It was the light, the way it stung and burned and tore at him, hung over the forests and the lakes like an incentive to go on breathing, like a promise of new life. The light, that filled his veins with an urgency and robbed him of sleep. It was still only May, but he lay awake as dawn filtered through fibres and gaps. He could hear the melting frost seeping out of the ground as winter bled away, and streams and rivers rushing and surging as the fells shed their winter covering. Soon the light would consume every night, invading, dazzling, shaking life into everything that slumbered beneath the rotten leaves. It would fill the buds on the trees with warmth until they burst open, and the forest would fill with mating calls and the hunger cries of newly hatched life. The midnight sun would drive people from their lairs and fill them with longing. They would laugh and make love and become crazy and violent. Some might even disappear. They would be blinded an and disorientated. But he didn’t want to believe that they died.
He smoked only while he was searching for her. Lelle saw her in the passenger seat every time he lit another cigarette, the way she grimaced and fixed her eyes on him over the rim of her glasses. ‘I thought you’d given up?’ ‘I have given up. This is just a one-off.’ He could see her shake her head, scowl and bare her teeth, the pointy canines that embarrassed her. Her presence was more palpable then, as he drove through the night and the daylight clung on. Her hair that was almost white when the sun caught it, the dark splash of freckles on the bridge of her nose that she had tried to disguise with make-up in recent years, and her eyes that saw everything, even though she gave the impression she wasn’t looking.
She was more like Anette than she was him, and that was just as well. The beauty genes certainly hadn’t come from him. She was beautiful and that wasn’t just because he was biased, people had always turned to look at Lina, even when she was very little. She was the kind of child who would bring a smile to the most jaded of faces. But these days nobody turned to look at her any more. No one had seen her for three years – at least, no one who was prepared to say it openly. His cigarettes ran out before he reached Jörn. Lina was no longer sitting in the seat beside him. The car was empty and silent and he had almost forgotten he was driving, eyes on the road but taking nothing in. He had been travelling along this main road, known as the Silver Road, for such a long time that he knew it like the back of his hand. He knew every bend and every gap in the wildlife fencing that allowed moose and reindeer to cross if they had a mind to. He knew where rainwater collected on the surface and where mist drifted up from the tarns and distorted his vision. The road’s sole purpose had disappeared with the closure of the silver mines, and it had become treacherous after years of neglect and deterioration. But it was also the only road that connected Glimmersträsk with the other inland communities, and however much he detested the cracked tarmac and the overgrown drainage ditches that stretched out behind him, he would never abandon it. This was where she had disappeared. This road had swallowed up his daughter.
Originally published in Sweden as Silvervägen by Albert Bonniers Förlag in 2018. First published in Great Britain in 2019 by Corvus, an imprint of Atlantic Books Ltd. Copyright © Stina Jackson, 2019. English translation copyright © Susan Beard, 2019