He’s sitting in his bunker, facing a row of telephones and a wall covered with TV monitors showing scenes of his troops’ movements and the devastation of the war.
But he is restless. The war is not going the way he wanted.
Now all lights go off and the windowless room turns pitch black.
He is startled. This has never happened before.
He presses the emergency button to call for help but there’s no response.
Is he under attack?
He gets up, cautiously, and finds his way to the door.
Furious, he calls out for assistance as he turns the knob, repeatedly, but nothing gives.
‘I have to be calm,’ he says to himself. ‘Where’s my gun?’
In the darkness, he moves slowly back in the direction of his desk and after a moment reaches it.
He opens a drawer to his right and finds the gun.
He takes it out and lays it on the desk.
‘The power should come back any moment,’ he tells himself.
Now the faint glimmer of a light appears behind him. He quickly turns around and points the gun at it.
The light emanates from a small golden colored orb that dims and brightens as it grows in size.
Putin holds the gun with both his hands, aiming it directly at the orb.
‘Stop!’ he cries out.
But the orb keeps enlarging slowly, while dimming and brightening.
Putin fires a shot directly into it. The orb is not altered.
‘Vladimir…’ says the orb with a soft, gentle voice.
Putin is frightened.
‘Why are you killing?’
Putin fires again, to no avail.
‘Men, women and children who have done nothing to you…’
Putin fires another round.
Now the luminous orb starts to rise slowly, suspended in the air.
Putin quickly gets out of his chair and goes under his desk, the gun pointed at the orb.
The orb advances slightly and Putin fires another round.
But nothing stops the orb.
Panicking, he fires off the rest of his bullets, and when there are no more rounds he tries to get out from under the desk but finds that he cannot. Something is blocking him. Something he cannot see.
The orb advances as it enlarges its size, the golden light dimming and brightening.
Then the orb stops.
‘Why, Vladimir?’ asks the orb.
‘They were threatening me, they were threatening Russia!’
‘No, they were not… you made that up… made that up to build yourself up… build yourself up because your country has been failing.’
‘We are not failing!’ cries out Putin in desperation as he tries to free himself from something invisible that is keeping him pinned under the desk.
‘Yes, you are. Sadly, what you’re best at is making guns, weapons, rockets… to kill people… don’t you think Russians are much better than that?’
‘Yes, we are! This is all part of a plan to rebuild the great Russian empire. This is the first step to then conquer the world!’
‘You mean to destroy the world…’ answers the orb, ‘because all you leave in your path is death and destruction, Vladimir, nothing else.’
‘Who are you?’ asks Putin, crouched under his desk.
‘Who do you think I am?’ replies the orb.
‘I am God, Vladimir.’
Putin laughs, derisively. ‘God, you say, what hogwash.’
‘I get that all the time…’ returns the orb.
‘Prove it to me!’ cries an emboldened Putin.
‘I don’t play those games but suffice it to say you’re not going anywhere until I say so.’
Putin tries again to free himself from the invisible binds holding him under the desk but cannot.
‘Fuck you!’ shouts Putin.
The orb says nothing for a moment, then, ‘there’s nothing musical about that word… try something else…’
‘If you were really God, then why did you let the war happen? Why did you let all those people get killed?’
‘Good point,’ says the orb. ‘I’m not all powerful as some believe… I can’t stop human beings from killing each other… but what I can do, is remind everyone that hope and kindness are the only way forward… for that is the fountain of our creativity… of human beings’ capacity to improve the world.’
‘Hogwash!’ says, Putin. ‘You’re an impostor. I don’t know what tricks you’re using but I’ll figure it out and deal with you.’
‘Vladimir…’ starts the orb patiently…
‘President Putin to you! Blasphemer! Idiot!’
‘Vladimir…’ trying again… ‘I have come to help you. You’ve already made yourself an outcast… your cruelty has already branded you…’
‘You can’t send me to hell?’ responds Putin, mockingly.
‘You are in hell, already… because that’s what Ukraine is now, a living hell that you created.’
‘Get out! I don’t want to talk to you! Charlatan!’
‘I come…’ resumes the orb, patiently, ‘because you are losing the war and may want to use nuclear weapons. That’s why I’m here. Please listen to me… the world will not let you use nuclear or chemical weapons on Ukrainians without responding. And between America and Europe, they have enough to wipe you out.’
‘Ha! I have my rockets pointed at Washington and London and Los Angeles and Houston and Dallas and New York. I’ll obliterate them! I may not destroy everything but I’ll get most of it. And that’ll be enough for me.’
‘You think you’ll survive?’
‘I don’t care.’
‘That’s a lot of cities, you mentioned… but they’ll fire back and aim directly at Moscow and St Petersburg… so there’ll be nothing left. And if you survive, what will you tell your followers, as they stand in rags before you, burnt from radioactivity? You’ll tell them that’s the first step to building the new Russian empire? Vladimir, they’ll grab you and cut you into little pieces.’
‘At least I’ll have the satisfaction that I destroyed the West. And I will have opened the path for China to be number one in the world.’
‘Small consolation for a man who wanted to build the Russian empire. I hear a desperate man, envious of the West and afraid…’ says the orb, patiently.
Putin again tries to free himself but cannot. ‘Let me out!’
‘Settle down, you little prick!’ snaps the orb impatiently.
Putin laughs. ‘You’re not God.’
‘I lose my temper, too. Now listen to me, there’s still a way out for you. And you can save your skin. Your wounded pride you’ll have to lick for the rest of your life but you can at least, live.’
‘Which way out?’ says Putin, showing interest.
Putin is silent.
‘Admit your mistake and walk away.’
‘And give up Ukraine?’
‘It was never yours. They don’t want you there.’
‘What about Crimea, the new republics in Donbas?’
‘Let them decide their fate democratically, with the vote.’
‘I’ll never do that,’ says Putin as he looks away, shaking his head, glumly.
Putin again, ‘You think Russians will forgive me?’
‘Yes… if you stop making mistakes. Sanctions will be lifted and you’ll have another try at building a nation.’
‘I think I’ve gone too far, already.’
‘The mothers of those soldiers who return alive will be forever grateful.’
‘I’ll still get a chance to go to Heaven?’ asks Putin.
The orb thinks about it for a moment. ‘Vladimir… I’ve been God for a while now, and I still can’t find where Heaven is. I think it’s right here on earth. It’s here every day of our lives… you see it in human beings’ kindness, generosity, eternal hope… and undying quest for excellence.’
‘Right here, too. In illness, violence, poverty… in innocent people serving sentences in prison… and what you’re doing in Ukraine.’
Putin, dejected, shaking his head slowly. ‘You think I fucked up?’
‘You did. But really big men recognize their flaws.’
The orb and Putin look at each other for a moment.
‘I’ve said my piece… you’re free to go now,’ says the orb.
Putin finds he’s no longer bound and is able to get out from under the desk. He stands facing the orb.
‘Do I get to see you again?’ asks Putin.
‘You never know,’ replies the orb.
And then it disappears.
The lights in the room come up and all the equipment is back working.
Oscar Valdes oscarvaldes.net, medium.com, anchor.fm, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts.