The Good Troll
A possible future?
By: Thomas Krantz
© 2016 by Thomas Krantz
translation assisted by: Google
editor: Charlotte Fogelquist
Chapter 1: A
Star is Falling
“This doesn’t 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
“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 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 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
“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 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 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
“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," 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 doubled!”
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
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
The atmosphere 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.
“A snowflake,” says a deep voice.
“A snowflake?” 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 eyes.
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 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 a voice inside his
“Just try to relax. We’re about to start,” says the nurse. The
table starts to slowly drift into the large tube. “Just lie
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 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
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 talk to the nurses in that department,”
said the male nurse, going into a room off the corridor inside the
Tommy feels 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 reads “Birgitta”.
“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
“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 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 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. My name is 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 does not know how to respond to that
statement. It’s just not funny.
“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
“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
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
When they eventually get back to the room, Tomas says
“You can borrow some science magazines if you want. They’re from
“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 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 something good."
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 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
"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 asked. "I don’t understand!"
The feminine robot walks up to, 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
"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 little robot on Tommy's shoulder jumps back down onto the snow
"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 head ached.
"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."
"We’re 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
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.
"Yesterday's 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?" asked Tomas.
"I don’t 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."
"When I'm 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
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 heard 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 light voice say, "You’d
better follow the tracks before they disappear."
Tommy notices the green starfish-like robot now sitting on a large
"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 whirls in
Tommy's face, making it difficult getting 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
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
"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?" exclaimed Tommy, "What have you done with your
"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
"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?"
"Calm down Elsa." Tommy reassures, "I’ll be back to
Neither Ruth and 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
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
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.
"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 heard someone ask.
Tommy opened his eyes and saw a man standing at the foot end of the
"Sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you."
Tommy blinked a little and read the man's badge;
[Bertil Nilsson, hospital chaplain.]
"How are you feeling?" asked the priest kindly.
Tommy just 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,
"I'm thirsty.", He heard himself reply.
Priest Bertil gave Tommy a drink of water.
"Is there anything you’d like to talk about?" continued
"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 was not true. Have you lied about it
then?" 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 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."
"No." 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
Bertil, the priest, started walking towards the door when Tommy
"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.
"They were 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."
"Well, maybe you should call me a Humanistic Agnostic instead ."
"I must move on." said Bertil, "But it's never too
late to discover the greatness of Jesus Christ."
"And suddenly 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."
"That’s a 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 eyes.
Tommy leans back and starts getting the feeling that he is floating.
"Just relax.", 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,
"And that is exactly what we oppose.", says Mats, "that
the employers are laying off their staff simply because we have
"But the there is currently work for 600 people." Anna
replies, "We do not 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
"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
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
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
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.
"But another night might not hurt."
Chapter 4: No two snowflakes are
"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
"Thank you, Tomas." replied Tommy, "Or should I call
"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 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."
"Oh." replied Tommy, "Speaking of sleeping, I think
I'll take a little nap before the evening meal. I feel quite tired."
"Tired brain.", 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 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 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?"
"You’re 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.
"Everything is relative." replies the robot, "We have
developed memory crystals that can contain vast amounts of
"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
"No!" 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 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 saw that the sign on the gate began to light up as he
approached it and he began 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 finished reading, he was silent for a moment and then
"This text is on all of the gates of the cities, then?"
"No!" replied the robot, "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!" 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
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 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 landscape.
Then it quickly rolls up the mountain's snow-covered side.
"Why is everything shaped like a snowflake?" Tommy asks
"Why reinvent the wheel, as you humans like to say."
"Wow" said Tommy. He was not prepared for the sphere to be
able to talk. "Are you saying that snowflakes are a new
"No." 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 it."
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.
"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
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."
"But everything can't be free?" asks Tommy, "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
"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 neighborhood. Why?"
"One might be painted by Da Vinci." Tommy replied
"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 exclaimed 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 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 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 and directions.
"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!"
"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 arrived 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 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, 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
"It feels so real when I dream. Almost as if it's happening in
"I'll be right back with the evening meal.", says Birgitta,
walking out of the room, "that is in reality!"
Chapter 5: Between an inner and
"Do you know who Carl Sagan is?" Tomas asks from his
Tommy completes and sends his SMS saying good night to Sarah
and Elsa, then raising his eyes to his roommate.
"The name sounds familiar." he replies, "But I can’t
"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
"Yes." replied Tommy. “I used to watch it with my
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 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
"So the Earth is like an animal or a giant plant?" Tommy
asked, with clear skepticism in his voice.
"Exactly." Tomas replied.
"Now I am beginning to understand why they call you Gaston."
"Imagine this ..." 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 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." 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
"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!" 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 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
"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 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 land?"
The tall drone unfolds again and says, "The momentum has two
sides, positive and negative. It strive for balance."
"Our religion 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?"
"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 up and more and more branches stretch out.
Some branches are dying, others bloom out with a fantastic variety of
color 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 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."
"Your law!" says Tommy in surprise, "Can there be only
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 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
"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?”
Intensively she 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 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 over the city. "That has not
made me one bit wiser."
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.
"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 at the little robot in awe.
"Break down and reprogramme. Would you do that to me if I broke
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 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
"Come in and take a look at our converting facility."
Tommy follows the robot into a long curved corridor.
"You're lucky." says the robot, "We have just caught a
human who has shown violent tendencies and is clearly a danger to
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
"What are you doing with him?" asks Tommy, horrified.
"Relax, he's 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
"Can I talk to him?" asks Tommy.
"Sure.", 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.
"Hey Tommy, good to see you," says the guy with an almost
chirping voice of joy.