The Crime Readers' Association

White Night

by Kate Evans

The white nights will send you crazy. The nights with a Magritte sky over the shadowed hills and fjord. The sun doesn’t fall below the horizon, its orange claw scrapes across the pale blue firmament as it resists its descent.

The white nights will send you crazy. The light after so many months of darkness calls for action, for movement, perpetual motion. ‘Just do it’ and ‘Try and stop me’ are emblazoned on the stocky runners’ t-shirts. I would get a similar for myself if I were more substantial. I haven’t grown as I ought in this Nordic land of healthy living. I remain as I was when you left me here all those years ago. I have a life, of course I do, or should I say a routine. Life suggests vivacity, a get-up-and-go. My lovely long-limbed, sleek-fleshed, blonde-haired neighbours have that in spades. Me? I have my schedule. Which the white nights throw completely.

I watch a man spit milk at a beggar this morning on Marken. The beggar sits there every day, his face a walnut shell trimmed by a snowy straggle of hair. Most people walk past him as he utters his plea for clemency. The local café fills his water bottle for him. But this young white guy takes a mouthful of milk from the carton he is carrying and gobs it onto the pavement. Not on the old man. Or maybe he merely misses his mark? Why would he do such a thing? Is it where the old man comes from? His helplessness? His shameful lack of resources in such a resource-rich country? I want to give the beggar a few kroner to show I don’t agree with the attack. But I have so little myself. I try one of my best winning smiles. I can see his reminiscences clustering around him, a contorted sandstorm of figures suddenly blown apart. They reform, only to be torn asunder again. And so it replays, such is the nature of memory. The man snarls, possibly at me. He’s not easy to have compassion for.

The white nights will send you crazy. I walk the hills between Fløyen and Ulriken. I keep to the route, mostly, and there are plenty of others out there being sent crazy by the daylight at midnight. The grey granite rises steeply. There’s rowan, beech and birch on the lower slopes. These soon give way to the spruce and red pine under which the soft fronds of the ferns unfurl and bilberries ripen. Blackbird and coal tit chitter in the branches. Terns swoop silently over the still waters of the Blåmansvannet. A crow caws abrasively. Soon after the trees peter out leaving the naked rock scarred with lichen and moss. I have found my own paths which are safe to stray down, leading to the sheer drops; down, down to the fjord, a black mirror rippled with silver wire. I know the spots they choose, those sent crazy by the white nights. I know where they saunter too close and I am there waiting.

The fjord has its moods. Its surface turns from charcoal, to ivy, to forget-me-not, concealing its glacier-torn depth with a pleasing cloth. An uncareful step, a slip, and a body is gone. A body turns to bone before it is discovered. I am little more than a skeleton now, since you left me here. No flesh. Unremembered, unspoken of, the flesh loses its corpulence.

Since it is unlikely you will return to save me, I have my existence and I follow those who have misplaced the path, envious, let it be understood, of their lustrous flesh. I am made crazy by these white nights.


23rd June 1974, Associated Press, Breaking News
UK girl missing on the famous Vidden trail in the hills above Bergen, western Norway. The 18km walk runs from Fløyen to Ukriken and is a popular hike. The girl, Pippa Wilson, is said to be fifteen years old. She set off at 11pm midsummer night and has not been seen since. For reasons as yet unexplained, she was not reported missing until 11am this morning. A search has now been instituted.


I have no memory. I am memory. I am the thing itself. I am what you misplaced or deliberately ditched along the track. I grow weary and emaciated as I am dropped from your narrative, what you tell people about yourself. I am squeezed out by the passing years, by your intentional re-storying. I am the shameful moment you have tucked away so far down it is perhaps impossible to retrieve. I am jealous of those who are made flesh, again and again, by the words of others. You have been and remain negligent of me. You are doubly negligent.

That is what I accuse you of. Yet, perhaps I am unfair, a memory needs a mirror, as smooth and dark as the fjord this midnight under the cerulean sky. I look down into it as I stand behind, too close behind, another girl who has lost her way.

The rain falls heavily and suddenly in this city. Melted ice, it pricks at the surface of the fjord. The sodden slate clouds hang over the hills, over the Vidden. At last the sun is doused if only for a few hours, perhaps more. Even so, we will not have a true night. Yet the coolness soothes me, the smell of pine is sharp, astringent. This girl will not do. She wanders back to the main path unscathed. She is not like the other, the one I saw go, just before you left me here to scratch out a subsistence on my own.


1 July 1974, Associated Press, Update
The UK girl who went missing on the famous Vidden trail in the hills above Bergen, western Norway, on midsummer night, has not been found despite extensive searches of both the hills and the fjord. The Norwegian police have announced they will be stepping down the emergency service teams involved but insist they are not closing the case. However, hopes that the girl, a fifteen-year-old, will be found alive are fading.


I was born out of death forty-two years ago. I am forty-two years old today. I’m not celebrating. It’s hard to be festive on my own. These hills are crowded with those who exist as I do, reliant on others’ thoughts and words, but we don’t mingle much, no good natters around a camp fire. ‘Do you recall the day you….’ Wouldn’t be seemly somehow, though it’s how friendships are forged and sustained. So I don’t have any acquaintances who would be even mildly interested in the day of my birth. I wonder if you are at all affected by it anymore, or whether you have cast me to a vault more profound than the fjord, and whether I might as well hurl myself in there, such is your disinterest.

Could a city be so full of broken hearts? The tourists who come in by plane, train, bus and cruise ship, do not notice them. The fragments of each heart get crushed under the soles of footwear of every type and dimension. The tourists are hardly troubled by them; if they stumble or slip, then they think it must be a kink in the tarmac. They do not see the bloody mess they have stepped into. They are oblivious to the yelp of pain each fragment gives out. The child misused by those she thought she could trust. The woman who watched her fantasy of true love unravel. The man left eviscerated by years of unremitting labour on the fish-boats. The weight of the sorrow is brutal. Yet holidays are not for searching too closely. The tourists have a checklist of experiences, of attractions, and sorrow – theirs or anyone else’s – is not on the inventory.

Tourists have always taken photos of themselves, installing themselves within the memory, but with the rise of selfies and selfie-sticks, it’s become an obsession. It’s as if this recollection cannot exist, I do not exist, unless I am fixed within it, framed by a view-finder. It’s a kind of madness. Yet I do not have a photograph to prove my remembrance and, thus, I am forgotten. So maybe it is not they who are mad.

We fail to recall, collectively, when it suits us. The violence, the cruelty of one people against another; the exploitation, of the earth, of other human beings. These selfies are not to be kept, or they are to be touched up, given a different focus, a gloss. Sometimes it is simply easier to forget. Some memories take an effort to maintain. They are high maintenance. I am high maintenance.

The white nights would send you crazy if you let them. I am up here again on the ridge, the air vibrates with the light at midnight, the sky is scorched, no one is sleeping. This one is mine, I am certain. I follow her and see she has not forgotten the hurt; it lingers around her, a sickly yellow miasma shawling her shoulders. She is stepping closer, and closer, soon it will be me at her back, my breath on her aching neck.


You’ve come, you’ve come back. You aren’t certain at first, so much has been re-written by other people’s recollections, you cannot be sure about me, about the story I’ve held for you all this time. You are here in your fifty-fifth year. But this is just an excuse. Slowly you are able to recapture the snippets which you’d relegated to imagination or, even, lies, and begin to puzzle them together, make a whole picture. It’s hard for you to digest, it means altering so much of what you had taken as the truth. Your sister wandered off, went hiking on the Vidden, without telling anyone, for no reason. She must have lost her way, fallen, been unable to get back. No mobiles in those days. Tragic, a tragic accident.

You’ve come back for a holiday, yet as soon as you depart the cruise ship, you hear the cry of a broken heart, trodden on, forgotten. You smell the blood. You taste the tears. You’ve forgotten so much. You’ve forgotten me. It takes days for you to welcome me back in, embrace me, stuff me with your words so I grow plump. I no longer have any reason to feel lonely, to feel envious; I am with you, inside you. You explain haltingly, to your loved one and she listens, embracing me also. ‘My older sister, Pippa,’ you say. ‘She ran away. She was fifteen. She ran from her, our, dad. He used to, you know, hurt her. That night she just ran. And my parents, they decided it was best to wait to see if she would come back. I think, now, maybe, they didn’t want her to come back. Make trouble, you know. I was only thirteen, I didn’t understand. Then.’ You take flowers up to the Vidden and lay them on the grey granite scarred with lichen and moss, watch the sky turn to fire at midnight. ‘It’s beautiful,’ you say. I nestle a little closer into the gap beneath your sternum, your heart thrumming rhythmically through me.


21 June 2016, Associated Press, Breaking News
UK girl found safe and well on the famous Vidden trail in the hills above Bergen, western Norway. The fifteen-year-old had wandered off the path and become disorientated, finding herself at the top of a steep cliff. ‘I was terrified,’ she said. ‘I didn’t know what to do. There was no signal on my mobile. I’d come up here to think stuff through, get my head straight, now I thought maybe I’d die up here. Then it was like I suddenly remembered, it sounds stupid, but I remembered the people who would miss me, and it was like this memory led me away from the edge, back to safety. Weird or what? They say: it’s the white nights, they send you crazy.’


Read more about exciting author Kate Evans here.

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