Oxygen and Aromasia
by Claës Lundin
translated by Bertil Falk
Table of Contents
in issue 268.
Chapter 17: In Copenhagen
Part 1 of 3: The Lovers Arrive
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.
One of the old Danish capital’s most distinguished inns was situated on Blegedamstorv square in the center of Copenhagen, where Nörre Fælled once spread its extensive lawn for the use of grazing cows as well as for training burgher militias and gatherings of subversive socialists.
The inn was called “Denmark’s Savage.” It rivaled the Central Hotel in Stockholm and even exceeded the most distinguished inns in Älmhult, which had been considered for some time to be the most outstanding hospitality centers in Scandinavia,
The hotel’s garden offered an extensive view of Copenhagen. The garden was laid out on the roof of an enormously tall tower, which was of the same shape as the ancient “Rundetoorn” but was three times higher and wider. With binoculars it was possible to see as far as the old suburb of Roskilde in the west, to the suburb Hilleröd in the north, and to the east and south across Öresund and the Baltic Sea.
Air travelers arrived at that tower when they wanted to visit “Denmark’s Savage,” and that is where Oxygen and Aromasia landed. They were exhausted from their strenuous and adventurous journey. Nevertheless, Aromasia immediately asked the officials who hurried to meet them if she could get air transportation to Stockholm. She wanted to travel immediately, but without company.
This did not tally with Oxygen’s wish to put the Will-Subduer to work as fast as possible. He counted himself fortunate now to be with Aromasia, and he dared to hope for the opportunity to treat her central nervous system in a way that would achieve his desired effect on her will.
He had found it impossible to reach his goal in the old-fashioned way, by showing her respect and being amiable. True, she had kindly offered him her hand and expressed her warm gratitude for being saved from being burnt to death, but now she once more wanted to leave him and return alone to Stockholm. That had to be prevented. Oxygen had to influence her will, so that Aromasia, without experiencing any compulsion, would join him in the bond of marriage.
“The old means have proven totally useless,” Oxygen said to himself.
He had to make haste lest Aromasia leave before he could begin his scientific experiment. He wracked his brains to find a way to have science triumph without the subject of the experiment knowing about it.
He did not think of the parliament in Gothenburg any more, and he did not seem to care whether he had been elected or not. Such indifference was very rare in these days.
Aromasia, on the other hand, thought much more about the election, but above all about the prospects of re-establishing her art, which had undoubtedly suffered a severe setback from the previous days’ events. Hence she thought she could best work in Stockholm, where she had always enjoyed success. From Stockholm she could reach Gothenburg and the rest of Scandinavia.
She loved Oxygen and thought she would never be able to feel the same affection for anyone else. To that affection was now added her gratitude for being rescued from certain death. But in spite of these feelings, she was not convinced that a marriage with Oxygen would result in lasting happiness.
Indeed, marriages in the 24th century were not forever, although contracts were very often made for an indefinite time. However, Aromasia had thought highly of the importance of wedlock and did not want to marry for a limited time. She wished for a lifelong marriage and had found total support from Oxygen in that opinion.
To be fully sure of their feelings and to be able to completely get to know each other’s disposition, they had submitted to the year of probation. It was almost universally used and corresponded to the engagements of the past, but it was in most cases much more serious and more important for its purpose.
That year of probation was almost up. Oxygen had not passed the test as Aromasia wished. She felt miserable because of it, but she did not want to increase the misfortune by marrying a man who, notwithstanding her never-failing love, had misjudged and suspected her and tried to oppose her best intentions. If a woman really had to do without things, as Aromasia had read in the old book, then that privation could not go so far as marrying a man who she knew would not provide her any happiness and thereby no happiness for himself, either.
Aromasia had no knowledge as yet of Oxygen’s desire to force her will by scientific means. An experiment for the sake of science would perhaps have met with her approval, though she would probably not have wanted to be the subject. She might even have been angry at anyone who tried to bend the will of a human being in such a way.
But if she had shown such wrath, Oxygen would undoubtedly have seen it as another evidence of what he called her old-fashioned views. He did not hesitate to try to subdue a woman totally in accordance with ancient ideas, but if it was done in a “scientific way,” that seemed up to date enough for him.
Would he succeed? He did not doubt it, if he only got an opportunity to begin the experiment.