I don’t need to tell you that so much of what one puts in a fictional story is borrowed from real life. There’s a story behind the cover art of “Nocturnal Illumination” as well. It’s lame compared to what happens to Lailie, the noc on the cover, but it’s part of a woman’s life, to dodge the evils of male predators. (Oh, stop rolling your eyes.)
I was living in Stockholm, Sweden, at the time, right next to a big church, Johannes kyrka, and I was on my way home. During winter it gets dark around 5 pm, So there I was, walking the diagonal path across the dark church grounds. At some point it became very clear that I was being followed. I started to think. If I was to walk all the way across the church grounds and continue, there was a long dark winding stair case that led to another street a plateau below. It was a common shortcut, to cross the park and take the stairs. Stockholm is built on rocky islands, and the dark stairs winding downward were a perfect place to mug someone, rape someone, or kill someone. Who knew what his plans where? My plan was to pretend my intent was to walk down those dark steps. The entry to my apartment was the last before the steps. And so I walked with confidence, heading towards those stairs to let my pursuer think that he had time, but when near my entrance, I made a sharp turn and quickly entered the four digit code to open the door. Once in my apartment, a studio on the first floor, I didn’t turn on my lights for an hour to make sure he wouldn’t learn where I lived. Perhaps you think I’m silly and over cautious, even paranoid, but once you’ve had someone dynamically speed up or slow down behind you, paying very close attention to your every move, you’d know how scary it can be. This wasn’t the case for Lailie however.
Lailie was living the song, you know “Just a girl” by No Doubt. But she was no pathetic Swedish girl with paranoia, she was a noc. She had augmented senses, speed and strength, and she had practiced martial art. But most of all, she was fed up. Her assaulter’s timing was most welcome. Their encounter was to be a turning point, a new direction for Lailie. An unconventional direction that would mold her future to be a perfect source of drama for a fictional novel.
Thinking about my time living in Stockholm, I became curious of how much I actually remembered. Memories tend to become more fictional with time, so I went to Google Earth to see what the Johannes Park and surrounding areas look like. Indeed there’s the church grounds, and spookier yet – with a graveyard. To cross the park was a common short cut for those who wanted to get to Regeringsgatan below via the stairs in image B. Not to give out tips to aspiring rapists, but look at those stairs in heavy stone brick, winding down between buildings with businesses, closed at night. No one would see you struggle in the dark alley staircase on a landing between the steps, tucked away from the noisy street ahead.
I can write about this with ease because I never became a victim of the Johannes Kyrka steps, but it often baffles me how many women don’t think about those things, who go through life anticipating nothing bad to ever happen to them. I don’t wish to promote paranoia, but I tend to always imagine an escape plan for my less secure moments in life. When I walked by myself in L.A. late at night, I would have my pepper spray ready, with my finger on the trigger. While I’ve escaped with some serious help from guardian angels in my life, I knew I could never count on the aid of those los angeles alone.