Ron Burch

The Dictator

The Dictator is nervous about his speech tonight. He shouldn’t be worried. He’s a dictator. His soldiers will take care of any danger immediately. He’s so generous. That’s why he pays each of them well, provides to them the best food, medicine, technology, you name it, he offers them the best of what comes into their country. He allows them to send their children to the best school and pays all the doctor bills. Lately, his subjects, the inhabitants of this island, have been provocative. They seem to have lost their fear of him. Without fear, he loses his power. He’s read the histories. Fear is the only thing he has. He knows that and he uses it. Lately, his people have been bad children. They have protested against him. They have written newspaper articles and posted terrible things about him online, which is illegal in their country, but they still find a way to get to it, no matter how many of them his soldiers kidnap and torture. He wishes that his people understood. They did at first but then they started to resist him. Does he not give them jobs? Does he not try to protect them from evil forces outside, and, now, inside their country? They protest every day and that can’t be allowed. They can’t display their unhappiness on the world stage. That’s why he criminalized the press. They had turned on him too, and then he had to get rid of all of them. In the streets, the people post pictures of their missing relatives, their husbands, their wives, their children and cousins and uncles and aunts and nieces and grandfathers and grandmothers and friends and more and more. His soldiers tear them down. The people know, in general, where their relatives have gone, so they’re not really missing; they’re just no longer here.

Tonight’s speech in the stadium is important. The place seats 12,000 even though he had the official capacity listed at 20,000. The Dictator needs their excitement, their passion. It’s going to be televised to the rest of the world. The world needs to know how much his people love and adore him. How they wear t-shirts and hats with his name and face on them. How they need to chant their love to him loudly, so the microphones can pick it up and the cameras can record this moment in history. Contrary to his orders, the stadium remains virtually empty only hours before the event. His orders stated the people needed to arrive in the morning by 7:00 a.m., lined up and waiting, for the cameras to record their all-day excitement. Yes, he has the crowd of his regulars, a very small crowd in comparison to the actual number of inhabitants but not enough. He needs to fill that stadium: standing room. He needs men and women shouting his name and shaking their fists and cursing their enemies who are responsible for all of this.

He’s not the villain. He had to step in and save them, his people. It’s their enemies who are dangerous, not him. At first, they understood.

The Dictator calls his general, who reports that his soldiers are having trouble rounding people up at gunpoint. Even beating them until they bleed isn’t having the usual success of submission. The General sounds confused, maybe tired. The Dictator reminds him how many other generals below him are waiting for such a wonderful opportunity to prove their loyalty. The General thanks the Dictator and promises that he will get his audience. The Dictator ends the call and smiles. They all love him so much.

As he enters the stage and walks to the podium, the packed stadium roars. They chant his name and their love and adoration. The cameras remain on him always because he is The Dictator, and he knows the celebratory sounds around him are being conveyed to the world. The monitors in front of him show the pan across the stadium from the stage, filled with his people, his devoted supporters. No one will ever doubt him again. All through the speech the crowd remains strong and loud, and, at the end of his speech, The Dictator awards himself the lifetime position of president. The people chant his name over and over until the cameras stop rolling. He leaves the stage, deciding to walk down to the main floor among the people to shake their adoring hands, but, up close, The Dictator realizes the people aren’t moving and that the chanting has actually come from the loudspeaker system: the bodies in the seats are actually just cooling bodies, still bleeding, still gun shot, with parts of them missing: skulls opened, gaping holes in their torsos, blood pooling everywhere onto the stadium floor, and, to his surprise, as he looks around the stadium, he’s one of the few people alive, but, in his heart, The Dictator knows that his people will always love him, no matter what.