Daniel Kajmakoski walked along the dusty road. It was raining a little, and the white trench coat that he always wore trailed a little on the floor behind him, weighted down with the rain. He wished he'd brought something a little warmer, but there was no time for that now. He had left it for a few days, but now it was time to do what he wanted to do in the first place. Now that the borders were open again, Daniel was leaving Macedonia. He had some unfinished business back in Vienna to attend to. As Vlatko had said back in Skopje, the Macedonian government had decided to reopen the borders, after closing them all for unknown reasons. Daniel had been arrested for trying to cross the closed border, but that was all in the past now. Macedonia had been a confusing place since Dustin had attacked the Eurovision Song Contest. The Macedonian government had issued an apology to everyone who had been affected by the border closings as well as anyone who had been arrested trying to cross the closed borders.
But there were still some borders that he couldn't use. He couldn't use the border with Serbia, because the Macedonian government had ordered a wall to be built along the border after Dustin took over the country. Greece also had a wall, after Silvia Night claimed the country as her own. That really only left two options, Albania and Bulgaria. Bulgaria seemed to be the safest option, since Daniel had heard the rumours. The rumours that the Bulgarian government were planning on signing some sort of agreement with Dustin the Turkey. He didn't know how true it was, after all, Dustin had never agreed to anything like that before, but if it was true, then wouldn't that mean that Dustin wouldn't do anything bad there?
Daniel looked up at the border fence. No one was around, but the gate to Bulgaria was open. He guessed that the Macedonian government didn't have enough people to guard the border, after all, so many people had left Macedonia after Dustin attacked the Eurovision Song Contest. He was about to leave, when he heard footsteps behind him.
"So, you're leaving, aren't you?" a voice called after him. It sounded like more of an accusation than a question. Daniel spun around to find Jana Burčeska standing there.
"Jana?" Daniel couldn't quite believe that she was here.
"Well? You're leaving?" she asked again, "Just like everyone else. I expected better from you, Daniel."
"It's not like that, I swear," Daniel said, "You know I love Macedonia, I wouldn't just leave because of some problems."
Some problems. Of course, he knew that the potential for war with Latvia and now Montenegro wasn't a small matter, and neither were the walls that Macedonia was building around itself. Still, if he didn't have to go, then he would have stayed in Macedonia, no matter what the problem was. But it was true that many people had been leaving Macedonia lately. People had been leaving for one reason. The countries that come last in next year's Eurovision would be destroyed. Everyone knew what happened to Iceland. No one wanted to be next.
"I don't want to go," Daniel continued, "I want to stay here. But I have to go back to Austria, I just have to."
"Why?" Jana said.
Daniel stopped. He hadn't told anyone else why he was heading back, he had met Jana a few times before at musical events in Macedonia, but he wasn't sure if he could fully trust her with something as sensitive as this. Daniel decided not to say anything. Jana seemed offended by his silence.
"No, no reason," Jana said, "You're just leaving. Just like all the others."
"I... I really don't want to," Daniel said, "Leave Macedonia, I mean."
"Yes you do," Jana replied coldly, "Otherwise you wouldn't be doing it."
"It's... it's... I do have a good reason, I just... can't say what it is right now, ok?"
Daniel cursed himself. It felt so pathetic, saying it like that. The truth was, the Austrian president had personally requested that he return to Vienna immediately. They believed there was some way to stop Dustin the Turkey. He had been sworn to secrecy, but if there was indeed a way to stop Dustin, to stop his massacres, to stop this madness, then he would do anything it took to help out. They didn't need him here. They didn't need him for Eurovision 2019. They could get Darko Dimitrov or Grigor Koprov to write next year's song. He didn't need to be working on next year's entry. He wanted to help stop Dustin.
Jana looked annoyed, and Daniel felt a little bad. But he knew that if word about this got out to Dustin, then things could get very bad indeed. He wasn't about to make the situation any worse than it already was. He would just have to accept that she would be annoyed with him for now. If whatever Austria's plan was actually worked, then Daniel knew she wouldn't stay angry with him.
"Well, whatever," Jana said, "Just go on then, go."
Daniel nodded and turned towards the border. There was no use spending time arguing now. He had important work to be doing.
Daniel was now in Bulgaria. That had been easier than he thought. This time no one had even been guarding the border. Maybe they couldn't find the staff.
Daniel looked down at the winding path. He had a long journey ahead of him. Technically he could have just taken a plane to Austria, but he knew better than that. Every country was sending lists of fliers straight to Dustin himself. And he didn't want to be on any of Dustin's lists.
Suddenly, he was interrupted by his phone ringing.
"Hello?" Daniel answered, "Who is this?"
"Hey, it's me." That was Kaliopi's voice. He wasn't quite sure how she had gotten his number, but he guessed that Marija from Eye Cue had given it to her.
"Kaliopi?" Daniel asked, "What's wrong, is everything ok?"
He had heard that Kaliopi had been in Ohrid during the incident with the blue flowers there. It was all over the news, not only in Macedonia, but in America too.
"Oh, not to worry," Kaliopi replied, "I'm at the carnival with Risto, it's been pretty good!"
Daniel felt a little annoyed hearing that. The whole world was in chaos, and yet Kaliopi was at a carnival having fun. Still, he was glad that she was ok after the incident in Ohrid.
"That's great Kaliopi, hope you're having a good time. Look, I've got to go, ok?"
"Ok, have a safe journey!"
It was only a few minutes later when his phone rang again.
"Hey, Kaliopi-" Daniel began, but he was interrupted by a different voice. It was Vlatko Ilievski.
"Kaliopi? Haha, nah. It's me, Vlatko!"
"Oh, hey there Vlatko."
Marija must have given Vlatko his mobile number as well. Daniel reminded himself to call Marija later and ask her not to hand out his number. He didn't mind someone like Vlatko having it, after all, they had met back at Skopje Fest 2014, and he didn't mind Kaliopi having it, but he didn't want someone like Lozano to get it. He had heard a lot of things about how long Lozano spent on the phone.
"Hey," Vlatko said, "Did you get across the border ok? Or are you still in Macedonia?"
Ah. Vlatko had been the one to tell Daniel that the borders were open and so now he was checking that he had gotten through ok. That made sense.
"I'm fine, I'm in Bulgaria already," Daniel said, "Everything's going great, thanks for checking."
"Nice, that's great! Well, I don't know what you're going to do when you get to Austria, but good luck with whatever it is you're doing!"
Daniel had barely taken a few more steps when his phone started ringing again.
"Who is it now?" Daniel muttered to himself. He appreciated that people cared enough to call him, but now really wasn't the time.
"Hey, Daniel, it's me, Jana."
Daniel hadn't expected Jana to be calling him. How she got the number was yet another mystery to him, but he assumed it must have been Marija again. However she got it, Daniel really didn't want to continue her argument with Jana. He thought he had left that behind him when he had left Macedonia. He didn't need another argument with her. Not now.
"Jana, stop it," Daniel sighed, "If you're going to yell at me again for leaving then-"
"No, don't be like that," Jana said, "I know I was angry with you before but..."
She sounded worried.
"What? What is it?"
"Daniel," Jana said, "I don't want to worry you. But... it's Dustin. Dustin is in Bulgaria."
Daniel stopped. He hadn't expected this.
"What?" Daniel said, "What do you mean? Where in Bulgaria is he?"
"Right behind you, Danny boy."
He recognized that voice. He spun around to find himself face to face with Dustin the Turkey. The one who was responsible for the attacks on the Eurovision Song Contest, the one who was responsible for so much killing and destruction. Daniel said nothing. He stayed silent, frozen, rooted to the spot.
"Oh come on," Dustin laughed, "You really have nothing to say?"
Daniel heard Jana's voice yelling on the phone. Dustin ignored it.
"Still nothing?" Dustin laughed again, "A shy one, aren't you?"
Still, Daniel didn't reply. He didn't know what to do.
"You know you came last in the televoting, don't you?" Dustin grinned, "We're alike, you and me. Two of a kind."
"No, I'm nothing like you," Daniel said before he had even really thought about what he was saying. He didn't know where he had found the courage to answer back to Dustin, but as soon as he did it he regretted it. How could he be so careless? He had saw what had happened to Spain, just because one of the Spanish Eurovision entrants had made an offhand remark to Dustin. He didn't want to put Macedonia in danger like that.
"Oh..." Daniel said, "Wait, I didn't mean, I didn't mean... I didn't..."
Dustin just laughed at that.
"Everyone is so scared of me," Dustin smirked, "I love it. It really is fantastic."
Daniel didn't reply to that. He looked over and saw a poster on the wall. It was a poster of all the 2018 Eurovision entrants, but over it hung a Finnish flag. It was a tribute to the Finnish contestant. Dustin saw that he was looking at the poster and looked over at it too.
"The Finnish girl..." Daniel said.
Saara. During the Eurovision final, Saara had attempted to attack Dustin to stop his massacres. But it didn't work. Dustin threw Saara, killing her. It had been broadcast all around the world. She was just one of many people who had been killed by Dustin that day.
"Ah, Saara Alto," Dustin grinned, "Yes. I threw her very far and very fast. Unfortunately the television broadcast didn't capture the best angle, but not to worry, some of the audience members took some very nice footage of it. Would you like to see?"
"No..." Daniel said. Daniel was disgusted by Dustin's reaction. The turkey was clearly enjoying this.
"Well, that's too bad. There's nothing you can do about it, anyway. I can continue to do whatever I want. You and your country can do nothing about it. Maybe Macedonia can build another wall. Brick by brick, wall by wall, you can block out all your other problems," Dustin said, "But you can't block me out."
Daniel didn't say anything to that. He wasn't really sure what to say. Saying the wrong thing to Dustin could have serious consequences. He saw what had happened to Spain. He decided it was better to just stay silent. Nothing he could say could make this situation any better.
"No matter how many walls you build around yourself, no matter how many walls Macedonia puts up, you'll never be able to keep me out," Dustin continued, "If I wanted to, I could be there right now. You can't stop me. But you know that, don't you? That's why you're running away."
Dustin continued his rants to himself as Daniel considered his options carefully. Dustin was very powerful, he couldn't just run away from him, Dustin would surely catch up. Even if he did get away, Dustin could hunt him down if he wanted to, just like how he had been hunting down all of the 2008 Eurovision entrants. He was looking around, desperately trying to find an exit, a way out, when Dustin's voice interrupted his thoughts.
"Now now," Dustin was holding a piece of paper in his hand. Daniel's eyed widened in fear as he realised what that was. That was a message from the Austrian president to him, written in both German and Macedonian. It had been in his pocket, so he wasn't sure how Dustin had gotten it. Right now all he was thinking about was whether or not Dustin understood German or Macedonian.
"I don't know what this says," Dustin said, handing the piece of paper back to Daniel, "Nor do I really care. Now, I must be gone, Danny boy. I have an agreement to sign with the Bulgarians. Finally, my beautiful Ireland has a real ally. Now then, see you around."
And with that, Dustin disappeared in a flash of light. Daniel just stood there for a few minutes, trying to take in what had just happened. Dustin had just let him go?
This was something he had never expected. Daniel hadn't really considered what he would do if he ever actually saw Dustin. He just filed it away as another thing that would never actually happen to him. And now it had. He knew he had been very lucky tonight, but it was starting to make him reconsider his options. It wasn't too late to turn back, was it? It wasn't too late to return to Macedonia, was it? Daniel hadn't travelled too far into Bulgaria, he decided he would go back and see what was happening back in Macedonia.
It was when he approached the border with Macedonia that he saw it. A wall. Macedonia had walled up their border with Bulgaria. Had Bulgaria signed the agreement already? No, that couldn't be it, Dustin had only just left. But it was very clear that the agreement was definitely going to be signed, and in response Macedonia had closed their border with Bulgaria, possibly permanently. Daniel sighed. Macedonia was lucky it was self-sufficient, otherwise these sorts of border closings would cause serious problems in the country. The airports were probably still running, though. In any case, there was no way back now. The only way was forward. Daniel turned around and continued his journey through Bulgaria. He hoped that whatever Austria had would stop this. But for now he would take it one day at a time. First of all, he had to get through Bulgaria.