Frej Wasastjerna



     He had decided not to buy a gun.

     He told himself that shooting a bullet through his brain would make such a mess. Would it ever be possible to clean all the stains from the walls of his room? And what about the bullet hole in the wall?

     However, the real reason was that he didn't want to wait. The gun shops wouldn't open until tomorrow. Moreover, on this side of the Atlantic he would have to get a license first, and he had no idea how long that would take.

     He had taken long enough to make up his mind and now he wanted to get it over with.

     It was already two weeks since Solveig's unexpected death, and she was buried and gone. At the funeral there had been plenty of her friends and relatives, plenty of the in‑laws he had never really gotten along with. He got along with them still less now, when they seemed to blame him for the heart attack that shouldn't have killed a thirty‑year‑old woman. On his own side there was only his brother, his sole living relative, to whom he was neither emotionally nor geographically close.

     For those two weeks he had staggered through life in a daze, so shocked that he couldn't even cry. The platitudes of the priest had done nothing to help.

     Now, on this Sunday afternoon, the truth was finally sinking in. At last he was beginning to realize fully that he would never see Solveig again, would never hear her voice or touch her skin. Never play with her in bed or laugh at a shared joke, never watch TV with her or stand beside her on the deck of a ship. Never. Ever.

     That was not to be borne.

     He had considered throwing himself in front of a car or a train, but, even if he succeeded in killing himself that way, it would be unfair to the driver. He didn't have any poison handy and didn't know how to get any. He could have taken a knife and slit his throat or wrist, but somehow he couldn't stand the idea of deliberately cutting himself.

     There was a better way. The mountain northeast of the town offered a solution. He could throw himself down the vertical west wall, three hundred meters of sheer cliff. It would be scary, but after eight seconds he would hit the ground. Sure, that would make a mess too, but a mess outdoors didn't seem half as bad as indoors.

     Besides, that way his suicide would be a pilgrimage at the same time. The mountain was where he had met Solveig, and they had often gone there together. What better place to end his life than the holy ground where she had walked?

     True, there was a fence blocking access to the cliff, but he could get through it with a wire cutter. He would have to check at the last moment that there was nobody below, but it was a good plan.

     He donned his coat, scarf and cap, put the wire cutter in his right coat pocket and began walking.


     The sun set while he was on his way up. For a while he stopped to admire the way the sea in the west gleamed like molten copper, but without Solveig beside him to share the view it seemed pointless. He went on.

     He met several people who were coming down, but he saw nobody else going up. Neither was there anybody still on top of the mountain, as far as he could see by the last faint glow of twilight when he reached the top. Good. He could cut the fence undisturbed.

     He was rather hot and winded, so he sat down on a bench. That was silly, of course. What would it matter if he was tired or not in the last few seconds before his death? Still, there was no particular hurry now that he could end his life in a few minutes whenever he chose, so he might as well sit for a while and remember the good times of his life. There, a little to the left, he had met Solveig the first time, and over there to the right they had first kissed.

     While he sat there, the stars came out. It was a beautiful, clear night. A good night to die.

     Eventually he stood up, pulled the wire cutter out of his pocket, walked up to the fence and began to consider where to cut it.

     Far away in front of him, a dot of light followed by a thin white streak moved from right to left for an instant and vanished: A meteor.

     He smiled a little. How nice of the world to provide a farewell salute for him.

     He began cutting. By the time he had cut a dozen meshes, he saw another meteor.

     This was curious. Then he remembered the date ‑‑ November 17th. It was time for the Leonid meteor swarm.

     He stepped back. Okay, his death could wait a little longer. He had seen only three meteors in his life before today. Since the Leonids were going to put on a display, he might as well appreciate that before he killed himself.

     That was a really impressive meteor ‑‑ bright orange with a thick tail.

     He went back to the bench and sat down again, gazing at the sky. He kept the wire cutter, his instrument of release, in his right hand, but he could wait a while.

     The night slowly grew darker. Here, far above the lights that prevented city dwellers from properly seeing the night sky, one could really see the stars. They were everywhere, countless tiny stars filling the gaps between the big ones that were all he had seen on most nights. Even the Milky Way was faintly visible.

     There it spread across the sky, a disc of billions of stars, so distant and numerous that they merged into an almost invisibly dim, tenuous band of light. Yet each of them was an unimaginably huge ball of hydrogen, fusing at its center into helium and heavier elements. And every once in a while, one of them would explode, scattering its substance into the interstellar void ‑‑ seeding the gas clouds from which further stars would be born with carbon and oxygen, silicon and iron, the stuff of planets and of life.

     The atoms of which he himself was made, likewise the bench on which he sat and the ground beneath him, had been forged in such stellar furnaces. They had been flung out in stupendous explosions, each outshining a hundred billion stars for a brief while, and become part of a cloud of dust and gas so vast that its tiniest promontory would have dwarfed anything he could visualize. Nearly five billion years ago, a small part of that cloud had formed the sun, and a still smaller part of the leftovers orbiting the newborn star had coalesced into the Earth. Now a few of them formed him, while others had recently constituted Solveig.

     And there was no way of knowing what manner of creatures they might form in the future.

     He sat there, a creature of starstuff, and watched other pieces of starstuff incinerate themselves in the upper atmosphere.

     He began to feel that he was in the presence of something numinous, something that transcended human understanding. And he was not separate from it. He was a part of it, as was everything around him ‑‑ every blade of grass, every worm, every grain of sand.

     Underlying the everyday world, the world of alarm clocks and stubbed toes, was something ineffable. Something that was not merely beauty or truth, love or mystery. Something that encompassed all those and extended far beyond, Something that no words could express, that one could only feel.

     He sat there for a long while in the cold clear November night.


     Finally he stood up, chilled through. He hesitated for a moment, then put the wire cutter in his pocket and turned to walk home.