This site uses third party services that need your consent. Learn more

Skip to content

The Possessed Man

Diderot, Rousseau, and all the rest-eau.

We at the Jordan Center stand with all the people of Ukraine, Russia, and the rest of the world who oppose the Russian invasion of Ukraine. See our statement here.

Linor Goralik is a writer, poet and artist living between Israel and Russia.


(A play set in certain high-level circles) 

Sergey Sergeyevich, bent almost double, hoists himself up on his tip-toes until the tall heels of his red diamond-studded shoes nearly levitate. He is eavesdropping at the door of the Highest Office. An assault rifle is slung over his back.

Lukyan Lukyanovich (noiselessly emerging from a hidden door and straightening his ruby-spangled armband with an embroidered eagle): How is he?

Sergey Sergeyevich (turns around abruptly, startled): For shame!

Lukyan Lukyanovich: My apologies, I had no intention…

Sergey Sergeyevich: If you really “had no intention,” you’d avoid inflammatory questions!

Lukyan Lukyanovich: Did I…

Sergey Sergeyevich: I bet you have a tiny microphone hidden away somewhere!

Lukyan Lukyanovich (very quietly): Sergey Sergeyevich, my friend, calm down. My question was sincere.

Sergey Sergeyevich (hesitating, then very tentatively): Well, then it makes no sense… He’s perfectly fine, of course…

A terrible blow shakes the door from inside, followed by a second and a third one. Sergey Sergeyevich and Lukyan Lukyanovich are thrown a few steps back from the door.

Sergey Sergeyevich (crossing himself): Lord have mercy and preserve us.

Lukyan Lukyanovich (watching him and repeating hurriedly): Have mercy and preserve us.

Sergey Sergeyevich (irritably): Come on, don’t tell me you’re a believer now.

Lukyan Lukyanovich (humbly): I am a Russian person, after all; whether I believe or not doesn’t matter, it should help either way. I’ve been crossing myself over and over since the day before yesterday, and see! See how Yakov Yakovlevich ended up, whereas I’m still standing.

Sergey Sergeyevich: That has nothing to do with anything, Yakov Yakovlevich has only himself to blame.

Lukyan Lukyanovich (in conciliatory tones): He indulged Yakov Yakovlevich, loved him, allowed him to do this, that, and the other. How could Yakov Yakovlevich have known things would turn out this way?

Sergey Sergeyevich (angrily): If he didn’t know, he was a fool. No matter how you slice it, things would have turned out this way.

Lukyan Lukyanovich (not without admiration): How perspicacious you are, Sergey Sergeyevich.

Sergey Sergeyevich (smirking): Yeah, well, I’m nobody’s foo…

A new blow convulses the door to the Highest Office, followed by silence. Then there is the sound of a shaky voice shouting, as though someone is sobbing and giving hysterical orders at the same time. Another terrible blow, then silence again.

Sergey Sergeyevich: Must be wrestling with strategic problems.

Lukyan Lukyanovich (with obvious relief): Oh, yes, indeed!

Sergey Sergeyevich (narrowing his eyes): Why, what did you think?

Lukyan Lukyanovich (quickly): I thought he was wrestling with tactical problems.

Sergey Sergeyevich turns away, disappointed, and presses his eye to the keyhole again. Suddenly Alexandra Alexandrovna runs in, wearing a bulky diamond pin in her hair. Her assault rifle slaps her on the back as she runs.

Alexandra Alexandrovna: They’re here! Lord have mercy, they’re here!

Lukyan Lukyanovich: Don’t let them in! Barricade the doors!...

Sergey Sergeyevich: You’re an idiot, Lukyan Lukyanovich. That’s the excuse they’re waiting for.

Lukyan Lukyanovich (confused): Why?

Sergey Sergeyevich: To claim that we, too, are wrestling with strategic problems.

Lukyan Lukyanovich’s incomprehension is obvious.

Alexandra Alexandrovna: Sergey Sergeyevich, what should we do? We can’t let the paramedics in, but we can’t not let them in.

Lukyan Lukyanovich (in despair): But why can’t we let them in?

Alexandra Alexandrovna: They’re saying that if we don’t understand the situation, so to speak, then they’d also like to chat with us, so to speak.

The truth suddenly dawns on Lukyan Lukyanovich. He turns sickly pale.

Sergey Sergeyevich (very calmly): And what situation would that be, Alexandra Alexandrovna?

Alexandra Alexandrovna (immediately composing herself): There is no situation.

Sergey Sergeyevich: If there’s no situation, why are you running around in circles?

Alexandra Alexandrovna: Just trying to stay in the physical condition each of us must maintain in order to best serve the good of the Fatherland.

Sergey Sergeyevich (scornfully): Well, try to maintain it to yourself.

Alexandra Alexandrova stops running mid-stride and freezes in place. Suddenly, a shot rings out behind the locked door, followed by automatic gunfire, and, finally, a dry clicking sound — inside the Office, someone has clearly run out of ammunition. Out in the street, a woman screams in anguish; she is soon joined by a crying child, then other noises in a growing din. Alexandra Alexandrovna presses her hand to her mouth; Sergey Sergeyevich stands ramrod straight; Lukyan Lukyanovich, conversely, hunches over and even crouches down.

A male voice from the street (panicking): Is there a doctor? A doctor! A woman’s been shot, right from that window there!

Sergey Sergeyevich takes a small bell from his pocket and rings it. The hidden door opens again, and Nikolay Nikolayevich strides quickly into the room, rubbing his hands. He is a perfect copy of the Possessed Man except for a large emerald ring dangling from his nose.

Nikolay Nikolayevich: Reporting for duty.

Sergey Sergeyevich (pleased): Some balls you have, Nikolay Nikolayevich.

Nikolay Nikolayevich: Thanks, that’s what they’ve got me by.

Sergey Sergeyevich: Nikolay Nikolayevich, you’re our specialist on situations like this.

Nikolay Nikolayevich (craftily): Situations like what?

Sergey Sergeyevich (craftily): Like this.

Nikolay Nikolayevich (craftily): Like what?

Sergey Sergeyevich (craftily): Like this.

Nikolay Nikolayevich (craftily): Like what?

Sergey Sergeyevich (craftily): Like this.

Outside, the shouting grows louder. Ambulance sirens wail.

A child’s voice in the street (weeping): Mommyyyy! Don’t dieeeee!

Nikolay Nikolayevich (as though it’s just dawned on him): Oh, situations like this.

Sergey Sergeyevich: Yes, like this.

Nikolay Nikolayevich walks quickly to the door of the Highest Office, presses his ear to it and listens. Inside, all is silent.

Nikolay Nikolayevich (moving away from the door on tip-toe, using the tip of his tongue to flick the ring dangling from his nose): So that’s how they make attempts on the most important person in the country.

Lukyan Lukyanovich (confused): What attempts?

Sergey Sergeyevich (admiringly): Genius.

Nikolay Nikolayevich (sobbing): See how the enemies of our people, during a historic time for our entire country, are not ashamed to follow such contemptible examples as Fanny Kaplan and Claus von Stauffenberg….

Sergey Sergeyevich (admiringly): A genius, a genius!

Alexandra Alexandrovna (finally figuring it out): What a genius!!

Nikolay Nikolayevich: …See how they tear off their masks and attempt to deprive our Fatherland of the only Leader capable of protecting the people from the enemy’s barbaric efforts to divide and weaken Our Great Nation, ultimately bringing it to its knees!

Lukyan Lukyanovich: Lord have mercy! (crossing himself in the direction of a gigantic icon depicting Vladimir the First-Called)

Nikolay Nikolayevich: If not for the perspicacity, the vigilance, the exceptional bravery…

Sergey Sergeyevich (impatiently): All right, all right, enough, Nikolay Nikolayevich, get on in there!

Nikolay Nikolayevich (self-satisfied): I’m going, I’m going!

Nikolai Nikolayevich removes the emerald ring from his nose, passes it to Lukyan Lukyanovich along with his assault rifle, and shrinks down to about one-eighth his original size. The lower half of Nikolay Nikolayevich detaches from his top half. As tenderly as any mother, Alexandra Alexandrovna picks up the upper half of Nikolay Nikolayevich and places it inside the television, behind the glass. The television turns on. The voices in the street immediately fall silent.

Nikolay Nikolayevich (sternly): Brothers and sisters! A few moments ago, enemies of our state, during this historic time for the entire country, were not ashamed to follow the lowest, basest examples of Fanny Kaplan and Claus von Stauffenberg…

Sergey Sergeyevich creeps up to the Highest Office and puts his ear to the door. Alexandra Alexandrovna and Lukyan Lukyanovich look at him questioningly.

Sergey Sergeyevich (reverentially): He’s watching.

Alexandra Alexandrovna presses a hand to her chest. Lukyan Lukyanovich pants and mops his brow. 

Male voice in the street (hysterically): They wanted to murder our dear father! Murder him!

Female voice in the street (hysterically): That bitch!

Another male voice: Citizens, let the ambulance through!

Female voice: What fucking ambulance? Don’t tell me you’re going to help this bitch!!

Sounds of blows and moaning. Lukyan Lukyanovich points meaningfully toward the ceiling. Using his hands for support, Nikolay Nikolayevich climbs out of the television, picks up his lower half, and assumes his former size.

Nikolay Nikolayevich: Problem solved, thank the Lord.

A sudden, insistent knocking can be heard at the door to the room. A strong smell of carbolic wafts in from outside.

Voice from outside the room (in English): Open up, please!

All freeze in silence.

The same voice (in English): Right now, please!

Alexandra Alexandrovna (whispering): It’s them.

Alexandra Alexandrovna quickly removes the diamond pin from her hairdo, rushes around the stage, and finally hides it in the drawer of a 42-foot-long conference table, pushing it into place with her back.

Lukyan Lukyanovich (tearing off his glittering, eagle-festooned armband with shaky hands): I’ll pay them off! Pay them off!

Nikolay Nikolayevich flicks his nose ring, which has reappeared in the meantime, with the tip of his tongue, and thinks hard about something, crossing his arms over his chest. Meanwhile, Sergey Sergeyevich notices the edge of a note sticking out from under the door to the Highest Office. He runs up on tip-toe and picks it up.

Sergey Sergeyevich: Shhh, you idiots!

Alexandra Alexandrovna and Lukyan Lukyanovich fall silent.

Voice from outside the room (in English): Open the door, or else!

Sergey Sergeyevich (reads the note): “A few moments ago, a band of drug addicts and Neo-Nazis, during this historic time for the entire country, feeling no shame at following the lowest, basest examples of Fanny Kaplan and Claus von Stauffenberg, made an attempt on my life! And where were you, you bastards?!”

Nikolay Nikolayevich turns white, Alexandra Alexandrovna’s décolletage beads with sweat, and Lukyan Lukyanovich breaks out in hysterical laughter. Sergey Sergeyevich slaps him across the face, hard.

Sergey Sergeyevich (continuing): “Take immediate measures, you excremental shits, you dogshit cowards, or I will take them for you.” The end.

Lukyan Lukyanovich and Alexandra Alexandrovna stare at Sergey Sergeyevich in horror, while Nikolay Nikolayevich gazes pensively out the window.

Sergey Sergeyevich: Are we all on the same page?

Lukyan Lukyanovich and Alexandra Alexandrovna continue to stand motionless. Nikolay Nikolayevich removes the emerald ring from his nose, places it on the table next to his assault rifle and shrinks down to one-eighth his original size. The lower half of his body detaches from the upper one.

Sergey Sergeyevich: It’s way too late for that bullshit.

Nikolay Nikolayevich shrugs his tiny shoulders, reunites his two halves, and returns to his earlier size.

Sergey Sergeyevich: This is not the time to think of ourselves — we must think of the people.

Lukyan Lukyanovich and Alexandra Alexandrovna visibly relax.

Sergey Sergeyevich: You know the boss. He’s a strict man. The measures will be serious ones. It is our duty to do everything in our power to, so to speak, lessen the burden of his justified fury on the common people. Not for nothing, but we have been invested with power, and with power comes responsibility.

Nikolay Nikolayevich backs away slowly and quietly hides under the table.

Sergey Sergeyevich: Nikolay Nikolayevich, you big bitch, get over here.

Nikolay Nikolayevich: Oh, I was just looking for my cufflink. Found it! (Rejoins the others)

Sergey Sergeyevich (opening the window): And so, ladies and gentlemen, I’m asking you to fulfill your duty to the people, so to speak. I don’t need to tell you that the faster we do this, the better. Because otherwise the boss could go down a real dark road. He’d be right, of course, too right — those monsters made an attempt on his life, those shitty cucks, that fifth column. And as for us, well, we’ve been chosen by the people…

Lukyan Lukyanovich (beginning to understand, pulling his armband back on): Yes, yes, chosen by the people… We were told to take measures, immediate measures… That’s all this is, immediate measures, plus taking care of the people…

Sergey Sergeyevich: Exactly.

Alexandra Alexandrovna (piteously, beginning to understand): Aaaaaaaa….

Nikolay Nikolayevich (not without envy): You do have some balls, Sergey Sergeyevich.

Sergey Sergeyevich smirks bitterly. Alexandra Alexandrovna glances out the open window, then runs to retrieve her hairpin, freshens up, and returns to her place.

Sergey Sergeyevich (opening the window): Lukyan Lukyanovich, you’re our Minister of Defense, so you get the first word, so to speak.

Lukyan Lukyanovich: Oh, no, Sergey Sergeyevich, you’re the caring one around here, you’re so sensitive, why don’t you go first, you deserve it.

Sergey Sergeyevich: No, you.

Lukyan Lukyanovich: No, you.

Sergey Sergeyevich: No, you.

Lukyan Lukyanovich: No, you.

Sergey Sergeyevich: What the fuck, do you not know how?!

Lukyan Lukyanovich (looking away): I…

Sergey Sergeyevich: Alexandra Alexandrovna, you’re our Minister of Social Services, why don’t you start, come on!

Alexandra Alexandrovna: But I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, my heart, it’s too tender!!

Sergey Sergeyevich: Nikolay Nikolayevich, wouldn’t you like to…

At that moment, the blows of a battering ram begin shaking the exterior door.

Sergey Sergeyevich (hissing): What, you want to end up in their clutches? Is that what you want? Let’s go, you babies, you chickenshits! If we do it, we might scare them off! Weaklings! You two-bit flunkies! Every last one of you…

In the next instant, Nikolay Nikolayevich grabs his rifle and starts firing out the window.

Sergey Sergeyevich (full of respect and admiration): Duuuuuude!

He grabs his own rifle and joins Nikolay Nikolayevich.

Alexandra Alexandrovna (under her breath): I’m doing it for the people, only for the people, for the people alone… Poor, little old me… My poor little heart… (grabs a rifle and joins the firing line).

Lukyan Lukyanovich (under his breath): I’ll do penance for it, I will, I will, I will…

Terrible cries issue from the window, moans, weeping, sounds of chaos and panic.

First female voice from the street: Save us! Save us!!!!

Second female voice: Well, where were you before?

First male voice: I deserve it! I deserve it!

Second male voice: Why me? I voted for him! Right in the stomach! The stomach! Help! Why me??

Third male voice: WHERE IS MY SON? WHERE IS MY SON?

Third female voice: Let the ambulance through! Let the ambulance through!

The battering ram keeps on beating at the door, blow after blow. The door flies off its hinges with a bang. Some two dozen paramedics in white coats and tactical bulletproof vests come crashing in, armed to the teeth. Sergey Sergeyevich, Alexandra Alexandrovna, Nikolay Nikolayevich, and Lukyan Lukyanovich immediately throw down their assault rifles and put up their hands.

Nikolay Nikolayevich (inspired, in English): Thank God you’re here! Oh Lord, that beast made us do such terrible, terrible things! Oh, thank God! Thank God!!!

The paramedics place Nikolay Nikolayevich face-down on the floor. His nose ring clinks against the marble. They tie him up and take him away.

Alexandra Alexandrovna (clutching her chest and sinking heavily to the floor): My heart… my heart… (discreetly removes the pin from her hair and hides it under the rug)

The paramedics place Alexandra Alexandrovna face-down on the floor, tie her up, and take her away.

Lukyan Lukyanovich (suddenly grabbing his rifle off the floor and aiming at the paramedics): I’m going to defend myself! You won’t take me with your bare hands! I could’ve been a soldier if I’d wanted to!

A paramedic (in Russian): Get the fuck down, you dog.

Lukyan Lukyanovich is deflated. The paramedics place him face-down on the floor, tie him up, and take him away. Then they rush over to Sergey Sergeyevich.

Sergey Sergeyevich: Ah-ah-ah! (swings a small object on a chain)

The paramedics freeze.

Sergey Sergeyevich: Let’s start with the fact, my dear sirs, that I did not shoot at anyone.

The paramedics exchange glances.

Sergey Sergeyeich: You can check my rifle, it’s squeaky clean and icy cold. I just stood there going “pew-pew-pew!” I’m not an animal! I’m a humanist. Diderot, Rousseau, and all the rest-eau. In fact, I’m the man you want to thank if you like that a certain red button in a certain bunker hasn’t been pressed all the way to the hilt. I keep throwing him bones: this Slavic tribe, that Slavic tribe, Ukrainian Nazis, Volodymyr. I keep him as busy as I can — he has an inquisitive mind, our mutual friend. Which is why I’m the one with the little key, to the little lock, to the ding-dang armored door. This one right here.

All eyes turn to the door to the Highest Office. Behind it is absolute silence.

Sergey Sergeyevich: Your battering ram won’t do you any good with this door here. Which is why you’re going to have to deal with me. (Swallows the key along with the chain)

A paramedic (in Russian): The fuck for?

Sergey Sergeyevich (confused): Excuse me?

Paramedic (patiently): The fuck for?

Sergey Sergeyevich’s face slowly falls. He sticks out his lower lip in confusion. The true nature of the situation is beginning to dawn on him. The paramedics place Sergey Sergeyevich face-down on the floor, tie him up, and take him away.

The stage is now empty. All is silent inside the Highest Office. Finally, there is the sound of someone slamming their entire body against the door.

Translated by Maya Vinokour

Related articles

Updates Right in Your Inbox

Keep up-to-date on all upcoming events.