THE LOCATION: BLACKEBERG
It makes you think of coconut-frosted cookies, maybe drugs. ‘A respectable life.’ You think subway station, suburb. Probably nothing else comes to mind. People must live there, just like they do in other places. That was why it was built, after all, so that people would have somewhere to live. It was not a place that developed organically, of course. Here everything was carefully planned from the outset. And people moved into what had been built for them. Earth- coloured concrete buildings, scattered about in the green fields.
When this story begins, Blackeberg the suburb had been in existence for thirty years. One could imagine that it had fostered a pioneer spirit. The Mayflower; an unknown land. Yes. One can imagine all those empty buildings waiting for their occupants. And here they come! Marching over the Traneberg Bridge with sunshine and the future in their eyes. The year is 1952. Mothers are carrying their little ones in their arms or pushing them in prams, holding them by the hand. Fathers are not carrying picks and shovels but kitchen appliances and functional furniture. They are probably singing something. The Internationale, perhaps. Or ‘We Come unto Jerusalem’, depending on their predilection.
It is big. It is new. It is modern. But that wasn’t the way it was.
They came on the subway. Or in cars, moving vans. One by one. Filtered into the finished apartments with their ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼things. Sorted their possessions into the measured cubbies and shelves, placed the furniture in formation on the cork floor. Bought new things to fill the gaps. When they were done they lifted their eyes and gazed out onto this land that had been given unto them. Walked out of their doors and found that all the land had been claimed. Might as well adjust oneself to how things were.
There was a town centre. There were spacious play- grounds allotted to children. Large green spaces around the corner. There were many pedestrian-only walking paths. A good place. That’s what people said to each other over the kitchen table a month or so after they had moved in. ‘It’s a good place we’ve come to.’
Only one thing was missing. A past. At school the children didn’t get to do any special projects about Blackeberg’s history because there wasn’t one. That is to say, there was something about an old mill. A tobacco king. Some strange old buildings down by the water. But that was a long time ago and without any connection to the present. Where the three-storeyed apartment buildings now stood there had been only forest before.
You were beyond the grasp of the mysteries of the past; there wasn’t even a church. Nine thousand inhabitants and no church.
That tells you something about the modernity of the place, its rationality. It tells you something of how free they were from the ghosts of history and of terror. It explains in part how unprepared they were. No one saw them move in.
In December when the police finally managed to track down the driver of the moving truck he didn’t have much to tell. In his records he had only noted ‘18 October: Norrköping-Blackeberg (Stockholm)’. He recalled that it was a father and daughter, a pretty girl.
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼‘Oh, and another thing. They had almost no furniture. A couch, an armchair, maybe a bed. An easy job, really. And that ... yeah, they wanted it done at night. I said it would be more expensive, you know, with the overtime surcharge and that. But it was no problem. It just had to be done at night. That seemed real important. Has anything happened?’
The driver was informed of the events, of whom he had had in his truck. His eyes widened, he looked down again at the letters on the page.
‘I’ll be damned ...’
He grimaced as if he had developed a revulsion for his own handwriting.
18 October: Norrköping-Blackeberg (Stockholm).
He was the one who had moved them in. The man and his daughter.
He wasn’t going to tell anyone about it, not for as long as he lived.
Extracted from Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist, published by Quercus.