Vignette:The End

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The End

5 Prinz-Caspar-Straße, Alvastadt, Imperial State of Alva
June 20th, 1980
I

t smells of soot.

Below him, a fire rages on, fueled by gasoline, film, and paper; sensitive documents not for the public eye. Medical records, surveillance reports, party memberships, blacklists, and miscellaneous bureaucratic paperwork, all turned into smoke and ash. Above him is a rising cloud of dark smoke, quickly dissipating into the hot spring afternoon of Alvastadt. To the outside observer, this smoke pile would fit right in with the countless others dotting the city with all the protests and riots. This would set off alarms to keener eyes given this specific fire’s location in the courtyard of the Secret Police’s headquarters. In the back of his mind, Johann quietly prayed those eyes would look elsewhere.

Years of paperwork and documentation lay haphazardly on chairs and tables, strewn across his office as if a fierce storm had come through the window and rummaged through each cabinet. His garish office decor strikingly contrasts with the rest of the building, but his mark on its history will be gone in a flash. Soon, lavish carpets will be replaced by old hardwood and the wallpaper will give way to stale concrete.

“Sir?” One of his soldiers stands at the open door, his arms occupied with another sheaf of papers.

“Keep on bringing them outside.”

He can hear the soldier’s boots fade away as he leaves, but not before he picks up another pair of boots headed his way. Soon enough, an officer arrives at the door.

“Ah, Herr Rothmann.” The officer gives a stout salute.

“The Admiral’s orders.” The smoke clings to Johann’s throat. “We’re to burn all sensitive information.”

“This is it, no?” There’s a hint of dejection in the officer’s voice.

“What is?” He’s puzzled by the officer’s question.

“He’s going to concede, isn’t he? If he weren’t, you and your men wouldn’t be burning papers.”

Johann takes a deep breath, contemplating the officer’s words.

It takes a while for the situation to finally click in his head. “It’s only a matter of time, then.”

The officer forces a smile. “I would suggest making travel plans while you still can. Hydar is nice this time of year, is it not?”

More pressing issues take up Johann’s train of thought. “I will need… some time.” He stumbles on his words. “Thank you… for your concern.”

“It is in our best interests, after all. Godspeed, and good luck.” The door closes behind him, accompanied by the muffled sound of an officer’s jackboots.

Caressing the top back of his office chair, he adjusts the needle of the record player sitting squarely in the corner of the room. Collapsing into the chair, his mind begins to churn.

The jet-black vinyl reflects the afternoon sun in its grooves as the record pirouettes around the player, playing its tune. Its discarded cover sits precariously hanging off the ledge of the table, but it isn’t long until he mindlessly nudges it back onto terra firma. There are plenty of vinyl covers nearby; some hail from older times and some come from faraway lands. The needle bobs up and down, dancing along the grooves of the record as the speakers play the soothing sounds of a Yarovar waltz. Finally, he makes a decision.

“Perhaps Hydar is nice this time of year,” he speaks to nobody.

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