“Good grief,” said Victor. “Would you mind pointing that light somewhere else?”
“If you cooperate,” said the voice, “I move light. But if you resist…”
The light instantly intensified; Victor closed his eyes and turned away. He tried to stand but his feet slipped beneath him, unable to gain traction, and he floundered on the ground.
“Damn it. All right, I’ll cooperate,” he said, dragging himself back onto the chair. “Why is there ice on the floor?”
“Is Cold War,” answered the voice.
The light softened until Victor was able to identify its source: a few feet in front of him a small adjustable lamp stood on a wide desk. The lamp dimmed and lowered its extraordinarily potent globe, under the grasp of an immense, hairy hand. Setting the light out of Victor’s eyes, the hand then set itself down on the desk in a fist the size of a brick. Victor’s sight adjusted and he saw the body to which the fist belonged, sitting behind the desk: tall, burly and wrapped in a red military uniform with a golden hammer and sickle emblazoned right across the chest. Above the uniform’s collar protruded a thick neck adorned with bulging veins, and upon the neck sat a head which caused Victor to shudder. It was broad and rough with a flat, crooked nose and a square, stubbly jaw. Its grey hair was mowed in a neat buzz cut, and an ugly scar ran down the right cheek.
“Who… Who are you?” asked Victor.
The giant behind the desk remained motionless and silent. After a minute he planted his fingers upon a piece of paper and slid it across the desk toward Victor. He then took a pen in his fingertips like a toothpick and placed it on the paper. Victor raised his eyes toward the desk but was unable to see what was written on the paper. The Russian man leaned forward and folded his hands together on the desk. His lips gave the hint of a smile but his eyes remained cold.
“Is simple,” he said. “You sign paper, confess to crimes. Then you go to gulag.”
“You are criminal, of course.”
“Criminal? Hang on,” said Victor. “If I’m a criminal, then what are my crimes?”
“You are capitalist,” said the Russian. “You are capitalist pig and you must die. So confess and sign.” He thumped the paper with his weighty forefinger.
“I’m not going to sign my death warrant,” said Victor.
The Russian open a draw behind the desk, took out a handgun and set it on the desk.
“You will sign,” he said. “We have ways to convince criminals of their guilt.”
“Wait,” said Victor. “Just slow down. I’m sure we can work this out.”
“Nothing to work out,” said the Russian. “You are capitalist. Capitalism evil. You go to gulag.”
Victor looked about the room, breathing fast. He saw the Russian sitting in front of him; he saw the Russian’s ridiculous uniform; he saw the icy floor. Victor looked again at the Russian, studying him, and then smiled.
“You don’t like capitalism, huh?” said Victor, folding his arms.
The Russian’s face grew dark.
“Capitalism is enemy of glorious mother Russia.”
“Hmm.” Victor nodded. “So you’re a communist then.”
“Da. Communism is best.”
“And what is communism?” Victor asked.
The Russian leaned back and shifted in his seat. He cleared his throat.
“Communism is… uh… Communism is…” The Russian leaned forward again and nodded. “Communism is Russian way.”
“Yeah,” said Victor, “that’s what I thought. So… you’re all about the abolition of private property, right?”
For the first time, the Russian broke eye contact. He scratched his ear and looked at the floor.
“Because that’s what communism is,” Victor prodded.
The Russian sat up straight and looked at him. “That’s right. The absolution—”
“Da. Abolition of private property.”
“Good,” said Victor. “Then give me the gun.”
“Well, that’s not your gun. It’s the people’s gun. I’m one of the people and I need to use it, so give me the gun.”
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