In that particular wing of the United Nations, the air was thick with secrecy.
“Did you bring it?” whispered America.
“Yeah,” Japan whispered back. From her shirt, she pulled a small glass vial that stored a vibrant bluish liquid. America stared at it in awe while Japan reached into her pocket, procured a slip of paper, and read from it. “‘Whoever drinks this elixir shall be granted the gift of sight–to see into a person’s heart and know their true character.’ You try it first,” she suggested, holding it out to him. He shrugged his shoulders.
“Alright, bottom’s up.” And he tossed it back, courageously taking a gulp but making sure to leave some for Japan–who watched him expectantly.
“Well? Do you feel any–”
“Whoa!” His eyes shot open and his torso swayed backward, like he’d just been hit with a gust of wind. “Holy shit.”
“What is it?”
“I can see your heart–but barely, dude. Why’s it so small?”
“Small?” Panic wracked her voice.
“Is that what it looks like to be–to use your own words–dead inside?”
Her gaze fell to the ground. “Those are just jokes.” A lie, but whatever. “I do feel joy, occasionally. Like last night when I was playing Forever Fantasy XXII and finally beat the final boss on Extreme Insane Hell Mode.”
“I died nearly twenty times, but then I finally memorized his attack patterns and unleashed my ultimate move with just a sliver of health remaining–!”
“Too big, too big! Curb the enthusiasm, hot stuff.”
“Please,” Japan said, holding out her hand. She drank from the bottle and within seconds she could see America’s heart beating in his chest as if she had x-ray vision.
“Oh, you just got real serious looking. This can’t be good.”
“America, what’s wrong with your heart?”
“I dunno, man, you tell me.”
“It looks . . . not right.”
“Leaking?” His voice cracked.
“It’s misshapen,” Japan elaborated. “One side is abnormally bigger than the other and it’s been stitched together sloppily. It looks like a child’s craft project. A poorly done, child’s craft project.” She noticed his cheeks get a touch red.
“Must be my diet.”
“No, I don’t think this is about food. I think it’s about your flawed moral character–”
He threw up his hands. “Shh, shh, shh! Look, I’ll show you what ‘flawed moral character’ really looks like.”
So he hunted down Russia and they gazed upon her beating muscle.
She smiled and tilted her head to the side. “How naughty. Don’t you know it’s impolite to stare–?”
“Looks normal to me,” Japan said.
America breathed out heavily. “No . . . This can’t be right.” His crappy heart sunk all the way down to his stomach, startling Japan.
“Come again?” asked Russia.
“Your heart,” he went on,” looks completely normal even though you’re evil and devoid of any traces of human decency.” Russia’s smile widened.
“Oh, how wrong you are! You see, my heart is so big and full of all the pure, unconditional love I have for my beautiful neighbors!” America rolled his eyes and was about to give up when he noticed something strange.
“Wait!” he cried, grabbing Japan’s shoulder. The pair watched as Russia’s heart began to crack and chip. Beneath the perfect outer layer was a deep, oppressive blackness.
America’s lips curled into a smug grin. “Called it.”
“Called what?” Russia asked in a less than amiable tone, hand coming to her hip.
Japan said, ” It seems that while on your surface everything looks fine, deep down your heart is filled with darkness.” At that, Russia laughed nervously.
“What are you talking about? Silly children!” She began to scurry away with haste. “I don’t have time to play with you. I have someone very, very important to be–meet!” And she ducked into one of the side rooms.
“I saw that,” a poisonous and accusatory voice said from the other end of the hall. They knew who it was but looked anyway. “Chasing Russia off like ruthless thugs . . . What treachery are you jackals spreading now?”
Of course, they couldn’t pass up the opportunity to steal a look at North Korea’s heart.
“What’s up, buddy?” America said casually as they approached their prey. Said prey tensed but held his ground.
“We’re not buddies. Go die.”
America and Japan inspected North Korea’s heart from a safe distance–only to find that they couldn’t see much of anything. His heart was not only encased in a protective concrete shell, it was wrapped tightly in barbed wire. There was a giant deadbolt lock protecting it, and the keyhole was so small that it might as well not even exist.
America clicked his tongue. “Can’t say I’m really surprised that your heart is completely walled off.”
“My heart? What are you talking about?” North Korea brought his arms up to cover his chest from their prying eyes and stumbled backward. He hurled some insults at them as he ran off. “Perverts! Fascists!”
Naturally, for the sake of comparative research, they had to see South Korea’s heart next.
“Make this quick,” she said, not looking up from her phone. “I have a meeting with China in like two minutes.” When the two investigators stared at her chest, she scowled. “Hey, my eyes are up here.”
Though a little on the small side, South Korea’s heart was vibrant; it dazzled like a disco ball and vibrated like a boombox. Little musical notes floated out to the tune of some pop song. Yaong!
“Did your heart just meow?” asked a stupified Japan.
“Did my what just what?”
“I was under the impression this would be a bilateral meeting,” China said as he stepped into the conference room.
“Not my fault,” South Korea said. “These goblins came in here and started looking at my heart.”
“We drank a potion,” America said, “that shows us a person’s true character. And basically, it gave us a kind of x-ray vision that lets us see your hearts.”
“Russia’s heart is full of darkness,” Japan said, “North Korea’s is heavily fortified and impossible to penetrate, and South Korea’s is filled with K-pop and cats.”
“And mine?” China asked.
Leaning in close and squinting really hard, America and Japan stared deeply into China’s chest. But no matter how hard they looked, they couldn’t see anything because there was nothing there.
What would your heart look like? What would your country’s heart look like?