The corrosion resistant railing on Vasterbro bridge was cold. Its constructing consisted of narrow, square bars spaced vertically, four inches apart, ten in a row and then a thicker supporting bar cemented into the corpus of the bridge, then another ten, and on top of it all rested a four inch thick horizontal girder. That's the one that felt cold and it was there that Joanne held her hands.
It was an evening in the beginning of October, the sun had almost set, and Joanne had walked all the way out there in the glowing light. Lingering, she looked to the far left of this panorama where a neon sign on Sodermalm island was already lit: "CONTINENTAL TIRES", the former word in blue, the latter in yellow. Below, in Langholmen Park, a single light glimmered in the darkness, and a small cottage-like house with a white-painted flagpole was barely discernible against the dark vegetation. A couple hundred feet further up the bridge a man, wearing a blazer, stood completely still, his neckware fluttering in the breeze. Straight ahead, the kitchen windows of the people living in Groendal lit up in an irregular pattern, suggesting a crossword puzzle's black and white squares. From there the Essinge Bridge emanated, bathed in an unnatural sodium street light which was not really yellow at all: the lampposts sprinkled photons that hunted for shadows as well as for color. Turning to the right, as her gaze approached Lilla Essingen Island, Joanne lowered her eyes, remembering her grandmother and her warnings; she had been absolutely right, but it was too late now. The soles of her feet pressed against the surface of the massive bridge; thousands upon thousands of sacks of cement and just as many backs. Was anyone sitting down there, in the chilly greenery of Marieberg Park, at this hour, amid the winding, black asphalt paths and the annoying buzz of the electric lights? Then there were the newspaper buildings, towering above all this; this wasn't news, after all.
Bus 54 approached, waggling up the ascent from Vasterbro Place. Joanne rubbed her cold hands and turned her back towards the railing. In this direction the other profile of the city took on a deep shade of red, only the headlights of cars distracting the view, [In the opposite direction the city skyline appeared, illumined all ruby and calm, only distracted by the wandering bright from the car-lights] while the stairlike silhouette of the buildings of Stadshagen stood out against the darkening sky. She took a deep breath, inhaling with the slack determination of a yawn of an early awakening. It was now, however, indeed evening. The hulking buildings along North Malarstrand parkway were barely visible, only their luminescent rectangular windowpanes which seemed to float in midair. Would she really dare? The question was irritating, so irritating in fact that the mere overcoming of this hesitancy suddenly became the sole reason to do it. She looked at the spires on the Police Headquarters, the cupola of the Courthouse, the celestial sphere were civil weddings took place, and immediately to the left she glimpsed the city gasholder, at this distance reduced to the size of a tin can. [Hyperlink to note: Giddiness on top of that great cylinder; embedded in the shady greenery lay the gas company's various brick buildings.] Between the churches of St. Jacob and Sta. Clara, the huge trademark "NK" revolved within its large, circular, green frame among the rooftops. All of those churches! But farther away came the Kaknas Tower, the belfry from which television droned, and the City Hall, flood-lights producing it from the night. The Royal Palace held its wings out like a cubistic lion majestically resting, and then came Riddarholmen Island with its blown-out skeleton of a steeple: the city wasn't quite itself. Was the problem with the observer or merely this unique moment? All moments were unique, Joanne knew this of course, as they were her trade.
Bands of cars dotted the bridges like strings of pearls; the city certainly was picturesque this evening, and yet what was the use of preserving an object when the subject was now about to face its destruction? She remembered the man* [hyperlink to the random of four glimpses from memory] who had called her up and asked if she was a photographer, "well, yes", and he had "only wondered" if she would like to take a few pictures of him when he...She snorted with disgust and went all stiff, gazing blindly into the blackness of the park beneath. Such impelling! Such goading! She had now made a complete circle and was back at the starting point, the "CONTINENTAL TIRES" sign again, this time accompanied by a sports car with a broken muffler blaring by.
Absentmindedly she rested her hands on the irongirder again. But what about that man she saw before on the bridge? She gazed along the railing as far as she could see. He wasnęt there anymore. Could he really have managed to walk out of sight so quickly? Or had he jumped? She leaned forward and looked down: nothing but sailboats, their masts pointing sharply to her eye, and the occasional reflections of light on the surface, ominous ripples. But a bit farther out the water was pitch black and still. Good God, he wasn't the one who was to jump! But she hadn't heard any splashing sound. Was he still on his way down out there in the cold nothingness? Joanne strained her muscles to the point of bursting. Was somebody's life passing before his eyes at this very moment? Was there time in that second for a biography when air was rushing past his ears, decades being compressed by the force of acceleration and wind resistance? Could that instant be indefinitely long when someone neared his wish? [hyperbook function: 9.83 meter/s/s ] Would he then never be baptized in the cold water? She waited, her shoulders so hunched together that they almost touched her ears, and then finally: didn't she hear something hit the water?
Then it was quiet, only the boat lines slapping against the masts, and Joanne breathed cautiously in and out a couple times, still in the same strained position, deprived of her suicide, robbed of her emptiness. No ceremonies, he had just jumped as if it were the most natural thing in the world. The wind picked up but Joanne made no effort to button her coat, instead she slipped down to the sidewalk and sat as she landed on the curb, covering her face with her hands, trying to close out the sound and light of the cars. Her hands smelled of iron, like well water in the country. Her head was devoid of thought and time, she had no idea how long she had sat there while the dampness slowly penetrated up through her clothing; it gave her a certain satisfaction that she suffered a little, but that was not enough. She cast her head backwards against the railing repeatedly, hard, looked up at the soft blue and felt the wind against her neck. Like an animal who has given up she surrendered her neck to her opponent. A drop ran slowly down from her nose towards her upper lip and stayed there [hyperbook function: display one word at a time], then another drop and another, adding to the amount of liquid, until it ran over the edge, bringing a saltiness to her tongue, and time restarted. [end hyperbook function, normal text again]
People were hunched over her, speaking in well trained, friendly voices, voices framed by shoulder belts and white gun holsters; a friendliness with completely different resources. It was like waking up in a strange place, while not sleeping at home, Joanne tried to identify the things she saw, uniforms, but didn't answer the questions, the sort of questions that are usually posed from behind a typewriter on a Friday afternoon just before five o'clock. The stubborn voices did not disappear despite the fact that she closed her eyes. Everyone impelled you to do something; if you did your duty they impelled and begged, if not, they also implored asking for an explanation. [Hyperlink to note: Constantly that defensive war, in the bus with the treelike oldsters who branched out to every seat, on the street with glances, prayers, submissiveness, all energy wasted to keep oneself clean: it was needed here as well, just as always.] But shouldn't they do something about the man who jumped? She hadn't even tried to. She tried to explain, making gestures, but the uniforms understood exactly how things fit together; so well so that they took her by the arms. As they tried to lift her, she felt their physical invasion both as a relief and as a violation. She had awaited it since they arrived: finally they restrained her, finally they laid their hands on her, her pulse increased, she flailed wildly, managing to get free and threw herself demonstratively against the railing, tried to climb over, then they were there, outnumbering her, dragging her down, dark they were as the sky, only their hands were real and of course the whiteness of their gun holsters. Bent over, in the grip of one of the policemen, she focused one of the holsters, as when a sports photographer awaits the perfect moment, and when the correct angle appeared she was able to free an unexpected arm, quickly pulled open the holster, drawing out the gun but lost grip of it so that it ended up hanging from its chain. That was enough for the policemen to combine their strength and pull her hands behind her back and shackle them with handcuffs [hyperlink to note: she felt the metal and heard how easily they locked] and pulled her towards the car. One sat next to her in the back seat and the other slid in behind the wheel and calmly pulled away, without hurry. Joanne threw herself onto the seat, her hair falling into her mouth, the car accelerated, she felt the increasingly unrestrained power of the engine, she kicked where she could, turned around and managed to reach the side window with her heel and kicked hard, harder, again and again, but the glass wouldn't break, the policeman tried to restrain her, she moaned with resentment, twisted her face towards the seat and bit the upholstery, all the while the radio was buzzing with cryptic messages. She lay as still as if she were dead, hoping to dematerialize. Disappointed that she couldn't smash anything or hurt anyone, not even herself, she lay completely still, frozen without the slightest movement, and hoped with contempt that the world would end.SUMMARY: Joanne is then taken into a psychiatric ward. After a few days she feels that she has reached the point were she is well enough, but because she is in confinement, that is not for her to decide. She fears she will get worse again because of that. A mental struggle climaxes at the end of the prologue:
The agonizing oscillations stopped like a metronome whose spring had lost its tension, coming to a standstill as straight as an exclamation point, and she felt the familiar tingling in her body, a fermenting impatience; she clenched her hands tighter together*. [link to note: "Calm down, calm yourself," she hissed to herself.] She tried to convince herself that it was just a temporary mind lapse, caused by thoughts without real significance, yet she huddled over on her knees in bed with her head against the pillow, like a pious pilgrim who reverently pounded her forehead against the ground in front of a holy memorial, "be calm" she roared all the more excited, "I must not, they'll keep me here." She then rushed up, her hair on end, the corner's of her mouth drawn back so that her lower teeth showed, and ran towards the chair by the window.
[The follwing passage is presented on the screen one sentence at a time at a few seconds interval:] She saw her hands grip the backrest and lift the chair. Shaking, she ran with the chair above her head towards the sink. She saw her hands grip the backrest and lift the chair. Enraged, she swung with all her might towards the faucets so that wood splinters went flying. Shaking, she ran with the chair above her head towards the sink. The porcelain gleamed white and she breathlessly took aim once again. A terrible blow, the sink cracked, split in half, and slid almost provocatively apart. The porcelain gleamed white and she breathlessly took aim once again. But she didn't hear that people came running. Water spurted completely out of control. A terrible blow, the sink cracked, split in half, and slid almost provocatively apart. But she didn't hear that people came running. Enraged, she swung with all her might towards the faucets so that wood splinters went flying. They were already on top of her. They pushed her hard against the flooded floor. She didn't feel the stick of the needle. They pushed her hard against the flooded floor. They were already on top of her. Water spurted completely out of control. She didn't feel the stick of the needle.
[The follwing passage is presented on the screen one sentence at a time at a few seconds interval:] She saw her hands grip the backrest and lift the chair. Shaking, she ran with the chair above her head towards the sink. She saw her hands grip the backrest and lift the chair. Enraged, she swung with all her might towards the faucets so that wood splinters went flying. Shaking, she ran with the chair above her head towards the sink. The porcelain gleamed white and she breathlessly took aim once again. A terrible blow, the sink cracked, split in half, and slid almost provocatively apart. The porcelain gleamed white and she breathlessly took aim once again. But she didn't hear that people came running. Water spurted completely out of control. A terrible blow, the sink cracked, split in half, and slid almost provocatively apart. But she didn't hear that people came running. Enraged, she swung with all her might towards the faucets so that wood splinters went flying. They were already on top of her. They pushed her hard against the flooded floor. She didn't feel the stick of the needle. They pushed her hard against the flooded floor. They were already on top of her. Water spurted completely out of control. She didn't feel the stick of the needle.COMMENTARY: In the following chapter, the first of part I, the male leading character is presented.