Taking the stand, he raised his head to his audience. Bright lights blinding him to their faces, intermittent camera flashes finishing the job, he could still feel their presence. He knew they would be surprised to find he did not have a script in hand, as was his habit; and there were no teleprompters to tell him what to say, though few would realize that as well.
And with one deep breath, he opened his mouth and made his confession:
"I can't really think of what to say to you right now," he began. "There's really so much to say, but nowhere seems like the right place to begin. All I really can say is that I'm not who you think, I'm not the idol you've set me up to be. Over the years I've been hailed as a master of diplomacy and civility, but I lose myself at times. All I can really do is tell you the truth, though; I'm not always good at that, it seems, but even if I can't speak it well, I'll still speak it.
"On the night of the November attacks, the reports read that I was here in the White House, attending to my business as your president. The truth is that I was indeed here, but… not innocently minding my own work. You were spun a lie, and I wish to now correct that."
Only now did the bulletproof vest beneath his dressshirt begin to really press against his chest, as if to choke the life out of him, to keep him quiet. His security detail would keep him safe—for now, until they knew more about his deeds—but even so, death would be too good for him, he felt. He took one more deep breath, then continued.
"The morning of the attacks, I was in a meeting with a number of officials in our military… coordinating strikes."
Audible though disparate gasps filled the room, and the flashes of the cameras seemed to pick up, though no one dared speak. Which meant he himself had to fill that silence.
"Because of the internal divides within our country—race wars, real and imagined; economic disparity, true and over-exaggerated; sexual divides, national divides, political divides—because of this, our nation has been tearing itself apart at the seams for nearly a decade now. We had turned on one another, as if each of us was somehow the problem; as if WE were the victims, and THEY were the sole perpetrators of all that was amiss in our lives. And so, in order to restore order to our country… I and my advisors knew we needed a way out. That aggression wasn't going to go away—who could really let the finger be pointed at them?—so we decided to find a way to redirect that aggression. In private, over several months, we officiated a coordinated attack on our own country and its citizens, which we then decided to blame on a terrorist group which, though surely confused to have it attributed to them, would not be disappointed by the event."
By then, the press room had gone utterly quiet, and the cameras had ceased to flash. The bright lights remained on, hiding the dead silent, dejected faces of his fellow countrymen, journalists and politicians alike. And in that blinding fury, unable to really see the despair and confusion in their eyes, he did not wonder if his security was still looking out for him. He did not wonder if he would be remembered as only a villain. He simply thought to himself how much more he could really say before their hearts were truly broken.
"On the morning of the November attacks, I and my generals coordinated the attacks from our war room beneath the White House. We believed that by orchestrating a controlled attack on the country, we would be able to unite what had become a disparate and internally divided people against a common enemy—and we certainly succeeded. Our people truly hated the ones whom we blamed for the attacks, and military strikes were easily given congressional approval. Not only were we able to more freely attack an enemy the people themselves could not agree was sufficiently violent enough to warrant military response, but we managed to unite those people with one another. Where there were narratives of dissent and oppression, there were stories of camaraderie and common sublime ideals. And it was great—our nation, our people, were great. But our people are also intelligent, and this deception did not go unnoticed. With time, the details have slipped, and now all that is left for me to do is to confirm them for you."
One yell of treason broke out from the crowd, then another—some accusations, others sentencing, demands for punishments that would surely follow. And with every subsequent yell, and every reviving, flashing camera, the crowd grew more and more unruly. Leaning over the podium, he knew this would be his final opportunity, to complete his speech—and his own plan.
"I take sole responsibility for these actions. I am to blame. You have my deepest apologies. I only pray justice will do with me as she sees fit."
And with that, he bowed down from the podium and proceeded from the stage, through a small alcove in the wall, boxed in by surely ambivalent guards. Not fleeing, but certainly mid-flight into the White House, he did not look back at the growing madness he had left in the press room. Ever more vitriolic, the voices of the people he had left behind would not be quieted by the press secretary to take his place on the stand.
And yet, with the chaos over his shoulder, and surely more to come—perhaps he would not even see a courtroom for his confession—he could not help but smile inwardly. Surrendering himself to what would come, he felt an incomparable composure, an indescribable peace. Though his cabinet's plan had failed—a plan to unite an entire nation against a foreign foe—his own personal plan may indeed succeed. The airy plot he and his cabinet had created had sprung a leak and wilted quickly, and the divides of before threatened to return. Rather than the heroic leaders of a godly crusade against a godless enemy, he was now the coordinator of a planned killing of a few of the very people he had sworn to protect. But when it was evident to him that the initial plan would fail, he came to terms with a new plan of his own.
A plan to confess. A plan to call the people to make him accountable for what had happened—him, and no one else. For though the scapegoat had changed, he knew his plan might still succeed. The people may struggle to hate the supposed perpetrators he and his cabinet had blamed for the staged attacks—though they were indeed violent criminals—but that aggression would not go back to being exhausted on one another. No, he told himself, if his career—and indeed, his very life—was now over, whether he was remembered as a tyrant and villain or not, he would save his people. Even if they hated him for his confession, he would take their aggression in the enemy's place—in their own stead, as well. Rather than let them turn on one another once more, he would take their anger and allow them to exhaust it upon him. To fight him. To kill him. To unite against him.
They would hate him, now and for generations to come. But that was his plan, and he prayed it would succeed. For nothing brings an entire people together like a common foe. And if he could not find them a unifying enemy beyond their borders, he would give them the next best thing he could—he would put himself on the altar and bear their dark blows until they had nothing left to give. Until they had emptied themselves of that darkness. Until, perhaps, by the grace of some goodness in this life, they may no longer wish one another harm.