The evening of January 21, 1924, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars, was busy dying. He kept sinking into the bog of unconsciousness, filling up his mouth and nose with corrosive muck the color of the Soviet flag. Eventually, he would resurface, but each time he remained under longer and longer, and each time the burning would get more intense.
A squad of his closest comrades, a platoon of doctors, a company of nurses, and a battalion of Latvian guards surrounded his bed in concentric circles.
The comrades read him The Manifesto of the Communist Party, though they could hardly get past “A spectre is haunting Europe—the spectre of communism” because of spasms in their throats, and because their tears turned the pages back into the paper pulp where it came from.
The doctors and nurses injected him, massaged him, fed him pills and tinctures, and measured his temperature.
The guards confessed in dramatic whispers, albeit with a Latvian accent, their willingness to sacrifice their collective life for him. As a bonus, they ground their teeth and clutched their rifles so their knuckles turned the same color as their mortal enemies: the Whites.