T.R. Diamond - Russia
I’m sure I am awake, but I can’t see anything. I blink rapidly, willing my eyes to focus on something, anything, but all I can see is white. I exhale sharply, and the coldest air I have ever felt fills my lungs. I am lying, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere, and I realize that I am snowblind. The whiteness that surrounds me is snow falling on packed snow that is covered in snow. I look down and gasp. An animal is on top of me, motionless. It is only when I scramble to my feet that I realize I am wearing the animal. This explains why the air is cold on my face, but nowhere else. I am draped head to toe in fur. I am vehemently opposed to wearing fur, but I am just as opposed to freezing to death, so for the moment, I remain fully dressed. I survey the tundra surrounding me. There are no buildings, no water, no roads. A few feet from me are sled tracks and paw prints. I must have been brought here by dogsled. Resignedly, I follow the tracks figuring even if they lead me back to my assailant, I have a better chance of surviving than I do staying put. The wind whistles and the snow blows around me. I try to remember what got me into this mess…
Russia is a land steeped in history. Known for political upheaval and uprisings, the country is as rich culturally as any place I have ever visited. Yet, on this day, I just want a Big Mac. Apparently, more than 60 branches of the iconic chain operate in Russia, and I can’t find a single one. But I do spot something else that instantly whets my appetite.
She is tall and fine boned, with platinum blonde hair, full lips, and shoes that are just okay. She sits languidly on a park bench, a full length fur coat draped over her buxom frame. She is Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe, and Britt from The Bachelor Season 19 all rolled into one. I approach her boldly and she surveys me through heavy-lidded eyes.
“Excuse me, where’s the McDonald’s?” I ask. Before she can answer, I see her discreetly remove something from her purse. She notices me noticing and wraps her fingers around what she is holding. It is small and rectangular. Is it makeup, I wonder, or some kind of key or fob? Then I notice it is a USB. Classified information. In the Classified Information capital of the world! Suddenly, I have more on my mind than seduction and hamburgers.
She stands abruptly, her legs somehow even longer than before. I mustn’t be distracted. All I have to do is get what’s in her hand. I figure I will stroke her forearm in the pretext of seduction. Pressure points indicate that the smallest squeeze in a particular area of the arm will cause the palm to open and the fingers to splay. The USB will fall from her hand into mine. I smile my, “I’m going to touch your arm” smile, when suddenly I am struck from behind and everything goes black.
It’s dark by the time I see where the tracks are leading me. The log cabin is small, but stands out by virtue of the fact that is surrounded only by snow. I realize now that the dogsled must have left from this location, but not returned to it. No dogs linger outside, and there appears to be no life inside. Smoke pouring from the chimney suggests a fire, glorious heat, within.
Too cold to use caution, and too tired to care, I fling open the door and, sure enough, a fireplace blazes and the heat hits me instantaneously. I gladly shed my fur coat and realize it was the same one she was wearing when I approached her. At some point, she must have dressed me! I am nearly naked beneath my coat, though, so at some point, she must have also undressed me! I am now in just my Flight Underwear. The cabin is just one room, and I am its only occupant, so I immodestly stretch out on the bearskin rug in front of the fireplace. As my eyes adjust to the room lit by the fire’s glow, I see a small laptop in the corner of the room. I open it. The desktop is a picture of the Russian seductress, posing as if she is holding up the leaning tower of Pisa. I laugh heartily, having never seen this gag before. I look down and see a small, 1-inch or so protrusion in my Flights. That can only mean two things. I unzip Flight’s patented zippered pocket to feel around and sure enough, there is the USB!
With shaking hands, I plug the key into the side of the laptop, and the mere seconds it takes to load feel like hours. The icon loads up. I click it the sole document within, and a picture fills my screen. It takes a minute before I recognize a familiar logo. I stare, open mouthed. Before me is a map of all McDonald’s locations now operating in Moscow.