That evening, the enemy crossed the Brego river. An hour later, the telephone in Malyshev’s office began to scream out in agony.
“Malyshev speaking- What? No, no, you’ve made a mistake, surely…”
The door opened with a creak and a secretary peeked her head in. “Comrade…”
Malyshev put the receiver down with shaking hands. “What- What is it?”
“Comrade Trunov is here to see you, says he has urgent business.”
“Well, send him in- Quickly!”
Trunov slumped in, all sallow and dishevelled.
“I know why you’re here, general.”
“Its done, Malyshev- They’ll be here in a few days.”
“But how did sixth division-”
Trunov gave an empty chuckle. “Oh, what do you think? Gutless scum, all of them.”
“Christ. Thats it, then. And our glorious leader?”
“Thats what I’ve come to tell you about. He’s called a meeting at HQ in a couple of hours.”
“And I’m to be there?”
“You, me, all the top brass that haven’t shot themselves or fled the capital.”
“Any idea how he’s going to act?
“No, and thats what worries me.”
“But Trunov, surely he won’t continue? The state is doomed.”
“Listen… I’ve spoken to the others, and we’ve agreed that there’s no sense in following a lost cause. I’m sure you’ll agree, correct?”
“You don’t mean…”
Trunov produced a pistol from somewhere within his coat. It glinted in the fading light. “We can’t afford to take chances, Malyshev. You don’t want to die here, do you?”
Malyshev hesitated for a moment. “No, I don’t want to die.”
“Good, good.” With great care, Trunov laid the pistol on Malyshev’s desk. “With luck you won’t even have to use it. Word is the old bastard has spoken of surrender in the last few days. Still, if he doesn’t feel like surrendering, then we’re going to have to take power into our own hands.”
“But how, how will I know when to use it? If I have to, that is.”
“Well, if he decides to fight on, then you’ll be using it. Look, it’s very likely that he’s just going to tell us we’re giving up. Don’t worry. Anyways, I have to go see some more friends- I suggest you get yourself ready for tonight. See you in a few hours, comrade.”
Once Trunov had left, Malyshev sat in his chair, staring at the gun. He spent a long time deciding whether or not to take it with him.
“-And that is why, dearest comrades, I have decided that we must fight on. Our motherland must not fall to the foreign brigand. The struggle will be long and hard, but I know you will follow me in defence of the state we built together.”
The leader finished his speech to vigorous applause from a crowd of generals and officials. As he clapped, Malyshev felt that he was drowning.
Trunov edged over and gave him a nudge. “It’s time.”
As Malyshev followed Trunov through the hall he could see others moving in the same direction. The leader was just leaving the room with a few senior officials when Trunov pushed to the front and yanked the long snout of a pistol from his pocket.
The next few moments were something of an incomprehensible mess for Malyshev. His brain only really started working again after his pistol went empty. He looked up. Pinned to the wall, riddled with the bullets of around nine or ten guns, was Savitsky, The Party’s immortal leader. He heaved and groaned, trying to breathe through the bloody ruin that remained of his chest. A moment later he shuddered to the ground and went silent.
The rest of the crowd knew exactly what had happened, and why it had happened. They were almost glad of it, too. The peace treaty would almost certainly be a brutal, unfair one, but at least it was peace.
by Paul Inglis