway to heaven
When she gets there she knows
If the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for
Oh oh oh oh and she's buying a stairway to heaven