The G7 watched nervously as China and North Korea made off for the hallway to discuss nuclear weapons in private. When the two disappeared behind the door, an antsy America waited only a few seconds before zipping over to Russia and plopping down in an empty seat.
“Hey,” he whispered, leaning in close but not too close. “Are we cool?”
A confused Russia could only offer him a smile. “What?”
“I need to make sure we’re cool. Shit just got real and I really want–no, need–to know that you’re not gonna screw me.”
There was a room in the back of a bar where three nearly intoxicated companions shared second-hand smoke and a mellow, effortless discussion. Russia drank the most, but she held it well. North Korea drank the second most, but he couldn’t really feel it. China drank the least, but the mess in the ashtray at the center of the table was mostly his doing.
“Why did we stop playing?” North Korea asked gently as he looked over the cards scattered on the table top.
In the back of a book named Tactical Memoir Of Dear Leader’s Most Revolutionary And Anti-imperialist Fashion Ideas was a lone piece of paper that had been torn from its binding. On it was a simple list. The words and names on the list, penned neatly in black ink, all bore sentiment. There was resentment, disappointment, and a little bit of indignation.
You’re using me.
What killed your conscience?
Wake the hell up.
I will never let you forget that mistake.
Does it feel good?
At the bottom of the paper was a name that had been scratched out many times over, but the words to follow, first written by a hesitant hand, were still legible.
When you said it would be this hard, I wish I would have listened.
Their dance was not an elegant waltz. It was an aggressive swing with all of the passion and none of the pleasure. When she jerked him this way, he jerked her that way. There was no lead, only two fervid stars dancing to two different beats. Neither found solace in the intimacy of their situation, only adrenaline infused dread that set their nervous systems on fire.
The complexity of their relationship had them tense under a hot spotlight. She could smell his arrogance and he could sense her ambition. They knew well each other’s hands and hips, but not Achilles’ heel.
He hesitated for a few seconds. He contemplated clearing his throat again. He wondered if he should speak slowly or drop this on them quickly. He questioned the sanity of whoever submitted this scenario. And then he announced it in that same booming voice, “North Korea achieves full nuclear proliferation.”
The room fell silent, section by section, as countries began to process what had been said. A wildfire of reactions inflamed East Asia. The news erased North Korea’s glare and his eyes shot open. The biggest, silent gasp slowly morphed into the biggest, stupidest grin. South Korea and America shared struck expressions. China’s countenance slowly took on a defeated expression that was already tired of dealing with events that hadn’t happened yet. Japan’s joyless smile turned straight lipped, but it was her wide, startled eyes that spoke the loudest.
Following the silence was an slow bubbling up of murmurs and mutters from around the room. A stern conversation began between North Korea and China while South Korea, America, and Japan exchanged worried banter back and forth until they decided none of them knew what to do. Some parts of Europe expressed concern over the issue, but in the end they just began arguing about their own problems. Iran and Pakistan took the opportunity to move one row down and a few feet closer to their friend, who coincidentally just became the world’s latest nuclear powerhouse. India eyed East Asia from across the table, but refrained from engaging.
Warmth spread through hands that were hugging a hot cup of Shou Mei tea. North Korea sat with his legs crossed, an unusually subdued posture for the high-strung man, and lips in a faint frown. His eyes, glistening with a hint of dolefulness, were occupied with the etched drawings of dragons that circled the small, round table. Across from him, China was coolly watching him and thinking about money.
“I feel sorry for her,” North Korea said finally. “That’s what it comes down to.”
An eyebrow was raised. “Oh?”
North Korea looked up at China and began slowly, as if he was thinking through this own words. “We don’t think alike and we never will. But we both know that America is… a problem. She wants him gone as much as I do.” Then he added quickly after noticing China give him a disbelieving look, “almost as much as I do.”
“But not really.”
“Is that right?”
“He’s overstaying his welcome.”
China sipped his tea, nodding at the flavor–or perhaps the statement. “You prompted her to extend that invitation.”
China nodded again. “Right.”
“Whatever use he was to her then is irrelevant now.”