Monday, May 7, 2012

Unless a Seed Falls to the Ground and Dies...

supreme The TV anchorwoman’s trembling voice announced the passing of the Supreme Leader over the images of hysterical mourners gathered at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, where the body was laid in a glass casket. Everyone was crying their eyes out: the TV anchors, the thousands of spectators including everyone watching TV.

 “…As he ascended to heaven, the skies glowed red above sacred mount Paekdu and the impenetrable sheet of ice at the heart of the majestic volcano cracked with a deafening roar…” continued the anchorwoman, dabbing her eyes with a white handkerchief.

Hong-jin was astonished that even his father, a reserved man who rarely showed his emotions, was wiping the tears away under his thick glasses. But the boy didn’t cry. Not because he wasn’t sad, but because he just didn’t believe that the Supreme Leader was actually dead. He couldn’t be. He was the one and only, the most illustrious commander born under heaven. He was supposed to be invincible!

There was a long line to the entrance to the mausoleum. The mood was decidedly somber and many of Hong-jin’s classmates were sniffling under their breath, quietly wiping away tears and snot with their dirty coat sleeves. He noticed that even the guards at the gate had puffy red eyes from crying. No one talked. No one complained waiting in line in freezing January weather. Once they were inside, the sound of the wailing coming from the mausoleum intensified. The emotions ran high. Many of the boy’s classmates started crying too. It was contagious. Still, he didn’t shed a tear. He still couldn’t accept the idea of the Dear Leader dying like a normal human being. He had to see the body himself.

There he was in a glass casket, surrounded by thousands of white irises. The Great Comrade was a tiny man, much shorter than Hong-jin had seen in pictures and photographs. As he placed his iris near the casket, he was able to see the Illustrious One’s face. It was as if he was in deep sleep. His lips were ever so slightly curled at one end. A stern looking guard gestured the boy to the exit, since there was still a long line of sobbing children behind him with irises in their hands, waiting for their turn to pay respect. As Hong-jin exited, he was convinced that he caught the Leader’s right eyelid twitching for a millisecond. I was right: the Supreme Leader wasn’t dead! He was just sleeping! He told himself.

Hong-jin sneaked out of the group and hid himself in a nook in that grand memorial palace. It wasn’t too hard since he was a very small boy even for his age. Besides, everyone’s attention was elsewhere. As he was squatting under the marble staircase silently, flood of people swept through the mausoleum all in terrible distress. It felt like ages. It was cold in that climate controlled room and after a while, the boy fell asleep on the marble floor.

When Hong-jin woke up, he found himself alone in the palace. The lights were dimmed and the sun was setting outside the big glass windows, painting the sky scarlet. The door to the mausoleum was shut. But Hong-jin saw the bright light leaking out from the bottom of the door. He cautiously pushed the door in and it opened with a prolonged eerie creak. The fluorescent light was blinding. The boy took off his black rubber school shoes and placed them neatly near the door. He tiptoed toward the glass casket in the middle of the mausoleum. “Dear Leader,” the boy called out, in an almost inaudible voice. The Supreme Leader was still motionless. After a little bit of hesitation, the boy decided to gently tap on the casket. No effect. He tapped on it a little harder. Dear Leader’s eyes didn’t open as he expected to. But the boy was determined to wake him out of his deep sleep.

He undid the latches on four corners of the casket and started to push the glass top off. It was heavy and the boy had to lean his whole body against it with all his might to have it move. He was trampling irises  with his feet.

Thunk.

As the glass top rolled over and hit the iris strewn marble floor, an amazingly awful smell hit the boy’s nostrils. It was coming from the casket. The horrified boy fell backward and retreated until the back of his head hit something. He looked up. It was that stern looking guard from earlier. From the look on his face with his mouth agape, the situation was pretty serious.

Being a mischievous young boy is one thing, but he had sneaked in and desecrated the sacred body of the Supreme Leader!

His parents should be put to the public trial and punished severely!

It’s almost treasonous!

Kyu-nam, a sympathetic old guard, came into the interrogation room where Hong-jin was held. He carried the boy’s black rubber shoes in his hand. He didn’t believe that the boy had malicious intentions in the mausoleum. After all, the kid was only eight. He glanced at the boy’s feet. There were remnants of white irises stuck on his white socks. He placed the boy on the table and sat down in front of him.

Don’t cry, comrade, he said.

He gently brushed off the irises from the boy’s feet and put the shoes on.

Just like these irises, our bodies are weak and fragile. Our Supreme Leader knew that his was fading.

The old guard explained to the boy that the Supreme Leader had indeed passed on. That it was his own wish to serve his beloved country and his people by going back to earth quickly so he could bring forth fruit for the new generation, for children like Hong-jin. Kyu-nam had seen enough things during his lifetime, so he was exceptionally good at lying.

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