Over the past few months, things had changed in Sweden. Sweden was now a broke and nearly bankrupt country, owing insane amounts of money to the Americans. Trading embargos had been played on the Scandinavian nation, and every day the Swedes seemed to make more and more enemies.
But, the more things changed, the more they stayed the same. In the Scandinavium Arena in Gothenburg, a party was raging. It was the day of the first semi final of Melodifestivalen, a Swedish song competition. The winner of the contest would go on to be the Swedish entry for the Eurovision Song Contest. Even with everything that was happening, the people of Sweden used the music contest to feel secure.
'A nuclear bomb could drop and we would still do Melfest, just us and the cockroaches,' Christer Björkman had once said, and he had only partly been joking.
Usually, Melodifestivalen was a huge and flashy affair that the Swedes spent a lot of money on, but this year, things were scaled back a little, due to the impending bankrupcy of the country. Not that the people in the audience seemed to have noticed. They just seemed happy to be there.
Petra and Måns were sitting backstage at the Scandinavium. Måns had been in Gothenburg so he had decided to stop by, and Petra was going to be hosting the show alongside Gina Dirawi. But for now, they had both been given a task by Christer Björkman. The competition was beginning in a few hours, and Petra and Måns were supposed to be planning out the details of the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest before the semi final starts. Björkman wanted the next Eurovision to be as close to Melodifestivalen as possible, and had given Måns and Petra strict instructions to try and follow the Swedish model closely. Björkman had told them that they couldn't change Eurovision completely, but that they should make it as close to the Swedish model as they possibly could. Petra had gathered all the relevant information and was laying it out on the table in front of them.
She was speaking about Melodifestivalen and all the people that had entered, but Måns just wasn't listening. He was looking down at his laptop. Sweden were in the news again. Last month, America had sent a total of 10 ultimatums to Sweden, and each time Sweden had ignored it. They just couldn't pay the money. This month, however, there was nothing. No demands from America, no threats, nothing. But America wouldn't just forget a debt like that. Especially not one so large. So something else had happened. Måns just couldn't figure out what. Maybe America had finally figured that all of the demands and threats just weren't working. Maybe they would try something else. And it was that which worried him the most. America had already put embargos on all products coming from Sweden, which had crippled their economy but otherwise produced no results for America. What else could they do? Declare war? It was an option that had come up in congress quite a few times. Slowly but surely, the American public were turning against Sweden, it would only take a little more to push everything over the edge. Even in Sweden, things were turning violent. It seemed that violence was the norm now in this once peaceful Scanidnavian nation.
"Måns, Måns!" Petra yelled, putting her hand in front of the laptop screen, "Hey, are you even paying any attention? Hey!"
"Hmmm, wha-" he looked up from the laptop.
"Eurovision! Melodifestivalen!" Petra said, slightly annoyed, "You know, the whole reason why we're both here? I'm sure whatever you're doing can wait."
"Sorry, no. I was just thinking... about this thing with America. We can't ignore this anymore," Måns said, "We can't just bury our heads in the sand and pretend like this isn't real. This is real and it's happening. It's happening right now, and if this gets any worse, then there might not even be a Eurovision Song Contest this year. We barely just scraped together enough money to have Melodifestivalen and you think we can do Eurovision?"
"Look, that doesn't matter," Petra said, "None of it matters, we can't do anything about it, so try not to worry about it, ok? America has stopped asking about the money for now, so maybe we've started to pay them back already."
"Maybe... but that's very unlikely. Where would we suddenly get that kind of money from, magic?"
What they didn't know was that Sweden actually had managed to raise some money. Not enough to pay back all they owed to America, but still, it was a start. But the way they had done it was by selling America's secrets to anyone who wanted them. As an ally of America, they already knew a little, but there was now a network of Swedish spies hiding out in America, working for the American government, waiting and watching all the time, getting pieces of information that they could sell on to whoever wanted it. None of them had been caught yet, which was rather impressive considering the USA's extensive surveillance system. And, if they kept on doing it, then they would have quite a bit of money indeed. Maybe even nearly all that they needed to pay off the debts, stop the embargo and have normal relations with the United States again. And they were hoping and praying that the Americans would never find out about this, because if America knew about what they did, then the Swedish government knew there would be hell to pay. But they thought it would be worth the risk. They just didn't realise quite how wrong they were.
"Well," Petra said, looking down at the statistics in front of her, "I'm not so sure about Björkman's new voting system working in ESC, but... I guess we'll just have to try it. What Christer wants, Christer gets. I mean, you know that guy, he never takes no for an answer."
"Mmm..." Måns said, nodding his head slightly but not looking up from the laptop in front of him.
"Måns!" Petra yelled, "You are not paying attention again! You're not even listening to me, are you? Please... I'm not going to be the only one around here actually doing any work! Come on, give me that laptop. Right now!"
Petra reached over for the laptop.
"Wait, Petra-" but then Måns saw something. The page had refreshed and there was now a news article at the top of the page that had only been posted a few minutes ago. Things were about to get a whole lot worse.
"Oh... oh my god..." Måns said.
'Sweden attacks America?' the headline read. There had been an attack on America. No, two attacks. Two attacks on America. The White House had been taken over, and a huge flag was hanging down from its door. From the distance... no... that blue and yellow...
Petra looked at the screen and saw the video. The White House had been taken over by Swedes.
"Our flag..." Petra said, "No, it can't be-"
The initial reports stated that the attack had been perpertrated by a group calling themselves 'Swedes against America'. Swedes against America had been a small group once. Very small. But over the past few weeks they had grown larger. They had never done anything like this before, and yet now...
The US army were going in to take back the White House from the Swedes. A tank rolled up onto the lawn of the White House. As if this wasn't bad enough, the news article below the one about the attacks read 'Swedish spy ring in America?' America had discovered all of the Swedish spies shortly after the aftermath of the attacks. The Swedish government was thrown into absolute panic. This wasn't what was supposed to happen. It had all gone horribly wrong, their disastrous plan had come crashing down around them.
"Oh my god, you were right," Petra said, "You were right all along."
The door swung open and Gina Dirawi, the host of Melodifestivalen, walked in.
"Uh, Petra, since you're supposed to be co-hosting the show with me tonight..." Gina stopped when she saw them both sitting by the laptop, "Oh hahaha, wow. You two sure are close huh? And I always thought you swung the other way, Måns," Gina grinned.
"Be quiet Gina," Måns snapped, "It isn't like that. There... there's been an attack, in America."
Gina's smile vanished.
"Oh no," Gina said, "That's horrible!"
"It gets worse," Petra said, "The attack was by a Swedish group. 'Swedes against America'. The news reports are saying that Sweden has attacked America..."
"No no no," Gina said, shocked, "That can't be right!"
"It is right," Petra said, "And... and America has already publicly blamed Sweden for the attack."
"What if America-" Gina began, but Måns interrupted her.
"No no, they won't Gina. They won't do anything. It'll be ok," Måns said, "This is just a lone group, a group of crazy people who want nothing more than to destroy this great nation and kill innocent people. They have no connection to us. We, the ordinary Swedish citizens, have absolutely nothing to do with this. We are a peaceful nation. America won't take revenge on us. They can't."
The Swedish government had denied any responsibility for the attack, and denied any association with this 'Swedes against America' group. But the real truth was going to come out very soon.
A visitor had come to the stadium. Christer Björkman was now in the Scandinavium on some Eurovision related business, although Petra and Måns weren't entirely sure why. Surely there were more important things happening right now. They both knew that this contest was nothing compared to what had just happened. But here he was, to check on the contest and of course, on Petra and Måns. Even as Sweden's reputation lay in tatters, Björkman just couldn't keep himself away from Melodifestivalen.
"Well, you two didn't actually get any Eurovision planning done, did you?" Christer said to the two of them as they walked into the room to greet him.
"Uh, no," Måns said, "Nothing. Sorry Christer."
They both expected Christer to be mad with them, but, he didn't seem to care.
"That, that's ok," Christer sighed, "It's understandable... considering. Ok, that's fine, I'll go talk to Gina about the contest. Come on Petra, you're co-host tonight, right? Well, come with me then."
Petra was shocked. Surely Melodifestivalen could not be held regardless?
"Wha- what?" Petra said, "But, surely we're not going to continue? I mean... I mean... the attacks... Sweden... we can't... we-"
"Hey, look," Christer said, "It's a terrible thing but it has absolutely nothing to do with us. Not with Sweden, nothing. The show must go on, we've spent far too much money on this, even though we're in a lot of debt. That's money that we cannot afford to waste. If we send the audience home now... they'll demand refunds, refunds that we can't afford, and then we'll have to pay the entire costs for this semi final again later on if we postpone it."
"I mean, I see where you're coming from Christer, but-" Petra began but Björkman was not willing to compromise.
"You're under contractual obligation, Petra," Christer said, "So you HAVE to do this. We can argue about the... 'morality' of it later."
There didn't seem to be any way out of it for Petra. Måns wanted to say something, but he was just happy that if wasn't him who had to go out there and present a music show only a few hours after people from their country had attacked the world's largest superpower. But, in only a few months he would be hosting the Eurovision Song Contest along with Petra. Well, that was if the Eurovision even happened this year. Perhaps it would be cancelled?
"Ok then, let's go," Christer said. And with that he and Petra left the room, leaving Måns wondering why on Earth Christer Björkman had decided to continue with the contest at all. After all, it wasn't even the final, it was only a semi-final. Was Sweden's money situation really so bad that they couldn't even afford to postpone one Melodifestivalen semi final?
Christer Björkman and Petra walked out onto the stage. Gina was there waiting for them. The audience was sitting there, waiting. Most of them had decided to come, despite everything. The contestants were sitting backstage, watching a large TV that was in the green room. On the TV, the news still played footage of the attacks over and over. More and more news about the Swedish spies was coming in. It had now been discovered that 'Swedes against America' was being funded by none other than the Swedish government. People in their audience were looking down at their phones in shock as more and more horrible news came out about Sweden. Usually, backstage at Melfest was loud and buzzing with cheer and conversation. But right now, it was silent, except for the television. The Melodifestivalen entrants were just sitting there, watching. Gina and Petra were standing on the stage, trying to calm down the audience who were understandably in shock. Some of the entrants were now asking if the show was going to be postponed or cancelled, and the audience who were sitting there waiting were wondering the same thing.
"So, what is the official word from Björkman?" Gina asked Petra.
"He says to carry on MF as normal, as if nothing has happened..." Petra said. Gina hadn't expected that, and could barely believe it.
"Really? That can't be right, I-"
"Christer Björkman has said that we've spent far too much money, money that we don't have, to cancel this contest now," Petra said, "So, I guess we'll just have to continue. Also, we're both under contract. But even so..."
"Well," Gina said, "I guess we'll just have to give this our best."
But Petra and Gina felt deep down that this couldn't possibly be the right decision, considering what had just happened.
For the acts, for the presenters, and for the audience, the whole contest felt... rather strange. There was a weird atmosphere, as everyone involved acted as if nothing had just happened. But they were powerless to do anything, pretending was all they really could do. Pretending that Sweden hadn't attacked America, that the Swedish government weren't running the country into the ground. That there wouldn't be a war. Maybe if they kept pretending, they could even trick themselves into thinking it was not real, if only for a little while. And they had managed it very well indeed. It was the end of the night and the situation with America had not even been mentioned once, except for a yelling audience member who had to be ejected by security.
"They were an American tourist, I think," Gina had said to Petra off-camera. The security guard had dragged the guy outside and nobody was really sure what happened after that.
"Yeah," Petra said, "I hope he's ok."
"I'm sure he's fine."
"Hey, hey," Christer Björkman was running over to them and shouting, "What's the hold up? You two are due back on stage! So... ya know, get back out there!"
Petra sighed. Björkman was such a slavedriver when he wanted to be.
"Fine, fine, come on Petra," Gina said, rolling her eyes and walking off with Petra.
The two presenters walked over to the green room where the acts where sitting, and they were also in view of the entire audience. The interval acts Anna Book and Las Ketchup were also sitting there. There were some sort of protests going on across the city, and many of the roads were blocked off. Anti-war protests, anti-America protests, pro-America protests, all sorts of protests. Therefore, it was decided it would be better for them to stay there until the end of the show. Hopefully things would have quietened down by then. Or after the after-show. Or, maybe after tomorrow...
Well, they couldn't think about that now. The commercial break had just finished, and it was now nearing the very end of the night's semi final. It was finally time to reveal the results of the show. The audience looked very excited, or they were simply pretending to be. It was a little hard to tell at this point. Petra and Gina stood up, as Christer walked onto the stage and handed a card to Petra. The votes had all been counted. They had received a lot of votes considering. Looks like Björkman had been right after all. The people of Sweden would want Melfest, no matter what.
'Damn it Christer,' Petra grinned to herself, as she and Gina walked over to the contestants.
"Well," Gina said to the cheering audience, "It is finally time, time to reveal the votes of tonight's semi final!"
"Now, you have all done a wonderful job here tonight," Petra said as she turned to all of the acts who had performed in the semi final, "However, only two acts can progress to the final from here. But don't worry! Another two of you shall go into 'Andra Chansen', the second chance round!"
"Now then, the two acts qualified to the final," Gina said, holding a card with the results on in front of her, "Are... Robin Bengtsson and Ace Wilder! Congratulations!"
"I... I don't even know what to say, so... thanks guys," Robin said.
"Uh, yeah, um, thanks to uh, everyone who voted?" Ace said, but it was clear what the two were really thinking about. And it wasn't this contest.
"Ok," Petra said, and she too, now held a card, "The two acts through to Andra Chansen are... Albin & Mattias and Samir & Viktor! The two duos go to Andra Chansen! No hard feelings Pernilla and Mimi! You two were also great! Let's have a big round of applause for all of the contestants tonight!"
The audience clapped and cheered, but it all felt wrong somehow. This is all just seemed so fake, so false. Sweden parties through the night as America burns. America was now threatening Sweden, with war, with invasion, with destruction, and yet here they were, at a music contest. Suddenly, a person in the crowd stood up. Another audience member was yelling now.
"Murderers!" he shouted, loud enough for everyone to hear. It was just like it had happened earlier in the semi, but this time they had been waiting until the end of the night, during the results when more people would be watching the show. All of the attention was on him now. Petra and Gina didn't really know what to do. And Christer standing around backstage had no idea either. A security guard, the same one who had dragged the previous protester out, was making his way through the audience and to the audience member.
"P-please," Petra said, "Let's... all... calm down, please?"
"Calm down? CALM DOWN?" he was screaming now, "I am American! And you... you murdered them! Your government... they're all dead because of Sweden! And you don't even care!"
The two presenters just stood there, silent on the stage. All of the acts sat there in silence too, looking at the audience member who was still yelling.
"Your country, this country, you murdered them and everyone knows it! You murdered them and then you sing and dance and pretend like it never even happened!"
There was truth in these words. That's why they hurt so much. Both Petra and Gina knew that Christer Björkman had made a big mistake in deciding to continue with the contest regardless of what had happened. Maybe they should have been firmer with him, maybe they should have both said no to hosting this. There was that contract, but, surely... surely it wasn't worth this.
Sweden had attacked America and yet, here they were. But it looked like things were about to get even more serious. The security guard had pulled out a gun and was dragging the screaming audience member outside. Sweden had once been a peaceful nation, and quiet nation, now everyone seemed to have weapons and were fighting each other all the time. Violence ruled the streets. This new Swedish government had turned Sweden into a warlike nation.
There was silence throughout the arena, and they could still hear the American yelling outside, and now, the security guard was yelling back.
"How dare you! You want to embarrass our country like this? Do you? Well, take this!"
It sounded like the security guard was beating up the person. Still, nobody spoke. The audience just sat there in stunned silence. Horrified faces gasped in shock. There was just the sound of the security guard kicking and punching until Ace Wilder yelled, "Somebody stop him! Please!"
But nobody moved. It must have only been about a minute but it felt much longer. The guy was still yelling, the security guard still kicking. And then, there was a gunshot, and the shouting immediately stopped.
Things had gone from bad to worse. The violence was everywhere. Even Melodifestivalen wasn't safe. Not anymore.
'what the hell just happened? #melfest'
'wtf? what's going on at MF??? #ESC2016'
'Was that a gunshot? o_O'
'Did someone just get shot at Melodifestivalen?'
Twitter was going nuts. Facebook was going nuts. The whole internet was going nuts. A person had just been shot outside at a Swedish music contest. An American. The American government were in outrage. The Swedish government scrambled for an excuse, anything, to try and distance themselves from the incident. They again claimed that it was 'not their fault' and that there was nothing to apologise for.
The atmosphere had changed immediately. A happy musical party had become extremely serious, very quickly. Petra was still there, still standing in the stadium, even though the show was long over. Some of the audience and acts were still hanging around too. Everyone was still in shock at what had happened during the semi final, and some were too shocked to even think about going home right now. Petra looked over at the people who were still there. Christer Björkman had joined her, and together they were trying to figure out what on earth had just happened and what they should do next. But there were no easy answers. It was only then that they realised something else. When the security guard had taken out the first person who was yelling, there had been music playing. Loud music. So they wouldn't have heard the...
"Petra, Christer!" Gina said, rushing over to Petra.
"What is it?" Christer asked.
"The other person... the other person was shot too," Gina said.
"Oh no, oh my god no," Petra said. A TV had been brought out and was on, showing the news to everyone. They had tuned in to an American news station, and everything was about the attacks by 'Swedes against America' and the shooting of the American tourists at Melodifestivalen.
'Two American tourists have been shot dead by a Swedish security guard at a Swedish music contest called 'Melodifestivalen'. The two had been protesting against attacks on our nation by a group calling themselves 'Swedes against America'. They felt it was inappropriate for the Swedes to be partying while we are left with only turmoil and grief. They were only excercising their right to a peaceful protest. And this was how they were repaid for it. The Swedes could have removed them without force, but instead, not even 24 hours after the original attacks, they again chose violence. Violence against innocent civilians, violence against America.'
The news reporter threw down the piece of paper that he was reading from, and started yelling.
"This is a disgrace! We need to declare war on Sweden NOW!!!" The audience cheered in the background, some waving American flags. A few of them started chanting what sounded a lot like 'down with Sweden' over and over again.
"This... isn't a very impartial news station, huh?" Christer said.
"Hmm, well, that's true," Måns said as he walked over to them, "But this is how a lot of people in America are actually feeling right now. The incident here tonight was very serious, I'm just glad that I didn't witness it. Petra, Gina, are you two ok?"
"Y-yeah, fine, thanks," Petra forced a smile. The TV was showing a lot of angry people in America. Sweden was in a lot of trouble, and the entire country knew it.
The interviews with the security guard who had shot the two tourists really didn't help things. The guard had spoken to the Swedish media in an extremely ill-advised interview shortly after the semi final was over.
"I enjoyed it, yeah," he said, laughing, "It was great."
"Holy hell," Petra said, "They need to arrest that guy. Why haven't they already?"
"I don't know," Gina said, "But if they don't arrest him soon, then the American government are going to be even more upset."
Even more upset? Petra wasn't sure if it was possible to anger America any more than they already had. Sweden had made a serious error, and there was no way back now.
"Well, at least it's already as bad as it gets," Gina said, "I mean, it can't get any worse than this, right?"
But she was wrong.
Christer Björkman wasn't taking it well. Of course he wasn't. People had been seriously hurt and even killed at his contest. Of course he blamed himself. It wasn't his fault, but he felt guilty all the same. Petra was worried about him.
"Christer?" Petra asked, "Are you ok?"
"I... I'm... I'm fine it's just," Christer sighed, "Oh god Petra, it's all my fault! If I hadn't decided to continue this stupid contest, if I just hadn't-"
"Now look here Christer," Petra interrupted him, "What happened here today wasn't your fault. This was barely even your decision. You heard what the SVT said, they wanted this show to happen no matter what. Even if you hadn't wanted to do it, SVT would have just brought in someone else to do it. You know how they are."
But Björkman wasn't convinced. Standing here, in the arena were it had all happened, wasn't going to help him though. It was getting rather late now, and so the organisers of Melfest started trying to get people to leave. After all, this was still officially a crime scene, even though the Swedish police were being very slow to get the work done.
With the semi final now over, the entrants and audience of Melodifestivalen went home. Back to reality, back to their uncertain country. It wasn't just about the tourists shot at Melodifestivalen. Because of Sweden, America's secrets were out in the open. But even worse that that, because of Sweden, America had been attacked. And America wouldn't just take that lying down. America couldn't take that lying down. Måns and Petra knew that America would make Sweden pay the price. There would be an invasion, or a war, or perhaps something even worse.
"Worse than war?" Måns had said to Petra, "No, there's nothing worse than that."
"Oh believe me," Petra said, "There is."
"Hmm? What then?"
Occupation. That one word sent fear into the hearts of everyone in Sweden. It had only been a few hours since the attacks and the shooting and America had already threatened war against the tiny Scandinavian nation. It hadn't even been a day and already the American government were talking about 'smashing Sweden into the ground'. Revenge, retaliation, retribution. Words that filled the American media.
The Swedes knew that they couldn't possibly win a war against America, especially not with the whole world against them. The American president had vowed to completely destroy Sweden, and it seemed to the entire world that he wanted to go through with it. The German government had tried to talk America out of it, tried to calm everything down, but there was nothing they could do. America said that if Germany intervened, then America would attack them too.
"If- if you attack this country-" the Swedish president had said, "Then we will leak all of the documents that we have found from America."
This only served to anger the Americans more. It was as if the Swedish government were digging a huge hole, and with every statement, every action, it was getting deeper and deeper. Every attempt by the Swedes to solve the crisis just made everything even worse.
The show must go on, but continuing with the Melodifestivalen semi final after everything that had happened had been a huge mistake from the Swedes. The shooting there was headline news all across America, as well as the attacks by 'Swedes against America'.
'Callous Sweden parties at music contest after American attack' read one news headline. A more sensational tabloid wrote in huge letters 'Swedes dance on the graves of Americans' and underneath that there were pictures of Melodifestivalen.
'Sweden's sick music death party' yelled another American tabloid.
Petra scrolled down, looking at all of the headlines, shocked. Suddenly, her phone rang. Her ringtone, ABBA - Waterloo. She answered it and heard a voice on the other end, shouting.
"How dare you! How dare you!" yelled a voice she didn't recognise.
"Um, hello?" Petra said, "Who is this?"
"A proud AMERICAN citizen!" the voice yelled, "You're digusting! Your whole country is disgusting!"
"Look... I'm... I'm really sorry about what happened, truly I am. How... how did you get this number?"
"Shut up! You're not sorry! You make me sick!"
It only took a quick google search of her name for her to realise what had happened. Petra's phone number had been leaked to the American press. Petra sighed. She'd have to go and get that number changed in the morning.
It was the day of the final of Melodifestivalen. Again, SVT had demanded that the contest went on, even though Sweden clearly had so many bigger problems. Even hardcore fans of the show were questioning this decision. Petra and Måns were backstage, both looking on their phones at headlines about Sweden. America was still furious at the tiny Scandinavian nation. The two of them knew that if America attacked Sweden, then they didn't stand a chance.
Just at that moment, the door swung open and Frans ran into the room.
"Hey, hey guys!" he beamed, "I won! I won! I'll be going to Eurov-"
One look at their faces told Frans all he needed to know. They weren't interested in the Eurovision Song Contest right now, they had other worries on their mind.
"Ah, I see," Frans said, looking down at his feet and feeling bad about celebrating while Sweden had such troubles, "Yeah, ok, I'll be off then. Try not to worry. Things will turn out all right, ok? They always do."
Frans left the room and returned to the stage. He would be performing his song 'If I Were Sorry' once more before the show was truly over.
Petra switched on the TV that was in the corner of the room. It was a broadcast from an American news station being replayed on the Swedish news. The Swedish spies had all been caught, and they were all lined up on a field. An American soldier walked over to them.
"This is the American army, you have been found guilty of crimes against America, and of espionage. How do you plead?"
Muffled voices came from the Swedish spies. Petra realised that they were gagged, and tied up.
"It doesn't matter what you say," the American soldier replied, "You have been found guilty. You shall be executed accordingly."
The soldier pulled out a gun, and Måns reached over to the remote and switched the broadcast off.
"I can't watch that," he said, "I can't."
Suddenly, the door burst open again and Frans was in the room again.
"Guys, guys," Frans said, "You have to come quick. American soldiers are in the arena!"
Petra and Måns were terrified at this news. They had just seen what America had done to the Swedish spies, and the news from America implied that a lot of Americans blamed all Swedes, even ordinary civilians, for what had happened.
Måns ran out, even as Petra shouted at him to stay backstage with her. He ran out onto the stage, and saw American soldiers everywhere.
"What, what are you doing here?" Måns said, "We... we are civilians! Please, we are just ordinary citizens. We have nothing to do with any of this, please."
The American soldier laughed.
"What a joke. You all supported it. And we know," the soldier looked over at Måns, "We know what your country did. We know, everyone knows."
Måns didn't know what to say. Melodifestivalen had been invaded by the American army. Melodifestivalen had been chosen specifically because the Americans had rightly figured out that many people would be watching it. They could easily get their message across here. And this show also had symbolic value. The two protesters who had been shot, they had died during this show. That was why it had to be here.
Meanwhile, the Swedish parliament had also been stormed by the American army. It wasn't enough for America to just destroy the Swedish spy network, they also wanted to destroy the Swedish nation.
Melodifestivalen was clearly over. But it seemed that Sweden was over as a nation too. The Swedish government was given two choices. One, go to war with America and possibly have the whole country destroyed, or two, immediately surrender and become property of America. Måns felt ill when he thought about that word. Property. Sweden was now property of America. The Swedish people were now property of America.
The Swedish government was hated by everyone for this, but, what choice did they really have? Of course the Swedish government had to go with the second option, of course it was unpopular but, the alternative... no. Måns and Petra remembered the day that America declared that they owned the Swedish nation, the Swedish people.
"There are only two options when you have an infestation of rats who cannot be trusted," the president of America had said, "The first is to eradicate them completely. But, there is a second option. That is to cage them, tame them, own them. You should thank us, little Sweden, for we are merciful, we have chosen the latter option. You should be kissing the ground we walk on and yet... there are those of you who dare to defy us."
He was talking about the new revolutionary organisation, the 'Swedish Free Nation', a group who went against American rule in Sweden, and were fighting for the independence of their country and the removal of Jon Ola's puppet government. After the takeover of Sweden, America needed someone a little closer to run the place. A government made entirely of Norwegians was installed. They couldn't really make proper decisions, as they were only acting on behalf of America. However, they were paid extremely well, and protected by the American army. This provisional government was run by Jon Ola Sand, a Norwegian who worked for the EBU. For a while Swedes had been rather confused about exactly how so many American soldiers had managed to sneak into Sweden... but then, the truth came out. They had been in Norway. The Norwegian government had helped America plan the attack in exchange for some control over Sweden and preferential treatment from the USA.
"All members of the so-called 'Swedish Free Nation' shall be destroyed. Publicly, slowly... all members of this group will regret the day they ever joined it. All members of this pathetic group will regret the day they stood against the great people of the United States of America and of Norway."
It was a few weeks later now. Petra, Måns and Frans were sitting in a room in the backstage of the Globen. They were supposed to be planning how the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest would go, but their minds were elsewhere. Outside on the streets, soldiers from both America and Norway walked, making sure that no one unauthorised was breaking the curfew that had been set by the American government.
Frans entered some numbers on his calculator. If Swedes were the Americans' property, then how many Swedes did each American own? He had a book out in front of him to find out the population of each country, usually he would have just googled it but the American government had blocked nearly all internet access in Sweden virtually overnight.
'Population of the USA: 318.9 million'
'Population of Sweden: 9.593 million'
Dividing the two numbers by each other gave the answer 33. 33 Swedes. Each American now owned 33 Swedes.
It took Måns a few seconds of looking at both the book and the calculator to figure out what Frans was working out.
"Woah that's... that's quite some... uh... interesting maths there buddy. That's pretty dark, heh heh," Måns let out an awkward laugh.
"Y-yeah," Frans replied, "I'm not quite sure how Norway comes into this, though."
"I'm not too sure either," Måns said, "I always thought that Norway were our friends."
"I'm sure the ordinary people of Norway don't agree with this," Petra said, "I'm sure they don't. Do they?"
Silence descended on the room. Norway had so eagerly joined in with America in the subjugation of Sweden. Maybe the Norwegians were just so worried about being attacked by America themselves that they felt they had to, maybe they had other motives. One thing was for sure though, no one was standing up for Sweden or the Swedish people. Swedes were on their own.
"M-maybe it'll all turn out fine," Måns tried to reassure himself, "M-maybe... maybe things won't be so bad after all."
"Måns, they called us property, they own us like they own a car," Petra said, "This is not going to be fine."
"They say it's our fault," Frans said, "The American soldiers here say it's our fault, because of what Sweden did."
"No, no, it's not our fault," Måns said, "Ok sure, we did bad things, we should have paid the money back... we shouldn't have sold America's secrets... but... that was all the government's fault, not ours! What does the ordinary Swedish person have to do with that? Nothing, that's what! We are innocent. No, not our government, but us, the ordinary citizens of Sweden, we are-"
He trailed off. It didn't matter how much he protested in a room full of other Swedish people who agreed with him, it wouldn't matter if he protested against the American or Norwegian governments either. He knew the reality. No one outside of Sweden cared enough to help them, no one would be brave enough to stand up to America. Måns sighed. The Eurovision Song Contest was going to be in just a few days, and it was going to be hosted in Sweden. He had thought that the EBU would move it somewhere else after the invasion, but no, it was going to stay in Sweden. Petra and Måns were sure that the American government would use this show to make an example of Sweden, to show all the other countries of the world what would happen if they ever did anything bad to America. They just hoped that nothing bad would happen during the contest.
It was two days later, and the Eurovision entrants were all sitting on a coach driving into Stockholm. Frans was there on the coach with them too, despite not needing to be, since he was already in Sweden when they had all arrived at the airport. He was glad to be on the coach, though. It felt strange seeing so many happy people, since the occupation all he had seen in Sweden was misery and defeat. It was such a weird feeling, but a good one all the same. He wished Sweden could be like this again. He held on to the hope that one day, it would be.
"Who's ready for the first semi final?" Poli Genova shouted and the other entrants cheered.
It was only a few days before the first semi final, and they needed to prepare for the contest. Joe and Jake were throwing paper balls around and there was a relaxed and cheerful atmosphere inside the coach. Outside, however, it was a different story. The streets were dark and grey. Rain poured down on the miserable city. This was no longer the bright and happy Stockholm that the world had once knew.
"Man..." Sandhja sighed, "I was only in Sweden last year, and everything was so different back then. Things sure have changed around here."
"You're right," Poli said, "I'm surprised that the contest is still being held in Sweden, after everything that's happened here."
"I heard that the American... uh... 'occupation' is actually not so bad," Barei said, "And that it's working out ok for everyone."
"Yeah," Poli said, rolling her eyes, "That's just what they want you to think."
"Sorry Barei," Frans said, "But where on earth did you hear that? Some sort of propaganda TV station? Because that's not true at all, this occupation, no, this invasion, has been brutal and-"
Frans was cut off as the coach bumped over a rock. At least, he hoped that had been a rock, and not some sort of discarded weapon lying in the road. The landmines were the worst. Frans had saw them himself in Malmö. No, no, he musn't think of that now.
Some of the Eurovision contestants hadn't been happy at coming to Sweden with everything that had happened. Sweden was unsafe, they saw it on the news every day. The Americans had bought the Spanish media, but were unsuccessful at hiding the truth about the occupation of Sweden in other countries.
The further they drove into the city, the less happy the Eurovision entrants were about all of this. Kaliopi noticed something very strange.
"There's... there's a lot of people living on the streets," Kaliopi said sadly, looking out of the window and onto the streets of Stockholm. People were all over the pavement, with sleeping bags around them. Some of them held placards with Swedish writing on them, some of them had begging bowls.
"It started a few months ago. The Americans wanted some houses," Frans said, "So, they started to kick people out, so that they could take their houses. It was only a few, at first, but the more they got away with it, the more that they did it. Soon, a few became many, and it was happening all the time. The people they kicked out are now living on the streets."
The Eurovision entrants felt sad hearing that, they felt bad about celebrating on the coach while so many people in Sweden lived like this.
"Wow that's... that's really horrible," Jüri said, "Shouldn't... shouldn't we do something about this? For one night all the world's eyes are on us, the Eurovision contestants. We could do something, help the people of Sweden somehow, show the world what is really happening over here."
"How about we boycott Eurovision until the Americans here show the Swedish people some respect!" Jamie-Lee chirped in.
"That's a good idea!" Jüri said, "A really good idea!"
"Yes, that's right," Hovi Star added, "We can't just sit by on the sidelines while Sweden is destroyed from within! We must do something about it! We cannot support the contest while this is happening in this beautiful country! I say that we refuse to participate until we receive guarantees that the Swedish people will be treated better by America!"
"Perfect," Jüri grinned, "Then we'll do it. Our little protest... it's the least we can do."
"No," Frans said, "No no no, don't do this. For god's sake don't do it. If you do you'll regret it, please, I know what they're like, you don't!"
"We're the Eurovision entrants," Jüri grinned, "We can do what we want."
But Frans knew the truth, that they couldn't just do whatever they wanted. This was the new Sweden, and in the new Sweden, there were new rules. Don't go out after dark, don't promote the Swedish language, don't speak out against the American occupation. Frans thought back to the incident at the Stockholm library. A group of university students had wanted to stand up to the occupation government. They played songs in the now banned Swedish language, spoke Swedish and defied orders from the American soldiers stationed outside. And the Americans went in, and shot everyone, leaving no survivors. No warning, nothing. The message from the Americans was clear. Do not go against us.
The Eurovision entrants got out of the coach looked up at the huge hotel that towered above them. A huge American flag was draped on the wall. The American flag, marking this Swedish building as property of America and the Americans. The American soldiers showed the Eurovision entrants the way to the bar. America was giving them all free drinks, paid for by the Swedish government, of course.
It was a little while later and the Eurovision entrants were partying. Some of them were still a little upset at the realisation of what the occupation of Sweden meant, but generally, the mood in the room was a positive one. Serhat and Laura were drinking cocktails and chatting.
"Hahaha," Serhat laughed, "Did you hear? Every American owns 33 Swedes. Hey, if you could own 33 Swedes, any 33, which would you pick?"
"Oh wow, that's a difficult question," Laura said, leaning back in her chair, "Well, I'd have to have ABBA. Aviici. Swedish House Mafia. Hmm... who else, who else... oh, and Måns Zelmerlöw, of course. I'd choose him for sure. Wow, so many choices."
"Hahaha, good choices, good choices," Serhat laughed, "And that's only about 10 or so, you still have so many spare places!"
They both laughed again.
"Well, I'm glad you both find this so funny," a voice came from behind them. They turned to find none other than Måns Zelmerlöw himself standing there.
"Oh, oh, Måns!" Laura stammered, "Oh god, um, we're- we're really sorry, right Serhat?"
"Yeah yeah! We didn't know you were there!" Serhat said.
"No no, carry on, please continue," Måns said, "My country has been completely destroyed, but let's make hilarious 'jokes' about the '33 Swedes' that you could own like they are objects and not real, living people."
"I- I- I-" Laura didn't know what to say to that. Måns began to walk away.
"Whatever, I'm leaving. And Laura," Måns said as he left, "You will never own me."
Party time was over, and the Eurovision entrants were getting ready to go back to their hotel rooms.
"I mean, Sweden is obviously safe, right? They wouldn't let us be here if it wasn't right?" Barei said.
"Sure," said Jake, as Joe continued to fiddle with his guitar, "That's why they haven't let any of us out of the hotel yet."
"Well... there could be other reasons for that," Jamala said, "But anyway, I'm rather tired of being cooped up in here like a chicken. I think we should go outside and explore."
"Horrible idea," Samra said, "The worst idea I've ever heard. You do know that Sweden is extremely unsafe, right?"
"Ha ha. Look, I'm from Ukraine, darling," Jamala winked, "So I'm not afraid of anything. We are strong. And I want to see it. I want to see what if really going on around here."
"Then watch the news," Samra said, "It's clear for everyone to see."
"No, I want to see it, in real life," Jamala replied, "I want to see what's happening out there."
"The Spanish news doesn't really show anything... bad... per se... about the occupation," Barei said, "So..."
"So what, you think it's not happening?" Jamala said, "It's happening, believe me."
It was a little while later, and Jamala, Dami, Barei, Laura and Serhat were walking through the hotel. They were all going to go outside and see this new Sweden for themselves. It was Jamala's idea, but the others agreed too. Serhat and Laura were curious, but still not taking the situation seriously. Jamala wanted to see for herself the bad things that were happening in Sweden under the name of occupation. Barei didn't believe that things were so bad, the Spanish news didn't show the bad parts of the occupation. She wanted to see what was really happening for herself.
"This tour will be great," Laura laughed, "Finally a tour of all the Swedes we could be owning!"
"Amazing," Serhat grinned, "I wonder if the Americans will let us keep some?"
"Shhh," Jamala said, "Please be quiet and follow me."
There was a fire exit on the far side of the hotel. They had passed it many times and it seemed to be the only door that was unguarded in the entire building. Jamala slowly wriggled the door open, a sigh of relief as no alarms went off. The four of them went outside, into the open.
They were gone. Missing. Four of the Eurovision entrants, gone from the hotel, lost in Sweden.
"What the hell do you mean they're missing?" Jon Ola Sand yelled as Christer Björkman tried to explain himself.
"They, they..." Christer stammered, "We don't know how they got out, but they went out of the hotel."
"Out there? In Stockholm? By themselves?" Jon Ola said, "Well then, you Swedes better get them back here. Or else."
Meanwhile, the four entrants were exploring the city of Stockholm. They couldn't believe how bad it had gotten. Things had looked bad from the coach but this, this was worse. Jamala looked ahead of her. The streets were dark and cold. Everywhere, there were destroyed and damaged buildings.
A guy started trying to speak to them in Swedish but when he realised that they didn't understand him he said, "please, do you guys have any spare change? Please."
"Yeah, we do, here you go, it'll be ok," Jamala handed him some money and the Swedish man thanked them.
"Alright," Serhat said, "I was wrong. This is a very serious and bad situation. We shouldn't have joked about it. I think we should all go back to the hotel before anyone realises we have left."
"Sure, that sounds good to me," Dami said, before adding, "Um, which way is it back to the hotel?"
"Oh," was all Jamala could say, "Uh oh."
Now they were lost in the middle of a destroyed city. Things weren't looking good.
Word quickly spread around the hotel about the five Eurovision entrants that had gone missing. Donny, Justs and Jüri were talking about the situation, and it seemed Justs had an idea.
"I know who can go and find them!" Justs said.
"Who?" Donny asked.
"Why us, of course!" Justs grinned, "Come on, we can do anything! We're the Baltic Boys! And, when we find them, everyone will be so impressed! We'll be heroes! And together, we'll win the Eurovision Song Contest! Well... I'll win the Eurovision Song Contest, but you guys can come second and third! So, what do ya say?"
"Hmm, I don't really like this idea Justs," Jüri said, "Wouldn't we just go missing too? It's better to stay here, let the professionals handle this. You've heard what Sweden is like now, right? You really want to be outside in that?"
"I do," Justs said, "Don't worry, we'll stick by the hotel, and we'll find them, and then everyone will love us. I promise."
Måns and Petra were waiting for any news to come back from Christer about the five Eurovision entrants. They hoped that they would be found safely and quickly, but they knew how dangerous Sweden was now. Sweden was a changed country.
"We have been absolutely humiliated by America," Måns sighed, "Ya know, I used to think that war was the absolute worst thing possible... but this occupation. Sometimes I think it would have been better if we had gone out fighting."
"We will go out fighting," Petra said, and she brought out a card from her pocket. It had a strange symbol on it, a Swedish flag in a pentagon. The symbol of the Swedish Free Nation.
"Oh my god..." Måns said, "You're-"
"Yes, I am a member of the Swedish Free Nation. They can't own us Måns," Petra interrupted, "Because we are human beings. And human beings cannot be owned. Only befriended. And we are no friends of the occupation government. Not with America, not with Norway. Not with Denmark. None of them."
"B-but, Petra... if you get caught, you'll be-"
"I won't get caught Måns," Petra grinned, "Come on, it's time for us to be our own country again."
"Sweden is a broken country," Petra said, "But don't worry about that. Because we can fix it. And we can find the Eurovision entrants too. Don't worry. We'll get them back and we will get Sweden back."
Meanwhile, Jamala and the others were still walking around Stockholm. Suddenly, they heard a vehicle driving behind them. They turned to find an American jeep.
"Oh dear," the American soldier hopped out, brandishing his gun, "Swedes are outside, breaking the curfew. You know what that means, don't you?"
"No, stop!" Serhat yelled, holding his hands up in surrender, "Please! We are not Swedes, we are entrants in this year's Eurovision Song Contest!"
Luckily for Serhat and the others, the American soldier believed them. The American smiled and put his gun away. Not being Swedish had saved their lives, they knew that if they were Swedes, they would have been shot on the spot. The American drove them back to the hotel, and let them out. They all walked through to find Justs, Donny and Jüri still arguing about whether or not they should go outside and try to find them, but they stopped when they saw the five entrants walking back inside, without their help.
Christer Björkman was there and they could see the look of relief on his face when they all walked back in.
"Thank goodness you're safe!" Christer beamed, "Please, please promise me you'll never do anything like that again! It's not safe out there!"
"We promise," Jamala said. She meant it. They all knew how lucky they were that they had made it back to the hotel. Christer then ran off to tell Jon Ola that the entrants were safely back.
Later on, the entrants watched on as the fire door that had been opened by Jamala to get out was sealed shut.
Kaliopi and Poli Genova sighed. Things were so different now. They had both been on Eurovision before, and back then they were actually allowed out of the hotel, allowed to see the host country and their culture. But here, they were being barricaded in. Obviously, even with all the bad stuff that makes the news, there were still things about the occupation that the Americans did not want others to see. They began to regret coming back to the contest, and a lot of the entrants were beginning to regret their participation too. But it was too late to go back now.