Back when I met Morten in that Oslo café in 1985, I had it all: my youth; a fashionably oversized, ruffled beige sweater coat; and a corporeal, three-dimensional form in living color. If only I’d never looked at that accursed comic book, I might be an entrepreneur right now, running a successful chain of Scandinavian fish markets. I could be married to a modern-day Viking financier or a national bandy champion, supping on lutefisk in an ostentatious-by-Norwegian-standards home in the fashionable suburb of Bygdøy.
Instead, I live out most of my days in two dimensions, shades of gray, constantly on the run from that racer guy with the wrench, and his partner, Number 13. Why is the man with the wrench hunting high and low for us? I’ve been dodging him for 34 years, and I still don’t know. When I ask Morten, he simply winks and offers me his hand.
If you’re surprised to hear that Morten and I are now entirely two-dimensional, let me tell you, no one was more surprised than I. When he broke through the wall between our worlds and landed in my apartment — his face flushed, his hair damp with sweat — he was extremely three-dimensional and, let me tell you, fully operational in every glorious aspect of his humanity. After an evening of sweet flesh-and-blood lovemaking, we took an early morning stroll in the Nordmarka forest. As we began to plan our lives together, the color drained from Morten’s face; at first, I thought it was typical guy bullshit, but then I realized he was turning back into a line drawing. My own body also began to change, as did the trees around us; soon, Morten and I were both flat as the sheets of paper we were printed on.
It was only then he told me what he feared: that perhaps I hadn’t saved him from life as a cartoon, but rather, he’d visited his own fate upon me. To be fair, he didn’t know that would happen when he beckoned me into his comic book universe. He just thought, “Hey, cute 3D chick! Maybe we could hang.” He was as surprised as I was when we were both transformed into grayscale drawings the next morning.
Did we try to break back into my original Norwegian reality? Of course we did. We spent the rest of the ’80s and a good chunk of the ’90s banging on the tops and sides of our comic book panels. We danced opposite each other in the two-way universe mirror, each glimpsing a 3D version of the other — but we couldn’t find a way to make it stick. Every time Wrench Man appeared, Morten tried to open a portal, as he had earlier, but to no avail.
I feel saddest for our children, Maja, Vilde, and Morten Jr. There are no family-planning clinics here in the comic book universe, and very little to do when Wrench Man isn’t chasing us. We fuck like bunnies, or rather, like drawings of bunnies. I had no idea I was pregnant until little Maja sprang out from under my line-drawn sweater coat, and our other two children surprised us in similar ways. Sadly, none of them have distinct personalities; they simply cling to us as we run from danger, distracting themselves from our incessant fucking by playing with the keyboard and the guitar they found on the other side of the two-way universe mirror.
If only I could find a way to slip my children into the 3D world, where the sun always shines, much as it does on TV. Perhaps they could grow up, achieve some of the dreams I had before I met Morten and became a colorless shadow of my former self. As the years go by it feels less and less likely, but Morten, bless his charcoal heart, hasn’t given up trying. He had a real “a-ha” moment last month when he theorized that we might be trapped in one of the Nine Worlds of Norse mythology.
“That’s a great theory, sweetie,” I communicated through a word bubble, while thinking to myself: More like one of Dante’s circles of hell.