In his temporary lodging, Putin awakens in the middle of the night.
Something was stirring in his mind that interrupted his sleep.
He sits up on the side of the bed.
He switches on the light on the nightstand. It’s 2:05 am.
It’s the first night he spends at this location. It’s secure, with plenty of surveillance.
Yesterday at midday, just before he had lunch, he got a call from his personal secret service.
A possible assassination attempt had been intercepted. He was given some details with more to come as the investigation proceeded.
It has happened before but he feels confident his people are providing excellent protection.
And yet, it’s hard to relax.
He’s stunned for an instant but recognizes the tone of the voice and sighs with relief.
The disembodied voice has no discernible source. It’s just there, all over the room.
Putin looks around the room, slowly.
‘What should I call you?’ he asks.
‘Whatever you wish.’
‘You could say that…’
‘What’s the point?’
‘To help you think.’
‘Ah, that.’ Putin smiles.
‘You’ve said you needed space… that you felt hemmed in by the West… so Ukraine should be yours…’
‘That’s right. Not just my space but Russia’s. I’m doing it for Russia.’
‘I’m familiar with the argument… but as I examine things… it seems to me what you are really needing is enlargement of your mental space.’
‘Aha.’ Putin chuckles.
‘Looks to me like you’re cramped inside your mind…’
‘Yes. For instance, in your way of thinking, sexual orientation is of only one kind… you have to be straight or you fall outside the law.’
‘It doesn’t seem unnatural to you?’
‘Not at all. Russia is the future of mankind and perversions are not allowed.’
‘Wow. It is amazing how you can be so certain about matters so complicated and which stir so much debate in other societies…’
‘Decadent societies. Here in Russia, we strive for purity.’
‘Purity… hmm… that’s a troublesome word, isn’t it? I mean, Hitler used it and then led so many people to their deaths… caused so much disruption… so much pain… so much loss.’
‘You don’t think we can be pure?’
‘No. We’re all tainted, impure… a mix of generosity and hatred… a blend of the sublime and the vile… we’re human…’
‘I don’t want that for my Russia…’
‘… and, surprisingly… the more aware we are of our sometimes sharp contradictions… the more of a chance we have to control our excesses… the more of a chance we have to temper our actions… to perchance find understanding… even kindness.’
‘I’m a great believer in the Russian Orthodox Church and what Patriarch Kirill has to say.’
‘It’s hard for me to understand how a church like that can be so close minded.’
‘Call it what you will but so long as I have nuclear weapons that’s the way it will be.
I have the power to bring the world to its knees… and Russians love me for it… they love the power I give them… they may be isolated in this world but I make them feel special… big.’
‘We have a problem here, don’t we… it’s hard to get through to you.’
Putin nods pensively.
‘I think I’ve crossed that line. A while back.’
‘I find it amazing… here you are, talking about being special, you and all Russians… and you’re killing you neighbor every day… mothers, fathers, children. In the name of the church?’
‘In the name of a new world order… together with China… a new world order where the rules are written by a few outstanding leaders… like me and Xi… and the rest follow the rules. At first I had doubts I could do it but no longer. I am certain now. I can intimidate them all… Macron, Scholz, Sunak… in fact they’re already working to get Zelensky to compromise and come to the negotiating table… where I will insist on keeping the territory I’ve conquered… and the plan they proposed doesn’t even give Ukraine NATO protection. It’s a victory for me, already. I was right. I could divide the West.’
‘What about America?’
‘America… ha! Makes me laugh. All that talk about freedom and they love strong men, they elected Trump didn’t they? All that talk about freedom’s benefits, but what do they want to do with it? Get a gun!
Ha! And yes, I’ll do everything I can to get Trump reelected. And I’ll ask comrade Xi to help, and together we’ll help persuade the voters that Trump should be president again. And then again, after he changes the rules. Too bad the assault on the Capitol didn’t go well. But look at how many Senators and Representatives still love him? I’m convinced human beings prefer the comforts of living on their knees to the pain and tribulations of having a mind of their own.’
‘In the meantime… you’ll keep killing your neighbors?’
‘They have to learn their lesson.
Maybe one day, in the future, human beings will learn to live in freedom… I admit it has its attractions… love… brotherhood… sisterhood… yes… all that… but that’s in the future… I live in the present. So what do you have to say to that?’
‘In your power… you are not free,’ replies the voice, ‘your mind narrow as your heart.’
All is quiet now.
Putin’s expression turns somber.