The Doednings

6 Jan

Since coming to Greenland and serving as a company doctor for Nordlys Electric, Dr. Thor Grimsen had been overwhelmed by the multitude of medical problems suffered by his patients, the sky-workers and their families.

He decided that he had to make an appointment to see the corporation president and ask a favor of him. Only a personal plea had any chance of successfully winning what he believed had become necessary.

Soon Thor received word that the chief executive, Johan Hertl, would meet with him there on Disko Island. The physician felt much relieved. This was his opportunity to accomplish something for his ailing patients.

In the lobby of corporate headquarters was a gigantic map of the western coast of Greenland. The distribution system of Nordlys was spread out from Narsarsung at the south end to Qaanaaq in the Arctic Circle. From the sky’s aurora borealis came the steady, reliable current making the region a techno-industrial world center. But did the precious rays from space also bring sickness and disability? he wondered.

Burly, blue-eyed Thor was ushered into the president’s office by a small young secretary.

The short, fat head of the firm shook the visitor’s hand and asked him to be seated. From behind a large crystal desk the manager asked him to explain the problem he was facing.

“There are unexplained medical complications among the sky-workers whom I treat. Also, their wives and children suffer mysterious maladies that are impossible to diagnose.”

“Mysterious?” interrupted Hertl, raising his thick, bushy white eyebrows.

“Untreatable, because having no identifiable identity. There were no such symptoms ever seen back in Denmark or anywhere in the European Union.”

“So, what do you believe we can do about this situation you face?” bluntly demanded the high executive.

Thor thrust out his jaw and pursed his lips.

“I want permission to ascend into the ionosphere on the next Daek that comes down here for rest and repair. Examinations carried out upside could help me determine many aspects of this problem. Many of the technicians are returning from above with bronzed skin. Is that condition having serious effects on their health and well-being? I ask myself that question constantly, but I have no answer yet.”

Hertl peered at the medico for a quarter of a minute.

“Very well,” he decided. “You may travel up on the next deck reflector. I wish you good luck in your quest for answers.”

From high overhead on the Skydokke, Thor saw a giant iceberg being tugged out of Disko Fjord by a Dampbaad. On its way to Tokyo or New York after being broken up and processed at the Iskjelder at Disko Island, he said to himself, realizing how vital was the steady, dependable electrical stream from the northern lights for the burgeoning Greenland economy.

Hearing footsteps behind him, Thor turned around to see a tall, skinny figure with an officer’s hat approaching. He realized at once that this was the commander of the Daek platform he was to take up above the stratosphere.

“Captain Ulaajuk Brugsen,” smiled the man with the face of an Inuit. His fader was Dansk, his moder Inuit. Their only son had become an expert Kjender in the aeronautical navigation of the Nordlys Daek.

The two men shook hands with vigor, both of them smiling warmly.

“You wish to run medical tests on my crew in the ionosphere?” inquired the captain of the Daek.

“Yes,” answered the medico. “I intend to study the effects of cosmic radiation on certain health factors, especially the blood composition and hormonal balances. I have a special interest in the condition called bronze diabetes, in which the most common sign is the bronzing of the skin.”

“Interesting,” remarked Brugsen. “I hope that you succeed in this study of yours.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Let us climb aboard the entrance platform,” proposed the Captain. “We shall soon be lifting up toward the ionosphere.”

The giant Vinge of the platform deck stretched a hundred meters from wing-tip to wing-tip. A series of large Reflektors formed a straight line, their funnels pointed toward space and the sun. Within the inner structure of the Daek, a contingent of electrical engineers was prepared to process and broadcast enhanced power through the Aether up and down the Laengde of Western Greenland. Their main task consisted of the harnessing of the northern lights for Oversendern to stations below on the planet. The entire system of electrical Laerebygning was in their expert hands.

Two of these electrical Ingenioeren met in private in a remote storage Kammer. They spoke to each other in low, guarded tones.

“A physician has come aboard to carry out some medical research on the crew. We will have to be very careful that he does not observe any activity we do not wish him to see. So, pass the word of warning about to all our associates. Additional care must be taken while the man is here, until he finally leaves.”

“I fully understand,” whispered the other. “This intruder will have to be watched with care to prevent him from finding out what he has no business in knowing.”

The two electrical engineers nodded to each other, then left the room separately.

Thor took off his heavy coat of Bjoernskind as the platform deck rose into the stratosphere, for it was quite warm in his private cabin. The outline of Greenland’s vestlig Standbred became visible through a plastic side window. The horizon of the earth dropped lower and lower.

All of a sudden, the audio receiver in the room sounded with the voice of the Luftskipper in charge.

“Dr. Grimsen, we have reached our permanent cruising altitude. It is time for our first meal in the ionosphere. Will you come to the Spisesal and join me at the Kaptein’s Bord? I promise you some delicious food there. You will not soon forget our cuisine up here.”

Thor went out into the corridor and asked for directions from the crew members. “Follow us, sir,” they told him.

In a far corner of the mess hall, he found Ulanjuk Brugsen in formal black uniform. The Captain rose as he greeted his guest. After speedy handshakes, the two seated themselves at the special reserved table.

“I hope that you enjoy Helleflynder fish,” grinned the helmsman. “Our halibut is the best in all of Greenland. It comes from Ilussat Fjord. My mother often told me that it guarantees good luck and health.”

“She believed in ancient folklore?”

At that precise moment, an Opvarter appeared with their plates and placed them before each one. When he had gone, the Captain continued his reminiscing.

“My mother adapted her Inuit soul to the European culture brought here from Danemark. She impressed me with her profound interest in the supernatural Verden of folk tradition. I acquired a great sensitivity to the unusual and a Sanselighed for the fantastic. The tales and Sagn concerning Traldom and Hekseri have always exercised a strong influence over me. My mind is open to the strange and uncanny. It is as if my mother planted the seed long ago in my sleeping Ubevidst.”

Thor grinned in agreement. “All that we think and dream rests forever in the unconscious Grundvold. A lot can be learned through making connections with this unknown Egn.”

The two began to eat their fish, though both of them spoke sporadically.

“Since my background is both Dansk and Inuit,” boasted the Captain, “I know the supernatural traditions of both Folkesinden. They are very similar, though the names and words vary. Both cultures know of the Sjaels, the spirits that carry messages to those who possess Indsigt. A Troldman or Heksemester born with insight can read what is written in the sky by the Nordlys. That is something believed in both heritages.”

Dr. Grimsen appeared enchanted by hearing about these arcane subjects. “Many people believe that the northern lights can tell the course of things in the Fremtid to come,” he managed to say.

“Yes,” nodded the Captain. “The future is seen as written there, as well as present time and the Forbigangen that have already passed. All of these can be discovered in ionospheric illumination that is called the aurora borealis. That has been believed for countless ages.”

“When I was only a child, I was told tales of the Varulv with the head of a wolf, as well as the ogre-faced Skraemsel. I had nightmares about Bussemaeds, Nissen, and Ympes. And I read children’s books about creatures like Vanskabings, Uhyres, and Spoegelsen.” Thor paused and drew a long breath. “But the most horrible monsters I learned about were the living dead. Those happen to be the Doednings, what in some countries are called the zombies.”

Captain Brugsen looked down at his plate of fish, then attacked the remainder left in it.

The doctor stared at him, until the skipper raised his head and spoke.

“Allow me to take you on a tour of the mechanisms and apparati on the Daek,” he proposed with a confident grin.

With the assistance of the two nurses on the crew, Thor carried out dozens of physical examinations each day in the platform’s dispensary. Blood samples were drawn and tested using equipment already on the Daek. There was no time for the doctor to rest or relax. His hours were busy and filled.

Each evening, he and the Captain ate supper together so that reports on his research could be made to the person in charge. There was little to report until the testing had gone on for nine days.

Through the transparent silicon roof that hung over the Spishal, shown the skyscape with Stoetten and Pillers of carmine red and Stregs and Striben of bright yellowish green. The beauty of the Nordlys was visible in its glorious magnificence.

“I believe that I have identified two separate groups within the crew,” explained Thor to the skipper of the Daek.

“Two groups?” reacted the Captain with evident surprise.

“Let me explain. About ten percent of the crew suffers from elevated iron and copper in the blood. And the other ninety percent has the opposite condition: a sharp deficit in those two elements of the blood. The ten percent tends to have its skin bronzed, too.”

“What you tell me is incredible!” said Brugsen, his face turning red. “Have you succeeded in determining the cause of these conditions?”

“No,” answered Thor. “But I plan to concentrate completely on finding the solution.”

That evening, the doctor experienced the horror of a nightmarish Droem.

He saw himself being chased by a figure in the working clothes of the platform crew. Was this some engineer he had inspected and tested in the dispensary? The climax occurred when the tall, muscular man captured hold of him. The terrifying face came close exposed a set of fanglike teeth. Leaning on the head and throat of Thor, the monster took a bite out of him, at an artery. It then began sucking the blood of the physician.

In a flash of revelation, Thor realized the nature of the monstrous attacker.

A Doedning who is neither completely living or dead, but half alive and half not.

A rare, dangerous combination of both realms was present and drawing out his vital liquid. On and on the hematic flow of blood proceeded, until a feeling of weakness fell upon the horrified dreamer.

When the living-dead being became satiated and turned away to withdraw, a second Doedning threw himself on Thor and carried out the same withdrawal of fluid. On and on went the bleeding away. There appeared to be no ceasing to it. A third, then a fourth Doedning drank at the hematoid fountain that was Thor. The Droemer watched as seemingly endless blood flowed outward.

How many crewmen and crewwomen were taking part in this criminal assault? the dreamer asked himself again and again. That’s what they happen to be, he was compelled to conclude.

Thor could not keep count, but his mind finally lost contact with the nightmare.

The patient, unconscious for three entire weeks, was dispatched to the Disko Island Hospital as soon as the Daek platform made its landing. The hope of Captain Brugsen and the crew was that being on the ground would restore him so that his mind could reawaken.

Johan Hertl, head of the elektik Netvaerk, came to the medical center to inspect for himself the condition of the afflicted doctor. He discovered Captain Brugsen in the special chamber where Thor was connected to medical instruments and machines.

Brugsen rose and began to whisper to his employer.

“The crew members made a feast of him, taking out the major portion of his blood. If Grimsen survives, he will always be one of us. The man will need new supplies of blood continually, without end, to his last day.

“Yes, Dr. Grimsen will become a Doedning like us. There will be no escape for him.”

“Just as for us,” cynically grinned Hertl, approaching the patient’s body so as to get a better look at its oddly bronzed skin.

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