Anyway, back in Sweden...
The paw prints scatter down the castle stairs.
"Kitty!" MoLinder pounds after them and Katsisch and I follow, tracking the trail into a darkened room full of slithering shadows. A series of decayed shuttered windows creep over the walls, each one opening with a scream or a scrape, lazily hiding pictures of Swedish children's nightmares.
Rat silhouettes scurry across the base of a wall. In the distance, another room, I hear terrified shrieks, the slicing and meaty splat of a guillotine.
"What the fuck kind of children's museum is this?" I ask. To no one, really. I'm just asking, you know. The world.
It never occurred to me, even in all of the places I've been - including twelve countries that barely survived the Black Death - it never occurred to me until this moment that there once was a plague upon a place I have stood. Suddenly I feel very indulged and spoiled, but tragically so.
I hear my sister scream.
Wuss, I think as her scream morphs into laughter, riddled with the guillotine slices and shrieks and MoLinder's low, gasping giggles. MoLinder plans on fucking with me as well, I'm sure of it, and I'm startled anyway when she gets her chance.
"Are you fucking kidding me?' I say softly, staring. English translations of the exhibits are sporadic, and this room offered none at all. A screen on the wall was playing some documentary in Swedish, which I obviously couldn't understand. The modern castle star-wiped into photos and then drawings of the past, showing a layout of the dungeons and the Dalby Gallows Hill outside, where prisoners and vagrants were whipped, and I giggled.
Because one time I was wandering in Printer's Row and I found a risque little leather book called Flagellation and the Flagellants: A History of the Rod in All Countries, from the Earliest Period to the Present Time. It was a brilliant thing, published in like the 1870s. I couldn't afford the $200 copy in my hand, but I sat in a corner and skimmed it for awhile, soaking in the subtle comedy, learning all I could about the medical, disciplinary, and erotic history of flogging.
"The line between pain and pleasure is as thin as the tail of a whip."
I run my hands over the walls. During the Renaissance this place was a fortress. Eventually another wall was built around Malmo, and this building served as citadel. After that it became a castle. And after it was a castle, it was a prison. Now a museum. So much history in here, I think, tracing a pattern onto the wall with my finger, yeah...so...this is not the original wall. Stop touching it like you can feel its memories or something. Okay.
"Ross. Ross. RASSLES. Get over here. Have you read these?"
Thankful to be distracted, I bolt to MoLinder, who's standing in front of a fake door of a jail cell and reading something from out of a drawer.
"Dude. Read this. It's so fucked up. And dude...watch." She peers through the barred window, triggering motion sensors. A recording launches of a man's maniacal laugh and thud of an axe, the sound of splattering blood - through the window, a shadow passes over a white wall streaked with dark, thick red.
We couldn't see inside some of the holes, and as I have a fear of sticking my hand in things, I was petrified. Is there a name for that? The fear of sticking your hand into the unknown?
I stand in front of one of the crudely cut holes and shove my camera inside, taking picture after picture to create a panoramic view of everything that lives in the hidey-hole.
"Just stick your hand in there," Katsisch teases.
I brace myself and stretch my fingers, reaching slowly into the hole, and snatch my hand back fast because something is totally going to grab me, and I don't know if it's MoLinder or if it's someone who is paid to grab people that are scared of putting their hands into dark holes or what, but I knew my shit would get grabbed and I would probably cry.
But I was laughing, and trying to take pictures of the inside of the hole so I could assure myself that nothing was in there, that nothing was going to slip over my hand and pull or knaw or drill into my marrow, and as I was freaking out and Katsisch was laughing MoLinder stomped over and jammed her hand into the damn thing.
"There is nothing in there," she said, and I'd never seen a braver thing in my life. "It's fine."
We kept wandering through the prison, and then the trail of paw prints ended with the silhouette of a cat. So we kept walking, and then we were in an art museum, and then we were in a clothing design exhibit, and then we were in an aquarium, and then we were in a historical Swedish furniture display (until Ikea), and then we were surrounded by taxidermied white reindeer doused in glitter, and then we were in an HIV room, and then there was a suit of armor dangling from the ceiling by its neck, and then we were in a modern art exhibit about how humans are pigs, and then we were in a room stocked with live bats and scorpions.
But I will leave you with this, with one of the most fucked up things I've read in a children's museum.
Prisoner No. 14, 1896
Bength Nilsson, known as "The Chicken Man"
Born 7/1/1841, sentenced on 8/9/1876 to life imprisonment with hard labor, for incest and illicit sexual relations
Bengt Nilsson bought chickens from the farms and sold them in town.
There were also fine-looking women on the farms. He could bandy words with them and squeeze them when he got the chance, but they were always on their guard. But there were lots of little girls around...
Bengt knew how to attract and deceive the small, shy blue-eyed creatures. A few of them began to blubber, of course, but when he threatened to give them a good thrashing, or boxed their ears once or twice, they kept quiet about what was going on.
And then of course, he always had his daughter, Nilla, at home. She never denied him. A few times he had to threaten to take one of her sisters instead, and then she was more than happy to make herself available to him. Four children were the unhappy result, though thank goodness two did not live long.
Is he not fully within his rights to take possession of what is his?