The Good Troll
A possible future?
By: Thomas Krantz
Copyright © 2016 by Thomas
assisted by: Google
English editor: Charlotte
A Star is Falling
feel right,” Tommy whispers to himself. “Where am I now? What’s
happening to me?”
The snow whirls 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 sees 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
It's Saturday, and
snow has been falling since Thursday evening. Gothenburg has been
completely paralyzed by the huge and sudden blizzard of sleet and
“Daddy, can you
pick up the middle snowball please,” asks Elsa, “it's too heavy
“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 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
“Have you already
finished the snowman?” Tommy’s wife Sara calls out from the
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
“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 different sizes!” cries Sara, fear and surprise in her
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 recognizes 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.
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
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?"
probably be fine," answers Tommy and gets up from the chair.
Everything starts to spin, and it feels like the blizzard snow is
rushing 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 the 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 remembered 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 weightless in water. In the
darkness, he thought he saw a small bright spot.
“Light a candle
and let it burn,” a dark voice, which seemed familiar, filled
the void. “If you share your fire it is not halved, but
Tommy thought it
sounded silly, but he felt pleased about the message. He felt a
buzzing inside him. He wanted to laugh out loud. Then he heard a
mechanical breathing sound that reminded him of Darth Vader. From
within that sound, he heard a choir sing: “This little light of
mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”
Tommy woke up and
noticed how the nurse held a breathing mask against his mouth.
“Here’s a little oxygen, I want you to stay conscious for me.”
Tommy turned his
head slightly to be able to see Sara. She put her hand on Tommy’s
arm and said, “I’m here. We’ll be there soon.”
inside A&E, felt to Tommy like organized chaos. He had to lie on
a trolley while a nurse examined his eyes with a penlight and poked
under the soles of his feet with a cold and sharp instrument. Then
he and Sara were 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.
says a deep voice.
asks Tommy aloud.
“No, it looks like
a heart,” replies Sara.
“Did you fall
asleep?” asks a dark 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
Everything is white
inside the MRI room. Tommy is lying on top of the table that will
soon slide into the large tubular magnet.
“I will now inject
you with some contrast fluid,” says a senior nurse with white hair.
“It’ll give you a warm sensation, but it’s completely
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 a voice inside his head?
“Just try to
relax. We’re about to start,” says the nurse. The table starts
to slowly drift 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 dark voice again,singing now, slowly:
I'm watching the
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
There is so much we
There are forces we
can never cure.
flashes in a rhythmic blue light:
The control will
A signal for
The control will
Then everything is
as it should be.
If the display is
There is no reason
When the check is
Then everything is
as it should be.
changes colour to green and then fades away.
“Wake up,” he
hears the nurse say. “We've finished now.”
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
thinks to himself. That’s where dad spent the last hours of his
“I just need to go
and talk to the nurses in that department,” said the male nurse,
going into a room off the corridor inside the stroke ward.
uncomfortable among 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
“I’ve never seen
anything like it in my 20 years in this department,” said a female
nurse to the male nurse. “One day, completely written off by the
doctor, and the next day to be 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
“You get the last
available spot today,” says Birgitta cheerfully. She rolls 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
Tommy sees 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
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. My name is
Tommy,” he replies, and takes the outstretched hand. “No
“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
Tommy does not know how to respond to that statement. It’s just
“A movie’s about
to start on telly now. 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.
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
Tommy finds himself
lying in deep snow. The sky is dark blue with snowflakes congesting
the air. Tommy looks around and sees two bright figures walking
toward 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 the arms and the body 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. The robots
look quite dry. Tommy takes the white hand. The female robot says,
"You have been given a second chance; you should use it for
Tommy pulls himself
up to 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
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;
challenge the established idea that you humans own your own bodies."
Tommy asked. "I don’t understand!"
The feminine robot
walks up to, stands next to Tommy and continues;
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...
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 little robot on
Tommy's shoulder jumps back down onto the snow and says;
"In the future,
we know that you had 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
"Would you like
breakfast in bed or do you want to go and eat with the others?"
The question came
from a young nurse with long blond hair and bright blue eyes. She
could not be more than 22 years old, thought Tommy.
"I'm happy to
get out of bed."
delighted at the ward today." says the nurse whose name ‘Linda’
Tommy spotted 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 saw that there was only one vacant seat left.
Tomas sat opposite reading the Metro, a free newspaper. When he saw
Tommy he handed over a copy.
news, already today." Tommy said with a bitter sarcastic tone of
voice as he took the newspaper. Tomas smiled at him, but with a
quizzical look in his eyes.
After a moment Tommy
noticed feeling angry. He started swearing quietly to himself.
"What is it?"
know." replied Tommy, "I think it's because I read 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."
angry, I write on my blog.", said Tomas, "Even though,
clearly, hardly anyone ever reads it."
"I know, I'll
write a letter to the editor!" Tommy exclaimed.
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 heard Linda say behind him.
"She must be
confused." Tommy responds.
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
He hears a light voice say, "You’d better follow the tracks
before they disappear."
Tommy notices the
green starfish-like robot now sitting on a large rock.
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 whirls in Tommy's face,
making it difficult getting a clear picture of him.
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
understand what the dark figure is talking about.
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
Tommy looks down at
the snow. The tracks are getting harder to see.
Be critical. Think."
Tommy notices how
everything just gets whiter and whiter.
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.
much colour in here." says Elsa, "Almost just white."
for wide doors!"
Tommy recognises the
voice of his mother coming into the room. Curved back and
spasmodically cradling a walking frame.
exclaimed Tommy, "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."
...," 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."
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" said 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 get well again?"
Elsa." Tommy reassures, "I’ll be back to normal soon."
Neither Ruth and
Sara say anything at all.
"Mum. Tell me
more about your legs instead." Says Tommy, who wants to change
"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;
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
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."
Sunday today." Sara says, puzzled. "What could be so
important on a Sunday?"
Towards the mountain top
The food didn’t
taste of anything. Tommy ate mostly on routine and because he knew he
should be hungry. It was quiet in the room. Everyone else was in the
ward's dining room, but Tommy wanted to be left alone. He was too
tired to talk. The few hours that Sara, Elsa, and his mother Ruth had
been visiting had made him completely exhausted. Sara would come back
after Elsa had been to a party at her classmate Stina’s, who had a
father named Robert. Tommy remembers him from when he was at school.
Robert was the meanest person he had ever met. Tommy wanted 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 sat
back on the bed to browse some of the science magazines Tomas lent
him. On one cover, he saw the face of a robot. It had similarities
with the male robot from last night's dream. Tommy decided to rest a
little instead. It didn’t take many seconds until he again was in
the middle of a snowstorm.
"You ought to
hurry up to the top of the mountain."
The voice sounded
like it came from inside something. Tommy turned, and sat in front of
him was something that looked like a caravan. It was almost
completely buried in the snow.
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 heard someone ask.
Tommy opened his
eyes and saw a man standing at the foot end of the hospital bed.
didn’t mean to wake you."
Tommy blinked a
little and read the man's badge;
"How are you
feeling?" asked the priest kindly.
remembered that he had sent a letter to the Metro, about religion. He
had an uneasy feeling that this was a test. But when he saw the
priest's friendly smile, his uneasiness changed into anger. Probably
another one of those hypocritical ones, thought Tommy.
He heard himself reply.
Priest Bertil gave
Tommy a drink of water.
anything you’d like to talk about?" continued Bertil.
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
"But if you
yourself believe in something and tell others about it, only to
realise that it was not true. Have you lied about it then?" asks
"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 try his
opinions of someone with good knowledge.
"If I tell my
daughter that Father Christmas exists and I myself believe in him,
then it's no lie."
replied the priest, and seems to understand that Tommy is actually
referring to God.
"But I do not
believe in Father Christmas, although I tell her he exists. And so,
I have lied."
"I think God
will forgive you." answers 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."
Bertil, the priest,
started walking towards the door when Tommy blurted out;
"What did Jesus
mean when he said that it was all concluded?"
Bertil stopped in
the doorway and turned around. Reluctantly, he returned to Tommy.
probably Jesus’ last words on the crucifix." said Bertil and
looked out of the window. "Jesus died so we could be forgiven
for our sins. In his last breath he left his spirit on Earth."
Bertil turned his gaze to Tommy and said, "The Holy Spirit
remains among us, waiting for the Savior's return."
"Cut it out!"
cried Tomas, stepping into the room, "It's a waste of your time,
Tommy is an atheist."
you should call me a Humanistic Agnostic instead ." Tommy
"I must move
on." said Bertil, "But it's never too late to discover the
greatness of Jesus Christ."
he’s in a hurry..." said Tomas when Bertil left the room,
"They’re starting to worry about declining memberships. It’s
costly to heat up the churches in cold Sweden."
"That sounds a
bit cynical." replied 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."
little harsh." replied Tommy, but cannot hide that he thought it
was quite funny.
"Now I will get
some rest." said Tomas, and lay on top of his bed, closing his
Tommy leans back and
starts getting the feeling that he is floating.
he heard 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 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 putting them back on again. He
doesn’t seem to notice that Tommy sits down next to him on the
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 the there
is currently work for 600 people." Anna replies, "We do not
have enough work for 750."
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
"What? No, I
"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 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.
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
"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.
daddy needs to stay one more night." Sara told 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 Sarah 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.
night might not hurt."
Chapter 4: No
two snowflakes are the same.
"Call me as
soon as you have spoken to the doctors tomorrow." said Sara as
she and Elsa left Tommy after an hour's chat.
"Nice wife and
daughter you have." said Tomas from across the room.
Tomas." replied Tommy, "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
"I dreamed of
them last night." Tommy replied, pointing to the robots, "It
was a bit weird really. I don’t usually remember my dreams, but
this I cannot forget."
"I saw a film
once about dreams once. I think they can be messages from another
time and place.", said Tomas, "Maybe we are at our most
receptive when we sleep."
replied Tommy, "Speaking of sleeping, I think I'll take a little
nap before the evening meal. I feel quite tired."
said 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 chose not to
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 was something
that did not feel right. Tommy lay on his back, opened his eyes and
looked straight up. He thought he could see the stars. When he
brought his hands up to his eyes to rub life into them, he noticed
that he had a helmet with a visor on. When he touched the helmet it
was like he had started something.
Tommy stood up and
saw that he was standing on a mountain in a snow filled landscape. It
was the turning point between day and night. The sky was so dark that
he could see the stars, but also bright enough to see the landscape
around him. When Tommy looked towards the mountain top, he saw a
large gate in the face of the rock. In front of it sat a giant robot
in the snow. The robot looked as if it was meditating. It reminded
Tommy of a Buddha statue. When Tommy approached it, the robot woke
and stood up. The robot looked to be at least 10 meters tall.
"Are you lost?"
asked the robot with a surprisingly friendly and gentle voice.
"Yes. Or maybe
not. I don’t know. I think I'm dreaming, actually." replied
Tommy. "Where am I?"
standing in front of the snowflake cities' 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?" said Tommy, surprised.
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
Tommy tries. "Can I come in and have a look at it?"
replies the robot with a much sharper 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
"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
Tommy saw that the
sign on the gate began to light up as he approached it and he began
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 finished
reading, he was silent for a moment and then said;
"This text is
on all of the gates of the cities, then?"
replied the robot, "What you get to read, is the text that you
yourself have created."
"Now I don’t
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?"
replied 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 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;
right.The text is different now."
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
another city nearby?" Tommy asks eagerly.
one right behind this mountain!" replies the robot, pointing
with his gigantic arm. "You can fetch a ride there with the
drone over there."
Tommy does not have
time to answer before, out of the snow, a large spheric vehicle as
big as a car appears. It rolls up to Tommy and a door opens. Tommy
steps inside and the ball starts rolling away through the snowy
Then it quickly
rolls up the mountain's snow-covered side.
everything shaped like a snowflake?" Tommy asks himself.
the wheel, as you humans like to say."
Tommy. He was not prepared for the sphere to be able to talk. "Are
you saying that snowflakes are a new invention?"
replied 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
The ball stays on
the mountain's edge. Tommy looked down into a valley filled with
houses of various kinds. Most houses resembled spiers that narrowed
towards the top. But many looked like one half of a globe, or
hexagonal pyramids. In several places, Tommy could see ropes attached
to the houses. The ropes stretched high into the air where they were
attached to large balloons.
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
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?"
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 exclaims.
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."
can't be free?" asks Tommy, "You can’t just take things
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
Tommy is quiet for a
moment and then asks;
"But what we
have created ourselves, surely must be worth something?"
paintings painted simultaneously, with the same colour and material.
One is almost worthless, while the other is worth as much as an
entire residential neighborhood. Why?"
"One might be
painted by Da Vinci." Tommy replied 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
demand!" Tommy exclaimed suddenly, "that would control the
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
Tommy sits and
thinks quietly for a while. And then he asks;
"But what about
the raw materials that are used in production? They surely must have
The ball stops and
says, "Look up at the moon. What do you see?"
Tommy looks up at
the dark sky. The moon shines 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 could see several lit areas. They looked like
different sized snowflakes. Around the moon, he could even see a
swarm of points of light moving around the moon at different speeds
"We take what
we need from the entire solar system" said the sphere,
"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 said, with his eyes
transfixed to the sky, "Snowflake Cities!"
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 arrived in front of a high wall. Tommy gets out and walks closer
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?"
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 into a human shape,
carrying a helmet in his 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, Birgitta.
Tommy!" she says as she pulls his arm, "You must’ve had a
nightmare exactly, but ... I was in the future again."
her.", says Tomas, "It sounded like you couldn’t
"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 is in reality!"
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 Sarah and Elsa, then
raising his eyes to his roommate.
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."
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
"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 and the
animals have bacteria and independent 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 asked, with clear
skepticism in his voice.
"Now I am
beginning to understand why they call you Gaston."
..." continues Tomas unperturbed by Tommy's 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 not 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
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." answers Tommy, 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
Tommy yawns, "can we continue this conversation tomorrow? I am
so very tired."
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.
said 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
"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.
believe in God." says Tommy to the robots. "Do you have a
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
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
“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
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 with 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
"This branch is
dead.",responds Tommy, 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
The tall drone
unfolds again and says, "The momentum has two sides, positive
and negative. It strive for balance."
has two sides too." says Tommy thoughtfully. "Good and
evil, yin and yang, God and Satan, light and darkness, birth and
death." Tommy starts looking around at the desolate landscape.
"Why is this tree by itself?"
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 up and more and more branches stretch out. Some branches are
dying, others bloom out with a fantastic variety of color and shape."
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
When the robots
notice that the dark figure is close by, all three of them turn
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 makes the
dark figure worried.
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."
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. 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
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
"You might want
to know what our law says? The law that all intelligent life must
Tommy takes a few
steps back and nods. If only she would stop being so impertinent,
he thinks. The robot begins to explain;
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."
his head is saying, "Is that all?”
looks into his eyes and says, “Yes.”
”I am sorry but I
do not understand. Our lawbook is very thick. This make no sense to
"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 over the city. "That has not made me one bit
Along the facade
Tommy 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.
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 at the
little robot in awe.
"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 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."
Tommy follows the
robot into a long curved corridor.
says the robot, "We have just caught a human who has shown
violent tendencies and is clearly a danger to other life."
The robot shows
Tommy to a small room. Strapped to a stretcher is a man who looks to
be in his 20s. He has a helmet on that covers his entire face.
"What are you
doing with him?" asks Tommy, horrified.
been given a sedative and is now in a virtual world. We then show him
what we perceive that he did wrong. At the same time, we scan his
brain to find out which area is either overactive or under
stimulated. We release a new dose of Nanobots into the bloodstream
that will make sure his levels and connections are normal."
"Can I talk to
him?" asks Tommy.
the robot replies, "We have nothing to hide." The straps
are released from the man who sits up and takes off his helmet. Tommy
jerks. The man looks just like Robert, his classmate from high school
and Tommy's old bully.