Copyright © 2016 by The Other Sean
This is an experiment in epistolary fiction. We’ll see how it goes.
My dear nephew,
I call it Pandora’s Gate. The rest of Earth may call it the Baltic Gate if they wish, but they haven’t experienced it like I have, and it’s opening was like the opening of Pandora’s box. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I was a child of seven when it happened, back in 1881. Mother had walked me down to the strand. The water was too cold for bathing but the strand was a good place to walk. I remember when it appeared. One minute I was seeing the sparkling blue waters of the Bay of Køge, glittering in the early spring sunlight, with a blue sky filled with white puffy clouds. The next a massive semicircle arced up from the water, blotting out the sky. It was colorful. It was new and exciting. It made mother worry. She dragged me back to the house, despite my protests.
It was in the newspaper the next day, of course. It was just a statement from the government asking for calm and promising to investigate. By the time the navy actually sent a ship some of the local fishermen from Køge had sailed out to investigate on their own, and the town was abuzz with the news before the newspapers. They’d discovered that the semicircle was a gateway to another world, and there were islands nearby. Denmark was first to claim one, but Sweden and Germany followed within days. Russia and the other countries were too late by the time they arrived; all the islands in the archipelago had been claimed!
I don’t know what negotiations or threats were made, but Russia managed to to acquire one of the islands, and France another. That still left everybody else out, at least as far as the archipelago went. But the archipelago wasn’t one of the real prizes, as everybody learned soon enough. There were other islands, and entire continents, on which no man lived, and no nation yet held claim. There was more than enough other creatures inhabiting those alien lands, and the seas.
On land, the worst were the horned lizards. They are swift, ferocious, and have teeth that can tear a man to shreds. They’re nearly extinct here in New Jutland, but you’ll still find one now and again. That first year the gate opened, one of them devoured the Crown Prince of Germany when he visited the little German island. I imagine that’s not something those of you in America have to worry about!
In the seas, the question of what is the deadliest creature is another story, and open to debate. Some say the giant sea serpents are the worst. They usually avoid larger steamships, but they regard sailing ships and smaller steamboats as prey. Worse, they can swim through the gate. I was ten when I saw one in the Bay of Køge. It took a bit out of one of the fishing boats, sinking it, but somehow the crew made it to safety. Bad as they are, though, there are also the pseudo-crocs. I’ve heard it said they’re not really crocodiles, but that doesn’t matter, what does is that they’re just as deadly. They can swim at sea for miles and miles, then crawl ashore and cause chaos. That’s why the strand near Køge has been abandoned, and why so much effort has gone into works to stop their spread.
Anyhow, despite the deadly creatures that had been encountered, no country was content with just their little island in the archipelago by the gate, not when so much additional land had been discovered. That’s how the New Jutland came about.
The King and the Rigsdag may have organized the colonization, but if they hadn’t a lot of Danes would have simply--
I’m sorry, I have to stop here for now. I know you wanted to know more about our family’s experiences with and beyond the gate, more than what your mother told you, but I have received a phone call from my boss. They need me to put in another shift. Give my love to your sister.