The Train to Bergen

August 1990

The train has been gliding all morning, along the upgrade, climbing through tunnels and mountain passes, as the temperature continues to fall. Here and there, a lone, sturdy house appears either somewhere along a stretch of a rugged, snow-patched mountain side or at the base of a heavily tree-topped fjord. The rising sun shines brightly above as the train travels through The Roof of Norway, passed ice-blue streams and whitewater rapids, meadows and rolling hills.

A young man from Utah, with thick brown hair and dark beard, shares a dream with a young blonde-haired woman, an economics student from the University of Bergen. His backpack has the look of the history of a globetrotter, faded and stained, with tarnished zippers and over-stretched straps. Hers is the opposite, fresh, bright-colored nylon, yet burgeoning with textbooks and opportunity.

“Your country is so quiet,” he tells her, feeling himself falling for her blue eyes. “Too quiet. That’s why I think I had this dream.”

“What was it about?” she asks.

“Old graves.” He smiles. “Like the ones I visited near Lillehammer the other day.”

“Sounds scary. People you knew?”

“My ancestors. Not scary. Just too quiet. But in the dream, I heard voices coming from the graves.”

“That’s not scary?” She smiles.

“No, not really. They were more foretelling than anything. The moans, they sounded as though they were telling me to keep moving. Mooooove.”

“Move where?”

“No where special. Just to keep moving.”

“I think you should follow your dreams, no matter how cryptic they are.”

His smile agreed with her smile.

Now it’s noon. A thick fog occupying the town of Gielo obscures everyone’s view of a steady stream of scenic wilderness, including the bare slopes where Queen Sonja gained her ski instructor’s certificate long ago. A two-year-old girl, an onboard distraction, with Cabbage Patch cheeks and a lazy eye, wanders up and down the aisle, sharing her “hallo” with other travelers. Earlier, during the journey, she had been mesmerized by her mother’s voice emphasizing parts of stories about Mickey Mouse and Winnie-the-Pooh. But now she quickly makes friends with the university student. They share sing-alongs playing on the little girl’s cassette player, a duet the Utahan finds, at first, both adorable and enchanting. But then he trembles.

In the tiny village of Ustaoset, a half-dozen children are jumping up and down alongside the north-side of the track, greeting the train, in front of a rustic four-story resort building. Despite the fog, Lake Ustevatn, on the track’s south side, spans far, tranquil and gray. The little girl is now sitting next to her mother, sharing an ice cream while new travelers fill empty seats.

As The conductor passes by, he gives the Utahan a look.

“What is that about?” The student asks.

“I don’t think he liked the look of my ticket when he checked it earlier.”

“Shouldn’t he?”

“Probably not.” He whispers, “It’s a fake. I better get off soon.”

Not much farther up the railway, at the Haugastøl station, the Utahan, feeling restless, steps off the train, his appearance, gruff and well-traveled, standing in stark contrast to the group of smartly-uniformed Norwegian soldiers standing at ease on the boardwalk. While others remain comfortably aboard and destined for the security of the port city of Bergen, farther west, he ventures out into the vast wilderness, the dense fog. He’s been told to keep moving. To or from what, he can’t say.

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