An Ordinary Man
This story begin as so many story’s before, in an apartment complex just outside of Stockholm on the third floor inside a door marked 7B.
In this sparsely, but according to the owner; tastefully, decorated apartment there lived a man who was like every other man.
In his 35 and divorced, he spent his time watching TV and reading up in travel forums. His name was Daniel and he had gone through his whole life avoiding any big mood swings, not even when he had married or separated from his wife he’d felt either big joy or crushing depression.
He’d cried a bit when he’d moved to the new apartment but nothing he couldn’t shake off, he told himself it be better this way, that Sara and he would be happier apart.
The one time he came close to an adventure where the week he and Sara spent their honeymoon on the island of Mallorca. It was the only time he had been out of Sweden and he swore to start traveling, at least once, maybe two times a year.
That was ten years ago.
He just couldn’t find the time or the money, he told himself.
The money bit was truer now, after he had moved out from his house. The house he was still paying for.
When he’d left he’d told her it was only temporary, so she could get on her feet financially.
This was now four years ago.
Tom lived there now, Tom and Sara.
Once, when the guys from the accounting firm were out to celebrate a proposal, a couple of his colleagues talked Daniel in to calling Sara and saying he can’t be paying for a house he weren’t living in.
Sara then told Daniel that he would be throwing out his ex-wife on the streets to fend for herself and that would be very cruel of him to..
And after a short discussion, they both came to the conclusion that Daniel weren’t a cruel man.
He never told his colleagues about it, but figured, that they figured that he’d cave.
That was 2 years ago.
He was feeling sorry for Tom now, because Tom hadn’t offered to take over the house payments after he had moved in with Sara.
Daniel thought that Tom must be low on capital and too proud to say so,
and Daniel weren’t going to put his boss in an uncomfortable situation by bringing it up.
Tonight was Tuesday and Daniel sat in his couch and read an article about the depth of swimming pools in the East Moldova regions when a curious pop-up presented itself on the screen. Blinking and flashing it read:
“FIND OUT WHERE YOU SHOULD GO! THE GALAXYS BEST TRAVEL QUIZ!”
Daniel had to admit he liked quizzes and he loved travelling, so he overcame his inbuilt skepticism of pop-ups and clicked.
There were 98 questions ranging from if he liked snow or warmth and if he think that trees should have the same representation in parliament as kangaroos.
Daniel figured that the questions where of a psychological sort and were really asking about something else, like if he thought all cultures had the same worth and of course Daniel thought so, he was after all a Swede.
When he where done, and the results where processing, he was sitting and hoping it would be somewhere exciting, but also cultural. So he could have fun but have something to brag about when he got back.
And the answer came up on the screen and flashed before Daniels eyes.
He became grumpy that someone would go to all the trouble with all the questions just to pull his leg.
The results stood: The Moon.
But maybe it was there he’d belong, on the moon.
Nobody would really miss him, the guys at work should of course notice he’s absence, but soon enough his place would be filled with someone else. Sara would be furious to become stuck with the house payments. The guys at the train modelling club would possibly notice he’d disappeared.
No one else.
Daniel muttered to himself that he should get a cat, so at least someone would miss him.
But then it hit how hard it would be to get a sitter when he was out traveling. So he decided it would be best just to continue on his own.
To improve his spirit he started to read a new article about the different thickness of wine glasses in the south of Sicily.
A steady knock on the door. Daniel looked at the clock, almost ten o´clock he’d never had any visitors and at this hour, it couldn’t be good. He snuck up to the door and remembered an article he had read about a couple from UK who’d been travelling in the north of Andalusia and got robbed by a gang who tricked them into opening the door by simply knocking on it.
Slowly he crept up alongside the door and peeking through the spy-hole, expecting to see robbers from Andalusia he instead saw a women in her twenties sharply dressed and looking at her phone. Daniels first thought was that the robbers must be hiding and as soon he opened the door they would storm his apartment and steal everything.
Beside the door, he had a small wooden bowl for his keys. He’d emptied the bowl and took it as a weapon. Then it hit him that they probably would hurt him if he resisted, he dropped the bowl.
And at the exact time the bowl hit the rug the woman outside knocked again.
But this time also shouting:
– Daniel Anderson, accountant at Bjorkqvist & Bjorkqvist.
We have accepted your work application and have come for an interview.
The female voice was stern and stressed.
Daniel was in shock. This was some elaborate ruse to get him to open the door.
You could just see the name on the door and search on Facebook to get the information.
– “All right Daniel”, the woman continued, “you live alone, spend your time on the internet and in front of the tv. Once in third grade you took a watch from another student but your classmate Steve got blamed and never really recovering from it triggering a spiral of events and now he is in prison and you sometimes look him up and feel a pang of guilt. That’s the second biggest event in your life, the biggest was a trip to Mallorca.”
Stunned by the flash of information and without thinking Daniel answered:
-“But I haven’t been looking for any jobs…”
– “Sure you have. In accounting?”
– “No, I work in accounting, and I am happy where I am. I would remember if I was looking for something new.”
– “We received your application about 10 minutes ago, can´t you remember that?”
Daniel stood completely still and thought that the only thing he’d been doing where that stupid QUIZ. So he answered,
– “I have only been surfing a traveling site and done a quiz, I haven’t done any application.”
– “Wait, where you are www.theworldsbesttraveler.com?”
– “You see, this is why we need a good accountant! The IT guys clearly haven’t been paid properly and now we in the HR are having to deal with this…”
– “The what now? “
– “Yeah I am sorry Daniel, there has been a mix up. I guess you never heard of the intergalactic board for evolution and gambling?”
-“ No, no I have not. “
– “That’s a real shame.”
– “it is?”
– “Yes your application was the best in a long time. “
– “It was?”
– “Can I come in? It’s odd talking to a door.” The woman’s voice where now kind and she sounded tired.
Daniel hesitated, but an unfamiliar feeling of bravery came over him and he opened.
The woman extended her arm and told him her name was Karima.
Daniel told her his name was Daniel.
They sat down on the couch, Karima took out her phone and started to type.
Daniel looked at her and cleared his throat loudly, she responded by holding up her index finger nonchalantly telling him to wait.
Soon enough she was done texting and looked up on Daniel.
– “So Daniel, have you ever wanted to work on the moon?”
Immediately Daniel regretted letting her in. She where clearly insane.
– “No I’m not insane. She replied.”
– “What, how did you do that?”
– “Do what?”
– “Read my mind?”
– “I didn’t read your mind, you are an open book.”
Daniel looked disbelieving at her.
– “Ok Daniel I am going to be blunt with you. I work for an organization which is in dire need of your services. I can’t tell you more than that we are working from the moon and it is and it would be best if you could come with me right now.”
– “I’m not going anywhere with you.”
– “How do you think we know everything about you? The stuff about Mallorca and the third grade, if you want I can start bringing up your financial details.”
If there is something an accountant is fearful of, it’s another person’s sticky paws on their personal finance, so Daniel replied,
– “So you are blackmailing me to come along? “
– “Sigh, if that’s what it will take to make you, then yes that is what I am doing.”
Daniel just grunted as an answer.
-“ Get dressed, I want to get up there before the midnight traffic”, Karima continued
Daniel got dressed, offended and angry at this know-it-all-woman.
Just as they were about to head through the front door Karima asked,
– “Where’s your towel? “
– “My wha… Towel?”
-“ Yes, everyone going to space needs a towel. I thought we made a guide about this stuff?”
Now clearly irritated and offended Daniel grabbed a towel.
When they got out Karima flipped her keys and a blue ford transit flashed its lights.
– Is that yours? Daniel asked in a condescending voice.
– Ain’t she a beauty, plastic interior, genuine fake wood on the dashboard, duck taped cooler, superglued exhaust, point welded chassis and double flux capacitors!
Again Daniel regretted letting her in, but she threatened his personal finance and was in fact his kidnapper so he followed.
As they sat down in the car and Karima turned the key a cooling fan started.
And the car went straight up.
– AAAAA, said Daniel.
– Haha, Karima laughed.
– We’re flying!?
– I told you, bouble flux capacitors? Don’t you watch TV?
Daniel sat still and started to regret, regretting letting Karima in.
-“You are going to see what happens when this baby hits 44m(p)/h.”
Daniel said nothing, watching the Stockholm lights passing under him.
-“We got to be a 100m up in the air, he said.”
Karima tapped on a display with is usually reserved for the clock but now read 100,058m.
– “Good guess. She said.”
– “But won’t people see us?”
-“ The human brain misses a lot of things, this car is coated with a paint that makes people’s eyes avoid and forget it’s seen it. “
– “Forget a flying car?”
– “Well the brain never register it as a car so it won’t be much to forget.”
Before Daniel replied Karima changed gears and as they soared over the million of people living in Stockholm and when they hit 44m(p)/h and the blue transit accelerated and everything outside went blurry, the lights became lines and Daniels heart skipped a couple of beats.
They were soon in space and the moon closed with frightening speed.
Karima steered the blue spaceship with 14″ rims to a big crater, still going way faster than Daniel would have liked.
As they descended the big black hole they soon passed into a cave and straight into an underground parking garage.
-“ Goddam it! Karima said.”
– “The longtime parking is full, she continued.”
– “Long time parking on the moon… This is new.”
– “Well we are going to have a sit down, you will understand.”
The two parked on short term parking and headed a sign that said Exit.
After the first door there came another door this this time with the sign: The Equaliser.
-“This is going to feel a bit awkward. Said Karima.”
– “What is it?”
– “It would be hard having whales at the discussion table if they were original size?”
– “Oh yeah, you don’t know yet. Well this room makes you a standardized size.”
If it wasn´t for the fact that Daniel was on the moon and he’d flown there in a Ford transit, he’d been worried.
First Karima went in and when a green light flashed he went in after her.
Preparing himself for the worst and feeling a slight tingling feeling in his toes.
Then he came out in a corridor where Karima stood waiting.
When he approached her she stabbed a needle in his thigh.
– “What the !? Daniel said.”
– “Nanobots and vitamins. Answered Karima”
– “And why do I need that?”
– “The nanobots makes you smarter and they install a new language. The vitamins because, look at you, clearly you aren’t getting enough of something.”
– “New language?”
– “Ok, I’m going to explain the bigger picture on the way to your new home.”
Daniel didn’t question the new home, he just stood there curious about the whole thing.
They stepped out onto the street and Karima took out her phone and said she would get a cab.
And soon a big blue box came flying through the air, looking rather like a telephone booth but blue.
As they stepped in the whole thing seemed larger on the inside then the outside.
But Daniel guessed it was just smart decorating.
– “The thing is Daniel, everything on earth is something you can gamble on.”
– “Like sports and such? “
– “No everything, from the stock market of the species to which bug is going to kill the next elephant.”
– “Stock market of species? “
– “Yes, every species on earth is represented here on the moon and they all gather in the big council and vote about which will evolve next and at what pace.”
– “So the whole thing about evolution is a democracy?”
– “Well, -ISH.”
– “Yes, as with any democracy you got powerhouses, lobbyist, think-tanks and other groups of interest. And those are where the real action is. They trade favors and backscratches.”
I mean, look at the pandas. Do you really think a waist high, slow, cuddly and bamboo munching good for nothing bear, really would survive a free evolution market. No the pandas are shrewd politicians and does anything to survive. Up here very few like them, but are often forced to work with them. “
– “Woah, so the whole world is a stock market? For who?”
– “Other species in the known universe. “
– “There are others?”
– “Of course? Solid, liquid or gas. There is examples of every form of intellectual life. And they all need to gamble!” Karima smiled.
– “So all the life on earth is just a chip in a casino?”
– “Pretty much, yeah”.
Daniel stood and the wealth of information where processing and after a minute he asked.
– “But, how do you get a strong stock?”
– “Well it’s complicated, but as a rule of thumb, the more species you have a direct effect on – the more power you wield.”
– “So it isn´t about who’s the biggest?”
– “Well, there are different strategies, some go for biggest bodies others go for most numerous.”
Daniel entered the new data in his thinking process and soon followed up with:
– “So the humans are the biggest players around?”
– “Not biggest nor most powerful but we are up there in the top. But we un-liked by quite a few. “
– “Because we kill a lot of species?”
– “Yes, that, and before we showed up earth was a more stable investment, we are kind of the IT sector here. New and full of promise but ruthless and nobody have any ideas of where we are heading.”
– “So, who are the biggest players here then?”
– “Well I got to say the fungi. They wield an enormous amount of power.”
– “I did not expect the fungi.”
– “Well, look what they did with the insects. The whole cordyceps thing. “
– “The cordy what?”
– “The insect’s where growing very rapidly and many up here were worried about the same thing happening as it did with the dinosaurs. And then they remembered what an asteroid costs and that it shatters the market for a long time. But then the fungi devised this new thing cordyceps, anytime, let’s say a colony of ants grow to big the cordyceps attack the brains of the ants and they are forced to climb up high and grab on. Then a fungus grows out of its head and releases spores on the other ants in the colony making them do the same thing.
Nobody has ever tried to challenge the shrooms after that.”
– “That’s terrifying.”
– “Well, the insects were stopped and the rest of us are allowed to evolve.”
– “But can’t the fungi do the same to us?”
– “Yes, and they know that we know so we let them be.”
– “Like a balance of terror?”
– “More like they feed of our success, letting them get away with it too. You know everything from mildew to alcohol is thanks to fungi.”
The box shook and a clear “ping” followed.
– “We have arrived, remember your address is Humanoid Alley 4 at the South Crater.
They stepped out and went into an elevator.
– “The dinosaurs, this places killed them off?”
– “They were monopolizing the market, needed to be stopped.”
– “So the reptiles are no longer a treath? “
– “No, they still haven’t reformed since their hay-day so they are stuck with an impossible slow bureaucracy.”
– “That’s bad. “
– “Yes and that’s why we need people like you. So we don’t get bogged down as the reptiles did.”
– “What will I be doing? “
– “I only know it’s in accounting, I’m in recruitment myself so I don’t bother with the details, but I know you´re good. You scored high on the test and have experience in a field we need. “
Daniel felt flattered and smiled. The elevator came to a halt and they stepped out, after a couple of steps they came to a door with the name Daniel Anderson on.
– “You guys work fast, he said.”
– “Sometimes yes.”
As Karima opened the door Daniel stood in awe of the place. A fully decorated apartment, a fully stocked kitchen, a big couch, a bedroom with a king-size bed and a very professional home office.
-“This is your home now, after a while you can probably get something bigger but this should do for now.”
-“This is nicer than my old house. “
– “Well, it’s decorated after a program that analyzed your lifestyle and shopping habits. It’s suited just for you.”
– “This place have a lot of information on a lot of people? “
– “In this place you will have access to all the information there is on the earth and then some.”
– “And how do I get it?”
– “For now you have a computer in the office, you will get a phone tomorrow.”
Just before Karima shut the door, leaving Daniel with his new home and a couple of thoughts. He asked her:
– “The nanobots you shot in my leg?”
– “They makes you smarter and install a language.”
– “Install a new language? “
– “Yes, it would be very hard communicating with Tasmanian devils if we don’t share a language.”
– “So I can talk to animals? “
– “Well, the animals who got a shot of nanobots. Not all animals, that would be weird.”
– “Yes, weird… And making me smarter?”
– “Well, it makes you curious and helps with memories.”
– “So it doesn’t install knowledge in my brain?”
– “That would be stupid, staying curious is the best way of gaining knowledge. Now I really need to go, the mammal group are having some sort of an emergency meeting.”
– “See you tomorrow?”
– “Yes yes, I’ll be here in the morning. Goodnight Daniel.”
He stood alone in his new home, looking out the big panorama windows which he guessed weren’t windows because he was underground but nonetheless he was looking at a beautiful view with the earth centered.
He decided he would not think about what had just happened, he was going to sleep and if he woke up here in the morning he was going to decide how to feel about all this. It could possibly still be just a dream.
He looked in a cabinet and found a bottle of ABSOLUT vodka. Surprised that they had Swedish vodka but happy they did he took a glass and poured about three fingers high.
He really never drank anything which weren’t mixed with something. But since the situation where something he never experienced before he thought this where the time to start drinking hard liquor.
After one and a half finger he felt a bit sick and sleepy. Daniel decided he could start again tomorrow.
He woke up at the sound of birds and waves of the ocean. He’d never woke up that early and felt so good.
The smell of coffee hit him and exactly when he opened the door to from the bedroom he heard the toast pop in the toaster.
It was a long time since he felt this good. He had been right earlier, he did belong on the moon.
When he had his breakfast he opened the closet, It was full of freshly Ironed shirts in very tasteful colours, watches and belt buckles in brushed and polished steel. This was nice.
A knock on the door and when Daniel opened, Karima stood there looking like she had pulled an all-nighter.
-“Good morning Karima, said Daniel cheerful.”
– “No it is not. It’s a disaster.”
– “That bad? “
– “Yes, we are having problems with the whales.”
– “How so? “
– “I explain on the way.”
– “On the way where? “
– “We are going to a meeting with the whales. It’s going to be a ball buster for a first meeting but you have to learn quickly. “
– “Well I am ready. “
They headed through the elevator and into a new blue box, Karima explained that they were going to the mammals building.
Daniel asked if the building where going to be filled with water since they’re meeting whales.
– “No, God, of course the building isn´t going to be filled with water. I know you’re new to this but don’t ask stupid questions now. I’m tired.”
Daniel didn’t care about Karimas bad mood, he was on the moon.
On the fricking moon!
When they got there Karima told Daniel in a stern voice that he was never to go anywhere else but to this place and the human parts of the moon. There are very shady figures moving around and nobody goes between the areas without protection.
The building was huge and in Daniels mind very beautiful. A brown bear walked passed them talking to her children on the phone.
Daniel though that had to be the coolest thing he had ever seen.
As they walked along the corridor Karima went through the floors fast explaning which species where on which floors and so on.
– “So, what’s up with the whales? asked Daniel.”
– “The goddamned whales. They are pissed at us humans, they think we should stop hunting them and they want a stronger stock. “
– “But why are we hunting them?”
– “Well first it was for food, which they were ok with, but now it’s to keep the pandas happy”.
-“ So the pandas are making us hunt whales? “
– “Yes, the pandas got the whole bear community on its side and we had to make a deal, we really don’t know why but the pandas insist that we hunt whales.
I suspect it’s because the pandas and sharks go way back.“
-“Why do sharks want to kill the whales? Sharks eat fish?”
– “Not all sharks, some eat plankton and other small stings. Guess they got tired of sharing.”
– “So what are we doing now? “
– “We are going to meet some spokespersons of the whales and they are going to tell us to stop hunting or they will withdraw their support for one or more of our causes. “
– “Is that bad? “
-“Very, we don’t have so much support that we can choose, we really need the whales on our side. “
– “But why are you handling this, I thought you were in recruitment?”
– “I do a lot of things. Dealing with whales is one of them.”
They entered the conference room and three whales sat at the short end of a table.
Daniel tried not to stare too much but he could identify at least a blue and a humpback whale. The other one he wasn’t sure on.
– “OK, Karima this is the deal: the blue whales deep voice rumbled in the room, we are going to back down all our support if you don’t stop hunting our kin.”
– “I understand, but there’s got to be some wiggle room here? We can’t just stop everything right now? “
– “Hey, you and I know this is the sharks doing. And after what they did to us in the jura period we won’t nothing to do with them.”
– “All right. But what do I say to my people? “
– “That’s your problem, the whale said in a condescending voice.”
– “No, don’t be like that. We can make your species go extinct,” Karima followed up with. “
– “You can, but you won’t. You need our support. And you don’t need the negative press about killing us off. “
Karima stared into the eye of the blue whale fully knowing he was right.
– There’s nothing more to talk about,” the blue whale and the other got up and swam away. In the air. Floating.
– “This is bad. Said Karima.”
-“ I am going to send you home now. I am going to face the boss alone. “
Daniel felt sorry for her.
But he had a plan, he’d read somewhere a thing he needed to check up on.
As soon as he got home he got to work. Reading up on whale deaths and the similarities between humans.
As soon as he thought he had something he called Karima on Skype.
– “I have a plan! “
– “What? You? About what? “
– “The whales of course. “
– “I’m desperate, shoot.”
– “They are pissed because we are killing them right? “
– “Well one of the biggest whale killers is the pollution. “
– “So we should focus on more clean oceans?”
– “Yes, make something about focusing on more clean transport and get the pandas and sharks on board, then the whales will have to join or they will look bad.”
-“ I don’t think you fully understand how much the whales hates the shark. They won’t sign anything if the sharks are in on it.”
– “Screw the sharks then, get sea cucumbers or something of the sorts. Just get some water animals and get the word out.”
– “That is actually not a bad idea. How in god’s name did you think of that?”
– “Well, being an accountant is mostly about following the numbers and being able to use your brain so I looked up what kills the most whales. And badda-bing-badda-boom, it’s pollution.”
– “But the whales will still be pissed because we’re hunting them. “
– “Yeah well I’ll mail you some data, there are enough there to convince them at least for a while that we are doing it for research.”
-“ So we just slap a couple of research tags on the boats?”
– “Yes, it won’t fool anybody but its showing that we are making an effort on reducing the whale death and it should increase the whale stock. Isn’t this a good idea?”
– “It’s very good, but more importantly it’s the only thing we have. I’m going over to the boss right now. Can you mail me the data now?”
-“I’m sending it as we speak!”
– “You’re going to get your own department if this pans out.”
– Don’t worry there are like a gazillion departments, you can be a spokesperson for the white male or something other menial.
Daniel sat a while and did more research soon Karima called again.
– “The boss loved it. He is impressed. “
– “So, what happens now? “
– “You work here now, on the moon. I don’t think anybody has had so good test results and such a first day.”
By Benjamin D Rostén from Finland