Oxygen and Aromasia
by Claës Lundin
translated by Bertil Falk
Table of Contents
Chapter 21, part 1
Chapter 22, part 1, part 2
appear in this issue.
Chapter 21. Away from Earth!
part 2 of 2
“Hemispherion!” Apollonides repeated without thinking of what he had heard or said.
“Come with me to my laboratory,” the old man said.
“You have a laboratory, too?”
“Of course! Who doesn’t have a laboratory or at least a part of a laboratory? Would you be so miserable that you don’t have one, Mr. Apollonides?”
“I have nothing,” said the unhappy poet.
“Come with me,” urged Hemispherion. “It’s not far from here, only in the western block of Lidingö, on the top of the street Lindingsbärgsgatan, one of the healthiest spots in Stockholm. We take an air-taxi from this cab-stand at old Källhagen.”
Apollonides wanted to go in a different direction, but the old man seemed to have set his mind on not letting him go and persuaded him at last to enter a taxi that in a few minutes brought them to Lidingsbärgsgatan.
They got off on the roof of a tall building with many queer towers. Apollonides would most probably have been surprised at them, if he had been in the mood for exterior objects.
“This is an experimental place for communications with the moon,” Hemispherion said. “We’ve not accomplished much, but we work day and night on the new means of connection and we hope that we soon will be able to send messages in an incredibly short time. But let’s take the lift down to my laboratory, The night is already late, but I want to work a little bit more on my air-globe.”
“Yes, come with me and have a look.”
They lowered themselves down to the laboratory of Hemispherion. It was an enormous room inside a tower projected from the building almost straight across the narrow channel floating between the square Storängstorget and Lidingsbärgsgatan, all that remained of the Lilla Värtan sound, which had been filled in a few hundred years ago.
“Here you can see the globe I talked about,” the old man said and guided Apollonides to a globe of kresim and some other transparent substance that occupied a great part of the extensive room.
“For what purpose will the globe be used?” Apollonides asked.
“For travel in outer space,” Hemispherion replied, “far away beyond the air sphere of Earth, all the way to the most distant celestial body.”
“Is it possible to use this globe in order to get away from Earth forever and reach other planets?”
“Not as yet, for I haven’t yet had time to overcome all the difficulties standing in the way of completing the work. The main thing is however that I nearly have succeeded in matching the molecular nature with certain chemical compositions so that they no longer are subject to gravity.
It has been known for a long time now that attracting bodies cannot act in vacant space. It’s the pressure of the ether that forces the bodies to a common center of gravity, where the ethereal atoms come hurrying from all directions. Now it’s a question of making this globe independent of the effect of these atoms, so that no force of gravity can influence it. I think I’ve almost solved that task. Tonight I may put the finishing touches to this work.”
“But how will the globe be set in motion?”
“Nothing is simpler. You see this small mechanism, which seems to be so insignificant? It’s all I need to drive the globe out into space. We don’t need cannons, gunpowder and such things any more to bring about a rapid acceleration. I open this wall of kresim and nothing will prevent the launching of the globe.”
“The globe seems to be quite spacious.”
“She has room for a few persons Please enter and you’ll find how comfortable it is.”
Apollonides obeyed the invitation and he felt so well at home inside that his host had to remind him to come out.
“Make yourself comfortable with me here tonight,” the friendly old man said. “You’re unhappy and need comfort. Let’s talk to each other while I’m working. A conversation never disturbs me, not even in my most important and difficult calculations.”
Apollonides listened with very little attention to the old man’s talk. He looked with sad eyes at the wonderful globe.
“Take a psychokinet!” Hemispherion said.
In the past one would have said: “Take a cigar!” or “Do you want a drink?”
“Take a psychokinet,” Hemispherion repeated and pointed at several brain-organs of different sizes in the laboratory. “I often amuse myself with one of them in the midst of hard work.”
Apollonides said “no thanks.” He did not want to have any brain-organ. He dropped into one of the hammocks in the room and tried to hear what Hemispherion said, replied absent-mindedly and with incoherent words and eventually fell asleep.
He dreamed that he was traveling out into the universe with incredible speed, dashing past planet after planet, seeing one sun after the other without stopping, without slowing down, constantly wishing to reach father and farther. He looked back and saw Oxygen with shockingly distorted features coming rushing after him. All of a sudden, he seemed approach the central sun of the central suns, and an overwhelmingly bright light beamed to meet him.
He woke up, jumped up from the hammock and stared surprised at the big air-globe that shone with dazzling light. Inside the transparent wall, Hemispherion was seen pacing up and down in the globe.
Apollonides sat at the edge of the hammock to collect his thoughts. He was not yet certain whether he had seen the central sun of the central suns or the globe of Hemispherion.
Suddenly, the strong light went out.
“Done!” it seemed to Apollonides that the old man exclaimed and he saw him lighted up with a small lamp and surrounded by the moonbeams that flowed in broad streams through the walls of kresim. The old man stalked with his head triumphantly erect through the room and disappeared through one of the exits.
Hemispherion seemed to have forgotten Apollonides. The big room was now only illuminated by the moonlight, but it was so plentiful that every object was visible.
Apollonides walked to the wall facing the small watercourse and looked down into the depth. The movements of the city had come to a standstill; the noise had ceased for a couple of hours. It was the late hours of the night.
The scald thought of the wretched life on Earth, of the cruel materialism of Oxygen, of the scorn he had met everywhere, of the unbearable misery life had offered him.
He turned away from the world below him, from the city that slept down there and his eyes fell on the big travel globe that shone invitingly in the moonlight.
“Done!” the old man had exclaimed. Or had Apollonides dreamt it?
He took up fire, walked into the globe and examined her closer. “A few turnings of the screw here and the globe will be hurled into space,” he said.
“I can be free, I want to be free! Away from Earth! Away from the old routine of Earth’s orbit, from the worn road around the Sun! I want to see other worlds in other solar systems, I want to travel as nobody has ever traveled before!
“The glorious spirit of poetry will guide my journey. I will compose immortal songs during that journey, but none of the cruel inhabitants of Earth will hear them. I will bring them to the celestial body, where I ultimately will stop... Since I’m not permitted to go to my ancestors, then welcome me, thou immeasurable nothingness! I will abandon life in a way that has never before been heard of.”
In a violent ecstasy, Apollonides rushed to the globe in order to start the launching mechanism and then speedily throw himself into its interior and begin his far journey. But he placed himself at the wrong side of the starting mechanism. It was easily set in motion. It had the calculated effect on the big globe and launched it with horrifying rapidity through the wide wall of kresim, which was smashed to smethereens. But at the same time Apollonides, who had not been able to run into the globe, was thrown headlong into the precipice.
At the noise caused by the launch of the globe, Hemsipherion rushed back into his laboratory and saw to his fright that the globe was not there and that its disappearance had caused dreadful devastation.
Even the other inhabitants of the experiment station appeared. Awful lamentations were heard about the destruction of the product of Hemispherion’s genius.
“It has certainly not been destroyed,” the old man exclaimed. “But it has run away alone into space, and that was not my intention. No planet, no sun will be able to attract my globe out of its orbit. In an endless, straight line it is now gliding through the whole territory of our solar system and then past other suns, far, far away past misty stars, far away into infinity.”
“But what made the globe take off by itself?”
“Oh, I miss my poor guest, the unhappy poet. There’s no doubt that he has caused this premature departure. Maybe he went with the globe?”
Hemispherion had barely uttered the question when a man came and told him that a human being, who seemed to have fallen down from the tower, had been found crushed and lifeless at the base of a height, the upper part of which consisted of the street Lidingsbärgsgatan.
It was Apollonides.
“Poor young man!” the old man said. “He yearned to meet his ancestors, but I had thought of inviting him for a journey through the universe. My big globe has space for two. It seems to me that he could not wait. I had forgotten him. My work had completely kept my brain busy. Mr. Apollonides probably tried to travel without a companion. The globe certainly did not launch itself.”
“And the globe is gone. What a loss!” the other employees of the experiment station exclaimed.
“Yes, the loss is not a minor one,” Hemispherion admitted, “but I’ve solved the most difficult problem. I know a means to avoid the attraction of world bodies and I can make another globe, a better one.”
“Maybe a faster one.”
“That’s exactly what I hope to do, and I’ll set about working. It’s not entirely impossible that the globe soon will be ready. It will be so fast that it may catch up with the first one. It’ll be a funny pursuit.”
“Always the same good temperament and the same trust in a good outcome.”
“Why shouldn’t I?... But now, back to work, ladies and gentlemen.”
“And what to do with the dead man? Shall we send him to the burning garden?”
“Oh, I forgot him again. No, let’s not cremate the corpse. Send it to Doctor Ärencell so that he’ll be able to do some important scientific observations of the poor poet’s brain. That brain was of an old-fashioned development, an ancient brain. Such brains are quite rare nowadays and science should be happy to get hold of one. That’s all we can do for the poor ancient poet right now. I had wished to comfort him in his lifetime, but now I must think of the living and my great task.”