"Wow, I can't believe they didn't cancel the Eurovision this year," Elitsa smiled, "Even with everything that's happened..."
"Well, why should they?" Stoyan said, "Eurovision's been going for over fifty years and bad things were happening even then, but still the contest continued."
Bulgaria had put in their application to be at this years Eurovision Song Contest, pretty early, shortly after Björkmans actions at Suncane Skale, when it appeared that he had used his robots to save the Montenegrin city of Herceg Novi from a meteor strike. But when people discovered the truth about what had really happened and saw Björkman for the sham he really was, it was too late. Elitsa and Stoyan had already agreed to go to the rogue nation in May, and Björkman wasn't accepting any further withdrawals.
"Bulgaria," Björkman had said to the president of Bulgaria, "If you don't show up to the Eurovision this year, I will punish your country." Fans of the two Eurovision entrants had tried to convince Bulgarian politicians to reprieve them of having to go to Sweden, but the government could not be convinced.
Essentially, Elitsa and Stoyan were now going to be forced to go to the dictatorship state. And the Bulgarian government were only too happy to oblige, prepared to risk the two singers to please the despotic regime. The government of Bulgaria were even trying their hardest to spark an alliance between them and Björkman's Empire, and, with all the mysterious missiles suddenly appearing on empty fields and in abandoned warehouses, it seemed that Bulgaria was preparing for a war with the West. A war in which they would be allied with Björkman's Empire. The ordinary citizens of Bulgaria themselves could only hope and pray that it would never come to that.
Elitsa and Stoyan were sitting there in the green room, awaiting for the results of the national final. They were going to represent Bulgaria in the 2013 Eurovision, and they were letting the voting public choose out of three songs. It wasn't their first experience with the contest. They had represented Bulgaria before in the Eurovision Song Contest back in 2007 in Helsinki. The contest was all so peaceful back then. Not like now. Now it was associated with a dictatorship. And yet Elitsa and Stoyan had agreed to go to the contest in May. Well, they couldn't back out of it now. At first they were a little hesitant, but Bulgaria and Sweden were currently enjoying good relations.
"And the winning song is..." the announcer began, "Kismet!"
"What?!" Stoyan and Elitsa yelled together, "Kismet?!"
Out of the three songs, they had really wanted Samo Shampioni to be the one that got sent to Eurovision, they felt like that was their best and also the one that would have the best chance at qualifying from the semi final in Malmö. They hadn't expected Kismet to be the one chosen.
"Oh, I'm sorry," the announcer sheepishly looked down at the results card, "I meant... the winning song is... Samo Shampioni!"
Elitsa and Stoyan breathed a collective sigh of relief. Well, that was the result they had wanted, after all. Actually, the result they wanted was for the threat of war to go away for good. But you can't have everything you want.
The two of them stepped outside. The sun was shining, birds singing in the trees, and yet, it all seemed false somehow. It was almost too happy, far too happy for the sorry state the world was in. Suddenly, as if fate itself willed it, sirens started blaring all around them. The national final had been a nice escape from the current problems, but now it was time for them to return to the harsh reality of living in a world dominated by the threat of nuclear war. Luckily this time it was only a drill, and the two of them knew it, but they were unsure whether they would be so lucky next time.
"Oh gosh, where's the shelter?!" Elitsa yelled, "I don't remember!"
"Don't worry Elitsa," Stoyan laughed, "It's just a drill! It doesn't matter."
"But what about if it happens for real and I still can't find it?!"
"Nuclear war is a long way off yet, if it ever happens," Stoyan said, "And that is a big if. Now until then, we have to stay calm. Please, calm down. We'll find the shelter easily."
They eventually came to the shelter, a drab, unassuming building, fortified with concrete and steel that was supposedly tough enough to withstand a nuclear explosion from a distance. According to the Bulgarian government it could, anyway. They walked down to the many flights of stairs into the underground bunker. Many Bulgarians were sitting on the chairs inside the shelter, chatting to each other and playing on their mobile phones. Sofi Marinova was sitting on a bench inside. She looked down at a stopwatch she was holding in her hands. She always made fun of Elitsa and Stoyan when they arrived late to the nearby nuclear bunker.
"Late late late," Sofi said, tapping her stopwatch, "If this had been a real nuclear strike, you'd both be dead. Try to be more careful next time."
"Sofi," said Stoyan, "If that had been a real nuclear strike, we'd all be dead. Or do you really believe that this flimsy building would keep out the force of a nuclear bomb? It's just something the government said to keep everyone calm, and rightly so."
"Wait what?!" Elitsa yelled. It seemed she too had bought into the government's lies about the 'state-of-the-art strongest nuclear shelters' that money could buy.
"But," Stoyan continued, trying to calm Elitsa down, "There won't be a nuclear war, not now, not ever-"
"You don't know that Stoyan," said Sofi, "You know Björkman has been stepping up his military exercises ever since his war with Iceland."
"Well it doesn't matter," Stoyan said, "We'll be allied with Björkman soon. The new alliance will protect Bulgaria, even if we don't agree with it ideologially, I guarantee it will keep this country safe."
Soon after, the loud beeping which signified an 'all clear' came from the sirens.
"Well, that's our time here over," Stoyan said, "As much as it's been lovely chatting with you Sofi, we've really got to go."
And so everyone stepped out of the shelter and walked off as Sofi stayed behind. She always did that, waiting behind a little bit after the all clear siren, just in case it was a false alarm. They soon came across Poli Genova.
"What?" Elitsa yelled, "Why the hell weren't you in the shelter Poli! What the hell were you thinking?"
"Pffft, it was only a drill," Poli grinned, "I'll make sure to join you in the bunker if the real thing happens, ok?"
"Apologies," Stoyan said, "Elitsa's been a little... jumpy... today. I guess it's because of the whole thing with the new alliance."
"Jumpy?" Elitsa said, "Poli you should have been in the shelter!
"Gosh Elitsa, don't be such a drama quee. So anyway, I hear you changed your Eurovision song," Poli said, changing the subject.
"Well, you know we wanted Samo Shampioni in the first place," Stoyan smiled, "I'm sure we will have much a better chance at the Eurovision now."
"Ahahaha, no one has a chance at this Eurovision unless Björkman decides it," Elitsa said.
The mention of the Swedish dictator caught Stoyan and Poli by surprise. Björkman's Empire really was the elephant in the room in Bulgaria, constantly thought about, but hardly mentioned.
"Björkman..." Stoyan replied, "I tell ya Elitsa, there's a huge conspiracy behind his rise to power, it's just that no one's admitting it."
"Uh..." Poli didn't know quite what to make of this.
"I'm tellin' ya, some very powerful people are pulling the strings behind this whole Björkman thing," Stoyan replied, "Who makes money from all of this? The weapon companies do... every country has been buying more and more weapons for the future war with Sweden-"
"Stoyan, stop," Elitsa said, "These conspiracy theories of yours aren't exactly helping. And it looks like we'll be going to war with Sweden anyway, rather than against them."
"That's beside the point, Elitsa. Why do you think America didn't take Björkman down when they had the chance? Because there was money to be made in keeping him in power, that's why. And now look where the world is."
"Please Stoyan," Elitsa said, "I'm sorry I mentioned him at all, can we please not talk about it? You're embarrassing us in front of Poli."
"Ok, ok, I understand."
"Thanks Stoyan. It's just, every day I look up to the sky, look around me at the people and places I know and love, and I wonder if it'll all still be here tomorrow. And if it is still here, will it be here the next day?"
"Hahahahaha," Poli laughed, "That's right you guys, stay cheerful."
"She's only being realistic Poli," Stoyan said.
"Riiiight," Poli rolled her eyes, "Little ray of sunshine you two, ya know that? Stay happy now."
And with that Poli walked off laughing.
"Maybe Poli's right," Stoyan said, "Maybe we should be a bit more positive about this whole thing. I mean, nuclear war brings no benefits for anyone, so it's highly unlikely for anyone to start one."
"I suppose, if you think about it like that," Elitsa said, unconvinced.
Over the next few days, the mood had changed in the country. People were getting worried about the silence from the Bulgarian government. People were worried that a deal had been signed secretly between the Bulgarians and the Swedes. And that would surely destabalise the Balkans. Countries that had formerly had good relations with Bulgaria began to turn against them. What had they done? Why had they isolated their tiny country? Would some sort of alliance between the two states really happen?
Elitsa and Stoyan were busy perfecting the finishing touches on their Eurovision song, Samo Shampioni, but they had a television set on in the corner, because they too wanted to know what was happening with Bulgaria and whether the rumoured treaty with Björkman's Empire would really be signed. At that moment the president of Bulgaria came on to the TV screen. It seemed that he had a very important announcement to make. The whole world was listening, hoping that it wouldn't be about an alliance with Sweden. But it was.
"I am pleased to announce that an alliance has been signed, between the Republic of Bulgaria and Björkman's Empire of Sweden," he began, "This new alliance shall lift up the Republic of Bulgaria, and our new friends, Björkman's Empire. Christer Björkman has already signed the alliance, and now, with my signing, it will be complete. I repeat, Sweden is our ally."
Stoyan dropped his drumsticks to the floor. Bulgaria had been pulled deeper into the current problems than anyone could have ever imagined. And this made things a whole lot worse.
"Oh my," he said, "I really hadn't expected that."
"What-" Elitsa began, but was too shocked to say anything more.
The two of them stood there for a few moments in stunned silence.
"Well," Stoyan said, trying to be a little more positive, "Let's look on the bright side, with the new alliance we'll surely be safe at the Eurovision Song Contest! Hey, Björkman may even rig it so that we win, wouldn't that be fantastic, eh?"
"No, it's not fantastic if Bulgaria gets dragged into World War Three," Elitsa said, "Which with Björkman at the buttons will happen one day. We should've stayed neutral so that that couldn't happen..."
"There's no staying neutral in this world," Stoyan replied, "Not anymore. Not with Björkman's Empire around."
Well, that was true. Sweden was once known as a neutral nation, before the regime polarised it. Staying neutral to Björkman was hard for many countries, even Switzerland were finding it hard to stay neutral. It seemed that every country was under pressure to pick a side, and that neutrality these days was seen as a sign of weakness.
"Well, there's no point worrying about it now," Stoyan sighed, picking his drumsticks up from the floor, "I mean, we're just the Bulgarian Eurovision entrants, there's nothing we can do about it."
"I guess you're right Stoyan," Elitsa said, reaching for the remote and turning the television off.
"Who knows," Stoyan said, "It might not even be so bad. After all, we'll be a lot safer at the contest if we're allies of Sweden."
"That's possible too," Elitsa replied. And with that they went back to perfecting their Eurovision song, but Björkman's Empire was still on their mind, as it was with everyone in Bulgaria. Would the alliance be worth it? They would find out soon enough.