Inside a lone stone cabin, the last human on earth lies frozen still. The surrounding hills of Geirþjófsfjörður wear the elegance of years without inhabitants. The lake next to her is rigid as glass. The waterfall above it - abruptly dried out. Though desolation prickles her skin, she does not yet know the full extent of it.
It could have been hours or days that she was suspended, mouth open in terror. Her trance is only dissolved by soundless shudder of snow falling outside. The land, though broken, is beginning to wake. It shimmers with the cells of a million stories, stories it needs to shed like a skin to build the world anew.
The spirits of the land call to her softly in the shuffle of snow. She doesn’t stir. They cry to her in the white breath of the wind. “Take our stories,” they whisper, “they are too heavy for us to carry.”
How could she understand? Where she’s from, the earth is red and crawling with life, not black and padded with moss. Her heart, her flesh, her words are African. Her stories come to her in a rhythm, a hum, in the clanging of bone against bone. Her ancestors rise in her like a fever, their sentences sweated onto the page.
Through the small square window next to her bed she takes in the clear lake, the family of sleeping emerald hills. She viciously tugs her wild, raven curls. Despair howls louder than the fragile first word of any story. Despite her loneliness, the beauty outside persists anyway. The spirits circle the cabin as she shakes and wails, cooing quietly and covering her with a blanket of fog.
The youngest spirit returns emaciated after skimming the charred remains of the earth for the single remaining seed of the South African King Protea flower. If they can coax it into life, maybe they can coax the writer into life too? Time is running out, the stories are only growing heavier and blistering their backs. It’s no use. When the single flower buds and bursts pink against the snow-mottled earth, she sobs further still, reminded of how far she is from home.
Under the burden of the stories, the land spirits weaken. The moss dries out and flakes off the fjords. The rocks begin to crumble. The hot springs grow tepid and the colour of dishwater.
One night, the woman pushes open the cabin door. She lies on the snow, cursing her spirits and praying for death. “So many humans have uttered this same prayer,” sob the spirits. They swoop up into the sky, drawing pictures with the stars of the heartache, sorrow and unexpected joy of humankind. The colour and light reflects in the writers wet eyes. The stories pulse through her toes, up her legs, beating her brittle heart. Against the stone wall of the cabin, with a stub of charcoal, with a soul wild, reckless and aching, she begins to write.