“Electric Skis 2021”
Fritz’s only job is to watch over his roommate’s pink goat in the square below, so he either settles for watching out his apartment window, or using the balcony from the café next door. It’s a simple job to feed and watch after the goat so Fritz has become quite social at the café in the meantime. Someone at the café always had to ask about whether Fritz would find another pink goat to mate with his own. Eventually Fritz would find himself informing them, who the scientist is, and what meaning it has for the future of science that goats can be bred to have the nutritional value of shrimp. The listener is always baffled, and more often then not tries to find another invention of equal caliber to respond with. Usually, they will mention how amazing the flying ski’s are, and Fritz would respond indifferently, “Yes, I suppose they are amazing…”
Fritz sometimes feels the pains of the fired Uber drivers in the city. The year 2019 had threatened their tenuous role in Oslo society, after the city had become completely vehicle free. The flying skis had been the city’s replacement in 2021 for transporting people. Fritz, who had relied on his Uber job for extra income, had fallen back on goat sitting, and never once feigned trying the new technology out. The flying skis would come and pick someone up right under their feet, and for those like Fritz who derided the electric personal flying devices, they could only walk off the frustration. On this day, as he looks down at the Town Square and pink goat from the café balcony, he considers how ridiculous people looked while flying around on skis. Though there was no one in the air at the moment, his mind was on the subject because the Holmenkollen ski jump had been bombed the night before.
"The flying skiers are a nuisance, I’m glad Holmenkollen was bombed,” declared the waitress of the café, “When I’m a famous anthropologist, I’ll compare this to the fall of the Aztecs!”
“You say you were there when it happened, Fritz?” Mr. Mørk asked Fritz, making his presence known from behind an armoire in the middle of the café.
Mr. Mørk is the manager of a programming company that works across from the café, and is often the first one at the café in the morning.
“I heard it last night at a bar,” Fritz responds.
"Constantine, did you get any news on this?" Mr. Mørk asks one of his crew who had joined him that morning. Constantine exuded a sly confidence and didn’t at first reply.
The night before Fritz had been trying to seduce an artsy girl named Petra in a bar when the ski jump had been mysteriously bombed. She had been very flirtatious and spunky so when she gave her phone number to him he couldn’t help but think he would be seeing her again. He quickly opened his phone and sent a text message to her, “RIP Holmenkollen!”
"What will happen to the Oslo Ski Tapestry?" asks the waitress.
"The Holmenkollen ski jump was the largest connection to the tapestry," says Constantine.
Fritz gets a message from his phone, “I know, crazy!” with a bunch of colorful and expressive emoji’s after.
“And it begs the question,” continues Constantine, “who gets paid for managing these electric ski routes?”
“The Oslo Ski Tapestry was constructed by a British company. Norwegians are not being paid a penny,” says Mr. Mørk.
Fritz noticed a couple of flying skiers just now beginning their morning commute. From his distance they are small specs, but he watches as they float onto the top of the Oslo Ski Tapestry (OST) above the city. From there they will fly over the city top as though they are on an invisible mountain.
He looks down at his phone and texts Petra back, “Dinner, 5pm??”
A flying commuter’s shadow surreptitiously flies through Fritz’s view of the cityscape.
“Where do you live?” The waitress asks Fritz.
“With a friend, next door to the café,” he says pointing to the apartment building next to the café.
Fritz gets another text message with a bizarre name for a restaurant and a, “let’s meet here,” which confirms his prediction that he would be seeing her again soon.
"Yeah, on the third floor," he says to the waiter, though still entranced by his phone.
“Do you have a roommate?” the waitress adds.
“Oh, Famul?” Fritz says, "He’s usually gone, I take care of his goat there on the square. Its his pink goat science experiment. It has the nutritional value of shrimp…"
A smile lit across Mr. Mørk’s face as the waitress walks in behind the café counter, and turns on the café television. When she returns, she hands Constantine a stack of small paper receipts and then leaves the café through the back entrance.
The news is playing reruns of surveillance tapes from the night before.
“Last night was relatively sober before the bombing,” says the host of the news station.
A surveillance video shows a group of Norwegians in fur coats clambering down from the Holmenkollen OST stop and one yells, “Yooooo, I can fly!” and the words echo through the stairwell when a loud noise explodes.
“This is the ticket booth where skiers purchase their way onto the OST from the Holmenkollen ski jump,” says the anchor, “It appears that it may have been tampered with before the bombing.”
"You can consider it regular maintenance!" says Constantine, shaking his fist at the TV, “Where’s my paycheck!”
Fritz takes one of the receipts out of Constantine's hand and looks down at it.
"Hah! You wouldn’t understand,” Constantine says out loud, grabbing it back.
"What does it mean?" Fritz asks.
“Just receipts from a few scheduled changes, a simple perk of not hiring us in the first place!"
Those receipts have coordinates on them, Fritz thinks, considering the implications. He looks over the balcony of the café to gather his thoughts and notices the goat is gone.
“The goat!” Fritz insists, “Famul’s goat is gone!"
A shadow floats over the top of the lawn and towards a tree nearby. At first, Fritz thought the motion was merely a flying skier on his normal route, but when he saw the tree shake viscously on impact, he himself felt a shudder go through his body.
Fritz runs out the back of the café, onto the lawn front, and passes the skier who is stuck in the tree. A skier lands only a few yards from him into the river and the splash puts his nerves doubly on alert. He looks up in the sky to watch as flying skiers turn into what looks like burning arrows plunging down from a distant military attack and forgets about the goat, ducking back into his apartment building.
“Your goat!” exclaims Fritz opening the door to his apartment, "Its gone!"
“What?! You realize that was the first goat ever created to emulate the exact nutritional value of shrimp?! There go my noble prize dreams! " Famul reminds him for the hundredth time.
Famul touts a skinny mustache and a lab coat. Coming from Somalia, he had used the free schooling in Norway to land a job at a biotech company in the middle of Oslo. The only thing Fritz had earned was the opportunity to take care of Famul’s goat research project.
They both look out the window at a number of flying skiers floating by in the river and then up at the air overhead, but it seemed the first wave of flying ski commuters had subsided.
“Maybe the police took it out of precaution?” says Fritz.
“This is what I was afraid of! First you can’t keep vehicles in the city, now you can’t even keep a goat!” replies Famul.
Fritz thinks about his date later that day and runs out and down onto the square. He crosses into the open architecture of an abandoned looking churchyard where skis tumble up like broken bird wings and bodies plump over in trees.
He makes it to his laundromat and changes into freshly dried formal clothes to head out in. He researches the restaurant on his phone and sees its on the waterfront of the city. After he makes it through the flurry of disorder that the city was experiencing, he finds the restaurant looking out onto the Oslo Fjord that Petra recommended and begins pacing the front of it in expectation.
As it became dark, he gets a seat by a window and watches as boats scan the water with searchlights for more of the fallen skiers.
"Do you know what’s going on?" Fritz hears a voice say from behind him.
As Petra is sitting down, Fritz notices she has a tie on with a button down white shirt and pressed collars.
"The news is blaming a coding company,” she says.
"A coding company?” he begins, considering the coders who frequent the café, “my shrimp goat was just taken near a coding company!”
"Why is your goat suddenly a shrimp?”
"Its weird..." He starts, “they were just casually meeting like usual…”
To Fritz she still looked cute as her dress up made her appear like a morning commuter just going out to work. Her hair, though, was short and spiky, with pink tips.
"Casually being terrorists?! Who are these people?”
"I’m not sure,” Fritz says, reaching over in a moment of inspiration to hold her hands on the table.
"What are you going to do?" she asks, “Do you think they took your goat?"
“Its possible, but why would they need a shrimp goat?”
“When Holmenkollen got bombed?”
“Exactly...” confirms Fritz, “It doesn’t make sense.”
“I sense your shrimps are not so innocent.”
“Is there any other significance to the goat?”
“It was made in a lab, it was the first of its kind.”
She reaches up and touches Fritz’s cheek like a mother comforting her son, “Find your goat.”
They said goodbye and headed home in different directions without eating anything at the restaurant.
"They're shutting down the industrial complex in order to do an investigation," Says Famul, when Fritz got back that night after an uncertain first date.
They both got up and walk to the window to get a view of the industrial complex across the way, where the programmers work.
There were police cars pulling up to the building and surrounding the complex with flashing lights. Above the building a helicopter stabilized itself as men shimmied down a rope onto the top of the building.
Fritz got up with determination and decided that he would go to ask the police if they had seen the goat. As Fritz walked over the pedestrian bridge back towards the complex, he bumped into the waitress of the café.
"Greta? The waiter from the café?" Says Fritz.
“Hey there,” the voice says through the dark.
“It’s a bit late isn't it?"
“Flying skiers, hah!”
"Have you seen the goat by any chance?"
"Yes, the goat.”
"You know, you orchestrated that so beautifully."
She rushed off and Fritz, triggered, quickly made a leap over the side of the bridge onto the slope next to the river.
Positioned on the riverbank next to the complex, he can hear two police talking to each other through an open window.
“I’ve never liked the flying skis,” says one.
“My children won’t even go skiing down a mountain anymore, all they want is flying skis,” says the other.
“Well, I don’t have children, but my wife only goes to the grocery store with the flying skis.”
“Now that has to be unsafe!”
“No, no… its not unsafe, we are just always missing a tomato or some banana that’s fallen out.”
The other bursts out in laughter, “Oslo is becoming the new compost!”
Fritz skirted around the bank of the river under the wall of the complex until he finds a window away from the police.
He got a text of a shrimp emoji from Petra and in a moment of spontaneity he texted back an explosion emoji.
That's how Fritz ended up in prison. He jumped in through a window of the complex into a room that was almost completely empty. In the middle sat the pink goat tied securely to a chair. The police walked in on a frozen Fritz and his wide-eyed face as he pointed excitedly at the goat.
The next morning at the café, Mr. Mørk brings over a thermos of coffee to Constantine and Greta the waiter. The ski tapestry is completely empty and the city is undisturbed. Greta turns on the TV of the café to show the news.
“The catastrophe seems to be clearing up as the culprit has been caught red handed,” says the host of the news program.
The TV screen cut to a picture of a man pointing like a maniac at a pink goat tied to a chair.
“Over 5000 terabytes of information linking the perpetrator to the disturbance of the ski tapestry routes has been found in the man’s apartment,” says the host, “and an extra pack of explosives the likes of which could have destroyed the ski jump.”
“What a legend,” says Constantine, rolling his eyes towards the waitress.
“You know, I feel we couldn’t have picked a better person,” she responds.
“Brilliant, just brilliant,” says Mr. Mørk.
“But things are getting more interesting,” says the host on the news station.
“Yes, the demolition that indirectly caused the injuries of over 1000 flying skiers yesterday is leading excavators to what looks like an underground tunnel,” says the co-host.
Constantine took away his gaze from the TV and noticed Greta was gone. She ran down the stairwell to the street level, saw a tram pulling up nearby and caught it.
She showed up at the police department and waved frantically at the receptionist. Soon she had made her way to one of the head inspectors on the case and they brought her to the room where Fritz was being kept for questioning.
“I told you everything Mr. Rebel,” Greta says to Fritz, “and you bomb the ski jump?!”
“You... took the goat,” says Fritz in revelation.
“Don’t play with me now,” she says, “You may be a hero for finding the Viking tunnels, but now you are a criminal. I shouldn’t have told you anything.”
“You knew about these tunnels?” Asks one of the investigators.
“Of course I knew,” she says, “I am an Aztec anthropologist, I’ve done studies of all the tunnels in this city!”
“You mean a Viking anthropologist?” Asks the investigator.
"Hah,” she says raising her chin condescendingly, “such triviality!”
Back at the café, Constantine and Mr. Mørk are even more perplexed as they watch the unfolding of the news.
“Yes, the first of many specimens are being excavated from the tunnel under the ski jump.” Says an anchor outside the demolished ski jump. Behind her a crane lifted out a large piece of ice from the middle of the rubble and in the middle was a primitive looking bird with red tipped feathers.
Species after species of previously extinct animals rose out of the rubble by crane. Already, an entourage of vans had lined up to keep the ice-enclosed animals cold and transport them to a safe location.
An officer walked into the room where Fritz was being kept to tell him that he has a visitor, then showed him to the front teller window where Fritz saw Petra.
"I didn't know you were fishing for extinct species," Petra says as she propped her hands to her side and then flapped them like a bird.
"I...feel terrible…" says Fritz.
"What do you mean?" she says, with her hands back against her torso, "you make me feel like a newly found exotic species!"
“No, it’s just… That waiter so easily duped me… She took the goat from right under my nose. She tried to frame me for bombing the ski jump by using a goat that’s not even mine. In this world, even your intentions are a resource to plunder, intentions you don’t even possess.”
“I wish I could do something… But isn’t she the one that told you about the tunnels?”
“I didn’t bomb the ski jump!”
“You didn’t do it on purpose? To free all those exotic animal species?”
Petra brushes her hands across the tips of her pink spiky hair and then after reflecting briefly says, “That’s disappointing,” and abruptly leaves the jail room.
After a months time, Fritz walked out of jail innocent. Famul and Fritz sat with a newspaper between them at their kitchen table. On the front cover was an image of Fritz pointing at a pink goat tied to a chair and the caption, “Hero Brings Lost Species to Life with a Boom.” The article described how a local programming company had been able to bomb the ski jump and disrupt the ski tapestry, citing Mr. Mørk, Constantine, and Greta, the crazy “Aztec anthropologist.” It went on to question whether or not the new flying electric skis should be a continued mode of transport in the middle of Oslo, and whether, after all, they want to continue the ban on vehicles in the city.
“Well I’m glad you’re goat made it through all this,” says Fritz, turning to Famul who is busy organizing a desk full of petri dishes, microscopes, measuring tools, and notebooks.
“Yeah, rough times,” says Famul curtly, “whatever happened to that girl you saw briefly.”
“Ah, apparently I wasn’t the right match for her.”
“It seems she would have preferred a convict.”
“Well I wouldn’t be too thrilled about a goat sitter myself either!”