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Oxygen and Aromasia

by Claës Lundin

translated by Bertil Falk

Table of Contents
Chapter 17
Chapter 18, part 1
appear in this issue.
Chapter 18: Invisible Bodies

Part 2 of 2: Divergent Paths

In the evening that same day “all of Copenhagen streamed,” as they said in the past, out to Tivoli, where Aromasia was to play in concert. Copenhagen of the 24th century was very much changed, not to say being a totally new city as compared to the place it had been some hundred years ago.

The region had grown; the streets were unrecognizable; everywhere were new, endless boulevards; the buildings were like palaces and many floors taller than in the past: living quarters had been completely remodeled; intercommunications had been perfected in an almost unbelievable way; the National Theatre, the old Royal Theatre, the pride of the former Danish state, had disappeared; the à-Porta institution was but a memory; new discoveries and wonderful inventions were made every day.

There was one institution that had survived for almost five and a half centuries and not only was alive but even more powerful and was in constant action: that was Tivoli. It had withstood all the vicissitudes of fortune, all the misfortunes that had hit old Denmark, and it had derived advantage from the advancing progress of the new Denmark within Scandinavia.

For democracy and the true spirit of the people, it had meant more than all political improvements. To begin with, it had brought the different classes closer to each other and totally fused them together. It had guided the threatening flood of socialism in a peaceful though vigorously roaring stream.

To be sure, it had not been able to put any human sentiments into the cannibals of the 19th century, but since human sacrifice had ceased, Tivoli had strongly enhanced national feeling and thereby contributed to the victory over “eternal Prussianness.”

In the following centuries, Tivoli had calmly progressed in its great task, and in the latter part of the 24th century it constituted the common converging point towards which all members of society looked with the same joyful esteem and confidence. The Tivoli district had gradually been widened. And in the year 2378 it embraced the former Vesterbro and Fresdriksberg.

The old park of Fresdriksberg was now a big zoological garden within the territory of the mighty city, where many an old gorilla could be seen sitting with his easily pleased immediate family. He was emptying his “half Bayer,” an ancient drink that at least was consumed by the four-handed species even though the two-handed beings no longer took pleasure in the Germanic liquid.

Tramways and railroads had since long abandoned as a means of conveyance. But the happy Copenhageners came by air in large crowds from all places: from the blocks of Tåstrup and Lyngby, from the suburbs of Roskilde and the old Hilleröd, from the innermost part of the city, from the island Saltholmen etc., in order to amuse themselves.

This evening the influx was very big. The whole area was illuminated by fantastic, constantly varied forms of swinging clouds of light. They were caused by gas pouring out through a flexible pipe of transparent kresim. The gas shone in a fine display of colors, and here and there big suns of electric sparks were glowing.

Everyone wanted to enjoy Aromasia’s scent-piano. They had all heard about the horrible accident in Gothenburg at the latest performance, but nobody feared that a similar accident would happen this evening.

The event in Gothenburg rather seemed to have increased the fervor to be present at the concert inside Tivoli. Everyone wanted to see the artist, who had been so wonderfully saved, and to experience proof of her outstanding ability as an ododist.

The concert was given in the giant pavilion situated in the middle of Tivoli. It consisted of transparent walls of clear, flexible kresim that stretched in strong heat and grew taller, which meant that without temperature regulation they never had to fear heat too strong inside the auditorium.

But the kresim-walls were also tight enough that no scent could trickle through any slit. That was a disappointment to the great number of Tivoli visitors who did not get a seat in the pavilion and who tried with wide open nostrils to over-scent some of the artistic scent-chords in the fresh air.

Both in the concert hall and in the park and moreover at several spots in the Tivoli, a good many strange figures were seen. Sometimes one saw a gentleman without a coat or even without the more inevitable clothes, sometimes a woman without arms or only half a head, something that both created surprise and fright. Likewise totally headless people appeared. Here and there one could see half a body or just two legs or a solitary head floating along through the crowd.

“That’s the result of diaphot,” someone said, who knew about the new substance, “but people have been in a too great hurry to use the invention. Those are half-finished jobs.”

“Miss Photorup is not yet able to manufacture enough diaphot to meet the orders she has taken. But she’s in the process of erecting an enormous factory based on stocks sold by her and in Gothenburg. Bank director Giro is in charge of the subscription for shares. When enough diaphot is available, it will probably accomplish a lot.

“Right now nobody can anticipate the consequences. Who could have thought of something like this a short while ago?”

“It was the same in the past with steam power, electricity and much more, but our time has eclipsed all former times.”

After the concert, Aromasia was invited to a party to her credit and even Miss Photorup had been invited to receive an ovation. With alacrity, Aromasia had received the invitation and appeared at the assembly room, one of the five hundred assembly rooms at Tivoli. But Miss Photorup had not appeared, which gave rise to surprise and distress.

The two ladies were celebrated with a big banquet, but it was not an ancient meal that afterwards was felt heavy to body and soul. It was not even a repast of the same kind that bank director Giro had treated his guests to, but a feast free from every ancient foodstuff, be it natural or artificial. It abounded with what in the past was called spiritual nourishment. So far had they come in Copenhagen.

In older days, it was customary at Danish banquets that a toast called skål was proposed and that between every dish a speech was given. Later on it was understood that in this way not enough time was left for everyone to speak. The freedom of speech had too many limitations. Therefore people began to give speeches and propose skåls even during the consumption of the dishes.

But as the mechanisms of speech were further developed, people realized that all that eating and drinking was an obstacle to the freedom of speech: food as well as drink were put an end to at the banquets, thus giving completely free rein to speeches in honor of the occasion.

Then the custom began that every participator in what still was called a meal gave several speeches and that many, at times the whole party, simultaneously proposed skåls with artistically performed principal speeches. But the toasts were only downed in an imaginative way, for there was nothing to drink and nobody felt a need of drinking.

The diaphot-discoveress and the scent-artist had been invited to such a banquet. The first skål concerned Aromasia, the celebrated, upper-Scandinavian guest, and the skål was proposed simultaneously by all those present but with different speeches, most of them performed through a method that made a splendid impression.

Aromasia expressed her thanks with a speech that not, as was the custom in the past, was interrupted by cheers, but instead by new principal speeches that brought about unanimous approval.

The second skål was in a similar way proposed for Miss Photorup, the absence of whom was regretted. But long before the speech came to an end, from the empty seat beside Aromasia at the upper part of the table reserved for the guests of honor, a voice that was recognized as belonging to the absent diaphot manufacturer was heard.

For a few moments, a hum of admiration interrupted the mighty stream of speeches.

“She’s not absent!” people exclaimed. “She’s in our midst, though we can’t see her. Excellent! Superb! Total victory for diaphot!”

And then the speeches continued and Miss Photorup’s voice was distinctly heard among all the other speech deliverers.

She had waited as had Aromasia, who still was unused to the Danish banquet custom, until the end of the skål. She had begun expressing her gratitude already at the beginning of the speeches, and when the rest of the party at last had finished speaking, the object of the speeches had also completed her speech.

In that way they could really manage to accomplish something during a banquet.

All of the gusts expressed their wish to clasp Miss Photorup’s hand. And they crowded around the seat a moment ago they had thought to be empty. If any present still doubted the capacity of the diaphot, such a doubt was now completely impossible. Everyone was allowed to press a small, fine, warm hand that could not possibly been seen, but the human existence of which was very much felt.

And if someone during the groping for that hand by mistake touched some other part of the invisible lady, which gave cause for much laughter and several exclamations from visible as well as invisible people, this only increased the certainty that Miss Photorup really could make herself completely indiscernible.

Quite a number of those present expressed a wish that the invisible should make herself visible, but she could not fulfil that wish.

“I’ll not be seen for another week,” she replied. “If I don’t use another batch of diaphot, I’ll appear once more. To begin with my hair will be seen and then my whole skeletal structure followed by muscles and skin.”

The discovery would not be perfect, she admitted, until the effect of diaphot could be dispelled as fast as it could be produced, but no discovery or invention was perfect when first used.

The banquet went on for some more hours with ceaseless speeches, and the party ultimately broke up, while unanimously swearing that the banquet had been one of the most successful ones that ever had been arranged in banquet-rich Tivoli.

Aromasia was satisfied with her day and thought that she had been compensated for the miserable concert in Gothenburg. For all that, she had thought many times of Oxygen and wondered at not having seen him all that day. Many of the participants of the banquet had also missed him. Some said that they had seen him at the laboratory of Miss Photorup in the morning, but nobody knew how he had spent his day.

The information that Oxygen had visited the place where diaphot was manufactured, set Aromasia to thinking. She came to the conclusion that she should speed up her departure from Copenhagen. Oxygen’s behavior had not inspired her confidence.

She found most pitiable her distrust of the man she really loved, but as strong as her love still was, she clearly understood that her confidence would never return and that a union between them would cause them both ill fortune.

Already before the early hours of the morning next day, Aromasia left “Denmark’s Savage” and Copenhagen. During the previous day, Oxygen had worked on the perfection of the Will-Subduer, but when the slumbering city awoke in the early hours of the morning, he had still not made enough headway to be sure of a good outcome.

Furthermore, the batch of diaphot he had procured was insufficient to let him approach Aromasia invisibly and try to affect her nervous system. In the morning, when a small phonograph box was brought into his room with a kind farewell greeting from the beloved one, he experienced an acute pain in the muscle called the heart, and which in the past had been supposed to be stirred in connection with pangs of love.

To be continued...

Story by Claës Lundin
Translation copyright © 2007 by Bertil Falk

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