Blue = Anders Bylund
Green = Måns Svensson
Amber sand stretched as far as the eye could see. To watch the horizon was to sink into eternity, to merge with the oneness of place and time. I had a stiff Manhattan in my trunk somewhere. I knew that it would be my problem to get something going before sunset, because all the others had slunk away, tails between their legs, the sound of their petty excuses fading, girls laughing in the distance while the real party was supposed to start behind my little tent. "Okay, Sebastian!" I said. "Time to rock n' roll!"
I gave my trusty Harley a quick glance.
The tent seemed emptier than before. Beads of various kinds everywhere. Where was my velvet handkerchief?
I was not the one who started this party. My modest plan had been to invite a handful of close friends to my flat for a drink and some potato chips or perhaps a pizza. Fire up the stove, lean back in the barcalounger, find a CD with some easy listening grooves, and chill out. That was pretty much it. By midnight, the karaoke machine might be brought into action. On the off chance that Jennifer and Ryan would show up, bringing three dozen of their hangers-on, things could of course turn hectic. However, I had no reason to expect anything more than the warm afterglow of a totally stunning soiree among friends when midnight brought with it Sebastian and Isabelle.
I was not prepared for the intimidating emptiness of this place.
From one horizon to another, just sand. Well, about three distinct varieties of sand, but that can hardly cause a commotion. My only friend during my childhood was a mop-topped brat from South Kensington, who always insisted that granulated quartz always was an appropriate although perhaps slightly overprized substitute for table salt or penicillin. When he was convicted, he just laughed and ordered another fliet mignon with extra sauce, like some overwrought and slightly francophiliac rennaisance man on some erratic errand in the Inner Hebrides or some similar Scottish archipelago. Judge Mendelgrump later said that he had to apply legal concepts almost unheard of to achieve the desired outcome.
"Six appeals from different groups reached this juncture in the last decade, and in every case, judiciary panels had no trouble settling their differences over martinis and consequently, I do not advocate groundbreaking innovation in this case," Mendelgrump said in his characteristic, high-pitched nasal whine. But that's not of relevance if you find yourself on the receiving end of a major seismic event of the kind I'm about to describe. But I'm digressing.
Sebastian had a certain knack for getting excited about the mundane, the prosaic, the trivial. Gravel became treasure in his mind; water an endless source of mystery. Once, he spent an entire afternoon watching cars go by underneath the walkway bridge connecting the industrial area on the outskirts of Detroit to the real world outside. His suggestion of going to a 7-11 just off 8 Mile Road just to observe some pebbles had fallen on deaf ears, his elaborate plan for a Mexican fiesta on on the road to to... Hey, gnarly echo! That was also one of his least apprieciated habits: long walks through reverberant ravines, with birds and the occasional lizard by his side but very little in terms of human companionship. Actually, his regard for such lonely walkabouts through the desolate countryside was quite the stir in social circles. It wasn't rare for local joggers and strollers to join him on Wednesday mornings, if nothing else as target practice for fun and potential profit. Rancid potatoes or rotten tomatoes, moldy banana from health-conscious Anna or even some truly disgusting inane prose; all of these and more came to mind unbidden like a long forgotten childhood friend who shows up on your doorstep, asking for permission to operate on your kidneys with a rusty hand pruner.
So, here I was looking in from the outside like some dubious character in one of Raymond Chandler's justly forgotten attempts at the classic Bildungsroman, such as the one about some poor guy who spent sixteen weeks, trapped in