Once upon a time, a newly married couple rode an old train from Myrdal to Flåm. The train passed through mountains and valleys, past waterfalls and vast lakes. Often the climb was dramatically steep, the hairpin turns almost impossibly sharp. The passengers ran from window to window in a frenzy of excitement, exclaiming at the vivid scenery, blinking in wonder when the train emerged from a tunnel.
A voice spoke to the passengers, first in Norwegian, then in German, then English. The voice spoke of gradients and history: of the men who had built tracks from wood and stone and the many people who had ridden on the red seats of the old train. And there were legends, too: this was folklore country. The land through which the train was passing was said to be haunted by trolls and fays. The valleys were home to the Hulder, a forest siren who lured mortals with her unearthly song. The bride squeezed her husband’s hand in excitement. Here was magic; here was darkness.
At length, the train rattled to a stop. The passengers were to alight at Kjosfossen for a few moments. The waterfall was awe-inspiring in its height and power; the colors of the mountains, the trees, the sky, and the crashing water on the rocks defied capture. Spray hit their faces; the air was pure and sweet. People began taking pictures: the Italian family; the elderly American man on crutches with his solicitous Thai husband; the German couple. The newly married couple did not want to take a picture, though. “It wouldn’t capture the magic,” she said.
And then this happened:
In case you can’t tell, here’s the sequence of events: vaguely ancient music starts to play, loudly enough to be heard over the crash of the falls. There is Enya-ish singing. And suddenly, there’s a siren dancing on a far-off hill, her red gown vivid against the scenery, her long blonde hair flowing as she moves. And then, she’s gone! But there she is again—like magic, on a lower ledge! And, wait, there she is—on the other side of the falls!
All of which is to say, three women reenact Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” video in the middle of this valley whenever a train of tourists passes by, during peak season. Apparently, they are all ballet students.
The new bride—for she was me!—pulled out her phone and set to recording. This, at least, could be captured.
And they lived happily ever after, and took many pictures, and died of old age, having known a world where people tried to anticipate their pleasures and imaginations, just like the kings and queens of old.
Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.