Oxygen and Aromasia
by Claës Lundin
translated by Bertil Falk
Table of Contents
Part 1 and Part 2
appear in this issue.
Chapter 17: In Copenhagen
Part 3 of 3:
Oxygen’s supposition was correct. Aromasia had informed Aunt Vera about her rescue immediately after deciding to give a concert and consequently stay a few days in Copenhagen. Thereupon she promptly started off in search of a good scent piano and a skillful chemist who could assist her in manufacturing the scents needed.
This time, she wanted to supervise the preparations herself. She was so sure of her art that she knew her scent chords could not possibly cause an accident or even the slightest inconvenience as long as they were carefully prepared and, above all, no treachery was involved in their preparation.
Fleet of foot, Aromasia walked down to the big Blegedamsboulevard, the palaces of which still, although two or three hundred years old, still retained their proud exterior, a fine testimonial to the architectural taste prevailing at the beginning of the third millennium, especially in the 22nd century.
The artist was surrounded by big crowds of air-carriage rental agents. There were more of them in Copenhagen than in Stockholm and Gothenburg, and they incessantly attacked people who walked on the sidewalks. These air-travelers were said to be lineal descendants of the drivers who used to pull up in their carriages at Österport, where they assaulted peaceful wanderers, tore them to pieces and threw the pieces into their coffee-grinders. During the trip to Strandveien, then still a nearly uninhabited street, they ground them to the finest powder that mixed with the dust of the road blowing away out into the Sound.
The drivers of the 24th century were certainly not as cruel as the old hijackers of Österport, but they were troublesome enough to prevent a calm stroll on the boulevard. Yet Aromasia succeeded in escaping them. She sometimes preferred to walk and had chosen to do so this day.
True, walking was old-fashioned, especially in this part of Scandinavia, but the artist did not worry about that. It did not distress her that she attracted attention and that the air-travelers looked at her in surprise.
When she arrived at the eastern end of Blegedamsboulevard, she turned into the many side streets, which since olden days had crossed each other in the quarter of the town that was built on what used to be called Sortedams Lake. It was not a very nice district, but it was the place where the most distinguished ododion-manufacturers had their big warehouses. There was the famous ododion company Sörensen, Sörensen & Sörensen. At the beginning it had been a company of three persons; now it was a more extensive enterprise with several hundred workers.
This company not only manufactured and sold excellent scent pianos highly reputed in Europe and Africa, it also arranged scent concerts for those artists who wished to perform in Copenhagen. The company also took care of acquiring everything that goes with such a concert, even an attentive and merry scentience.
Aromasia found this to be splendid and left all the preparations in the hands of the association. That is, all except the preparation of the scent batches. She definitely wanted to be there when they were being prepared. The day-person on duty at the company’s offices considered that caution to be totally superfluous and guaranteed that no inconvenience would arise, even if the artist did not supervise the chemist, and said that above all no accident like the one in Gothenburg would happen.
Aromasia nevertheless stuck to her intention and got directions to the best chemist. He had his laboratory at Erikböghsgatan, an extremely old street that was once called Fredericigatan or Blancogatan but in the 24th century was one of the foremost streets in the city. The chemist in question attached importance to the location of his workshop, for very many people came to ask for advice and assistance and to place orders.
At Hydrogenius’ place — that was the name of the chemist — Aromasia not only met handicraft practitioners who had come consult the scientist but also other scientists as well as people of all professions.
In the 24th century people often gathered in their spare moments in the chemists’ laboratories as people used to visit the artists’ studios. In the past, people admired or found fault with the artworks; nowadays, they did the same with chemical experiments.
Generally speaking, people showed great sympathy for chemical research and never seemed to tire of frequenting chemists. Hydrongenius was surrounded by a crowd of admirers who continually sang his praises and, for interludes, busied themselves with recounting and explaining the day’s events within and outside of Scandinavia.
This day they were talking about general elections in Gothenburg, about Warm-Blasius, about Miss Scentman-Ozodes’ rescue, about the latest machine pieces at one of the many stages in Kristianshavn and about the latest book excerpts as well as about many other things of interest to a politically and aesthetically machine-educated gathering of ladies and gentlemen.
“We’ve gotten a new excerpt from The History of the Five Latest Centuries by Professor Digerman,” announced one of the party, “and it surpasses all the previous ones. That’s because it condenses into sixteen pages everything the Professor said in ten big volumes of five thousand pages. It is a triumph of book publishing.”
True, in the 24th century even bigger books were written or assembled with the help of literary mechanics, but nobody had time to read them. Indeed, the struggle for existence occasionally permitted a small pleasure such as a scent concert, a brain organ performance, a play, a visit to the chemists’ laboratories, a social gathering in private or something of the sort. But reading big books was considered a waste of time and consequently not in accordance with the national economy.
Enterprising literature-machinists had discovered that one could make small extracts from large books or quite brief condensations in the smallest possible form while retaining the very core of the original work. People always had time to read such small books, which were in high demand. They were up to date, and it was only a question of condensing them so that they could be read in a few minutes, preferably a few seconds.
Sixteen pages of the history of the past five centuries described all the political and cultural events accurately and completely accounted for the development of the Scandinavian countries. Everything was supported by the most scrupulous original research and the most painstaking examinations.
“The latest research has revealed,” said one of Hydrogenius’ guests, “that the fight between leftists and rightists, the two unforgiving races here in Denmark five hundred years ago, did not take place, as has been thought up to now, on Norre Fælled but on the old Slotsholmen.
“We also know now that our ancestors in those days were still cannibals and that the bones found in the kitchen middens of the 19th century belonged to rightists and leftists who were eaten by their opponents. It happened depending on whether the one or the other group had the best of it, until at last, after a dreadful bloodbath, the last survivor — he’s said to have been a leftist — died of terminal indigestion caused by swallowing fat and unwholesome rightists.”
“Yes, those were the fights and their outcome,” another person remarked, “that enticed the Germans at the end of the 19th century to attack Denmark once more.”
“But that attack gave rise to the practical perfection of Scandinavism,” a third person said, “whereby the Scandinavian countries were saved.”
“Accordingly we have the Danish cannibals of the 19th century to thank for the unification of the Scandinavian countries, for the return of Sönderjylland to the common fatherland and for the strength and security of the North.”
“It may seem so, but the wild cannibals may not have thought of anything like that when they were tearing each other to pieces and eating each other. It was a frightful time.”
“How could it have been different?” asked a lady who just had helped Hydrogenius with a very difficult chemical experiment. “Women had not yet been permitted to have a say in the parliament.”
“That’s true. Nor were they permitted to hold an official position. It took a long time before Denmark accepted that women were fit for public office.”
“But can it be true that there was a time when a woman was denied earning an academic degree and, for example, was not permitted to work as a medical doctor?”
“It’s said to have been like that, even though in our time we find it difficult to believe in such barbarism.”
Aromasia took part in the conversation, pleased with the respectful attention she was paid. Hydrogenius took it upon himself to prepare together with her the scent batches needed for the next day’s concert and told her that she could be absolutely sure of them.