Seaport 2035

a multi-authored online speculative fiction set in Royal Seaport Stockholm


Text by Mandus Ridefelt | May 2022

In November 2021, Stockholm City Council passed a bill on capping   the number of  electric scooters for rent. The figure  was cut from 23 000 to 12 000. Overnight, 11 000 scooters were laid off. I moved in in the neighborhood around the same time, or as I like to phrase it: I tucked myself away. No more joyrides. I'm walking down the stairs. Walking round the block. Walking more than ever.

I live behind a door on the 4th floor and I always take the stairs, up and down. The neighbors on the third floor have a doormat saying, "Nothing to Declare." Recently, the second-floor people installed a slim metal cage, barring their entrance. At least, they live in a cage of their own making. On the first floor, "HELLO" is spelt with bloated, sans-serif letters, glued vertically along the doorframe.

As I walk down, I rip off the "O", leaving only "HELL". The "O" is pretty easy to rip it off. It’s adhesive is not exactly powerful.  I did this many a time before. I rip off the "O" every time I walk down the stairs but within the course of an hour or two the welcoming word is there again. They must have stocked up on "O"s.  But hell, we neighbors don't greet each other anyway. Today, I kept the liberated "O" in my hand, another flaccid, sticky demarcation of space. Are you inside or outside? I went out of the building and could already spot the mounting pile of electrical scooters on the quay.

It takes just a minute or two to walk down to the quay. The pile loomed in the pale blue hour of the November afternoon. The agreement with the city specified the site as a temporary transit storage, between the decommissioning and refurbishing of the now superfluous fleet of scooters. They had been here since the summer now – a station in passage, a splendid seaside quay-bed.

It is phrased as a temporary "solution", but the scooters are stacked here for months now.

It is said they will be removed but they are still here.

It is said the property developer has left the country but will come back.

It is said they will be refurbished but they are thrown on top of each other.

I stood on the other side of the fencing – the pile in front of me. A reddish flash snaked through the metal. Then, from another corner of the pile, a BLEEP. The red-snake and the bleep multiplied. I stepped closer as the cascade ran through the pile. Pretty much all of the scooter alarms had gone off.

Bleeps phased in and out of each other. Perfect pitch bleeps amassed into a mercurial score. It ran through me, through the seaside neighborhood. The velocity of the bleep-shriek changed, patterns contracting into expediently small fractions and orbiting out in distant trajectories. If there is no closed-form mathematical solution as to how the bodies of the sun, the moon and the earth will orbit over time, the aphasic texture of the scooter-bleeps would surely resist a generic form, a one-for-all solution. I didn't track it. It didn't track me. I didn't track myself. It didn't track itself.

In its expansion towards the sea in the eastern direction it was effectively absorbed by the groyne, the one-for-all wave-stopper. But where I was, inland, the bleep was emulsive, devoid of centre or any site where absorption and leveling could begin. Sometimes the voices of a choir are just totalities in conflict. My aural canal was in conflict. The vortex of the bleep veiled itself afore my desire of hearing inwardly and unveiled itself in it, wandering out of the phantom kernel of the pile. There was no centre to the sound and I was no gronye.

The velocity of the phases increased. I squinted and saw something. It looked like a lighthouse, but in psychosis. The bleeps traveled shorter distances between each other but remained propelled by the same force. They spun down the drain, closer and closer. As close as one can get without merging, their velocity stalled and held a pose tightly. On the windowsill of simultaneity, everything is calm.

The phases added to each other’s amplitudes and a master-bleep echoed across Norra Djurgårdsstaden. Bright lights went on at the quay.

The ShotSpotter-technology was still in use. Street corners had been equipped with microphones hooked to a datacenter that monitored the acoustic environment of the neighborhood. It was supposedly listening for gunshots but alerted the police to any crash or boom or plop that was loud enough. The locations of the sounds were instantaneously illuminated, so that everyone could see the smoking gun.

I moved yet closer to the pile. Its LED-embers had almost been put out by the lights. I recalled  the Walpurgis-bonfire and started humming "Vintern Rasat Ut".[1] The Walpurgis pile was always at the brink of burning out, but still hot. It would burn until the fuel went out. Until the ion-gradients in each and every scooter-unit had been levelled. It would burn until the choir had gone dry and until the feast was already long over.

The police arrived shortly. I still held the slouching "O" in my hand. Before pulling me into the car a green-eyed officer looked me in my eye and said "Din djäääävel."[2] He took the "O" and bagged it. The pile exhausted itself in due time.

[1] "The Winter has been effaced", National romantic spring song, often sung at the bonfire at Walpurgis-night, mainly in conservative neighborhoods.
[2] "You bastard!"