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Oxygen and Aromasia

by Claës Lundin

translated by Bertil Falk

Table of Contents
Chapter 8 appeared
in issue 262.
Chapter 9: Under Skagerrak

part 1 of 3

Inspired by the German philosopher and science fiction writer Kurd Lasswitz’ novel Bilder aus der Zukunft (“Pictures from the Future”), the Swedish journalist Claës Lundin (1825-1908) created the novel Oxygen och Aromasia, “pictures from the year 2378” — a date exactly five centuries in the novel’s future. Bewildering Stories is pleased to bring you this classic of early modern science fiction in Bertil Falk’s translation.

Title graphic There was an active life on the Great Oceanstreet in Gothenburg. The street stretched at a vast length from the farthest cliffs to the west of the original city far away to the Gullbergsreeds. It was built partly on rocks, partly on piles, and lined with stately houses as high as twelve or fifteen stories tall.

The lower ten or twelve stories were occupied by trade- and bank offices; the rest were splendid habitations, where the princes and princesses of trade and all their civil servants of both sexes enjoyed in their leisure time the pleasures of life that they derived from their industrious work.

Along the galleries outside the buildings, big and small air-vehicles were unloaded and loaded. It was a hoisting and a hauling, a stowing and removing. The screams and the noise that even in this agile and noisy time — different from the stillness and silence of the past — could cause not only Gothenburgers but anyone to get dizzy. But Gothenburgers, through an extremely expedient upbringing, had strong and well-equipped heads. Everybody performed his or her tasks without being disturbed by the noise from their neighbors’ activities.

Inside the offices, the buzz was no less. There were many writing machines incessantly busy, directed and fed by the ladies and gentlemen of the offices, constantly answering assignments just received, questions and thousands of reports of all kinds, writing out new orders, putting forward new proposals, constantly conncted with all parts of the earth.

At every moment, the many telephone lines on all floors — they were of a completely different kind compared to the small efforts of the past — announced that the business friends of the trading house in distant regions wanted a verbal conversation. The talking clerks, who had nothing to do with the writing machines, immediately entered into these conversations and described them almost simultaneously at the same time to their principals.

In this way, many deals were completed instantenously, though hundreds of miles separated buyer and seller. At the next moment, the order was executed. Delay was out of the question.

“Tsi-ho-ka-ka-lo in Beijing asks, if he can get some samples of our Halland pit cal by special air delivery,” said one of the clerks of the great West-East-North Company and turned to one of those who directed the functions of the company for the year.

“He can get samples,” the consulted person explained, “but tell our Chinese friend that since our Halland coal is the best on the world market, we cannot let him get it at the same price as our the old Scanian coal.”

That was also what the clerk immediately told the friend in Beijing, who at that asked for fifteen minutes time for consideration and not until after that he confirmed his request for samples.

“We better make it a bigger consignment,” the principal said, “for tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, we’ll probably get a big assignment from Beijing.”

“The House Van Idenskourkeen in Batavia asks if we want to send a loading of our Hisinge coffeee,” reported another of the clerks. “It seems as if they think in Batavia that Hisingen has nothing but coffee plantations, and it seems they want to plant Swedish coffee on Java in order to revive, if possible, the old coffee production of the island.”

“Who’s drinking coffee in our time!” one of three principals exclaimed. “Those old Dutchmen are some hundred years behind us.”

“Don Ranudo desires information about the house Schirting & Co. in Mark.”

“Nihilistjoke in Kasan asks us to arrange a contact for them with the Moneysons and Moneysons company in Topeca.”

One message after another arrived, most of them verbally, but there was also a great number in the telegraphic alphabet and not a few were written. The clerks and the machines were in unceasing activity. In the inner office rooms, the calculation machines were humming at a regular pace, and the bookkeeping machines transferred one entry after another out of the journal and ledger into the big general ledger. Every person and every machine did its specific work, the former as accurate as the latter, the latter as independent as the former.

And the same activity was found in every office of every house along the whole Great Oceanstreet and all other streets in the big city, far away from the former Mölndal and far out on the old Hisingen.

Three times a day, there was bourse at the Chrystal Exchange Palace on the Big Otterhällen, a magnificent edifice. Its precious forms compared favorably with the proudest structures of antiquity; everything was light and transparent as though stating that no treacherous function could enter it without being seen through immediately. The palace was so tall and clearly-shining that it was seen from many miles away, and it was always the unerring landmark of the Gothemburgian airships.

Every time the Exchange opened, it was announced by the ringing of the big bells the Bourse had inherited from the old cathedral, a less tasteful building that had been torn down some hundred years ago.

The third bourse hour was over, and the work in the offices was nearly finished for the day, when one of the principals of the office of the West-East-North Company asked some collaborators how they would spend the evening.

Most of them said that they would participate in advertised electoral meetings. Soon the partial elections would take place, where the representatives of the third district of Majorna would be elected and it should not be neglected.

Some of the female collaborators said that they wished to spend the evening together with their families as usual. They always preferred the domestic life. Nevertheless, they thought that they ought to attend an election meeting together with their husbands at least for a short while.

“But I intend to visit the Gardens of Okeanos,” said the principal. “Anyone want to accompany me? Haven’t you seen what the telegraph boards of the advertising company announced today? There’ll be a great party at Okeanos.”

“True, true,” one of the clerks put in. “If I remember right, it’ll take place in the big Psycheon Palace.”

“Yes, it’s an African artist, a psychician, who is famous on the southern coast of the Mediterranean. It’s something new one has to experience. The day has been very hot, and a little excursion to Skagerrak would be refreshing.”

Proceed to part 2...

Story by Claës Lundin
Translation copyright © 2007 by Bertil Falk

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