* * *
“Damn it! The door is stuck.”
“Come on man, put some effort into it!”
“Hey, Franco, If you think you can do better, I’d like to see you try.”
Franco placed his open hand on Joaquin’s chest and gave him a little push. “Stand aside, wuss.”
Joaquin sputtered in indignation, but relented. Franco slammed his shoulder against the door. Once. Twice. On the third attempt Franco fell through the splintered remains of the wooden door. A cool breeze wafted in through the opening. Joaquin breathed in the air deeply.
“Franco! What do you see? Are we there?”
“We have to be, but it’s not what I expected.”
“Is it safe? Can I come through? Are we finally free from the tyranny of El Presidente?”
Franco scoffed from the other side of the doorframe. “You mean Presidente de la Muerte!”
Joaquin looked behind him – a habit engrained by years of oppression. “Silence, fool! Unless we have escaped Mexico, spies could be anywhere.”
“It’d be a shame to make our way this far north only to run afoul a spy.”
“Spies are the least of our worries. We aren’t supposed to be this far north.”
“No! I will not relax. Until we are safe, I’ll continue to see spies everywhere.”
“Well, I’m a free man now. You only need to walk through the door to join me.”
Joaquin stepped through the shattered door and looked around. “Is this Canada?”
“I think so. About four hundred years ago, this was a border checkpoint between the former United States and Canada.”
“Then let’s get out of here.”
The men ran barefoot through the snow until snow became concrete. Suddenly, they fond themselves awash is harsh light.
A single figure stepped forward – an oasis of shadow in the harsh desert of light.
“You two are fools.”
As the figure came closer, the men could make out rank insignia: three gold bars atop green. A captain in the Mexican military police.
“Mi capitán.” Franco and Joaquin replied in unison before stiffening to attention.
“You two are fools,” the captain repeated, “there is no Canada – just as there is no United States. Only Mexico.”
The two men continued to stand at attention.
“The propaganda arm tells our citizens of our friendly neighbors to the north,” his eyes widened, “but this is a lie! North America belongs only to Mexico! You two will be tried and convicted of treason.” He smiled, “The sentence, of course, is death.”
Fraco closed his eyes, Joaquin wept openly.
The captain turned to the men behind him. “Sargento Segundo.”
“Sir!” responded the Sergeant.
“Take these men into custody.” He winked and leaned in. “Make sure their faces aren’t damaged for their trial.”
“Yes, Sir!” Responded the Sergeant before unsheathing his police baton.
The men focused on the silhouette of the Captain retreating into the brilliant light, hoping they would pass out before the sergeant was through with them.