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Oxygen and Aromasia

by Claës Lundin

translated by Bertil Falk

Table of Contents
Chapter 23, part 1;
part 2; part 3
appears in this issue.
Chapter 24: Reality or Dream?


“You can travel very fast this way,” head clerk Kvist said to his companion a day, when they had made a longer trip into the air. “But I almost think that I prefer the old horse-drawn cabs.”

“You’re an incorrigible ancient man,” Hemispherion replied. “If Oxygen heard you, he would probably bitterly regret that he brought you back to life from your five-hundred year-long sleep.”

“Oh, to think I would never see him again! It would be like missing an old acquaintance. Will Oxygen not come to Stockholm?”

“No, he has decided that he’ll not see daylight until he’s on the other side of the earth. Haven’t I told you about his and the beautiful Aromasia’s love story?”

“It seems to me that you’ve not talked about anything else these past days. But it’s not a tidy love story. It’s not easy to think of a young girl who likes a young, handsome and decent man, who very well can afford to marry her and support a wife and children, but she turns him down just because he has been jealous or not made enough fuss over her so-called sense of independence. And then the young girl walks away and lets herself be elected to parliament in order to forget her love there! I’ve never before heard of anything so silly.”

“Aromasia has already distinguished herself in parliament,” Hemispherion reminded.

“That’s even more silly,” the head clerk insisted.

However, he found that silliest of all was that he no more could find Shipper’s Street or that no one had ever heard of the Opera Cellar or Blanche and of Berns’ cafés. Everything was changed so far beyond recognition that the head clerk felt despair.

One day as he came home to Lidingsbärgsgatan, where he lived with Hemispherion, he said — and his face was beaming with joy — that he had found a small part of Stockholm that still was exactly as it had been five hundred years ago.

“It’s the Holy Spirits Holm!” he exclaimed.

Hemispherion congratulated the head clerk on having met an old friend, and he intended to write a dissertation about the reasons that the old island Helgeandsholmen had not changed despite the vicissitudes of time, when he was hindered by a visitor.

It was Miss Rosebud who came to see the place, where her beloved Apollonides had ended his days. As usual Mrs. Sharpman-Fulmar was in her company, since she had nothing else to do. No opportunities for electoral intrigues had presented themselves lately, but she was hoping for better times.

The head clerk already knew the two women. There were even rumors that he would marry one of them, though it was not known which one.

Miss Rosebud did not seem to think of anything other than her dear poet’s ashes. She kept them in an artistic vase of an ancient material and of a kind that many hundreds of years ago had been manufactured by the factories of Rörstrand and Gustafsberg, the most well-known and valued of the manufacturing institutions in Scandinavia when it came to the old Nordic handicraft.

The head clerk said that he knew these factories very well.

“It’s a very small vase,” Miss Rosebud said. “Apollonides’ ashes don’t weigh more than two kilos. A piece of artwork from the days he loved so much is the most dignified thing to keep the remains of the unhappy poet.”

“My friend Kvist,” Mrs. Sharpman-Fulmar began. She had already become so intimate that she in this way addressed the man from the 19th century. “My friend Kvist, you’re indeed very old, but you carry your years well.”

“Thanks to Doctor Schulze-Müller,” Hemispherion put in.

“You could need such a doctor, were it not already too late,” Mrs. Sharpman-Fulmar sharply and dryly exclaimed at the old scientist.

He thanked her for her good wishes but explained that by no means was he in need of some Doctor Schulze-Müller, because in a few days he would get have new space vehicle ready and go out hunting for the globe the ill-fated Apollonides had let go.

“My friend Kvist,” Mrs. Sharpman-Fulmar resumed and got closer to the head clerk, “I don’t know why, but I’ve the feeling that we’ve known each other for years.”

“Old memories from the 19th century,” said Hemispherion.

Mrs. Sharpman-Fulmar pretended that she did not hear the remark. “It seems to me that you’ve participated in our fates,” she continued, “having been one of us and been everywhere together with us.”

“Mrs. Sharpman is right,” the head clerk said. “Nor do I know how it happened, but it seems to me that I know all very well the occurrences I’ve heard reported these days. It’s as if I had been at Miss Aromasia’s scent concerts, at the brain organ performances, and at the accident of Örgryte; as if I had known very well the blessed Apollonides and as if I myself had invented diaphot; yes, even as if I had seen Mr. Oxygen and Miss Aromasia in the glowing room in the big Baltic Sea-South Pacific tunnel. How do these matters stand?”

Hemispherion smiled a funny smile. The head clerk looked surprised, almost frightened at him.

“It seems to me that I also have seen Mr. Hemsipherion before,” he said and he could not turn away his eyes from the old man who still smiled his funny smile. “But it was at another place. It was that first time at Trocadero in 1878, a hot day in June, when I refreshed myself with the same drink that began my acquaintance with... But... then you were not Hemispherion, but Schulze-Müller.”

The old scientist smiled even more in his funny way. Miss Rosebud jumped to her feet and said that she wanted to rush home to look after the ashes of Apollonides. Mrs. Sharpman-Fulmar looked as if she wanted fall on the head clerk’s neck.

“Whew!” he exclaimed. “This must be a dream after all. I am still staying at Hôtel de la Tamise, rue d’Alger... Champeaux, the popular fair, the cafés, the fireworks... Indeed, I don’t know what’s dream and what’s reality.”

Story by Claës Lundin
Translation copyright © 2007 by Bertil Falk

Proceed to Challenge 272...

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