Short Story: THE OLD PALACE (ca 2000 words)


I got lost. I guess that’s how a girl like me finds herself in this situation, in this place. I was on a vacation, but my parents couldn’t afford the all expenses paid, charter vacation to the Canary Islands so we took a road trip in Iceland.

It was just one of the reasons I was thankful for mobile Internet, Spotify and the iPhone I got for my birthday. I was the last teenager on the planet to get a proper phone. I got it for my sixteenth birthday. It had seen it’s best days, but it worked.

We drove the ring road and visited all the happening places, tourist attractions to the tiniest springs. We were going to get to know the country. (Boy, did I get to know the country!) So we stood together on the bank of waterfalls, no one but sheep had seen for two hundred years. We slept in hotels, which sounds nice in theory, but these places were usually cramped and pretty boring. There weren’t any teenagers there, just foreigners with large cameras and odd questions.

When we came to Dimmuborgir I was used to the whole deal, but I was a bit intrigued so I decided to go and look. I told my parents I’d walk by myself. I don’t know why I wanted to do that. I just did. I had a heavy metal playlist offline, so I put the headphones in my ears and I strolled about the place. It seemed fitting. 

I was supposed to be back by the car in an hour.

It became a lot longer than that.

I got lost. I got impossibly lost in a place I don’t know the first thing about and that’s never a good thing, but in Iceland it’s devastating.

There are… there were pathways, and ropes that tell you where you could and could not walk and I didn’t break a single rule. Not that I noticed. Yet somehow, suddenly, I was a lot closer to some mountains, I didn’t even remember seeing before.

It was as if I stepped into another place, except I didn’t quite notice it right away. It was the same kind of landscape. There were no ropes, no signs and yet the lava structures surrounded me, except these looked even bigger and scarier than before. Or maybe it was just because I was lost that I thought that.

Because when the hour was almost up and I was going to head back I noticed, of course then it was too late. I turned around and tried to get back, but the path I was on just led me in circles around these big lava structures and there was no sign of anyone, or anything I recognised.

I panicked and ran around screaming, but to no avail.

And then it started to get dark.

I was a modern teenager, it doesn’t make me stupid. So when I noticed the light in the distance I was sceptic from the beginning. I wasn’t in a position not to seek help though, but I approached the old palace with skepticism and caution. I swear I did.

I guess I never stood a chance.

I have heard the stories, I know why they re-route roads around stones in this country so not to disturb the elves. I’ve heard the ghost stories. I even performed as Garún in a play in high school. I was informed, afraid and skeptic, but I had to get help so I walked towards the light. That’s what everyone would have done.

It took me a while to get there, but even in the dark I saw that this place had been a fantastic palace, once upon a time. More fantastic than anything that ever could have been built in this country, I’m sure. 

Yet there it was, half sunken in the dark sand and there was a light emanating from one of the towers. The image was impossible and strikingly beautiful, at least if you’re into dark palaces that, if you read too much, can only be a home to monsters, ghosts or evil overlords.

I had two choices, I could try to head back but by that time back could be in any direction. Have you ever been lost in a desert? That’s kind of what being lost in Iceland is like, and this place didn’t feel right at all. So of two bad choices, I did decide to move forward. I think you’d have done the same, whatever age you are. Don’t you think so? It was the difference between being all alone and the chance of getting help.

So I snuck into the palace.

It was old. I almost turned in my tracks when I saw the dust that covered everything. Things were all over the place, old looking tables upside down, broken chairs, vases, chandeliers hanging by a thread and rubble everywhere.

I entered through a window and the lighting was bad, but I knew I would have to find stairs to get to the source of light. I still had battery in my phone, but I didn’t want to waste it and I could see enough to find my way. I don’t know why I wasn’t more afraid then.

Please don’t call me brave, call me stupid, blond even. It was a blond thing to do (and I am blond). But I was desperate. I wanted to get back and I had spent quite some time roaming the landscape, crying for my mommy.

So up I went and when I saw the glimpse of light and the noise coming from one of the rooms I actually cheered.

He greeted me with such charm. God, how happy I felt at that moment and how safe! I hadn’t felt that safe since I was a baby girl and my mom was my entire life. He was dark and mysterious and he looked older, but not too old and he was wearing clothes like you imagined prince charming wearing when you were twelve.

I know now that I was enchanted. I still am. That’s what they do, you know? They charm you, even before you see them they charm you and they enchant you and they make you happier than you’ve ever felt in your life and who can resist that?

Not me.

There were other people there too, beasts, angels and monsters alike. I saw sights that would have scared me witless just hours before, but now I felt they were the most natural things in the world. Dark witches screeching in the air, singing a verse in demonic, white clad ladies dancing with men of all size and shapes, gazing into their eyes and then feeding on their necks. The music was charming, loud and it reminded me of the playlist I’d had in my headphones before I got lost.

He led me to the dance floor and instead of asking for help I danced with him. I was powerless in his arms and I could dance, that makes it almost worth all this, the dancing, it’s wonderful. 

It wasn’t until later that I remembered that I had come here for help. I tried to ask him, but he evaded my questions and showed me to a room where I was to rest. He gave me bread with cheese and wine and I ate and once you’ve eaten of their food, you are lost forever. 

And I was tired, I had been walking for a long time and when I saw the bed I just lay down in it and fell asleep. He must have taken my shoes off, because I know I didn’t and they were lying next to my bed when I woke up.

The palace looked different in the dusk.

I panicked when I realised that I had slept through the entire day. It was turning dark again. It’s the beauty about this place, daytime kind of passes you by in a slumbering haze. You sleep and when you wake up it’s time to dance and the spooks come to howl and the witches sing in their tongues and he comes with gifts for me. Dresses fit for a fairytale princess, golden rings and glass shoes. Except it isn’t worth it when you realise that the palace is just an illusion and that you’re stuck in the lava structure, in the mountain, and you are there to stay. There is no turning back to the real world, the other world.

I can roam the landscape all I want. It is of no use, I can never go back to where I came from. All I can do is find happiness in this place, I guess. Or I can live my life in quiet resentment. There is no getting out of here. I know because I’ve tried. I escaped the palace, that part was easy, but there is no civilisation out there. Somehow I’ve crossed over to their hidden world. I am one of the hidden people now and, as far as I know, there is no getting back from that.

I got lost and now I’m in the old palace. During the day it looks old and broken, but in the nighttime there is life here, and so much joy. The spooks they know how to party and the witches dance with the demons in a way you couldn’t even imagine. The hidden people host the place, they are beautiful and they wouldn’t harm a fly unless it crossed them.

I don’t know who crossed who to get me here. Maybe he just decided that I would like him as much as he likes me. Love at first sight? Over the hidden boundaries? It’s kind of romantic if you think about it. 

I will always miss my parents though. I will miss the world I came from. I will always be looking for the escape route, in case there is one. But I won’t live my life in quiet resentment. Whatever it is, I like it here. And if I’m lucky I will be able to sneak a peak into the other world once the others trust me.

And when the white lady enters from the ground, hovers up from underneath the floor and into the air and declares the night at an end I feel sadness, just like the others do. She has silky hair and her wings are beautiful and she always wears the prettiest gowns.

Not that this is a fashion competition, but she is quite stunning.

She is the evil that keeps us here. She is the grace that keeps us here. And when we dance to the sound of the demonic melody, we wouldn’t change this for the world.

It’s only in the evil hours of the dusk that we remember who we were, where we came from and what we lost, it’s only during those moments that we long for it all again.

I am one of the hidden people and when I see you treading on my land, over stepping your boundaries I might do to you what was done to me. I might pull you in and show you the vastness of the ghostly world we live in. I will tell you the sad story of the old palace, this mountain, and I will make you relive it as I have.

It’s where it all comes together, though, the wicked, the white and the holy with the unholy – and this world is ours, overstep your boundaries and you will become one of us.

I dare you.

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