I had a dream that I interviewed the Dear Leader.
I was calm and collected in the radio studio as I dialed the number given me by the man in the poor checked suit outside the Russian consulate. He didn’t give a name and I didn’t ask — but if I had, I’m sure he would have whispered (in a voice worn rough with cigarettes): “Vladimir. Agent second-class.”
Still, the blotted digits though prefaced with an unfamiliar extension produced a shrill metallic buzz in my earpiece as the signal beamed out. The buzz became a hiss and then a distant rattle, and I could imagine my call being imbued with the codes necessary to penetrate the secret heart of North Korea by clandestine satellites that the Americans thought were Google’s.
Eventually, the fuzzy tone was interrupted by a voice. In my dream, he spoke sharp English with just the faintest trace of an accent.
“Yes? Who is this?” I thought at first that it was an apparatchik, some low-rank stooge I would have to bull past on my way to the top. Never did I suspect that what Vladimir had given me was a direct line to the Dear Leader himself.
“Oh. This is the journalist. The Australian, I mean. I’m to speak with the Dear Leader?” My words were monotone and flat; I was saving my enthusiasm for the dignitaries that were sure to follow.
“Speaking.” I sat back, momentarily speechless, but my training reasserted itself before it became uncomfortable.
“Well, Kim, I –” His voice, when he corrected me, was cool and courteous, betraying no hint of anger or annoyance at my diplomatic blunder.
“You shall address me as Dear Leader when we speak.” It was not a request. I launched into my questions.
“Dear Leader, what’s the greatest evil in this world?”
“Decadence. The lavish, mindless luxury that fills the Western mind. Hard work and solidarity, austerity and simple joys are the keys to a well-lived life.”
“Dear Leader, how can we fix the woes of man?”
“Through respect for our elders and the directions of rightful authority. Through reverence for ourselves and for the wisdom of our leaders.”
In my dream, the line was clear and clean, free from the clicks and prying whirs of snooping state apparatus. We spoke of life and philosophy, and I found myself warming to this fellow, this educated Leader of fine taste and measured principles; a refined scholar who tempered his philanthropy in life’s iron practicalities. Over the brief conversation we shared, I found myself laughing at his quips and nodding enthusiastically at his wisdom.
But all too soon, it had to end. The interview was over. There was just one thing I had to ask.
“Dear Leader, before you go — what’s the weather like in Pyongyang?”
He laughed, amused, as if at some private joke.
“Why, it’s sunny, my friend, as it has always been since our state began, and will always be until the final speck of our eternal land shivers and crumbles into an encroaching sea.”
And with a final click came silence.
Dear Glorious Leader, if you’re reading this — if Vladimir discovered it and sent it on or if it crept in through the cracks of your country’s iron wall — I wonder, did you dream this dream too?
Or are your dreams the dreams of gods: of stone statues standing proud and lonely in the sand?