For All Nails #197: What Dreams May Come
by Johnny Pez
Frederick recognized the Saxon Gardens. He did not recognize the other man.
He was an elderly man, in his seventies perhaps. His white hair was cut short in the North American style, and his oddly cut suit was dark blue. He was scrutinizing Frederick in much the same way Frederick was scrutinizing him.
"Good day, sir," said the stranger in elegant Polish. The sound of his voice seemed strangely distant.
"Good day to you as well," said Frederick in the same language. "I am Frederick Hohenzollern, King of the Poles."
"I am Count Edward Raczyński," the stranger replied, "former President of the Polish Commonwealth, currently the chief Polish delegate to the European Union." The other man chuckled and added, "I was not aware that Poland had a king, particularly a king with a German name and an accent to match."
"Then we are in the same situation," Frederick answered, "because I was not aware that Poland was still a republic. I have also never heard of any European Union, unless you are referring to the Zollverein."
"No," said Count Raczyński, "I have never heard it referred to as the Zollverein, although the Germans have been its strongest supporters. If I may be so bold, when did you become King of Poland?"
"Eight and a half years ago," said Frederick, "in 1966, following the death of my father, may he rest in peace."
"And he was king before you, was he?" said Count Raczyński with a smile.
"For thirty-three years," said Frederick. Oddly, he was not offended by the other man's evident amusement.
"How long have your family been Polish monarchs, then?"
"Since 1924," said Frederick. "The monarchy was revived at the end of the Civil War, and my grandfather Waldemar placed upon the throne."
The other man became more grave. "Civil war? In the 1920s? That much, at least, has the ring of truth. Who fought in this civil war? Pilsudski and Dmowski?"
"I do not recognize those names," said Frederick. "The Federalists were led by President Barkowski, and the Nationalists by General Siwiec. It was the Federalists who appealed for aid from the Germanic Confederation following their expulsion from Warsaw."
"Germanic Confederation?" said Raczyński. "In 1924? Curiouser and curiouser."
"If I may be equally bold," said Frederick, "when were you President?"
"I was elected in 1949," said Count Raczyński, "and served until my term expired seven years later. By an odd coincidence, my own party was called the Federalists, though it was not formed until after the Second Soviet War ended in 1945."
"Soviet War?" said Frederick. "And what might a soviet be?"
"The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics," the Count explained, "formerly the Russian Empire. Fortunately for the Commonwealth, there was never any need for a Third War, as the Soviet Union had the good grace to collapse on its own in 1960."
Following the German intervention in the Polish Civil War, Frederick knew, some of the Nationalists had fled to Krasnodar and set up a "government-in-exile" that was recognized by several of the Russian states. Since all of their putative citizens were 1500 kilometers away in Poland, they held no elections, and simply took turns appointing each other to the "Presidency". The last "President" had been arrested along with his "cabinet" in 1948 following the pro-German coup in Yugorussia, and to the best of Frederick's knowledge there had been no attempt to reinstate the "government-in-exile" anywhere afterwards. Frederick was also unaware of any Russian successor state calling itself the "Union of Soviet Socialist Republics", which seemed a much longer name than any country had need of.
Frederick would have been inclined to regard this self-named Count and former President as a harmless lunatic, were it not for the fact that the other man seemed to regard Frederick as a harmless lunatic for claiming to be the King. Was it possible, Frederick wondered, that this Count Raczyński was right, that Poland was a republic, and that he himself was simply some poor delusional soul who thought himself King? It would not be the first time Frederick had doubted his own sanity.
Trading glances once more with Count Raczyński, Frederick somehow knew that the other man was thinking the same thing. "Is it possible," said the Count, "that we are both right? That somehow there are two Polands, one a republic and the other a monarchy, and that they both somehow exist at the same time?"
Frederick remembered reading about a book published recently by an Australian historian, an imaginary history of a world where North America broke away from the British Empire in the 18th century. Could this man be from such an "alternative history"? A history where there was no Polish Civil War, and no intervention by the Germanic Confederation? A history where Poland remained a republic, and where Count Raczynski had been elected its President? A history where Poland was not a part of the German Empire, but of a . . . European Union?
The phrase brought to Frederick's mind a brief glimpse of something like the Swiss Confederation, only larger, spanning the whole of Europe. A union of equals. Or at any rate, as equal as countries as dissimilar in size and power as Albania and the Inner German Empire could ever be.
Then Frederick's vision of the European Union was gone, and he discovered that Count Raczyński was gone as well. He was alone in the Saxon Gardens, and before he knew it the Gardens were gone too, and he was lying in his bed beside Matilda. The memory of the other man -- what had his name been? -- was fading away. But as he lay in bed, it seemed to Frederick that the words continued to float in the air above him.
The European Union.
(Forward to FAN #198: URGENT BUSINESS PROPOSAL.)
(Forward to 19 February 1975: The Lads From Luanda.)
(Forward to European Union: Look for the Union Label.)
(Forward to Count Edward Raczyński: Must Give Us Pause.)
(Return to For All Nails.)