The axe swung down hard, splitting the wood in two cleanly. Good, it felt good in his hands, felt good to be physical again, the dirt made him clean.
Josef needed this cabin retreat, deep in the snow clad mountains of his beloved Russia, to refresh himself. Free from the pressures of the Party, the ice reminded him of his own strength, his indomitable spirit as harsh as the brutal landscape that carved him in its image. Most of all, he needed the beast, to remind him to continue.
He had doubts, as any intelligent man did. Those moments of reflective second guessing that were the downfall of weaker men. Did Leon and Vladimir, once loyal comrades, deserve their fate? Should he close the gulags a previous cabin visit inspired him to create, educate rather than break his softer countrymen? Would forgiveness enter the lexicon of his rule?
Josef swung the axe down again. A great leader made hard decisions, but even his big shoulders strained from time to time. That was why he needed the mountains, for when he began to ache. He had been there two days now, chopping wood, breathing the clean air, sweating, thinking, smoking, waiting. Holding his breath for the beast to show him the way.
The galloping came fast, thundering through the forest, silver horn a glowing beacon of its furious approach. Finally, the white horse had returned. It burst through the trees, snorting with righteous fury and rose up above him, kicking the axe from his hands and sending him on his rump to the snow. He could feel its anger seething in waves through him. Weak man, it roared, weak, pathetic, cowardly man.
The hate spilled over him, shaking his bowels. Josef cried out as he soiled himself, the beast laughing at the ant beneath its hooves. His shame was not complete. A jet of acrid, steaming urine hit Josef in the face, burning his eyes, molten fire pouring down his throat, as the equine braying drowned his ears.
With a snort, the unicorn turned away from the cowering dictator and charged back into the woods, snow flying off trees in its wake, departure as wild and rapid as its entrance. Josef choked and vomited into the snow, so when he scrambled to his feet, grabbing at the axe with rage, the white pelt of his abuser was but a flicker in the snow cloud that marked its route, before that too disappeared.
Damn the beast. Josef screamed with anger and smashed the axe down onto the stump. The steel head broke away from the wood handle and flew into the snow. Damn the axe. He would show the demon he was not weak. He would show them all.
The gulags would not close, they would grow. There would be no pity, no mercy, no regret, no more. His countrymen must be as strong as he. The weak had no place in his Russia.
Those that did not bend to his iron would fall under it. Punishment would be their salvation. The toil of hard labour would build their muscles, the glorious freezing winter would swell their chests. Those that fell deserved their fate, survival was the only way to prove their worth.
The criminals, the rebels, the nay-sayers, the capitalists, the traitors, the deviants, the soft, when their judgement day came they would show what they were truly made of.
They would all have to prove themselves.