by Isador Strakhovsky (also known as Ira Straus)

On a late summer day in a 2020 that was already surreal, German medics announced that Alexei Navalny had been poisoned by Novichok. It was the same poison that had been used on the Skripals in Britain. Strange things transpired in the dreams of people in both countries that night.

A certain Boris dreamed that he was arguing with a certain Angela.

“But can’t you see that we’re all in this together now,” she was berating him. “No more illusions about Russia. It’s gotten ruthless. If we don’t hold together, it’ll pick us off one by one. Besides, your own country will separate into small pieces if you separate from us. You have to get back in the EU.”

“You’ve already been picked off,” he retorted. “Can’t you see that you have to cancel Nord Stream? The EU keeps trying to explain it to you, if you do Nord Stream, you hand Ukraine over to Russia on a silver platter. It’ll have no way left of resisting Russian blackmail over its energy supply, once Russia no longer has to go through Ukrainian pipelines to get its oil and gas to Europe. All the sacrifices Ukraine has made to be independent, all the sacrifices we’ve made for it — all thrown down the drain. You have to get serious about us being in this together.”

(Long pause.)

“OK,” the lady said, looking upon him with a bewitching smile. “You’re right. We both have to get serious about it. We can make a deal on your terms. I’ll scrap Nord Stream, you’ll scrap Brexit.”

“Deal!” he shot back, mumbling to himself that “I’ve really needed a deal like this, all those great new trade deals I was going to get aren’t going so well.”

But then he realized what had transpired and feared he couldn’t go through with it. He woke up in a cold sweat, screaming “no, Angie, I didn’t really mean it.” Too late. Angela had dissolved into the mist. A ghostly figure appeared and cast a spell sealing the deal.

Next day he phoned Angela. He asked if he could renegotiate. No, she told him. The spirits are in control now.

And so the deed was done. And his country lived happily ever after. As did a certain Ukraine. At least, as happy as Ukraine can hope to be. It was still a mess. But it would raise a toast every year to the Tsar Boris of London, who had bested all the Borises of Moscow.