Danish young adult – trilogy:
By Birgitte Lorentzen
Original Title: Cykose,
Cychosis is a teen thriller which is set in the turmoil of puberty, – in a time marked by great thoughts of life, thoughts on the supernatural, the difficult psyche and young love. It is a first novel told in a quick, humorous and accessible language.
Lulu needs help. There is a little girl who haunts her room at night.
Mike from Lulu’s school also says that there is a little girl who walks along next to Lulu at school – but again, maybe it’s not a coincidence that they call him Psycho-Mike …
But Mike actually is capable of seeing the dead, and together with Lulu he finds out that the girl in her room was killed during World War Two, when a school by mistake was bombed by the allied forces.
The little non-dead girl’s name is Rosa, and the reason that she hasn’t passed on to the other side is that she tried to rescue her little brother during the bombings. She pushed him out through a hole in the wall, but doesn’t know whether he made it. This is what she has come back to find out.
In their attempt to solve the mystery and help the girl, Mike and Lulu face much opposition. Mike, for instance, is committed to a mental institution …
I see her clearly. She’s just standing there starring at me. The dark hair falls down over her pale face and her terrified eyes seem to be piercing me. At thin line of blood is running from her head and down over her cheek. It is as if she is trying to tell me something but all I can comprehend is a strangled: Help me! Then she reaches her arms out toward me: I try to reach her hands but only manage to touch the very tips of her fingers. Afterwards everything dissolves into a terrifying darkness. At once all is dark, completely dark.
Only her hoarse whisper: Help me! lingers in the dark
Am I awake or am I dreaming?
I’m lying in my bed with my eyes closed, I am freezing and my blanket is on the floor, and I can feel my heart pounding hard against my chest. My mouth is all dry and I dare not open my eyes as I have a strong feeling that she is in my room. Or is it her, who is sitting right now on the edge of my bed stroking my cheek?
No more! Got to get a damn grip of myself!
Lulu is a teenager and is going trough a time of changes and turmoil: she has huge thoughts about life and death, and at the same time the hormones are raging around in the body. All the stuff about girl friends and boys remain a mystery to her. She is, however, pretty good at quoting famous philosophers.
And then there is this mysterious girl.
A little girl who continues to creep into her dreams, and who Lulu is convinced is tearing her blanket off every night. And Lulu awakes shaking cold and with a feeling that the little girl is in the room.
At the same time, she has a feeling that she is going completely insane.
But one day at school the weird ‘Psycho-Mike’ asks her who the little girl that Lulu brings to school every day is?
Psycho-Mike is attending the C-house, a special class at school which is being nicknamed ‘the cychosis-house’ by the other students, and rumor has it that he has been ‘committed’ because he sees things and hears voices.
Mike, however, just explains, that he can in fact see the dead …
Pycho-Mike frightens Lulu, but the little girl is driving her mad.
She is in desperate need of help, which is why she contacts Mike afterall. Mike with the fascinating eyes and the terrifying abilities …
But perhaps Mike can in fact see and talk to the dead – the ones who are not yet at peace and have not ‘crossed over’.
At first Mike refuses to help Lulu. He tells her that all he wants is to be diagnosis free, as he has lost count of the doctor’s psychiatric diagnoses. All he wants is to be normal – and to cut off all contact with the supernatural. Lulu, however, convinces him to help her afterall.
Mike takes Lulu to the grim suburb where his ‘para-psychological’ counselor Ruth lives. Ruth is an old, crazy and extremely medicated woman, but according to Mike, she has saved his life. Ruth is trying to use herself as a medium for the little girl, but with no success. Lulu is scared and uncomfortable. And she doesn’t know what to think when Ruth is advising Mike to open up once more for the dead, as she believes the little girl has something important to say.
However, Ruth warns him: he must be careful not to end up being committed again. At that point Lulu is in doubt as to whether Ruth and Mike really haven’t lost all their marbles and tries to pull away from the whole affair.
But the little girl keeps haunting her, – or is it just some crazy spin from Lulu’s wild imagination? Lulu can’t be sure.
In the end she contacts Mike again, and she realizes that she is just all too fascinated by him. He has those lovely ‘Bowie’ eyes – one blue and the other green, and come to think of it, he also has very lovely lips. And teeth. And hair …
They start drinking tea after school, and at a scene in Lulu’s room, Mike ‘opens up’ as he uses himself as a medium and gets into contact with the little girl.
Mike learns that the girl is indeed a ‘spirit’, who does not know that she is dead. Her name is Rosa, and she was apparently killed during a Royal Air Force bombardment of The French School, where she was a pupil. And, as it turns out, Lulu’s house is build right on the spot of the site where the school used to be!
The remaining mystery is why the little girl has not yet found peace and why she hasn’t ‘crossed over’.
Lulu and Mike begin to do some research on what actually happened during the bombardment of The French School. They learn that 88 children were killed during the bombardment. By a horrible mistake, The Royal Air Force dropped bombs on the school, while they were attacking the Gestapo Headquarters at the nearby Shell house in March 1945. (This is actually a true story from Copenhagen 1945, although it is not important for the plot)
However, Mike and Lulu can not find anyone on the casualty lists called “Rosa”.
Unfortunately Mike is getting more and more weird. He starts speaking to the voices again and sees dead people. Lulu is in doubt again. Is he really psychotic? It gets worse and worse and when he one day goes berserk in the schoolyard; he ends up being committed to a mental institution once again, also due to Lulu’s ratting on him, for not taking his medication.
Lulu feels responsible and she feels low and miserable.
Shortly after, she realizes how much she misses Mike. She tries to get in touch with him at the hospital but she is not allowed to see him. Now Lulu too disappears into a sad darkness with little prospect of any happiness or any light. Her family is concerned; she is depressed in the daytime and she is no longer able to sleep in her room alone. School doesn’t matter to her. Nothing matters. And the little girl is back every night.
But then suddenly one day a SMS arrives with the words: “Eva Elvekilde is the key”. Mike has been sent home for the weekend from the psychiatric hospital, and he has had progress with the research on both the factual and spiritual. Eva Elvekilde was one of the surviving students from the school.
At first Lulu is scared of meeting Mike again. Is he insane and does he want revenge from her harsh betrayal in the schoolyard?
Mike definitely does not want revenge. He just wants to go see Eva Elvekilde, and late one evening they knock on her door. Elvekilde’s apartment is awash with candle lights. She tells them that she always lights the candles on the anniversary of the bombardment: a candle for each victim. And today is that very day, the 21st of March, and Elvekilde admits that she has felt Rosa’s presence very keenly. She was in the same class as Rosa, and able to tell them about what happened in the last minutes before Rosa’s death. As the bombs fell over the school, all the children were ordered to the schools shelter in the basement. Rosa and Eva held each other’s hand on the way there. However, Rosa let go of Eva’s hand and ran across the schoolyard towards the kindergarten because her little brother Louis was there. Eva never saw her again.
Eva tells them that Rosa’s little brother Louis survived the bombardment and that he still lives nearby, but that he has become somewhat of a loner.
Lulu and Mike quickly walk to Louis’ house even though Mike is becoming increasingly strange. Before they reach Louis, Mike tells Lulu that whatever happens, she means ‘everything’ to him …
They succeed in getting the old man to let them into his flat, because Mike is able to tell him things, that noone else but Rosa could have known; like the secret about the gold medallion Louis has hidden in Rosas old school bag. The old man is very confused.
At the séance in Louis’ apartment Lulu is witness to the most bizarre event: it is as if Rosa materializes in Mike’s body, and it is as if Louis and Rosa are finally brought back together. And here we get the explanation as to why Rosa never crossed over.
It is extremely emotional; the atmospere is tense and tender, and it is as if time stands still when Rosa materializes in Mike’s body and the little boy Louis materializes in the old man Louis’ body.
The siblings are reunited, the truth is out and in the hallway a soft but powerful light emerges. Rosa must walk toward the light and in a tearful and tender parting the siblings finally get to say their goodbyes.
Lulu is shaken by what she has seen, but also frightened that they are all equally insane. Then the light disappears and Lulu returns to the present when she hears Mike’s voice from the hallway. He is calling to his deceased mother and asks her to take him with her into the light. Lulu rushes to him but everything is amiss, it is as if life is seeping out of him:
His whole body trembles with a violent convulsion.
“Lulu, Lulu, where are you? I can’t see you Lulu, where are you?” He whispers even though he is starring straight at me with eyes wide open.
“Lulu, now you are disappearing too… Lulu, Lulu help me, it is getting so dark!”
Then he falls over backwards.
“Mike! Mike, stay with me, stay with me!” I reach for his wrist and try frantically to find his pulse, while I repeat:
“Mike, Mike stay with me!”
Then I realize that Louis is standing in the doorframe.
“He has no pulse god damn it. Call an ambulance!”
“I have called one, my girl. I have.”
It is as if the very life is leaving Mike. As if it is slowly seeping out of him. His body is all limp and I cannot hear his breathing or find a pulse. For the first time ever I am glad I took that first aid course that my dad insisted on.
I lean in over Mike and start CPR, while I keep shouting:
“Oh no, oh no. Not him. He is not ready, he must stay here!”
In the distance I can hear the sirens. I keep going but I am not sure I am doing it right, because I see no response from Mike.
Then suddenly an ambulance team is in the door asking me to give them some space.
As I watch them work with Mike’ limp body, I collapse.
– And then you probably need to get the book if you want to hear the ending. I can only hint with a quote from the book: “Amor vincit omnia.”
INSANIA by Birgitte Lorentzen:
Lulu is heartbroken and confused now that Mads has seemingly fallen for the beautiful and slightly older Amanda. She escapes from it all by travelling to the Venetian lagoon to work at her Uncle Mario’s restaurant with her Italian cousin Carla, and the flirtatious and secretive young waiter, Fabio.
However, she doesn’t manage to escape the scary dreams she is having about Mads, where he is stranded in an eerie, hazy swamp, calling out for Lulu, while church bells toll loudly. Whenever Lulu approaches Mads, he disappears in the haze.
When awake, Lulu encounters the same haze and eerie tolling of the church bells around the Venetian lagoon. After an involuntary stay at the little ‘plague island’ Poveglia, which is said to be “one of the most haunted places on earth”, everything falls apart…
Insania is a psychological teen novel which focuses on faith, belief, the supernatural and the human brains’ many nooks and crannies. Is it really the screams of the dead souls from the plague island Poveglia, that you can hear across the Venetian lagoon as twilight settles? Or is it just human fear and hallucinations sprung from the islands terrible history?
Insania is also about young love, friendship and loyalty, and it is written in an easy and humorous tone. The book is a stand alone sequel to ”Cycosis”.
Lulu is completely in the dumps, as she travels to Venice. She has not been able to get over Mads, who she, just a moment ago, thought was her true soul mate, but was has now been seeing a stranger. Mads with the beautiful ‘Bowie-eyes’, one green and one blue, and the frightening abilities, – he once had the nickname Psycho Mads. However, after he and Lulu started seeing each other, and Mads managed to put a lid on the supernatural and his talks with dead spirits – he has become more attractive, and now suddenly everyone has realized that Mads is actually gorgeous. Now, the fact that he is different, actually becomes an attraction!
Fabio picks Lulu up at the airport in Venice and takes her on a tour through the canals in his old dinghy. The engine stalls, and they drift closer to the deserted island which is said to be haunted, Poveglia.
While Fabio is struggling to get the engine started again, the boat drifts with the current, and we are slowly approaching Poveglia. Fabio is becoming increasingly desperate as he pulls and tears at the dead engine. Nothing happens. We are far from the busy traffic of Canal Grande, out here there are no other boats. The water is no longer green, its completely dark blue, as is the sky above us. Only in the distant horizon can a thin band of light be seen. And here we are gently rocking in Fabio’s dinghy without lifejackets. I’m beginning to get cold.
Fabio pulls his phone out.
”Vaffanculo!” he says.
He holds his mobile out towards me. It is completely dead. I shrug and pull my own out from my pocket. It’s also dead! It’s not just because there is no network cover. It is completely dead, not even the least bit of light or life in it. Strange, because it was completely charged when I left the house. And I just made a call from it!
I look up at Fabio.
”It’s the bad spirits from Poveglia,” he says.
Just then a scream breaks the silence. Or at least is sounds like a heart wrenching scream!
Fabio jumps out of his skin!
I stare at him astonished.
”What was that?”
He shakes his head, while he whispers:
”People say that as you sail past Poveglia at twilight, you can hear the screams of the tortured souls.”
Lulu is shaken and confused. Her cousin Carla, who has been allowed to leave her Italian high school early to write a history essay about The Black Death in Venice, tells Lulu that the island is one of the most haunted places in the world. The island has gained its haunted reputation because it was used as a ”plague island” during the three plague epidemics in Venice. The dead, the dying and the infected where sailed to Poveglia, where they also burned the bodies to avoid further contamination. It is said, that more than 150.000 people were burnt on the island. Rumour has it that at twilight you can hear the screams of the dying plague victims.
Carla also tells her that in 1922 a psychiatric hospital was build on the island, and that the mad psychiatrist ‘Il dottore di Poveglia’ experimented with their souls.
But Carla does not believe in all the supernatural or the screams, she believes …. Well she is the scientific type, who only believes in what can be seen, heard, measured and weighed….
”Lulu, do you really believe it was the screams of the dead?” She hand quotes in the air.
”It sounded weird,” I whisper.
”Lulu, the lagoon is filled with birds. They squawk. During the day it is lovely, but as night falls … it gets scary. It’s the same with cats and foxes. They can also sound like little tiny babies crying in the night.”
”Sure, but still Carla. Can you not imagine that there might be something to it? Some energies that are left there, some that never….”
”No way, Lulu. I don’t believe in those kinds of things! What I do believe in however, is all the stuff that goes on in peoples’ heads. People love everything that is dark and mysterious, things that can make a tedious and dull everyday that little more exiting. It’s amazing what a modern person is willing to delude them self into to believing.
”I do think I believe in something more between heaven and earth, more than what we can see and explain” I try to argue.
”Nah, I just don’t get that. Lulu! I am the scientific type. I believe in everything that can be seen, measured, weighed, proven and disproved. Curses, ghosts, angels and demons… not me!”
I don’t really know what to say. I don’t want to seem like a naive idiot that will believe anything. Still, I feel like telling her about everything that happened with Rosa. And about Mads’s abilities and all that. But I don’t. Partly because Mads and I promised eachother that it’s a finished chapter that never should be re-read. Partly because she would probably see me as a complete retard if I told her that a dead girl used to visit me at night. And that my boyfriend – x boyfriend – had helped getting the girl to cross over to the other side, because he has supernatural abilities.
”Well, should we try and get some sleep cousin?”
I nod, get up and head over to my bed. She turns on the loud air-conditioning unit, so it’s not without cause that a chill suddenly runs down my spine.
”I didn’t frighten the life out of you now, did I?”
”No, no”, I laugh a little tensed.
But she really did!
Lulu can’t really figure Fabio out. He either flirts or takes the mickey out of her. She works hard at the restaurant, while she is struggling to not think about Mads.
But she still has those strange dreams, where Mads is disappearing into a fog when she calls his name.
By coincidence Carla gets chatting to two American ghost hunters, Bob and Matt.
”I thought that Bob might be just the thing for you, Lulu”
”For me? What do you mean?”
Cos if she means it the way it sounds, the only answer I have is a huge screaming NO. He is in no way my type.
”Bob is a ghost hunter!”
”But its true, he really is.”
”I believe you. I guess that’s why he’s got Caspar the friendly ghost tattooed on his right arm?”
”Gosh, I hadn’t even seen that.”
On Bobs right upper arm is a giant, throbbing red heart with hope written across it. A rocket with flames is in the process of drilling its way thought the heart from one side and a disgusting green snake is coming out of the other. Nice, or whatever it is that that can be said about it.
Bob and his weird friend Matt are actually the opposite of ghost hunters, as they are studying ”anomalistic psychology” at a university in Chicago. In effect that means that they are looking for real and psychological explanations for paranormal happenings. They have, for a long time, been preparing a project on Poveglia, where they hope to prove that the rumers about the most haunted island in the world is really more about the human brain than of actual supernatural happenings. They just have one problem; no one is willing to sail them across to the island.
Fabio has a boat of course, but he is terrified when it comes to Poveglia. Lulu doesn’t want any part of it either, but Carla is hooked.
One evening she runs off with Bob and Matt, they have finally found in illegal Russian, who has agreed to sail them across to the island.
Lula and Fabio sails after them.
Its cold out here at sea, I’m freezing in my thin white shirt and my short black skirt. And then in these silly shoes. Around my waist I am still wearing the money pouch I use for my order pad and my tips. My mobile is also there.
Fabio is also in his uniform. I guess you can easily say that we are not dressed for the occasion. Jesus, its cold, I can barely stand it. My teeth are chattering. Fabio is rummaging in the bottom of the boat, and throws me an old blanket. It smells like fish and it is a little wet, but it’s better than nothing.
The sea around us seems black and frightening.
I really wish that we were wearing lifejackets. Luckily the water isn’t that cold, and I’m a pretty good swimmer. I thank God, or who ever it might be – maybe the communal board where I live – for all the swimming lessons I have taken at school.
Wonder if Fabio can swim? If not, then I am glad I took the lifeguard test a few years back. Fabio looks concentrated as he sets the boat on course to what he fears the most: Poveglia and all its demons.
I don’t know how to explain what comes over me. But suddenly a prayer springs to mind, one that I was taught when I began the catholic confirmation preparations at the church. And now here I sit in Fabio’s little dinghy and recite it…. In some way it feels very soothing.
Lord, make of me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, forgiveness
Where there is doubt, faith
Fabio looks at me; he listens and then joins the prayer in the Italian version. We are not in sync, so it sounds a bit off. But after a while it makes the prayer seem even more exalted….
Where there is error, truth
Dove è errore, ch’io porti la Verità.
Where there is despair, joy
Dove è tristezza, ch’io porti la Gioia
Where there is darkness, light
Dove sono le tenebre, ch’io porti la Luce.
Oh divine Lord, help me
That I may not grieve too deeply
O Maestro, aiutami fa’ ch’io non cerchi tanto:
To be comforted, as to comfort
Essere consolato, quanto consolare.
Not to be understood, but to understand
Essere compreso, quanto comprendere.
Not to be loved, but to love
Essere amato,quanto amare.
As it is by giving that we shall receive
– Poiché sì è:
Dando, che si riceve;
It is by forgiving that we shall be forgiven
Perdonando che si è perdonati;
It is by dying that we shall be born into eternal life.
Morendo, che si risuscita a Vita Eterna.
What kind of an ending is that..?
As they reach the island Carla, Bob and Matt are in the middle of preparing all the gear they’ll need on their ‘Poveglia-tour’. They’ve got cameras, head torches, thermostats and a load of other equipment. Carla gets both angry and surprised when Fabio and Lulu suddenly appear and try to get them to abandon the whole trip.
In the end Fabio, who is terrified, stays with the boats, while Lulu comes along onto the island and into the old hospital buildings.
Here she truly feels anxiety, but she is also in doubt as to whether there really is anything paranormal on the island, or if, as Bob and Matt argues, it’s all a spin of anxiety, paranoia and fiction of the imagination.
Lulu becomes really frightened when they discover the word ‘NSANIA’ written on a wall with the signature: Vada subito via e non torni mai piu (Get lost and never return). Lulu thinks she can hear whispering voices:
“Vai via”, I get the chills.
I am freezing. And I can see that the others are also standing and shaking with cold. Matt holds out his thermometer.
”Its really strange guys, have a look, the temperature is plummeting.”
I look at the display, and it’s already down to 19 degrees, and in an instant it’s down to 15 degrees… 14…13…12 degrees.
Matt shakes it a little.
”God knows if there is something wrong with this,” he says.
Then he checks his thermo camera.
”No it’s true enough. The colours are changing, and more and more black spots are emerging, it means that there really is an abrupt temperature fall.”
I feel like saying that you don’t need a thermo camera in order to tell that’s whets happening. It is freezing cold here, and when I look at Carla I can see her breath.
Matt looks searchingly around, then he says:
”But there is also a load of shattered windows here, there is obvious a draft coming from somewhere.”
”Yeah right,” says Bob, and I can’t tell if he means it or if he is being sarcastic.
I say nothing. I put Carly’s hoody on and keep moving, to keep warm but also to keep the rats at bay. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something feels very wrong here
Suddenly Matt’s thermo camera turns off and the light in his head torch starts to flicker, and then that too goes out. Right afterwards also Bob’s camera shuts off. In a nano second after both Carla’s and my camera also go out. We are left in pitch darkness.
”What’s happening?” shouts Bob, and you can hear in his voice that his is having a difficult time keeping his cool.
Even I am about to die of terror. I feel weird. I get the feeling that there is someone – or something – that’s just walked straight through my body and taken all my energy with it. It hurts and i crumple in pain.
“What’s happening?” asks Matt.
”I don’t know,” I answer, while I am trying to stretch my body and breath deeply to get my breathing under control.
”Are you okay, Lulu?”
”Yeah, yeah,” I say trying to get a grip.
Matt becomes the expedition leader in earnest now. Yeah, guess his has been the entire time.
”Steady now, keep calm! Find your batteries and get them changed immediately!”
”But we can’t see anything at all,” Carla shouts.
”Try and feel your way! In a moment your eyes will get used to the dark, and then you’ll be able to see the outlines. Remember to keep your cool! Don’t let anxiety and paranoia into your mind. Keep a hold of yourself!”
No one says anything. We are all looking for batteries in the dark.
”Aw! What’s happening?” Carla shouts all of a sudden.
Then i sense that she is falling over in the dark. A loud dunk sounds as she hits the floor. Then it’s all completely quiet.
They flee terrified from the island with a wounded Carla.
But in the following days Carla becomes more and more weird. Maybe she’s got as serious concussion or maybe she brought ‘something’ with her from Poveglia.
Matt and Bob tell them that there is nothing on their recordings, and that they’ll be moving on.
At night more and more mysterious and strange things begin to happen in Lulu and Carla’s room. An old chandelier, that hasn’t worked in years, begin to turn non and off, the beds are shaking as if there was an earthquake at night, a glass goes back and forth on a table, Carla is delirious and calls out for a Lorenzo, and Lulu feels like there is ”someone” or ”something” in the room.
Fabio is beside himself with anxiety and Lulu…. She just can’t handle it anymore…
And then Mads calls!
I’m in the airport and pretty nervous. What am I going to tell him? Should I give him a hug? A kiss? No, we aren’t seeing each other anymore. I’ve taken the hair band out of my hair and put it back at least a dozen times. Should i have it down or up, down or up… no really!
And there he is coming out of the arrival hall, and i get a serious case of butterflies. It is as if he has grown. His hair is darker, or is it just me? It is definitely longer.
He is wearing army green baggy shorts, black converse, an old washed out T-shirt and he looks, if possible, even more gorgeous than I remember. And more grown up. He’s only got a backpack with him as luggage.
And then he sees me, he raises his hand to say hi, and now he is smiling too.
I feel like running towards him and throwing myself into his arms. But I keep my cool, ‘cos I don’t know how things are between us. As constrained as i can possibly manage i walk with steady steps towards him and smile at him sweetly and somewhat self-confident, tilt my head a little and say:
”Benvenuti in Italia.”
And then he pulls me into his arms and holds me there for a long time without saying anything. We stay like this, and everything just feels right.
His lips touch my ear, and he says quietly.
”It’s great to see you, Lulu.”
I don’t answer him, ‘cos I can’t.
Mads had sworn that he would never again ‘open up’. He doesn’t want anything to do with the paranormal ever again. He just wants to be a normal guy.
It is probably something more than a concussion that Carla has brought back from Poveglia.
And the ending will not be revealed here.
However, what can be revealed is that Mads of course ‘opens up’ again and maybe gets into contact with a spirit… and that Carla, Lulu, Fabio and Mads have to make yet another visit to the haunted Poveglia…
The rest must be read in the book, though it should be added that the plot follows the story back to the Venetian plague epidemics and also Fabio’s great and painful secret will play a part in the story.