Axel in Underland
S23


Kuva: Henri Tikkanen

 

AXEL IN UNDERLAND

The metro jerked to a sudden halt. The doors opened with a slow hiss and then closed as the metro started off again, the mundane trip towards school not changing in the least. A man coughed above me and with a quick apology I took my bag, that had been carelessly strewn upon the seat, and placed it on my lap. He sat down, casually taking his top hat off his head and ruffling the newspaper in his hand. I gave him a side glance, a quick interview of looks, but before he caught me staring I turned back to my hands and surveyed what I had seen. Mid-fifties I would guess, nice black coat, top hat, but no gloves even with the sub-zero temperature outside. Might have been handsome twenty years ago, but now he looked vexed and overworked. He shifted and my eyes landed on him again as he took out a rather large golden pocket-watch out from the pocket of his vest. “Oh, I’m late. So late!” he muttered under his breath as he placed the watch back and stood up, collecting his things. “The duke will have my head, if I’m late!” He rushed towards the door. The metro slowed to a halt and the doors unlocked pushing air around the half-empty compartment.

Before I knew it, I stood up and followed him out. The doors closed and I was left standing in a deserted terminal, my quarry speeding away from me as I pondered the reason for the stupid impulse that had made me leave the train in the first place. Knowing well that I would be late to school even if I did stop to wait for the next metro, curiosity got the best of me and I sprinted after the man.

I caught sight of him as he started towards the stairs. Not wanting to seem like a stalker I slowed my steps and swung my bag across my shoulder as casually as I could. All my precautions were wasted as the man seemed to only see what was right in front of him, his steps leading him up the stairs in haste. It didn’t occur to me until later that the station was far too quiet for eight on a Thursday morning. Every other station would have been packed with people going to work and school, but I hadn’t seen a single other person besides the one I was following. I pushed on, up the steps and towards the doors, grabbing my gloves from my pocket and yanking them on before stepping outside.

Or so I thought would happen. I had pushed the door open, but instead of something under my feet there was only air. I must have yelped in panic, I truly don’t remember, but I did fall quite a way down. The last thing I heard was the ominous sound of the door slamming shut behind me. I clung onto my bag as the air seemed to thicken around me and my eyes started to tear before I had the sense to close them.

Next thing I knew was that I had landed. I groaned, but to my surprise, not only was I alive from my fall, it seemed that I hadn’t broken any bones either. A sensation of relief flooded me and I dared to open my eyes. I was in a pile of leaves, a rather big pile. I turned onto my back, the rustle of crumbling leaves filling the world. I looked at the sky, it was red. I blinked and looked again to make sure I was seeing everything clearly. It hadn’t changed. Slowly I sat up and let my eyes wander. There were tall trees everywhere, all spaced out evenly, like a checkers board, only one tree per spot. I looked up, but there was nothing but clouds and the bleeding sky from where I had come.

As my brain tried to reason and think of a logical explanation of what had happened, I grabbed my bag and attempted to slide to the ground. I ended up tumbling down from the top of the heap and landing quite painfully this time. I saw white. I lay there for a moment, my eyes closed and just breathing in the musky smell of the earth. I opened my eyes and blinked. My eyes focused and a pair of white shoes came into view.

“Are you alright?” a voice asked from somewhere above.

“Just peachy,” I responded, coughing as the loose leaf dust that clung to my lungs.

I sat up, trying to brush the leaves off my coat, when my eyes fell on the person whose feet I had landed on. A girl, not more than ten, stood in front of me. She was wearing a French maid’s outfit down to the small lacy bonnet and split black skirt and white lace. She was also holding a broom.

“My name is Alice, what’s yours?” she asked with a smile and curtsied before starting to sweep leaves into the large pile.

“I’m Axel,” it was an automatic respond, and I quickly shut my mouth before I could say too much.

“Hi, Axel,” she smiled at me as she worked.

“Where is this?”

“In the forest of course, silly,” she answered with a small frown, as if I had lost my mind.

“I have to get back home,” I began and looked up to the clouds.

“Home?” she asked casually, not taking her eyes off her work.

“Yes. Home,” I answered and stood up, flinging my bag over my shoulder. “Did you see an old man with a top hat come through here?”

“Oh, yes. As a matter of fact someone like that arrived a little before you did,” she stopped sweeping for a moment and leaned on her broom thoughtfully. “He comes through here quite often, actually.”

I thanked her and she curtsied again before she resumed her work. I gave her a sharp nod out of courtesy and started off through the trees.

~*~

I had walked for a few minutes and I turned, trying to see how far I had managed to get from Alice’s pile of leaves, but to my surprise all I could see were trees in every direction I turned. You would have thought that you could see for miles through the trees, but I guess that wasn’t the case in this new place. I felt my self-confidence drain as I continued and couldn’t see a single living being anywhere.

“My gloves! I have lost my gloves. What ever shall I do?” the moan of panic came from close by and I flinched, turning to see the old man only a few feet away from me searching around his person for his presumably lost gloves.

The man started to wring his hands and checked his pocket watch once again. It was then when he noticed me. I must have grown pale as he stalked towards me, anger imminent in his eyes.

“I have told you time and time again not to go wandering about!” he told me with cold precision. I was about to say something in my defense, but didn’t get the chance as he continued. “Go back to the house and get me my other pair of gloves, Clive! For once it was lucky for me to catch you in the act of sneaking about. Bring them to the duke’s mansion! Well, run along then!”

I turned tail and fled the way he pointed, soft autumn leaves flying under my feet as I scurried away. The last thing I heard was another moan, “Oh! He’s going to have my head for sure!” And I was out of earshot. I slowed down, panting; sweat poured down my back as I leaned against a tree. This was getting too strange for my liking. I unbuttoned my coat and pulled the silver-green scarf from around my neck. I slumped down to the ground, my breathing still haggard from my panic driven dash. He had called me Clive, which obviously wasn’t my name, thinking that I was his servant or something. What were they called? Valets or man servants...butlers? I shrugged it off. That was the least of my worries. I stuffed my gloves and scarf into my book bag and waved my hand in front of my face, trying to get the air moving. It had been freezing in the London I knew, but here, wherever here was now, it was scalding hot. It didn’t take me long to remove my winter coat and roll up my sleeves, in an attempt to get somewhat cooler.

I got up, brushing the dry leaves from my trousers before taking a good look around. I had found the old man. Little good that did, running away like I had, before I could ask how to get back to the station. I noticed the lack of undergrowth for the first time. There was no grass or moss or mushrooms or anything, just dry leaves everywhere. Then came the silence. I had never been in a forest that lacked any noise whatsoever. There was no wind in the treetops, or birds, or animals. The thought trailed off and I looked at the trees themselves. The trees were spaced far apart, it took me nearly ten full steps from one tree to the next and with the bleak sunlight that was shining through the foliage, there should have been enough of it to get some sort of underbrush. I let the train of thought die and started walking back towards the station, or where I thought it might be.

It must have been ten minutes of walking, I couldn’t check since my watch had stopped; battery dead most likely. This is when I heard a soft mewl coming from behind a tree.

~*~

Curious as I was, despite the situation, or maybe because of it, I crept forward, making sure to leave a tree between me and whatever was making the noise. I stumbled upon a coffee shop. I gaped. It was as if a part of London had been sliced off and implanted in the middle of a forest. There were white tables under mounted umbrellas, and the window of a shop. Even the sunlight seemed more real than before. There was a man sitting at a table, sipping from a delicate porcelain teacup. What struck me were the two cats that sat on his shoulders. One was black and the other one was white, and they both were watching me.

“Don’t wait out there, come join me for a cup of tea,” the man said and smiled sweetly as he placed the cup back into place, then winced as the black cat on his right shoulder dug its claws into the fabric to make sure that it wouldn’t fall down. I came forward and sat down opposite him.

“What would you like to drink?” he asked with a twinkle in his eyes.

“Um. I’m not really that thirsty, I was just wondering how I could get to the metro station,” I asked quickly, trying to keep my eyes from wandering to the cats, who wouldn’t stop staring at me.

“Nonsense! Kuro, get the fine young man a nice cup of milk tea,” the man said and snapped his fingers. The black cat seemed to pout before it jumped down to the ground. Before the cat made it down he had changed into a black haired boy with a proper sleek black outfit. The only thing that stood out was the ears on top of his head and the tail.

“Milk tea it is,” he said with a piercing look before giving me a small bow and stalking away. I watched him leave and could have sworn his ear twitched.

“Shiro, would you mind getting some biscuits, as your brother is at it,” the man asked the white cat. This time I knew to wait for the transformation, but I was still taken aback as the cat changed into a white haired girl. She was wearing a similar outfit as her brother, with ears and a tail to boot. She curtsied and scattered away after the first cat-boy.

“Oh, don’t mind them, they are quite harmless,” the man said. “Oh, but I’ve been rude. Let me introduce myself,” he stood up and I followed suit as he offered his hand to be shaken. “My name is Charlie.”

“I’m,” I faltered, it wasn’t smart to tell your name to strangers you just met in the middle of the forest in a place that most likely wasn’t in the world you came from originally. “My name is Cli-- Axel.” To my horror I had nearly said Clive; a shiver ran down my back.

“Well, hullo, Axel,” Charlie said and shook my hand with a firm grip. We sat back down.

“Erm, could you tell me how to get to the metro station?” I asked again, politely.

“Oh, the station? No one has used it in years! The Duke had it closed down,” Charlie replied and took another hold of his teacup. The small black and white painted flowers seemed to be smiling at me. It was the Duke again. A small flicker of recognition fluttered in my mind, but just as quickly as it had come it was gone. What an odd sense of déjà vu.

“Would you tell me which way is the house of an old man about this high,” I placed my hand a little over my head, “and who wears a nice coat and a top hat.”

“Oh! You must mean Mr. Lapin. He’s the housekeeper at the Duke’s mansion. The Duke always makes him do odd things like going on trips and such. He lives,” Charlie placed a slender finger on his cheek, in a thoughtful manner. “He lives over that way,” he said and pointed away into the trees.

“Well, thank you,” I said and got up slowly, not wanting to offend the older man. “I really need to be off then.”

“Are you sure you don’t want any tea?” he asked with a worried frown.

“Quite certain, thanks anyways. Say hi to your cats for me,” I replied and out of habit gave him a small bow before I hurried off in the direction he had pointed out.

~*~

I walked forward, my feet dragging in the leaves. I was starting to get worried that I had gotten lost again when I stepped into a clearing in which a normal two-story house stood. I wondered why I hadn’t noticed it before I stepped into the yard. There was a small garden, the rows of carrots and lettuce neat and well tended. I strode onto the path leading to the house. I would just look for the gloves and then hurry to the mansion and get out of here. Maybe I could find a way to get back home.

I pushed through the door, surprised to find it unlocked, and then into the house. The interior decoration brought to mind my great-aunt’s house; it was full to the brim with objects. I turned around and flipped the lock, making sure that the real ‘Clive’ wouldn’t find me in there taking his master’s things. I spotted the stairs up and assuming that the master bedroom would be upstairs, I trekked forward.

It didn’t take me long to figure out which of the three rooms upstairs was the master’s room. I started going through his drawers, pulling them out one by one, trying to guess where he would keep his gloves. Finally in the lowest drawer I found a pair of white gloves. I pushed them into my pocket, hoping that they would do and started downstairs once again. Halfway down the stairs I heard a rattle at the front door. A spark of panic made me push against the wall as I tried to move silently back to the ground floor. I could hear someone swearing and then kicking the door before everything became quiet. I rushed to the front door, correctly assuming that the person who was trying to get in would go around the house to the back door. I heard the door open and close. I turned the key and almost made it.

“Hey! You!” the voice was surprised as I sprinted out of the house not chancing a look back. I ran across the garden and into the forest. Eventually I risked a glance over my shoulder and as I saw no one after me I took a deep breath and slowed down.

“Why did you run away?” I jumped and froze, as a boy about my age appeared in front of me.

“You’re Clive?” I asked breathlessly and licked my lips, a nervous habit that I swore I would break someday.

“Yes and…well…no, not really. My name is Lenny,” he said and sighed.

“I’m sorry I took the gloves, but I was supposed to, and…well, your master thought I was you and…” I noticed I was babbling and stopped. The other boy nodded and when I figured he wouldn’t yell at me I glanced over his appearance. He was wearing a black outfit that made him look like a page boy.

“What’s going on?” I finally asked as the silence lingered too long for my liking.

He looked at me and then turned his gaze to the ground, “Long story short-this is not the real world anymore,” he replied.

”Well I sort of figured that one out by myself,” I said, not able to keep the bite from my words.

“Where are you from?” the question struck me silent.

“London,” I replied with clearly confused.

“See, I was in Japan when I came here. Only visiting mind you. Father was working on the new railway system.”

I bit back a retort and asked a question instead: “So where is this then?”

“I am not quite certain. But the main point is that we have to get out of here!” the pain in Lenny’s voice only added to my already confused state of mind.

“Well, yes I want to get out of here, but how can I, or we, get out when frankly I fell from the sky?”

“We can take the station key from the Duke! And getting to the station door will not be a problem. Oh, I should have mentioned, I am to be killed when they locate me, so that you are able to take up the ‘Clive’ position after me.” I was shocked and it must have shown, since Lenny smiled bitterly and nodded.

“Quite morbid is it not? It is to keep this place as it is. I, personally, have no idea what will happen if I am not sacrificed, but I really do not want to stay and find out. It was the same way when I arrived. I was lured here by that old man Lapin and then became ‘Clive’, the new page boy. I never met my senior, but I found something he had written hidden away.”

~*~

It didn’t take him long to explain his plan and for me to agree. I still didn’t trust him fully, but who would after everything he told me. We walked together for a little while before he pointed out the way I was to go and left. I walked for a short while and heard a laugh just like the Lenny had predicted. I jumped back and, truth be told, was surprised as I saw the small man. The smile was what made me stop; it had way too many teeth in it to make me feel comfortable.

“I’m sorry, but which way to the Duke’s mansion?” I asked like I was supposed to and smiled politely.

“Oh it’s that way,” he pointed to the left, the morbid grin not leaving his features, “Or maybe that way. Or maybe this…” He continued for awhile and I nodded with a vacant look on my face.

“Well. Thanks,” I said and started down the way he had first mentioned.

“Or maybe it’s that way!” I heard him yell after me, and I turned and smiled at him before walking away, attempting to seem like I had all the time in the world. I walked on, and a few moments later Lenny appeared in front of me.

“Annoying is he not?” he asked and I shrugged before we hurried on.

“So who is he really?” I asked between gasps of breath.

“The stable boy. I still cannot see how he can saddle a horse being that small. He is a dwarf or a midget or something of the sort.”

“I don’t think he’s quite human,” I mumbled as a response, but Lenny’s answer was lost as we arrived at the river.

“See here, if you were alone you would go over that way and cross the bridge and meet another of the Duke’s people. But a while back I found another way across,” Lenny explained.

He led me to a fallen tree, the first sign of entropy that I had seen during my stay in this odd new world. We crossed and before long we were at the mansion. It was hard to tell where the mansion started and where the trees ended, they seemed to melt together into a large impenetrable wall of wood and rock.

“The Duke keeps the key to the station around his neck and only gives it to the Lapin when he goes out to the outside world,” Lenny whispered, and I nodded in understanding.

“So how will we get it?” I asked under my breath.

“We get it before the old man can give it to the Duke. Trust me, it will be easier to get it from him than from the Duke himself.”

“Is he really so horrible? This Duke person?”

Lenny gave me a look of pure horror. “You cannot even start to believe what he is like when he is angered!”

“Okay, I won’t ask then.”

We crept to a lone door and Lenny opened it, wincing at the screech it gave. Lenny took us across halls and corridors. I cringed at some of the sights I saw. There was a room full of saws and another one full of battle axes and a room of knives. I was starting to understand why Lenny was terrified of the Duke. I would be too and the spots of dried blood on the floor didn’t convince me otherwise. A door opened and closed up ahead and Lenny pushed me into the shadows of a pillar. It didn’t take long for a couple of guards to step into our line of sight.

“So tonight is the night?” the larger one asked. He seemed to be skinnier than was healthy.

“Yes. It’s quite a sight, don’t you think? I’ve seen it a thousand times, but I still haven’t gotten used to it when the master gets into one of his frenzies.”

“I nearly feel sorry for the poor blokes that get killed. It looks quite painful.” They went around the corner and their conversation was cut off by another opening and closing door.

“Let’s move on,” Lenny whispered and grabbed my arm so desperately I winced. His face was white as a ghost’s and I just nodded in understanding. Lenny led me to a throne room. There was a lone chair on a dais and in the middle of the room there was a small table with a bottle and an empty plate.

“That’s where the old man leaves the key and the Duke takes it and puts it around his neck. I have no idea why he leaves it there in plain sight for the few moments it takes for the Duke to arrive, but I guess it is just lucky for us. I have never had the guts to get it before, but with you here it is my last chance to get away from this place.”

Speaking of the devil, the old man from the metro, appeared and carefully placed something on the tray, and then, to my surprise, he turned around and left. I gave Lenny a meaningful glance, and he shrugged before tip-toeing to the table. He grabbed the key and rushed to where I was hiding in the shadows of a large wall tapestry. Before I could say anything he brought his index finger to his lips. A second later a young man walked into the room. He was gorgeous in his dark crimson cloak, his features, boy-like and handsome in a regal way that made it hard to look at anything else. His eyes fell on the table and in a split second there was a change that blew my mind.

“Guards!” he screeched and ran out of the room, his whole appearance changing into something old and wicked. Lenny pushed me away and out a side door.

~*~

It didn’t take us long to get out of the mansion, even when we had to jump into the shadows behind pillars a couple times to hide from guards running around searching frantically for us. We made it outside and into the open faster than I would have expected. Lenny pulled me low and we ran across the open field crouching like two crabs trying to get to the fallen tree as fast as we could. I crossed easier this time and we continued in our dead run toward where Lenny said the station was. A few times I thought I glimpsed someone in the trees, but the lack of oxygen and pain in my legs made me leave all thoughts behind and concentrate on speed. As Lenny had said there was a station door in the middle of a clearing and I smiled with relief. As we got to the door, Lenny was already fitting the key through the lock.

“Hurry, hurry!” I muttered between gasps. There was a glimpse of crimson red in the trees and the panic that I had been holding burst forth.

“He’s coming!” I told Lenny, and he nearly dropped the key. He finally pushed the key all the way into the lock and pulled the door open.

Without a single look back he ran through and left me to struggle with the key. I threw my bag inside, started to pull the key out of the lock and not a second too early with a twist it gave. I stepped inside and pushed the key into the lock as something heavy hit the door with a dead thump. I pushed the key back into hole and locked the door into the odd little world. There was a horrid squeal from the other side and I backed away quickly grabbing my bag with one hand and the sobbing Lenny with the other. We ran down the steps and into the deserted terminal. I blinked as I looked both ways, and a thought suddenly hit me.

“What if no train stops here?” I asked, the panic returning. “And what if we don’t end up in London, but somewhere else!”

Lenny was a wreck on the floor, the relief of not getting killed kicking in. There was a familiar rush of air as a metro pulled to a stop, and I sighed in relief as the doors opened. I stepped inside pulling Lenny along with me and we stood in the middle of a usual morning crowd of people. They didn’t seem to notice the stop at all, and even the rush hour pushing and pulling of people inside made me smile. It was so normal and natural. I looked at the electric message board that announced the next stop and blinked, it was like I had never left. I leaned onto the pole as the metro jerked into action and a minute later pulled to another stop. I let my eyes wander around the compartment until they fell on a top hat and smart looking black coat.

“So bothersome. It seems I am late again,” the man said and stood up.

 

Sofia Siren

S24
Summary


Kuva: Henri Tikkanen

 

ROOT

S01 - ”Pääkirjoitus”, the Editorial
Christmas is a holiday for people young and old. What is the relationship with Satyyri and the age of the people who write for it?
Written by: Janne Räikkönen

S02 - ”Henkilöstöpalsta”
We’ll make a gingerbread house, make our Christmas pastries, light the way with candles..
Written by: Pia Ronkainen

S03 - ”Linkkilista”, Link List
This time, instead of a current event list we have links to other pages on the English-speaking web.

S04 - ”Posti & Palaute”, Post and Feedback
Write to the next issue post page or give feedback.

READ

S05 – ”Veteen piirretty viiva”, Thin Red Line
Elina Sipposen’s article about war movies looks beneath the surface.
Written by: Elina Sipponen

S06 – ”Kultainen kompassi”, The Golden Compass
The Christmas fantasy movie is based on Philip Pullman’s cult classic. How well is the film made?
Written by: Janne Räikkönen

S07 – ”Elisabet”, Elizabeth
In the new Elizabeth movie, the queen flirts, rages, fights in wars and dresses in pretty gowns.
Written by: Anna Sipponen

S08 – ”Hääkeikka”, Wedding gig
Dance theater Mobita/Dansco celebrates their anniversary with something old. The choreographer was Ari Numminen.
Written by: Anni Pilhjärta

S09 – “Pieni kuolema”, Small death
What kind of world is opened after death? Aarne Korpela’s Small Death reveals a new perspective to the afterlife.
Written by: Anni Nupponen

S10 – “Sally Mann -näyttely”, Sally Mann -exhibition
In the Tennispalatsi Sally Mann –exhibition the circle of life is connected with death.
Written by: Anna Sipponen
Pictures by: Elli Maanpää

S11 – “Maameren tarinat”, Tales from Earthsea
For decades the movies released by Studio Ghibli has been reliable, magical, wise. Now the legendary animation studio coughs and stumbles.
Written by: Janne Räikkönen

S12 - Time Stranger Kyoko
The earth princess Kyoko Suomi is looking for the Stranger to wake her twin sister from a long lasting coma.
Written by: Jarno Suominen

SEE

S13 - Elli Maanpää
Elli Maanpää’s picture series shows how a photograph can be used as a tool in the artistic process.

14 - Henri Tikkanen
Henri Tikkanen shows what everyday life is like through photographs.

S15 - Kari Nöjd
Kari Nöjd’s picture series is based on Lucian Freud’s paintings.

S16 - “Värityshaaste”, Coloring challenge
Last issue’s coloring challenge came through with pictures to fill a picture series.

EXPERIENCE

S17 - Pia Ronkainen
Ralle lives in the shadows of a fir tree in the middle of the city. The younger generation had a habit of calling out to him...

S18 - Pia Ronkainen
Gods give me the right feeling! You killers and lovers, rapists, burners of villages...

S19 - Annika Keiski-Turunen
He sings
Sleep well little one
Tears on his cheeks...

S20 - Linno
Lengthen the moments of torture
Measure
The clock inside is then...

S21 - Ismo Funke
I looked for comfort
In the wrong places
For pointless roads...

S22 – “Nainen ja kuningas”, The Woman and the King
Satyyri is publishing the first quarter of Anni Nupponen’s book.
Written by: Anni Nupponen

 

Summary by: Sofia Siren