Authors: Johanna Sinisalo
Also by Johanna Sinisalo
Troll: A Love Story
The Blood of Angels
Translated from the Finnish by
Copyright Â© Johanna Sinisalo 2013
Translation copyright Â© 2016 by Lola Rogers
Originally published as
by Teos Publishers (Finland)
English edition published by agreement with Johanna Sinisalo and Elina AhlbÃ¤ck Agency, Hesinki, Finland
All rights reserved
The translation of this book was subsidized in part by FILI.
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Published simultaneously in Canada
Printed in the United States of America
an imprint of Grove Atlantic
154 West 14th Street
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Distributed by Publishers Group West
Dedicated to the Freedom Trust Conglomerate
you know who you are
Teach me, chile, and I shall Learn.
Take me, chile, and I shall Escape.
Focus my eyes, chile, and I shall See.
Consume more chiles.
I feel no pain, for the chile is my teacher.
I feel no pain, for the chile takes me beyond myself.
I feel no pain, for the chile gives me sight.
Transcendental Capsaicinophilic Society,
“Litany Against Pain”
My boat is light and swift.
âChukchi shaman Ukwun
I lift my skirt, pull aside the waistband of my underwear, and push my index finger in to test the sample.
The seller's eyes go wide. The maple tree's branches and sparse leaves splash shadows over his face, the whites of his eyes flash, and I can see his Adam's apple jump as he swallows.
He exudes a sour smell, a mixture of tar and spirea blossoms. Fear, confusion, disbelief: he's an amateur, probably a closet capso, hooked on capsaicin, trying to feed his addiction by dealing. He's trying to keep his face neutral, but he flinches at this habit of mine. A beginner. Probably shocked by the glimpse of my pubic hair, too. Maybe that's something he's never seen before.
I pull my hand out of my panties and let the waistband spring back into place.
I lower my skirt. Press my thighs together to let the sample take effect. Flash a calm smile.
The lower lip doesn't lie.
“This will take a second,” I say, looking at the sky, or rather at the branches swaying above us. “Looks as though it might drizzle.”
The seller opens his mouth but no sound comes out. I can sense a whiff of hostility, the kind that happens when someone's slightly anxious, when he's lost control of a situation. Understandable. If you're engaging in illegal activity in the wee hours of the night in a corner of a cemetery, you don't want to run into surprises like me.
“I guess we should expect the first snow pretty soon,” I say. That's when the stuff starts to kick in.
First the burn spreads across my lower body, my labia and vagina turning hot as glowing embers. The first drops of sweat form under my eyes, then along the edge of my scalp, then down my neck. The blood rushes in my ears. The stuff thrums a dredging bass note, almost an infrasound, with fantastic dark brown tones in its burn.
I take a deep breath and smile wider than I should. “I'll take the whole load.”
The lower lip doesn't lie.
This is the real stuff.
The seller has been holding the score in his hand the whole time and gives it to me now. About a hundred grams, and if it's all like the stuff that's in my coot right now, it's incredibly strong. I twirl the transparent plastic bag in my hand and check to make sure the dried flakes aren't cut with bits of plastic or crepe paper or red flower petals. It doesn't look adulterated.
He claims it's Naga Viper, but it could just as well be some variety I've never heard of. Judging by its potency, it's about a million scovilles. This is one of the strongest scores ever.
The capsaicin is roaring so loudly through the blood vessels in my ears that it's hard to concentrate on closing the deal. I fish the agreed-upon sum out of my bra. The seller stares at me as I do this, his eyes like saucers. The whole transaction is probably starting to seem to him like a cock tease, with me flashing first my pubes and now my bosom. But if he's got any experience at all with this stuff and even a little sense in his head, he knows that under no circumstances should he try to go poking his dick into a vagina where Naga Viper is waiting to bite it. The nerve endings of a woman's genitals are sparse for an erogenous zoneâand, of course, I scrupulously avoid letting the sample touch my most sensitive spotsâbut if a man got a dose of capsaicin around his urethra it would be quite a jolt.
The seller takes the money, counts the bills out twiceâÂseparating them with mind-numbing exactnessâfinally nods, and stuffs the cash into his breast pocket. I give my head a jerk: “Get lost.” He raises an eyebrow, runs his gaze up and down my body. He's putting out a candy-flavored smell, a tinge of something almost like burnt sugar. I look him in the eye without blinking and cross my arms over my chest in a firm negative
He shrugs and leaves, pushing the branches out of his way and strolling down the gravel path toward the cemetery gates with purposeful slowness.
When I'm sure he's far enough away, I stuff the bag into the waist of my skirt and tug the hem of my blouse over it. The blouse is a bit too tight to cover the lump, but it's not likely to show up in a surveillance video.
I wait a few more seconds and then slip out of the grove of trees. I walk briskly down the path in the opposite direction. There aren't many cameras at the cemetery, and they check the film only when they know something suspicious has happened. There are also rumors that most of the cameras are just empty cases. Still, I try to look as if I have a purpose. If someone asks what I'm doing in this particular cemetery, and why I'm here in the middle of the night, I have an excellent explanation.
Hearing Transcript (Extract)
October 9, 2016
Hearing supervisor [hereafter HS]: Let it be noted that FN-140699-NLP [Vanna NeulapÃ¤Ã¤, hereafter V], owing to her legal status, was questioned in the presence of witness Jare Valkinen.
Questioner [hereafter Q]: Why did you come to KalevanÂkangas cemetery?
Jare Valkinen [hereafter J]: To watch my girlfriend, Vanna NeulapÃ¤Ã¤. I knew she was going there to visit a grave.
Q: Which grave?
V: My sister's.
Q: Why did you go there?
V: Well, um, she died just a short time ago. And I just can't sleep because I keep turning it over in my mind! [witness begins to cry]
J: Vanna's sister's death was a great shock to her. The grave is an important, beloved place for her.
Q: Why were you watching Vanna?
J: Elois are so easily led astray or pressured into things that I thought it best to be on the safe side and sort of look after her.
Q: As well you should. Is the other witness able to speak now?
V: Yeah. I think so.
Q: Did you know the man who attacked you?
V: I sure didn't!
Q: Did you know him, Valkinen?
J: No. I suspect the man may have been following Vanna for a long time and saw her go into the cemetery and thought it a good opportunity.
Q: Both the witness and the attacker spent several minutes in a location that is obscured in the surveillance footage. Was there at that time any kind of provocation or enticement?
V: Of course not! I was . . . I needed [said in a whisper] to pee. Because I'd drunk at least six cups of a kind of herb thing that's supposed to help you sleep, but it just made me . . . need to tinkle . . . sorry. So I wanted to sleep but I couldn't, and I went to the cemetery, but then I really had to go.
Q: So you purposely went out of sight because . . . you needed to do your business?
V: The man who came up to me must have been spying on me from someplace while I was peeing! I should have tried to find a restroom, but it was awfully urgent! [witness begins to cry again]
Q: So the attacker, having seen . . . this activity . . . followed the witness?
J: I assume that's what happened.
Q: And you were hiding near the grave, because you wanted to know what your girlfriend was doing when she went out at night?
J: Exactly. When the attacker got there, I thought at first that he had come there to meet her, but then he attacked her and tried to sexually assault her.
Q: Right. From the tape we can see that the man tried to tear off the witness's skirt.
J: I went to help her, of course, and I struck the attacker in the face. I assumed that he had been knocked unconsciousness by the blow, and I turned to see if Vanna was all right. Then the attacker ran away. When I saw that Vanna wasn't seriously injured, I quickly went to the nearest social disturbance alarm and pushed the button. Has the man been caught? If so, I can try to help identify him.
Q: For investigative reasons we are unable to provide any information about the progress of the case at present.
V: Can we go now?
Q: Speak when you're spoken to. I consider the matter settled. You may go, but first you must both sign the record of this hearing. Your name underneath, miss. Chop-chop. There's no time for you to work out what the whole thing says. Your manfriend will get a copy later and tell you what it all means.