Saturday 24 June 2017

'Traces' by Anniken Blomberg

Gelis Ker speaks to the elements.

There’s fire, burning her temples. There’s water; the base element of the substance trickling out her mouth—entwined with beautiful scarlet thread. There’s air, hovering outside her mouth. She needs to draw in more of it to push her words out. They’ll help her. They’ll unwind the bloodied yarn of her words to the end. When the last bit of thread falls from her lips, she’s spent. She’ll tell them everything. She’ll soar in the telling—high above her broken body.

Gelis Ker talks while their shadows loom and oscillate above her.

They burned Gelis Ker on Castle Hill, but first they strangled her. Locked her breath inside with the last of her words. Out of mercy, they said, to spare her the skin-nip of fire. On the day of the burning they stood with other onlookers and watched her body’s disintegration, its silent subjugation to flame.

But the ash of Gelis Ker was not the light, grey dust off a cold bonfire. More like fatty soot of the kind that sticks to surfaces next to cooking areas and the insides of pots and pans. Smears the collar and hems of shirts and skirts and the circumference of body hair.

Perhaps they stood to close to the fire when Gelis Ker burned. Whatever way it was, her charred traces stuck, and they never managed to wash them off. Fine particles coated the fleeting impressions of their senses: every sound tainted with pinpricks of her voice, every dawn dotted with black specks.

Gelis Ker chants in their dreams. Dreams where they wind blood-red yearn on to large spools, thread emerging from the mouth of a woman just off their field of vision. As they work they know they’re doomed. Yarn-winders for eternity. 

They burned Gelis Ker, but she’ll outlast them.

In their dreams she licks their skin. Every swipe of her tongue burns like hellfire and leaves a sensation of marching ants in its wake.

The outside world knows nothing of these internal lashing and torments. The incessant nibbling away at their immortal souls by millions of crawling things, the doors of their sanity rattling on rusted hinges. To the outside world they just look faded and thin, languid flames draped across the edges of sooty candle stumps.

And in the end they just go out, one after the other, without fuss, without words. What is left is just a thin tail of smoke that in vain it tries to ride air and ascend to the ceiling. Instead it sinks to the floor and dissipates. Leaving almost no trace, not even enough dust for a fingerprint.


  1. Love the line, 'But the ash of Gelis Kerr was not the light, grey dust of a bonfire.' Wonderful

  2. One of those stories where the seething anger of billions, oppressed and silenced over millennia, is palpable. Fluid but also direct, lyrical without floridity. A poetic punch to the gut.


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