Excerpt for The Good Troll Book One Falling Down by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

The Good Troll

A possible future?

Book One

Falling Down

By: Thomas Krantz

Copyright © 2016 by Thomas Krantz

English translation assisted by: Google

English editor: Charlotte Fogelquist

All rights reserved. No parts of this ebook may be reproduced in any form whatsoever without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

This ebook is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Some persons and organizations exist and are public.

Chapter 1: A Star is Falling

“This doesn’t feel right,” Tommy whispers to himself. “Where am I? What’s happening to me?”

The snow is whirling in front of his face. He rises up to his knees and rests his body against a big ball of snow. It is a dark winter's night and the only light he can see is coming from a house nearby. He notices a young girl rolling another snowball, then stopping next to him.

“How’s it going Elsa?” he hears himself ask; his focus returning. He is in their backyard building a snowman with his daughter. How could he have forgotten that?

It's Saturday, and the snow has been falling since Thursday evening. Gothenburg has been completely paralyzed by the huge and sudden blizzard of sleet and snow.

“Daddy, can you pick up the middle snowball please,” asks Elsa, “it's too heavy for me!”

“Eleven years old and can’t lift a tiny snowball!” Tommy teases and grips the large snowball. He takes a deep breath, braces himself and immediately feels a sharp pain in his neck.

“You’re 46 years old and as weak as a little girl!” Elsa teases back. Tommy’s world starts to spin. He falls flat on his back in the snow and stays there. Despite the falling snowflakes, he can see a shooting star. “You just going to lie there or what?” asks Elsa.

“We’d better go back in now. I feel a bit weird.”

When they get inside, Tommy sits himself down on a chair in the hallway to have a rest.

“Have you already finished the snowman?” Tommy’s wife Sara calls out from the kitchen.

Sara's father Lennart is visiting, having just had a meal with his daughter, he is sitting on the couch in the living room.

“Have you had an accident, or something?” asks Lennart, noticing that Tommy seems uncomfortable.

“I think I’ve just sprained my neck!” Tommy groans.

“Sara, could you help me get my my boots off please? Whatever this is, it doesn’t feel too good. It’s radiating up and around my ear, too,” says Tommy, searching Sara’s face.

“Dear God, your pupils are two different sizes!” cries Sara, fear and surprise in her voice.

Lennart, a retired military man, leaps from the couch. He rushes out into the hallway and peers into Tommy’s eyes.

“Sara,” he says, with a stern voice that Sara recognises from when her father is serious, “call for an ambulance!” Lennart turns to Elsa. “Elsa, go in the kitchen and get a glass of water.” Turning to Tommy, he asks, “Are you alright with aspirin?”

“Eh? Yes, I can take any painkillers” says Tommy, keeping his hand over his ear.

“Tommy, look at me and give me a big smile - good! Now stretch out both of your arms, while telling me your full name and address,” Lennart says sharply.

“Hm...Tommy Jan Andersson, Snowflake Road, number 12” Tommy almost sings.

“The ambulance is on the way!” Sara’s voice is shaken.

“Good,” says Lennart. “Have you got any Aspirin?” When Sara brings the Aspirin, Lennart tells her to give two to Tommy. “I’m calling Tommy's mother,” says Lennart, and points to Sara. “You go with Tommy in the ambulance! I’ll take care of Elsa.”

After what seems like an eternity, there is a knock at the door, and Sara goes to answer.

"The ambulance is stuck in the snow," says a female nurse who enters the hall and immediately attends to Tommy. "You think you can walk a bit in the snow?"

"It will probably be fine," he says and gets up from the chair. Everything starts to spin, and it feels like the snow from the blizzard is flooding into the hall. "You'll have to support me; I do not want to fall over in the snow. Not again."

Lennart puts Tommy's arm over his shoulders. “Lean on me. I'm as steady as a rock."

Outside, there are several neighbours shoveling the ambulance free of snow. Tommy and Sara climb into the back of the ambulance and the driver shuts the rear door behind them.

As the ambulance rolls away, Tommy looks through the small window in the back. He sees Elsa standing very close to her grandfather, her young eyes revealing horror and fear. Maybe she is thinking, I may lose my father.

Tommy remembers how he himself had been shocked by his own father’s sudden death, just months after the death of Tommy’s brother. His brother, Christer, only wanted to try out a party drug that a friend had ordered online. Tommy and his parents got the news of Christer´s death by the police on Sunday morning. Tommy's father was the one that took it the hardest. He was devastated and blamed himself. Perhaps that was the reason for his stroke.

“It’s best if you try to relax.” Tommy’s thoughts were interrupted by the attending female paramedic. When he leaned back, he felt the darkness envelope him. He was not afraid. He actually thought it felt good, as if he hovered or floated weightlessly in water. In the darkness, he thought he saw a small bright spot.

“Light a candle and let it burn,” a deep voice, which seemed familiar, fills the void. “If you share your fire, it is not halved, but doubled!”

Tommy thought that sounded silly, but somehow he felt pleased about the message. There was a buzzing inside him. He wanted to laugh out loud. Then he hears a mechanical breathing sound that reminded him of Darth Vader. From within that sound, he also hears a choir sing: “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”

Tommy wakes up and notices how the nurse is holding a breathing mask to his mouth. “Here’s a little oxygen, I want you to stay conscious for me.”

Tommy turns his head slightly to be able to see Sara. She puts her hand on Tommy’s arm and says, “I’m here. We’ll be there soon.”

The atmosphere inside A&E, feels to Tommy like organised chaos. He has to lie on a trolley while a nurse examines his eyes with a penlight and pokes under the soles of his feet with a cold and sharp instrument. Then he and Sara are left in a small waiting room.

There is a science magazine in the waiting room, that Sara skims through casually. Tommy notices images of robots on the cover. As he lies on the bed, he suddenly feels as if he is again lying in the snow, and everything fades to darkness. A faint circle of light appears before him. The circle splits into several components which together form something resembling a flower. From the leaves of the flower grow six branches.

“A snowflake,” says a deep voice.

“A snowflake?” asks Tommy aloud.

“No, it looks like a heart,” replies Sara.

“Did you fall asleep?” asks another deeper voice.

Tommy looks up to see a male nurse with a small cup in his hand. “You need to take an anticoagulant,” offers the nurse. Tommy looks at the tablet; it looks like a small heart. When he turns to Sara, he can see that her eyes are a little moist, right on the cusp of shedding a tear. “We’ll take you down for an MRI now,” says the nurse, “then you’ll be staying overnight.”

“I’ll come back tomorrow,” says Sara, wiping away a tear that managed to escape the corner of her eye. “I’ll be here as early as I can.”

The nurse waits a few seconds before he wheels away with Tommy. “It’s best if you can try to stay awake now,” he says, as soon as Tommy closes his eyes.

Everything is white inside the MRI room. He is lying on top of the table that will soon slide into the large tubular magnet.

“I will now inject you with a contrast fluid,” says a senior nurse with white hair. “It’ll give you a warm sensation, but it’s totally harmless.”

Tommy’s too weary to respond. He feels the heat spread in his body and tries to relax. They know how everything is done. Just go with the flow, Tommy decides. Or was this someone else’s voice inside his head?

“Just try to relax. We’re about to start,” says the nurse. The table starts to slowly slide into the large tube. “Just lie completely still.”

Tommy closes his eyes. He’s surrounded by whiteness. He imagines that it’s snowing. White snowflakes against a white sky in a white landscape. He hears the machine’s rhythmic sound. And to him, it sounds much like the beginning of a forgotten song he now remembers, by the band Adolphson & Falk. There must be a track of them playing in the room, he thinks. In front of his face, Tommy envisions a snowflake hovering and moving rhythmically to the music. Then he begins to hear the deep voice again,singing now, slowly:

I'm watching the computer analyze.

Here uncertainty plays out.

But in the quiet hours of the night, I wonder

What happens when the technology is not looking,

What is hidden in the shadows of the trees?

And I feel uneasiness ever increasing.

But there are questions the computer cannot answer,

Signals that I can not understand.

There is so much we cannot explain.

There are forces we can never cure.

The snowflake flashes in a rhythmic blue light:

The control will flash blue,

A signal for all-safe.

The control will flash blue,

Then everything is as it should be.

If the display is normal

There is no reason to hesitate.

When the check is blinking blue,

Then everything is as it should be.

The snowflake changes colour to green and then fades away.

“Wake up,” he hears the nurse say. “We've finished now.”

“Ok,” Tommy replies, noticing how dry his mouth is. “What did it look like?”

“The doctor will take a look at the images. You’ll find out tomorrow.”

Another male nurse arrives with a wheelchair and rolls Tommy out of the room. “Where are we going?” Tommy asks.

“To the stroke ward.”

No! Tommy thinks to himself. That’s where dad spent the last hours of his life.

“I just need to go and speak to the nurses in that department first,” said the male nurse, going into a room off the corridor, inside the stroke ward.

Tommy feels uncomfortable amongst a bunch of old and sick people. He cannot remember a time when he’d been so poorly that he had to see a doctor. Not one sick day off work. And now he might as well be dead.

“I’ve never seen anything like it in my 20 years in this department,” he hears a female nurse say to the male nurse. “One day, completely written off by the doctor, and the next day on the mend. In some isolated cases this has certainly happened before, but this is now the seventh time in three days.”

When they arrive at Tommy’s room, the male nurse says, “Get better now, Tommy,” and heads off toward the elevators. The female nurse has a name tag that reads “Birgitta”.

“You get the last available spot today,” says Birgitta cheerfully. She wheels him into a room with four beds. Tommy sees an old man sitting on the first bed, where an older woman is sleeping.

“No, not another young man! What is happening to the people on our planet?” asks the old man when he sees Tommy. “May God have mercy on these poor kids.”

Tommy notices a really old man in the next bed: skin and bones, sleeping with his mouth open, Tommy wonders if he’s already dead.

In the third bed is a patient hidden behind a scientific journal. The cover claims that in 2045 we’ll all get eternal life.

“I’ll be back with a little supper,” says Birgitta. “Would you like some coffee?”

“Yes, please,” replies Tommy.

“We’re lowering the average age of the ward, you and me.” The guy reading the journal does not look much older than Tommy. He gets out of his bed and approaches Tommy, stretching out his hand saying, “My name is Tomas, but call me Gaston, if you want.”

“Oh. I’m Tommy,” he replies, and takes the outstretched hand. “No nickname.”

“Last time I was here, there was a 30-year-old girl with a stroke.” Tomas leans forward, almost laughing, “And I think we're too young as well.”

“Uh, yeah.” Tommy doesn’t know how to respond to that statement. It’s just not funny.

“A movie’s about to start on telly. We can eat our dinner in the common room, if you’d like to join me.”

Tommy doesn’t feel too bad. A little TV will probably cheer me up.

“We’re eating in front of the telly!” Tomas cries out to Birgitta in the corridor.

Tommy immediately feels a bit uncomfortable with the loud voice in a stroke unit.

The movie was I Robot starring Will Smith, not really Tommy’s thing. It makes him feel uneasy. A bunch of humanoid robots assisting people with all sorts. Tommy feels tired and wants to go to bed.

When they eventually get back to the room, Tomas says

“You can borrow some science magazines if you want. They’re from the library.”

“It’s not my area of ​​interest,” Tommy begins, “but I’ll take a look at one.”

“It’s never too late to learn new things,” replies Tomas, and disappears behind a new magazine. It doesn’t take long before Tommy can’t keep his eyes open anymore.

Chapter 2: A Meeting in the Snow

Tommy finds himself lying in deep snow. The sky is dark blue with snowflakes filling the air. Tommy looks around and sees two bright figures walking towards him. As they approach, he identifies them as white robots. The first robot is clearly male while the other is noticeably female. The spacing between their arms and their bodies has a small black joint. The female robot stretches out her hand to help Tommy to his feet. He looks at the hand and notices how snowflakes land on the robot’s hand, melt and form water droplets that easily roll off. Even so, the robots look completely dry. Tommy takes the white hand. The female robot says, "You have been given a second chance; you should use it for something good."

Tommy pulls himself up towards the robot as she steadies him on his feet. They are standing close. Tommy wonders why he finds her attractive - why does he perceive her to be naked? He feels a bit uncomfortable: releasing his grip, he falls back down in the snow. The male robot asks, "What are you trying to accomplish with the communities you people have created?"

Tommy doesn’t know how to reply to that. He’s thinking, I’m dreaming - it must be a dream, right? He stands up again.

"What is it you are really striving for?" asks the feminine robot. She picks up a small, green ball. It unfolds and turns into something resembling a robotic cross between a frog and starfish.

Tommy is startled as the little, green robot speaks: "Our view is that humanity is on a constant journey of exploring and learning about its surrounding environment. We believe your purpose should be to continue the advancement we have witnessed throughout history, how you progressed from individualism to finding strength in unity. How you discovered that cooperation between all forms of life is stronger than competition between the species. That you realised you are all part of the same globe, in symbiosis with the environment around you, and all its living systems. "

"Who are you?" asks Tommy, breathless,pointing towards all three.

"We're from the future, the future that you will help make possible.", says the masculine robot. The little green robot jumps up onto Tommy's shoulder and continues;

"You should challenge the established idea that you humans own your own bodies."

"Why?" Tommy is baffled. "I don’t understand!"

The feminine robot walks up to and stands next to Tommy and continues;

"Simply because you cannot continue to view yourselves as separate from the environment. Remove the oxygen and you will die. Remove the water, you will die. These components are all part of life on earth, as much as you are a part of it. Including the millions of bacteria living on your skin and in your body at this moment in time. As is all the life form that will use your body after your consciousness ends, along with your constituents reunited with the earth. Your affinity is so much bigger than you often realise."

The masculine robot goes down on one knee to scoop up some snow in his hand. Tommy notices how water drips from the robot's palm and leaves only a few small dark spots. The robot reaches out to Tommy and says;

"Take for example the environmental degradation. You think it's the environment that you have to save, when in fact it is yourselves you need to save. The Earth does not care about the oceans becoming depleted, all the water becoming undrinkable or whether the air becomes unbreathable. But you care. Or at least you should care, because it is the basis for your own survival."

The small robot on Tommy's shoulder jumps back down onto the snow and says;

"In the future, we know that you will have a part in the creation of a new society, a very large part in fact. Your achievements are not only for yourself, but for the common good. Since you are such an integral part of your environment, it naturally follows; whatever benefits your environment, will in the long run also benefit you. In the future you will create a new society, a better society for all."

Lurking behind the robots, at the edge of the woods, Tommy spots a dark figure. It is similar to the male robot, but looks almost black in colour. Tommy points towards it and asks;

"Who is that?", but it’s too late for an answer, as the lights in the ward are switched on by a nurse bringing medicine. It was a dream.

When Tommy looks around the room he sees that all the beds are empty. He hadn’t noticed anyone leaving. He would not normally sleep that heavily. His head aches.

"Would you like breakfast in bed or do you want to go and eat with the others?"

The question comes from a young nurse with long blond hair and bright blue eyes. She could not be more than 22 years old, Tommy reckons.

"I'm happy to get out of bed."

"We’re all delighted at the ward today." says the nurse whose name ‘Linda’ Tommy spots on the name tag. "Everyone got out of their beds today! That hasn’t happened for as long as I've been here."

Inside the small dining room, Tommy sees that there is only one vacant seat left. Tomas sits opposite reading the Metro, the free newspaper. When he sees Tommy he hands over a copy.

"Yesterday's news, already today." Tommy says with a bitter sarcastic tone as he takes the newspaper. Tomas smiles at him, but with a quizzical look in his eyes.

After a moment Tommy notices feeling angry. He starts swearing quietly to himself.

"What is it?" asks Tomas.

"I don’t know. I think it's because I’m reading about another terrorist act in the name of religion. I feel so powerless. Why do we just allow these damned murderers to go on like that. Can someone do something? I just want it to stop."

"When I'm angry, I write on my blog.", says Tomas, "Even though, clearly, hardly anyone ever reads it."

"I know, I'll write a letter to the editor!" Tommy exclaims.

After breakfast, Tommy decides to rest rather than taking Tomas’s offer of watching telly together. But when he walks into his room there is an elderly lady in his bed.

"You're in the wrong room.", he hears Linda say behind him.

"She must be confused." Tommy responds.

"No, Tommy. It’s you who’ve gone into the wrong room."

Once in his own bed, he tries to think back to what happened the day before. The memories feel mixed, inconclusive. Looking around the room it’s as if it started snowing around him. The whole room seems to disappear and he is now standing in the middle of a snow filled landscape. In the snow, he can see two pairs of footsteps disappearing at the foot of a mountain.

"Hurry up!", he hears a small voice say, "You’d better follow the tracks before they disappear."

Tommy notices the green starfish-like robot, now sitting on a large rock.

"Everything is quickly covered under falling snow."

Without knowing why, Tommy starts walking towards the mountain. He doesn’t know if he wants to catch up with those who have left the tracks in the snow. Most likely they belong to the white robots, but he isn’t sure.

"Why are you in such a hurry?" he hears a deep voice say.

The dark figure is standing a short distance away. The snow is whirling in Tommy's face, making it difficult to get a clear picture of him.

"There is something that I must tell you, the one who stands on the warm threshold leading into the future. In the process of getting your rightful place, you must not become guilty of wrongdoing." The snowfall seems to be increasing. "Do not try to satisfy your thirst for freedom, by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred."

Tommy doesn’t understand what the dark figure is talking about.

"You must always carry on your battle with a high level of dignity and discipline. You must not let your creative protest turn into physical violence. Again and again, you must meet physical force with soulful force."

Tommy looks down at the snow. The tracks are getting harder to see.

"Hurry slowly. Be critical. Think."

Tommy notices how everything just gets whiter and whiter.

"Are you asleep?"

The voice is no longer deep. It belongs to Sara. Tommy opens his eyes and sees Sara and Elsa standing next to him in bed.

"There's not much colour in here." says Elsa, "Almost just white."

"Thank goodness for wide doors!"

Tommy recognises the voice of his mother coming into the room. Curved back and spasmodically cradling a walking frame.

"Mum? What have you done with your Permobil?"

"Oh that big old thing, I’ve stopped using it." announces Ruth and folds down a seat on the walking frame, “My legs have become too restless, I can’t just sit down all of the time."

"Grandma's like ...," says Elsa and begins to dance, "I've got ants in my pants" and croaks like a crow. Ruth looks at Elsa and laughs. Then she turns her attention to Tommy.

"But how are you, my little boy." Ruth takes Tommy’s hand. "You're a bit too young for a stroke."

"I haven’t spoken to a doctor yet. But I feel pretty good."

"You said you feel a little confused and tired." Sara tabs in.

"You need to take care of yourself" says Ruth with a touch of sadness in her voice, "I do not want to lose you as well."

"But Dad will surely be alright?" exclaims Elsa, "The hospital will make him better again?"

"Calm down Elsa." Tommy reassures, "I’ll be back to normal soon."

Neither Ruth nor Sara say anything at all.

"Mum. Tell me more about your legs instead." says Tommy, who wants to change the subject.

"There will be no visit from the doctors today." announces Tomas loudly when he steps into the room.

"This is ..." Tommy begins, turning to Sara, Elsa and Ruth. But the name is gone.

"Call me Gaston if you want to." Tomas adds and continues;

"The nurses told me that the rounds have been cancelled today. The doctors have a meeting with the authorities about the recent patient rates at the hospital. More patients than usual have been discharged and even less have been admitted. It seems that the Swedes are getting healthier."

"And still, I’m lying here." Tommy says quietly. "I've always been healthy before."

"Now they’ll have to start firing a lot of nursing assistants." says Ruth with a bitterness in her voice. "When I was in healthcare, we worked our butts off. There wasn’t any talk of employing more people or raising any wages. But as soon as there was less to do they would fire people."

"But it's Sunday today." Sara says, puzzled. "What could be so important on a Sunday?"

Chapter 3: Towards the mountain top

The food doesn’t taste of anything. Tommy mostly eats mechanically and because he knows he should be hungry. It’s quiet in the room. Everyone else is in the ward's dining room, but Tommy wants to be left alone. He is too tired to talk. The few hours that Sara, Elsa, and his mother Ruth has been visiting made him completely exhausted. Sara would come back after Elsa had been to a party at her classmate Stina’s, who has a father named Robert. Tommy remembers him from when he was at school. Robert was the meanest person he had ever met. Tommy wants to repress all memories of his school days, and just remember the freedom he felt when he finally graduated from 9th grade.

After dinner he sits back on the bed to browse some of the science magazines Tomas has lent him. On one cover, he sees the face of a robot. It has similarities with the male robot from last night's dream. Tommy decides to rest a little instead. It doesn’t take many seconds until he again is in the middle of a snowstorm.

"You ought to hurry up to the top of the mountain."

The voice sounds like it comes from inside something. Tommy turns, and sat in front of him is something that looks like a caravan. It’s almost completely buried in the snow.

"From the mountain top you can behold the promised land. On the other side, at the foot of the mountain, you will find Snowflake city. The people who live there call it paradise."

Tommy remembers that the robots had mentioned snowflakes and that the little green robot was reminiscent of a snowflake. Why snowflakes?

"What did you say?" he hears someone ask.

Tommy opens his eyes and sees a man standing at the end of the hospital bed.

"Sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you."

Tommy blinks a little and reads the man's badge;

[Bertil Nilsson, hospital chaplain.]

"How are you feeling?" asks the priest kindly.

Tommy just remembered that he had sent a letter to the Metro, about religion. He has an uneasy feeling that this might be a test. But when he sees the priest's friendly smile, his uneasiness changes into anger. Probably another one of those hypocritical ones, thinks Tommy.

"I'm thirsty.", He hears himself reply.

Priest Bertil gives Tommy a drink of water.

"Is there anything you’d like to talk about?" Bertil continues.

"Will God punish me if I lie? I think it was one of the commandments, that you should not lie?"

"No. 8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour. May also be construed to be that you ought be faithful in thought, word and deed."

"But if you yourself believe in something and tell others about it, only to realise that it wasn’t actually true. Have you then lied about it?" asks Tommy.

"Can you give me an example?"

Tommy stays silent for a moment. He tries to remember his letters. He does not want to offend the priest, but at the same time he would still like to test out his opinions on someone with good knowledge.

"If I tell my daughter that Father Christmas exists and I myself believe in him, then it's no lie."

"No."the priest replies, and seems to understand that Tommy is actually referring to God.

"But I don’t believe in Father Christmas, although I tell her he exists. And so, I have lied."

"I think God would forgive you." says Bertil and shows with his body language that he should be moving on.

"But if I don’t believe in God and I tell my daughter that Jesus was just a hoax." Tommy wanted to provoke some anger, "What if I tell her that Jesus’ stories were all lies. Will I burn in hell then?"

"One of the last words Jesus said, when he was crucified, was that God would forgive the people because they did not know any better."

The priest starts walking towards the door and Tommy blurts out;

"What did Jesus mean when he said that it was all concluded?"

Bertil stops in the doorway and turns around. Reluctantly, he returns to Tommy.

"They were probably Jesus’ last words on the crucifix." says Bertil while looking out of the window. "Jesus died so that we could be forgiven for our sins. In his last breath he left his spirit on Earth." Bertil turns his gaze back to Tommy and says, "The Holy Spirit remains among us, waiting for the Savior's return."

"Cut it out!" cries Tomas, stepping into the room, "It's a waste of your time, Tommy is an atheist."

"Well, maybe you should call me a Humanistic Agnostic instead ." Tommy countered.

"I must move on." says Bertil, "But it's never too late to discover the greatness of Jesus Christ."

"And suddenly he’s in a hurry..." says Tomas when Bertil has left the room, "They’re starting to worry about declining memberships. It’s costly to heat up the churches in a cold Sweden."

"That sounds a bit cynical." says Tommy, "though if they could, they’d probably take ten percent of my possessions."

"God is love." says Tomas in a squeaky voice, "And if you don’t believe it ...", he continues, and changes the voice to that of a heavy metal singer, "... you will burn in hell."

"That’s a little harsh." although Tommy can’t hide that he thought it was quite funny.

"Now I will get some rest." says Tomas and lays down on top of his bed, closing his eyes.

Tommy leans back and starts getting the feeling that he is floating.

"Just relax.", he hears a deep voice say, "We are just here to help you."

Tommy forces open his eyelids. Worried, he looks around. He’s still in the hospital room. He decides to go and watch a bit of TV. Right now, he does not want to wander around in a blizzard.

In the TV room, there is just an elderly man in an armchair, with his empty wheelchair beside him. The man is mumbling to himself while taking off his glasses, to immediately put them back on again. He doesn’t seem to notice that Tommy sits down next to him on the sofa.

On telly there appears to be some debate between a trade unionist named Mats and a female representative from the employers' side, Anna.

"And that is exactly what we oppose.", says Mats, "that the employers are laying off their staff simply because we have become healthier."

"But there is currently work for only 600 people." Anna replies, "We don’t have enough work for 750."

"The company has 750 employees right now and you have reported record profits." replies Mats clearly angry.

The old man moves closer to the TV so that it’s hard for Tommy to see.

"We had 150 employees to cover for those on sick leave.", says Anna quietly, "But now, hardly anybody calls in sick."

Suddenly the old man notices Tommy sitting beside him.

"Do you know if these are my glasses?" he asks Tommy with a faint high pitched voice.

"What? No, I don't."

"I think I am seeing better without them. They must be someone else's glasses."

The TV was showing riots and demonstrations in the United States. A lot of people show their discontent towards Jill Stein, who won the presidential election. People were waving the Confederate flag, shouting "We Will Not Be Stoned by Stein!"

"Oh my God." said the old man, "Where is the world heading to? United States chooses a tree-hugger for their president."


The male nurse comes into the TV room and seems surprised.

"Why aren't you in your wheelchair?"

"Is this my wheelchair?" replies Arne, evidently a little confused.

The nurse looks at Tommy and asks if he had helped Arne into the armchair earlier. Tommy does not have a chance to answer, before Arne gets up out of the chair and sits down in the wheelchair.

"Oh!" exclaims the surprised nurse, and begins to wheel Arne away, "We'll have to speak to the physio about this."

"Do you know if these are my glasses?" asks Arne again while being wheeled out of the room.

On the TV a black and white film, called "Future My Love", is about to start, although Tommy does not like black and white movies, so he reaches for the remote controls.

"Aha! This is where you’re hiding!"

Tomas is standing in the doorway.

"Your wife and daughter are here."

Tommy stands up too quickly and feels his legs struggling to carry him, causing him to fall back onto the couch again.

"They’ve said daddy needs to stay one more night." Sara tell Elsa while walking into the TV room.

"But he was supposed to get well soon."

"I'm fine. I'm tougher than some people think."

Tommy gets back up again and looks at Sara and Elsa. But then they disappear in a blizzard of snow. Tommy falls back down, landing on the couch again while the snowstorm gradually disappears.

"But another night might not hurt."

Chapter 4: No two snowflakes are the same.

"Call me as soon as you have spoken to the doctors tomorrow." says Sara as she and Elsa leave Tommy after an hour's chat.

"Nice wife and daughter you have." Tomas calls from across the room.

"Thank you, Tomas.Or should I call you Gaston?"

"You can call me whatever you want. It’s my friends at work who call me Gaston, after the cartoon character. They think I have such quirky ideas. But I reckon it's us humans that are weird. What do you think about the magazine you borrowed yesterday?"

Tommy picks up the scientific magazines that Tomas had loaned him the night before. There was a picture of a male robot on one of the covers, and in the other magazine there was an article about a robot with feminine traits.

"I dreamed of them last night." Tommy replies, pointing to the robots, "It was a bit weird really. I don’t usually remember my dreams, but this one I cannot forget."

"I saw a film once about dreams. I think they can be messages from another time and place.", says Tomas, "Maybe we are at our most receptive when we sleep."

"Oh."Tommy yawns, "Speaking of sleeping, I think I'll take a little nap before the evening meal. I feel quite tired."

"Tired brain.", says Tomas, "It’s quite common after a stroke, even mild ones. I know, this is my third one. I never learn. People are crazy."

Tommy choses not to comment.

Tommy feels how a dream is beginning to take over and decides to close his eyes and allow himself to be swept away into the mist. But there is something that does not feel right. Tommy lies on his back, opens his eyes and looks straight up. He thinks he can see the stars. When he brings his hands up to his eyes to rub life into them, he notices that he has a helmet with a visor on. When he touches the helmet it is like he has started something.

Tommy stands up and sees that he is standing on a mountain in a snow filled landscape. It is the turning point between day and night. The sky is so dark that he can see the stars, but also bright enough to see the landscape around him. When Tommy looks towards the mountain top, he sees a large gate in the face of the rock. In front of it, a giant robot is sitting in the snow. The robot looks as if it is meditating. It reminds Tommy of a Buddha statue. When he approaches it, the robot wakes and stands up. The robot towers over him and looks to be at least 10 metres tall.

"Are you lost?" asks the robot with a surprisingly friendly and gentle voice.

"Yes. Or maybe not. I don’t know. I think I'm dreaming, actually." Tommy replies. "Where am I?"

"You’re standing in front of the Snowflake city’s archive of knowledge. Deep in the mountains, we have saved all the knowledge that we and all humanity have accumulated throughout history. We keep uploading new data all the time."

"Wow! It must be gigantic in there?" Tommy marvels, surprised.

"Everything is relative." replies the robot, "We have developed memory crystals that can contain vast amounts of information."

"And you have probably shaped them all like snowflakes?" asks Tommy, a bit sarcastically.

"Yes!" the robot replies.

"Oh!" Tommy tries. "Can I come in and have a look at it please?"

"No!" the robot now has a much sterner voice. "No humans can ever get into these archives. Unfortunately, we're unable to trust you. You have proven time and time again that you cannot keep your promises."

"But I'm not like that. I'm nice. You can trust me."

"The answer is still no! But you’re allowed to come and read the text on our door."

Tommy notices that the sign on the gate begins to light up as he approaches it and he begins to read.

"Welcome to Snowflake city. We have learned from your efforts and your eternal toil. Therefore, humans, you are welcome here. Although, when you created us, your journey ended and now you will have some rest."

When Tommy has finished reading, he is silent for a moment and then says;;

"This text is on all of the gates of the cities, then?"

"No! What you get to read, is the text that you yourself have created."

"Now I don’t follow."

"When you approach the sign, we scan your deepest desires and adjust the text to fit you, but the basic message is the same."

"So you can feel that I'm tired and would like to rest?"

"Yes!" replies the robot. "If you were a creative person, but felt that you do not have the time or money to make what you want, the text would reflect that."

"I think it seems like you are just fooling us!"

"No! It is you who are fooling yourselves. The text is generated by your own wishes for the future and your thoughts about yourselves."

Tommy stays silent for a while. Then he walks up to the sign and reads it again; "Welcome to Snowflake city. Here you just take with you your memories of times gone by. You have fought and toiled to create a decent life. But when you created us, your hard work ended and now you are allowed to rest. "

Tommy turns to the robot and says;

"You're right.The text is different now."

"Yes!" answers the robot, "And when you have been in the city for a long time and chooses to re-read the sign, the text will be very different."

"Is there another city nearby?" Tommy asks eagerly.

"Yes, there's one right behind this mountain!" replies the robot, pointing with his gigantic arm. "You can fetch a ride there with the drone over here."

Tommy doesn’t have time to answer before, out of the snow, a large spheric vehicle as big as a car appears. It drives up to Tommy and a door opens. Tommy steps inside and the ball starts rolling away through the snowy landscape.

Then it quickly rolls up the mountain's snow-covered side.

"Why is everything shaped like a snowflake?" Tommy asks himself.

"Why reinvent the wheel, as you humans like to say."

"Wow" says Tommy. He was not prepared for the sphere to talk. "Are you saying that snowflakes are a new invention?"

"No." replies the globe, "But it's a good design, like much else in nature. We try to take the best ideas and improve on them. Do you know how a snowflake is created? It's almost magical, how the six branches will be equal to each other, while different snowflakes are never the same. But everything has a natural explanation, and we are not trying to work against nature, instead we want to be a part of it."

The ball stays on the mountain's edge. Tommy looked down into a valley filled with houses of various kinds. Most houses resemble spiers that narrow towards the top. But many look like one half of a globe, or hexagonal pyramids. In several places, Tommy can see ropes attached to the houses. The ropes stretch high into the air where they were attached to large balloons.

"What’s inside those balloons?"

"They are our hydrogen gas reserves. In the summer we have a surplus of energy and are able to make an abundance of hydrogen with the help of the sun. When the dark period comes, the only source available to us is wind power. The waters freeze and the sun doesn't shine north of the Arctic Circle."

Tommy looks down the valley and marvels at the size of the city.

"It must have been very expensive to build all this? Where do you robots get all the money from?"

"You humans have stopped evolving. You have turned your back on nature."

The sphere is silent for a moment before asking;

"How much do you think the trees have paid to build a forest?"

"What does that have to do with anything?" Tommy questions.

The ball starts moving towards the city and continues;

"Listen, I will try to explain."

"Money is just something that you people invented." says the drone to Tommy, "We have no need for it, neither do the trees in the forests or any other lifeform on Earth."

"But everything can't be free? You can’t just take things without paying?"

"That’s what you humans have always done. You never asked the forest for permission before destroying it. You never paid the hen for their eggs or chickens. You would just take. You think you own this small planet."

Tommy is quiet for a moment and then asks;

"But what we have created ourselves, surely must be worth something?"

"Imagine two paintings painted simultaneously, with the same colour and material. One is almost worthless, while the other is worth as much as an entire residential neighbourhood. Why?"

"One might be painted by Da Vinci." Tommy replies triumphantly.

"You decide how much things are worth. Nothing has predetermined value. You decide.", says the ball, while rolling into a pine forest at the edge of the mountain.

"Supply and demand!" Tommy exclaims suddenly, "that would control the prices, right?"

The sphere cruises between the pine trees at high speed and continues, "Access is controlled by production. Produce it in abundance, more than is needed, and the products will be free. In our cities, we produce everything ourselves, according to your needs and wishes, with 3D printers. You decide what you want, no advertising agency or producer. "

Tommy sits and thinks this over quietly for a while. And then he asks;

"But what about the raw materials that are used in production? They surely must have been bought?"

The ball stops and says, "Look up at the moon. What do you see?"

Tommy looks up at the dark sky. The moon is shining faintly. It lies almost entirely in the dark, just a little glimmer visible of one edge. But then Tommy sees another thing. Can it be true? He blinks a few times. Yes it's true. "Incredible!"

On the dark part of the moon, Tommy can see several lit up areas. They look like different sized snowflakes. Around the moon, he can even see a swarm of light points moving around the moon at different speeds and directions.

"We take what we need from the entire solar system" the sphere explains, "especially from the planets, asteroids and meteors that have no life. We do not want to extract from life any more than is sustainable and renewable."

"It looks like there are cities on the moon." Tommy says, with his eyes transfixed on the sky, "Snowflake Cities!"

"The majority of people who have settled on the moon feel comfortable with the lower level of gravity. Shall we continue to our destination, we are getting closer now."

A short while later they arrive in front of a high wall. Tommy gets out and walks closer to it.

The smooth surface seems to be made of granite. Suddenly, the dark figure appears behind a tall spruce.

"Are you sure you want to go into the city? Do you know what they will do to you before you become free?"

"No" Tommy replied, "I think I'm already free?"

"In the future we will all be free, Tommy. In the future."

Then Tommy sees three small spherical robots rolling towards them. They stop right next to Tommy and one of the robots unfolds itself into the shape of a human, carrying a helmet in its hands. The two other robots grab Tommy and the third puts the helmet on his head. Tommy feels how they are tugging at him calling his name. But then he recognises the voice. It is the nurse, Bridget.

"Wake up, Tommy!" she says as she pulls his arm, "You must’ve had a nightmare."

"Not a nightmare exactly, but ... I was in the future again."

"I called her." says Tomas, "It sounded like you couldn’t breathe."

"It feels so real when I dream. Almost as if it's happening in reality."

"I'll be right back with the evening meal.", says Birgitta, walking out of the room, "that’s in reality!"

Chapter 5: Between an inner and outer wall

"Do you know who Carl Sagan is?" Tomas asks from his hospital bed.

Tommy completes and sends his SMS saying good night to Sara and Elsa, then raising his eyes to his roommate.

"The name sounds familiar." he replies, "But I can’t remember..."

"He was a scientist from the US." continues Tomas, "He's dead now, but he made the TV series Cosmos that was on TV in the 80s."

"Yes." replied Tommy. “I used to watch it with my brother."

Tommy feel a sadness that begins to bubble up within him. It has been 25 years since his brother died of a drug overdose, but suddenly it feels like it was yesterday.

"I came to think of Carl Sagan when you told me about your dreams." Tomas continues, "I think he was talking about being able to see planet Earth as an organism. In the same way that all of us, including animals, have bacteria and red blood cells in our bodies, the Earth contains plants and animals. If the interaction between plants and animals does not work, as between bacteria and blood cells in our bodies, the organism won't work either."

"So the Earth is like an animal or a giant plant?" Tommy asks, with clear skepticism in his voice.

"Exactly." Tomas replies.

"Now I am beginning to understand why they call you Gaston."

"Imagine this ..." continues Tomas unperturbed by his comment, "The Earth is alive because of all the lifeform on it. People cannot live unless there are a lot of other small organisms inside the body. We can’t control how the distribution of oxygen and nutrients is handled by our little friends that inhabit our bodies. Our view of reality is created in the brain, and we really do not know how much we control with our own mind.”

“Hm. You’ve lost me now.”

“Well, imagine this; you lose a leg but you're still the same person. However, if you cut off your head, you’re a head without a body, rather than a body without a head."

"But the Earth has no brain." Tommy disagrees, as he begins to feel very tired.

"No, but I think that something big is about to happen. I can see the similarities between the internet and the brain, especially now with cloud storage, super-smart mainframe computers, robotics and the internet of things. Everything is beginning to connect globally. Everything we write on social media is instantly accessible across the globe. It would be enough if someone created a clever virus, and it began to spread and replicate itself.That way, the Earth will have a brain."

"Gaston." Tommy yawns, "can we continue this conversation tomorrow? I am so very tired."

"Sure, I’ll switch off the lights."

Tommy thinks he can hear his wife's anxious voice. "Your pupils are different sizes." The hospital room disappears and instead, he finds himself in front of a high wall.

"Welcome back!" says a deep voice behind him.

Tommy turns around and sees a robot, about three feet high,resembling a scarecrow. Suddenly it folds itself into a ball and starts rolling off towards two other robots. It's the two humanlike robots Tommy recognises from his earlier dream.

"Where am I now?"

"You are inside the outer wall of Snowflake city." replies the feminine robot, "Come with us as we walk to the inner wall."

Tommy is thinking; is she trying to be seductive?

When they walk across the snow-filled landscape, Tommy notices a solitary tree a few hundred metres away, and on the horizon there are high-rise buildings stretching up to heaven like spiers. Tommy is thinking they look like a lot of different kinds of churches.

"I don’t believe in God." says Tommy to the robots. "Do you have a particular faith?"

The ball stopped in the snow and unfolds to its full length. "We believe in the power of momentum", and returns to the shape of a ball and rolls away.

The masculine robot turns to Tommy.

"We have a lot of different theories about why everything in the universe becomes more and more complicated and also more fragile.”

“What do you mean?”

“Life on Earth has become more and more advanced. Just think of your closest relatives, the chimpanzees. They have great abilities and understanding. They are also very good at passing on their skills from one generation to the next. But when one chimpanzee dies, that individual's knowledge is lost. On the contrary, you humans can document all your knowledge. That way, you can learn from people who have been dead for hundreds of years. However, this knowledge is vulnerable. Books can burn and hard drives can be demagnetized. Your whole community can be knocked out by a powerful solar storm.”

“But what about your faith?”, asks Tommy.

“Our faith is more like a thesis, a scientific reflection we try to find the answer to. We believe that momentum is constructed by two forces, one that drives development forward and one that holds it back."

"But where does this momentum come from?" asks Tommy, stopping next to the solitary tree.

The feminine robot stretches her hand out to the tree and says, "Look at these branches. Each branch is similar to an entire tree, but in smaller form. You can compare it to fractals. With a little genetic information it can copy itself and branch out endlessly. All leaves create vitality to the entire tree, not only for themselves or their branch. "

"This branch is dead.",Tommy points out, breaking off a dry, leafless branch. The robots jump at the sound. The masculine robot moves forward, takes the branch and holds it, the thick end up.

"Do you see what this looks like?" the robot asks him. "Do you see that it resembles a bolt of lightning. Do you see that they have the same desire, the same drive to get somewhere."

Tommy scratches his chin and says, "But isn’t a flash made to equalize the power between the plus and minus of the electricity in the clouds and land?"

The tall drone unfolds again and says, "The momentum has two sides, positive and negative. It strives for balance."

"Our religion has two sides too." says Tommy thoughtfully. "Good and evil, yin and yang, God and Satan, lightness and darkness, birth and death." Tommy starts looking around at the desolate landscape. "Why is this tree by itself?"

"People have called it the tree of life." The feminine robot goes back to Tommy and stands very close to him. "Just like life, the tree grows upwards and more and more branches stretch out. Some branches are dying, others bloom out with a fantastic variety of colour and shape."

Tommy stands quietly, pondering on this tree when he notices something moving a little further away.

Halfway up, on a shady ledge of a cliff, the dark figure is again lurking in the shadows. He shouts down to Tommy. "Ask them if there is freedom of religion in the future! Ask if people have faith in their old religions!"

When the robots notice that the dark figure is close by, all three of them turn towards Tommy.

The tall one says "Now, this human has learned enough for the time being." It then folds into itself and rolls off towards the cliff, to again unfold to full length beneath the ledge. And that clearly worries the dark figure.

The feminine robot says. "In the future all people are free, as free as any other animal on the planet. The only thing we ask of you is that you do not violate our law."

"Your law!" says Tommy in surprise, "Can there be only one law?"

The masculine robot puts its hand on Tommy’s shoulder and says, "You will soon wake up. But before that, I want to leave three questions for you to consider, all in three different areas of society.Those areas are; political parties, religious associations and national borders[c][d][e][f]. And the questions are; Who created them? Why did they create them? When were they created?”

Looking over towards the rock, Tommy thought that it looked like it had started to snow. Large snowflakes are floating in the air and a single snowflake stops in front of Tommy's left eye and just hovers there. Tommy blinks a few times and notices that he is awake. He reaches for his mobile and finds a notes App. He tries to write a few keywords to help him remember this dream. Fatigue slowly sends him drifting back to sleep.

Chapter 6: A mental border

Tommy gets the feeling that he is somewhere very high up. When he sees tall buildings of different shapes ahead, he realises that he is back in Snowflake city. He takes a step forwards to a balcony railing and looks down. Tommy thinks that he must be at the top of a tower. There is a great wall on the ground below that reaches to the horizon in both directions. On the face of the wall he can see a large door and realises that he has arrived at the inner wall of the town. Tommy notices the female robot standing close beside him. She turns to him and says;

"You might want to know what our law says? The law that all intelligent life must follow."

Tommy takes a few steps back and nods. If only she would stop being so impertinent, he thinks. The robot begins to explain;

"No intelligent life, biological or mechanical, may allow the Earth and its inhabitants to come to harm due to one’s own or another’s actions, directly or indirectly."

Tommy. scratching his head is saying, "Is that all?” She looks into his eyes intensely and says, “Yes.”

”I am sorry but I don’t understand. Our lawbook is very thick. This make no sense to me."

"If you are calm, kind and harmonious you will understand. If you can repress your anger so it does not lead to hatred and violence, you have come a bit of the way. If you promise to share your thoughts and listen to others, you will be even closer. If you can see that everything is connected like a circle, and the circle can grow into a snowflake, you're almost there."

Tommy turns his head and looks out across the city. "That has not made me one bit wiser."

Along the facade he notices that the little green robot, shaped like a starfish, starts crawling up the tower wall, stopping at the balcony. "Maybe I can explain?"

With one arm only it attaches itself onto the balcony edge and begins to dangle freely when it starts to explain.

"Firstly, we treat all life according to various intelligence categories. With the intelligence that can use reason, we work proactively. We educate them in planet preservation and respect for the fragility of life. If it turns out that reasoning does not work, we reprogramme the intelligence, both mechanically and biologically. The intelligence that acts only on the basis of instinctive behavior, we leave be, providing it cannot be defined as cancer on the Earth's body. Cancer on the other hand, we break down into small harmless building blocks and release back into nature."

Tommy looks in awe at the little robot.

"Break down and reprogramme. Would you do that to me if I broke the law?"

The feminine robot puts her hand on Tommy's shoulder, looking him deeply in the eyes and says, "After our training, you will be a harmonious person. You would not want to hurt anyone. You must understand that life is fragile and very easy to destroy."

Tommy turns his gaze out towards the city skyline and sees a blimp flying near. Under the airship’s basket the dark figure is hanging in a sling. Tommy can barely see him because of the bright lights of the airship.

The dark figure pulls out a megaphone and shouts to Tommy;

"Ask them what they do with people who, despite training and reprogramming, still break the law."

Tommy turns towards the robots. "What would you do if I still broke your law?"

Behind the feminine robot a door opens and Tommy hears the male robot say;

"Come in and take a look at our converting facility."

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