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Save the Last Bullet for God

“YOUR CONSCIOUSNESS IS AN ALIEN:

AN ANAMORPHOUS NOVEL ABOUT ORIGINS, ALIENS AND THE TIME

 

J.T. ALBLOOD

 

Copyright J.T. Alblood 2015

Shakespir Edition

 

DNE EHT

 

You, dear reader, are already aware of the events of WWII and you are experiencing the consequences. However, that is not the subject of this book. This book deals with Operation WTA, a secret mission completed in the midst of WWII.

The story is a complex one and includes aliens; mystics; occult societies; the thousands-year-long invasion of aliens into the human genome; retro-chronal causality; and the secret codes within DNA, the number Pi and the Holy book. Ultimately this story will explain the causes and outcome of Operation WTA.

 

 

Table of Contents

13 January 1943

Spring 1933

Spring 1920

Spring 1933, Berlin

1 December 1957

Part 2

2012, Istanbul

TV Talk Show

The Labyrinth

The Exchange

Creating Something Together

Elif

I Can’t Take My Words Back

Part 3

Limbo

Winter 1214

Cuci

West

The West of the East

Gurgenc

The Far West

Limbo

Subconscious

Limbo

Overconscious

Limbo

Francisco Pizarro

1941, Princeton

Relativity

Wilhelm Reich

Limbo

Limbo

Berlin 1933

 

 

YTILASUAC

 

RETROCAUSALITY

 

13 January 1943, Munich

Maria Orsic

 

 

Autumn 1938, Berlin

Wilhelm Reich

 

The SS officer squinted through the burnt scar tissue on his face as he finished memorizing the Sanskrit codes. He nodded and stood at attention.

Himmler watched me through the smoke of his cigarette as I leaned over the Sanskrit text to scrutinize the code before approving it. When I looked up, satisfied, Himmler placed his lit cigarette in the ashtray, stood up and, in a single motion, yanked his gun from its holster and pointed it at the officer.

“Mr. Reinhardt,” Himmler barked. “You know your duty! You will keep the localization signal on until the spaceship arrives,” he commanded.

The gunshot rang off the metal walls as blood spattered on the file and the SS officer collapsed to the floor.

Leaving his gun on the table, Himmler took his cigarette from the ashtray and drew on it. He exhaled casually and turned to me. “Mr. Reich, your spaceship now has an active navigation system.”

I took my eyes off of Reinhardt, whose body gave a few more involuntary twitches as he breathed his last. I looked at Himmler.

“What about the camouflage?” I said flatly.

“You will have more than you want. A year from now, when we set the world on fire, even God will not know what to do.” Himmler smirked and drew on his cigarette once more. “The Führer’s orders are clear: ‘Take over the spacecraft. Send one person to Hell to provide the coordinates to the spacecraft.’” Himmler smirked as he said the second part and as poked the dead Officer with his foot. “‘Then begin the blitzkrieg and kill God by having the assassin…’”—Himmler turned his gaze to me now—“‘…enter Hell through the back gate.’”

 

I looked at the blood soaked file in my hand and saw some of the Sanskrit letters begin to change shape.

 

 

1935, Orient Express, Near the Bulgarian border

Wilhelm Reich/ Clairvoyant Vanga

There were only two of us in the train compartment moving through the dark night.

I buried myself in J.R. Koldeway’s archeological excavation drafts, sifting through the pictures of clay tablets and the pile of papers with notes in different handwriting. Hellen rested her head on the window slowly flipping through a style magazine without reading it.

Hellen moved her head away from the window, and pushed my paper down gently. “Is he coming with us?” she asked.

“Where”, I asked.

Hellen whispered, “To that blind mystic’s village.”

“Of course…”

Otto Reinhardt came into the compartment with three glasses and a crystal whiskey decanter.

I took the glass from the Nazi Officer taking note of the burns on his face. “Maybe the right question is ‘What the hell are we doing in this mountain village in the middle of the night?’” I said before downing my drink in one swallow.

We still had another several days before we reached Mesopotamia.

 

 

1934, Oslo

Wilhelm Reich

To the murderer of my son,

Mr. Reich:

During our dig, we discovered a 5000 year-old sepulcher. One of the clay tablets contains a Sumerian cuneiform message from Maria Orsic to you. The text is near indecipherable, but we have made out the phrases “captured” and “need your help”. Find me as soon as you can.

Robert Johann Koldewey

 

P.S.Concerning the two questions that have come to your mind, the answers are ‘no’ and ‘yes’.

No, this is not a trap.

Yes, I am planning to kill you.

 

It was surprising to find such a letter on my desk on my first day of work at Oslo University—even more surprising since R. J. Koldewey had died in 1925.

 

BOOK 1

THE ALPHA TAURI STRAIN

 

Spring 1933, Berlin

Wilhelm Reich

 

It’s the wrong time to be in Berlin if you’re a communist, a hardliner, or a contrarian.

My school days in Vienna and my medical education were far behind me. I was now in the capital city, enjoying the harvest of my psychiatric career with the support of my mentor, Dr. Sigmund Freud.

I had plenty of respect, fame, money, and women.

It’s not easy in one’s career to get to this point, but my occupation was never easy. Psychiatry is the interpretation of data obtained by the rational and systematic application of information to humans, and the art of making decisions on this basis. Psychiatrists spend every minute making decisions and putting their choices into practice. At other times, we put them into categories, such as right or wrong, useful or harmful. All of this is assisted by memories. An algorithmic mistake at any of these stages has the potential to create a problem that might be unsolvable. We psychiatrists are merely the ones who help solve the problem before, or after, it emerges. In all of this we must take the conditions of our patients into account.

At the moment, I’m in the session room in my clinic. The window is on my left and I’m facing the wall. The door is directly opposite and the patient couch is to my back as I wait for the session to begin.

With a squeak, the door opens slightly, and the sequence of decisions begins, along with all of the implications they entail.

The door opened. a) It is a fellow employee b) It is a patient

If the answer is (b): The gender of the person is

a) Woman

b) Man

c) None of the above

If the answer is (a): What kind of woman?

a) Very young

b) Young

c) Middle-aged

d) Other

If the answer is (b): Her features are

a) Average and not attractive

b) Average and moderately attractive

c) Beautiful but not attractive

d) Beautiful and attractive

e) Nondescript

If the answer is (d): Why don’t you sleep with her right away?

a) Because she is my patient

b) She is married

c) I have too much to lose due to my status

d) She talks too much

e) If it turns out badly, I have to suffer the torture of further sessions

The answer is (d).

The patient who enters the room is Mrs. Hellen Schumann. She has sessions every two weeks and for months, I’ve had to make the same decisions and rethink them every time she comes to my office.

On this day, I took a good look at her fashionable, bobbed, jet-black hair, prominent blue eyes, tiny nose, full lips (always dark red), and her face, and how it combined harmoniously with her porcelain white skin. Her dress hugged her slim waist revealing her womanly curves and a pleasant scent of bergamot wafted through the room.

“Berlin is increasingly becoming an interesting place,” she said. “I saw more than a hundred Buddhist monks wandering the streets. Can you believe it? ”

Without expecting an answer, Hellen put her fur wrap on the armchair with gentle movements. Taking a white silk handkerchief out of her bag, she laid it on the pillow with grace, then sat on the edge of the leather couch before laying down.

She’d been coming to the sessions from Munich every other Thursday at 3 or 4 p.m. As a well-educated, young woman from a wealthy family, she was married to the head of the Technical University of Munich, Winfried Otto Schumann, an intelligent, promising, middle-aged scientist. Hellen’s only problem, she said, was the shallow minds of those around her, people of different ages and disciplines, and the disturbances she caused by candidly saying everything she thought about them. She did this without thinking.

I thought her treatment was very easy. At any point I could have told her: “Just talk less, and, if you manage to talk one-third of the time that your conversation partner talks, you can get rid of all your problems.” But a quick, easy treatment would weaken my reputation as a doctor. Besides, I had financial concerns. To be honest, she was a nice woman, too.

She would come into town on the morning before each session and stay the night at the house of her cousin. She had a difficult relationship with her cousin due to her cousin’s crisis with jealousy.

How did I know this?

“I feel stressed when I even think about going to the house of that fat, hung-up idiot and staying there. I’ve been stressed about it all day. Please don’t misunderstand, it’s nice to see you and benefit from your treatment, but it’s not something I can endure. Don’t you agree? I can’t turn my life into a nightmare of always trying to compensate for my idiot relatives. . .”

Now you know how I knew, and you have an idea of how much she talked. If you can imagine this repeated in every session and covering the same topics, you can understand my distress, at least a bit.

Hellen respected her husband. She found him very intelligent, but his tendency to have sexual encounters with the young assistants at his institute was a slight problem. Another problem was that he didn’t come from an aristocratic family, so he didn’t know the important social rules.

“Actually, I love my husband. Maybe I didn’t when we got married, but over time, I came to. He’s at the head of a very important department, and he has a prestigious job. I sometimes want to make him tell me more about his job, but I just lose interest at some point. Really, it might not be so difficult. My husband might just be unable to describe it well. You might say that he’s an academician. You’re right, maybe I can’t devote myself to him. He educates many students, and he has young, elite students. I mean, they’re above a specific level. I’m young too, and elite as well, but the problem might not be this. I might be too young to understand what he’s been working on. Somehow, he finds young female assistants there but they probably don’t understand his job either. They might only be successful at pretending to understand so that they’re able to charm my husband.”

“We might have arrived at different shores of understanding due to a different education and different starting points. I grew up in an aristocratic family, and I spent my childhood learning all the rules that are a compulsory part of that status. I learned to apply them and care for them. My husband, though, grew up in a simple peasant family. He might have tended toward mathematics, because, with their simple rules, he had plenty of time…”

The sequence, topics, and even the specific content were the same, thus, I could get back to my usual work: reviewing my next article and revising it. Occasionally, I would add, “Hmmm, yes, possible,” and move slightly in my chair.

So I buried myself in my research as Hellen moved onto her mother-in-law’s vulgarity, the diminishing quality of her social environment, and fortune tellers.

“My mother-in-law is actually…”

“Hmmm,” I said, moving in my chair a little bit.

“…social environment…”

“Yes,” I nodded my head.

“Vril means ‘I love God’ in Sumerian.”

“Hmmm?” I surprised myself by asking. I looked up from my article and listened more closely.

“Sumerian,” she continued, “The language that the Vril community uses to get in touch with the aliens is Sumerian. The background of the German language is also Sumerian; it’s actually easy to understand. I’m interested in fortune telling and supernatural activities. I’ve attended almost all their meetings and participated in their activities. Of course, like some others, I disagreed at first with dear Winfried about this issue. His strict mathematical doctrines and his manly and peasant intelligence prevent him from flexible thinking, so I can’t blame him for it. When his strict attitude began to constrain me in my activities, I naturally wanted to get rid of him and prove to him how right it was what I’ve been doing. During the Vril sessions, I asked for some piece of technology or other example as proof for my husband from the Arian scientists on Alpha Tauri. I was given a lot of pages with many convoluted mathematical formulas and incomprehensible texts and explanations. I studied them a lot, but I didn’t understand what they were and, in my despair, tentatively gave them to my husband. He threw them on the floor when he learned where they came from. I collected the scattered papers from the floor, wanting him to look through them, at least. As far as I understand, resonance vacillates at seven different frequencies between a layer around the Earth called the ionosphere and the Earth’s surface. It is something like the Earth’s heartbeat. He asked me a lot of questions. I couldn’t answer them as I didn’t know, but finally he’s gained some respect for the Vril community…”

Hellen was talking too much again, but she had my interest. “What is the Vril community?” I asked.

“You would like them, Doctor. The Vril girls are so beautiful. They purposely don’t cut their hair because they make ponytails with their hair that go past their waists. They actually use their ponytails to communicate with aliens. When the government learned about their relationship with the aliens and their superior technology, Adolf Hitler appointed Heinrich Himmler, whom he trusts the most, to inspect this community. Himmler took their headquarters to Berlin and organized a lot of scientists, like my husband, to work with them. It is such a secret that my Winfried doesn’t even tell me anything. I have been harmed the most by this, actually. Before, I used to attend the community’s activities twice or three times a week. Now, I can only attend them when I visit you. This might be the main reason for my depression. What do you think, Doctor?”

“It’s possible…,” I confirmed, a little bit late. Hellen was beginning to ramble on and I was beginning to bury my head in my work again.

“The pure race of Arians is in touch with the Earth from a planet in a faraway galaxy, and they talk to us via Maria Orsic.”

At that, I jolted upright. “Maria Orsic? Did you just say Maria Orsic?” This was the first time I’d asked my beautiful patient a question I cared to know the answer to.

“Yes, yes, Doctor. Maria Orsic is the head of the Vril community, and we owe her a lot.”

“With long blonde hair?”

“Yes. How did you know? I must confess she’s more beautiful than any other woman I’ve seen up to now. Her every move is graceful. I think she came to Munich from Vienna long ago and, before that, from somewhere in the Balkans.”

“Croatia?” I asked, my heart now pounding.

“I’m not sure,” Hellen responded. “Might be Croatia. As you know, it’s a very complicated territory, and its map is always changing.”

“Is she in Berlin now—I mean, with the Vril community?”

“Yes, don’t you read the papers? They always appear on the agenda; they’ve increased their prestige by making their young, beautiful girls get married to military officers. Are you sure you live here, Doctor?”

“Well, I have a busy and challenging profession,” I muttered as memories attacked my mind. Was she as beautiful as before? Would she remember me? Could I see her again?

“Oh, the session is over,” said Hellen. “Time passes so quickly and smoothly with you, Dr. Reich.” She stood up slowly and stretched her lower back slightly, enough to push her heavy breasts against the top two buttons of her blouse.

She was leaving and I had to do something.

“Actually, I really enjoy spending time with patients like you,” I lied desperately.

Hellen turned to look at me.

“I’m even doing a study about whether the treatment process can be supported by seeing patients outside of the clinic,” I continued.

Hellen’s prominent blue eyes looked me over as if they saw me for the first time, and a little smile greeted me.

“I’m open to any kind of offer that prevents me from going to my cousin, especially if you’re a part of it, Doctor.” Her tone had changed, and she sounded distracted. “What do you have in mind?”

“Dinner?”

“When?”

 

. . .

We met at sunset, far away from the chaos of the city, in a spacious restaurant with high ceilings and tables adorned with purple orchids, all faintly lit by the playful flicker of candlelight.

The river was visible through ceiling-high windows set between brocade-covered columns. I thought that it was an unnecessarily romantic atmosphere. But Hellen seemed pleased.

“Dr. Reich, an excellent choice. You must be experienced in charming your patients outside of the clinic.” She shaped the words without taking her eyes off of me. Her big blue eyes were enhanced by the dark blue and green sheen of her dress.

“Coincidence,” I explained. “This is the first time I’ve come, and, well…just a coincidence.” I was playing shy for reasons I didn’t understand myself.

Hellen took a drink of her wine. It was red as rubies and it accentuated the dark red of her lips. “I may be young,” she said, “but I know when to believe in coincidences.” She smiled.

I played with my napkin and turned the glass in my hand before taking a gulp of cognac.

“You’re very different than other men. You’re a person who listens to others without getting bored.”

I thought back to my office and how often I retreated to my articles during my patients’ long, senseless talks.

“Of course, what makes you interesting…no…attractive,” she corrected herself. “What makes you attractive is not only this characteristic of yours. A man must behave consistently well, but he also must take care of his woman. He must protect her and respect her thoughts. That’s what I look for in a partner, but I haven’t found it.”

She studied me and I met her eyes.

“Okay, sexuality is important at some point,” she said, “and one must have it, but to have it with someone who respects you is well…more…”

“Mrs. Schumann,” I interrupted. “It’s so nice that you have the same relaxed attitude you have in our therapy sessions, but isn’t this your main problem, being too relaxed while talking to others? As you know, being so honest out in society can leave you defenseless.”

“See? You’ve just supported my point.” Hellen said, lighting up. “You’re being protective, being so careful not to hurt me, listening to whatever I say attentively and thinking about it. This is what makes you attractive.”

It was clear Hellen understood only what she wanted to understand. I tried to test her awareness by disturbing her a bit.

“Are you that explicit when you’re intimate with your husband?”

She paused and took a deep breath. “It’s like always, I mean, of course I go on talking to express myself. Is that strange? I always think that when two people are that close to each other, what’s talked about is more enjoyable.”

“How do you think your husband reacts?”

“He doesn’t participate much. He just focuses on the activity.”

“But you can still be together?”

“I’m sorry. What do you mean?”

“I mean, do you have a happy and satisfying sex life?”

“He is the first and only man in my life. What can I compare him to? Doesn’t everybody experience something similar in sexual intercourse?”

I tried to change the topic.

“The food is very delicious, isn’t it? And the service is really good. We must come here more often,” I said.

“Of course,” she said, now distracted. “Whenever you want.”

I wondered whether we were flirting, and if she was already emotionally invested in us being together. I hoped to avoid such entanglements. I decided to get to my real reason for the dinner

“Maria Orsic,” I started.

“Sorry?” Hellen asked, stopping in the middle of drinking her wine.

“The Vril community…you mentioned…” I said, recovering. I had started poorly.

“Yes, of course,” Hellen confirmed.

“When did you see them last?” I asked.

“Two weeks ago, just as I told you. I always visit them when I come here.”

She was clearly surprised by the sudden change of topic, but she continued “If you hadn’t given me this dinner invitation, I’d be with them now. Maybe it’s fate.”

“I don’t believe in fate or coincidences. I think everything results from conscious decisions.” I was being too harsh. I treaded carefully. “Of course, coincidences also have a part in the development of surprising events…”

Hellen winked and gave me a big smile.

“You can say anything that comes into your mind, Dr. Reich.”

“Can you tell me about them?”

Hellen blushed now and looked pleased.

“Your superior talent in charming a woman really amazes me. You’re making an effort to learn about something I’m interested in just to get to know me.”

“So?” I pressed, hoping she would tell me more.

“It’s enough that you’ve thought about it,” she continued, “but if you’re not interested in such things, I don’t want to torture you. We can do more pleasant things together.” Her slender, delicate fingers touched my hand.

“No, really, I am interested.”

“Wow. You don’t belong to this world. You are really showing interest in me and doing it so naturally.”

Her coyness was tying me up in knots and she knew it.

“If you are really interested, Dr. Reich,” she said, “I will be attending a meeting two weeks from now. Perhaps it might be useful for your research. Of course, you may need to cancel your appointments.”

“I can do that,” I said.

“Really?” she asked. “I’m excited now. I have a lot of things I’m going to tell you.”

She grabbed my hand tightly, smiling.

I thought to ask more but I kept quiet so as not to give myself away.

On the river, the road lights reflected off the water as a small ferry disappeared into the distance. The scent of the purple orchids wafted in the light breeze and pleasant shadows cast by the candlelight flickered over the face of the nice woman in front of me. But my only thought was of Maria.

 

Spring 1920, Vienna

Wilhelm Reich / Maria Orsic

 

Ribot’s Law says that the most recent memory you have is the first thing you will forget. Therefore, the last thing I will forget about Maria Orsic is the first time I saw her.

The Great War was over and our army was defeated. My young soul had been mangled, and I felt the angst and hopelessness of defeat.

I aimlessly wandered over Vienna, trying to adapt to life again, engaging in only the most basic social relations with the people around me. I turned inward and breathed in the depressed ethos of my defeated and shattered country. It wasn’t until the age of twenty-three that I finally pulled myself together and started medical school.

To finance my education, I began working nights as a nurse in a mental hospital. The hospital management, crushed under the patient load and the lack of qualified male personnel after the war, accepted me easily. After that, all my time and energy was consumed by the intensive coursework during the day and the shifts in the overcrowded hospital at night.

One night, I was doing my late-night room checks in the women’s ward of the hospital. The nurse had told me it was a calm night, so I was relaxed in my procedure. After a quick check, I planned to study a bit and get a good night’s sleep before class the next morning.

When I entered Room 17, the pale light of the ceiling lamp made long, dark shadows across the room. All the beds were full, and an unforgettably pungent smell emanated from the collection of restlessly sleeping bodies.

As I headed deeper into the room, I saw a young woman with blonde hair down to her waist sitting upright on the edge of her bed looking out of the window. The rain outside slid in drops over the window, and far away trees swayed in the wind, throwing more shadows about the room. The blonde woman sat gazing at the dark sky beyond the trees. As I approached, I felt a warm glow inside of me and, when she turned to me, my heart gave a slight spasm. I saw her face, drawn as if by a fine pencil, and, at the center, two deep blue eyes. For a long time, I stood there, stunned, keeping my gaze steady, hoping not to spoil the moment.

I had never seen her before, but it was as if I had always known her.

The young girl had no response to my stare and she returned her gaze to the upper corner of the window, and beyond to the dark sky. I decided to stop standing there like a fool and again become a member of the hospital staff.

“You need to sleep now,” I managed to say. “Come on, lie down and fall asleep, you can look out of the window as much as you want in the morning.”

The young girl didn’t change her position. It was as if she hadn’t heard me.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

Silence.

I took a step and stood between the window and her gaze.

“Your na –” I couldn’t even finish my question.

“Maria,” she said with a slight foreign accent and a voice with such a heavenly timbre that I labored to breathe normally and struggled to speak.

“Maria?”

“Maria Orsic . . . I’m from Zagreb.”

“What are you doing here?”

“My father is a soldier; he brought me to Vienna after the war. The doctors and hospitals here were said to be good.” She was speaking in halting phrases, choosing her words from a language she didn’t yet command.

“How long have you been here?” I was using all the advantages of my position and for a moment, I questioned my motives.

“Three days and one night,” she said.

I was so confused that I took some time to remember my question and comprehend her answer.

“Okay, let it be three days and two nights and try to sleep,” I said.

I reached out and gently pressed her soft shoulders down towards the bed letting my hands linger on her fragile shoulders longer than was necessary. It was hard to let go.

She wasn’t sleeping when I left her, and as I went out of the dark room into the dim corridor, I hoped she was looking at me. As I walked along rapidly, I felt an indescribable excitement as thoughts raced through my mind.

 

For the next day, I wandered around elated. It was impossible to focus. I began putting off all my other duties so I could go to the hospital early. I invented jobs for myself and just wandered around wasting time. I lived in my own dream and formed a new habit of talking to myself, even in the middle of crowds.

I did my best to keep myself away from the women’s ward and tried to have some conversations with a few staff members, but it didn’t work. Time didn’t seem to pass, and I couldn’t think about anything but going back to Room 17. To distract myself, I entered Room 16 and paced across the floor, putting my hands in and out of my pockets, walking fast at first, and then more slowly. The room was empty except for an old woman with messy hair who was engaged in talking to her fingers. Another elderly woman full of wrinkles stared at the ceiling, and another patient sat following my movements. I approached the patient who was staring at me, and I tried to ask a few questions, but her answers were indecipherable.

I went and stood by the window and watched the sun go down over the garden while I traced my fingers in the dust on the window ledge. No longer willing to wait, I turned back and left the room as if I had important things to do. I opened the door to Room 17 without any hesitation and went inside, trying my best not to look at the bed by the window. I instead approached the beds that were closer to the door, like a child saving his dessert for last. Lingering as long as I could, I finally came to her bed, but I saw that it was empty. I rapidly scanned the room around me. She wasn’t there. Her bed was well made and looked like it hadn’t been used for a long while. In fact, there was no trace of her at all. I panicked at the idea that she had been discharged, and thinking the worst, I headed to the door in desperation, fearful of the imminent emptiness of my life.

Hurrying out of the room, I collided with Maria and all of the breath inside me drained out. My heartbeat echoed through my dizziness. She was okay and much more composed than I.The collision brought us inches apart, and I noticed the simplicity of her perfect face: her pert nose, full lips, and her dancing blue eyes. I felt as if I was falling through space.

I stumbled back half a step, and in my clumsiness, blocked the door. Our eyes locked for a long moment, and then she made her way around me, stepping aside with her eyes on the floor. Although I didn’t want to go, I was unable to do anything but leave. The door closed and I went away, carrying her pleasant scent with me.

I desperately wanted to go back in to see her, but I forced myself to go to the garden for some fresh air. As I sat in the darkness on the bench near the edge of the road, I thought about those disgusting relationships between doctors and their patients and made myself remember that I wasn’t even a doctor. As I ruminated, I dug angrily at the ground with the toes of my shoes until the smell of tobacco shook me out of my reverie.

 

“Are you okay?” a voice said.

I immediately recognized the voice, but all I could see was a single bright ember moving toward me in the darkness. It was Eldwin Meyer, a skinny decrepit caregiver still allowed to work despite his old age. It was said that the hospital had been built around him. The old caregiver had thin white hair and pale blue eyes that gave him a furtive but intelligent look. There was talk of Eldwin sampling the patients’ medicine, but he ignored the gossip and never shirked his duties.

“How are you doing, Eldwin?” I asked.

“Fine, but you look depressed, young man.”

“No…,” I said weakly before Eldwin sat down next to me. “Just fatigue.”

“If you’re tired, then we should all die.” He scoffed before flicking his cigarette into the grass.

I had no response.

Eldwin watched me for a moment and then he smirked.

“Have you seen the Croatian girl?” he asked.

“Which one?” I asked, playing as dumb as I could.

“Come on, if I notice her at this age, you surely know about her. The quiet girl in Room 17.”

“Oh . . . ,” I lied, “I guess I saw her last night. . . . Who is her doctor?”

“Dr. Hubert.”

“Egbert Hubert?” A stupid question. There was only one Dr. Hubert.

“She’s been here for two or three days, but he’s already had two sessions with her while other patients are unable to get one session with him in a month. Her father is an important figure, I suppose. It must be the reason for all the care and interest.”

My ears reddened and my stomach ached, but I went on acting naturally and pretending not to care. “She seems young and healthy. What does she have that made her come here?” I asked.

“Apparently, she’s here after a few unsuccessful attempts at treatment,” the old caregiver murmured.

I nodded and could feel Eldwin watching me. I finally met his eyes.

“Her file is in Dr. Huber’s office,” he offered.

I tried not to reveal my surprise at his suggestion, but he had my interest.

“Oh, have you seen it?” I asked tentatively.

“No, but I have the key to every room and I’m sure it’s there.”

“Why are you telling me this,” I asked, my guilt turning to annoyance.

“You seem interested in her condition. Maybe you could skim over the file tonight . . . and . . . and . . . ,” he said suddenly looking down at my pocket.

I realized I had one of the yellow pills in my pocket. I fingered it for a moment before pulling it out to show him. He closed my hand and looked away from me.

“I blame your youth for your indiscretion.”

“Well . . . I didn’t mean. I thought you were asking me….”

“So you also believe in the hospital rumors and are trying to benefit from them.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, suddenly very confused.

“I have a little granddaughter,” he explained, “and my daughter and her husband died during the war. She’s a seven-year-old girl, and I have to look after her because she has no one but me. You think about all that responsibility and obligation. Is it possible for me to use drugs?” His voice grew severe.

“I really didn’t know . . . and I . . . I never meant it . . .,” I mumbled in shame.

“I take those pills, yes, I do, but I take them to sell so that I can look after a poor orphan. Do you understand?”

“Yes…I’m sorry….”

Eldwin stood up, took a last look at me, and walked away, leaving me alone with my shame. As he disappeared into the darkness, he stopped and I heard his voice, “Be here tomorrow at 11 p.m. You can only check the file for 10 minutes.”

 

I spent the time before my meeting with Eldwin absorbed in my work and carefully staying away from the women’s ward. When the time got closer, I paced the halls aimlessly with my pencil and notebook counting the seconds until it was time to go outside. The old man arrived at the bench late. He sat a little distance away and slid me the file.

When I realized that an open snuffbox lay between us, I clumsily placed the yellow pill inside.

“And another tomorrow,” Eldwin said as he closed the snuffbox and moved it to his pocket.

I nodded absently as I quickly opened the file and began to read.

Maria Orsic

When I read her name, I felt a pleasurable ache in my stomach.

October 10, 1895, Zagreb

She was two years older than me. I was surprised.

 

Mother is German, from Vienna. Father is Croatian. First symptoms of antisocial behavior and blunted affect at the age of 15, a sudden decline in school performance, indefinite leave from school. First reported delusions at the age of 17 along with persistent attempts to persuade others of their veracity. Displays of aggressive behavior in conjunction with the delusions, accompanied by periods of moodiness. Delusions of supernatural creatures and extra-terrestrial communities. Patient talks of having contact and exchanges of information with these imagined entities.

 

I tried to read faster as the old man moved to take the file and leave. As the file was taken from my hands, I glimpsed the last line.

Likely diagnosis: severe paranoid schizophrenia.

The old man left, and I remained, stunned and alone.

In denial and in love, I grasped for strands of hope. I was sure that those details were all wrong. I knew it. With all the negatives I’d just read, how could I have been that hopeful and happy? I must also have been delusional. But, regardless, I wanted to prove it all wrong, to be the prince on a white horse saving the princess from the fortress.

That night, I turned over and over in bed, trying to sleep. I had to talk to Maria.

The next day, even though I couldn’t eat, I stepped into the bakery and bought a small cream cake and a small bar of chocolate. I stopped at the flower shop nearby and picked up a small bunch of wildflowers. As I went skipping into the hospital, I couldn’t make up my mind on how to carry the flowers or where to put them.

I carefully placed my purchases in the cabinet of the nurses’ room and put on my hospital uniform. After standing in front of the mirror and parting and re-parting my hair several times, I gave up and left the office.

When I saw Eldwin, I quietly approached him and politely put my payment of one pill in his pocket. Not looking back, I strode down the hallway, intent on finishing my rounds as quickly as possible.

 

At long last, the tranquility of night fell upon the hospital. I did my best to suppress a little smile as I set off for the women’s ward with the cream cake in my hand, the chocolate in my pocket, and the flowers cleverly stowed under my coat. I had a short conversation with the nurses at the desk and presented them with the cream cake, saying, “I felt like sharing this with you.” Then, I detoured into Room 16 and wandered around killing time. I tried to amuse myself by rehearsing what I would say. When I thought it was late enough, I left the room.

Trying to remain calm and controlled, I opened the door of Room 17. My heart lurched in my chest as my eyes scanned around uselessly until they grew accustomed to the dark. I felt a deep sense of relief when I saw the bed by the window. Maria was there, awake, and looking outside again. It seemed there was no one else in the room. I headed directly toward her. She turned her face to me, and out of the darkness, I saw a little smile.

“Well . . . Hi, how are you?” I said.

“I’m fine. It has been four nights and two days, you know?”

I set two coffee cups on the table next to the bed, and I took the vase and flowers from under my coat and handed them to her, smiling. Her elegant hands took the flowers out of the paper and put them inside the vase with slow, but deliberate, movements.

I sat and Maria and I stared at the darkened sky beyond the barred window catching glimpses of small stars beyond the trees. We sat in silence sipping warm coffee and pulling pieces of chocolate from the creased foil between us. The only disturbance that night was the delirious muttering of the old woman in the next bed sleeping with her eyes open.The whole experience seemed forbidden, as if, at any moment, the spell might be broken. I could barely look at the beautiful girl next to me. I just remained still and savored the sound of her breathing.

“Can you tell me something?” I asked in a low voice.

“What?” she answered quietly after a long silence.

“Is it true that those from the outer world talk to you?”

“I . . . I’m scared, and . . . how can I say . . . whomever I try to tell, even my closest friends and family, cast me away. They don’t believe me; they even get angry with me. It is all my imagination, they say. I want to hold on to life and live on without telling anyone anything. If it’s possible . . . yes, if it’s possible, I don’t want to see these delusions anymore. You never know how bad it makes you feel when the person right next to you doesn’t see or hear the same things as you.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I’m tired of wondering whether I’m the only one who hears a sound. How can you describe the smells, colors, and sounds in your head? How can you explain this to someone else? I look at the moon and I say, ‘It’s there,’ but I don’t believe in it until I ask you and you confirm ‘Yes, the moon is really there.’ And if you say ‘I don’t see it,’ I must reluctantly accept that what I see as the moon is not there. Does everything exist because we perceive it? If so, then it does not exist if we don’t perceive it.”

“I never thought about it like that.”

“Are there people who think like that?” Her face turned to mine.

“I think so . . .,” I said, trying to encourage her. “I read a few articles about quantum physics but it’s not a subject that I have a solid grasp of. I would need to do research to talk about it with any confidence.”

“Think. If the world and everything else exists just because we perceive them . . .”

“Then by the same logic, what you see and what other people call a delusion must exist,” I suggested.

“Yes, I was trying to say the same thing. What I perceive exists, and the only difference in my reality is that you do not include it within your reality.”

She was now excited and speaking quickly.

“And I exist because you see me, and you exist because I perceive you . . .” I said, smiling and hoping to move the conversation to us.

“Four days and three nights,” she said.

“What?” I asked, confused.

“I’m tired, and I want to sleep.”

“Oh, yes, of course . . . sorry.” I was disappointed, but I helped her to lie down.

“Thank you for the flowers and everything else,” she said before closing her eyes.

I covered her and collected the foil that had fallen to the floor. I lightly caressed her hair, hoping she would open her eyes, but she was fast asleep.

 

. . .

 

In the morning, I skipped class again, and spent the day reading books until my brain exploded. When I arrived at the hospital in the evening, I struggled to finish my work in a hurry. Going into the women’s ward, I avoided the nurses’ desk and headed straight for Room 17.

When I approached Maria’s bed, I noted the faint smell of flowers from the vase beside her bed and a wild joy filled my soul. Maria was sleeping peacefully with her mouth slightly open and her blonde hair scattered about her head. I noticed the perfect lines of her body and it seemed as if she didn’t belong to this world. Maria moved a bit and opened her eyes. She looked around before she noticed me.

Snuggling under her blanket, she asked, “Is that you?”

“Yes, it’s me, and I exist because you’re looking at me now,” I said with a wink.

She gave a little smile that lit up her face.

“I’m so tired. . . . It must be the medicine. . . . My mouth is so dry. . . . Can you get me some water?”

I brought the water and helped her sit up to drink it. I felt like protecting her.

“You need to sleep now,” I said.

“No, don’t go. . . . Stay a bit. Just tell me about something. . . . When I fall asleep, then you can go, okay?”

I caressed her pale cheek and sat beside her on the bed.

“What should I tell you about? I read a lot of things about quantum physics in the library today. Would you like to hear about that?”

“No, no . . . Let’s talk about simple things that will not wear out my mind. Tell me a story . . . I promise you, I’ll fall sleep quickly.”

I thought back to my childhood and remembered a story I had heard long ago.

“In ancient times, 5,000 years ago, a community called the Sumerians lived in the southeast part of the Ottoman Empire, in Mesopotamia. A German archeologist by the name of Robert Johann Koldewey discovered their civilization and researched them . . .”

“Koldewey . . .”

“He was an archaeologist interested in the Sumerians.”

“The Sumerians, Koldewey . . . Sorry to interrupt.”

“You can ask questions. I like to hear your voice,” I said smiling at her.

“When I was a child, living in a farmhouse,” I continued, “Professor Koldewey’s son came to our home and gave me private lessons for a while. That’s why I’m interested in this subject. Where the people came from is unknown, and there is little information about how they disappeared. It is thought that they came from faraway lands in the Middle East and settled 5,000 years ago in the territory between the two great rivers. They had their own written language. They were advanced in mathematics and astrology. They even created the Epic of Gilgamesh, which people still read today. But…”

“What?” she asked.

“Well, there are strange rumors that their gods came from outer space. From faraway planets.”

Maria opened her eyes again. “What planets?” she asked.

“Planets far away. The alien gods came and taught these people to plant and even to make bread and brew beer. Our concepts of 360 degrees, 12 months in a year, and a lot of other mathematical laws were transmitted from the aliens to the Sumerians and from the Sumerians to us. The race of alien gods mixed with these people and interfered with the development of the human race. That’s how we came to exist.”

“How did they get here?”

“There was one god and he came from a planet that once passed close to ours. Marduc, I think. When it was close, the aliens would come down to Earth. That’s how it must have been, I think.”

“You don’t know?”

“I heard these things a long time ago and I’ve forgotten a lot.”

“What about when the planets are far away?”

“I’m not sure. But I imagine there are radio waves. We can’t see them, but we can hear them with instruments. Maybe the far-away aliens can reach us in a similar way.”

“Can they make such an instrument…or communicate with someone who understands their energy and what they say?” Maria asked quietly. It was as if she were talking to herself.

“Yes, why not?” I answered without thinking.

“So you believe me?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Maybe those who talk to me are the aliens from those faraway planets who have been trying to get in touch with humanity. Our alien ancestors…”

“I thought you’d just listen and sleep,” I said, smiling.

“Wilhelm…” It was the first time she’d said my name and it set me on fire.

“Yes?”

“The medicine I take makes me feel so bad. I cannot be myself. I want to be okay, like you, like everyone else…I cannot tell them. You’re the only one I trust…please don’t let them hurt me.”

“Maria, you’re very tired. Just sleep. I promise I’ll stay with you.”

She snuggled under the blanket again, and I waited by her bedside until she fell asleep. I felt a great tenderness toward her and I was full of excitement. But I also felt a touch of anger. I knew I couldn’t let her be hurt by the wrong treatment.

 

The next day, I found myself at Dr. Huber’s door. I learned from his secretary that he’d come back from his rounds and was in a psychotherapy session. I waited on the sofa for what seemed an unendurable amount of time. Finally, the door opened and Maria left the doctor’s office. She didn’t see me at first, but even that ridiculous hospital gown couldn’t hide her magnificent beauty. Her face was pale and she noticed me only when I made room for her to pass by. She greeted me with her wry smile.

I couldn’t take my eyes off her until the secretary reminded me that the doctor was waiting for me.

The office was simply furnished and very dim. Under the yellow light of a lamp sat Doctor Hubert—a middle aged man with a bushy, long moustache full of gray hair, and tired brown eyes. He indicated the armchair with his hand but his mind seemed elsewhere.

“How can I help you?” he asked absently.

“Well, I…I’ve been working as a caretaker in the hospital for a while, but I’m a medical student at the University of Vienna.”

“I know. I’m on the board, and I’ve checked your file. I’m happy that we have such intelligent and promising young men like you still left after the war. What can I do for you?”

“Actually, how can I say this? I came here to talk about your patient, Maria Orsic.”

For the first time, the doctor made eye contact with me. “And?”

“Well…is it possible that there’s a mistake in her diagnosis and treatment? I mean, could someone possibly have left something out? I…” I struggled to say what I wanted. My face was red now, and I wrung my hands.

Dr. Hubert studied me for a long moment, and took a deep breath.

“You’re very young, and you’re at the beginning of your medical education. I appreciate your ambition and your commitment to Ms. Orsic.”

“Thank you,” I said, nervous about what was coming.

“What you learn in school is important, but when you become a doctor and have the responsibility of caring for a person, you’ll see that experience is even more important. Although you’ll judge me and not understand what I’ll tell you now, let me try to explain something. Your conclusions are limited by your basic medical education and an observation of only five to six days.”

“With all due respect, doctor, I’ve experienced a lot. I served in the war and I’ve read a lot of books,” I objected feebly.

“That is all valuable, but of no use in this issue. It won’t help you reach the right conclusions. Although you’ll successfully finish your schooling, you will need to specialize in psychiatry, and that’s still not enough. You need to work for years to gain the proper experience.”

The old man was trying to cover his mistake by praising himself. He probably hadn’t even read the most recent publications on schizophrenia. Who knew what kind of treatment he used on the patients?

Dr. Hubert saw the disdain in my eyes and continued.

“My point is you are not objective. Maria’s a very beautiful girl. You interpret all the symptoms as different from what they actually are. There are hundreds of patients in this hospital, and, if you aren’t showing the same concern for one of the old, worn-out patients to whom you haven’t even paid any attention, then I’m sorry. I don’t trust your judgment.”

“How can you talk like that?” I protested. “You don’t even know me, and I assure you, there’s nothing like that going on.”

“Calm down, young man. This is something between you and yourself, and it’s none of my business as long as it doesn’t affect the orderly functioning of the hospital. I’ve been aware of what you’ve been doing. I had to become aware because you’ve begun to affect Ms. Orsic’s treatment in a negative way. Just as we’ve advanced slightly toward having her accept that her delusions don’t exist in the real world, your intervention and talks with her have given her false hope and set her recovery back.”

He was speaking louder now and glaring at me.

“Do you know how many hospitals and doctors this patient visited before coming here? If you saw the files, you wouldn’t understand most of them. You don’t have my colleagues’ years of experience. You’re a young, clever man, but experience is a must in such situations.” His voice was now more controlled, and he seemed calmer, but there was still a glint of anger in his eyes.

“But she probably has logical and reasonable thoughts that she hasn’t shared with you,” I responded weakly. “She’s scared, like everyone else.”

“The girl is 4A, which meets all the criteria of schizophrenia. The only anomaly is that her illness has advanced to this stage at a very young age. Do you know what 4A is?”

“The classification system; flattened affect in schizophrenia…”

“Okay, don’t push it. I’m not giving you an examination. Just do whatever I tell you to do without question. I don’t want to see you around this girl again. Don’t talk to her or try to get in touch with her. Not unless you want to be dismissed from this hospital and have a letter of complaint sent to your school.”

“Sir, won’t you even give me a chance to—”

“End of discussion. If you want my advice . . . go out and use your energy on another, healthier girl.”

I clenched my jaw.

“Can I leave, sir?”

“You can.”

 

Later in the evening I received a paper from the chief of staff restricting my duties, and I was immediately forced to hand in the keys to the women’s ward. It hurt so much to know that she was in the same building as me, only a few walls away. Crazy ideas ran through my head. The thought of not seeing her ever again was miserable. But I wouldn’t give up.

All night long, I struggled to prepare a file with all the information I had along with my own ideas.

When dawn came, I shaved, put on clean, proper clothes, and went to the campus. I found my way to the private office of Dr. Freud, gathered all my courage, and passed through the corridor where patients and their relatives were waiting for him. I stopped at the secretary’s desk and asked about an opening. She buried her head in the appointment book and we shared a long silence.

Without lifting her head, she said finally, “What about Wednesday next week? Is that okay for you?”

“I’m not a patient, I’m a doctor… I mean, I’m going to be a doctor. I want to get some information about a patient. I just need ten minutes.”

“We’re so busy. Appointments are made months beforehand. There’s not even a single gap until the evening. Here, you see?”

“I’m a medical student, first year, and I also work in a mental hospital. I’m here to talk to him about something that’ll take only a short time,” I said, sounding ever more urgent.

“Interesting, a medical student who wants to talk to me,” I heard a familiar voice say.

“Dr. Freud,” the secretary said standing up. I turned and saw a man with a gray beard and a penetrating look smirking at us.

“If Gustav Jung heard about this, he’d jump up and down in excitement trying to convince me what an impossible coincidence this was,” he said smiling at me. Then he turned to the secretary.

“Clarens, has Mrs. E. H. come for her appointment?” he asked, now more interested in his work than in me.

“Not yet, but she has three to four minutes, and, as you know, she’s never been late before.”

“Professor,” I said, “If you let me…it’ll just take five or ten minutes…”

“Can you imagine?” he asked, turning back to me. “Someone you’ve never met before comes to talk to you, and the patient who doesn’t attend her meeting makes it possible. What a big, magnificent coincidence. If Jung were here now, he’d try to convince me of it. He’d even go on about his thesis that events happening in the future affect us now.”

“Dr. Jung is a Swiss psychiatrist and neuroscientist, isn’t he?” I asked, trying to get more involved in the conversation now.

“What do you understand of the effects of the future in the now, young man?”

“Well, when a man buys tomato seeds now, then he can get a harvest from his tomato farm and make a profit from it in the future. I haven’t thought about this issue much, but this is the first thing that comes to mind.”

“A clever young man. Excellent.” He bypassed me and walked toward his office door. I sheepishly followed as he continued. “But you have missed the essence of the matter. The man doesn’t plant tomatoes for money; he plants them to strengthen his sexually determined status in society and to be in a position where he can meet his sexual needs.”

“So, events in the future affect our sexuality now?”

He suddenly turned to me, as if he saw and heard me for the first time. “That is a nice approach, son; it needs to be examined.”

Meanwhile, a luxuriously clothed Mrs. E. H. arrived with flushed cheeks and slightly out of breath.

“I’m sorry,” she panted. “I’ve almost missed the appointment, right?”

Dr. Freud patted me on the shoulder.

“It seems Jung was wrong. Now, young man, I need to get back to my work.”

“But…only five minutes…”

“You spent three minutes of that just now, young man,” he laughed, and, from the pleasure of hearing and liking his own joke, he laughed again.

Disappointed, I stepped to the side to make way for Mrs E.H. Dr. Freud nodded to her as she entered his office, then he turned again to address me.

“I’ll be at the Oppenheim café at 18:45, but only for 20 minutes.” He then followed his patient into the room.

 

. . .

I arrived at the cafe early and waited until it emptied out before I settled into a quieter spot. As I sat drinking my second beer, I saw Dr. Freud enter and stood up and waved. He looked at me from the corner of his eye, then came over with calm, confident steps. He signaled to the waiter, sat down, and I watched enviously as before he’d even finished cutting the end off his cigar, the waiter brought him “the usual.”

I watched him wet the cigar in his mouth before lighting it. He took a puff, drew the cigar from his mouth, and looked directly at me. “The time started when I walked through the door, young man.”

I put the file I’d prepared in front of him with shaking hands.

“As I said before, sir, I’ve been working as an assistant staff member for a year. I met this young woman, a young patient at the hospital, and I’ve been thinking, from what she’s told me and what I’ve observed, that there’s something wrong with her diagnosis. She’s receiving the wrong treatment and it’s harming her. I’d like to consult with you, hear your thoughts, and then help in her treatment if possible…”

My speech had gone beyond giving information and had moved toward buttering him up.

He dismissed my compliments with a careless hand gesture while his eyes scanned the file. “Is she beautiful?” he asked.

“Who? Well . . . yes, very beautiful…and very intelligent. Even . . .” My words were interrupted again by the now-familiar hand gesture.

“Where did you grow up? Where did you spend your childhood?”

“In the northwest region of Austria. I lived in a farmhouse in a mountain village that’s now been captured by the Russians…” I stopped when I saw his hand.

He looked through the file, and, after turning over some pages, he emitted some dense smoke. “Your mother?” He looked at me with questioning eyes.

“She died when I was twelve. She committed suicide…it was an accident… but like a suicide. . . .”

Without saying anything, he buried his head in the file again, then, carelessly threw the file onto the middle of the table. He looked first at me, then at my reflection on the window, and then at me again.

“It’s not a challenging nor unusual case, and I think it can be overcome in a few sessions in careful hands as long as our patient is intelligent and maintains open senses.”

“Yes, she’s very intelligent and rational. Is there any need for medication?”

“No, it hasn’t progressed enough for medication.”

“I knew it. I knew they were wrong,” I murmured in joy, feeling myself relax.

“At a very early age, probably right after the oral period, a sexually triggered awareness occurred. The patient directed his incorrectly understood and wrongly orientated sexual feelings onto his parent of the opposite sex in an obsessive manner.”

He began speaking in a measured tone, almost to himself.

“When the patient’s sexual feelings were at their height during puberty, he reacted against the apparent opponent in order to not share his obsessive sexual orientation with his parent of the same sex. The consequences turned the condition, which could have remained stable, into a trauma, and the feeling of guilt has continued up to now, increasing daily. Moreover, the patient’s efforts to save ones who resemble his mother and to whom he attaches himself in order to overcome his guilt have been, in part, straining his ties with normal life.”

I opened my eyes wide. “Resembling her mother? You mean Maria’s sexually obsessed with her mother, and, due to a feeling of guilt, she’s been suffering this?”

“Maria? Who’s Maria?”

“The patient in the file. Who have you been talking about?”

“You, of course. Usually, my patients from the medical field come with the excuse of asking help for a patient when really they are asking for help with their own problems. I made it easy for you and dealt with your problems directly… Is there really a patient called Maria?”

“Yes, and I…I mean, my mother…My mother was only my mother, and I never experienced something like that. I don’t have any problems, and…”

“Whatever you say, young man. Your time is almost over, anyway. You can think about it when you’re on your own, okay?”

“It’s not me, really. Maria is the patient. Maria really exists, and I’m trying to help her. It’s not about guilt—I just don’t want her to be hurt because of the wrong treatment.”

“My young friend, if this file is real, and there’s a patient with these symptoms, I can definitely say that she’s schizophrenic—a paranoid schizophrenic, to be exact. There’s no one, including me, who can treat her. She can be kept alive, but…”

I didn’t hear the rest. I was dizzy and stood up with difficulty. I wanted to escape and began to move toward the door. Then, suddenly, I stopped, turned back, and took the file from the table. I left the place without looking at the old man and once out of the door, I ran away.

I walked aimlessly among the people on the darkened street. No matter how much I walked, I couldn’t get rid of the memories inside my head.

A little child at the age of five hiding in the corner of the barn covering his eyes with his hands trying not to look at the naked bodies of the gardener and the cook. Their voices ringing in the child’s ears as he tries not to listen.

 

It was hard to get out of bed the next morning, but during the night, I had made a decision and resolved to go my own way and only focus on my classes. It’d be easier that way, and besides, what choice did I really have? Maybe I’d even return to Dr. Freud for a few psychiatric sessions. I went to school and once again attended all my classes. I even extracted promises of help from friends to help me make up the classes I’d missed.

On the way to the hospital I began to think about whether I could manage still working there. I had decided to never see Maria again, but when I entered the staff room and began changing my clothes for work, old Eldwin came in.

I gave him a silent greeting and rushed into my uniform so that I could leave the room.

His transparent blue eyes stopped me and the old man began to talk. “That girl of yours…she was badly beaten up in a fight between some patients during the day. She had to be taken to the infirmary.”

I wanted to say, “I’m not interested in that girl anymore,” but I had to swallow those words in pain as my emotions rushed to the surface.

“How could that happen?” I asked him. “Was there no one…What kind of hospital is this?”

“Everything happened all of a sudden, right between the meal break and the shift change, and it was over by the time they stepped in,” the old man explained.

I pushed past him to go see her, but he stopped me.

“There’s a strict order for you not to see her. You can’t even get close to the women’s ward.”

“You can arrange it if you want to.”

“Impossible; don’t get me into trouble. I already regret that I told you what happened.”

“I wouldn’t ask you unless I had to. They’ve taken my keys. Only you can help me.”

I stood in front of him, wearing my most pleading expression.

Eldwin sighed. “Be at the infirmary at 10 p.m. I’ll try to take the patient to the infirmary with the excuse of a bleeding wound. But as I said, I’ll try. It’s not for sure, okay?”

“Bleeding wound? What happened?” I began to shake.

“It’s not so bad. Calm down, go back to your job, and…”

Eldwin looked over his shoulder, then back at me. “Get three yellow pills when you’re there,” he added quietly.

I nodded and Eldwin left the room.

Fortunately, I still had the keys to the infirmary. I went there early and waited. I dozed off for a while and was startled awake by the faint sound of someone walking along the corridor. Quickly, I pulled myself together before the door slowly opened, and the old man came in, pulling Maria inside with one hand.

I felt dizzy when I saw the purple color around her closed eye, the wounds on her face and neck, and the tincture of iodine stains mixed with the blood on her dressings. When the old caregiver left, I embraced her petite frame, and, being careful with her wounds, pulled her head onto my neck and lightly caressed her hair.

I whispered into her ear, my voice shaky because of the lump in my throat,

“What happened to you? What did they do to you? I’m so sorry. I should have protected you.”

The words caught in my throat, and I was on the verge of tears. I had to pull myself together; crying like an idiot was the last thing I wanted to do. Taking a deep breath, I released my embrace, gently held her hands, and led her to a chair.

She was pale, weak, and desperate, yet still graceful.

“Don’t look at me,” she said. “It hurts for you to see me like this.”

“Shhhh…It’s okay, everything’ll be alright. I don’t care how you look… you’re still so beautiful.”

“I am so bad,” Maria whimpered. “I can’t take it anymore. I’m trying my best to be okay and normal, and this is the result, you see? Don’t waste your time with me, Wilhelm. I’ll never be okay. It doesn’t end.”

“That’s something that you could say to others, those who don’t know you. I’ll never leave you. You believe me, don’t you?”

With my finger, I wiped away the traces of teardrops on the edges of her eyes. I tasted the salt on my finger, and, leaning down, I kissed her first on her forehead and then on her cheek.

“I’ll take you out of here, I promise. I will.”

Staring at me with teary eyes, she cried, “I’m begging you, do not give me hollow hopes. I would be destroyed. I cannot pull myself together again.”

“Maria. I promise…Tomorrow, at midnight. Be ready at twelve sharp. I’ll get you out of here.”

“But how?”

“Trust me.”

She looked at me, questioning my plan. “There are locked doors everywhere and a lot of guards.If something happens—”

“Don’t worry, okay?” I said, interrupting. “I don’t have a plan now, but I will. Just be ready tomorrow and take care of yourself.”

She stood up and gave me a hug. I hugged her back. Eldwin returned and I handed my beloved over to the old man. I was too overwhelmed to follow them. I stayed for a while in the infirmary to sort my thoughts. There was no turning back now.

 

The next day I wandered the streets of Vienna formulating my plan and buying clothes for Maria.

When I returned to the hospital early, I put the clothes into a cabinet in the staff room and went to find Eldwin. He was sitting in the cafeteria smoking and sipping coffee. I sat down beside him and stared at him quietly. After another sip, he set his coffee down and looked back at me.

I looked around to see that no one was looking at us and said, “I’m going to take Maria out of the hospital tonight.”

“Good luck,” he said. The old man didn’t seem shocked.

“I don’t have the keys for that side, so I’ll need your help.”

Eldwin said nothing and returned to drinking his coffee.

“Did you hear me Eldwin? I need your help.”

“And what happens to me when people find out I helped you?”

I sat staring at him dumbfounded. The old man was my only hope to save Maria.

“This is the last favor I’ll ever ask of you,” I tried. “Just leave the doors open after midnight. Nothing else, soldier’s promise.”

Eldwin took a puff of his cigarette while peering at me. He wasn’t satisfied. I leaned in closer to tell him what he wanted to hear.

“I can give you all the pills in my stash,” I said. “I have fourteen here and you can have them all, just for leaving a few doors open.” I took a creased roll of paper out of my pocket and held it out to him.

After a furtive glance around, he took the roll and placed it in his pocket.

What I did next was pure improvisation. I waited in the nurses’ room with the clothes I’d bought for Maria and my eyes on the clock. Ten minutes before midnight, I stood up with great self-possession, put the clothes back into the cabinet, washed my face, and left the room. I silently went up the deserted stairs of the hospital to the women’s ward and saw the iron door into the ward was slightly ajar. As I approached the door, the calm I’d felt until then suddenly disappeared, and my heart began to race. A fine sheen of sweat lay on my face, and my hands shook. Hoping the nurse wasn’t at her desk, I slowly pushed the door open and headed into the dark corridor.

As luck would have it, the nurse’s desk was empty and the corridor was deserted. But I also noticed that the door of Room 17 was also half open, and I began to hear noises coming from inside.

When I entered the room, my expectations of a pitch-black room with sleeping patients were completely dashed. All the lights were on, and the patients were awake. They were standing by the wall, screaming out in fear while trying to protect their heads. To my dismay, everyone in the hospital was in the room, including staff members from other floors and even some nurses and on-call doctors. Some were frantically trying to calm the patients down while others were gathered around the bed by the window, engaged in serious discussion.

The group had their backs to me and, as I approached, I saw blood on the floor. I noticed a few drops at first and then I saw the pool of blood around the bed by the window. Maria! I wanted to scream, until I registered that it wasn’t Maria’s bed. It was the bed of the old woman who slept with her eyes open. The sheets on her bed and everything around her was covered in blood, and dangling from the bed were the old woman’s cut wrists. I took a deep breath in relief when a hand touched my shoulder. I turned around to see Maria standing there in all her beauty. She touched my lips to keep me quiet and pulled me to the door. We stepped silently out of the room and scurried down the stairs and then to my room. I gave her the clothes and turned my back as she dressed. As I was trying to pick up her patient’s outfit, a bunch of keys fell on the floor. The metallic sound echoed through the room and out into the corridor. We caught each other’s eye.

Rummaging in the cabinet, she found a coat and covered her head with the hood. She kicked the keys under the bed and dragged me out into the hall.

We moved toward the exit, passed through the main door, entered the dark garden, and strode onto the gravel path. As we approached the guardhouse, we slowed down and headed more calmly toward the exit. The guard shifted a bit in his chair, looking sleepy in the dim light, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Then he saw me, and he saw the person next to me. The guard opened his window and stared at me.

“I’m accompanying this nurse,” I explained. “Her father’s ill, and she has to go home.”

The guard looked me up and down and looked again at Maria. “Hope he gets well soon, miss,” he said.

Maria bowed her head with a slight smile.

As we took a step forward, the guard stuck his head out the window and turned to me. “Do I look stupid? I know all the nurses working here. And none of them wear patient’s slippers.”

I froze and looked at Maria. She gazed into my eyes and I suddenly felt a power inside me that I didn’t know I had. I turned and hit the guard right in the middle of his smirking face and pulled him toward me before he knew what was happening. I shoved his head against the frame of the window so that it shattered the glass. Now his shoulders and head hung out of the window and I saw blood from the cuts on his face dripping onto the ground. I glanced at Maria once more before I let the blow that would knock him unconscious fall on the nape of his neck.

“Idiot,” I murmured. “You know how to observe others but don’t know how to protect yourself.”

Then I grabbed her hand and we ran out of the gate.

 

. . .

 

Through the half-drawn curtains in our hotel room, I made out the pale reflections of streetlights and heard the whisper of a few cars on the road near the train station. It was early morning and the fear I’d felt on the dark streets outside the hospital had finally subsided. Now I felt that we had our own world where no one could touch us.

For the first time, we were alone together, and we fell easily back into the same habit we’d developed in the hospital. We sat beside each other on the edge of the bed in the dark room and looked at the night sky through the half-open window. The unfamiliar smell of the room had already disappeared. I could only take in the smell of her beautiful body and the only sound I heard was her light breathing.

Neither of us spoke.

While her eyes lingered on the dark sky, I looked over at her. I looked past the wounds that were starting to form scabs, the dressings with their tincture of iodine, and the black eye that had begun to open, and I saw Maria. She was beautiful.

Gently, I touched her cheek with my hand. Her deep blue eyes left the night sky and went to the floor first, then to me. I put my arms around her shoulders and as she bashfully looked at the floor, a smile came to her face. I felt her warmth and her trembling, and I longed to touch her longer and protect her.

Laying a finger on her chin, I turned her face toward mine. I gently pressed my lips to hers, and her wet lips soon opened to a passionate kiss. I pulled her toward me with a breath, and we lay down on the bed. I had been with women before but never someone I had loved. As the night welcomed the day, our bodies united, and we became one. Together, we felt the pleasure of being unaware of what belonged to whom.

Covered in sweat, we lay on our sides and I placed a small kiss on the nape of her neck as I whispered into her ear, “I love you, and I’ll never leave you.” This was the first thing I’d said since we arrived. She turned and looked at me and pressed her index finger to my lips.

“I’m feeling tired and…,” she said with a sigh, “It has been a long time since I had a long, warm bath.”

“Okay, darling.”

She got up silently, and headed toward the bathroom. I watched the shadow of her curves disappeared behind the door.

 

I drifted off into a restless sleep until I was awoken by a delicate, fresh scent and the touch of a wet, warm body cuddled next to mine. She smiled at me and gave a sly whisper into my ear. “And this is for me.”

She slowly slid up over me, held my arms tight with her hands, and pulled me in.

After we made love, I sank back into my restless sleep, yet from time to time, I hugged Maria tightly to make sure she was real.

 

When I awoke, daylight filled the room. I sat up and immediately noted Maria’s absence. I suddenly became afraid, but grew calm when I saw the half-open bathroom door and the yellow light shining within—she must be there. I got up and went to the bathroom door and stuck my head in. The bathroom was empty. I panicked. “Maria!” I said to no one, hoping that by calling her name she would appear, but I went quiet when I saw the proof of her absence on the nightstand.

On a partially torn page of the hotel notebook, she had written, “Thank you for everything. I have to go back to my own life.”

The message was clear, but I still read it many times. I wanted to open the door and run out into the corridor, but I was still naked. Like an idiot, I went into the bathroom and checked it again. I slumped on the bed with the crumpled paper in my hand, defeated. But then I noticed the notebook and the indentations in the pages underneath. She had scribbled something else. I immediately grabbed the pencil and began shading the underlying page.

She had written a few drafts of her note, and in one of them I faintly made out the word “Munich”. I grabbed my clothes and left the room quickly, dressing on the way as I first walked, then ran to the train station.

 

Crowds of new arrivals and departing passengers filled the train station. Only a few minutes remained before the Munich train left. As I hurried onto the platform, the smoke from the departing train obscured my view. I wove through the human obstacles in my wrongly buttoned shirt and unlaced shoes, periodically standing on tiptoe to look around and pushing anyone who got in my way.

Despite the crowd, I saw her in the distance. She was wearing the clothes I’d carefully chosen for her the day before; only the hat she wore was different. A tall young man stood next to her, holding her as if she was his. I felt weak and paralyzed by rage. Those whom I’d pushed to pass were now passing me. Maria disappeared, and the train began to move. I stared at the car windows in despair and deep shame, not knowing what to do next.

As I wandered the streets, the haunting image stayed with me. A tall man putting a suitcase overhead with his strong arms, and a girl with blonde hair leaning her forehead on the window and looking at me, her fine lips parted as if they would tell me something.

In the hope of catching up with the train and the vision in the window, I turned back and began to run, pushing aside one person after another until I stumbled and fell to the ground just before the final car passed me. I didn’t want to watch the train receding in the distance so I closed my eyes.

 

My wandering led me back to the hospital where I stared at the broken windows of the guardhouse covered in newspapers and saw the dried blood stains. As I entered the hospital, I did my best to ignore the looks and the eyes following me. I avoided any eye contact with the secretary and walked straight to Dr. Hubert’s office.

Dr. Hubert was sitting at his desk, facing the wall. After glancing briefly at me, he resumed his previous position.

“Sir, I’m sorry,” I murmured, my hands clasped in front of me and my eyes on the floor.

“Sit down.” Now he was facing me. “Where is she?”

“She left me and ran away to Munich. Somebody else was with her…” I tried to hide my shame at being cheated.

“It was her fiancé.” All the hope I tried to take shelter behind vanished with those words.

“Her fiancé? I…I didn’t know.”

“It’d be much easier if you say what you know instead of what you don’t know,” he scolded, looking at me through red, sleepless eyes. After vainly waiting for my response, he went on.

“Young man, you’re inexperienced and naive. You left two dead bodies and one seriously wounded behind you, and you’re walking around here apparently unaware of this.”

“Two bodies? Which bodies?”

“The old caregiver, Eldwin. He was found in a coma this morning. Poisoned by an overdose of drugs. When we pumped his stomach, we found thirty of these yellow pills,” he said and showed me a small yellow tablet with a partially melted upper layer in a folded paper.

“He’s dead? But I…I only gave him ten or fifteen pills. He doesn’t use them; he just makes money with them and takes care of his little granddaughter. He just takes pills to…” I began to stammer.

“Pffft…Your stupidity really irks me, Mr. Reich. That man was an addict.”

“But he had a little granddaughter, didn’t he?”

“He’s dead. That’s all that matters”

I clearly annoyed the doctor, but I still tried to defend myself.

“The patient next to Maria’s bed. It was a suicide, wasn’t it?”

With the same weariness, he opened the drawer, put a sharp, triangular piece of ceramic on the desk, and pushed it toward me. It ceramic piece was concave, dirty, with blood covering its pale surface. I felt a sudden stomach cramp. The ceramic had been part of the vase. I felt dizzy. Now, it was time to accept it: I’d been deceived and used.

“I don’t want to see you here again. You need to leave. I won’t let you salve your conscience by suffering punishment. Now go away before I change my mind.”

“But…”

“Is it necessary to tell you about the nurse who witnessed Maria starting a fight among the patients, scratching her own face, and hitting her head on the wall?” Showing me the back of his hand, he said, “Go!”

I headed toward the door, but something made me turn back. “You’re wrong, Dr. Huber,” I said. “No paranoid schizophrenic could plan something like that in such detail and put it into action. I was blinded by love. But you? You insisted on your wrong diagnosis. Whose hands are covered in blood, do you think?”

Before he could respond, I’d already left.

 

. . .

In the period that followed, I promised myself that I’d forget her. I suffered stress, had little desire to live, and was haunted by the memories. At first I was angry at her and wanted to take revenge, but I knew that if I came across her now, I’d forgive her, hug her, and want to go on. Love was a disease, and it was taking a long time for the symptoms to disappear, and I needed to do something about it.

In a sudden decision, I got on a train and went to Munich. Dreaming all the way, I thought about what to tell her if I came across her. The best moments were spent dreaming that she’d broken up with her fiancé because of her love for me and that she was thinking about me more than I was about her. When the train arrived in Munich, I strode into the streets with indescribable joy and excitement. I wandered the massive city until I was exhausted. I got lost in the crowds. I drank coffee in every cafe facing a street I could find. When I began to lose my hope and night fell, I gave up and went into a beer house.As I drank, I stared at the dark sky beyond the window. The next morning, I woke up in a hotel room I didn’t remember and continued the same desperate search of the city.

At long last, I gave up and returned to Vienna. I stared angrily at my reflection in the train window and cursed myself all through the trip. I promised myself I wouldn’t do such a stupid thing again, nor would I ever go back to Munich. Even if I came across Maria by chance, I’d turn my back without looking at her.

 

If only that’d been true.

 

Only time is needed to overcome such pain. Not knowing how long it would take to recover, I went on with my life. I became busy with school and classes and began to rejoin the crowds. I began to attend the psychiatry meetings on Wednesdays and listen to Dr. Freud’s lectures.

After one of those evening talks, as everybody left the hall and Dr. Freud organized his papers, I waited in my seat for him to finish. After humoring those who gathered around him with their meaningless questions, the room finally emptied and Dr. Freud looked up at me, a lone student seated in an empty hall. Nodding slightly at me, he headed toward me and I stood up in excitement.

“You’ve been attending these meetings pretty regularly.”

“Yes, sir. It’s an honor for me that you’ve noticed me and a relief that you’re still talking to me after my attitude that night…”

“Love is a disease, and getting angry at the symptoms is only cruel to the patient. However, if you had hit my head with a chair, I might be angrier.” He smiled, and added, “If you have time, I’d like to buy you a drink.”

 

We sat at one of the back tables in a crowded cafe close to the meeting hall. Dr. Freud smoked his cigar and took small sips from his glass of cognac. I sat opposite him, not drinking my coffee and playing with the cookie next to my cup.

“So tell me, young man,” he said, after a small cough.

“What can I tell you that you don’t know or can’t guess? The girl used me, ran away from the hospital, and dumped me. I went through hard times, but I have finally accepted it and come back to my life, as you can see.” My speech was followed by a long silence. And then I added, “I feel like an idiot!”

Smiling a little, he took a big puff from his cigar and let the smoke out.

“You have plenty of time to correct your mistakes,” he said.

 

Spring 1933, Berlin

Wilhelm Reich

 

The two weeks before the Vril meeting seemed endless. I counted the days until, finally, it was time.

The door to my office opened with a slight squeak and Hellen came in with all her usual glamor.Only, this time, a wary innocence shone in her prominent blue eyes.

“Hello,” she said quietly.

“Welcome,” I said as I stood up and greeted her at the door. The pleasant scent of her perfume turned my head.

“I thought for a long time,” she said. “For two weeks, and I think…well, I am so tense. It’s so strange. I can’t even talk.”

I wrapped my arm around her waist, led her to the couch, and sat her down. She turned her eyes away.

She opened her bag, took out her white handkerchief, and laid it on the pillow carelessly before she lay down on the couch. I settled into my chair, and we waited for a long time in silence.

“I can’t relax,” she told me. “I’m restless.”

I didn’t know what Hellen was getting at and I feared she would cancel our trip to the meeting. I did my best to reassure her.

“Just take your time. You can talk once you’re ready.”

First, there was a tense silence, then a bit of relief when she spoke.

“It’s just a long way, and I have the stress of staying with my cousin again. She’s jealous and stupid…and so tactless.”

The old Hellen slowly began to return, and as she relaxed more and talked on, I found myself back again at my articles. But I enjoyed the tranquility. The repetition of our shared habits brought me a bit of peace.

After leaving the clinic, we visited a coffee garden and watched the surroundings until it was time. We then headed toward the address with Hellen leading the way.

 

Helen and I arrived at a big stone building and the man at the door greeted her. We climbed a flight of dim stairs and entered a hallway with walls decorated with photographs of archeological relics, sculptures, stone epitaphs, and one close-up of the Ishtar Gate.

A young, beautiful woman with chestnut hair down to her hips greeted me and hugged Hellen. Holding each other’s hands, the two began chatting. We were in a large living room with windows covered in long, black velvet curtains. A few pieces of quality wooden furniture were carefully arranged around the sides of the room. A huge walnut table surrounded by chairs sat in the middle. Above it was a chandelier giving off a dim light.

The room was full of well-dressed men, a few military officers, and a lot of beautiful, long-haired girls. Hellen was beautiful and charming, too, but her beauty faded beside them. Even more so when I saw another woman standing in their midst: Maria.

She hadn’t changed at all, and she looked even more beautiful than I remembered. I felt an old ache in my stomach. I realized I was still affected by the sight of her. How many years had it been? Twelve? Fourteen? How much had I changed? Before I could relax myself, Maria looked at me for a second and went back to her chatting, and I nearly fainted.

I looked around desperately for Hellen. She was making her way around the room, talking to everyone, and her face was glowing. When we caught each other’s eyes, she must have realized my despair, because she looked embarrassed and immediately came running back to me. Grabbing my hand, she began to introduce me to those around us. Her warm hand gave me some confidence as we headed toward Maria.

“Maria, I’d like to introduce someone to you,” Hellen said, tactlessly interrupting Maria’s conversation with the others.

Maria and I caught each other’s eyes. A shadow appeared in her eyes for a moment, but it immediately gave way to a sparkle and then a fake smile.

“This is the famous psychoanalyst and neuropsychiatrist, Dr. Wilhelm Reich,” Hellen said. “He’s very interested in your studies.”

Maria gave me a beautiful smile and slowly extended her hand. With a slightly awkward movement, I touched it and bowed over it briefly. I didn’t expect an electrical shock as I touched her, but I had hoped for some sort of reaction. Instead, she gave no sign of recognition and I lost all hope.

“Dr. Reich, I’ve read a few of your articles. I must confess that I do not agree with all your ideas, nor those of Dr. Freud’s, but, still, you have a very radical and progressive approach.”

She knew who Wilhelm Reich was, but she didn’t know who I was, or else she was pretending, very successfully. Remaining silent, I thought about which of those possibilities would best serve my purpose.

Like a stupid teen, I wrapped my arm around Hellen’s waist to gain strength and feel safe. “I have heard of you as well,” I said. “Hellen told me how beautiful you were, but I’d never guess you’d be such an intellectual as to follow my articles on psychiatry.” Even I couldn’t tell whether I was speaking the truth or just being sarcastic. I suddenly didn’t know what I was doing there.

“Is there a specific topic our doctor is interested in?” Maria spoke with an insincerity that hurt me deeply. How stupid I was? But I knew I would need to finish learning this lesson.

“Actually, as a medical doctor, I’m open to any kind of information or ideas that can help me understand human nature and heal ailments.” I was saying whatever came into my mind without thinking, trying to gain time and prolong the moment.

“Your delicate concern for the good of your people has really impressed me.”

She was making fun of me again. I’d forgotten how much of a weakness I’d had for her and that I could still be that vulnerable. She’d reminded me.

“I hope you will stay for my trance tonight. Perhaps I can take a moment to tell our friends on Aldebaran what a good humanist you are.”

Maria ended the exchange with another phony smile and moved on to converse with others. I realized that I still had my hand wrapped around Hellen’s waist and Hellen was staring at me with sparkling eyes.

“What do you think? She’s very beautiful, isn’t she?”

I was hurt and confused, but relieved for Hellen’s company. I decided to tell her what she wanted to hear.

“Actually, she has a cold beauty, but she pales beside you,” I said as convincingly as I could.

Hellen glowed and moved closer, but my mind was somewhere else.

 

. . .

The few lighted candles couldn’t pierce the darkness of the room. Everyone sat around the table, our hands linked. A glass sphere emitting flickering sparks of thin, blue lightning sat in the middle of the table, and I could smell the heavy incense. Maria was deep into a trance. Her body convulsed and her eyeballs turned upward. The look of the whites of her eyes shocked and frightened me. The woman I had loved wasn’t there anymore. Now, something else dwelt there, and it didn’t belong to this world. Her voice was wheezy and menacing, coming from deep inside her, and it filled the room with a foreboding that went beyond my deepest fears.

My hands, and the hands they were holding, were sweaty. I felt that eyes were staring at my back and I was scared to look behind me. A young woman with an innocent face sitting behind Maria was rapidly writing down the otherworldly words she spoke. With the light squeaks of the pencil going across the paper, I saw some symbols, scratches, and meaningless letters appear. When I’d decided to come here, I had been in pursuit of some excitement, hoping to satisfy my curiosity. This situation, though, suggested the presence of things beyond my experience and consciousness, and it scared me. I was paralyzed, but strangely, I felt ready to believe.

When Maria came back to us, she was worn out and weak. She was now the old, fragile Maria. Her eyes were blue again. Her face was as beautiful as before. But she was a bit pale, her voice was hoarse, and her trembling lips had turned slightly blue.

To my surprise, she looked at me with the same desperate gaze of that young girl in the hospital. My heart leapt and sank at the same time. For a second, I thought of taking her away from there, saving her, giving her one more chance despite everything.

Collecting herself, she straightened up in the chair, turned to one side and took the papers from the girl behind her. The papers trembled in her shaky hands. She stepped away from the circle and began to move toward the door before she turned to me.

“Doctor, can I speak to you for a moment?”

I looked at Hellen and the others before following, confused about what she might want to say. My heart began racing and I followed Maria into a smaller, darker room.

She looked at me with the same energy I remember from the night of our escape. “Dear Doctor, they asked me to speak to you.” She sounded weak.

I felt both disappointed and confused. Who was she talking about?

“The Aldebarans. They spoke to me about tonight, about the differences between the living and the non-living, particularly an energy that gives life to living beings. Do you know something of this?”

“I have read of such things in my research. Go on.”

“Well, they spoke of a schema, of a device. A device that can cure patients by restoring them with the energy they’ve lost, like an energy collector. I apologize, but the terms the Aldebarans use do not have any meaning here on Earth. I am just describing the concept.”

“Are you saying they talked to you about this because I was here? If I knew you’d suffer that much, I would have never come.”

“No. It’s okay. It’s my job…or my curse. It cannot be escaped.”

Suddenly an image of a child throwing a starfish into the sea came into my mind. Instinctively, I held her hand and placed a little kiss on it. I thought about her pain and who’d take responsibility for it.

Maria gave me a slight crooked smile before going on. “It will take some time to make a clear copy of the Sumerian texts,” she said. “There are schemas that need to be translated into German. But they want me to give them to you.”

“Me?”

“Yes. They believe you will know what to do with the information. If you stop by tomorrow or the next day, I think it will be ready. Now, I must ask you to excuse me, as I am very tired.”

With a touch to my shoulder, she turned away. I saw Hellen standing in the doorway and Maria touched Hellen’s cheek as she passed and went back into the main room. Hellen smiled at me. “Are you ready to go?” she asked.

 

. . .

“Where are we going?” I asked. We were sitting in the back of a cab, and the driver was staring at us, waiting for the answer to his question.

“Actually, it’s early,” Hellen said, “and I really don’t want to go to my cousin’s. Let’s go to your place and talk and have a few drinks.”

There was a short, tense silence.

“On one condition,” I said.

She was getting ready to say seven or eight sentences one after another, but I touched her lips with my index finger. I felt a little kiss on that finger as her two blue eyes dove under her eyelids in an expression that simply said “yes”.

 

. . .

That night, I awoke with a start. The room was dark and I was covered in sweat. I turned to look next to me. Hellen was there. Her flowing hair blanketed her dry, soft shoulders. She was fast asleep. I quietly got out of bed to go get cool by the window. I shivered when I looked out and saw two men wearing brown shirts get out of a pitch-black car and approach the door of my house.

I got dressed as their knocking persisted. Reluctantly, I finally opened the door. They pressed an envelope into my hand and went away without a word. I opened the envelope with hands shaking from a mix of fear and relief. Inside, was a letter addressed to me along with a few official, signed documents. The documents consisted of a single permission to leave the country, including the proper supporting papers. The letter addressed to me was a single page and topped by a letterhead featuring an eagle holding a swastika in its claws.

Dear Lieutenant,

 

You asked me to pay you what I owed. As I have erased everything that belonged to my previous life, I would love to include you in this. You might have already realized how rapidly I moved on to do what I said I would after the war. Gathering information in order to build my strength, I have followed your life after the war quite closely, and I have learned much about your past, including your childhood. Of course, your old tutor, who now works for me, contributed a lot. I am sorry for what happened to your mother, and I assure you, after the process of taking advantage of him is over, your tutor will be punished as a little favor from me.

I politely insist that you leave the country so that you will not be affected by what is coming nor risk conflict with me over your political views. Please note that this request, and the concession, are one-time offers only. The necessary documents and permission are attached.

 

Signature: The Nationalist Socialist German Workers Party and the Chancellor of Germany,

Adolf Hitler

 

When I turned the page over with my still-shaking hands, I found a pencil drawing. An old tree; in its trunk, a tiny, open cavity; a lake beside the tree; and a pitch-black forest encircling them all.The memory returned of a blind soldier drawing—using my eyes.

“Who is it, dear?”

Shuddering, I turned to see Hellen emerging from the bedroom. She was barefoot and held my sheet over her naked body with one hand. With the other hand, she touched my shoulder and looked with curiosity at the papers in my hand.

“It’s not important,” I said. “Official things.”

“But you seem shaken, and the document says…”

“What about our agreement? Long talks are forbidden, and we won’t say everything that comes into our minds, right?”

“But I said nothing in bed, and you don’t know how difficult that is…,” Hellen purred as she embraced me.

“Let’s go out a little,” I murmured into her ear. “We can eat something and walk around.”

“Can’t we stay here?”

“For tonight, I thought we could go somewhere full of music, dancing, and alcohol. What do you think?”

“Okay,” she said, her face lighting up.

 

. . .

On the way to the nightclub, I asked the driver to take us back to the old stone building. Hellen and I entered the Vril headquarters and passed rapidly through the hall with the archeological photographs before entering the living room.

Maria was there with another girl and a tall military officer with a well-tailored uniform. Hellen whispered in my ear, “That man is Otto Reinhardt. He is married to one of the Vril girls. He is a soldier to the core. Be careful.”

Their faces turned to us, and Hellen, warmly greeted Maria and the other girl.

I was introduced to the officer, and we chatted formally. I caught Maria’s eyes and she smiled.

“You look very well,” I said to her. “You really scared me yesterday.”

“In the session? Or afterward?” Maria laughed.

“Hmmm . . .” I said with a wink.

“We have already finished the translation. We have it here for you.”

“Thank you,” I smiled. “And no. You never scared me,” I added with a smile before Maria laughed.

I felt a pinch on the back of my arm and a sarcastic cough from Hellen. She was jealous, and her jealousy made me realize how obviously I was flirting.

“Here it is, Dr. Reich,” Maria said and handed a thin file to me.

“Thank you for doing this so soon. I don’t know how to pay back the favor. Actually, we’re going somewhere for some music and dancing. Would you like to join us?”

“Aww, that would be great, really. How considerate you are, darling?” Hellen said enthusiastically before giving me another pinch.

“Thank you,” Maria answered, “but there is no need, and Berton is not here yet. I wonder what’s keeping him,” she said before moving toward the door.

I turned to Hellen with a questioning look.

“Maria’s boyfriend, Robert Johann Koldewey. He’s the son of the famous Sumeriologist. They met a long time ago when she was receiving lessons in the Sumerian language from his father. Now they’re just crazy love birds.”

“Welcome, darling! We’ve been talking about you,” Maria said.

“About me?” I turned around at the familiar rough, confident sound of the man’s voice, and I began to fill up with rage.

When you come across a man with the potential to get the women in your life, such rage isn’t far behind.

He was past middle age, with sharp facial lines, abundant black hair carefully combed back, and a small wound pulling his eyebrow up slightly. I must confess, he was really handsome and had a unique aura. If we’d met somewhere else in other circumstances…No, I would have still hated him.

“Are you okay?” Hellen whispered.

I realized I was holding her hand a bit too tightly in my anger. Taking a deep breath and trying to count to ten, I whispered to her, “Yes, I’m fine,” before speaking louder to address the group.

“Yes, we were talking about you. I owe Maria a favor, and I was just offering to take you all out to a nightclub. If you agree, we can go now.”

Berton smiled.

“Drinks, music, and a night out: it sounds good, so why not?” he said.

Maria caught sight of my eyes, fiery with desire. Before she could object, Berton silenced her with a kiss.

 

. . .

The underground pub was crowded. The sounds of jazz and the swirl of heavy cigarette smoke filled the room. The women wore fancy, exaggerated outfits, while the men as the night wore on loosened their ties.

Beyond the din of enthusiastic conversations and laughter, we found a quiet back table. There, we caught up with the crowd, and before we knew it, we were sipping our third drinks. Burying myself in the leather sofa, I shook the ice cubes in my whisky glass and snuggled up with Hellen.

With her head on Berton’s shoulder, Maria seemed lost in the sultry voice of the black girl on stage. I was completely distracted, thinking about whether this would be the last or best day of my life. I was drunk with Maria’s presence and anxious from the expectations of so many long years.

The young officer asked the girl to dance and Berton stood up as well and tried to convince Maria to go out on the floor. Maria said she didn’t feel like dancing, so, feeling disappointed, Berton did what was expected of him and asked the woman by my side to dance. Hellen went with him, though reluctantly.

Maria and I were now alone for the first time in years. She leaned back slightly and moved closer to me, with her eyes on the stage. I had a lot to say, and I was in a big hurry, doubtful I’d have another chance to talk like this again.

“The old caregiver?” This was her first question.

“He died. They pumped his stomach, but they couldn’t save him. More than thirty pills were removed—”

“We couldn’t get out of that place without the keys,” she muttered angrily.

I looked at her. I could tell by her face that she felt some regret for the old man’s death.

“What about your fiancé?”

“My fiancé? Oh, Peter, you mean. It would not have worked anyway. We broke up in Munich shortly after.”

“So he wasn’t the reason you left me?”

“He was a tool, and, when he lost his function, I was done with him.”

“You mean like me?”

“As for you… well…I did not even know you, and I was stuck in a very bad situation. To be honest, I couldn’t have done it without you.”

“I went to Munich a few times looking for you. I wandered around the city hoping to see you again.”

“It would not have changed anything.”

“Back then I thought it would. Fate, chance, and so on.”

“I would call it fate that you told me about the Sumerians. That allowed me to find the source of my delusions and the language of those who were in touch with me. And, of course, that’s how I met Berton,” she said looking straight at me.

“So I was used.”

“It is no use to dramatize what happened. If I was with you, you would have gotten worn out. You are a successful doctor, and you have a very nice girl with you.”

“It doesn’t matter. It’s my last night in this country, and I think I won’t be able to come back.”

“Why?”

“Your dear Hitler doesn’t want me here.”

“Is there something I can do for you?”

“Love me.”

“Something else?” she smiled.

“I wish I could change the past,” I said, looking intently into her eyes.

“You can,” she said mysteriously.

I smiled, “How?”

“Easily. Stop Doomsday from happening and, then, kill God,” she said. She paused for a moment and stared at me. Her gaze was something that I had really missed. Changing her mysterious attitude and tone of voice, she continued cheerfully, “But first, you need to accept the mission and sign it with blood. Only then can I be yours.”

“You must understand something,” I replied. “For me to accept this mission, you must not only be mine. You must also love me.”

“You want something that’s impossible. Can we offer you something else?” she asked, staring at me.

“As I’ve said, I can only accept this mission in return for something very precious. I can only accept your love for me.”

“Hmmm…you drive a hard bargain, and you have me cornered now…I guess that I must accept,” she said.

I felt elated for a moment. But I also knew what she was asking of me. I looked her in the eye and we both felt sad, then, remembering the things we would miss.

 

The music grew faster, and those on the dance floor came back to their tables, exhausted. Taking a big sip from her wine and sitting by my side, Hellen kissed me. “Did you miss me?” she asked.

“You were always by my side,” I said, slyly hiding my feelings.

Following Berton’s lead, we raised our glasses in a toast and continued drinking.

Otto Reinhardt leaned forward, lit his cigarette in the candle, and blew out a thick cloud of smoke. “You’re a psychiatrist, right, Dr. Reich?”

“In a sense, yes,” I said in a bid to sound self-deprecating.

“I don’t know if it’s your field, but I’d like to ask you something.”

“Of course.”

“Sometimes, we remember past events very well, but other times, we don’t. Why is this? Is it because the memories are buried in our subconscious and we can’t dig them out?”

“Sometimes, yes. The brain connects memories to each other with triggers, and we can access the memories, most of the time, by accessing those triggers. But, if it’s a seldom-used memory, then its trigger might be rusty. Sometimes, we must associate the memories with something else.”

“How?” the young officer asked excitedly.

“For instance, if I say ‘1969’ to you, you would recall nothing because the date isn’t a trigger,” I said.

“The first man stepped onto the moon,” Maria said. We all looked at her in astonishment. But, when we noticed the smile on her otherwise blank face, we all laughed, joining in the joke.

I continued, “Anyway, that’s a bad example. Let’s say, ‘1912.’ If we ask our Führer about this date, he would probably remember Vienna, the period when he was an artist and had to go back to Munich, giving up painting as he ran out of money and hope.”

I turned to Maria and asked, “1912?”

“I was in Zagreb. I received my first message, got very excited, and tried to tell others.”

The table burst into playful laughter.

Maria took my cue, turned to Berton, and repeated “1912?”

Through his laughter, he said, “I can say it was the best year of my life. As I was a teacher out in the country, a rich farmer hired me as a tutor for his son. While giving lessons to the boy, I also taught sexuality to his mother. I was young and ambitious, and the woman was thirsty for love. When these combined together…” A paroxysm of laughter cut off his words. Pulling himself together and wiping away the tears in his eyes, he went on. “When her husband learned about the situation, he didn’t take it very kindly, and this is my reminder of it.” He pointed to the scar above his eyebrow.

“I don’t even remember the name of the woman,” he said.

“Gabriele,” I hissed between my teeth.

“Gabriele . . . yes, yes, Gabriele, but how do you know?” As he was trying to speak, he looked me up and down. I wasn’t laughing and soon nobody else was laughing either.

“After you got beaten up and left, she tried to commit suicide. She died after suffering for days.”

“Wilhel…?” he tried to ask before I punched his nose.

Berton stumbled back and tried to back away, but I jumped on him and hit him again. Reinhardt, the lieutenant, came out of his shock and grabbed me around the shoulders. Seeing his opportunity, Berton stood up and began to hit me with all the strength and speed he had. A few blows to my face almost made me black out.

Suddenly, I heard the sound of glass breaking and the arms of the lieutenant loosened. As I pulled away from the man, I saw Hellen with a broken bottle in her hand and the lieutenant swaying with blood gushing from his head. While the blood leaked through his hair and spread over his eyebrows, the girl screamed and the officer stumbled back and fell. He held onto a tablecloth as he went down pulling it over him along with the lit candle. Otto Reinhardt was suddenly covered in blue and yellow flames. Panic broke out.

Berton, who was also paralyzed in shock, was now mine. I kicked at his feet and, when he went down on his knees, drove my knee into his face. I jumped on him and he lost his balance completely. I grabbed his hair and hit his head on the floor repeatedly. When he lost consciousness, I turned him over and pressed my elbow into his throat until I heard the sound of breaking cartilage. He tried in vain to scratch my face and push me back with his hands, but I held on, leaning down to whisper into his ear, “Shhh! Calm down, death is coming.”

As Berton’s body twitched and he breathed his last, I looked at Maria. While Hellen had turned away from me, Maria looked into my eyes. I pressed the palm of my right hand, now covered in blood, to my heart. Maria closed her eyes and nodded.

I stood up. My hands and knees were shaking. I collapsed on the closest chair and looked around. Most of the people in the club had run away. The girl and one of the waiters attended to a whimpering Reinhardt, his face burned from the now extinguished flames. I leaned down, took a half-filled bottle and poured the remaining alcohol down my dry throat. I turned around and saw that Maria was gone. A hand touched me. I turned and looked at Hellen. She lit a cigarette, drew on it, and put it between my lips. She took a chair, sat by my side, and put her hand on my shoulder. Searching my pockets, I found Hitler’s letter and the documents and lay them on the table. Then we all quietly waited for Himmler’s man.

 

1 December 1957, Ft. Leavenworth Prison, USA

Wilhem Reich

After the incident at the nightclub, I suffered the rage of Himmler, who had lost his man, Berton. I was tortured and there were beatings in a dark, cold vault, but Himmler, in all his rage, didn’t kill me—Heil Hitler!— Instead, I was exiled.

I took refuge in Sweden, leaving everything behind except my name and the information Maria had given me. The translated text described a blue energy that generated all the unique features of a living being. I eventually named it “organon” and did my best to prove its existence.

Utilizing some of the vast research by Professor Schumman, the head of the Technical University in Munich and of the science team evaluating the data received from the Vril community, I became familiar with the theory of “the Schumann resonances.” This led to a proof—or so I thought—through experiments that I carried out on microscopic beings called protozoa. I did my best to share what I had found with other scientists while also trying to publish articles about my proofs, but none of these efforts were very helpful. Such a radical idea was too much for the period. Those who didn’t want to change or restructure the existing scientific system labeled me a quack, and the tolerant ones accused me of falsifying my experiments’ results. Nobody dared to study or test my work objectively. Fortunately, the USA welcomed me with open arms.

Here in America, I developed a machine called the “organon accumulator” using the information Maria had given me. Although I didn’t quite understand how it worked or the technology on which it was based, I followed the design in the schema to the letter and the result was a success.

Unfortunately, the pressures of the Cold War turned the land of the free into a paranoid state. The American government did not appreciate my work. They burned my books and made me smash all my devices. As if that wasn’t enough, they sent me here, to this prison, under very dubious charges.

My only desire was to help humanity.

Now I’m in prison and tired of living and struggling. I’m old and all alone in my cell, serving a sentence for reasons that nobody, including those who kept me inside, understand.

But I’m aware of the organon energy now. I understand it. But I also understand humanity isn’t ready for it yet. As I said in my will, these findings and notes should be revealed only 50 years after my death.

Why 50 years?

The reason is that, now, I know the answer to the question that Dr. Freud asked me when I visited him the first time in his clinic.

“Yes, Dr. Freud, the future affects the past for sure. And maybe, by affecting the future, I can change my past.”

Part 2

CODE OF DİSJOINTED LETTERS

 

2012, Istanbul

Right before Doomsday

 

I met Wilhelm Reich in high school. Those were the years when books were printed on paper and libraries were highly respected. The years when I spent my Sundays wandering through the book bazaar—I knew all the books that each salesperson displayed on their tables and immediately recognized any new ones—The years when I would quietly sneak home so that my parents wouldn’t scold me for buying more books.

I grew acquainted with Wilhelm Reich because he was often quoted by the left-wing intellectuals. His used books were cheap, and the names of his books were cool. But I always struggled to understand his writing and gave up in disappointment. Whenever I picked up the books again and tried to make more sense of them, I would quickly give up and they would end up once more collecting dust on the shelves of my library.

However, while I was a university student, my elder brother, Turgay, brought Wilhelm Reich back into my life. One day, just before I started my first year of studies, Turgay was scanning my shelves and he abruptly announced, “This man was a nutcase! He said that mankind wouldn’t be able to understand him in his time and that they would only understand him in the future. So, in his will, he requested that his books only be published 50 years after his death. No one, not even his lawyers, understood him.”

Suddenly, Wilhelm Reich regained my interest, and I often found myself thinking about his ideas. Were there discoveries in his writing that could only be understood with the technology of the future? Had he foreseen the development of the computer and invented a machine that could only be used with its help? Since he was a psychiatrist, had he made a discovery about the human brain but decided that mankind had to be more developed before they could understand it? Why would a person give importance to something that would only happen after his death? Clearly it would have no benefit to him.

I entered medical school, completed my compulsory community service in a remote village, and did my further training to become a radiologist after returning to Istanbul. All the while I pushed Wilhelm Reich into the recesses of my mind. Only one question troubled me: what happened to the will of Wilhelm Reich?

I asked one of my colleagues about this and he answered, “Nothing, I think. All I know is the man established a children’s fund and wrote a will to donate his wealth to that fund.”

With that, the bubble was burst. For some inexplicable reason, I felt a bitter sadness when I heard this. This awkward man might have been trying to accomplish something. He clearly wanted to have an impact on the future but couldn’t figure out how to do it. He put a carefully designed plan into practice, but it ended up being ridiculed by everyone. I remember saying to my friend, “I wish he would have been successful and shocked everyone.” My friend just looked at me and shrugged.

Who am I?

I’m Oktay, and I have recently been knocked into middle age. I work in an ordinary private hospital and live an ordinary, unsurprising life. I have only a few crumbs of life experience, having been stuck in a busy professional life during years that have passed by too quickly.

I spend most of my days in a hospital under raw, fluorescent lights, writing MRI (magnetic resonance image) reports. Like many people, I enjoy watching football (soccer for the Americans), and I never get tired of watching sports or sports news on TV. I can talk for hours about the current state of Fenerbahçe, one of Istanbul’s premiere football teams. Much of my remaining time consists of having dinner with relatives and going to the cinema with Elif (whose name means “alpha”). Those are my most exciting moments. Besides that, I either write MRI reports online, read books, or browse comics and make Elif read the jokes that I think are good.

Lately, I’ve become more interested in such issues and subjects as evolution, time travel, the mysterious symmetry of the universe, the lost continents of Mu and Atlantis, astrological divinations, ancient civilizations, the research of the stone-alchemist philosophers, theories about life in outer space, and particularly the secret code in the Holy Qur’an. If I find a book on any of those topics, I get completely absorbed in it. If I see one of them covered in a documentary, I’m glued to the screen.

Obsession is a voice that harasses you until you are forced to obey its commands, regardless of how ridiculous they are. What’s even worse than obsession is when you’re aware of its hold but can’t seem to control it. It’s like having someone inside you who is constantly demanding your attention.

Here’s how my obsession began:

I was surfing the internet during my time off of work, checking my e-mail, and scanning news sites, when I randomly came across a news article about Wilhelm Reich.

Suddenly, memories from my youth and years at university flooded my brain. I found myself once again wondering about his will. So I searched it, but only found a few comments about the Wilhelm Reich Infant Trust Fund on Google. Frustration! I came across some photos of his will and decided to download the document in case I might find something interesting (It was only five pages). I read the will, but soon found that there was nothing worth waiting 50 years for. There weren’t any word games nor any mysterious hints. Maybe his will has changed, I thought. There might have been something else in the safe, and someone decided to hide it. Still, I struggled to understand the purpose of keeping the will under lock and key for 50 years.

In my search, I also found the photos of the moment when the will was declared, but nothing jumped out. Having time on my hands, I enlarged them and looked at them more carefully. Nothing. I got annoyed and closed all the browser windows and went back to writing my MRI reports.

In the evening, Elif came home and we ate dinner together, talked for a bit, and watched TV. Tired, she said she wanted to go to bed, so I followed, but I couldn’t get to sleep. As I lay next to her, the photos of the reading of Dr. Reich’s will appeared in my mind’s eye. Something was nagging at my thoughts as I too slowly nodded off to sleep.

Suddenly I jolted awake. The pin! I remembered that in the picture; there was a pin that passed through the five pages of the will. I immediately got out of bed, turned on the computer, and opened the photo. There was the pin, curved on both edges. It went through the first page, passed through the text, and came out through the last page. I found the PDF images of the will and downloaded them again. I examined each page, one by one. The pin had made a hole on a certain letter on each of the last four pages. I wrote down the letters in order: J-U-N-G.

I was so surprised and excited that I checked it again and again. Sure enough, J-U-N-G.

I remembered Jung from university and what I heard about his interest in metaphysics and his career as a psychiatrist. Then I remembered a story about Jung that I had heard a long time ago:

Jung once saw a rare, dead bird in a dream. After waking up, he took a walk in the woods and came across the same dead bird. He made a very interesting conclusion: “So the future affects our dreams!”

The idea of a future incident affecting the present, and even the past, suddenly occupied my mind. I then remembered Jung’s work on the nature of obsessions. He said an obsession prevents the person over whom it is exercising influence from evaluating incidents and options in a realistic way; it only presents certain options to the person and uses these options to control the person’s behavior.

I found myself surprised and excited by the presence of a message in the will and, more precisely, by the way this message was encrypted. This was more interesting to me than word itself—or its meaning. The idea of a pin making holes through letters on pages reminded me of a bookworm. Not that kind of bookworm. An actual bookworm, who might reach a letter, a small piece of information, while eating its way through a book.

I began postulating: if the worm eats through pages one by one and makes tiny holes on each page, I wonder what it sees. Or, more precisely, what it reads. This, then, raised another question: Is it possible to write a book in such a way that it can be read on both the fronts and backs of its pages? Would it be possible to use such an encryption? In other words, can the text have another message that, though it is written on a two-dimensional page, can be read only in the third dimension? The bookworm can neither see the text nor the signs written on the front and back planes, but it can encrypt a third-dimensional code.

I challenged my hypothesis by noting that the worm question can’t be applied to every case; it might be questionable to apply it to books written in reverse, for example, (that is, those read from right to left), such as those printed in Arabic.

Pondering that new question, I reached for an Arabic book to examine its layout and validate my answer. At that moment, a new idea flashed in my mind. The thought of a bookworm eating an Arabic book naturally made me think of the Holy Qur’an. I imagined our bookworm moving on the front-and-back plane, through the pages. Then I tried to visualize what letters it would encounter.

That led me to an even more compelling question: Is it possible that the Holy Qur’an has a text or a code encrypted in the third dimension?

After that last question came to me, I began to lose track of time.

Over the next weeks, I focused on this subject with increasing intensity and, I must confess, my work and relationship suffered.

I spent hours wandering through the internet, collecting as many relevant pages and links as I could find. I downloaded countless documents and took copious notes. The house started to overflow with books related to my questions. I even made friends with the deliverymen who dropped off my endless book orders. Unfortunately, I found that most of the sources on the market were superficial at best.

Perhaps the main problem was that nobody in fourteen hundred years had looked at the Qur’an in this way. There had always been some references and studies on the possibility of the book containing one or more codes, and there had even been some advancement in those investigations, but fourteen hundred years is a very long time. In the course of history, all the verses of the Qur’an have been on the tongues and in the hearts of countless people. They have been recited over and over again and translated from language to language, and country to country. Still, the Qur’an has never changed; the first revelation is read now in the same way that it was first read: “Read!” (19:1) Not write, see, look, touch, taste, think, do, fight, breed, and not defeat others—no, no. “Read!” is the first order.

People have always read the Qur’an: it is read by the army before going to war, by parents to their newborn babies, by newly married couples, and by descendants to the spirits of their ancestors. Family names were written inside the covers, and individuals who read the Qur’an were put in the highest regard in their house. For centuries, the Qur’an bore witness to history. It sometimes functioned as a piece of history and sometimes as the whole of history itself. When I asked the Qur’an its nature, it told me, “I’ve got a secret. I’m the greatest miracle. I don’t have a look-alike or a replica. I’m multilayered.”

As it has existed for fourteen hundred years—always in front of our eyes, always on our tongue, always in our ears, unchanged—we have studied its miracles. The miracle of the number nineteen, the disjointed or unconnected letters in its early suras or chapters, the numerical values of the letters in abjad or the numerological calculations and their infinite algorithms, and its repeated words pointing to certain magical numbers. We have tried to uncover its mysteries, but so far, no one has voiced the idea that the answers to its mysteries could be in the book’s third dimension.

I decided it was necessary to print a version of the Holy Qur’an with transparent pages. I wanted to take the book in my hands, touch it, and look at the order of its transparent pages, one on top of another, hoping to see the code that was written in its depths. I knew it would also be necessary to record its godly voice and acoustically layer the recorded digital pages, and try to listen to the voice also (if possible) encrypted in the third dimension. My only hope was that I had enough knowledge, intelligence, courage, technology, and understanding of mathematics to do so.

Potentially, the fourth-dimensional implications of the data would have to be examined to decipher whatever codes they contained.

According to my research, scientists had discovered as much as eleven dimensions— the eleventh referring to supergravity, a field theory that combines the principles of supersymmetry and general relativity. If the eleventh dimension really existed and we could find it, then, when our hearts were open, we would also have to determine whether it contained a reflection of the Qur’anic data.

But I knew that humans at that time had a gene for skepticism.

I decided to shorten the road rather than accelerate the engine.

My passion for the subject drove me to pursue the Qur’an’s mysteries. The excitement and the possibility of achieving a thing that no one had ever seen or known soon influenced my entire life. I spent my days aligning the transparent Arabic pages one after another, focusing on the possible messages occurring in between. The rest of the time, I lost myself in thought, staring blankly at the scenery through the window.

Elif grew agitated. I was not affected by her attempts to pull me into a social life or agitated at her ignorance of what I told her. I believed at any minute, the answers I sought would become clear in my mind, and I tried with all my might to crush my despair when it failed to happen.

To calm myself, I developed the following systematic method of thinking and evaluating the available data:

One: After the holy book began to reveal itself, it wasn’t put down on paper for twenty-three years. At that time, it was read with a traditional style in a divine language, (not Arabic) but always with a human voice.

Two: The order of the currently written suras in the Qur’an complies with Mushaf. It would be necessary not to spoil the order; therefore, suras would need to be arranged according to their arrival time.

Three: In regard to the verses and the number of words, or more precisely the data they contain, all of the Qur’an’s 114 suras vary from one to the other. For example, the size of the verses written on the transparent pages that I would align might vary. Therefore, uniformity would need to be established in the distance between the letters, texts, and characters, the typographical style and font, the spaces between the lines, and even the front and back pages. All would have to be fixed and standardized or it would destroy the individual suras’ variations and, ultimately, the stability of the whole. This would eliminate the possibility of achieving the same conclusion everywhere and in all circumstances.

This is how I began my experiment. With some diligence and a lot of luck, I was finally able to calculate these standards. I represented each character of information (including spaces—every letter, every mark) with small cubes. I then placed all these little information cubes, and thus everything contained within the sura, on a plane. I created a planar image of each sura in the shape of a golden rectangle, whose ratio of length to the sum of its length and width provided the golden ratio (1.618). Then, I lined up these cubes side by side.

That’s when something strange happened. All of the suras, as if they were magical, completed this golden ratio perfectly. Not even one cube protruded. What is more, I realized an even more incredible thing that made me extremely happy: the disjointed letters at the beginning of some suras completed the missing parts of those suras like lost pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

I shared what I had found regarding the mystery of the disjointed letters with Elif. I didn’t receive much of a response. She only stared at me and my work, troubled and confused. She was surely angry with me—like any human being would be at a person they lived with who locked himself in his room and didn’t leave the house for months. I knew I had not communicated with her except for a few words every now and then, and, moreover, I had made a big mess of the house. But I was so close to the end that I postponed making peace with her.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that I need to postpone telling you, reader, about what I found.

I had a 114-unit-thick planar sheet formed in the shape of squares of different sizes. I arranged those layers from front to back in the order of the suras’ chronological arrival. Each square was fully aligned on its upper right corner. As you may know, Arabic is read from right to left, and the disjointed letters at the beginning of each sura are on the top right of the page. I thus reconfigured the disjointed letters.

First, I colored each disjointed letter red. Then I put the three-dimensional figure opposite myself. At this point, I was stymied. I had been trying to examine what I had built to perceive the depth of the transparent information, while being careful not to touch the information cubes. This not only took a lot of time, but also led me to lose track of time completely. I began to fear that this was as far as I would be allowed to progress. My fear grew to despair and that slowly turned into surrender. Suddenly, an idea flashed through my mind.

I had read somewhere that when the Qur’an’s suras are placed in chronological order of their arrival or revelation – Traditionally the Qur’an’s suras are set from roughly the longest to the shortest. – the first sura, Kalem, begins with a disjointed letter to the sura, Araf. Thus, I left the disjointed letters red in the beginning of the sura, Araf, then began to examine the first set of disjointed letters in the longest combination, starting with [_ -elif, -lam, -mim ], and [_–sad,] and each column on the front/back plane in the third dimension. After a very long, laborious effort, I found the same letter combination—elif, lam, mim, and sad—in the same order in the front/back plane.

Suddenly I was yelling and jumping like crazy, letting my laughter and tears flow into each other. My efforts had been rewarded, but I wasn’t done yet. I needed to finish my broad scanning completely. I found another column composed of the same magical identical letters (elif, lam, mim, and sad). Then I found yet another identical combination of letters on the three-dimensional figure composed of 114 layers on the right/left plane and two more on the front/back plane. Dancing around, I marveled at this figure from every angle. It was done, and I watched it for hours in a state of charmed contentment.

It was time to return to my research. I browsed through the available books and websites and repeatedly re-read my notes and the scientific papers that I had gathered. Eventually, I came across this information: a plane passes through three dots and Cauchy’s integral formula passes through that plane in a three-dimensional ambient to uncover and determine the information on the plane.

This set me to work with more urgency. Up till now, my predictions on the nature of the message or the figure written on the plane were often contradictory. When I applied my findings, it hadn’t occurred to me that I would encounter such an incredible figure as the one that showed up on the plane. I began to slip back into despair as I had come to another dead end. Despite all my thoughts, experiences, and endless work, I was stuck.

What happened next was something that I would have never expected—but doesn’t a miracle always happen this way?

The plane that connected those three glowing red dots was perceived by cutting off each information cube and taking in the tiny particles it contained. When the figure of this plane’s fraction appeared right in front of me, a big, blank, white page with a small dot in its asymmetric upper right corner lay, in all its glory, right in front of my eyes. The impossible had happened: the plane, swinging like a sword, didn’t touch anything but a tiny dot as it passed through the three-dimensional image. The odds of this were that of tossing a coin thousands of times and having it always land on its side.

How could a miracle be more elegant and clear than that?

 

I had to tell someone. I hugged Elif enthusiastically, held her hands, sat her down, and tried to tell her everything I had found and learned and the possible consequences of it.

Elif responded with enormous confusion and even more disbelief and tried only to calm me down. I realized what I had discovered was profound, but my ability to explain it was limited. In time, I did what she told me: I restrained my excitement, collected my thoughts, and thought over my sudden responsibility. If the person closest to me didn’t understand me because of my excitement, it meant that the problem was me, and I had to iron it out. Otherwise, the public would greet me only with mockery before I could tell them a word.

So I explained to Elif that I wanted to write a book to share what I had found with everyone. In doing so, I would make every effort to give my miraculous discovery its due.

Elif saw that I was calmer now and she smiled encouragingly at my new idea. We sat together for a long time and talked and hugged more than we had in quite a while. She helped me tease out my ideas a bit, and even tried to reshape them. For my part, I agreed to change some of my behavior and act more like a responsible person.

We cleaned up the house and went to the barber together. I tried to catch glimpses of her as she sat outside the barbershop, sipping her coffee. We once again walked hand in hand along the coast of Tuzla, and, like old times, she got scared of some kittens while I calmed her down. We played backgammon at the old coastal coffee house where we used to go. The waiters joked that they had missed us and our fights. We ate at our favorite fish restaurant and gave them the same excuse that we had been busy.

The feeling of returning to Elif, and to life itself, calmed me down and wrapped me up in a feeling of peace. Lighting small candles at home, we surrendered ourselves to the dark room, the luminous pool, and the sea view.

How difficult it was to write a book. What a lot of trouble it was to put my thoughts on paper.

I reviewed my findings over and over again, and I wondered whether my readers would understand what I wrote. There was no difficulty with sharing my thoughts with myself, but it was more difficult to explain those thoughts to another. In my mind, the discovery didn’t need any depiction, vocal expression, or vocabulary.

So I began the book with the story of an incredible discovery, something that I could tell the reader beautifully, but when I tried to write the details of that discovery, I saw how difficult it was to reflect these ideas in a book. I knew what I wanted to say, but I didn’t know how to say it.

The house began to fall apart again, and Elif and I began to talk less. I was again subject to questions that I left unanswered and, hence, had to deal with her scolding. As I spent more and more hours in front of the computer, she gave up, surrendering to the flow of her own academic life.

I dove into the book. I prepared the template, identified the topics to discuss, and sorted and organized the available materials and the sources that would be quoted—provided that they fit with what I was writing. These tasks were only the beginning. The writing itself was much more time-consuming and difficult.

Sometimes, I spent days in front of a half-written page. I would complete the page with a few weak keyboard strokes that I would later erase. In rare instances, I rode on the wings of my muse for hours and wrote nonstop with little need to return or delete anything.

During this stage, the only thing that I could be proud of was my perpetual effort. It took a long time for me to realize that I hadn’t been to the hospital for ages. I had taken a long-term, unpaid leave to devote myself fully to writing the book. I lost myself so much in the project that, if Elif hadn’t been there for me, I would have forgotten about the hospital altogether.

When Elif had the time, I insisted she read what I had written. She would read aloud to me and I would read to her. I asked her whether I had expressed what I wanted and if she had any suggestions. When necessary, I stood right in front of the door of our room and insisted that she give me suggestions. Most of the time, she would sit beside me while I sat in front of the computer screen caressing my head and sipping her coffee. She would sometimes watch me writing at length, trying not to disturb me or ask any questions. She only asked me one question when she came home from work each evening, “How was your day, honey?” But sometimes, she would force me to stand up from my desk and get something to eat.

Elif calmed down as she realized that the book was nearing completion. The tension in the house began to lift, and, although it took months, I finally typed the last period.

I waited for Elif to come back from work so that we could celebrate the book’s completion. Darkening the room and lighting a few small candles, I stood with a printout of the book, rolled and wrapped with a ribbon. When the door opened, and Elif appeared, I let out a cry of joy. She gave a look of excited surprise as I kissed her and gave her the roll that held the completed book.

“It’s finally done!” I yelled. Using all the strength left in my weakened body, I hugged her and tried to spin her around, and, in my clumsiness, we fell and rolled on the ground laughing together, while my screams of joy echoed off the walls of the house. No one would have believed me, but I had done it—I had finished my book.

That night, we hugged and had a sweet talk about us, the future, and what the book and the potential fame would bring into our lives. We talked and talked. When the candles went out, we were still holding each other and sharing the magnificent sea view outside our window.

The next day, I talked to Elif about my inexperience in these matters. I didn’t have an academic background, and I hadn’t had a book published as she had. I asked Elif to be my manager, to find an editor, get in touch with a publisher, and nurture the book toward publication. In truth, I was exhausted. The discovery process and the ordeal of writing had worn me out, and I needed to get some rest and put my mind back together.

I spent the following days browsing publications on the internet and waiting for an answer from the editor. Elif explained to me that the editor would examine all the writing in the book and correct even the slightest mistake. He would analyze the narrative itself to see whether it was possible to reach the intended audience—in other words, to determine whether the reader could understand the things I wrote. If necessary, he would even send the book back for revision. She explained that this would be the beginning of an exciting new process. However, I feared that the editor would tell me that the book was a waste and that readers wouldn’t understand any of it.

At first I was patient, but the waiting process began to annoy me as it grew longer. I asked Elif if it was normal and began to put some pressure on her. Finally, I reached the end of my rope.

“Is there something I don’t know?” I asked her. I began to confess my fears. What if the publisher stole my book, along with the code that I had found, and published the book under his own name? After we quarreled, Elif set me straight and told me she would solve the problem.

Two days later, Elif showed up with the editor, and we hosted him at the house for a while. I was very relieved when he told me his thoughts on the book—how he was impressed by the code I had found. In his exact words, “Everything was magnificent. I read the text from the beginning to the end without touching even a letter. I expect the book to be a great success.” As he explained it, his reading had taken longer than expected because the book was very comprehensive and contained a great amount of mathematical data. So that was it! Thank God!

Now the house was in a state of complete celebration. Elif and I again had pleasant conversations at home and sat watching the moonlight and listening to music while we ate together. Elif gave a final version of the book to the publisher and handled all the necessary agreements and legal procedures.

Only someone who has had a book published could understand the anticipation I felt. Time stood still. Not only days, but also hours lay heavily in my hands. I tried to pass the time, desperately awaiting the day when I would hold the first copy in my hands. That thought stayed with me as I went to bed and was with me when I woke up. I dealt with my excitement by talking to Elif. She kept telling me to calm down; I kept telling her that I was trying but I couldn’t.

When Elif, bored with my moodiness and impatience, came home with not one but three copies of the book in her hands, I was on top of the world. In childlike happiness, I grabbed one copy from her hand, kissed her on her cheek and ran to my room. I examined the cover and the pages of the book as if they were magical objects. I held my book with the grace of a mother holding her newborn baby. I swear that I had never before slept as peacefully as I slept that night with the book in my arms.

The next morning, I woke up before Elif left for work and signed the other two copies—one for each of my brothers. The signatures “Your Oktay” were only two of the thousands to come.

 

TV Talk Show

 

After Elif left home with the two books in her hands, I was alone. The book was published, and I indulged fame-related dreams of newspaper interviews and conferences at universities. I imagined giving directives to my secretary to finalize my lecture schedule. These incredible thoughts filled my head with noise.

I believed, as everyone read my book, they would perceive the world and its events from a different viewpoint and feel an urge to evaluate their surroundings from this new perspective. They would discuss whether there might be other secrets and ask whether I had other advice. World leaders and public officials would discuss my findings and request statements from me. Headlines like, “The Magnificent Discovery of the Doctor Is a Gift to all Mankind” would hit the newsstands. Declarations of support for Muslims from Christians and all other religions would resound with messages such as, “We always felt it: all the religions are equal and unique.” There would even be declarations from governments that borders were unnecessary, that all human beings were brothers and sisters, and that it was now mandatory to distribute all resources equally. When people realized that wars were unnecessary, armed conflict of any kind would come to an end. Resourced spent on weapons would be reallocated for the welfare and happiness of mankind. I would be all over the internet, on the covers of magazines, on TV, and on everyone’s lips.

With all of these seductive thoughts storming in my head, I continued to fulfill my responsibilities. To avoid wasting all my effort and knowledge, I told myself it was mandatory that I tell people about my discoveries. The prospect of returning to my old job weighed heavily on my shoulders. I returned to browsing the internet.

As I searched for information on others who had dealt with the Qur’an’s disjointed letters, I became consumed with the desire to provide a long explanation of my work and looked for TV discussion programs where I could explain the details of my work step-by-step. I searched for an interesting long-term program with charismatic guests and broad participation—a program that everyone would watch. On such a program, I could promote my book and explain it in detail.

I typed “TV Discussion: The Codes and the Holy Book” into my search engine. I did not expect to find much on the first try.

The first article listed in the search results seemed to have been written for me. It was a link to the main page of Channel 19 where it said the following:

A great discussion program at 8:00 Tonight. Don’t miss it! During this apocryphal time of rumors and signs of the end, a magnificent discussion will answer many of your questions. Is the end of the world near? What do the holy books say about it? Is there an encrypted message in the Qur’an?

Experienced writer and journalist Hasan Tahsin will host the following guests:

Feryal Özel: A thirty-year-old astrophysicist, professor, and lecturer at the University of Arizona, Dr. Ozel successfully represents Turkey abroad as one of the world’s top twenty thinkers and a scientist whose intelligence rivals Einstein’s. She will be answering our questions live.

Hıdır Zaman: The internationally respected cleric will be with us to talk about his books and the theological implications of our discussion.

Astrologer Gizem: An authority in the field of esoteric sciences and communication with the world beyond, as well as in the field of divination and fortune-telling. Gizem believes our destiny is written in the stars.

The Spiritualist Fatin: Fatin has proven to the world many times that he can deliver news from the spiritual world. Everything he has said about the future has come true. We eagerly await his predictions tonight.

Child Prodigy, Ender: Also known as “The indigo boy,” Ender is a media phenomenon who, since the day he was born, has been surprising us all by answering all your questions with the sheer power of his intelligence.

 

It was exactly what I wanted! I called the contact number immediately. After a few attempts, I was able to reach the station manager. I told him I was a doctor and that I had published a book. The show’s producers were in a rush due to the excitement of the night’s program, so I summarized the situation over the phone and told them about the discoveries in my book. Realizing the value of such a sensational discovery being declared for the first time on their show, the director told me they would be happy to invite me to the program that night. He told me to bring the book along with me.

I immediately dressed, gathered my notes, and of course, grabbed my book. On the way to the show, I struggled with my anxiety about what to say.

Sweaty and in wrinkled clothes, I arrived late at the TV station and was rushed to the studio. Only then did I realize that numerous calls had been made to my phone. With a touch of anger and reproach, the program assistant led me to the sound stage, all the while bombarding me with information about the guests, the program format, and more. As they applied makeup, I decided what I would say and how I would answer the questions. The program had started and was playing on the monitor in the room, but I wasn’t following it. Finally, I took my place in the studio amidst curious looks from the audience and an angry glare from the moderator.

It was a heated discussion with Mr. Tahsin leading the flow like a virtuoso, intervening only when necessary.

Feryal Özel, the young and beautiful scientist—more attractive than her picture on the internet—responded to his questions with clear, authoritative answers.

“Dr. Özel, how can the indigo boy, Ender, interpret events so clearly, and always give such perfect, articulate answers?” Mr. Tahsin asked, staring at Feryal while also paying attention to the camera angle.

“As you know,” she replied, “the human brain uses only five percent of the information it receives. It can be argued that what the brain does is a requirement of the evolutionary process. This is because the body, by collecting information from our external environment at the lowest level, is needed to provide energy and time consumption in order to achieve the most effective results. For example, if we are looking at a rough sea over a cliff, it is our brain that tells us that it is deep and cold. There is no need to dive in to test its depth.”

The answer was becoming a lecture, so Mr. Tahsin interrupted to arouse the curiosity of the audience with more attractive topics. “Of course, but our viewers will wonder how you will connect all this with the indigo boy.”

“Simply put,” she continued, “our extracts information from fragments. So, when our brain sees a small part of a picture, it fills in the rest with its sense of right or wrong. This is required for life in general, but it stymies us during problem solving—or, rather, it prevents us from making right decisions by misleading our perceptions.”

“However,” she continued “in the case of Ender, he represents the next stage of evolution for the human brain. His brain processes eighty percent or more of the things he perceives. Today, the rest of us have seen a lot of cars, plates, buildings, and red lights, but we haven’t paid attention. This boy, on the other hand, has seen and imprinted his brain with them all. Hence, next week, he may predict the duration of the red light, what cars will be on the road, and the chance of an accident, even in another city. This is something akin to forecasting the weather…or seeing the future.”

“Wow—even though I was prepared and did my research, I haven’t looked at the matter from that perspective,” Mr. Tahsin said before turning to Ender. “So, young man, you have some prophecies—”

“Foresights!” Dr. Özel immediately corrected him with the protective instinct of a mother.

“Yes, yes, not prophecies, but foresights that have generally come true. So to start our topic today, I’d like to ask you, Ender, do you think the end of the world will come on December 21, 2012?” Tahsin asked.

Ender stared at the moderator with blue eyes that held a rare depth and maturity one wouldn’t expect from someone his age. “You should explain the phrase ‘the end’ because it is used in a very broad sense,” he stated.

“The end of mankind, the existing world…the end of time,” Tahsin added.

The boy laughed before saying with apparent sincerity, “To know that is like trying to decide whether the road ends on a cliff five kilometers ahead by looking in the rearview mirror of a car. Until now, it has been impossible for me to accurately interpret an event that hasn’t yet happened by comparing it with events that happened in the past. I can only make predictions and say that the history of mankind is about to evolve. We are so close to this change and nothing will be the same, but I can’t say just how close we are or how soon this change will occur.”

At this, the astrologer, Gizem, jumped in. “With the support of all the esoteric data and the astrology chart, all I can say is that in the middle of the Milky Way, there is a condition of regional, intensive energy that does not affect us now and is not seen from our current perspective. As the Mayans declared with the support of all astrological data, the twenty-first of December will be the longest night in the history of mankind, and the day after will be the beginning of a new era.”

The astrologer was speaking now with a thrill in her voice. “The ones who are mentally ready will ride on the wings of this energy to the next level, while the others will desend into the bottomless well. It is the same as heaven and hell—”

“The end of days is a secret,” Hıdır, the cleric, loudly interrupted, “only signs have been given. Don’t occupy people’s minds and hearts with such nonsense.”

The journalist tried to regain control of the deteriorating debate. “Okay, let’s discuss the subject like civilized people.”

The cleric didn’t have any intentions of keeping quiet. “If it was the end of the world tomorrow, and they put a countdown clock in Taksim Square,” he went on, “how could one identify good and evil, faith and faithlessness—what would happen to this earthly life?”

While everyone else was engaged in the discussion, I was so far merely a spectator. The hot spotlights of the studio dazzled me and sweat dripped down my neck. When the camera showed me, I could hear members of the audience mumbling, “Who is this miserable person, unable to talk?”

The spiritualist, Fatin, had now found a way to be involved in the discussion. “In regards to the information that I received from the spiritual world, I can tell you that the end of our world is near and that mankind must pull itself together.”

I didn’t know if the camera had caught it, but while Fatih was talking, I could see small ticks on his face and involuntary twitching in his arms. I wondered if it might increase as he got nervous.

Before Fatin could continue and test my conjecture, the cleric, Hıdır, jumped in. “The Lord of all the worlds is also the Lord of demons, and his rules are also valid for them. They do not know when the end of the world will be, so they cannot tell you.”

Hıdır went on to scold Mr. Tahsin. “I regretfully condemn you for leading such a circus-like, anxiety-provoking program by inviting such people!”

Tahsin responded to this new criticism by announcing an ad break. Several of the guests stood up and the assistant reminded everyone that they would resume broadcasting in eight minutes.

When I returned after having some coffee, the cleric Hıdır and the spiritualist Fatin were still having a row.

“I’m a well-known dignitary,” Fatin grumbled loudly, “and you’d be surprised by the number of scientists, politicians, and businessmen who ask my advice”

“A person doesn’t talk about the talents he has; he talks about the ones he would like to have,” Dr. Özel interrupted on behalf of Hıdır.

Fatin, took exception to this, “And you, too, now,” he said to her. “As if it wasn’t enough coming from Mr. Zaman.”

“Don’t take it personally,” she said, “but your attitude is not nice at all. You have been abusing people’s feelings, juggling six topics at the same time with a lot of quackery, and, as if that wasn’t enough, you seek to exclude us from the conversation.”

Turning back to Mr. Tahsin, the scientist continued, “Mr. Zaman is right. You invite such people to the program because of ratings anxiety, but in doing so, you not only lower the tone of the program, you also fail to fulfill what you promised us. You told me this would be a program in which the rules of academic debate were applied. If you don’t pull the program together, I might have to leave. I have to protect the prestige of the institutes I represent.” The professor delivered this ultimatum as if she were speaking to her students in her lecture hall.

“Okay, okay,” Tahsin said. “I hear and agree with your concerns, top to bottom. I promise that, from now on, we will not allow such shenanigans on the program. However, please be calm and considerate. As you may know, viewers also have some questions and expectations. Let’s direct the program toward answering them.”

Tahsin turned to Fatin. “And you, Mr. Fatin, please don’t sabotage this multidisciplinary program, which is already very tense. I want to give you the opportunity to speak and communicate with the public.”

“OK, fair enough,” Fatin said, despite the red sparks flashing in his eyes.

By the time the assistant declared that we would be on the air in thirty seconds, all of the panelists had taken their places and were busy sorting the notes in front of them.

“On air!”

“Dear viewers, it seems these exciting and intriguing topics have affected our panel greatly. We will continue our provocative discussion by consulting our cleric about apocalyptic signs. We will ask for Dr. Özel’s thoughts on the creation and functioning of the universe and to make it clear whether what Ms. Gizem has said about the presence of various energy clusters at the center of the Milky Way is possible. But first, provided that he is calm, I’d like to turn back to Mr. Fatin. What are the sensations and statements you have received from the jinns? And please observe decorum while speaking.”

The so-called journalist was fanning the flames like a lunatic.

Fatin took a deep breath; he was clearly angry. “When talking about the respectability level of the program,” Fatin began, “you should consider the person whose name you bear. Hasan Tahsin went down in history as a journalist, firing the first bullet toward the enemy in Izmir. You, however, have been struggling merely to sell a few more ads for the program.”

Fatin grabbed Tahsin’s hand and, as he continued, his eyes turned up until only the whites were visible, “By the word ‘level,’ you mean I should accommodate the public? The public that buys weapons only to increase the suffering of the hungry? The public that tolerates murder? Thanks to you, now I am a murderer. The public that uses votes and opportunities and opens concentration camps filled up with untried prisoners? Thanks to you, I am now an oppressor. The public that is proud of having built the biggest prison in Europe, not the biggest library? Thanks to you, I’m now illiterate. However, I don’t think we should put the blame on the people who did it. The guilt belongs to the ministers. Are you asking about the end of the world? Here it is!”

He withdrew his hand from the journalist’s, leaving some bloody scratches, and his irises appeared once more. He was now murmuring to himself, “I’m even sick of it all. What’s next?”

Tahsin’s face was pale as he stammered. Such unexpected situations during a live-broadcast generally require a compulsory break, and indeed, the assistant hoarsely announced that we would return to air in seven-minutes. Although I had come here to present my book and talk about the code, at this point, I didn’t even know where I was.

The time passed quickly, and soon, the on-air warning arrived. I hoped the journalist would bring the discussion back to Earth.

“Okay,” he said when the break ended. “We will turn back to this hot topic and our guests’ projections soon, but first, I’d like to give some time to a brand-new writer, who has put forward an amazing first book containing some incredible arguments.” As he spoke, he stared helplessly at me.

Just then the door of the studio opened, and someone came inside. I turned and saw that it was Elif. Looking tired, she slipped inside with a briefcase. She glanced at the set, the scene, the people sitting at the table, and then turned to the camera and the hot spotlights. She was angry and I realized it hadn’t been a very good idea to do something like this behind her back. I must have forgotten to turn off the computer and now I’d been caught. Elif’s shrill voice rang in my ears.

“Your book has just come out. We haven’t even laid the groundwork for its promotion, nor even talked about it. But you have already thrown yourself into the most difficult situation: a live broadcast. A little bit of logic would have been good, but no, you lead with your chin!”

People in the studio stared at her; the assistant made a muting sign and showed her an empty seat. Then, everyone turned back to the panel and waited for my response.

I turned to the cameras. “First, good evening everyone,” I said. I had found the most ridiculous cliché to begin with. “Actually, everything I could tell you is stated in my book,” I continued now in a mumble.

“You’re a doctor, aren’t you?” Mr. Tahsin said to me with a facile grin. “Doctors of medicine must have a special interest in the finding of a code in our holy book.” He was trying to make the audience forget his earlier defeat by drawing attention to me, his new victim.

Hiding my displeasure, I answered with a slight sigh. “My profession aside, I am a human being. A human being that thinks. I feel an urge to share my thoughts with other people. Moreover, the only advantage of my profession in this case is that it brings me a scientific perspective and the ability to perform a systematic analysis.”

I had gotten a grip on the topic now. Since I held the cards, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to explain my findings. “It all began with a question.” I began reciting the lines that I had memorized on the way to the studio.

When I began to talk about the transparent sheets—which I had used while discovering the code—I began to gain the audience’s attention. My passion for the subject propelled me as I pointed at the book in my hands and showed its pages to the camera. Everything was going fine, and the atmosphere was calmer now, but I could see Elif losing her patience. Before I could finish, Elif stood up, and, because it was a live broadcast, suddenly the producers and crew had panicky looks on their faces. However, they were too late to stop her.

Elif stepped into the shot, put her hand on the table and, in a calm but frustrated tone, said, “Oktay, my dear, can we go now?” It was not a question.

I looked at her, considered the cameras, and wondered if I could still do something to pull it all together. I continued to talk.

“Here is Elif, who is the light of my life. She is the only one who has supported me throughout my writing process…” My hand was raised in the air toward Elif, who, along with the confused looks of the audience, the helpless and frustrated looks of the assistants and other personnel, was on full display in a live broadcast.

Elif spoke louder now, “You’re not ready yet. You’ve still got time. You came here without informing me. You will make a fool of yourself and of me.” I supposed she was right. I was a doctor and writer who was being scolded live on television—no matter what she said now, my reputation had already been ruined.

The host attempted to save the situation. “Ma’am, we’re live at the moment and discussing very important issues,” he said.

Elif raised her voice and began to yell.

The cleric, sitting beside me with all his courtesy and dignity, spoke to Elif as well. “Young lady, please sit down and calm yourself. The things happening here—”

As he was trying to put his hand on Elif’s shoulder, I also tried to hold her, and, in the midst of the struggle, the cleric inadvertently struck Elif’s face.

There was a moment of complete silence. Then, a thin line of blood appeared between Elif’s nose and mouth.

She ignored all of the forthcoming apologies and excuses. I was sure the camera was zooming in on all our faces, especially Elif’s. Time had stopped, and I really didn’t know what to do. I was paralyzed. Elif tried to wipe the blood away with the back of her hand. Then she took my hand and growled, “The show is over!”

I’d never seen Elif that angry before. As for me, I felt like a kid who had dropped his candy. I had almost finished my lecture; I had almost fulfilled my duty by telling them everything. But, the sandcastle got destroyed before I could finish.

Neither she nor I uttered a word until we got home. Elif used a tissue to wipe away the blood and her tears. I thought of stopping at a gas station and proposing she wash her face, but I kept my silence. At home, having still not uttered a word, I surrendered myself to the darkness and slept in our room alone.

I was relieved when I woke up from my deep sleep. What had happened during the program no longer loomed as large; I had done my best and made an effort. I had already made significant progress on my first day of publicity: I had appeared on a live TV program and promoted my book. But I couldn’t wrong Elif. I couldn’t take the risk of losing her for any reason, especially for a book or fame. I decided that she was jealous of me; I even felt my manly pride flattered by her fear regarding my possible fame. There was no need to make a fuss out of this; she had been hurt, albeit accidentally, and she deserved a big kiss, my forgiveness, and my sympathy.

As the raw light of the morning slipped into the room through the curtains, the door opened and Elif, in all her simple beauty, entered the room. She spoke, first hesitantly, then more quickly. She told me that I had been right and had done the right thing and that she had acted wrongly because of jealousy on her part. When she finished, I relieved the tension in the air by saying, “Let’s just forget about it!”

Later that day, the station manager called the house and told Elif that the previous night’s show had garnered incredible ratings. The channel, having seen the show’s market share, had now decided on a new format in which everyone would display his or her talent in a show called the Big Brother Mystery show or BBM.

They believed such a program would garner a lot of buzz and everyone would benefit. I would even be given a portion of the ad revenue as a reward. The publishing company had already agreed to come on as one of the sponsors, thus increasing our earning potential. Elif joined me in my excitement as she explained that this program, which could last for weeks, would make me famous and give me more opportunity and time to promote my ideas.

The more she talked, the more enthusiastic I became. I knew that my first instinct to join the show had been the right one. She left the room happily, saying that she was going to pack my suitcase. I sat opposite my half-opened window inhaling the brisk air of the morning and drinking my coffee. I sank into meditation, and then came dreams…

I awoke to the door opening and saw light from the corridor silhouetting Elif’s form. She walked in, taking delicate steps toward where I sat, facing the window. Elif’s hand touched my shoulder in a gesture of approval and support to show her wish for my success. “Everything is ready,” she said. Her words hung in the air as we sat together by the window in silence.

 

* * *

 

I checked my suitcase and the things Elif had packed for me. She hugged me sadly and I felt the warmth of her head as it lay on my shoulder. She let out a deep sigh and used the back of her hand to wipe away her tears. I didn’t understand why she was so upset. This was her fate as well, and she had been just as excited as me at the news of the opportunity.

Elif helped me dress in my best clothes, combed my hair, and walked with me to the parking lot, trying to keep pace with my happy steps.

As usual, Elif drove. My happiness, and enthusiasm prevented me from settling down in the passenger seat. Despite the heavy traffic, the gray-black asphalt, wet from the rainfall the night before, flowed rapidly under us. We seemed to be okay again. When I reached out to switch to another radio station, she threw me a glance followed by a little smile. She loved me. No matter how tired she got of my attempts at success, she loved me. I was filled with a warm feeling. For a moment, I wanted to tell her to forget it all and just go home. I felt an urge to hug her and talk about something else. But the desire to do my share for both of us—and the prospect of a little fame—calmed my thoughts and feelings.

Taking advantage of the mild atmosphere, I started a conversation with my eyes on the road. “After the show last night, the host committed suicide; did you know?” I asked her.

Elif was silent. I supposed she was wondering how I had learned this. She looked at me with a smile and a loving glance. She seemed hopeful and delighted by the fact that I knew what had happened.

“Yes…yes,” she said. “He committed suicide, right after the show.”

“He was a loser, anyway,” I continued. “It seemed like it was his sole purpose to host a one-night program and disappear, and he did it quietly without disturbing anyone. Hasan Tahsin was his own worst enemy.” I laughed at my own wit.

“We have to thank him,” Elif corrected. “By his suicide, he drew a lot of media attention to the show…”

She was deep in her thoughts now, and I was in a state of inexpressible happiness as the car approached the BBM studio.

 

The Labyrinth

The studio was gigantic. Once we got inside, the assistants and studio personnel checked my belongings—mobiles and any other communication devices were forbidden—and welcomed me. Elif was only allowed as far as the guest room, so she hugged me and said, “Take care of yourself!”

In my happiness, I promised her, “We will win the contest, promote the book, and then we will be rich and famous until the end of our lives. Everything will be great.”

The farewell hurt more as it grew longer. I gave Elif a kiss and a warm hug, and then I waved as I went through the door.

Long, wide corridors, gates with security, and clean and shiny walls made up the building; it was a bright and spacious place. They’ve worked with a very good architect, I thought. They obviously had a large production budget. As we walked, the assistant carrying my luggage told me about the format of the program. During my time here, it was forbidden to be in touch with, or get information from, people on the outside. This was to ensure a fair competition and to prevent the competitors from changing their behavior in response to viewer reactions.

We entered the section of the studio reserved for us. It was a gigantic room. A lot of cameras and special devices had been placed at such angles that their shots wouldn’t overlap one another. in the middle of the spacious lounge, simple but high-quality armchairs were arranged around and a low table. The producers obviously preferred a minimalist approach.

Six doors faced the lounge. On each door, there was a plate adorned with our respective names in black text on a bright golden surface. The assistant told me that the other participants had already arrived. He then led me to my room. After leaving my luggage on the nightstand, he didn’t miss the opportunity to wish me luck. I owe this nice guy an autograph, I thought.

It was a really stylish room. Clean, light-colored walls, a metal-gray dresser and wardrobe, a small desk, a chair, and a night-light that filled the room with harmony. The interior door to the bathroom and its useful contents had been carefully selected. Nothing was missing or exaggerated. I couldn’t help but appreciate it, as it was apparently the result of great planning and experience.

I could see a bit of the sky and greenery through the small window next to the bed. I stripped off my official clothes and put on something casual, then put my luggage and clothes into the wardrobe. I lay down peacefully on my bed, winked at the few cameras located in the corners of the room, and fell asleep. It was my most peaceful sleep in months.

When I woke up at noon, I was both relieved and rested. After washing my face, brushing my teeth, and tidying up my appearance, I moved to leave for the lounge when a large file on the desk caught my attention. This wasn’t here before I went to sleep, I thought. I picked up the file. There were tabs in the upper left corner and my name was written on the cover.

Following the official welcome and an explanation of the general rules of the competition, we were given the theme of the first week and a document that explained the challenge in depth. In an area the size of a football field, a labyrinth had been constructed, the walls of which were approximately three meters in height. After drawing lots to determine the order, we would take turns racing against the clock to find the exit.

Meanwhile, an electronic sensor would be placed on each of us that would alert us if we passed the same spot. If we passed it more than twice, it would end the contest. When that happened, our distance to the exit would be recorded as our score, and those of us closer to the exit would avoid being eliminated. The one who was farthest away from the exit, however, would be eliminated immediately. As for those who were able to reach the exit, their rankings would be determined by their speed. The staff didn’t forget to remind us that each week’s winner would receive extra bonuses and gifts.

With the flyer in hand, I went to the lounge. Everyone was sitting in armchairs around the table and chatting. They seemed to have gotten over the tension of the previous night. After getting a glass of cold water from the fountain, I sat beside them. I soon realized that we had all gotten the same file.

“A labyrinth! Wow—what a well-thought-out challenge!” said Ender, the indigo boy.

“It surprised me as well,” Feryal replied. “If they hadn’t proposed a large donation to the university, I wouldn’t have thought about participating, but now even I’m fascinated.”

“I hope next week they don’t expect us to have gladiator fights,” Gizem the astrologer added.

“I expected the competition to only test our ability to use knowledge through thought experiments,” Feryal continued.

“This competition requires no skills. How can you call exiting a labyrinth a test?” Fatin grumbled. “I think it is only demonstrating the clichés and problems with such programs.”

“It would be more accurate to put it this way,” Feryal corrected. “During our lives, we acquire a great deal of knowledge. We forget most, and there is a lot we don’t use, but through it all, we gather experience and retain some information. We take advantage of this knowledge and experience to solve the problems we encounter in life. If we encounter a problem that we are unable to solve at first, we learn by solving it and try to improve ourselves in that way. In the labyrinth, we each will be alone with the knowledge and experience we have collected up until now.”

“What is your point?” Fatin asked, rolling his eyes.

“Everyone here has learned different things during different stages of life,” she continued. “The knowledge we have gained and the extent to which we have improved ourselves can only be determined by facing tests. With such challenges we will learn who has acquired only empty knowledge and who has the tools to solve real problems? This is about you and your intelligence against everything else,” Feryal explained.

Hıdır Zaman, the cleric, took exception to Feryal’s argument. “I think you’re exaggerating,” he said. “They can’t be that clever. Still, the cameras are rolling, and the viewers have probably heard what you just said. If the competition didn’t have a stated purpose before, now the organizers can use your explanation as its purpose.”

Fatin grinned with a hateful smile. “Is the purpose that important?” he asked. “One of you will be eliminated this week, and I’ll be rewarded. In the following weeks, you’ll all be eliminated one by one in front of my eyes. So, enjoy this while you can.”

Every program had a bad guy, and this one had revealed himself early.

“You are only challenging us in order to mask your own fears,” I muttered.

Everyone turned to me, and Fatin scowled.

“I know how to get out of the labyrinth,” he said. “Where will you be when I am out? But, still, I like you. I don’t want you to be eliminated in the first week—your readers might return your book.” A slight grin crept across his tick garnished face. He was playing the classic psychological game of intimidating one’s rivals.

Gizem, the astrologer, spoke calmly. “You realize you have shared your existing advantage with your rivals, thus destroying what little chance you had.”

Fatin’s expression became more aggressive. I wondered if the viewers would like him or if he was right that he would be one of the winners? My rivals were obviously skilled, and didn’t have any idea how to get out of the labyrinth. Would I discover it? Or should I just close my eyes and pray for someone else to be eliminated? I got up, grabbed some coffee, and went to the smoking room.

In the evening, after dinner, as I moved to my room, I passed by the lounge and saw Hıdır, the cleric, and Ender talking. The others weren’t around, but, as I entered my room, it bothered me to realize that I didn’t have any sense of belonging. I switched off the overhead light, leaving on the night-light, and the elongated shadows set my teeth on edge. I enhanced the darkness by closing my eyes and forced myself to relax into sleep. My thoughts had been running constantly and I needed to relax my mind. But I only turned over and over in bed and grew more tired as my agitated mind kept me on the border of sleep.

I woke up early with an unpleasant metallic taste in my mouth and a body frozen in fatigue as memories of a dream came to me in fragments.

In my dream, I had been wandering the streets of an unfamiliar city. Rather than feeling lost, I had a desperate sense of not being able to find what I was looking for. I was trying to find someone but I only wandered hopelessly without asking for help. I gave up and went home by train, exhausted and defeated. Then I was at a train station in another city. I was trying to find someone in the crowd at the station. In my despair, I fell to the ground ashamed and furious. Who was I looking for, and why had this dream bothered me so badly?

I couldn’t remember the rest of the dream, so I got up and noticed a paper on my table. It read as follows:

“Dear contestant, in today’s afternoon session, it is your turn to express your thoughts and have a personal interview with the host. We kindly request you not be late as this will affect the live stream.”

As I looked at the paper, some faint letters written in pen caught my attention. Bending the paper in my hand, I tried to reveal the thin, scraped lines in order to see what was written. All I could see was this: Maria O

After a morning chat, a few cups of coffee, and some private thoughts on what I might say that would help me promote my book, I went to the interview room. The host was sitting at a table and checking his notes while waiting for me. He wore a suit, a smart tie, and a microphone on his collar.

I greeted him and he lifted his head and smiled at me sincerely. As he was checking his notes, he turned over the decorative hourglass at the corner of the table. “Welcome back,” he said. I noticed the cameras were recording and the voice recorder was on. The spotlights grew brighter, so I straightened in my chair, set my book beside me, and stared at the host.

“First of all, I’d like to ask you how you like our studio and the format of the competition?” he asked.

“The studio is simple and very well designed,” I answered enthusiastically. “It’s beyond my expectations. So far, everything has worked smoothly. But the competition is really tough. It will not be easy to stand out among the others. My first priority, though, is to use this opportunity to promote my book and talk about my discovery. However, that doesn’t mean that I want to give up and be eliminated in the first week.”

“No one ever wants to lose,” the host said, “especially since the rewards of such a competition are so big, right?” Then, he gave me an opening. “Please tell us about your book and your discovery.”

It was as if somebody had pushed my “on” button. I began the speech I had prepared and presented to myself countless times.

“Everything began with a question about a bookworm…,” I started.

The host was taking notes now, sometimes listening to me and sometimes interjecting with short questions. It helped as I could get an idea of the viewers’ reactions by watching him.

As I continued, I began to notice that his glances got sharper, he asked fewer questions, his curiosity increased, and he took notes more frequently. I had already lost myself in my explanation; I was lining up the blank pages I’d torn out one after another, describing the planes, showing the locations of the disjointed letters at the edges of papers, and helping him to visualize the three-dimensional version of the image. When the last particle of sand fell into the bottom of the hourglass, I still had more to tell and hoped the viewers were still listening, but the host stopped me. He provided a ratings guarantee by saying that he, like all the viewers, was looking forward to the next interview.

A little bit tired and sweaty, I happily returned to the lounge. The lounge was empty except for Gizem, the astrologer, who occupied herself at the table drawing star maps.

I drank a glass of water and then, after getting a coffee from the dispenser, I sank into one of the comfortable chairs. Gizem lifted her head, and we caught each other’s eyes and exchanged a smile.

“How was the interview?” she asked.

“I think it went really well. I was able to tell what I wanted to tell, and I didn’t have trouble or get too exhausted.”

“I’m glad,” she replied.

I tried to change the subject. “Where are the others?”

“They were here. After chatting for a while, they went to their rooms. You don’t seem to like them much.”

Her comment surprised me, but I played it off by asking her opinion.

Gizem stood up and moved to sit near me.

“So many of my life experiences have showed me that there are things to discover and share with all human beings,” she said. “But now I’m tired. Everything has gotten faster, and they are moving toward the inevitable. The feeling that there is nothing much I can do weighs heavy on my shoulders.”

“Are you talking about the others?” I asked.

“No. Not that. I’m talking about what’s coming,” she responded.

I remembered then who I was talking to. I looked at her paper with its star maps and suddenly understood her concern. I tried to reassure her.

“What if this is only something we think about to distract ourselves. What if we decide to welcome the morning of December 22 with a smile?” I asked.

She lifted her hands and laughed. “Then we continue playing the extra time,” she said with a smile. “I sense there is something special about you, young man.”

Young man was a compliment that I enjoyed hearing at my age. Gizem paused, as if she was trying to find the correct words. Then, she continued as if she had decided not to finish her thought. “Come on, let’s look at your fortune,” she said. “It’s quiet now and we can relax a bit.”

The shadows in the lounge had grown longer with the approaching evening, and I realized the only thing that would make me relax would be a sea view and a faintly burning fireplace. I thought of Elif.

“So,” Gizem began, stretching out the word.

I looked at her again and smiled. “Let’s see what happens,” I said. “Even if my reading doesn’t reveal much, I very much believe in fortune.”

“Then give me your hand, young man, and let yourself rest in the silence…”

She pointed at my right hand and I extended it to her, palm up. I felt the touch of her dry, thin, bony fingers accompanied by the feeling of a strange, electrical sting. Or was it my imagination? As the astrologer held my hand and looked at it at length, she looked like someone who had been doing this for a long time. As minutes followed seconds, she didn’t utter a word. Then, suddenly staring at me, she let go of my hand and looked at me with disappointment.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Sometimes, even though you may really want to, you can’t tell a person’s fortune. Some call this ‘an unwritten page,’ but I just call it failure.”

“This is what happens in the movies,” I said half in jest. “When the fortune-teller foresees something bad, she doesn’t say anything to the victim.” I laughed to myself.

“Should I remind you of the age when fortune tellers were burned due to bad prophecy, young man?” she said, taking on a more serious tone.

“Should I remind you that we live in a civilized world?” I asked. That disarmed her and, now, we both were laughing. “Seriously, can I ask you a personal question?”

The astrologer nodded.

“Do you really believe in what you feel and say? I mean, do you ever have any doubts?” I felt anxiety as I tried to make the question clear.

“There are a lot of things I can’t prove or express, so sometimes I just let it go. Am I sure? No, I’m not, but even the possibility is enough, I think.”

“Something like…knowing the correct answer among the incorrect ones?” I asked.

“I think so, but rather like knowing the truth and changing people’s perception of fate. For instance, you were born with a talent, and from your youth you have communicated with others from the outside world,” she said.

“The outside world?” I asked, surprised.

“Let’s say you communicate with extraterrestrial life forms, or, more specifically, with entities in the solar system around Alpha Tauris. You get very famous by transferring to humanity what you have learned from them. You become their most trusted medium; you pave the way for the most powerful countries’ ability to dominate the world. But, just when you are about to win the fight and be the most powerful individual of all mankind, poof! Everything is over,” Gizem said.

After saying, Poof,” she made a vague gesture with her hand.

“In that scenario,” Gizem continued, “because you put the weapon into the hands of a man, and he has a fate, your fate, then, is to lose as you are about to win. Even if you had direct contact with a UFO that landed in the Black Forest in Bavaria, and even if you had the technology of a very advanced age and weapons that could instantly destroy the world thousands of times, you could still lose.”

“Wait a minute, you are talking about something that has happened. What happened? Who is the person you are talking about?” Many questions came to my mind, and I tried to ask them all.

“Nineteen thirty-eight. Bavaria, the Black Forest. Maria O…,” she said.

Before Gizems could finish, Feryal and Ender came into the lounge. Gizem and I fell suddenly silent as if we had been caught revealing a secret.

Feryal had Ender sit in the armchair next to hers and she commenced stroking his hair. She was obviously a mother. She then turned to us. “Fortune-telling? Without me? I want in.”

I laughed about how fortune-telling always attracts women, and we all began a friendly chat that became the kind of conversation I used to have back in my school days—one made just for pleasure. We were laughing, joking around, and teasing one another. The night was black, and the lights were on, but we were still having fun.

Eventually, the boy excused himself and after I watched him go to his room, I turned to the others, “Everyone has a reason for being here,” I said. “I’m here for the promotion of my book, you for the donation to your university. But why is Ender here? Why is an eleven-year-old child here, and why do his parents allow such things?”

Gizem stared at me with gentle eyes, and gave me a look as if to say, “So, you don’t know.”

“If that poor boy had parents, they wouldn’t let him come here,” she said. “However, to answer your question, he’s here in the hopes of getting a good donation to the orphanage, an opportunity to prove how smart and valuable the children there can be, and maybe, more importantly, the need of one child to be cherished.”

I had been so stupid. I was only interested in my own problems and again wasn’t aware of what was going on around me. The chat didn’t last long after that, and I excused myself and went to my room.

In the morning, I got up hastily and almost ran into the lounge only to find that no one was around. After a necessary visit to the smoking room, I returned to the lounge to find the cleric eating his breakfast quietly. Ender was curled up in one of the armchairs with a book in his hand, but he wasn’t reading.

I sat beside the boy and asked with my kindest expression, “How are you? Did you have a good night’s sleep?”

Ender moved his long brown hair out of his face and stared at me with his deep blue eyes. “As far as I can see,” he began, “you have just learned what everyone else already knows.” After a short pause, he went on. “Let’s make a deal: you can see me as a freak and treat me like that, but please be sincere; do whatever you feel like, like before. Nothing would disturb me more than seeing you feel upset by things that are not your responsibility. You are a clever man, and I hope you understand what I mean.”

I was stunned by his incisiveness. The boy was truly brilliant. I smiled at him.

“Okay,” I said. “I get the message.”

I thrust out my hand, and, as Ender shook it, he gave me a small wink.

 

* * *

 

Wednesday finally arrived. This was the day I got to see Elif. I was so overwhelmed by being in the competition that I had nearly forgotten. I rushed into my room to get prepared and then to the lounge, trying my best not to be late.

When I entered the room, Elif was there. I had forgotten how beautiful she was. I immediately sat opposite her and held her hands in mine. One of the competition officials stood near us, making us feel his presence. I wanted to ask her what was going on outside, if people were watching us, who they were supporting, whether or not I looked stupid in front of the cameras, if there was anything I’d missed, but of course, I couldn’t ask any of those questions because I didn’t want to be disqualified.

“You look pale,” I said, “but even this looks good on you. Oh, how much I’ve missed you.”

Elif held my hands more firmly now. “Are you all right?” she asked. “Do you need anything?”

She couldn’t talk about anything, but I could. “The meals are great. My opponents are tough, but they are all nice, and there are a lot of things I’m learning from them. Actually, if I didn’t feel your absence, I could even say I enjoy being here. By the way, Mr. Hıdır asked me to tell you that he apologizes again for the accident.”

“It was an accident. I’ve already forgotten,” Elif muttered, embarrassed.

“He is a very good man in his field,” I continued. “What am I talking about? You must be watching it on TV anyway. This week’s competition is the labyrinth, and I still haven’t thought of how to get out of it. But I will find a solution—wow, I just realized there’s only a short time left before this week’s final.”

Elif just listened to me with a concerned look on her face while she ran her thumb over my fingers. Time flew by so fast, and, before I knew it, I was hugging her tightly as she left. For a while, I couldn’t let her go.

As the time for the labyrinth competition approached, the tension between everyone became blindingly obvious. One evening, as we were sitting all together and everyone was lost in their own world, Feryla said what was on all our minds. “With all the time we have been spending together,” she said, “I’ve begun to get used to you all.”

“Stockholm syndrome,” I muttered, and my words were followed by some soft laughter.

“My self-respect and my relationships with some of you oblige me to tell you something, though,” she continued. “I knew how to get out of the labyrinth the day it was declared. It might be because I am a scientist or because I have read a lot or because of the things I have learned and retained. But whatever the reason, I know the answer—I mean, the solution. However, since it is still a competition, I don’t want to lose my advantage by telling you how. Maybe I have told you all of this now to relieve my conscience.”

Fatin frowned at her confession. “I already told you of my ability to win the challenge,” he said, “and I did not do so because of any respect or love for any of you.” Fatin played with his nails without looking at us as he went on. “Even before I came here, I knew this question would be asked. Please don’t take it as arrogance, but I also knew that Feryal would know the answer. Anyway, can I make a humble suggestion? Don’t upset each other; draw lots among yourselves and solve the problem that way.”

Ender jumped in. “How can we know for sure what you know?” he asked. “You can’t tell us.”

“Clever boy!” Fatin grinned. “If I tell, then you learn, and that’s unacceptable. If you still want me to tell you after the competition, I can do that.”

“Well,” Ender responded, “considering my current position and the details I’ve noticed, I can tell you that I’m close to the exit as well.”

The conversation increased my anxiety and I sank deep into my own thoughts. I had thought about it over and over again, but up until then, I had been unable to work it out. It seemed like there was no solution or escape. There had to be something I was missing. Was I asking the wrong questions? I suddenly feared being eliminated.

 

* * *

The first phase of the competition came and went, and I managed to make it through. Waiting outside the elimination room, I knocked on the door and went in to say goodbye to Gizem.

“I’m sorry; you know I like you. If I had the chance to choose, it would not be you who got eliminated, believe me,” I said.

“I’m sorry, too. I did not expect to be eliminated so soon. I’m surprised. I thought I was doing pretty well, but they only focus on the results without understanding the method.”

I tried to reassure her with all the clichés: life goes on, don’t be sad, etc. She zipped her bags angrily and tried to pick them up. I stepped in to help, and, as I was trying to grab the handles of the bags to carry them for her, my hand suddenly touched the elderly woman’s skin. There was that indescribable electrical shock again! The woman took the bags from my hand, put them on the floor, and stared at me.

“Young man, you have something mysterious about you, but I’m unable to solve it, despite all my life experience and knowledge. When I looked into your fortune that night, I did see something, but I decided to not tell you. No one loves the one who gives them bad news, and doing so has never been to my advantage in my market.” She smiled at that and touched my shoulder.

“Young man, you need to change your perspective and look back at what you have seen. You can win this competition by eliminating everyone; I have no doubt about that, but if you do not win this competition, and if you lose the chance given to you in another competition…,” her voice briefly trailed off before she continued. “When I took your hand, I caught a vision that I haven’t had for a long time. It was so clear that it is still before my eyes. I can still smell the blood and taste the metal in the air. I saw a setting sun, its last rays obscured by the dense smoke of a battlefield. The field was full of corpses of your friends and a defeated army. You were in the middle of the battlefield with a broken sword, screaming at the sky, begging, and no one could hear you. Your enemies were busy sharing the spoils and digging graves. They didn’t care about you—even fighting and dying with honor was denied you.”

She let go of my hands and picked up her bag again. “Genghis Khan and his successors destroyed one third of the known population of the world and influenced the fate of all living things afterward; did you know that?” she asked.

The absurdity of what she’d said left a strange, knotted feeling in my throat. I wanted to say something. I wanted to remember. All I could do was turn and leave the room.

As I entered the hall, I heard a child’s voice behind me, “It’s just a snapshot, and, if you are still alive, then you will have another chance. Whether it’s an honorable death or a victory, who cares? Sometimes, taking that chance is, itself, the war that has to be won.” I turned and looked at Ender. He had heard everything.

 

* * *

 

All the excitement and glamour of the first week of competition was gone. Awards had been distributed and messages of support had been read. After Gizem left the studio, we gathered in the dimly lit room to watch the episode. No one had slept and no one cared to speak. We just stared at the television screen in the lounge, quietly watching the recording (Gizem’s seat remained empty).

The show began with some trailers and some touching music. Ender had been the first competitor, as drawn by lots. We watched as, on tape, he prepared to take his turn in the maze. In one corner of the screen, there was a stopwatch, and in the other corner there was a countdown from one thousand meters. In keeping with the rules of the competition, we were all dressed in special clothes. Ender had on a bright purple jumpsuit that glimmered in the light. He also wore an armband with a flashing sensor attached.

As he began his turn, he lingered at the entrance a little, touched the walls by bending and leaning against them, checked the connecting hallways, and then proceeded with cautious but quick steps. He stopped, looked back, and kept moving, all the while mumbling something. He was rapidly running out of time, but the light on his armband remained green. The action was easy to follow as the pilot camera showed the distance to the exit for the audience.

As the music increased in tempo and intensity, with only 124 meters left to the exit, Ender made a mistake. He suddenly walked in the opposite direction, and when he turned again to go the same way he had before, the light on his arm suddenly turned red. An alarm followed, and the score was registered: 124 meters, 8 minutes, 34 seconds to the exit.

Watching himself, Ender spoke with a weary voice, “I made assumptions in accordance with the paint layers on the walls, the brush strokes, and the wear on the most-used roads. I considered the fact that, during constructing, the entrance and exit of the labyrinth must have been built first with the other parts added later. However, that’s it.” He laughed slightly.

The second runner was Fatin. He was dressed in jet black except for thin bands of red on his arms and on his upturned collar. He approached the entrance with firm steps. After a little pause to adjust his eyes to the whiteness, he proceeded with steps that were hesitant, but quick. He did not even touch the walls. The meter counter declined rapidly as the time moved slowly. When he arrived at the exit, he paused for a moment, then crossed the finish line as a winner. The numbers on the screen were frozen at zero meters, three minutes, fourteen seconds. “Winner!” graphics now blinked on the screen.

“Now I’ll tell you how I did it,” Fatin said. “My elves told me the strategy for the labyrinth well in advance. They simply held my hand and led me to the exit.”

At that, silence and tension pervaded the lounge, and I grew afraid.

Hıdır was third. The cleric had trimmed his gray beard and was wearing black trousers, a snow-white collarless shirt, and a dark-green belt. His lips were moving as if in prayer. He stopped at the entrance and took the first step with a ‘bismillah.’ He then proceeded rapidly with confident steps as if a bright path was showing him the way. I wouldn’t have thought that even the ones who’d built the labyrinth could have gotten out of there so easily. When he reached the exit, the screen again stopped, this time at zero meters, four minutes, twenty-eight seconds.

When we turned to him, he greeted us with a gentle smile and opened his hands. “Sometimes you need to believe in luck,” he said humbly.

“Greetings to the second best,” Fatin chuckled. “I’ll send you the pictures of the awards I won.”

Dr. Feryal Özel now entered the labyrinth in a dark cream-colored suit accentuating her beauty. A pink scarf completed her outfit. She chose one of the walls and put her hand on it, and without drawing it away, she began to move, trailing her hand against the wall as she went. It was a very strange method, but interesting to watch, especially on the pilot camera. She navigated the maze in a different way from all the others. She was proceeding toward the exit, though slowly, and it seemed as if she was going to take the wrong path at any minute—but she made zero mistakes. When she reached the exit, the screen froze at zero meters, ten minutes, forty-three seconds.

In the lounge, we turned to Feryal, even more surprised than we had been at the previous winners.

Feryal smiled. “In fact, it was very simple, something my father taught me as a child. If you proceed while constantly touching one of the walls of a labyrinth, though it may take you a while, it always takes you to the exit.”

I was next. I took a deep breath as I saw myself on the screen wearing a blue leather outfit and a black belt. Although I felt uncomfortable at first, I had become accustomed to the clothing. I approached the entrance of the labyrinth and, after a little pause, I took my armband with the sensor off and attached it to my left shoe. Then, I took off the shoe and threw it over one of the walls, toward where I thought the exit was.

I relived those stressful moments, as on the screen, I watched myself begin the arduous process of proceeding back and forth down the corridors looking perplexed and aimless. I had considered the possibility of an elimination or disqualification but as I manipulated the rules of the competition, I worried that I was just making a fool of myself. The count on the clock got higher and higher, and, after a long time and quite a few attempts, I reached the place where my shoe had fallen. At that point, I made the logical choice and simply accepted my score. I didn’t know where the exit was and didn’t want to push my luck by throwing my shoe in what might be the wrong direction. The display clock stopped at 251 meters, 18 minutes, 12 seconds.

When the others turned to me, I said, “Do not ask me anything. That was the best I could do out of desperation.”

Gizem was the last competitor. She wore a very nice turquoise outfit that brought out the sheen of her red, wavy hair. When she passed the entrance, she held in one hand a folded astrological chart, and, in the other, tarot cards. She was very focused and confident as she stopped at the first intersection and proceeded, sometimes looking at the cards, sometimes at the page in her hand, and sometimes touching a bright red stone on her neck. This ritual took place at each of the intersections without exception, and at first she was successful. The meter countdown proceeded rapidly and I began to feel her excitement: 270, 269, 268, 267—

But then, she came to one more intersection. She knelt down and spent some time looking at the written pages in her hand and mumbling to herself. Then there came a sudden faint movement that only I seemed to notice. Something was there with her: a thin, gray layer of smoke hovered over the papers on the floor and changed their order. Like the others, Ms. Gizem probably hadn’t seen it, because the red light began to flash shortly after she rechecked her papers and took a few steps. I was shocked, but no more than she was. The clock read 268 meters, 12 minutes, 23 seconds.

The show was finished and nobody wanted to talk. We turned the screen off, stood up, and went to our rooms. I had just opened my door when I heard Fatin whisper, “The problem is not only to win, but also to decide who will lose.” Moving away, he turned his back to me and opened his own door. As he entered his room, a thin, gray smoke followed him before he disappeared behind the door.

 

The Exchange

 

In pitch-black darkness, I suddenly woke up from a deep sleep with a deep sense of uneasiness. I became conscious of a dense, sulfurous smell and sensed that there was something else lurking in the dark.

Though hesitant to move my head, I nervously began to look around, scanning the empty darkness. Suddenly, two small, bright-red globules appeared before my eyes. I blinked to make sure I wasn’t still dreaming. The two red dots faded away slowly, then reappeared, brighter than before. My heartbeat became a violent storm and I started to shiver.

A headlight beam of a moving car outside my window, ripped apart the darkness for a moment, and, in the upper corner of the room, I saw a creature with its hands on the ceiling, its feet on the walls, and its head, against all logic, turned fully backward staring at me. It was still, and its shade was darker than the darkness itself. My body melted in a wave of adrenaline. I could neither move nor scream.

Making a crackling sound like that of an insect rubbing its legs together, the creature crept down toward the floor in a manner that mocked all the rules of nature and physics. Suddenly, I jumped when I saw the speed with which the creature reached the floor. It rose up on its feet without taking its eyes (now more yellow) off of me. Then it stepped toward me as its head, completing another full rotation, turned abruptly to face me. I felt its breath on my skin and suddenly knew the source of the sulfur smell.

My face was bathed in a cold sweat, my lips trembling, and my jaw was clenched. Nonetheless, I managed to speak, my voice trembling in the darkened room. “Who are you?” I asked.

The creature cast its eyes to the floor and replied, “Do you still have to ask this?”

My eyes followed the creature’s gaze downward, and I suddenly shuddered with recognition when I saw its misshapen tail with thin fur and its cloven feet. Somehow, I managed to meet its eyes again as I asked the only logical question. “What do you want?’”

 

I’m the Devil

I sat in the top corner of the dark room, at the furthest end that the universe could offer me, deliberately flexing the rules others imposed. Oktay was suitable for the purpose I was seeking. I had been staring at this creature for a long time. “For a long time” is an understatement: I had been observing these creatures and the community they formed since the beginning of their existence. It was a flawed, pathetic community that somehow still managed to surprise me with its unnecessary self-glorification.

At the beginning of their creation, I had scorned these creatures mercilessly, but in time, they had improved themselves. Not having the talent for seeing that future only increased my anger and cruelty.

I had been perched in the corner of this room for a long time, spying on the creature called Oktay, and sharing his reckless sleep. Oktay had a beautiful way of masking the weird thoughts and outbursts that arose in his mind, but his foresight distracted me from my usual preoccupation with the sweet troubles and ambitions of the other seven billion. This is what led me here.

Whether he was truly ill or not, there was something in him that hadn’t been noticed or revealed by anyone in thousands of years, and it filled me with questions. Were the rules of the game, formed by a universe that I didn’t create, changing?

The social progression of a community controlling its destiny and extending its boundaries with the movement and psychology of a herd, with fear, fanaticism, and the numerous unbridled human impulses that formed the order I wanted and had been trying to maintain. An automated system nourishing itself. I was there to intervene, or at least to see and understand if the thoughts of Oktay’s “ill” mind could affect or change anything.

As he awoke, I hoped he wouldn’t wet himself or scream in hysterics. The sneaky fear of the risks raced through my mind.

He noticed me and his sudden wave of fear licked at my face. I rose to my feet, fixing my eyes in a stare—it was my favorite move. Then I sat beside him. The creature barely moved as more sweat dripped down his face.

Then, with a courage that impressed me, he spoke. “What do you want?”

“To eliminate the cliché. Let me tell you, I don’t want your soul, and I won’t offer you anything in return.” I was pleased with my ability to joke. I touched him between his sweaty forehead and hairline. “I want to know what you really know about this nonsense book.” My tone made it clear that this wasn’t a request. “And please, tell me all about it without repeating the nonsense you have been saying on TV.”

I suddenly noticed the freak’s voice take on a growl, and a thin blue light suddenly appeared in his eyes. My own inner voice rang in my brain: Am I losing control? With an unexpected strength, the creature turned to me and demanded, “What do you mean?”

I had lost control. The human freak, Oktay, now spoke with power in his voice. “You have already revealed too much,” he said. “I can sense your desperation. You’re afraid of me, even in my miserable state. You are afraid of making a mistake even when you have arranged all the cards in your favor. This can only mean that you want something very badly.” Oktay straightened his posture and stared at me.

Without hesitating, I pulled his hair forcefully and slammed his head against the wall. The dull thuds of his head mingled with his cries and groans.

“Maybe you don’t understand,” I said, pulling his head back. “You were told to prostrate yourself!”

There was no turning back now; I knew nobody could stop me. Death was coming. As I punched his face in rage, blood and bone particles scattered around. His nose had already lost its shape, and I couldn’t see his mouth, which was covered in blood. I now held his neck between my hands, preparing to break it.

Suddenly, I was surprised by the sharp smell of mint and a thin, weak, lace-like light began to cover everything. In the peace and calm now dominating the air, I heard the sound of a reed flute coming from far away.

A hand on my shoulder turned me around, and I came face to face with an old man in a green robe. He was hardly distinguishable from the darkness as he stared at me with light-green, shining eyes that touched me deeply. I wanted to move, to finish Oktay, but my movements were suppressed by the old man’s hand’s grip on my shoulder.

“Who the hell are you?” I yelled. My collapsed shoulder was aching now. I had lost, and now I needed to minimize the damage. Resolving to fight another day, I ran out of the room immediately.

 

I’m Hizir

I’m Hizir al-Khidir, and I have been observing mankind for a long time. The human—the most strange, unpredictable, and surprising creature in all the universe, as far as I have observed—has always given me hope. For thousands of years, I have observed as this community looks for its light. As such, I like to help humans and show them the right path. It is something like what a teacher feels while helping a child. To me, a human is like a young child. If I can nurture them and the child grows up, I have raised a human being.

But here was a man who was scattering his thoughts in a strange new way, but it would be a lie if I said such distinct thoughts had not existed before in history. Such inferences, whether right or wrong, hurt only if they are not kept secret.

But, when these thoughts and their conclusions are incorrect and affect the lives of others, intervention is needed. Of course, there is another possibility: if everything he said was right and was transmitted to other people, then everyone and everything could be rebuilt.

The poor boy was lying on his bed semiconscious and covered in blood. His weak moans echoed slightly off of the walls in the dark. It wasn’t the right time.

Murmuring a prayer, I touched his head, and, with each light touch, his broken nose, fractured skull, internal hemorrhaging, and, finally, the wounds on his face, slowly disappeared.

To wipe his memory, I touched his head once more, sealing the neuronal synaptic connection in his hippocampus. I could hear the sound of the morning azan from far away. By the time I left, only the memory of a faint menthol smell would remain in the room.

 

I’m Oktay

When I awoke in the morning, the sun had already risen and the hour was late. After a two-minute indulgence, I stood up and felt a slight headache and some stiff muscles. I went to the bathroom and noticed that an area on my chest was sore. I slipped off my undershirt and saw an oddly shaped bruise. Where did that come from? Had I bumped into something when I was asleep? I went through my memory of the night before, but I couldn’t associate the bruise with anything. There was no pain. I felt good.

When I returned to my room, I found a document with this week’s task:

 

This week, each competitor is going to produce something using his own knowledge and experience. Each contestant will present what he has produced in the next round of competition. If your creation is accepted by the others, then you will remain in the competition; if not, you will be eliminated.

Good luck.

BBM Competition Coordinator

 

What do they mean? I thought. What does it mean to produce something? Such a subjective definition—it could be anything from lyrics to a drawing or some kind of mathematical formula. Did they want us to create something that would be demanded and sold? In order to sell someone what you have made or produced, the person has to want it desperately and be ready to pay any price. I would need to produce something that someone would desperately want. But, this left me at the mercy of the desire and taste of another human. Maybe I could poison someone and wait for him or her to buy the antidote, I thought, laughing.

When I went into the lounge, everyone was there. They all looked sleep deprived as they sat yawning and chatting quietly. Greeting them, I sank into the armchair beside them. “So, what do you think about this week’s competition?” I asked.

“Dr. Özel can explain more scientifically, but I think this will be an opportunity to realize why we live and what we can bring to society,” said Hıdır.

I liked him. Although we didn’t chat a lot, my sense of his warmth and confidence strengthened my opinion of him as time went on.

“A correct analysis, indeed,” Dr. Özel agreed. “But in the end, if you want your creation to be bought for certain, you have to oblige the buyer. It is based on real need. A war economy, for example, requires increasingly superior weapon systems and the weapons needed to shield against them. This mentality relates to most things. Think of computers. Although no one at first needs an antivirus software program, if you spread viruses on the internet, there will be a demand for antivirus programs.”

“By that logic, if you let people suffer from hunger, they’ll buy food from you,” Fatin jumped in, smiling.

“You have only barely perceived the subject,” I snapped at Fatin. He had begun to bother me after his smoke trick from the night before. He looked me over at length, like he had something on the tip of his tongue, but he didn’t say anything.

Feryal’s sweet voice took away the tension. “Once upon a time, I wrote an article on a similar issue and had the opportunity to study this in depth. If we look around us at the experiences of domesticated creatures, we can understand this issue better.” She again spoke to us as if we were her students. “In fact, everything that survives pays a tribute or a bribe. Cows survive and continue their bloodline by continuously producing milk. In order to ensure their breed’s survival and not become one of the animal species that we have destroyed, they, ironically, offer their milk and meat. Cows and chickens and other such animals escape extinction and the cruelty of nature by behaving this way.”

Feryal leaned in as she continued. “We don’t let a wolf wander around the city, and we don’t make an effort to breed it on a farm so that it can continue to have offspring. This is because it doesn’t pay us a bribe and thus, like many others, it is either destroyed or pushed away from our living areas. If horses didn’t offer their strength and their ability to carry us, and if they weren’t submissive enough to be tamed, do you think man would let them live on and take care of them? Would they even be able to continue their bloodline?”

I looked over at Ender, who was nodding as he listened to Feryal’s argument.

“That’s interesting,” Ender said. “I had never looked at it that way until you said that. You are saying everything has to pay a price to exist, even human communities. That’s what you mean, right?”

“Naturally. Driving incompatible stereotypes out of the community is also an indicator of this phenomenon,” Feryal explained. “Throughout human history we have tried to limit the possibility of breeding for people who are of no use or who can hurt us. We put them in jail or give them the death penalty. And who doesn’t want to get married to a smart, beautiful, and hardworking person and make children? But this means that we are somehow trying to prevent the continuation of others’ bloodlines by not marrying the opposite kind of people.”

Fatin became agitated at this. “So, you’re admitting that you people are part of an order based on a relationship of interest and benefit, only masked with morality. You crush one another or even cause one another’s extinction with the rules you set. Because you invented the rifle, you think you have the privilege of killing and exploiting the communities that still use arrows and spears. Afterward, you offer them a few tokens or claim a holy mission. America did this. They carried out genocide on the native people of an entire continent, only leaving a handful to live on reservations. You are calling this ‘natural selection.’ Maybe this is why the concept and format of this competition seems natural and nice to you. You find it natural and exciting to cause another’s extinction, and you think I am the evil one.”

“You don’t need to persuade us by dragging us into a fight,” Hıdır said calmly. “It is only a matter of perspective and interpretation. Sometimes we shouldn’t question what we don’t understand.”

“Sometimes, I think of this world as my personal hell and you as the demons punishing me,” Fatin retorted. Then he stood up and walked toward his room. The sound of a slamming door punctuated his departure.

“He has begun to act like a teenage boy,” I said, trying to ease the silence.

Dr. Feryal Özel, still engaged with her ideas, turned to Ender. “If I share with you some of my ideas, could you give me an answer after thinking them over?”

Ender smiled at her and nodded silently.

Feryal continued. “Here is the first piece of data: Human DNA is repeated in each cell in almost the same manner. In other words, every cell, from those in the hair to those in the intestine, has the same basic DNA coding. The second piece of data: only five to ten percent of the data in DNA is in use. The function and purpose of the other data is unknown. Now comes the question: Do you think that a fish leaves millions of eggs to create thousands of offspring as an evolutionary strategy to increase the numbers of its descendants?”

Ender looked off in the distance. He seemed to be making calculations. “Actually, you’re indirectly asking me if there is a purpose for our existence. Continuing the bloodline is the expansion of the why question, isn’t it?”

“You’re near my point, yes,” Feryal answered.

Ender thought again to himself, then turned to her. “I’d like to begin explaining in the way that I hate the most—in other words, with a question,” he said. “If you had all the power to send a message that would last a very long time, even eternally, what would you do?”

This question excited me and prompted me to jump in. “While working on the Qur’anic code, I thought about this issue a lot,” I said. “In fact, I may have even addressed this question precisely. If a message is written in nature by using universal constraints, like the code I suggested, it will be there as long as the universe exists. Take a number like Pi, which continues until eternity. If we encode a message in such an ocean of information, the message can go to the Andromeda galaxy or to any edge of the universe and it will stay the same: stable. So the information remains as long as the universe exists.”

“I would try a different approach,” Feryal said. “I would write the message in the place where time doesn’t function: on the border of extinction, such as the entrance to a black hole, to guarantee that the message and information stay there as long as time and the universe allow.”

Ender considered our comments thoughtfully. “These are good statements,” he said, “but they still don’t cover all eventualities. The universe is in a loop, and as such, if it assumes a form in which the same rules don’t apply, your message will vanish.”

A period of silence followed until the boy spoke again. “If the message can be written inside of a complex structure that is able to exist, overcome and adapt to every situation, we can have a dynamic means of message transmission. I posit that there can be a possibility of carrying a secret message in our very DNA which allows us to go beyond time and our universe. As you know, life does anything it can to survive.”

“Whoa! Even I hadn’t thought about it that way,” Feryal said.

“So what would the message be? If the reason of our presence is that message, what is it?” I asked.

Ender laughed at that. “How can I answer that question? I can only make inferences about these dimensions, and I am only one person with one mind. How can an electron that transmits only a portion of a small electrical signal in a telephone conversation know the entirety of that conversation? Assume, for example, that you are a tiny LED light on a dashboard, occasionally flashing. You will neither know the whole image nor which part of the message you support.”

The conversation had tired us all out at that point. Hidir and Feryal got up to head to their rooms while I remained thinking about what Ender had just described. As I was about to go back to my room, Ender followed closely. “You may not be aware of it,” he said quietly, “but you have been badly beaten. Take care of yourself. Don’t let the things you know but don’t remember prevent you from protecting yourself.”

I laughed. “If she hadn’t left, I would think Gizem was talking to me now. Did she put you up to this?” I said.

Ender smiled at my joke, then grew more serious. “Just pay attention to Fatin,” he said before he went to his room.

I didn’t know what Ender was referring to, so, in my room, I dismissed his warning and tried to think of a strategy for the competition. The easiest idea was to poison Fatin and sell him the antidote, but I knew that couldn’t go beyond a thought.

The next afternoon, it was again my turn to be interviewed by the host. So I sat again in front of the cameras and talked about my thoughts on the competition and about Gizem’s elimination. As my mind was occupied with the next challenge, I didn’t insist on talking as much about my book and the code. When asked about the other competitors, I avoided the subject by giving wishy-washy answers. I expertly navigated questions intended to trap me, such as what had happened to my lip. By the time the hourglass was empty, I had grown bored and I slipped out of the room.

When I went into the lounge, Ender and Hidir, the cleric, were there. Hidir was talking while sketching something on a paper, and the boy was cheerfully listening to him. The cleric seemed like he was talking to his grandchild.

“The Qur’an is the greatest miracle and was always directed to him. When our Prophet was asked to show a miracle, he always showed it. People always wanted more, and they studied this holy book for centuries. They still do. In the process, one of the discoveries that has been made about the book is the repetition of words.”

“The word day is used three hundred and sixty-five times,” Hidir explained. “The word days, thirty times; the word month is used twelve times; punishment, one hundred and seventeen times; the word forgive is used twice that much; the world, one hundred and fifteen; the devil, eighty-eight; angels, eighty-eight; heaven, seventy-seven; hell, seventy-seven times; return, seventy-five; eternity, seventy times; the sun, thirty-three times; and nimbus is used thirty-three times. Those are only a few examples. Even the word land is used thirteen times; and the word sea, thirty-two times. That is consistent with the current ratio of land to sea on Earth, 71.111 percent.”

After silently returning to his drawing for a moment, Hıdır, turned back to the boy and continued. “As we know, in the Qur’an, twenty-nine suras begin with one or more symbolic letters. Mukataa letters, known as the disjointed letters, are also called the beginning letters. Fourteen letters out of twenty-nine in Arabic form the mukataa letters: Ayn, Sin, Kaf, Nun, Ra, Ya, Ta, Ha, Elif, Lam, Mim, He, Sad, and Kefar.”

“When one looks at the usage of the letter Nun in the Kaleem sura,” he continued, “he or she can see the rhyme with the letter Nun in 88.8 percent of the verses. That rhymes with 84.6 percent of the sura, Suara, 90.32 percent of the sura, Neml, and 92.05 percent of the sura, Kasas.

“When one considers the whole Qur’an, one can see that there is a rhyme with the letter Nun in 50.08 percent of the book. In other words, more than half of the verses in the Qur’an end with Nun. It has been impossible to make a rhyme with a single vowel in more than half of the text in any literary work. This is not just true for Arabic; it applies to all languages.

“When a general review of the Qur’an is done in terms of rhyme, it is seen that about eighty percent of the rhyming is formed by three vowels (n, m, and a) formed by Elif, Mim, Ya, and Nun. Except for the letter Nun, thirty percent of verses are rhymed with Mim, Elif, or Ya.

“In a poem with two hundred to three hundred lines, the rhyme formed by two or three vowels is enough for the work to be considered a masterpiece. However, when considering the length of the Qur’an, the information it contains, and its wisdom, one can better understand how phenomenal such a rhyme pattern is. In this regard, Arabic language experts define the Qur’an as absolutely inimitable.”

Ender was eagerly listening to the cleric. I wanted to interrupt and ask Ender his opinions on the issue, but I kept my silence so as not to disturb their conversation and to avoid treating the boy like a freak. When Fatin came into the lounge, I used that as an excuse to go to my room.

When I woke up early the next day, I was anxious. The competition was beginning to agitate me. Fortunately, it was Elif’s day to visit and realizing it, I grew excited. I had never been away from her for this long, and, in her absence, I realized how important she was to me. I really missed her.

When I entered the interview room, I ignored the cameras and the observer and went directly to the opposite side of the table and hugged Elif tightly. I didn’t let her go for a long time. It was as if I wanted to refresh my memory and fill it with her.

After we sat down, I told her how much I missed her, but Elif had noticed the wounds on my face and was distracted by them. She didn’t listen when I told her it wasn’t a fight, but an accident, and that nothing serious had happened. I knew she wanted to tell me to leave the contest, but she only looked at me and tenderly touched the wound on my lip. Although there was longing between us and a lot to talk about, the time was over before we knew it. But this time, I could hardly leave her. The contest had taught me that I couldn’t stay apart from her for that long.

I went into the lounge feeling frustrated. The other contestants were there now in force. Hıdır was in the corner, mumbling something with a book in his hand. Fatin was staring into space, and Ender and Feryal were chatting in the large armchairs. I barely heard what the professor was talking about. Ender was the only one who didn’t look bored.

“No matter how this competition ends,” Feryal said, “I’m glad I met you and got to know you, and I’m really thankful for what you’ve shown me,” she said.

“I’m really happy to be here and to have met all of you, too,” Ender said, smiling. Then he laughed. “Even you, warlock Uncle Fatin.”

Fatin snapped out of his pensive gaze and did something unbelievable. Looking at the boy, he cracked a smile. I think it was even a sincere one.

“One last question for you,” Feryal continued. “There was a famous experiment where photons pass in quantum—”

“Too long— ” Ender interrupted her with some weariness in his voice. “I’m too tired to fully explain it. But, in brief, I can tell you that things happening now not only affect the future but also the past. However, as we have a brain structure that is accustomed to the perception of moving forward in time, we suppose that the past is fixed and unchanging.

“In other words,” Ender continued as Hidir and I came over to listen. “If we traveled in time and tried to go back in time, we would always encounter a different past. The history and past would never be the same as we remembered it because the past is changeable.

“It is a well-known fact that when entropy directs the timeline toward the future, it is actually preventing current events from affecting that future. More precisely, the increase in entropy and its continuous effect prevent an eternal future. So, if it affects the past now, then the past also can’t last forever. Whether we move forward or backward in time, we always go toward the future, the changing new. We always move forward on top of a new wave, no matter the direction. That’s why the future is only lived, and the past can only be remembered.”

The talk had begun to surpass me, and I began to drift off and think about the competition. I had been too idle and, probably, no one would want to buy my product. My anxious thoughts were interrupted by another announcement from Fatin.

“Like the last time,” he said. “I already know well in advance what I’m going to offer you: something you will desire and want to buy immediately. It serves my purpose to declare it in advance as I will enjoy watching you struggle helplessly. During the challenge, I am going to put a spell on you with my jinns, and in order not to lose, you are going to ask me for the magic words that will break the spell.” He laughed cruelly now. “Whoever’s begging impresses me the least will not receive my blessing.”

We were petrified when he left the lounge, the sound of his evil laughter trailing behind him.

The competition night came in all its glory and, in our costumes, we all anxiously waited in the lounge.

Announcements and reminders of important events from the last week were cast onto a giant screen. Good-luck messages from the people supporting us were scattered throughout the broadcast.

There was no need for narration from the host or over-the-top music; the heat was already on. If it had been a competition of who was more anxious, I would already have won. Later, the host and the staff left us alone in the lounge. Dr. Feryal Özel sat with her arm around Ender while Hıdır, the cleric, sat alone quietly. I stood silently and waited.

At the sound of the gong, everyone turned and looked at Fatin. He wandered around with confidence, drawing something on the floor and opening his hands slightly as esoteric words spilled from his lips. I saw again the thin gray smoke as it rose from his hands and grew larger, and then began to move over us ominously.

Feryal and Ender took the cue and held up some device in their hands. The device buzzed, the sound increased, and a transparent wall formed by a spherical blue light wrapped around them. The thin gray smoke hit the wall and could only wrap around it. They were safe. For the first time, I saw anxiety in Fatin’s eyes.

Suddenly, I was startled by his gaze. It was like that of a frightened, aggressive animal. The gray smoke was already headed in my direction, and I could hardly see the warlock through the smoke. Short of breath, I tried desperately to escape, but I couldn’t control my feet. I saw my hands change colors, turning dark as if I had a strange skin disease. I couldn’t hear anything but a roar and my eyesight quickly deteriorated. Fortunately, Hıdır appeared by my side. Thanks to his prayer and the focused movements of his hands, the smoke around me grew thinner, and I found a little strength to take a deep grateful breath.

“I give you my prayer of protection,” Hıdır murmured.

I nodded my head in gratitude. “But what can I give you?” I murmured, embarrassed and with a shaky voice.

The cleric smiled. “Your gratitude is enough.”

The spotlights rose, as did the music, and the host announced that Fatin was eliminated. The rest of us were relieved and exhausted.

No one went to Fatin’s room as he was packing, but Fatin came to me. He placed his hand on my shoulder, and it felt like tarantula hairs touching my skin. Looking directly into my face with his bloodshot eyes, he spoke with a low wheezing that smelled of rotten eggs. “Idiot,” he said. ”Did you think I wouldn’t eliminate you? Did you believe your ridiculous ideas would save you?”

I was about to say something, when he pressed me against the wall and closed my mouth with his other hand. “Shut up! I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to the one inside of you. You are only a piece of paper that I write the message on. You only deliver it.” As he was saying all this, his voice broke, accompanied by a shaky, wheezing sound. I suddenly felt nauseous and light-headed.

He moved closer to my ear. “You’re the only connection I have outside of the system; that’s why you still exist. If they are by my side, I can win. And if I win, all the rules change. Eternity will no longer be torture.”

Leaning against the wall with my eyes shut, I bent over and vomited. After wiping my mouth with the back of my hand, I looked for him and through blurry vision saw him standing at the door.

Fatin looked at me straight, and his eyes glowed red in the dark. “I’ve learned that you do no harm. That’s why I’m leaving.”

He closed the door.

 

Mansur Al-Hallaj

The next day, I stayed in my room without talking to anyone and watched the faint light that leaked through my window. I had no strength or energy left. I had fought a long way, but now I felt helpless. I didn’t even have the strength to try to sleep. I went to my desk, took a piece of paper, and carelessly drew a picture of a cube and filled it with scratches. Then I hung the sketch on the wall and sat on the floor and focused my eyes on the figure. This was now my Kaaba, and I was Mansur al-Hallaj, the profound but persecuted Sufist. An honorable man, Mansur al-Hallaj, sat in front of the Kaaba for a month, lost himself, and fasted except for a piece of bread and a sip of water. His only prayer was to ask God to forgive the ones who’d tortured him. The last words he spoke were “A-la-Haq” (I’m God).

I closed my eyes and began my own meditation. Even though I hadn’t lost the contest, I had lost my self-confidence, and I realized that I existed only thanks to the help of others. I saw myself standing somewhere alone on a faraway plane of paper—a place where one could see without eyes nor feel without touch. Time stopped. Here in this dimension, there was no need for food, water, or even air. I was only an ego—far away from everything but close as well. It was as if I had taken a DVD of all my experience and was looking at it not from the inside but from the outside. Maybe everything was written.

I don’t know how much time had passed when I heard Ender’s voice.

“Come on,” he said. “You can’t give up now. Don’t you remember the man screaming for war, even though he was left alone on the battlefield? What happened to that one more chance you demanded? Even one chance is enough for a fight.”

I heard him but couldn’t answer. I couldn’t remember what had happened, and I didn’t understand what the boy was talking about. Then, as my memory began to return, slowly and vaguely, I realized the indigo boy was holding my hand.

“I’ve thought for days since you closed yourself off,” he continued. “I’ve tried to evaluate the available data. Although I don’t know the reason, I believe in every way that you are our only chance. Remember the LED board example I gave? That each lamp wouldn’t know their own duty? Well, I think I have learned my duty, the reason for my existence. There are only hours left before this week’s challenge, and I will prevent you from being eliminated by withdrawing. It is the only thing I can do—but please, you must also do your part.” With that, Ender’s voice grew silent and I couldn’t feel his presence anymore.

 

Creating Something Together

 

In the morning, when I awoke, I felt incredibly tired and all my joints rebelled against my movements. My skin was dry and my bones protruded in my hands. When I saw my face, it wasn’t the same. I didn’t recognize myself. My two still-bright-blue eyes were the only features that resembled me.

 

I just barely noticed the instructions on the table.

 

Dear Competitors,

 

Our subject for this week’s contest is “Creating Something Together.” The remaining three competitors will create and present a brand new invention. The competitor with the weakest contribution to the project will be eliminated—this week, the public’s vote will count.

 

Good luck,

BBM Coordinator

 

Note: All the materials you will need for your invention will be provided to you.

 

I wondered if they were aware of the philosophical objections to what they proposed. Suddenly, the picture of the Kaaba I had hung on the wall caught my attention. Something had been written on it in a childish script:

 

If you’re reading this, I’ve managed to turn you back.

GOOD LUCK

 

I looked at the image of the Kaaba. A spot had been circled, and in it, in bold capital letters and underlined was a single word: WATER. After thinking of the boy and what he’d done, a sweet smile formed on my lips.

When I entered the lounge, the last two competitors were sitting quietly. When they saw me, a bittersweet joy swept over both of them. Unexpectedly, Feryal stood up, and hugged me. “We’re happy you’re back,” she said.

Hıdır came over as well and put his hand on my shoulder. “Welcome back, son. You scared us. When the boy said he would disqualify himself and give you a chance, we tried very hard to convince him otherwise, thinking that you would do the same. But, he had already decided. But yes, we’re glad you’re back.”

“Yes, and now we can end the competition properly,” Feryal added.

I thanked them both and sat down to join in their chat. “This week’s competition is really interesting. They want the remaining three of us to invent something. They must be wondering what will come from three such different disciplines.”

“I know one thing that won’t happen—we can’t create food.” Dr. Özel smiled.

Hidir smiled as well and looked deep in thought. I decided to follow Ender’s advice and move the conversation to my work.

“While we think, would you be open to going over my work?” I asked. “Maybe we will discover something new about the code using all of our disciplines. Maybe we can show the audience a different perspective and all that it offers,” I continued.

“That will be very challenging, young man,” Hidir said. “After all the billions of people and accumulation of years, discovering something new will be very difficult.”

“But we need to try. We owe it to Ender to try. Let me suggest a topic, and then we can see where the conversation takes us.”

“You mean brainstorming,” Dr. Özel said.

I nodded my head.

The scientist and the cleric looked at each other as if they were surprised and a little excited.

“Go on,” Hidir urged. “What is the topic?”

“Water,” I said, starting the conversation. “Water is a magnificent structure that gives life to all living things; it is indispensable as well as mysterious, and something we neglect since we always have it. After all, we only notice it when we are in need of it.”

After a moment of silence, Feryal took on her typical posture as lecturer. “A good start. Let me add to that. Under normal conditions water is fluid. But at a full one hundred degrees, it changes its form, suddenly becoming steam—a form that has nothing to do with the previous one.”

“What is your point, professor?” Hidir asked.

“If you were a fish whose entire life was spent in water,” she explained, “you would bet that water didn’t have any other characteristics and, since you would never be able to see it, you would think that such a thing as steam was impossible.”

Hidir and I nodded, pleased at her explanation.

“Now think about it the other way,” she continued. “At zero degrees, the same fluid—warm, odorless, and transparent—becomes a crystal structure with an actual volume and solid form that has lost its transparency. It is as if a magical wand had touched it!

“Now let’s once again imagine ourselves as beings in a body of water that has never dipped down to zero or risen as high as one hundred degrees. No matter how broad-minded we were, no matter how we used our minds to question the past or the future, no matter how we combined our talents and knowledge as living beings, it would never, ever cross our minds that the water we knew could form such a structure, thus we wouldn’t predict steam,” she explained.

Hidir jumped in then. “Yes, I think I understand your meaning. You are saying that when someone who had experienced steam tried to tell those beings in the water about it, they might listen to him, but their brains would prevent them from believing it because they would have never experienced it before. Likewise, if another creature who’d experienced water in its solid form told them about ice, they again would be skeptical.”

“Exactly,” Feryal said, clasping her hands together. “But those three forms of water currently exist in our world. The whole story of life relates to their existence, and our minds allow us to create related metaphors. Still, if someone came from another dimension or universe and said there was another form of water, we, with our inexperienced states and weak minds, would remain skeptical.

“Currently, the universe we observe and perceive, and the laws governing it are like the fluid form of water. However, time and various phenomena could turn the universe into something governed by laws and characteristics that we don’t yet know. However, unlike transformations of water, this transition may occur suddenly when the appropriate conditions are provided. But, as we have never seen it, we cannot predict what it is or experiment with it. At this point, we come up against a brick wall.”

There was a long silence after that as Feryal sat back in her chair and Hidir and I pondered her argument. I finally decided to add something.

“If I went to a man who lived a thousand years ago with a CD in my hand and said, ‘All the knowledge you need is written and recorded here,’ the man would not believe me. No matter how hard I tried to explain it to him, I wouldn’t be able to. I would struggle and finally give up. So I would probably say, ‘When the right time comes, you’ll understand.’ What I mean is that, for certain conditions to happen, we need to evolve and the infrastructure of our brain needs to develop so that we can notice and understand something.”

“That’s true,” Feryal said, leaning forward again. “If we go back to the example of water, note that all the substances in the universe are formed by the same particles: protons, neutrons, electrons, the bottom quark, the top quark, et cetera. These particles form the same atoms but different molecules. To repeat a frequently given example, in World War I, chlorine gas was used, and it was so harmful and fatal that it is now forbidden. And sodium on its own is a completely flammable substance. But when these two volatile elements are combined, they turn into table salt. The chlorine inside is the same toxic chlorine that kills human beings and animals, but it becomes salt with sodium.”

“Water is the same,” she continued. “Two unrelated flammable and caustic gases are combined together and form our source of life. Water is the same on the summit of the mountains in Nepal as it is in a dewdrop on the grass in Istanbul. It presents the same characteristics everywhere. It’s not important where the main components forming it were before or what kind of function they had—they are now water.”

“There is a Japanese researcher who even claims that water has a memory. He claims it remembers all previous situations and events and carries that data everywhere within it—just like our DNA,” she added.

Hıdır joined the conversation again. “As you know, human beings are 75 percent water. I have seen it myself how water relieves people by absorbing the energy and serenity inside during a prayer or invocation. It does so especially when the Qur’an is read by a human voice. As you said, Feryal, water has a memory, and a given drop of water may have passed through the gills of a fish in the sea, the fog on top of a high mountain, and the smoke of a factory chimney. Indeed, that drop embeds everything it sees and experiences into its memories forever.”

Suddenly, the picture on my wall and Ender’s note came back to my mind.

“I have a question,” I said, turning to Hidir. “Water itself, as you say, is special, but can it be even more special when it is holy water?” I asked. “Like the holy water in Christianity: water with spiritual aspects—like the water in the Kaaba!”

Hidir looked at me in astonishment. “Zamzam water; it has been there since the Prophet Abraham.”

Feryal looked at us with a questioning look.

Hidir explained. “There is some water in the middle of the desert, of unknown origin, that gathers no moss, never dries, and holds no microorganisms.”

“Okay. Special water, water with a special characteristic—let’s call it Zamzam,” Feryal said. “How do you think it could change its form?” she asked, now surprised and excited.

It was my turn to explain. “It is always said that the language of God should be spoken in a holy and special frequency. It is the human larynx and the Qur’an suras that provide this frequency. Furthermore,” I explained, “each different energy frequency can turn water molecules into different forms by affecting each of them differently. Thus, oscillation of each voice frequency could turn water into a form we don’t know by entering into a resonance with the water.”

Hidir and Feryal exchanged glances of amazement. When I noticed the shine in their eyes, it was obvious that we had already decided to give the experiment a try. There were only a few days until the final episode, but we had a chance to show the world something new.

The next days passed quickly as we set to work. The cleric read each sura of the Qur’an carefully into a special recording device. The program managers met our demands for a sound-modulation system and brought along the supporting computer equipment as well. Even our demand for pure Zamzam water was accepted, though with some bewilderment. Dr. Feryal Özel’s demand for particular scientific tools were answered without question. I assumed that the excitement of the program managers was an indicator of the mood of the audience. As we worked, we were notified that December 21, 2012 was the day of the final show.

Concerns about whether we would finish on time made us and the managers increasingly nervous. Right before the show, Feryal was barely able to convince the managers to provide her with a special magnetic resonance device with which to perform the calibration process.

The complex machine was installed in my room. As the machine was small, its isolation could be easily maintained, and all the walls of my room had undergone a special process for protection from any external influences.

The night of the show arrived.

Shortly before going on the air, we left the Big Brother studios for the first time since our arrival. We traveled by special vehicles with special security measures. We went to a screening center where we entered a specially calibrated MRI machine. With little time to waste, the calibration and the magnetic proton spin resonance was preserved—as it was identical to that of water. We then went back to the BBM studios accompanied by the same security team. When we arrived, we went directly to my room and to the safety of isolation. All the hustle and bustle made it feel like we were in an action movie. Once we got inside, we were finally alone, and we wished each other luck.

The recording of the final episode began. The show was touted as the most exciting and suspenseful live program in television history, and this only doubled the tension.

Feryal’s machine began working with a slight buzz and we watched the thin transparent tube with its tiny water drop. Just as Feryal had said, the molecules in the drop of water carried cohesive forces that had a certain limit, and when they reached that limit, they would form the perfect water drop. That was our cue to begin transmitting the suras of the Qur’an. From the vibrations of the suras, the water drop appeared to resonate along with the sound modulation formed by the different frequencies.

The tiny water drop completed its formation, and it seemed about to fall down as expected. But instead, it hung in the air for a while and then rose slightly. At the same time, it transformed into a miraculous form of undefinable color, shape, and brightness. This magnificent form remained suspended, and, soon after, another water drop, following the previous one, started to rise, vibrating and changing its shape and form as well. As light passed through these transparent forms, some bright figures and numbers appeared on the wall. As one water drop came close to the other drop, the two merged together. Other water drops were now moving toward the water drops already hanging in the air, displaying colors and shapes that mankind had never before seen or imagined.

As the suras continued being read, and the number of drops changed by the suras’ resonances got closer to 114, a figure began to appear in the middle of the room. It was a hypercube, one that I’d heard about in books but could never visualize, even in my dreams. The cube was four-dimensional cube and formed by amazing colors. It looked like a computer that had different pages of information on each plane. As this masterpiece took shape right in front of our eyes, hanging in the air as if to challenge all the laws of physics, we experienced a feeling beyond astonishment.

We were so stunned that we didn’t notice the sudden arrival of a number of uniformed officers. Breaking the door, they entered with shouts of “Cut the broadcast immediately! Stop everything!” We stood still as they unplugged the device and tried to turn it off. Then chaos ensued.

A BBM coordinator ran in, screaming, “What do you think you’re doing?!” He grabbed Feryal by her shoulders and began to beat her. Hıdır rushed to protect the professor from the coordinator, but I couldn’t move and I didn’t know why. My body and mind were suddenly overcome with exhaustion and I remained still.

I was losing consciousness and my sense of time and space were disappearing. Through my misty vision, I saw Hidir and Feryal on the floor, covered in blood and about to collapse. Before I knew it, everyone else had left and I was alone. Had I won? I wanted to stand up, yell, and fight, but I was too far away to succeed.

The door opened, and suddenly I noticed that my bonds were untied, and I could move. I proceeded toward a lighted corridor.

 

Elif

 

It was the most comfortable, peaceful, and happiest period of my life. Istanbul was a very beautiful city, and every moment in the city warmed and welcomed me like a good friend. I was a young assistant at the university, making my wedding plans while trying to finish my thesis in the department of foreign languages. Life hadn’t showed me its challenges yet, and I was indulging in all the excitement of youth.

I went to concerts and presentations or hung out with my boyfriend or went with him to enjoy the nightlife with our friends. To me, life was beautiful. I was young, my dreams were happy, and my worries about work could be easily pushed aside. My future was ahead of me, and I was proceeding joyfully.

Then a storm came. My boyfriend got a job offer with a successful position after his graduation, and he went out to “celebrate” with my girlfriend from school. Through a bit of coincidence, I caught them. I was devastated. The man in my life and all of our future plans were now in the rubbish bin.

Istanbul became a city of sadness. The dark water of the Bosphorus scared me with its currents and swirls. The city seemed as if each location was in another dimension or another time, and these dimensions and times were all in layers. When I was in one half of the city, the other half was always in another land—on another continent.

But it was a city of infinite possibilities, so I remained strong until my storm passed. I did everything I could think of to pass the time. There was no one special in my life, old or new, but I wasn’t exactly alone. I met up with old friends. In the back of my mind was the cliché, “time will heal everything.”

No matter where I was, my mind was always with me, and when I realized I couldn’t run away from my thoughts, I made a new friend: alcohol.

I was also introduced to quanta during that time. I understood it, assimilated it, and beautifully adapted it to my life. The only thing I would give to the outside was uncertainty.

That’s when I met Oktay.

The research campus that led the world in conducting Turkey’s experimental studies related to quantum mechanics, and the area where it gathered all its genius people, was known as Istiklal Street. It was known as the center of wandering—a good street to practice the principle of uncertainty. Istikal is also home to the Jazz Stop, the only place you can indulge in smoking indoors until four in the morning while listening to live music.

It was past midnight, and I had just cleared out all my acquaintances by boring them with quantum philosophy (my friend, alcohol, and I were having a deep talk that night). Feeling a little too relaxed, I stumbled back onto somebody’s lap.

I offered my prince a false apology, but, then, I took a second look and my furtive glance showed me a man of medium height, wavy blond hair, green eyes, and a little charisma. But still, I didn’t cut him a break.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” I said.

He leaned forward and asked in a timid voice, “Do you have a name?”

“None of your business,” I said.

“Pretty name, but your parents must not like you very much; why else would they give you a name like ‘None of your business?’” He was being absurd, but it made me take a second look.

My second impression was mostly the same, but this time, I realized he had more self-confidence and that his eyes were blue. I felt a sudden spark.

Istanbul once again became a narrator of beautiful tales. It told stories of two hearts blessed by love and fate.

Once, during the first few days of our relationship, Oktay took off my glasses and said, “You’re more beautiful like this; you’ve been unfair to yourself all this time.” So after that, no glasses. My vision was a little fuzzy at first, but then it improved.

Oktay was my fabulous new disease, and his initial side effect was memory loss. I forgot all that was old and bad. It was a fairy tale, and we were flying rapidly on its wings. Oktay promised a magnificent wedding and a honeymoon on the Monte Negro coast. Love was everywhere.

We moved to Tuzla, at the edge of Istanbul, because it was close to the hospital where Oktay worked. We bought a house with a sea view in a building among pine trees. The scenery captivated us for hours. Most evenings we simply lit our candles, turned off the lights, watched the scenery, and held each other. We would sometimes stay like this until sunrise. We were always together.

Although a bit late in my academic career, I transferred to a university near where we lived. After a busy day, I would run home to Oktay. Sometimes I would even make up an excuse to escape from work early. He was also working at an intense pace, but once we were home, we were ourselves again. We were happy, and each day was a feast.

From our house, we watched the turn of the seasons, and years quickly passed. Oktay recently knocked into middle age, was working in an ordinary private hospital, and was living an ordinary life. He was smart and intellectual but not very social. But I liked that he spent all his time with me at home. Like most other people, he enjoyed watching football, and he never got tired of watching sports or sports-news programs on TV. He always had an opinion on Fenerbahce. He didn’t think there was a need to add to our life. He was satisfied having dinner with relatives or going to the cinema with me. I sometimes watched him as he wrote MR reports online, read a book, or browsed the comics, and he made me read the jokes that he liked the most.

Eventually, he grew interested in more mysterious subjects, such as the symmetry of the universe, time travel, evolution, the lost continents of Mu and Atlantis, astrological divinations, life in outer space, ancient civilizations, and particularly the secret code in the Holy Qur’an. When he found a book on one of these topics, he got completely absorbed in it, and, if he saw a related documentary, he was glued to the screen. Our house suddenly overflowed with books, CDs, and DVDs. As time went on, the time that Oktay set aside for such pursuits began to increase.

Our conversations became shallow, empty small talk, but I still believed love was there. During his manic-depressive fluctuations, he lived as if by himself. He was either closed off or outwardly rejoicing, but the rest of the time, he was still my Oktay.

As the house continued to overflow with books, our conversations and his statements became shallower. His love for me hadn’t decreased, but it seemed hidden behind his poor expressive style. As he went through his mood swings, he would sometimes turn in upon himself and at other times overflow with emotion. But he was still my Oktay.

That was only the beginning. I began finding Oktay staring out the window for hours or talking to himself about worms eating a book. He began to struggle as things at work started to go wrong. I noticed a few warning signs that he ignored. I thought the best idea would be for him to take an unpaid holiday and avoid the damage that his carelessness might cause. He was a radiologist, and the reports he wrote could affect the lives of his patients. Once he agreed and got the holiday, he was free to make more time for himself.

I admired his determination as he tried to arrange texts with Arabic letters, dots, and lines. It gave me some peace and, since I was in my own battle with my thesis supervisors, peace was essential for me.

As Oktay secluded himself in his room, I saw that those tiny cubes had begun to form into a giant sculpture comprised of tiny, transparent cubes forming large and small layers of squares. Oktay told me about the beauty and magnificence of his masterpiece, how the planes were squared in the process of production. (I had no idea what he was talking about.) He called it a puzzle and talked about things like disjointed letters and cubes. After each big discovery, he would run out of his study, hugging and sometimes kissing me and telling me with great excitement about his splendid achievements. He was like a kid: cute, but always hungry for understanding and love.

The summer was gone and it was turning to autumn. Because of school, my income wasn’t enough, and Oktay started to spend our savings. But, the warning bells still hadn’t rung for me yet.

What Oktay had been doing made him happy, and it was worth anything to see him hopping around his work, smiling and happy. But he also began to spend more time in front of the computer, and with his books. I remember him repeatedly mentioning the ‘Cauchy integral formula.’

One evening, when I returned from another long day at work, he ran happily out of his room and excitedly hugged me. He took my hands, sat opposite me, and started to tell me everything he had learned and discovered. Though I didn’t understand what he was saying, he insisted that I should believe him. I couldn’t do what he wanted. I couldn’t believe him. By then, I had started to realize something was wrong, and I tried to calm him down by taking control. I tried to turn him back, to remind him of himself.

He reacted by getting cross with me and locked himself in his room. As the days passed, I began to get scared. I talked about the situation to his brother, Turgay, who was also a doctor. Turgay was the middle child and the black sheep of the family, so strange behavior was expected of him, but even he had never done anything like this. Turgay advised me that if any new incident occurred, I should call him. I didn’t want to think about further possibilities because I loved Oktay, but I had to accept that something might be wrong.

Oktay had now cut off all contact with me and turned into a flatmate whom I hardly saw. He would lock himself in his room constantly. Ironically, during this period, the house wasn’t messy at all. However, despite the tidiness, the tension and unrest made me long for the old mess.

After a long time passed with him in isolation, he opened the door of his room, walked toward me slowly, sat beside me, and began doing what he hadn’t done for a long time: talking to me. He explained that he was going to write a book and share everything he’d found with everyone. He was persuasive, calm, and consistent. I started to hope that I might have been wrong in thinking he was mad. Was he the same Oktay again? Was he back?

We held each other again, and then we talked for the first time in a very long while. We talked about our relationship. He agreed to be a responsible person, and I added that his behavior had to support that change.

Oktay’s return to me and to life itself calmed both of us down and wrapped us up in peace. Lighting some candles, we surrendered ourselves to the dark room, the luminous pool, and the sea view. I held on to him tightly, desperately relieved that I hadn’t lost him.

As far as it seemed, Oktay was back to me, to his home, and to the world. Although he talked about how difficult it was to write a book, he was calmer, at least, and more focused on his work. But in time, the gears shifted again. Now he was in turbo mode. Oktay began to show distress that he hadn’t begun writing his book. He had a story he wanted to tell people, and he could tell this story to himself beautifully. In his opinion, he had made an incredible discovery—but he didn’t know exactly how to turn it into a book.

The house began to fall apart again, and he began to talk even less. He was again subject to my questions, which he left unanswered, and, hence, to my scolding. More and more, I considered getting him professional help. I was afraid there might have been something that I missed and that the trend toward deterioration might have returned. But as Oktay was spending hours in front of the computer and still seemed okay, I occupied myself with my own academic work and neglected the question. I knew the answer might be devastating.

Sometimes, he spent days in front of a half-written page, and sometimes, he wrote nonstop for hours. His effort was admirable. When the opportunity presented itself, he insistently made me read what he had written, and if I didn’t read it, he would stand over me and read it to me loudly. He asked me whether he was clearly expressing what he wanted or if I had any suggestions. When I looked at the text, it was only pages full of the letters aaaaaa, bbbbb, ccccc…meaningless words, hundreds of pages that told of nothing but were written nonetheless. I began to try to avoid him, but he would stand right in front of my door and go on insisting that I read it.

God! He was out of control! He started acting more frantic and I began to feel the presence of a mental illness. When I questioned whether I would be able to accept it, I consoled myself by remembering how much I loved him. Nothing could stop my love for him. No matter how crazy he was, he was mine.

Regardless of everything, I treated him with motherly compassion, caressing his head while sitting beside him in front of the screen and sipping my coffee. I watched him in silence, thinking about what to do: whether I would be able to survive or if I would lose him as he lost his mind. My God, I didn’t know what to do. He was with me at home, but he was only semiconscious. I hoped he wouldn’t deteriorate.

In the evenings, when I came back from work, and saw him like that, although I felt sad, I would always ask him, “How was your day, honey?” His disconnection from the world prevented him from taking care of himself. He forgot to eat most of his meals and began to lose weight. Most of the time, I would force him to stand up from his desk to eat something.

Turgay visited a few times and even brought his psychiatrist friend on the sly for one of the visits. Turgay, albeit timidly, said to me, “We think he is really schizophrenic; he will have to be observed—we would normally hospitalize someone in his state.” I begged, cried, screamed, and put up a fight, and in the end, I convinced them to give me one more chance and not take him away from me. They were hesitant, but I counted on love: It would overcome everything.

And just like that, months passed and the seasons turned again.

One evening, when I returned from work, exhausted, I heard cries of joy in the dark house. Having lit a few candles, Oktay stood happily before me with shining eyes. He was holding some crumpled pieces of paper that he had tried to wrap with a red ribbon from the rubbish bin. While looking at this miserable man in shabby clothes and collapsed shoulders, I was overcome by an indefinable sadness and a hopeless pain. It was such a strong sorrow that I couldn’t even cry.

To my confusion, following a kiss, he gave me the roll of papers as if it were the biggest gift in the world. “It’s finally done!” he yelled before using all the remaining strength of his weak body to hug me and try to spin me around. His movements were clumsy, and, instead, we rolled on the ground and laughed. He was laughing for happiness. I was laughing because I didn’t know what else to do.

“No one would believe me, but I did it: I’m done with the book!” His jubilant screams bounced off the walls. Watching him like that, I wept for a long time: for myself, for what I’d lost, and for love. Love was there, but beaten.

That night, I hugged him and tried to calm him down with my whispers and make him sleep. I hugged whatever was left of him, and when the candles went out, we were still holding on to each other while sharing the melancholy sea view through the window.

The next day, Oktay stated that he was inexperienced in these matters, that he didn’t have any academic experience, and that he hadn’t had a book published as I had. He asked me to be his manager. I had lost him, but I wouldn’t yet completely accept it. Whatever it took, I promised myself I would devote myself to this battle. I wouldn’t let them take him away from me and lock him in a mental asylum. They wouldn’t understand him, take care of him right, or return him to me.

One night while he was sleeping, I stepped outside and screamed. It was the scream of a captive soldier whose army had been defeated and whose friends had all died. I was worn out. His discovery process had been exhausting enough, and then there was the writing process. I needed to get some rest and put my mind together.

The next day, Oktay again asked me to find an editor, contact the publisher, and help with the publication of his book, and, for the next few days, Oktay pretended to be occupied with medical things in front of the computer while I supported him as usual. I told him it was a tough process to publish a book as I was trying in vain to keep him busy while calming him down and distracting him. I answered Turgay’s ‘How’s-Oktay’ calls with “fine,” “much better,” and “there is no problem.”

Oktay was patient with the waiting process at first, but he became bored as it grew longer. Asking if the delay was normal, he began to put some pressure on me, even becoming aggressive. Was there something I knew but wasn’t telling him? We quarreled. He held my shoulders and shook me. Then, after he calmed down, he confessed his thoughts and fears more calmly. What if the publisher stole his book with the code that he’d found and published it as if he had written it? What if the thief had the money and the fame to impress the media? These worries obviously troubled his mind, and there was only one way to appease him. I had to ask one of my colleagues to pretend to be Oktay’s editor. Fortunately, after some understandable questions, my colleague said that he would help, and I told him what he needed to say.

Two days later, I showed up with the ‘editor.” It was worth all the effort to see the relief on Oktay’s face. We hosted my friend for a while, and in response, he repeated what he had memorized: everything was magnificent; he’d read everything, from the beginning to the end without touching even a letter. Of course, Oktay was ecstatic. The book was expected to be a great success. The editorial stage had only been longer because the book was very comprehensive and contained a great amount of mathematical data.

Oktay held my friend’s hands with an indefinable joy as he cried with happiness. He kissed the man’s cheeks and ran to his room, ignoring the surprised expression on my colleagues face.

During the following days, the house was like a festival. Every evening, when we sat face-to-face at the dinner table, Oktay shared his excitement. Though his talk was nonsense, I listened to him like a mother whose son had won an essay contest. We were having meals together like the old days.

Later that night, as he was watching the moonlight, I, afraid of losing him, tried to scratch every memory I could into my mind: Oktay’s face, the moonlight, and Orhan Gencebay in my ear…God, you are almighty; God, you see all. Stop the time; let your servants smile.

I knew, now that the book had been “accepted,” I would need a new distraction. In order to please Oktay, to keep from losing him, I would say whatever was necessary. “All the agreements and legal procedures are being completed,” I told him. But it was hard to satisfy him, and he asked more questions. It didn’t take long for him to press me about the printing and when he would see the first copy in his hand. He was increasingly obsessed with his desire for the printed book.

Every morning he would ask me if the book had appeared. The unrest he felt while waiting for the book made me extremely tense. I hated seeing him in this condition.

I searched the marketplace for a graphic artist. Finally, I got a graphic artist friend to draw up a book cover. I glued the image on three blank books of the same size. It wasn’t a stroke of genius, and it didn’t take much labor, but this act came out of my despair. I knew it was no cure.

When I came home with three “rough drafts”, feeling guilty, Oktay became indefinably happy, and I definably sad. He grabbed one copy from my hand, kissed me on the cheek and ran to his room in childlike happiness. I was all alone in the middle of the living room with two books in my hand. I felt like a soldier alone on a battlefield, sword down, defeated, and unable to move. That was the longest and most painful night of all. It made me realize that there was still more to lose, and I was all alone.

The next morning, as I was rushing out of the house as if to run away, Oktay slipped the two remaining copies of his book into my hand. One of the books was for Turgay, he said, and the other for his little brother. These were only two of the thousands of pains I would go through.

I took the books and wandered around the streets of Istanbul, quietly asking the dark water of the Bosphorus if it wanted me. I consulted the planes in the sky to see if they would take me to another land. I asked my brain if there was some mechanism to shut it down or reset. When I finally turned back home that evening, I was empty-handed, while behind me two signed books bobbed and sank in the water of the Bosphorus.

As I was thinking that I’d seen the worst, I entered our house and immediately found out I was wrong. Oktay had put chairs around the table in the living room and decorated the walls with weird patterns and paints. On the table, there were papers, a jug, a few glasses, pens, and a notebook. I stood there, shocked, as I blankly watched the scene.

My Oktay was gone, and a lot of characters with different tones of voice and expressions were talking through his lips—sometimes slowly, sometimes fast. Some were peacemakers, and some were aggressive. With each character, his facial expressions and posture changed. Sometimes, he sounded like a professional broadcaster moderating a discussion. At other times, he talked like someone leaning over to speak in the ear of someone else. Sometimes he answered himself, and sometimes he became someone who spoke distinct nonsense that he believed in. I occasionally recognized my Oktay among those characters, but then he would immediately disappear. Rearranging the chairs, he kept talking while assuming different postures.

Watching him, I recognized an Oktay beyond my control, divided into multiple personalities. I couldn’t stand it anymore; I didn’t have any strength left. So, when I finally saw the character of Oktay reappear and begin to speak, I pulled him to me and asked, “What are you doing? Enough! I can’t take it anymore!” I started to cry. One of his other characters returned, and I fought with him as he tried to calm me down.

I kicked the chair covered with blankets that was supposed to be the camera and upended the discussion table. I pushed lit lamps to the floor, and their electrical cables emitted little sparks. I had the right to lose myself, too. This was too much!

Oktay walked up to me, and, while trying to hold me, he slapped my face.

I froze.

My nose and mouth were covered in blood and my feelings shifted between anger and hopelessness as the salt from my tears mixed with my blood. Oktay was shocked and stood in front of me unable to speak. He finally mumbled something but then fell silent again. I took a deep breath and wiped the tears and blood from my face with the back of my hand.

I took Oktay’s hand, led him to his room, and made him lie down on the bed. Putting Oktay to bed was like carrying a full glass of water. His situation was critical, and I knew that the slightest mistake would cause the glass to overflow. I had to put him down safely without allowing my hands to tremble.

When I returned to the living room, I surveyed the memories of the night’s violent episode.

I slowly put the room back in order. First, I picked up the lamps and chords, then removed all the papers from the table and walls. When I was done, I observed the living room for a moment and turned out the lights. With a tissue covered in dry blood, I sat by the window until morning.

In the morning, I was worn out. Not just from fatigue but also from the decision I had made. I called Turgay and explained everything to him. He was alarmed, and I calmed him down. At that moment, I felt like someone who had to calm everyone down.

“Turgay,” I said, “you must arrange for hospitalization. I’ll pack his stuff and take him there.” I knew I had to prevent Turgay from coming to the house. If Oktay saw him at home, especially after such a night, it would be a disaster. I convinced him by saying that if anyone but me took Oktay, they would hurt him and wouldn’t understand his condition.

I tidied up the living room a bit, putting Oktay’s things aside. I opened the door of his room and cuddled next to him in bed. I knew it was the last time, and I hugged him tightly and buried his head in my bosom. I stayed still in the room with the curtains closed, caressing his head.

God, you see all. Stop the time; let your servants smile…

I do not know how much time passed before we woke up. Staring at me, he listened as if he would believe everything I said. I told him that last night’s TV show had made incredible ratings, that the telephone lines were all tied up, and that everyone had listened enthusiastically to everything that he had said about the book. The TV channel, having seen the ratings, had now decided to create a new program where everyone involved would have a chance to display his or her talent.

I told him the show was called BBM and would be full of conspicuous characters, including Oktay himself. I explained how he would get famous and, more precisely, get more opportunities and time to promote his thoughts and his book. I explained that the program would last for a few weeks (with the possibility of elimination).

God, how happy he was! He confessed to me that he’d expected something like that to happen but hadn’t told me. After all, he had performed miracles last night. I made him sit opposite the living-room window while I packed his stuff. I left the window half-open so that he would get some air and relief. As for him, he took a piece of paper to study and sat, waiting for me. When I finished, I went back to the living room. He was sitting on the edge of his chair with his face toward the window. The wind, through the half-opened window, carried a few raindrops.

I slowly put my hand on his shoulder. “Everything is ready,” I said. After a pause, he stood up and closed the window. He came to the living room and checked his things one by one. Then he hugged me, and I couldn’t resist burying my head on his shoulder to give him some warmth. I was looking for an opportunity to cry on his shoulder for the last time, to touch him, to lose myself in him.

While I dressed him with clean underwear and newly washed, casual clothes, he was as excited as a child starting school. Holding hands, we went to the parking lot, pulled by his leaping steps.

As we navigated the heavy traffic, Oktay sat in the car excitedly, his joy indefinable. When he reached out to switch the radio channel, I had a feeling of acceptance and calmed down a bit. I could do nothing now, so I looked at him for a while. A melancholy piece of happiness flashed through me. I loved him. For a moment, I wanted to tell him to forget it all and come home with me. I felt the urge to simply hold him and talk. But the urge to do my share for both of us, and the truth of life, calmed all my thoughts and feelings.

“After the show last night,” Oktay said, “the host committed suicide. Did you know that?”

I looked over at him and realized I should play along.

“Yes…yes,” I said. “He committed suicide, right after the show.”

“He was a loser, anyway,” Oktay continued. “It seemed like it was his sole purpose to host a one-night program and disappear, and he did it quietly without disturbing anyone. Hasan Tahsin was his own worst enemy,” he added with a laugh.

“We have to thank him,” I said. “By his suicide, he drew a lot of media attention to the show…”

I didn’t know what else to say. I was deep in my thoughts, and Oktay was in an inexpressible state of happiness as the car approached the hospital.

 

When we arrived at the hospital, I handed Oktay to the psychiatrist. He went into the ward with the same childlike happiness.

“I love you. See you soon,” he said.

I had been waiting for a more dramatic farewell than “I love you. See you soon,” but he had already disappeared behind the hospital’s door, and the door had no handle. The doctor asked me to tell him my thoughts and what I knew. As I was telling him what came to my mind, I found that I wasn’t myself anymore. A piece of me was melting away in the hospital ward. The doctor and I conferred on the treatment and he told me the rules of the ‘game.’ I could visit once a week, but all communication with the patient was forbidden—oh, and of course, there were a few documents to sign.

I went home to the sacred sanctuary of our memories. I was now alone and felt Oktay’s absence deeply. My only other feeling was despair.

When visiting hours came on Wednesday, I raced to the hospital. Sitting face-to-face with him at the table in that cold, white room, I listened to him with sorrow and longing. He was telling me his situation with shining eyes; his self-confidence was back, and his posture was upright. When I left the interview room, I didn’t know what to do with the pain of losing him again and again. I thought that he was looking better, and I was relieved that he was in safe hands. I hoped everything would get better and that my love would come back to me.

The time passed slowly and senselessly until I went running to the next visit. First, I talked to the doctor, who repeated at every opportunity that, if needed, he was at my disposal. Then I spoke to Oktay, who told me that the show had improved and they’d eliminated one of the ill characters in the weekend challenge. Oktay accepted this positively, saying that everything was okay and under control.

Bursting with happiness, I headed for home. I realized that the hospital’s doctors were competent experts, and I regretted pushing the process back and causing delays that might have hurt Oktay. I couldn’t wait for the next visit.

At the next visit, I was shocked. Although they had tried to cover it up with dressings, Oktay was in terrible condition. He had been seriously beaten. Unable to comprehend what he was telling to me, I ran to the doctor. The doctor wanted me to sit so that he could explain and calm me down.

Apparently, one of the characters that Oktay had created turned out to be the devil and had caused Oktay to hurt himself seriously the night before.

“How did it happen?” I asked. “Was it something expected?”

“Though with difficulty, it is now under our control,” he explained. “We’ve taken all precautions against future possible incidents.”

I returned home in sorrow with doubts in my head. Still, I had hope. However, upon my next visit, I found out that Oktay had now gone into a deep depressive state. He wasn’t talking to anyone and had completely stopped communicating. The doctor told me this was an expected, though undesirable, situation: A heavy depression would appear in such transition periods, and it would be cured.

In spite of all my insistence and requests to see Oktay, the doctor only showed me the live image of his room. Oktay was sitting on the edge of his bed and staring at a piece of paper with a square on the wall. As the doctor said, he had been like that for a while; he repeated that this was a transition stage and that it would disappear.

With a mix of sorrow and a bit of hope, I went home.

After that, my access to Oktay was restricted. When I called to get some information each day, the doctor was either away on medical visits or he simply told me, “Everything is okay.” When I insisted on an unscheduled visit, he asked me for understanding. He warned me against intervening in the treatment process.

Too much time had passed. Everything was crashing in on me, and I was trying to melt the time away by taking in the scenery outside of my house. It was December 21 and I did my best to ignore all the speeches about the end of the world.

Around 4:00 in the morning, I awoke to the phone ringing.

“You don’t need to come now,” a voice said on the other end of the line. This was the last thing I remembered hearing before I dropped the phone.

Oktay was dead. (22.12.2012, 03:14.)

 

  • * *

 

From the Psychiatrist’s Personal Notebook:

 

Today, Elif reached me again through Dr. Turgay—the patient’s brother.

The patient’s condition has clearly deteriorated and reached a level that cannot be controlled anymore. She agreed to hospitalization.

 

Detail 1: Potential acute schizophrenia. Symptoms appear in the patient’s medical history for some time. The condition was overlooked most likely due to patient’s medical profession (Members of patient’s family are doctors as well). I have informed the family of the necessary legal procedures and have disallowed visitation by the patient’s brother in order to avoid contradictory consultation. Preventing interference is of paramount importance.

 

Detail 2: A new symptom (multiple personality pathology) has been added to the diagnosis. Disease has progressed significantly with increases in episodic style, excessive alcohol consumption (within pathological limits), indulgence in virtual environments (beyond the pathological limits), smoking addiction (one pack/day), escape from the growing social community, five or six years of increase in asocial symptoms, significant delays in labor for two years, and an inability to work for the last six months.

The patient engages in full self-disclosure when depressed, shows an overindulgence in metaphysical books and visual materials, and recently more religiously-oriented materials (obsessive-compulsive?). The latest obsession: the presence of a code in the holy book. He is beginning to write a book on this subject (indicator of needed social expansion?). Extensive isolation during the writing process. Contact with only one person (Elif). Having a single mediator could have aggravated the situation.

 

Detail 3: Patient demonstrated physical aggression and a tendency for battery. (Ms. Elif did not state this, but the condition of her nose and mouth is evidence.)

 

Detail 4: Due to Ms. Elif’s subjectivity and her long-lasting interaction with the patient (maybe an obsessive love?), when necessary, tell Ms. Elif about this challenging situation and its course. Offer therapy sessions for the caregivers of the patient if necessary. Examine her rejection of the incidents/disease, and how it affects treatment.

 

Detail 5: In his latest delusion, the patient thought he was discussing his opinions with panel of characters he created (Elif described five or more personalities) on an invented TV show program on which he was promoting his book. When the patient becomes one of the characters (the cleric?) he gets aggressive.

[Note: Ms. Elif said there was another character on the TV show, a host, but the very next day Oktay “killed him.” If this delusion did occur, pay attention to Oktay’s ability to destroy the characters he creates. Possible treatment method?]

 

Detail 6: Ms. Elif proposed an ingenious idea of a Big Brother competition so that the patient would come to the hospital without any objection, and the characteristic multiple personalities could be observed together; hence, the delusion of the patient of a competition program needs to be supported.

 

Advantages

 

  • The patient comes to the hospital voluntarily.

  • No adaptation problems during the course of hospitalization and treatment.

  • As a result of multiple personality disorder—if diagnosed, of course—there is an opportunity for a periodic eradication of pathological personalities (elimination from the competition) and easy acceptance by the patient.

 

Disadvantages:

 

  • Similar therapeutic approaches haven’t been tested before; program and analogy might be difficult to maintain.

  • The disease could possibly progress if the existing delusion is supported by thematic aspects.

  • If all the additional personalities are destroyed, the patient could potentially create more defective personalities.

 

Detail 7: If the patient divides his ill personalities, is he running away from his problems and/or rejecting a projection onto said personalities?

 

  • Feeling his personality is not sufficient—is he dividing into personalities that he thought would solve the problems or face them? The best/most positive personality will have to be identified. NOTE: this might not be Oktay’s primary personality.

 

‘The Labyrinth’, first therapy session (TV show / individual interview)

 

  • The patient perceives that he is literally in a show and doesn’t give any signs of logically questioning this situation (full acceptance).

* Date and time (+), cooperation (+ +).

  • The relationship with the personalities he created is bland; so far no obvious signs of aggression or rebellion against authority.

[I asked the patient to tell me about the code he discovered in the holy book at length, in order to overcome cooperation problem and collect data easily. His findings are intriguing. The code he talks about even has logical aspects, and the patient talks about it with such belief that I am even impressed. I found myself taking some notes and thinking about asking a computer programmer friend of mine whether such things are possible (he is interested in such subjects).]

 

Detail 1: The esoteric-astrologer personality seems to be the most facile/weak at the moment. I suppose we could accomplish the first stage of the treatment by eliminating her in a weekday session.

 

Detail 2: Ms. Elif’s first scheduled visit for Wednesday is dangerous for the process and adaptation of the patient; pay special attention and observe. Collect data about Ms. Elif’s role in the progression of the disease—if necessary, propose for her a therapy session.

 

‘The Labyrinth’: Treatment Results

 

The session was more challenging than expected. There was even the danger of losing the patient’s main/primary personality, Oktay. The astrologer personality, however, was successfully eliminated. The other characters, especially Oktay, welcomed this situation very positively. (positive progress)

 

  • Next week, I propose in treatment facilitating the elimination of the spiritualist/medium character (he is a dangerous character who is rapidly moving toward becoming dominant).

 

[Ref. Oktay’s Research: I had the opportunity to interview my computer-programmer friend. I explained the method of encryption and how it should be used in the three-dimensional planar structure. I explained to him that Oktay is my patient and that I’m going to use the findings to support a report for medical publication.

The programmer excitedly talked to me about Arabic text format converters, three-dimensional simulations, sequential interface connections, and a lot of mathematical processing modules. The only thing I clearly recall was the Cauchy integral formula. The programmer explained the importance of these things and how difficult his job would be. I encouraged him to continue.

The programmer has asked for me to acquire some of the missing data and methodology from the patient so that he can better complete the work.]

 

Observation Notes

 

This morning the patient engaged in self-harm and seriously wounded himself.

  • Primary surgery consultation

 

Detail 1: The patient seems to be getting pleasure from self-harm. He demonstrated an inexplicable level of joy.

 

Detail 2: The patient is unaware of his wounds and the severity of his condition. (Possible Alienation/denial)

  • It will be necessary to improve the security and precautions and make the treatment more aggressive.

 

Detail 3: Spiritualist medium (evil) character has reached dangerous proportions. Focus on elimination of this character in this week’s session.

 

‘Produce Something’: Treatment Results & Subsequent Observation

 

  • After the elimination of the character Fatin, the patient gave an unexpected response. The patient has entered a deep depressive period.

 

  • The patient may have been pushed too much. Consider slowing the process and observe.

 

  • The patient almost completely shut down communication (cooperation nearly zero). Eating and drinking have been completely cut off (catatonic phase transition?). Consider oral feeding alternatives.

 

[Note: Delay informing the patient’s brother and Elif about this sensitive situation and the newly formed symptoms as much as possible. Avoid any interventions that may affect the treatment process. Emphasize the “temporary” nature of the depression and its symptoms.]

 

Detail 4: This week, postpone the elimination session, but if the opportunity arrives, look for an opportunity to eliminate the character Ender, the indigo boy.

 

‘Creating Something Together’ Treatment Notes

 

  • The consultant-surgeon has interfered in my work. The patient’s condition and treatment is not his specialty.

  • Oktay’s treatment has taken a bad turn.

  • Surgeon questioned the existence of an organic primary. To appease him , ask for an MRI examination.

 

[Note: Emergency brain MRI appointment was scheduled for 19:00. Make sure to receive the results as fast as possible—at least before the next surgical consultation. Since it is after working hours, the results will be available the following morning.]

 

…..

 

Detail 5: After the MR examination filming, the patient’s condition deteriorated. The patient was taken to his room, and a supportive treatment process was started. The patient’s physical examination findings are dire. In the morning, ensure the patient’s transfer into a general unit capable of internal medicine.

 

  • Due to the possibility of patient self-harm, leather restraints have been administered.

 

[Note: Observations during visitation of the patient:

 

*The patient seems conscious but engages in almost no communication.

  • Different personalities emerge alternately, and raucous and incomprehensible speech and lip movements quickly turn into delusions. Presence of a partial state of agitation.

  • The patient has fixed his eyes on the drops of liquid flowing through the IV tube and follows them one by one. He is muttering and trying to say something. (For a moment, he focused on the serum vial and talked about the image it created and the magnificence of it (this is only one of the things I was able to decipher). I have decided to copy the camera recordings to understand the patient’s fictionalized world and what he said. If necessary, I will deliver them to the programmer (He has a program that converts lip movement to text). Nevertheless, this interesting case can surely be published with the help of such data.)

*The patient’s condition seems stable for now. I hope it won’t be long before his recovery.

 

…….

 

  • We lost the patient. Time of death: 22.12.2012, 03:14.

[Note: A lot of trouble is waiting for me tomorrow. Will have to come in early to deal with the relatives of the deceased, to complete his file, and do the morgue delivery report. It was an unexpected but, unfortunately, inevitable situation]

 

[Additonal Note: Search whether this case still has potential for publication. (No matter what happened, we were able to eliminate at least three of the personalities during the treatment. Ironically, when the patient died, all split personalities were eliminated as well. Radical treatment!). I’m tired, I’m exhausted, and I’m talking nonsense; now get some rest!!!!]

 

……

 

Detail 6: Informed Ms. Elif about the death of Oktay this morning (making her accept the situation was really difficult).

 

[Additonal Note: On the morning of December 21, I said to Elif “everyone undergoes his or her own end, and this was Mr. Oktay’s end.” No matter the significance of the date, this was an unnecessary and idiotic thing to say to a patient’s next of kin. (Don’t let the fatigue and frustration get to you anymore!!!)]

 

 

  • Life goes on; I filled my files, signed the documents, and the patient was sent to the morgue to be readied for his funeral

(Reminder: when cranial MRI report comes, add it to the file)

 

[Personal note: I sent the camera records of the patient’s last night to the programmer and the programmer sent me back a file. At the first opportunity, I’ll examine it.]

 

Detail 6: A terrible mistake. [Note: The result of brain MR examination: left frontal lobe epicanthal, grade III–IV, probably glioblastoma multiform (high-grade malignant brain tumor)]

 

[Personal Note: Multiple personality disorder, schizophrenia? How did I miss the thing before my eyes? Now that I understand, the patient demonstrated symptoms similar to that of John Travolta in the movie Phenomenon: a man of a middling intelligence and stature in society suddenly shows intelligence, solves amazing equations, and makes great discoveries. Sometimes a tumor in the brain can increase the capacity of function of the brain because it increases brain blood flow and metabolism. This causes a great flow of thoughts due to the additional neuronal connections. Still, such a mistake!

I now feel an obligation to publish a book about the code and multidimensional plane that Oktay helplessly described.]

 

  • * *

 

I Can’t Take My Words Back

 

In the calm of the morning, cars whispered down the streets of the city and sleet blanketed the roads. Clustered gray clouds gathered in the sky, carrying wind. The silhouette of the mental hospital could barely be seen through the high walls of gray-blue pine trees. Along the sidewalk, near the entrance gate of the hospital, a line of yellow taxis sat idle. The taxi drivers huddled together in the cold, some smoking and some reading papers. The driver of the first taxi eyed the gate, scanning for possible customers. He was middle-aged with a black moustache and a brown sweater with a clean shirt collar sticking out from underneath. Bored, he flipped through the radio channels.

His windshield formed a thin boundary between the frozen water drops and the gray of the scene beyond. A hearse was parked a little farther from the hospital gate, drawing the attention of passersby. ‘For Official Use Only’ the sign on the hearse read. Leaning against the half-open front door of the vehicle, the hearse driver drew on his cigarette nervously, exhaling bluish clouds of smoke.

The coffin—decorated with a few silver ornaments and a dark-green cover with golden-yellow Arabic texts—was placed in the hearse. The roof prevented the raind from reaching the coffin, but could not prevent the wind from waving the thin yellow tufts at the edges of the coffin cover.

A few cars were lined up behind the hearse. The young woman sitting in the backseat of the first car leaned her head on the glass and, with red eyes, stared at the pavement near the hospital entrance.

As a lumbering garbage truck slowly wedged itself between the convoy, cabs, and hospital gate, and as the taxi driver watched the traffic jam through his windshield, the door of the backseat opened and a young customer entered. He had a lot of files in his hand and a laptop bag. “Good morning,” he said. “Istanbul University. I’m in a bit of a hurry.”

“Don’t worry,” the driver said. “Soon, the road will be free, and I can take you.” He had already started the meter. On the radio, the DJ spoke:

“Dear listeners, nonsense about the end of the world has been occupying the media for a long time now. Otherwise intelligent people have increased their ratings by influencing and frightening people who already had irrational tendencies. They out-talked even us. According to them, the Mayans foresaw the end of the world thousands of years ago and marked the end of their calendar. These big men told us that there was an area in the middle of the Milky Way galaxy from which energy was spreading. Ordinarily, they said, it couldn’t reach us because of our position, but on December 21, this energy would arrive at the correct angle, and when it reached us, we would gain understanding of all there was to know, thus experiencing a dimensional change. But the truth is, on this morning, on December 22, we have only achieved the awareness that those people have been making fools of us.”

Listening indifferently, the man in the backseat concentrated on his thoughts, trying to slow himself from the rush he’d been in. He had spent months investigating the topic of “social structures affected by a single person.” Finally, he was done with his thesis, and, if it was approved—if the teachers didn’t ask for too many changes—he would submit it.

The main idea of his thesis related to an opinion before articulated in the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov. Asimov stated that communities could be predictable enough to formulate what they would do and when they would do it. The science that examined this phenomenon was called “sociomathematics.”

This branch of science was so precise that the behavior of a society could be predicted, hour by hour, with as much accuracy as the behavior of gas molecules at a certain volume and pressure. However, as the past demonstrated, one couldn’t predict what a single person might do. Thus, the influence of an individual on a society couldn’t be known for sure.

However, knowledge gained through history had often increased by sudden leaps of social improvement, and these leaps usually came from the work of one exceptional person. In other words, there was no need for the seven million people currently alive to discover relativity and formulate its theory. It was enough for Albert Einstein to discover it, articulate its theory, and present it to the public in a way people could understand and use.

The ability to explain the perceptions of the occasional, extraordinary discoveries of individuals in this massive community evaded most people. As such, the radio host was mistaken in his opinion. For everyone to gain a new social consciousness, there was no need for everyone to believe the world would end on December 21, 2012. If it was true that there was an energy that could reach out to us, then the shift of consciousness that such knowledge created would be enough, even if it affected only one person. The only sufficient and necessary obligation of this person was to clearly convey what he had discovered to the rest of society.

The garbage truck was now trying to pass using subtle maneuvers. There were a few frustrated shouts and the blare of the horn as the voice of the radio host filled in the background.

“People, get it now! There is no doomsday. You still have to go to work; you’ll still be stuck in the same traffic jam. When the boss gives you a roasting today, you’ll forget all this nonsense. Focus on what’s in front of you; that’s my message. Anyway, enough talk—I would like to read you some lines by Cahit Sıtkı:

 

And the heart says to its God:

I have no fear of the suffering you give

I willingly give my consent to every trouble, as long as

The day doesn’t fall away from my window.

 

“On this gloomy, cold December morning, we have a song that will remind you of your emotions and scatter the clouds in the sky—I know you’ve all missed Bulutsuzluk Özlemi singing ‘I Can’t Take My Words Back.’”

The garbage truck had almost dislodged itself, and it was about to go furiously on its way. The funeral convoy began to pull away. As the taxi waited to depart with its engine idling, the melody of the song filled the car.

I can’t take my words back,

I can’t rewrite what I have written,

I can’t replay what I’ve played,

I can’t turn back again…

If I get tears, don’t let them dry up.

 

“I can’t take my words back.”

The notes of the song slipped through the half-open driver’s window like a strand of thin lace. The notes mingled with the wind and became a caress on the green cover of the coffin where Oktay lay.

 

“I can’t rewrite what I’ve written.”

 

The melody of the song, spread into the wind, reached the hospital walls, and shook the branches of the pine trees, as it slipped through the open window on the upper floor of the hospital. Sitting in front of his computer under raw fluorescent light, the psychiatrist stared at a half-written sentence on an otherwise empty screen: “Everything began with a question…”

He had been sitting there for a long time, and although he knew what his proposed book would say, he was hopelessly unable to put it down on paper.

 

“I can’t replay what I’ve played.”

 

The lines of the song rose and rose, and with a swirl, slipped across the gray silhouette of the city of sorrows, Istanbul. The notes entered the half-open window of an ordinary flat in an ordinary building. A programmer sat in front of his own computer with a fresh cup of coffee beside him, clicking away furiously with his mouse as Oktay’s camera recordings from his last night played on the screen. The programmer had been in the same position since the psychiatrist e-mailed the footage to him. Instead of feeling that he was sharing the last moments of a human being’s life, he felt like he was stealing something that didn’t belong to him.

The patient on the monitor had sunken cheeks and half-closed eyes. The white sheets of his bed stood in contrast to the gloomy shadows of the darkened room; his feet were fastened to the edges of the bed with leather straps. Meanwhile, his thin body trembled with involuntary movements that vibrated along the leather straps like waves hitting the shore. The only thing that looked human were his continuously mumbling lips, now thin with purple lines.

A grinding sound came from the computer: the program was working. Using a motion sensor, it converted the movements of Oktay’s lips into text. All the words the patient had mouthed or mumbled that night were now being put to paper. But it was obvious that there were a few different styles of speech and expression on display–voices that might have belonged to other people:

The sun is about to set. Dense smoke conceals its last rays and a smell of blood and a metallic taste is in the air as you stand on a giant battlefield full of the half-buried corpses of your friends and your defeated army. The war is over; your enemies are sharing the spoils and digging up the bodies, but they ignore you. You stand in the middle of the battlefield with a broken sword, screaming and begging to the sky. No one hears you; they don’t care about you. Neither do your enemies—even the opportunity to fight and die with honor is denied you. “I killed all my friends in war, all the people by my side, with my own hands. I destroyed them, and now I’m trying to find my voice, rising from their corpses—Im begging for war. I’m begging for one more chance. Don’t you hear me, still?”

 

The programmer read the printout and threw the paper aside. “I guess he was just reading an epic poem,” he said.

He was already tired and exhausted. He had hardly completed his previous work, having finished it at exactly 03:14:15 the night before. It wasn’t like he didn’t feel shocked; he still had goose bumps from the fear and anxiety he felt. He had been sleepless for a long time, and he probably would go on like that.

He had been working on the project for weeks: converting all the Arabic suras into digital language and formatting the unexpected golden rectangles that the suras’ information created. Even the so-called disjointed letters, had filled in the missing parts of the rectangles with a magical touch: 114 planes, with information on them, organized one after another in a three-dimensional form.

Just as Oktay had described, there were three dots, formed by clusters of disjointed letters that were organized on both the front and back of the plane, one of which was at the beginning of the sura. A little geometry knowledge—the rule that one plane passes through three dots—enabled the programmer to process, by using the Cauchy integral formula, the letters and data that intersected with that new plane. Later, he had transferred the data into visual templates.

His findings could only be defined by an analogy of stopped time and it appeared as if drops of water hung in the air in a room during a heavy rain. Each water drop was a letter, a digit of information, and it was so dense that you couldn’t see further because of the concealing property of the transparent water. Then, bam! A thin, oblique plane crossed the room like a guillotine blade, and the page created by the plane appeared.

As the massive plane swung like a sword across the room full of water drops, it was dry. It touched almost nothing. The only thing that appeared was an empty planar page and a tiny single dot near the top right of an asymmetrical corner—a nun (the one and only disjoint letter in the first revelation with disjoint letters, Kalem) in the sura The Prostration.

The tiny, pitch-black dot was now shining on the Arabic letter on the monitor. The programmer thought how it was like tossing a coin a thousand times and always having the coin land on its side.

The patient’s striking insights had impressed the programmer so much that he’d studied this third dimensional plane of the Qur’an by educating himself for weeks on the Arabic letters that made up the plane. But he had never thought he would be so shocked. If it weren’t so late, he would call the psychiatrist immediately.

Instead, he stayed calm and rechecked all of his calculations. He tried to define another approach to the angle through other letter orders and combinations. If he weren’t tired and hadn’t needed to check the data, he would have set to work on that, too. He made sure to document his findings and thoughts and e-mail them to the psychiatrist. If the patient hadn’t died, the doctor might have tried to apply the findings and improve the treatment. Even now, the programmer felt compelled to ask whether they would find anything else if they further examined the recordings by playing them backward.

 

“I can’t turn back.”

 

The hearse and its convoy were about to disappear as the taxi turned a different direction. The last discernable line of the songIf I get tears, don’t let them dry up”—departed the window as if to chase after the convoy. With difficulty, it reached Elif as she leaned her head on the window. She looked around as the lyric disappeared into the tiny shimmer of the teardrop slipping down her face.

At Oktay’s request, he was to be buried next to his mother in the family cemetery in Silivri. As they made their way to the burial site, everything around Elif screamed of meaninglessness. The words “Everyone lives his own doomsday” were ringing in her ears, and Elif felt that she was at the edge of a cliff. She was falling down and being swallowed by her grief.

Trying to slow her thoughts, she looked at her mobile phone, first checking the calendar, then the missed calls and messages. She felt it was probably best to delete the messages one by one. As she did, an old, unread message caught her attention. It came from a time when Oktay was alive and didn’t have his obsession with writing a book. She wished she could go back to those days and change things. One more chance was all she asked for—only one. In an infinite universe, there was no such thing as “impossible.”

She opened the message:

I wish there was another way to write this book without upsetting you.

Wilhelm Reich

 

Part 3

HOMO AVATARIUS

 

Son of man, direct your face against Gog, of the land of Magog…

(Book of Ezekiel, Chapter: 38)

 

Limbo

I suppose I regained my consciousness first. My first perceptions were a feeling of lightness, a sweet sense of happiness, and a combined sense of ease and serenity. I scanned my surroundings and saw only a dark sky full of stars. The stars were so bright, so close, so clear, and so numerous. Their colors ranged from yellow to red to blue. I had never seen such vibrance before.

I wanted to lift my head and look around, but it was as if I didn’t have a body or couldn’t move it if I did. I wanted to close my eyes, open them again, and start from the beginning, but, no matter how much I tried to blink, my eyes remained open. The happiness and serenity gave way to desperate fear. In despair, I tried to lift my hands to see them, to stand up, to move and turn around, but nothing made a difference. Suddenly I felt the absence of something that had always been present but now was missing. I had lost my sense of touch. There was no feeling and no gravity. Knowing the reality of such things and being unable to describe their absence caused my brain to wander in wild directions.

I began noticing other things were absent. My sense of hot or cold. My sense of taste. I didn’t even know where my mouth was. My sense of direction was lost. I wanted to scream, but, of course, there was no sound. Waves of panic consumed me and I felt the need to run and escape. Everything was crashing in upon me.

After some time (a concept I now greatly questioned), I felt a wave of something akin to sound: a whine, or something like it. Then I heard, “Welcome, sir!” Even in my helpless state, I perceived those words, and I sensed where they were coming from: from inside. It was an inner voice.

“Who are you?” I asked, trying to command the mouth I didn’t feel. No sound came out, but it must have been enough to think about speaking because my question was answered.

“I am the Wake-up Support Protocol.”

“What? What are you talking about? In a daze, I mumbled through the rapid ideas flooding my mind.

“Sir, you came here through a difficult process. I am here to re-create your consciousness, answer your questions and to direct you. In fact, you have created me precisely for this purpose. I exist to help you through the difficult process of awakening and transforming into a new form by helping you integrate your newly gained knowledge and experience into your existing—”

“Wait, wait a minute,” I interrupted. “You said, ‘Welcome.’ Where have I come from?”

“From Earth.”

My confusion brought silence. I wasn’t ready for such things. This was just too much. “Where am I now?” I asked.

“You’re in Limbo, sir.”

“What? Who gave this place such a name?”

“You did, sir.”

The answer only confused me more and brought more questions.

I tried to remember who I was. Though fuzzy, I thought I remembered everything. Yes. Oktay. My name was Oktay. I was a doctor, yes. My wife, Elif, and then…a TV show. There was a contest, and I had written a book, The Disjointed Letters or The Code of the Disjointed Letters or something like that. The memories attacked my mind like river rapids barraging the walls of a dam.

There had been a contest, something like Big Brother, and somebody had been eliminated each week. I had stayed with the other contestants for weeks. Fatin, with the furious red eyes; Ender, innocent, intelligent, and self-sacrificing. But how had it ended? The last scene was hidden behind a curtain of mystery. Three of us had been left at the end. There had been a miraculous vision of water droplets and an incredible discovery. And they died, yes, I think they died, but I…I passed through a bright tunnel. I… I …

I died… I’m dead.

I began to repeat it to make myself accept it. It was the thing that everybody knew would happen to them but never experienced. Now, it had happened to me. I had died.

What is limbo? Is it the place where people wait to go to heaven or hell? Yes, it must be. And if there is a limbo, then those other places must also exist.

“What is happening? What are you talking about? What do you mean I named this place “Limbo”? Did I create it like I created you? Am I God? Did I live on Earth in the image of a human and come here to recover? What are you talking about? What am I talking about?”

I emitted a silent scream as a flood of runaway thoughts overwhelmed me and I was seized by an incredible fear.

“Sir, please calm down. You have just returned from a very difficult life, and this was only one of the countless iterations of a process which is more difficult and more dangerous each time. Each time you wake up here and re-attain the knowledge of your old talents, the process gets harder. However, you have the strength to get over this, just like you did at other times, and that’s why I’m here. As you have many times before, you will regain your abilities by remembering step by step. But first, calm down and don’t torture yourself. Just give yourself some time.”

I tried to count to ten, and then back to zero. When I was done, I said, “Okay.”

“You are not God, sir.”

This answer made me feel an awkward relief.

“This is an interim station between the Earth and the Moon. You called this place Limbo when you first arrived here.”

“What do you mean my former self? Am I not Oktay? Or have I had many lives? Is this place like a reincarnation center or a waiting room?”

“Sir, you are not ready yet, and I cannot give you any information that might affect the re-construction process. But I can tell you that this is not a reincarnation center.”

“What is it then? What’s process are you talking about? How long does it take? When will I be able to feel my body? When will I get to eat something?”

“Sir, please calm down. We will gradually restore knowledge according to the protocol, and then, you will re-learn everything. We have done this many times, although it has been more difficult each time. However, the process must be the same.”

“Okay,” I said. “I‘m confused but I’m listening.”

“Good, sir. If you like, I will first tell you about the program and the process.”

“Yes, yes, of course.”

“I will present you with the simple version and some of the limited introductory parts. As you experience them again, your memory will gradually regain function and grow stronger. In between the presentations and the memory experiences, you can ask me whatever you want, describe what you remember, and discuss what abilities you have regained. Then, we will continue to the next level to fill in any gaps in your knowledge.”

“How long does this program take? How many parts does it have?”

“Sir, you are asking the same questions that you have asked each time, and I have been giving you the same answers. When you don’t perceive something, it means it does not exist; therefore, it is not a loss. Trust yourself—you wrote this program, you organized it, and you defined the parameters between waking and coming back. You even gave it a funny name: Autoconstruction.”

Trust myself? The program’s advice filled me with apprehension.

“Sir, if you are ready, I want to start the first stage. I think it is enough to give you a short briefing. This reduced version is a perceptual program that employs selective memory. It will be interrupted in several parts. In other words, it is a montage. The only aim of it is to re-create a connection with your old memories. It doesn’t change what happened because it has already been experienced. You will live, feel, and think as if you do everything of your own free will, but although you will want to, you will not affect the events. Now, if you are ready, sir, I’d like to start.”

“Wait, wait…what am I going to watch? Who am I going to be?”

“During the experience, you will not remember what I am about to tell you, but I will tell you anyway, sir. You will partially re-experience what you went through at the start of the thirteenth century as Cuci, the eldest son of Temüjin , also known as Genghis Khan. You will be known as ‘the Guest’ behind ‘The One of Iron.’”

The voice faded away, as did the stars in front of my eyes.

 

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The ones who follow us are always rewarded with human flesh. That’s why the raptors fly above us and the jackals lurk behind us.

We, who live in tents, sleep on horseback, and wrap ourselves in animal fur, live to fight. We, the wolf herd, will destroy the armor and the walls with our teeth and claws. We do not need to write our history. Others will write it to remember their fear.

 

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Who is against us? Anyone who gets in our way. We live to fight and capture our enemies, and, unless they are of use as slaves, kill them. My father, Genghis Khan, is the ruler of the lands between all the known seas, and he earned that title by fighting. Those against him always have two choices: die or submit.

 

Tengri is our path. If we go, it is because we want to go, and if we want to go, everywhere we go is our path. We have no written language, and we have no word for “mercy.” But we do know favors. If an old man travels the steppe with his family in winter, we do him a favor by killing him. This way, he does not have to struggle to survive the cold. We capture his possessions, and, if his women are young, we capture them, too.

 

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We never tire of fighting. We are always on the border, always pushing everything, everybody…even fate. When we set off on horseback, we keep moving even while asleep.

Nothing is moderate for us. When we suffer from hunger, we suffer for days and weeks.

And when we eat, we eat until we vomit and drink koumiss until we black out.

 

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I am Cuci, the eldest son of Genghis Khan, first child of his wife, Börte, elder brother of Ogheday, the commander and crown prince of Genghis Khan. I’ve always known that I won’t be Khan after my father dies. But, because I was born, like everyone else, I drag my fate along after me.

“Cuci” means “guest.” In the Mongolian tradition, whoever has the right of a guest cannot be harmed. My father—who wasn’t yet a khan at the time—once took me into his arms, hugged me tight, lifted me up in front of the eyes of the public, and cried out, “Cuci!”

This announcement was not only a confirmation but an acceptance; it was also a threat. Whoever didn’t respect my birthright as both Cuci and a Cuci paid with his life. When I was pulled back into the arms of my father Temüjin, the one of iron, I was a guest of the iron: safe but shunned.

 

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It has been hours since the biggest army on the plains of Mongolia made a move.

My soldiers’ know how to move in formation and signal each other like a pack of wolves. A wolf makes its opponents accept its superiority by looking at them with a piercing stare until they cower and run away. Each of my soldiers is a wolf, and I only fight with wolves. The rest are either my slaves or my enemies.

Now, we are moving towards the southeast, the destiny of the Mongolians. We are following my father, who has united all the Mongol tribes and has, after many battles, become not Temujin, but “Genghis Khan.” We are moving toward China, the largest empire in the world, based on a civilization that has existed for thousands of years. As a wolf pack leaving its home in the steppes, we are advancing on the enemy’s biggest city—a place with the highest walls, the best weapons, and supposedly the best army in the world. Despite the warnings, we press on.

 

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When we reach the base of a huge mountain, we began to move slowly, waiting to gather our forces. The narrow passage that the scouts directed us to is the only breach in this impenetrable wall—a gap made even narrower by sharp rocks. Only two men, side by side, can pass through the breach in order to reach the plain beyond —the plain where an army awaits.

The pioneers reach the other side of the passage before dawn and secure the exit with the help of the supporting forces. My father already knows of the military camp on the other side, a camp of countless colorful tents housing thousands of soldiers.

The Khan sends a division of ten thousand around the north side of the mountain along narrow and precarious roads. The men are led by his greatest commanders, Cebe and Sobutay. Their duty is to reach the valley from an unexpected direction by taking goat paths over snowy mountain peaks. Only a determined Mongol could pass through such snowstorms and incredibly cold passes in the rock. Even so, by the time they make it through, the Mongol dead outnumber the living. This passageway between deep cliffs and frozen rocks is a road of death.

 

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Thin snowflakes hurled by the bitter wind melt on my face as we gather in front of the entrance to the passage. A battalion of my raiders attacks with sharp screams, rapidly moving forward until we make an opening.

My father enters the passage on his horse, slowing down, but never stopping. As the army enters the passage, it leaves the light of the former world behind. The sound of hundreds upon thousands of horsemen hangs in the air with the dust and ice crystals.

Before the first division passes through the exit, a mass of trees tumbles down from the hills. They smash on the ground like thunder splitting the sky. The horsemen in the rear, who are now trying to enter the passage, crash against those stopped in the front.

 

“Trap!” I cry. The ones who hear my cry turned aside, allowing me to move forward. I realize I won’t be able to pass on horseback through the passage now blocked by hundreds of soldiers. With a roar, I stand up on my horse and advance by jumping and stepping on soldiers and horses. The ones who hear my voice stand strong and shift their swords and spears to make way, but they still manage to nick my armor, causing tiny sparks to fly as I press forward. For a moment, I glimpse the wolf, its ears perked up at my shouts.

I arrive at the massive tree. It is the height of three full-grown men. Many bewildered eyes are on me, Cuci, the eldest son of Genghis Khan. It is impossible for them not to recognize me, and it is also impossible for the experienced soldiers not to hear my commands. As I step on the tops of heads, shoulders, and hands, I scream, “Everyone get back! Empty the passage! Make space for those with axes!”

I then reach down, snag the knives and swords of a few nearby soldiers, and stab the weapons into the massive tree trunk, one after another, building makeshift steps to scale the tree. I quickly arrive at the top of the tree, grab hold with my nails and cry out, “Rope!”

From above, I stare over the trees and down into the battlefield. Our soldiers, no more than 50 in total, are surrounded by an endless sea of enemies. Still, they ride their horses over the corpses and wave their swords against anything and anyone that surrounds them. I faintly glimpse my father standing beside his dead horse, surrounded by a heap of soldiers. There is no time to delay. I spot a knife with a rope bound to its handle stuck into the trunk next to me. Without slowing down, I grab the knife and the rope and jump down. I find a horse collapsed on a soldier, wrap the rope twice around its neck, and get it upright. Then, I race toward my father without looking back. The wolf, which has just passed through a space under the tree trunk, is already ahead of me, weaving around obstacles and running toward its own target.

 

…[START]

 

#
p<>{color:#00F;}. Winter 1214, Zhongdu ( Ancient Beijing )

Mongol

 

As I ran with my bow drawn, I shot arrows at the enemies surrounding my father, but hundreds more soldiers remained.

I shot my last arrow and, drawing my sword, began to prune away the enemies that came my way. Fighting wasn’t my aim. Neither was killing. My aim was just to keep moving. I made space by cutting off the arms and legs that came at me, cutting the necks of those who tried to save themselves, and knocking down the bodies I couldn’t pass over. I sometimes used the flat of my sword like a shovel and avoided directly stabbing with my knife: it took time to remove the weapon from the bodies.

In one mistaken move, I stabbed the sword so deep between the neck and armor of a Chinese soldier that it got stuck. I put supported all my weight on my sword and used all my strength to lift myself, step onto the soldier, and then jump on the closest cavalryman. While gliding in the air, I grasped the back of the saddle with my free hand and swung my sword at the horseman’s neck. His head fell to the ground, and I yanked the cavalryman off of the horse and let the headless body fall.

As I rode closer to my father, a few arrows glanced off my armor, and I escaped the weak sword blows of the infantrymen. A few horsemen came at me, but I raced past them as I watched my father cut down the riders nearest him. He stood upon stacks of corpses, but the crowd of enemy soldiers was only growing. The cavalrymen who had been protecting him were now all dead, and my father was standing alone on the battlefield.

Time stopped.

The distance was getting shorter but it also seemed to stretch on forever. I watched in horror as an arrow, shot from close distance, punctured my father’s armor. I screamed as if to tear my lungs out and then another blow pierced his foot. It seemed that I was too late. Had I given all this effort just so I could witness the end?

Then I saw the wolf.

It was making a path through the crowd, thrashing through those in front of him like they were stalks of wheat. For a moment, the wolf disappeared, and then it leapt in the air and landed on the shoulders of my father. He stumbled for a second but remained standing.

With this living armor on his back, Genghis Khan plodded forward, slicing those in front of him as blood sprayed from the blows of swords and arrows, and his pale skin turned red. I headed toward my father, trampling the soldiers in front of me with my horse. I took my sword in my left hand and grabbed my father’s arm with my right, pulling him onto my horse. With my father in the saddle, I jumped down and smacked the horse on the rear to send it away. My father was carried safely away from the heart of the battle, but I didn’t watch him go. My eyes were fixed on the ground and on the bloody pelt curled up next to my feet.

Time stopped once more and the world lost all meaning. Our rabid and bewildered enemy moved closer, but the only movement from me was from the growing knot in my throat as I gazed upon the remains of the wolf.

The first sword blow skipped off my helmet and fell on my shoulder armor. I felt the blow, but it didn’t hurt. The next sword blows were supposed to kill me, but they couldn’t. I stood still, half on my knees, a bloody pelt underneath me, a knot in my throat, and steam in my eyes. The only thing protecting me were the movements of the soldiers around me as they stood in each other’s way.

The sword in my hand should have fell, but it didn’t. Instead, the sword swung from side to side, its grip smashing the heads of the enemy. It didn’t feel like me. It was something I only witnessed. I stabbed everything in reach and wound the intestines out of someone’s abdomen and around their neck. I killed men with my bare hands and tore their faces with my bloody nails. I felt the warmth of the blood of the necks I ripped with my teeth.

 

 

Night was falling. As I, covered in blood, looked for more lives to take, someone grabbed me from behind and used his knee to bring me low. I would have beaten him, too, if I could have, but I was unable to move.

“It’s over,” a familiar voice said. “Calm down!”

It was Sobutay.

“The fight ended hours ago,” he said, leaning over me, “but we couldn’t calm you down. You continued. I would have watched you with pleasure, but you began to attack our own soldiers.”

I was so exhausted. If Sobutay hadn’t helped me stand, I would have probably slept among the dead. In the twilight, I gazed upon the endless corpse sea, the frozen mud of blood and intestines, the abandoned and dead horses, and the smoke of extinguished fires. It was like other battlefield scenes, with one difference: the lack of prisoners.

I watched as bodies were piled and five hundred sacks were filled with the ears of the dead—200,000 in total, enough flesh and bone to cover the soil.

When I arrived at the tent, the snow flurries and frost had already caused my wounds to form scabs. My armor was so shredded that snowflakes easily exploited the gaps and fell against my naked body. I groaned as the remains of my armor were removed and felt about to faint as I lay on the ground in the warm sent with servant girls and shamans beside me attending to my wounds.

“You look much worse than the fur of your wolf. There is nowhere on you that isn’t torn,” the shaman said.

Before he could say one more thing, I grabbed him by his hair and pressed his head to the ground. “How dare you?!” I hissed. “Now go and pray for the soul of the wolf, perform the ceremony, and bring me a piece of his fur. Then be out of my sight!”

The shaman left the tent, silent except for the clatter of his bone and bead jewelry. Amidst the cold and quiet of the dark, the servant girls applied ointment and bandaged my wounds. I fell asleep shivering.

 

I woke up tired, hungry, and thirsty. The woman next to me told me I had been asleep for two days. Next to me were a few plates of half-consumed food and some cups of water. The servants must have made me eat. I looked around frantically and found what I was looking for. There it was! The piece of fur, about one-and-a-half hands wide, had been cleaned and now shined bluish-gray even in the dim light.

The female caretaker called the guard and helped me dress quickly. After I exited the tent, I realized we had moved. Even though I was used to waking up in different seasons and places, I was still baffled by what I saw: a giant plain that dwarfed our endless tents and enormous army. In the middle of this plain was a magnificent stone wall reaching up to the sky and stretching toward the horizons, a wall made of fortresses and towers signifying the upper limit of civilization.

I suddenly felt an inexplicable anger. It was an anger that cleared all my fatigue away. As memories briefly appeared, piece by piece, before again disappearing, my rage moved from my chest to my throat, and I reached my boiling point, ready to attack those around me.

It was the sound of a small set of armor and footsteps that discouraged me. Suddenly, a little monster jumped on me and hugged me. It was my little brother, Tuluy, the young prince, greeting me with his childish excitement.

“My brother…you scared us a lot. You’ve been unconscious for days, and I’ve listened to stories of your battle many times.”

I removed his helmet (which was significantly bigger than his head) and tussled his pitch-black hair.

“Tell me! Tell me a real story from a real hero!” he said, now jumping around me excitedly. “But tell me from the beginning!”

“Alright! I will. I promise. But first, let me have a rest. When both of us are watching the stars, I’ll tell you everything by the warmth of the fire, I promise. Meanwhile, you can tell me what happened while I was asleep.”

My brother bounced as he dragged me, not letting go of my hand.

“At night, we stayed beside the battlefield,” he said. “There were sounds of jackals and wolves all night long; five hundred sacks of ears were collected. The sky was full of vultures in the morning, and it was always dark. Father said that he didn’t want any prisoners. There were a few anyway, and they ended up in pits. Before the corpses began to stink, we packed up the tents and set off. We rode with Uncle Hazar for two days without stopping. There were no trees. It was all plain and green.”

He continued. “All the villages we passed by were empty. We plundered as many supplies and spoils from the villages as possible, and we set fire to each place just before we left. In the distance, we saw the villagers trying to run away. Uncle Hazar sent the cavalry to kill them and plunder their supplies.”

Tuluy saw me gazing on the walls of the fortress. “We’ve been here for two days,” he said. “Such an enormous fortress, isn’t it? They say it is the only one of its kind in the world. It’s as tall as twenty men. On the first day, we carried out a small attack to test its shooting range. Their archers are weak, but there are machines on the towers that shoot arrows so big, you wouldn’t believe it. Thick spears as tall as two men! They’re so strong, they can even kill a man with their wind.”

“Then…then…,” Tuluy went on excitedly, “Father sent a messenger and told them if they surrendered, he wouldn’t kill anyone. He had the white tent pitched near the door of the fortress where everyone could see. But, as you know, when the tent becomes black, there is no forgiveness. Our soldiers are already digging to find the enemy’s water supply. Father said if we don’t run into difficulty, we can poison it.”

“How long would a fortress without an army stand anyway, brother?” he asked. “Do you think people would come for help? This fortress has never fallen and has never been defeated. We might be here for months. No one has dared to lay a siege for such a long time, not since the time of the father’s great grandfather.”

“How can these people live in such a closed place without moving in the wide plains—without changing places?” he asked. “How can they find fresh pasture without searching? If you stay in the same place, your enemies can find you. You can’t even run away. You can’t take those big houses and big walls with you. When you run away, you leave everything behind, right, brother? Can you believe that they don’t even have tents? Everything is made of stone. They don’t move. They are so strange, aren’t they? They live so differently. There must be no wind behind those walls; they must not be able to breathe.”

Half-listening to my brother and without interrupting his monologue, I walked toward the tent of the Khan accompanied by the awed gazes of others. All who saw us lowered their heads in greeting, but I looked at no one and pretended to give all my attention to my brother.

My elder brother, Ögheday, came out of the tent and headed toward me. When the future Khan stood in front of me, he put his hand on my shoulder and asked me with a timid and insincere voice, “Brother, how are you?”

“As you see,” I said, slowly slipping away from the hand on my shoulder.

“I’m really sorry about the wolf,” he said. “I know how precious it was to you.”

He seemed sincere when he said it, but he must have known that what he had just said would be the beginning of his end. Tuluy came closer to me and held my hand tight, discouraging me from retaliating.

Staring at Ogheday, my hand unconsciously moved toward the piece of fur on my waist. I stopped myself, lifted my head, and moved toward the door of the tent.

On the far side of the giant tent, my father sat in the middle of a few commanders who were deep in discussion. However, when I entered, they stopped talking and turned my way, and my father stood up and headed toward me, his face bright.

My father hugged me tight, something he hadn’t done in a long time. He didn’t say anything, but his gesture still meant a lot. I hesitantly brought my hands up to return his embrace and we stayed like that for a while. When we pulled away, my father sent everyone away with his sharp gaze.

We were alone, and it was calm inside except for the sound of the wind whipping against the tent. My father silently took his place, and I quickly sat down beside him.

He caressed the bandaged wound on his leg as he spoke. “I’ve seen many wars,” he said. “I’ve fought countless battles. I’ve been close to death many times, but this is the first time that I truly believed I would die.”

I began to reply, but he gently silenced me and continued. “Maybe not the first time. Still, I was about to send regrets of what I’ve done to the Tengri. It is said that I am only scared of dogs, you know, but I think this time, I was also scared of death.”

His smile was sincere as he talked, but still, he watched me. He realized that anything he said about dogs might be misunderstood. When he got a forced smile from me, he went on.

“I’m truly sorry for your wolf sacrificing itself for me like that. His warmth and closeness when he jumped on my back gave me strength. I suddenly rediscovered my confidence among my enemies. But…I suppose we don’t want to reopen that wound. We both know that the tie between the two of us is beyond our blood and beyond words. You are one of the rare people that I trust on the battlefield.”

“Father, there is no need to explain. You are the ruler of everything between two seas. That includes our lives. I know you don’t love me, and I accept that. But I also know you respect me. This is enough for me. You have more important duties than defining the fate of the Mongolian nation. I believe there is something beyond our nation’s glory, although I can’t say for sure what it is. I don’t know whether even history will know…”

After a short period of silence, I stared at him and continued. “Since I was born, I’ve been with you, whether you wanted it that way or not, but I feel that in the near future, our paths will separate, and for the first time, I will ask you for something.”

I realized that as I spoke, I had turned my eyes to the ground, and my hand had moved involuntarily to the fur under my belt.

My father remained still but looked slightly confused. “Except for the throne, you can ask for whatever you want,” he said in a sharp, confident voice. “Including my life.”

“No matter what people say,” he continued, “my thoughts will not change. You are the eldest son of Börte, the only woman that I love, and I know you as my son. There is nothing else. But, like everyone else, I also know you are different, and you are a guest among us. I understand that there are things beyond my mind that are only known by Tengri, and I accept it. I am responsible for those who live on this Earth. The rest is beyond me.”

“There are a thousand nations, a thousand religions,” he went on. “Even the Chinese, on whose doorstep we stand, have a religion, and I stand at the same distance from all of them. I do not understand them, but I do not believe they are an obstacle. I kill someone if I have to, but I don’t decide to which God his soul goes.”

“Father, that is not the issue. Just know that I am with you, and I am in your service. But no matter what, when the right time comes—if it comes—help me. Do not refuse me. That’s my only wish.”

“My son, consider it granted,” he replied.

I hadn’t heard the word “son” for a long time. I didn’t want to prolong the conversation or get emotional, so I stood up, said farewell, and rapidly exited the tent.

 

 

The siege was long. From time to time, we made weak attempts to attack, but mostly we waited. We, the wolves, waited in ambush with patience and caution; they, the ones on the peak of civilization, waited with fear and impatience. As time passed, they ran low on supplies and hope. Sometimes, we also lost hope, but we kept waiting as the despair of those locked inside the walls increased. They ran out of water, and we received news that they had begun to kill each other for rainwater. They ran out of supplies, and cannibalism became a common practice. The worst was the morning: an increasing number of people decided not to endure hopelessness and did not to want to become food for others, so they let themselves fall from the walls. Sometimes soldiers, sometimes civilians. No matter. All fell at the same speed.

The tent at the door of the fortress had now been black for a long time, and, for those in despair, it was an incubus. Death would be upon those who couldn’t get help from the outside. But how much pain awaited them was uncertain.

One evening, just before sundown, hundreds of young women in white dresses appeared along the top of the walls of the fortress. They stood in silence for a moment and then, in what resembled a ritual, let themselves fall. We didn’t understand the meaning and I confess we weren’t affected much. We merely watched as the white gowns fluttered in the air and piled like bloody broken snow on the grass below.

 

 

The seasons changed and the horses were sent to faraway meadows to pasture. The soldiers and those who weren’t used to living in the same place for a long time were restless and tired of waiting. We were ready to leave and move on as soon as possible. Finally, the little emperor of the civilization behind the walls surrendered the fortress and accepted our terms.

My father accepted ownership of the fortress on condition that the emperor and his followers left. Beijing had fallen. The greatest civilization was at our feet. We wouldn’t kill anyone. We would only plunder and tax the locals. At night, the emperor and his inner circle left the fortress with a caravan under our escort. The soldiers threw their weapons over the walls, an activity that lasted all night. In the morning, the doors were wide open.

When we entered the fortress, we saw enormously complex paths, passages, tunnels, overlapping houses, and a lot of vehicles and buildings that we didn’t understand. The channels had obviously been full of water, and now were dry lakes. The stifled air, the crowds, and the smell of rotting carcasses was suffocating. I couldn’t stay there for long. However, others plundered with passion for two days and nights, exacting their revenge for the long wait they had endured.

 

 

After growing bored with harvesting spoils, everyone gathered, and we prepared to set off again. On the morning of our departure, my father made a surprising announcement.

“Money and spoils. What are these? They were too late. The black tent had been raised. Raze everything to the ground. Sever every head. Not even a single cat shall stay alive.”

The soldiers executed the orders without question. It took two days to end the lives of those in the fortress. No one escaped, and there were no witnesses. The streets filled with corpses, and the empty channels overflowed with blood. When we left, over half a million were dead.

 

Cuci

When does a man know that he exists? How long is he aware of that existence? I think the answer is always the same: You exist from the time you notice your first moment. Your brain doesn’t belong to you before you experience your first moment, and you don’t own yourself. In order to have individuality, you must have your own memories.

My first memory is from when I was three years old. I was running in the meadow near our tent among high grasses, falling down, touching the earth with my hands and face, and rolling over and over and turning my face toward the sky. As I lay on my back, I could see the deep blue sky and the brightness of the sun on the horizon. Not even a single cloud was in the sky, the grasses around me waved with the wind, and I could hear the whinnies and mehs of the horses and sheep. When I straightened up and reached for my hat, now fallen from my head, I saw the bright yellow and black eyes of a creature as thick as my fingers.

The thing I remember most is the terror as the creature slithered by and I screamed. Suddenly, I felt a warm breath on my neck, and then I was being dragged. I felt the warm fur as this new creature dragged me all the way to the door of our tent. It set me down and I saw its deep blue eyes as the female wolf appeared right in front of my face. It came closer and smelled my tummy and neck many times. After walking around me twice, it disappeared until it returned with my hat.

As masses of human bodies gathered around me, my cries subsided and I once again felt the warmth of my mother’s bosom—a physical reminder of my first moment of life. My dreams from that time are mostly blank, but I can say that I was never over the unrest I felt as the black and yellow creature continued to visit my nightmares.

My early memories can mostly be described as peaceful and happy. I remember playing with the other children, running after sheep, and watching for opportunities to ride horses. I also remember being scolded by our mothers for fighting those same children and yelling after the wolf, cheering it on when it fought with the dogs. I also remember getting caught playing with my father’s sword while he was asleep, and my happiness when he gave me my own unsharpened sword that he had the ironsmith specially craft for me.

I remember the first time I rode a horse and how I fell from it many times. I will never forget the night I tried to sleep on the horse for the first time and how I gave up when I didn’t sleep until morning.

I also remember shooting arrows—arrows that got bigger and more difficult to handle as I competed with the other children. I tossed and turned all night when I lost and awoke early in the morning to stubbornly practice shooting more. Even though I was a prince, these were the common memories of every Mongolian boy.

The soldiers and their weapons were my biggest fascination. Without letting them know I was there, I would quietly watch the guards standing in front of the door of my father’s tent. The guards would change at certain intervals, and I would always spy on them as I waited most eagerly for Brother Cebe’s shift. He was the tallest and strongest of the guards, and he had the brightest armor and the sharpest sword among my father’s men. He had a penetrating look which distinguished him among the thousands of soldiers. It was a pleasure to watch how he remained on guard without moving and how his muscles stiffened when he was alerted. Like the wolf, Brother Cebe was careful in his silence and always bore a posture that gave confidence to those around him.

If he was in a good mood he would show me how to hold a sword, how to pull the bowstring, and how to jump on and off a horse without falling.

I couldn’t hide my sadness when Brother Cebe told me, “I am going to my hometown, a faraway place with a thick forest.” Then he added, “But I will be back, and I will bring my brother with me. He is a little bigger than you, but he is not a warrior like you. Can you make friends with him and teach him what you know?”

“Of course I can. But you should come back quickly,” I said.

Days and seasons passed as I impatiently waited for Brother Cebe’s return and thought about teaching his brother. When the guards told me Brother Cebe had returned, I rode my horse excitedly out to welcome him. I accompanied him for a while and, as I circled around the group, my eyes moved to Cebe’s brother. He was a thin child who was an unskilled rider, and his face looked sickly and pale. His strange clothes consisted of a thick coat and fur. The only special thing about him was his two honey-colored eyes, which always looked straight and bright. So this is my student?

I greeted the boy in disappointment and continued riding my horse beside Brother Cebe while I asked many questions of the exhausted cavalry. The evening sky was darkening when we arrived at the camp. After receiving the greetings and delivering their gifts, both brothers headed to their tent.

In the morning, after a restful night’s sleep, I ran to the tent of Brother Cebe with fresh excitement. Brother Cebe wasn’t there, but the thin boy was still sleeping under the fur. An old woman was occupied with unpacking in the tent. I talked to her in a voice loud enough to wake up the sleeping boy. When the boy finally awoke, he was visibly surprised by his surroundings. He looked around and smiled when he saw me. The old woman gave us some hot soup and, as the boy and I ate, we waited patiently for the other to break the silence.

“My name is Cuci,” I finally said.

“I’m Sobutay.” It was the first time I’d heard the boy speak. He had a weak, strange voice, like those I had imagined from faraway lands.

“Did you come here to be a great warrior like your brother?” I asked.

“My father sent me. He told me it was time. I missed my brother a lot. But I guess I can’t be as good as him.”

“If you work hard, why not?” I said without believing myself. “Let’s go. Let me show you around.”

When we left the tent, the wolf came to us. Sobutay was scared at first, but, when I let the wolf get closer to him, he relaxed and affectionately caressed its neck. He was amazed that it was a real wolf. He said he had never seen anything that big and blue before.

While wandering around, I spoke freely and showed him how the tents were organized, who lived where, which paths were best to use, and where to find the hole for the toilet. I also showed him where the kids gathered in the plain, a safe area shielded from the wind by the surrounding rocks.

It was the day of the solar eclipse and we watched as dozens of children talked excitedly amongst themselves, watched the phenomenon, and cheered.

When the event was over, the kids returned to their activities. Some of them practiced archery and some of them just gathered together and talked. When we got closer to them, all the activities stopped, and several children encircled us, laid eyes on the stranger, and began to ask questions. The magic of a new stranger was soon broken when Sobutay couldn’t quickly answer questions about himself, and soon the children began to make fun of him. In order to protect my guest, I tried to answer the questions on his behalf, but it didn’t help.

I realized that Batu, the leader of the child gang, had noticed Sobutay’s weakness and was trying to humiliate him in order to solidify his status in the group. He stood next to Sobutay and began to pull at the boy’s fur. Batu was two or three times bigger and, as Sobutay tried to brush off his interrogator, Batu responded by getting more animated and began shaking him.

I didn’t know what to do, but I weakly tried to prevent matters from getting out of hand. I regretted that I had brought Sobutay to the plain so soon. Without preparing him, I had put him in a situation where I couldn’t protect him. I thought of dragging him away by his arm. He was my responsibility, after all.

Sobutay looked at the area surrounding him with a measured expression, then, to Batu’s and all of our surprise, he pushed away Batu’s hand and took a step back. Sobutay used this brief moment of confusion to his advantage and threw a sudden, shocking punch that crashed right between Batu’s chin and ear. Everyone—including me—stopped and stared in shocked silence.

Sobutay didn’t linger, but quickly turned and ran away as fast as he could. I didn’t expect the punch, and I didn’t expect his sudden escape. If you wanted to fight, I thought, then why did you run away, and if you planned to run away, then why did you start the fight?”

Batu’s shock had worn off and was now replaced with rage. He screamed as he chased after Sobutay, and I stood still with the rest as I watched him run Sobutay down like a tiger chasing an antelope. In those chases, the tiger always won.

Sobutay ran extremely fast, but Batu quickly closed the gap as he kicked up dust clouds from the grass. I could only think that Batu would give the far weaker Sobutay a deadly beating as soon as he caught him.

Suddenly, in mid-stride, Sobutay stopped, turned and planted himself with his right shoulder lowered. Batu could not stop as fast as Sobutay and his face crunched into Sobutay’s shoulder, instantly breaking his nose and a handful of teeth. Air exploded out of his lungs and sent blood and teeth flying from his mouth.

Slightly rocked back on his heels, Sobutay took one step and kicked Batu in his stomach. Those of us who had been watching raced to the scene and saw Sobutay standing over Batu with a rock in his hand and his foot on his opponent’s bleeding mouth. Probably for the first time in his short life, Batu feared death. We just stood still and quietly watched, waiting to see what happened next.

His face now crooked and covered in blood, Batu tried to say something, but the blood in his mouth and Sobutay’s foot on his throat prevented him from managing anything beyond a weak growl. A few of Batu’s close friends stepped forward to intervene, but the wolf, who had been watching, stepped into view and growled until Batu’s supporters backed down.

Sobutay stopped staring at us and looked down at his opponent. Suddenly, he hurled the stone down with such force that it smashed Batu’s skull. Blood and bone scattered on the ground, and one of the boy’s eyeballs was blown from its socket. Sobutay showed no excitement or panic. With blood spatter on his face, he scanned us with his eyes, turned and calmly walked toward the tents. The wolf followed him, and so did I. I wanted to turn back and scream, “Here is your new leader!” But everyone already knew.

Later, as we sat quietly in the tent, I couldn’t endure the silence. “You shocked everyone…Was that necessary?”

“With the absence of leadership, that bulky boy unnecessarily took a risk and forced someone he didn’t know to fight. If you take an unnecessary risk and you do so often, you will come across an unexpected situation and get unnecessarily hurt. I, on the other hand, took a necessary risk. I showed a strong stance that will endure for the rest of my life. The decision was easy: I have chosen my path.”

As he continued his calm and thoughtful speech with his strange accent, I realized how this weak boy had already become a young warrior in front of my eyes.

“But did you have to kill him? You had already defeated him and won.”

“The broken nose and teeth would have healed, but the boy’s pain would only have increased. Whenever he saw me, he would remember what he had lost and try to regain his lost power. He would keep trying this until one of us was dead. In order to survive and continue, I couldn’t leave him alive. Just like in the forest: sometimes you kill a bear in order to wander around its territory comfortably rather than wandering around the territory in discomfort. But all the words are empty now. It’s done.”

Batu’s family had to submit to the death—which happened after a fair fight. It didn’t suit them to oppose Cebe anyway. My father had already said that he didn’t want any feuds. Although no action was taken, the pain was still there, and it always would be.

Days and weeks passed. We spent the days in heavy labor, shooting arrows, stretching spreads, wrestling, and riding horses. We did the work we were given as if it were a competition. Sobutay, who was not very good at riding horses, overcame his inability and started catching me—sometimes even passing me. In exchange, he taught me the techniques he had learned from his ironsmith father, and we tried to melt iron in a fire and shape it. With his help, I made a dagger, albeit a crooked one.

The evenings belonged to us. We talked for hours and told each other stories. We dreamed under the stars when it was warm and next to a fire when it was cold. During this time, I made him tell me about the woodland from which he had come. He told me how people there lived in huts and survived by setting traps and hunting. While he was telling me about the giant trees, the massive forests that covered all the sky, and the animals that lived among them, I listened to him intently, asking only a few questions. He told me how he could tell a rabbit from a fox based on its snow prints. He described the traps he set to catch the intelligent animals, and if he was unsuccessful in his explanation, he drew them on the ground to show me.

In his home territory, there were not many horses. This sounded strange to me, but our tame sheep were strange to him. He was surprised that we cut and ate them instead of feeding and keeping them. I explained that we did this because the animals were always out there, and you could hunt them whenever you wanted. Meanwhile, when it wasn’t necessary, we didn’t have to care for them.

We talked tirelessly about war strategy. We discussed embrangling, deception, and using the power of the enemy against himself. We used small stones to represent our soldiers and horsemen on the battlefield. We positioned them against the enemy, moved them, and talked and talked about the traps that could be set.

We found out how important knowledge was in battle; we also learned about the importance of providing the wrong information to the enemy. To us, knowledge was even more important than the number of weapons and soldiers.

Sometimes, we would talk to one of our people’s skilled warriors (usually Cebe) and bore him with our questions. We asked his opinion about the tactics we had developed, and we absorbed anything he shared with us.

We made an interesting pair, and although it wasn’t our idea, everyone treated us with distance and no one interfered. However, all of the boys our age would answer whenever we asked, and they did whatever we asked them to without question, likely out of fear.

After a time, we noticed someone was spying on us. Unlike the others, she approached us without any fear. Her name was Selen, and she was the youngest daughter of a shaman. She was a little taller than me, but younger. She had penetrating onyx eyes, and she always carried a red handkerchief made of silk. Sometimes, she wore the handkerchief on her elbow; other times, she used it to braid her hair.

At first, we told her of our discomfort and asked her to hang out with the other girls and stay out of our way, but because of her father’s position, her strange looks, manners, and speech, her curiosity in magic, and her peevish behavior, she had already alienated many others. So, out of desperation, she persisted.

We began to let this insistent stranger follow us, but quietly at first and at a distance. To assist us, she sometimes brought food, figures, and pieces of bone in various colors that we could use in our war tactics. She often played with the wolf, and, as she listened to us, we grew used to her presence.

She rarely joined our conversations, but, when she did speak, her thoughts and words would generally surprise us, and, in time, we learned to respect her. We even asked for her opinion when we had a difficulty and couldn’t find a solution. She showed us a few magic tricks she had learned from her father and revealed their secrets. We thought about them and discussed how we could use them as war tactics.

These discussions helped Sobutay and I understand the principle that one’s enemy sees things the way they are present, and thus, can be distracted and surprised as you carry out what you want in another direction. We understood that a man makes decisions (and mistakes) based on the situation he feels he is in at the moment.

 

We often gathered in the tent of the Khan and listened to the stories he and his generals told of great battles. One night, when my father was particularly drunk on koumiss, he told us a memorable tale:

“In ancient times, there was a little shepherd boy living in a remote corner of a small Mongolian kingdom. Before he left home, his mother always gave him a little food and a sheep pelt full of grass to practice wrestling. Time passed, and the boy grew up and got stronger. His mother began to fill the sheep pelt with water and, then, with stones. When her child became a young man and the sheep pelt became light to him, she changed it for a bull pelt and filled it with stones.”

“The boy’s fame soon went beyond the village, and his mother sent him to compete in the biggest wrestling tournament in the kingdom. It didn’t take long for the young man to dominate the competition and knock out whoever was in his way. The king was astonished and promised to lavish gifts on the young man on the condition that he won wrestling competitions in neighboring countries. So, with the permission of his mother, the young shepherd went to the neighboring kingdom and came into the presence of the king.”

“When he arrived, the king said, ‘What do you want? Why have you come here?’”

“The young man answered, ‘I am here to defeat your wrestlers.’”

“The king called all the wrestlers from every part of his kingdom. Normally, wrestlers would fight each other one at a time and whoever defeated his opponent in the final won the competition, but, this time, the king ordered everyone, in succession, to fight with the young visitor. When the king saw that the young man was knocking out each wrestler, he sent wrestlers on him two or three at a time, but the young man knocked out sixty wrestlers without even sweating.”

“The king exclaimed, ‘Well done! You win! Your reward is the treasure in the barn behind that hill. You can go and have it.’”

“Victorious and proud, the young man went to the barn to claim his reward, but when he entered he came face to face with a giant, red-eyed bull. The angry beast looked like it had been waiting for him in the darkness for days. Without hesitating, the young man grabbed the horns of the bull, knocked it down, and tamed it. Then the two set off together. Upon hearing this, the king, in his greed, sent a human-flesh-eating camel upon the pair. The young man tamed the camel, too, and made it follow him back to his country. Refusing to concede defeat, the king sent hundred of soldiers after the young man, and just as the shepherd was about to enter his lands, he was surrounded and trapped and died among the soldiers before he reached his country.”

“Upon hearing of the death of her son, his mother cried and begged her king to respond. The king dismissed her request by saying, ‘It isn’t worth destroying our friendship with the neighboring kingdom for a crazy young man.’”

With that my father grew silent and sipped his koumiss.

Sobutay and I looked at each other. We didn’t understand that his story was over. We also realized we didn’t understand what he meant with the story, but we pretended to understand so as not to make the situation more difficult. When my father blacked out, we immediately ran away.

Things were different with my mother. When we got my mother alone in the tent of the Khan, we had the most enjoyable moments. My mother had us sit around her, gave us little gifts, and spoke sweetly to us. The story we made her tell most frequently was the one about how the female wolf had come to us and how my father had saved her when she was kidnapped just after their marriage.

Being shy at first, she would soon get engrossed in the story and tell us about it at length. She also wouldn’t fail to tell us the story of how my father fell in love with her and chose her as his partner when she was a little girl. But we didn’t want to hear that story. We preferred to hear about the wolf, war, and revenge.

My mother told us that when my great-great grandfather was the eldest son of the Khan, he began to live among the wolves. Much later, he was found and brought back, but he was never the same again. When I asked my father about it, he avoided the subject and said they were all made-up stories. I also learned not to ask him about my mother’s kidnapping and how my father had rescued her. It was much better to let the storm clouds gather above you than to invite them to smash you.

The Tatars, whose hatred my grandfather had garnered when he kidnapped my grandmother, had waited for my father to get married to exact their revenge. At night, they attacked the caravan of the newly married couple, wounded my father, and took my mother prisoner. It led to a long costly war that ended with a massacre.

My mother was a slave in the tribe of the Tatars for a long time. She had no one, and she was tortured even though she was pregnant. Only the wolf—whose sudden appearance was a mystery—was beside her. Although the Tatars tried to chase it away and kill it, they eventually let it stay out of fear and respect.

When my father recovered, gathered his army and attacked the Tatars to get revenge, the wolf protected my mother during the battle and even ripped out the throats of a few Tatars. It never left my mother alone.

After my father put everyone, even the sheep, to the sword, he took my mother and returned home. The wolf followed them back. My father, who disliked dogs, moved to kill the wolf, but my mother stayed his hand told him how it had helped her. When they settled at home, the wolf remained close by. Shortly after they returned, I was born, and all night long, the wolf howled on a faraway hill beneath the shadow of the moonlight.

After my birth, the wolf stopped following and protecting my mother and instead began to follow me. It was always by my side, even when I was a baby, and sometimes it would even breastfeed me while I slept beside it.

Even though I was born of his beloved wife, I was never seen as the real son of Ghengis Khan. None would say it to my face, but they would talk about it. I, however never talked about it. I was simply Cuci: a guest. I was respected and protected, but I would never be a crown prince.

 

West

Time passed rapidly on the steppe. Sobutay and I grew up and became young warriors. I got taller, my muscles grew stronger, and I consistently fought whoever stood in my way. Sobutay’s own success in battle and his courage allowed him to rise as well. As a commander of a division, he performed miracles and was respected by everyone. All the while, Selen remained in the background, and each time, upon returning home after long campaigns, we would find her a little more grown up, and more beautiful.

The female wolf had grown old now. As best as it could, it tried to be with me, but, one day, it suddenly disappeared. I looked for it everywhere. I asked everyone, but it was nowhere to be found. I never would have guessed how painful it would be to lose something so important from my life. The wolf had always been with us and now it was gone. I had never felt such sadness.

After months of war and a few short campaigns without the wolf, I was so excited and relieved when, in the darkness of night, the wolf slipped once again into my tent. I cried and hugged and kissed it many times until I realized that it had a lump of fur in its mouth. A little cub, bluish just her.

When I woke up in the morning, a wolf cub snored at my feet. The female wolf was no longer there; it was cold where she had been lying. The cub grew up as if racing with time and sharing all its memories with me. It never left me. Not until the end of its life.

 

 

The West of the East

With the fall of Beijing, and after a long and tiring journey, we went back to the steppes where we could once again breathe. On the way back, our load was ten times larger, but we had only taken the spoils we found most valuable. We dragged back thousands of captives—most of whom fell like ninepins along the way—and carefully chosen craftsmen.

The only spoil I took to my lands was the distress and sorrow of the death of the wolf and a new goal which I couldn’t describe. On the way, no one approached me. I didn’t talk to anyone except Sobutay. Upon returning, I ran to the tent of the shaman to see Selen. I barely recognized the beautiful girl I found. Remembering the one I had left and seeing her suddenly so changed upset me and reminded me that we were no longer children.

We rode horses to a faraway point on the rocks where the tents of our people looked like small dots. Turning our backs to the village, we stared at the setting sun absently and remained quiet for a long time. Finally, she broke the silence. “I’m very sorry for the wolf. I loved it almost as much as you. When the messengers brought the news of victory, they also told me your story.”

“Nevermind. Let bygones be bygones. Talking about it will not change anything,” I said, stopping her. I didn’t want to speak of the wolf anymore.

I turned and looked at Selen, “You grew up a lot, and changed…and got more beautiful. However, your eyes still look the same,” I added, trying to change the subject.

She lightly blushed and looked down, acting as though she wanted to say something.

“It’s been a long time,” she said after a while. “Time stopped here without you, and it also brought boredom and dullness. You changed a lot, too. You have the look of a real warrior…all those wounds. But the light in your eyes has gone out.”

“I feel empty, like it’s the end of everything. What is our aim in life?” I said, suddenly asking an unexpected question.

“I don’t know,” she said. “Bring yourself up. Raise your children. Survive as long as you can. And in the meantime, enjoy it as much as possible. If you are a prince, you can also add defeating your enemies and changing history.”

I thought to myself for a moment before speaking again.

“Have you ever felt like there was something missing, that there might be something else to be done? As if you were hungry but you didn’t know what to eat?” I asked.

“Your father is about to conquer the world. All these lands will be yours. Hundreds of years from now, people will remember you and this time. Isn’t that enough?”

“That is my people’s fate,” I replied, “their path. I am with them until the end, but I will go my own way later. Maybe my only wish is to not be what everyone else is.”

“You’re tired from war and travel. I think you should get some rest. Then you can decide what to do. What do you think?”

“Yes, maybe you’re right. I will go as soon as possible. I don’t know how, but my end is near, and I have a limited time to fulfill what I need to do. I just feel it.”

“Where will you go?” Selen asked. “I can come with you…if you want. My father used to tell us that you weren’t one of us and the souls of our ancestors warned him about you. He told me many times to be careful and not to approach you, but, I insisted, and, with you being the son of Genghis Khan, he didn’t …”

I put my hand on her hand, and I stared into her eyes. They seemed to be the only light in the sky. I slowly pulled her to me and kissed her lips gently.

“You are the only one I am glad to know,” I said. “And you are also the last one I want to upset. If you feel the same for me, try to understand me. Just don’t stop me because, if I could, my only choice would be to be with you. The most painful thing is to now realize what I will miss, what could have happened with you…”

We walked towards our horses. She stopped and untied the red silk handkerchief in her hair. Her hands, like her lips, trembled. She gave me the handkerchief, and I stood alone in the dark as she rode away.

 

I never saw Selen again. Weeks passed by hopelessly. When I told my mother that I was leaving, she accepted it on one condition: that I leave quickly.

 

Northwest

 

Sobutay and I set off for the north with a small convoy. On the way, we talked a lot about the war and our childhood. He never asked me the reason why I was going to the forest, the lands where he had been born. Maybe he also remembered the stories my mother had told us, of how my great-great grandfather lived alone in a remote place and how it was repeated every few generations in the family.

We stayed as guests of his family for a while, and then Sobutay went back, leaving me there. When we hugged each other, we said goodbye. Sobutay said he would see me when we set off for the campaign to the west.

I was caught off guard by the endless forests with trees that covered the sky, the thick blankets of snow that lay everywhere, the high mountains, and the strange people. It was cold, bitter cold, with sharp wind, frozen water, and short days that surrendered themselves to night at the first opportunity.

Slowly, I grew used to the climate and the place. First, I learned how to keep warm, and then I learned how to find food, set traps, and hunt. All of the life experiences I had gained until then seemed almost meaningless. It had been months since I had held my sword in my hand and I found out how difficult it was to shoot arrows in the cold.

After many failures, I learned that in order to hunt, you had to approach the prey and attack from a distance. When I came across wolf packs, I felt that I was close to my wolf. Then, I reminded myself that it was dangerous to interfere with these animals, who systematically hunted and were brutally cruel. When spring came and conditions improved, I left the company of others, lived on the border and put all the advantages of a community aside. I began to live in solitude and learned my limits.

When one stays alone, he learns how to not be his own enemy. When he realizes his mistakes, he doesn’t judge cruelly, nor does he deny himself understanding. Alone in the forest, I thought things over, discussed things with myself, and wandered around with my memories. My eyes danced in the flames as I thought of those distant from me. I knew I was weak, unprotected, and small in the silence of the forest, but I needed to be there to become aware of that, and, even if I struggled, I had to survive. To do so, I was directed to my basic instincts.

I could only protect myself. There was nothing else, and if there was, it didn’t matter. The existence of others far away, how rich or civilized they were, how they spoke, and what they felt didn’t matter. Maybe all hell had broken loose, and I was the only human being alive in the world. As long as I didn’t see them and wasn’t in contact with them, it didn’t matter how many thinking beings existed in this giant universe.

 

The West of the South

 

I had lost track of time.

I didn’t know until I was told by those who arrived to find me that it had been nearly four years since I had left. After saying good-bye to a few friends and a lot of memories, I set off for the south and to the campaign. As I approached the steppes and met those who I had forgotten but who still lived within me, I was still a warrior and a human being, but now I spoke less and lower than before. On the long road south, I talked with my comrades but they couldn’t prepare me for what I encountered.

When I saw the army of hundreds of thousands of people, I became terrified. I delayed as much as I could to face those who knew me, and when I asked to delay for a few days, the soldiers who came with me showed understanding. Finally, the inevitable happened, and I was again among my family and fellow warriors. They accepted me without objection. They were in a welcoming mood and treated everything with enthusiasm due to the excitement of being at war after so many years of waiting.

 

From the East to the West

 

Months before, the Shah of the land of Harzem Muhammad plundered a caravan under our protection and killed the messengers we sent there to respond to the situation. Suddenly, the excuse we needed to begin our new campaign had been found.

The Mongol empire, which now extended from China, Korea, and parts of Japan in the east, now longed to extend west. My father would then be the ruler of everything between two seas, and no one would stand against his giant army. It was just a matter of time. A storm was coming down the steppes. We would attack the biggest cities, bring death upon the oldest civilizations, suck the life from within and spit out the remains.

Hearing of our approach, our prey were scared but had no idea the price they were about to pay, a price that went beyond everything they could conceive of in their minds and souls. Those who were most unaware of the scope of the loss and what it meant would be the first losers.

When I came into the presence of my father, I could read it in his eyes that he had missed me. He hugged me tight and talked to me for a long time, and I listened to him. While he told me how much I had grown and how strong I had become. He also rapidly and eagerly told me about the war and the lands to be conquered.

My sister, Alangoya, interrupted when she came running into the tent and hugged me tight. She had become a young woman. She chided me for not being at her wedding, and she dragged me out by the hand without giving me a chance to tell my father good-bye; she was eager to introduce me to her new husband. The tall young man was, to be honest, more handsome than me. When he tried to tell me his name, my sister gave the introduction for him. “This is Tokucar, my husband and the father of my baby,” she said, with her hand on her belly. “He is one of father’s favorite commanders.”

As I tried to tell my sister and her husband how pleased I was to hear the news, my youngest brother, Tuluy, saved me from the situation.

Seeing Tuluy was the best thing that had happened so far. He was a young warrior and no longer a child. He proudly told me what had happened while I was away: he had been given two divisions and had fought in many battles.

Two nights later, the messengers called all the commanders, and we gathered in the big tent in the presence of my father. I finally saw Sobutay and all the childhood memories came rushing back. We greeted each other warmly and tried to talk without attracting much attention.

My father laid the leather map on the ground and pointed out our location and our planned route. He asked questions when necessary but rarely answered the questions of others. As the night gave way to morning, we drank less koumiss and more tea and determined the distribution of tasks.

Cebe and Sobutay would move quickly toward the east, to the Shah Muhammad to press him and force him to fight. They would pass over the Amuderya River with four divisions, no invading, no spoils, no war unless necessary. Tokucar would be a raider, heading toward the southwest, the land of Horasan. He would pass over the Amuderya River, and attack whoever got in his way, spreading terror, plunder, and fire, and intimidating everyone. Cagatay, Ogheday, and the King of Uighur would lay siege to the city of Otrar on the River Siderya and wait with their large force until they captured it.

I wouldn’t join the siege of Utrar. Instead, I would cross over the Syr Darya River and head toward the city of Gurgenc along with four divisions and lay a siege there. With the remaining forces, my father and Tuluy would cross over the Syr Darya River from the south of Otrar and direct the forces to the region of Transoxiana, which would become our headquarters.

The city of Bukhara would be the first attacked. My father was not only a genius of war and command, he was also a master of predicting and shaping the future with necessary interventions. Other military leaders would need much more than a single night to prepare a plan like his, but Genghis Khan was unique.

After the long and tiring meeting, Sobutay and I rode our horses to the meadow to talk at sunrise.

“Everyone sends you greetings from the land of the forest,” I said. “Actually, it’s my hometown now as you aren’t from there anymore and I stayed for so long,” I said in jest.

“It must be because a wolf breastfed you when you were a child,” Sobutay replied. “I don’t think you suffered the usual difficulties of being a stranger there. It’s even rumored that you survived a great deal of time in solitude.”

“How have you spent your days?” I asked.

“There hasn’t been a proper war for a long time. I was bored like everyone else. I even got married. I was going to invite you to the wedding, but it wasn’t possible.”

“Who is the poor girl? Do I know her?”

“Selen. We got married a few months after you left.”

I didn’t know how or why, but suddenly something got stuck in my throat, and I couldn’t swallow. I lost the ability to breathe. I tried to talk as if I was okay, but wasn’t aware of what I was saying.

“Our Selen …the best choice ever…I wish you happiness. Wish I had been there …congratulations.”

He knew as much as well as I that there were things better left unsaid.

“I am going back to my army today, and from there I will head east,” he said.

“I understand,” I responded, regaining my composure. “But don’t forget the promise you made to me in Beijing, when the wolf died. I think I will ask you to keep that promise before this campaign is over.”

“Whatever you want, my friend, but is a promise necessary?”

“No, no, it’s just that I want my best friend by my side at the end.”

“Then he will be…let’s race to the camp.”

“And the loser?”

“The loser is a loser, what else?” he said as he kicked his horse into a gallop.

 

Gurgenc

I’d never seen such a fertile land anywhere. Green grass, small streams, low hills, and scattered trees were all around. We moved on toward the sunset for days on roads widened by frequent caravans. We passed through scenery of wide fields and small villages, but all the settlements we passed were empty. Our reputation had preceded us. Save for some plundering, we reached the city without fighting anyone.

The city was built near a giant river, and it was massive. It spread over a wide area and was surrounded by walls so high that birds perched on them. I’d never seen such a sight. Deep moats surrounded the city, and their depths exaggerated the magnitude of the walls. The city was a masterpiece of human construction, and its glory was easily felt.

It took days to settle my army near the water sources of the city. We remained safe outside of firing range while we waited for our forces to gather and I sent a messenger with a carefully prepared warning:.

“I am the son of Genghis Khan and the one who has the right to these lands. I have shed no blood in your country nor tortured anyone, and, if you surrender, you will join the vast empire of Genghis Khan and be protected. However, if you resist and delay the inevitable, there will be no mercy.”

We waited for a response and soon got it: the head of the poor messenger.

The city was besieged from all sides. The roads were occupied, and the empty neighboring villages and towns were set on fire and plundered. The water sources of the city were blocked, and the waiting process began. Meanwhile, a black tent had already been pitched in front of the city’s gate. Their fate was certain.

I chose to wait for the necessary siege works and equipment. I sent messengers to my father, and my father stated that he would send some of the forces that had already conquered the city of Otrar. After a few months of waiting, a force under the command of Cagatay arrived with siege tools. Our force now numbered one-hundred thousand.

Cagatay’s distant personality and incessant talk always annoyed me. My father clearly had something in mind by sending him, but I gave it little thought. I already knew that I wasn’t the crown prince, but Cagatay wasn’t either. This often caused Cagatay to lose his temper; his behavior was a reflection of his personality.

Without interfering with each other, we besieged the city systematically. Whoever approached the city’s wall was hit by a rain of arrows. Those who managed to approach the trench were roasted by projectiles of hot oil and fire. It was almost impossible to send cavalry close to the gate. Cagatay plundered, set fire to, and destroyed whatever got in his way and added tens of thousands of slaves to his spoils.

In the first light of morning, we dragged thousands of slaves to the fortress and put those who tried to return to the sword. Others were killed by arrows, fire, and stones. Their corpses began to fill the trenches. The slaughter lasted for days. The trenches in front of the fortress became invisible, and the soldiers who guarded the walls ran out of patience. The soil now was full of blood and the dead bodies of their own people.

Day and night, crossbows pelted the walls of the fortress. When we ran out of stones, we used huge soaked logs—soaking the logs made them heavier and deadlier. We used the bodies of the injured and resisting soldiers as ammunition for crossbows. Seeing the flailing bodies of their comrades raining down on them only intensified the hopelessness of those who remained inside the fortress. The stone walls turned red from the blood of those flung against them and the grisly barrage collapsed the nerve of those under siege.

As holes opened in the walls, damaged and weakened after months of pounding, our soldiers, who were thirsty for war, began to spill into the fortress. But the war and struggle inside were the same as outside. Each stone house was its own fortress, and each person was a resisting soldier. Sometimes, it took days to pass through one street and on to the next one. The people who hid in their houses and caves would attack us at every opportunity. It became normal to destroy the walls and even the submerged parts of the city. We set houses on fire and killed those who tried to escape.

We cut and burned our way through a community of hundreds of thousands of desperate people. They gave away their souls, and we gave away our time. As the enemy soldiers ran away from their destroyed headquarters, scattered to the houses and continued to fight, we also began to lose people. When the bridge we had captured in the city was attacked, we suddenly lost three thousand soldiers. But the city still could not stand against our sprawling, bloodthirsty army.

Finally, the city was defeated. The army’s death toll surpassed the number still living, and the survivors commenced plundering. The people were chased away without being allowed to take anything with them. Those who were slow, died by the swords of those soldiers not yet tired of killing. From therethe plundering took days due to the wreckage and the corpse barricades in the streets.

Now that the city had fallen, I no longer had to tolerate Cagatay. I wanted to go further west, away from this slaughterhouse, so I quickly gathered one division and sent a message to my father at headquarters. My soldiers and I then set off for the southeast and did not look back.

 

Khorasan

 

During the months of the siege, we missed our usual movement. But now the soil once again fell from our feet as we traveled. During the long trip, messengers brought us periodic war reports. My father’s forces had successfully overtaken Bukhara. Only twenty to thirty thousand soldiers were put to the sword, and the city was plundered without a large massacre. From Samarkand, we had news that the city’s army of seventy thousand fell into carelessness by attempting to defend their city in the open air. It was a quick battle that ended in complete destruction in only a few hours. When the city finally fell, only 150 thousand of a population of 800 thousand had died.

As we waited for more messengers, we received unexpected news from Tokucar, who had been set to plunder Khorasan around Nishapur. My sister was urgently calling me to meet her. After a journey of only a few days, I met my sister. Her eyes were swollen from crying and her cheeks were hollow. Her beloved husband was near death. An arrow had penetrated his armor and he was now dying in agony.

“Brother,” she said. “I have never asked you for anything,” she said in a voice hoarse from mourning, “but I ask you now for one thing…”

“Revenge,” she said, now in a stronger voice. “A revenge that will never be seen again in history, one that will be burned into the hearts of our people. Only this can decrease the pain I feel.”

“I promise,” I whispered to her. “Their punishment will be unique, and everyone will hear of it. But have pity on the child in your belly. Pull yourself together and survive.” I hugged Tokucar and calmed my sister.

Her tears dried on her face. She blinked and nodded quietly.

Tuluy accepted the call of his sister as well. With the permission of my father, he quit his post, set off in our direction with two divisions of soldiers and gathered twenty thousand raiders and bandits along the way. Leaving Tokucar safe in the camp around Nishapur, I headed to the east to welcome Tuluy. We met near the city of Merv and immediately laid siege to it.

I always considered myself quick tempered, but my brother redefined the word “rage.” We didn’t send a messenger to the city. The black tent was pitched in front of the gate immediately, and we waited only a few days until all our forces had arrived and settled.

On the third day, the city opened its gates for a small attack, and the enemy soldiers were massacred on the spot. Before the gate was closed and locked, the pitiful attack was over. After that, we unleashed a storm. We attacked the walls of the fortress without a break and weakened them with every means available. When we entered the city, we commenced a massacre, the likes of which had never been seen in history. The city streets became a blur of swords, human flesh, bone, and blood.

We killed without rest. Our cold iron turned warm with human flesh and bone, then grew hot from the fires and roasted blood. Flying bone fragments cut into our skin and our Army became a red army as we were soaked in the blood of our enemy. Tuluy and I killed two or three men with a single blow and tripped over the corpses that lay beneath us.

When the massacre was over, only a few children were taken as prisoners. It took thirteen days and nights to count all the victims. Each soldier in our army had killed three to four thousand people. We realized that killing that many people took less time than counting the bodies.

Supporting forces arrived soon after and we continued north on our journey of revenge.

I didn’t want to be slowed down by the children, so I took a few guards with me and approached a Turkish nomad that was attempting to flee.

“I’ve seen a lot of death,” I told him, “but I do not wish to fight now. You do not want this, either.”

The nomad took me to his prince, and I stayed in the nomad camp as a guest. I gave a small bag of gold to the eldest of the captured children and entrusted them to the prince.

“We are in a long war, and we have a long way ahead of us,” I explained. “We have taken an oath of revenge but these children survived their city’s massacre and they deserve to live,” I said.

The prince of the nomads, a man who had the nose of an eagle, nodded.

“Because of what I have entrusted to you,” I continued, “I give you my leave for one night. I swear, though, when the sun rises, we will advance again.”

After a few days of travel, we rejoined my sister at the camp near Nishapur. Her health had improved, and her cheeks were less hollow. Along with Tuluy, we spent the night talking, but most of our words were sorrowful.

The news of our revenge in Merv had already reached Nishapur, and the city sent messengers with offers of surrender. But our thirst for revenge would not be sated. When the city fell, every living being was taken out of the city and beheaded. As my father had commanded, no stone was left unturned, and no head was left on its shoulders.

Two giant hills higher than the walls of the city were erected. One was made of the heads of men, the other of the heads of women and children. No one in the city was left alive, not even the cats and dogs.

The city of Herat was the last stop on our revenge campaign, but, it was time for me to depart and join the campaign in the West. So, leaving my siblings to their revenge, I said goodbye to Tuluy, and set off to join Cebe and Sobutay.

 

The Far West

 

While our entire army stayed behind to plunder the land of Harzem and the Indus valley, Cebe and Sobutay had set off for the west in pursuit of the Shah and had crossed beyond the Caspian Sea. The shah took refuge on an island, but soon the news of his death arrived. When I reached the armies of Cebe and Sobutay, the war had already ended.

The four divisions of soldiers who had chased the runaway shah for seven months had suffered almost no losses. The shah’s treasure caravan had been caught, and more spoils than expected had been captured. It was a victory, but it had been won without battles, and our soldiers and commanders disliked the idea of going back without fighting. They were surrounded by enemies everywhere. They had even crossed beyond the western sea of Genghis Khan.

When I got to the camp with a few guards, I was welcomed with enthusiasm. Everyone wanted to hear news of the revenge campaign, the battles we won, and the stories of the cities we plundered. Cebe was now middle-aged and a superior commander, and Sobutay was about to leave his youth behind. I was the only one from the family Khan who could lead them.

The weeklong festivities were filled with koumiss, conversation, and nights with prisoner girls. In no time, my fatigue and tension were gone.

As we gathered together and began to talk about war, we discussed the conditions of the soldiers and the numbers of horses, prisoners, and tribal warriors that had joined us during the campaign. Cebe explained what no one wanted to hear: we would soon cross beyond the Caspian sea, reach the main army from the north, and the war would be over.

As Cebe spoke, I said nothing. I only listened and waited. Finally, the other commanders were sent away, and, when we were alone, I spoke to my brothers.

“You have been on the frontier of the greatest campaign of all time, and you had great results. You should be rewarded, right?” I asked.

My brother-generals smiled sadly.

“Cebe, you’ve been with me since I was born. Sobutay, you are probably my only true friend. As my friend, tell me honestly, what do you want?”

In the silence, their eyes shined with hope.

“My friends, if you follow me, I will give you the greatest wish of a soldier, a chance to fight,” I said, trying to enjoy the moment.

“We will only do what we enjoy, without capturing spoils, lands, or political goals,” I continued. “We won’t even pursue revenge. We will only fight who we want, and we will fight for ourselves. It will be a unique campaign. No one will ever dare do the same.”

Sobutay’s beaming smile was the only answer I needed.

In the morning, willing soldiers and commanders, rested and enthusiastic, set out with us on our unique campaign. We were on our way west, to do what we wanted, and create a hurricane of destruction.

Our campaign was fearless and bold. We incessantly attacked vastly superior armies. We fought two different enemies simultaneously. We conquered the city of Tabriz and then gave it back to its army in exchange for a huge tribute. We returned to cities we conquered and massacred survivors and runaways. The shockwave of fear we created spread far and wide. Everyone feared that we would target the region’s largest city, Baghdad, but as I was tired of the heat, we headed north instead.

From prisoners and caravans, we learned that we were entering the land of Georgia. The lands extending from the Black Sea to the Caspian belonged to them. They had a strong regular army and powerful weapons and were rumored to be cruel.

We headed directly toward their capital, Tbilisi where the armored Georgian troops welcomed us in the open air. Like so many before, their numbers vastly exceeded ours. We attacked the middle of the formation like an arrow and, while withdrawing, surrounded the enemies who gave chase, then destroyed them in the middle. It was a war tactic the Georgians had never seen before, but no one would be left on the battlefield to tell about it.

Without delay, we headed towards Azerbaijan and set fire to their city of Maragheh, killing all those who dwelled inside. We effectively erased them from the map.

One day, as we were plundering a small village, a poor, elderly man appeared at my feet in the village hall. He crawled, cried, and screamed. Tears mixed with his saliva, and I couldn’t understand him. When his hand suddenly grabbed my foot, I drew my sword with a quick movement and cut off his arm. I then stepped on his bleeding wound with my full weight so that blood loss wouldn’t overtake him before I satisfied my curiosity.

I called over a translator, who told me the old man’s words: “You came here, plundered our house and our land. You killed everyone. You owe us blood. You must kill those in the Alamut Fortress who have kidnapped my son. You must save my son.”

My curiosity had been satisfied. I beheaded the old man.

I asked the prisoners where the Alamut Fortress was and who lived there. I grew tired of those who got excited when they told me about it and killed those who spoke too much. Finally, I found someone who could tell me about it simply:

The Alamut Fortress was an aerie in the western mountains ruled by Hassan Sabbah and his successors. Even the great Turkish Empire known as the Seljuks were unable to conquer it.

The next target of the campaign was defined now. We advanced toward the steep mountains and narrow paths for days. Those who heard that we were coming united and made the mistake of attacking us in the open air. Finally, after a treacherous journey, we crested a ridge and suddenly faced the fortress. As an enemy fortification, it was a nightmare, but before morning, the fortress fell, and we were inside.

I had someone ask after the old man’s son, and a frail young man was brought before me. He had respect and fear in his behavior but rage in his eyes. He bowed in front of me, and when he approached me, I, again to everyone’s surprise, drew my sword and cut off his right hand. The hand fell to the ground with a metallic clang and a hidden dagger rolled out of its fingers.

“I brought you the compliments of your father,” I said. Before he could reply, I cut off his head. It is said that when the head of a man is cut off, he stays alive for the period of time that he can hold his breath. The head of that young man spent all that time staring at me in bewilderment.

Sobutay turned to me with a questioning look.

“An old and sly man found a way to get his revenge and give a lesson to the Mongols,” I said. “He directed us to a fortress which had never been defeated in the hopes we would get our deserts.”

I turned to my soldiers. “Kill everyone, but leave three alive. They will tell what they have witnessed. Don’t let a single goat or cat live. Destroy the fortress so totally that no one will have a reason to settle here again,” I commanded. “Legends are like that. They grow in the head and live on the tongue of a man until a Mongolian comes and smashes him.”

We thought about where to go next, but, with the news that they had established a new army using all their country’s resources, the Georgians made the decision easy for us. With half of our forces, Sobutay and I marched toward the city of Ardabil where the enemy was waiting. After a short engagement, we rapidly retreated before the giant army. As they chased us, Cebe and his soldiers, who were lying in ambush, surrounded them from behind. We stopped running, turned around, and slayed all the Georgian forces. We smashed their bodies with our horses and buried them in the soil.

Next, we entered the Terek Valley from the north through the Derbent passage. There we found an ancient community of Persian Christians . They fought better than the Georgians. But what was the good of it? Before we left the valley, we had erased them from history.

After fighting with a nation called Alans without knowing where their territory was, we continued north and were again welcomed by wide steppes, our favorite climate and geography. Like a hurricane, we tore through the land of the Jewish Cumans and loomed over their fate like a nightmare. We recruited their enemy, the pagan Pechenegs, to come along with us. We massacred the Kipchak people, and then, we turned around and killed the Pechenegs.

The news of our merciless wrath stirred those who lived in the faraway land of Crimea, the principalities of Kiev, and the Russians. These nations united their armies and marched toward us. We sent them a messenger with a spurious reproach.

“We have no dispute with you; we don’t even know you. Why do you advance on us?” the messenger asked.

During our withdrawal, we passed through the lands of the Kipchaks—a shamanist Turkish tribe brought up in the steppes bearing similar culture to our own—and slaughtered the people there. Meanwhile, a huge, fully equipped Russian army of one hundred thousand soldiers continued to pursue us. We led them a great distance, wearing them out for three weeks. Finally, we welcomed them in a river region called Kalka, near the Sea of Azov.

We caught them off-guard, this multi-national army, and divided them in two around a hill. The war lasted for three days and nights and was a complete massacre. Without exception, we put everyone to the sword and crushed those who surrendered by squashing them under wooden boards. We gave the commander, Mstilav, Prince of Kiev, special treatment by crushing him on a carpet so that his blood would not mix with the earth.

By then, our appetite for war was satiated. Just as we had wanted, we headed toward our headquarters by crossing over the Caspian Sea to the north.

As we passed through more lands we didn’t know, we needed permission to pass through a big and powerful Turkish country known as the Kama Bulgarian Kingdom. We were done with war; however, they objected to our offer, saying that they wouldn’t allow us through. They even killed our messenger. So a new war began and, as always, we chased after the runaways and their supporters and crushed them. We invaded their capital city of Bolgar, and, after the spoils were collected, we set off to join our comrades.

We had traveled more than twenty-thousand miles, fought with countless forces, superior to our own, won every battle, destroyed two great kingdoms without even knowing their names, and changed the destinies of all the nations we encountered.

Once when Sobutay and I were looking over the main camp from some distance, I asked him, “Did you like your reward?”

Sobutay grinned.

“I do not like long speeches and farewells,” I continued. “You know what I would say, anyway. I wish you and Selen long life and happiness.”

“Cuci, but…”

“The best guest is the one who goes when his visit is over,” I said.

I quickly turned my horse and rode away.

I never looked back.

 

Limbo

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On a remote corner of a Crimean harbor next to rippling waves blown by the north wind, a dead body of a haggard man lay in ragged clothes, his dead eyes still on the horizon.

A piece of a wolf pelt was in one hand and, in the other, a red handkerchief.

… [STOP]

 

I suppose I regained my consciousness first. My first perceptions were a feeling of lightness, a sweet sense of happiness, and a combined sense of ease…

“Hey! What’s going on?” I yelled in my mind “How did this happen?” I reached for my sword, but it wasn’t there. Neither was my hand. I looked around for shelter. But then everything melted away as awareness slowly returned.

“Wow!” I said. “Was that all a simulation? It was so real. I can still smell the salt air.”

“It is beyond a simulation, sir, but it’s something like that. It is an advanced memory program formed and configured by the data of your previous life.”

“How long did it take me to experience that entire life again?”

“Time does not exist here, sir. However, through the entire process, we haven’t even completed one revolution around the earth, if that makes any sense to you.”

“Did I have other lives like that? How many did I have? Why is it like this? What’s the aim?”

“Sir, calm down. This was the first phase. It is the beginning of the process of you becoming yourself again by going through the data. First of all, you are going to adapt to your previous selves so that your consciousness can be integrated without causing any harm to you.”

“How many more stages do I have?” I asked.

“At least two. If necessary, there might be a third. First, we will formulate and integrate the memories you just recalled. We will give explanations, if necessary.”

“Sobutay. What happened to Sobutay?”

“Sir, he lived for a long time and shared happiness with Selen as you wished. When he died, he was almost ninety years old. He was remembered as history’s greatest commander. Napoleon recorded only two or three victories. Alexander had six or seven. But both tasted defeat. Sobutay won sixty wars and never lost a battle. He brought all existing communities to their knees. He was the only commander who ever beat two different armies on two different fields at the same time.”

“It sounds like the tactics we worked on as children helped,” I continued. “What about my father, the empire, my family?”

“Your father established the greatest empire in the world and forced submission from all the civilizations within its physical borders. He died older than eighty, in his own lands, in peace. Of course, Cagatay didn’t replace him. Ogheday became the Khan and pushed the empire to its widest borders. It is an odd coincidence that the name Ogheday has evolved in time and has been changed to Oktay in recent Turkish. The Mongolian empire reconfigured the lifestyle and behavior of the entire world. Just like Noah and the Flood, it changed everything by defining power through death and exile.”

“How so?”

“Sir, you must know of the ‘Butterly Effect.’”

“Of course: A butterfly flaps its wings on one side of the world, and a storm breaks out on the opposite side…But, did we really change that much?”

“Do you remember entrusting a few surviving children to a Turkish tribe?” the program asked.

“Yes, I remember something like that,” I said.

“They escaped from their camp that night and ran away from your torture. They moved to the east of Anatolia and found fertile lands to settle. They established a dynasty that would be known as the Ottoman Empire. After you altered the fate of the entire world, Ottoman rule followed and had the widest dominion of any empire for 500 years.”

“Wow. So, that young man was Osman Ghazi?”

“Yes, indeed. Additionally, you destroyed the Georgian empire as they were about to become the rising power in the land. You also erased the Bulgarian Kingdom, which was about to become another great power. Those are small examples. If you want to look at it from a broad perspective, you brought China to its knees, dominating a civilization that had existed for five thousand years. You also jailed them in their own lands, causing most of the population to perish. Your empire decimated nearly half of the population on the lands it ruled and integrated its own population. Those who are from the blood of Genghis Khan form one-fourth of the living population today. It’s impossible to fully comprehend the Khan’s influence on the world’s genetic map.”

“Okay, okay, I understand, but why did it all happen? What’s the purpose?”

“Think of wheat, sir. When it was first grown in Mesopotamia, it was of a tiny grass variety, insignificant and weak. Even its seeds were impossible to see. However, the grasses with high nutritional value and those with coarse grains grew taller while others were destroyed. Over time, the coarse grasses adapted to people’s tastes, and in return, people planted them all over the world and destroyed their rivals. The products with useful mutations were allowed to develop. As a result, a very different plant that had nothing to do with its first form was developed.”

“What do you mean? Is this a process like breeding? Do you mean breeding the desired human race, and eliminating those who aren’t desired? Do you expect me to believe this? Men waited for their fate like sheep, and we selected the useful ones and shut our eyes to the deaths of others. And I—we—slaughtered them. Is this what you mean?”

“Have you ever seen a sheep that doesn’t produce milk and whose meat is not eaten, sir? Have you ever heard of taming such a thing and making an effort to continue its blood line? Have you ever worked for the survival of a living being that would do you no good?”

“Dogs were the first animals that were tamed, right? I had a wolf, and it was loyal to me. It always protected me. And I didn’t eat its flesh, although it was rumored that it breastfed me when I was a baby. But no one would breed a dog for its milk.”

“Sir, there are sheep dogs around flocks of sheep to protect them. They serve the shepherd.”

“But the wolf…”

“The wolf was always around you, protecting you. Let’s say it prevented you from dangers you weren’t aware of.”

“This is too much for me to digest. You’re a computer program, so if you tell me that I’m hanging out in space, I’ll believe it. But it’s too much.”

“Sir, have you ever noticed the common history of the Turks and Mongols? The same story is always told. A race was locked somewhere behind the iron and a bluish wolf fell down from the sky and led them as they passed through the iron and spread their rule all over the world.”

“That is just a legend, right?” I asked.

“Truth exists under everything. The sequence is beyond coincidence, sir.”

“Is it something like my father’s name, Temüjin? ‘The one of iron.’ And my name, Cuci, ‘The one from outside?’”

“It is more than this, sir. As you may know, there is a story similarly told in the major holy books. Judaism and Christianity have Gog and Magog. Islam has Yecüc and Mecüc: beings that passed over high walls, attacked all of humanity, and flooded and wiped out everyone. It was unknown where they came from nor what they wanted. They would kill and destroy. They passed over the walls of iron that the prophet Zulkareyn Ilyas had built. It is more than just a coincidence that the same tale has been told in every civilization and in most legends.”

“So, were Gog and Magog mentioned in the ancient beliefs of the Mongolians?”

“Sir, at the first stage, you were overloaded with too much information, and this stressed you a little bit. You partly perceive things, and I assure you that you will understand everything as you grow into your old abilities and reacquire old knowledge. But in order to digest the recent stages and move to the next one, you need to calm down and keep quiet.”

“Who will I be in the next stage? What will I experience?” I asked, desperately.

“You weren’t always in the world as a human, sir. And this next experience will be very different. I’m unsure of whether it is right to let you experience something like this after you had such difficulty with the previous one. However, I will act in accordance with the protocols you set. I can only advise you to trust yourself.”

“What? I won’t be human? Tell me what I will be. Even if I won’t remember when I experience it, at least tell me now.”

“Trust yourself, sir. This is your program, and I merely restart it. Are you ready?”

“No, of course not.”

“Sir?”

“Okay, okay! Start it, goddamn it!”

 

Subconscious

1

Do you know how long you have existed? I think the answer is always the same: you exist from the first moment you remember. Before that moment, it is only what is transferred to you. For me, the first moment I remember occurred long after my birth:

 

My close neighbor had just let me that he was now ready. Having completed his preparations, he was in the final stages of a careful creation. He provided us with the information and said he had the necessary material and energy stocks. Then he opened the protection wall, divided it and pulled down the border between the two equal particles. This was the most difficult and dangerous stage. As the protection wall partly lost its effect, we could be harmed by pale blues, an uncontrolled release of energy, or even grays. Although others tried to protect him, using themselves as shields around him and standing guard, it was still a dangerous stage.

Somehow, a storm cloud composed of pale blues appeared above us. Although we were very carefully perceiving the messages, we could do nothing. Little pale blue monsters rained on us. They were hitting my shield, sometimes bouncing off, sometimes getting stuck. As we rapidly modified the walls so as not to have holes, throwing the stuck ones away was the only answer we could give, at first, to the sudden attack. Unfortunately, one of us, close to the end of the production stage, pulled down his shield.

Having sensed the weakness, the pale blues moved quickly to exploit the gap in the wall. Only one of them could make it inside at a time, while the others bounced off of the wall. Overcoming the shock of the sudden attack, we rapidly activated the guided weapons system and defended ourselves against the onslaught. Complete chaos and confusion spread everywhere, and we counted many losses from those who were exposed to the cloud in the first attack. Still we performed a successful offensive and defensive strategy. The enemies from the cloud were brought under control and either turned gray or remained pale blue.

We began the ordinary process of collecting the spoils, counting the bodies, and repairing the walls. The walls were strengthened using new materials, and the necessary reinforcements and repairs were made.

Now that things were calm, I had the opportunity to assist my neighbor. The first piece that was parted was undamaged and in its natural function. The other piece didn’t have any problem, even though a pale blue came inside.

“The pale blue is still inside, keeping its color, but it has been inactivated,” my neighbor told me.

“You got off easy,” I said teasing him.

When the busy day and stories of the Great War were over, everyone except for the guards in our community fell asleep.

I began to scan around with a feeling of unease, drifting between a sleeping and waking state. Everything seemed fine, but somehow, the feeling of unease was increasing.

Then, I realized the change in my neighbor. He was dying and becoming gray, but as I looked closer, I saw that it was a balanced change from pale blue to white. He was turning into something new.

It was an unexpected situation, and I did what was necessary. I sent powerful emergency messages and began to run away. My poor neighbor was now unrecognizable. He was severely swollen, and his shields were about to explode because of the inner pressure. Getting away as fast as I could, I was completely panicked. I tried to increase the thickness of my shield while also pushing whatever I had close to the surface. Suddenly, it happened: my unlucky neighbor exploded. Yes, literally exploded. Hundreds and thousands of little pale blues scattered around. Unlike the attack in the day, they could now pass through all our shields whether we were asleep or awake.

When the pale blue went inside, it transmitted the information to the others about how to pass our defensive walls. But being aware of this didn’t have any significance now. Escape was the only way to survive.

It was a complete massacre. The pale blue bastards stopped the motion of whoever they moved into. Those who tried to run away bumped into the walls of their friends and became the next victims. The huge colony was captured in a very short time, and the war was over without any struggle. Dishonorably, I ran away from the battlefield, hoping to reach an old colony that would outnumber the countless little pale blue bastards. Staying was stupid, as all my friends were exploding and spreading death as soon as they were captured.

I couldn’t even tell where the goddamn bastards came from, but I saw that one had gotten stuck in my extra-strengthened wall and was slowly wiggling inside. I didn’t know how to fight it, and it was terrible to know that it was the end. Suddenly turning gray and disappearing is one thing, but knowing that I would slowly explode…What is it like to explode? I wondered. Is there any awareness?

No! No! I wouldn’t give up! I wasn’t ready. I didn’t have enough energy or materials, but I didn’t have any other way. I rapidly began the partition process. As the most precious unit was the control and information unit, I carefully divided it first. I placed the materials opposite them and started the process of copying. I began to carefully copy the energy conversion unit, the communication module, and the waste and drainage systems. Meanwhile, the pale blue bastard had already passed through the upper layers of the defensive shield. It was almost inside. I felt panic, anger, and despair all at once.

Everything was over. The little bastard was inside now. I desperately tried to stop him, throwing at it whatever I could use. But that horrible, pale blue was moving steadily towards the information and control unit. Closer…closer!

I continued the process in a state of panic, out of control. It was almost over.

The little monster was stuck on an incomplete part of the information and control unit. I could tell that it was rapidly configuring the interconnections in order to have control. My movements got slower, my consciousness weakened.

Still, I finished the partition, destroying the part where the monster got stuck and tried to heal the damage on the other side. As the little bastard decided what to do next, I parted the defensive wall as fast as I could. I suddenly pulled myself inside my chamber and recreated my shield. As the bastard was locked in my other half, I escaped in a hurry. I went away, leaving the pieces of me behind.

 

2

The universe is gargantuan—beyond comprehension—and it hosts a tremendous number of things. We are only little dots in this spectacular formation, and when we lose our awareness, we fade away as if we had never existed.

My loneliness and the times I was on my own gave me the opportunity to know myself and get to know those around me. I wandered around from one land to another, on my own, a traveler. I understood what was real, and the only important thing was the energy that formed the blue light.

Small individuals like me transfer their blue light to the next generation to keep it after partitioning. They live together to protect their species, and they keep their blue color. In the course of life, you can lose your blue, but you can’t increase its intensity. However, if the small blues unite and form a common structure, the strength of their blue doubles. There is no limit to the strength. After uniting, some of them have the energy to create a city or a planet. Such formations are always in need of outside energy.

When the amount of united blue light surpasses the limit, something enormous happens. They become stars, and the stars spread their blue all over the galaxy.

I led the lonely life of a traveler for a long time, but I gained a lot of power and made changes to the information unit during the struggle with the pale blue monster inside me. I survived an attack which would have turned me gray. I felt stronger. Using these talents, I found myself a new colony. Those who accepted me called me “the guest.” I wasn’t one of them, but they respected me. I shared my talents and knowledge, and they believed in me.

First, we were small wanderers trying to capture the energy of those around us. However, thanks to our ambition, determination, and irrepressible desire, we spread out, away from our inefficient and energy-poor territory. We captured the blue of whoever got in our way and turned it to gray. We learned to manage the planets and used them as tools to get to the stars. Even stars couldn’t stand against our determination and cruelty when we captured them and sucked their energy.

The dreams of a small blue on its own were fulfilled. Our empire invaded the entire universe and all the blue energy was our colony.

 

Limbo

I suppose I regained my consciousness first. My first perceptions were a feeling of lightness, a sweet sense of happiness, a sense of serenity and.…

“Hey! What’s going on?” I started yelling in my mind.

“Sir, calm down. You overreacted. I had to stop the program immediately. You worried me.”

“Why? Did I give an unexpected response? What was…that? Goddamn it, you turned me into a strange life form, and I didn’t even know what I was. Was I a creature travelling in space? Another universe, another place? Answer me!”

“No, sir. It was just your life experience on Earth.”

“Come on. As if I didn’t know the Earth. Are you kidding me?”

“Yersinia Pestis.”

“What are you talking about? What the hell is Yersinia Pestis? Wait, you mean the bacteria? Is it dysentery? No…that’s Vibrio Cholerae.”

“Yersinia Pestis is the bacteria that caused the plague.”

“Yes, yes, that’s right. It was on the tip of my tongue. But why—”

“Sir, the organisms you just saw have been ruling the world for billions of years. They are the oldest and most perfect beings in the universe. They believe “blue” means to be alive. “Gray” is their way of perceiving the dead.”

“The pale blue little monster?”

“Viruses exist between the living and the dead. They attack the cells and bacteria and go inside them. They interfere with their genetic code and adhere to the main cell. As you experienced, the cells explode and attack their surroundings in numbers of hundreds and thousands.”

“Okay, I get it. I mean, I remember it. They even cause genetic mutation. Most mutations kill the living, but very few of them are transferred into new generations as a new characteristic or even a superior one,” I added, not to be outdone by a snobbish program.

“Yes, sir. As Yersinia Pestis lived peacefully in northern Mongolia, it mutated in a strange way and adapted to live inside fleas without killing them. Later, these fleas infested rodents, especially mice, and reached mammals. They stuck in the throats of fleas and caused them to get extremely thirsty. As a result, fleas were driven to attack everything and suck blood from their hosts non-stop. Finally, the disease infected people and caused the greatest outbreak of all time. Half of the human population was destroyed. Those people were erased from the genetic pool, making space for others.”

“So the Plague evolved in Central Asia and spread over Europe?”

“Conventional history says it was because of the fleas inside the pelts sold by the hunters of the north, but you have already experienced the entire period. Actually, the plague came to Crimea in the wolf pelt that Cuci carried with him. From there, it went to Europe by a Genoese commerce fleet and spread death.”

“Why did you make me have the same experience?”

“Sir, don’t forget: the setup is not mine. It is yours. You wrote the program. I am only the interface. What you witnessed was the subconscious of the disease. I mean, it was the subconscious of a huge organism at the cellular level. It was a ‘micro-consciousness.’”

“So, will this process continue? I don’t want it to. I am the programmer, so I’m changing the program. I don’t want to experience the program anymore. I will be satisfied by just being told.”

“Unfortunately, sir, your directives cannot be followed until you attain all your abilities and become yourself again. Are you ready to continue?”

“Now? What will happen now? At least tell me about it. I don’t want any surprises.”

“You are going to experience life as the over-conscious of the plague. Your journey will start at a harbor in Crimea and continue to Medieval Europe.”

“The Black Death?”

“Yes, sir. The Black Death.”

 

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Once you get used to the taste of humans, nothing else will satisfy you. No living being in the world feeds you as intensely as their fear and pain. Ensure that they are in contact and you will be surprised by how quickly they mix their fears with their hopelessness. Humans continuously transmit their desired feelings and emotional pressure to each other, starting from their central cluster which they call “family.”

 

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Black is not a color. Black is a concept. Black is an attitude towards life. Black doesn’t give out anything. Not even a single crumb can escape from it. In order to become black, you need to have a certain style. Either you can bear it or else you become helpless, and black will swallow you. If you become black, you approach a man in a steady and sticky way until you find a way inside. That’s the first step.

From there, you send signals to the brain. The human brain is full of emotions. With some effort and some skill, you can take out emotions that are close to each other from within the system. But once you achieve this, the system will scatter those emotions around as if it has exploded. So, you need other skills to suck whatever you can.

 

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I’m female. I don’t say this because I am capable of reproductive. What makes me female is my style. I am nourished by emotion. For an emotional explosion, I will poke and force the one opposite me, and I will try anything.

By the time you learn the emotional reactions of the human brain, you have gone inside the feelings it produces. You know what they mean, and you get pleasure from boring through them. Meanwhile, you infect the memory system of this strange creature, and collect its data. By analyzing the data you can use it to define the horizon of what else is possible. Over time, you understand the language of human beings and reach the condition of perceiving or even expressing, using their aphorisms.

…[START]

 

Overconscious

At a very young age, while living in the north, I adapted to the cold and dry air. I had not tasted man yet, so I directed my efforts toward fleas and small rodents, which produced marginal emotional resources. I wasn’t full enough, but I could survive. I saw my potential when I successfully made my fleas attack everything around them with an endless appetite. They were thirsty for blood and dove into the warmth of large mammals like wolves, bears, and deer. I tasted them all, but it still wasn’t enough.

The turning point of my life happened when I was finally able to enter a human being. It was splendid to experience such a rich source of feelings. I slaked on him, but I got a bit sad when the body was not ready for me and died before it gave away all its fruits. He was too sensitive, and an overload caused him to die.

I couldn’t find another human resource for a long time, and returning to my old resources left me more unsatisfied. I was easily and quickly hooked on humans, and the deprivation of my new passion was incredibly agonizing. So I took my sticky and sucking black body everywhere. When I reached the hunting tribes, I was overcome with a ravenous hunger and I instantly consumed everything from them, causing the tribe to die our quickly. I was clumsy and greedy and soon I was left hungry again. Unable to control my rising appetite, I dragged my pitch-black greed everywhere.

When I couldn’t find a human resource, I was forced to settle for small rodents. I promised myself then that when I found another human being, I would not be so wasteful and careless. When I found my way onto a small pelt, I forced myself to be calm and clever and patient.

 

It was when I reached the large city of Crimea, that my opportunity presented itself. I learned of the vast human resources far beyond the seas. So I went to the harbor and boarded a merchant vessel, and on the cold, misty Black Sea, I moved on toward my future spoils. As I floated among the crew with subtle touches and tried to do no harm, the ships took me to an abundant human harvest in the south. On the long voyage, I had plenty of time and opportunity to get to know my victims. They fed on human emotions just like me.

They argued with each other. They fought. They exploited each other to define their positions in the community. They ate and made love, but they were unaware that they were in pursuit of the same emotional signals I hungered for. Somehow, their bodies must have learned about the rewards and punishments of the pleasures of orgasm and how it led to the continuation of their bloodline.

They have offspring to experience feelings, breed, and continue breeding for what it will make them feel, but they are still unaware that they are consuming each other’s emotions. Human beings and their communities are actually emotion-accumulators, collecting every type of emotional energy and using it for themselves.

If I wanted, I could have easily gorge myself on these humans, destroying them and ultimately starving myself. But I was patient and learned how to keep them alive long enough to continue feeding. It must be a reflection of the universe, like causing wheat to exist by interfering with its genetic process. Wheat is just a simple grass with giant seeds that are imperfect and don’t properly protect themselves. Still, humans nurture the plant, protect it from nature and help it to flourish, all so it can provide flour to man. In the same way, human beings offer me products that do not compete with nature.

On my voyage, I got many positive results and data from the experiments I did on the various crewmembers. Slightly distorting the balance of some of them in the form of disease, I observed different results.

In one experiment, I went through the blood in their veins directly. This allowed me to rapidly spread in their bodies and ensured a fast emotional absorption which resulted in death. However, as the victim didn’t grasp what was going on in the short term, only a small emotional product could be obtained. Such a quick death would have an incredible impact on the others, though. The appearance of the victim spitting up blood had an obvious effect on the community. Hence, I could easily harvest the emotions of the general public.

But to do the job fully and enjoy it, I learned another path was best: slowly spreading through the skin from the spot of the flea bite and creating a giant tumor in the nearest lymph node. Because it lasts long, the victim and people around them watch the process slowly as the whole body turns black (my favorite color). The purulent and inflammatory discharge of the tumor causes plenty of emotional pain, which is incredibly satisfying since it is mostly fear and helplessness. The side effect of this process, the smell of rotted flesh and pus, contributes to another wave of emotions. As time stretches out, the opportunity to reach other people also increases; this is an extra benefit.

 

In the course of my ongoing experiments, I infected all the living beings on the ship. When we arrived at the city on the strait, I had wasted only a few of my crew, and I was able to hide myself very successfully. I had the reward of mingling freely among the crowd in the harbor, and leaving some of my fleas there, I shoved off with my ships. I knew there would be a large harvest, but I never expected so many human treasures.

I began to lose my crew. I was hungry and hardly held myself back from attacking livestock to feed my huge body. After the long journey, I was finally in Sicily. When the harbor guard saw our ship, the scared harbor personnel attacked the ships with fireballs and even sunk one of the twelve in the fleet. But I still had the opportunity to send away particles that could suck away all the emotional resources on the island.

As the humans in the harbor of Venice gazed on my masterpiece, I saw the emotional resources of fear and terror begin to scatter. Thus began another ritual of dismissal by threats and fire, but this time I was prepared. I attacked the harbor more fiercely and left most of myself there. Then I sent off more particles with other ships.

The ships turned to the French and Spanish harbors and I carried out my plan to go ashore there and move through Middle Europe. Soon, I began to hear the name “Black Death,” because of how I turned my victims black after I killed them.

But Florence was my masterpiece.

It was an amazing place. There were houses on top of each other, and a huge number of people lived all together. I had never seen such a blessing, such a beauty, and so much abundance. As my mice scurried down the small stone streets and my fleas reached anyone within jumping distance, no one could stop me.

Like an ink stain on a wet tissue, I spread through the streets of the city. I killed the ones I could get inside, attacked those who tried to help the ones in agony and sucked away all the pity, despair, and fear I could find. I attacked everyone, from priests to those who carried dead bodies. The flood of emotions and the ethos of death spread more rapidly than I did. Those who tried to run away from the city only succeeded in taking me to other lands and communities.

I didn’t kill those who buried their children immediately. I took my time, sucking their intense emotional releases. I floated inside one who cried at the bedside of his dead mother and let everything absorb into my darkness. Setting a snare for those who secluded themselves in their houses by putting up walls on their doors, I tasted their long emotional fear of death. Inside the ones who lost their minds, I danced around and sucked the desperation of the others. I attacked everyone again and again and poked the agonizing bodies of those who hid behind the fire. I sucked everything up into my warm, sticky, and soft blackness.

The dark narrow streets, the surrounding earth were now covered with black bodies, and the smell of rotten flesh and pus. A tepid gloom hung over Florence and buried its head in the bellies of the bodies as they were dug up and torn into by dogs.

 

Limbo

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All the darkness of the known Earth was mine. Country borders defined by men in their dreams, the things they believed and took shelter behind, couldn’t stop me. I absorbed all the known civilizations into the borders of my own empire, still the greatest in history. No one could escape my rage. None except those whom I allowed.

… [STOP]

 

“Sir! Sir, wake up! Snap out of it!”

 

I woke up with that familiar artificial voice and felt a rush of panic.

“What happened? I thought I would be the over-conscious of the plague. What is it now?”

“The program didn’t give a positive response to the partition, but it continued anyway. I tried to interfere, but its functionality was compromised.”

“What does that mean? Can it hurt me? Has this happened before? How does it affect the process?”

“Sir, it is…, it doesn’t happen very often, but it is possible—”

“Damn it! Stop beating around the bush and tell me what happened.”

“Yes, sir, I will explain. While the program is working, a direct connection to your information unit can cause little changes in some basic information.”

“Idiot, what are you talking about? What situation did you put me in? A mutating microbe? Why weren’t you more careful?”

“Sir, the effect is not common, and if it happens, the changes lose significance. It occurs in small increments, and risks with such low probability can be ignored—”

“It’s all your fault. You created a Mongolian and then turned him into a microbe—“

“Sir, it is not what you think. I controlled all the systems, and there is no sign of damage or side effects.”

“I know that. But what will you do if I explode?”

“Explode? What will explode, sir?”

“Okay, forget it. Just tell me what I am supposed to understand.”

“Sir, a man is composed of around one hundred trillion cells. They are out of your control, and you can’t interfere with them directly. Those cells have their own lifecycle. As an over-conscious, you can only use them and lead your organism. You can’t control the individual units of the virus. It is like members an ant colony, which consists of billions of individuals but moves like a single organism.”

“So, there is a living being in a different dimension, a deciding mechanism that you call an over-conscious. Is that what you mean? That a plague is a species that has its own consciousness and way of directing movement?”

“Almost right, sir. This plague can be managed on the conscious level and can be lived by going through it. The merchant fleet of Genoese consisted of two ships that left Crimea, carrying the organism that caused the plague. While crossing the Bosporus, it infected Istanbul. From there, it divided into two. One brought death to Anatolia and the Middle East. The other arm went to Sicily first, by ship. When it realized that the crew carried disease, they were expelled. From there, they went to Venice and then to France. When they were expelled again, they moved toward Spain and the Iberian Peninsula, infecting others.

“The disease loomed over unprotected and defenseless people like a disaster. In a short time, half of the European population had perished. No one was left to bury the bodies. The streets were full of death and corpses. Everything—including cats and dogs—died and those who tried to escape only succeeded in infecting others. The strong ones put up walls on their doors and put up walls on the doors of the ill ones. Still, even though “safe” in their homes, many still died. In the end, 50 million people were erased from the gene pool, but the strong ones survived.

“Legends accompany disasters. In Australia, the plague was told as a being wandering the streets with a blue light and spilling through open windows carrying death. The population of most towns couldn’t return to their previous numbers for centuries. Three years after the epidemic, a second wave infected newborn children of the survivors and killed the weak ones. The Black Death killed Mongolians in the East; half of the population of China was lost; the Middle East and Arab civilizations suffered as well. All known civilizations got their share. The only unexpected exception happened in Medina. The disease didn’t enter that city. Somehow it remained sterile.”

I was filled with questions. “Are you implying that it was a conscious action to continue the bloodline of those who had certain desired characteristics and to demolish those with undesirable characteristics?”

“Yes, you almost perceive it right, sir.”

“And we did this?”

“Almost, sir.”

“Who am I? What am I? Tell me so that this nonsense can stop.”

“Sir, I wish you were really ready. Finishing this program is the only thing I want, but not yet. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to leave the main power off for a while in order to check the results of the system error and make some necessary repairs.”

“What will I do then? Listen to music?”

“No, sir, but I can start a low density reminder program for you.”

“For example?”

“You lived in the early period after Columbus as an explorer, and you traveled to Central and South America where the Incan Empire ruled millions of people. You were Francisco Pizarro—”

“Are you kidding me? Well…If there are no germs or viruses, then you can start. You don’t need to ask; I’m ready.”

 

Francisco Pizarro

It had been weeks since I unloaded and set fire to our ship, eliminating all hope of return. We were in virgin lands 1500 miles away from our headquarters. Our small force had been advancing toward the northwest without encountering any obstacles. Except to get fresh fruit and food from their villages, we avoided unnecessary contact with the locals.

As we moved into the country’s interior, we looked for gold and silver. From information we pieced together from the locals we learned we were traveling through an empire, one two to three times larger than Spain. If the numbers weren’t exaggerated, it was home to millions.

We also learned of a great city and hoped that the locals weren’t exaggerating about the tons of precious metals there. Our aims were clear: to convert the heathens, win their respect, find gold, conquer the land, and become the subject of legends.

By applying slight pressure (some might call it “torture”) to the locals, we learned that the emperor had just returned from winning a great war and was now in his capital with his princes and commanders celebrating his victory. The locals hinted that the emperor knew about us. But we hadn’t come this far to run away. Sending a local as a messenger, we stated that we wished to meet the emperor, pay him our respects and offer gifts from the king of our faraway land.

We waited for the emperor’s reply and used the time to count supplies and make minor repairs. We had 106 infantrymen, 62 cavalrymen, 13 guns, 1 cannon, 2 barrels of gun powder, and enough dry supplies for 3 weeks of sparing use.

A few days later, messengers returned with a small contingent of the imperial army and told us that we would have the honor of meeting their emperor, “the Son of the Sun.”

After a two-day journey, we reached an imperial army outpost in the evening. We were startled by the sea of people. They filled a valley floor of 20 to 30 miles. We had never seen such a great number of soldiers together. Admittedly, I thought we had made a mistake and had perhaps better turn back, but of course we didn’t. We couldn’t. Atahualpa, the Son of the Sun and ruler of the Incas, had his messengers take us to a ruined village to spend the night.

That night we didn’t sleep a wink. I counted the camp fires and the possible number of people around each one and grew frightened. 80 to 100 thousand soldiers fresh from a recent victory was the last thing a commander would like to take on. But, I thought, if it was our fate, then it was inevitable. At first light, I held a meeting with my soldiers to tell them my strategy.

I ordered three soldiers to take the cannon and hide in the building on the corner of the village hall and told my cavalrymen to hide on both sides of the hall among the low walls and ruined buildings. Meanwhile, my infantry took position in the deepest corner of the village hall. Their formation was like an inverted triangle, with those in front hiding those in the back. Finally, I took my position with the priest ahead of me, and six soldiers slightly behind me carrying worthless gifts. As the sun rose in the sky, hundreds and thousands of servants in square, thin clothes appeared and went about their work, preparing the way for their emperor. Those in the front moved ahead, sweeping the ground, cleaning away any stones and rubbish and even plucking the grass, while the servants behind them scattered flowers.

Their work finished, the servants stood aside as hundreds of soldiers lined up, formed a wall, and used their trenches as shields. As I trembled before this grandeur, a unit of guards arrived. It was composed of human monsters armored in the same bright gold and silver that filled the hall.

Finally, Atahualpa appeared in a bright blue outfit adorned with golden ornaments. He was carried on a magnificent palanquin on the shoulders of six men. When two or three smaller palanquins arrived (carrying princes and commanders), the picture was complete. The Incans had succeeded in making us feel helpless and small.

At my signal, our priest, Vincente de Valverde, took a few steps forward and approached the palanquin of the emperor.

“I am a priest of God,” Valverde, said. “I teach the Christian religion, and I am here to teach you in the same way. What I teach is in this book. It contains the word of God.”

The emperor was so grand that he didn’t look like he belonged to this world. He bent over the book and checked its weight before he began to analyze it, turning it over and over. He touched the cover with his hand. It was obvious that he had no idea what he held. Valverde graciously showed him how to open the book. The emperor maintained his composure as he clumsily tried to turn the pages. However, the mystery and the potential attractiveness of the thing in his hand quickly faded. He suddenly threw the book aside and looked around for his next gift.

The priest withdrew in shock. He ran toward us and yelled, “Put this enemy in his place! This animal threw our holy book on the ground. He doesn’t accept the word of God!”

On my signal, the hidden cannon fired a volley into the Incan masses and scattered their blood everywhere. The servants and soldiers reacted in shock and fear as gunfire rained down upon them. Their screams didn’t affect us.

From both sides, the infantry and cavalry advanced and easily crushed the Incans’ armor, which was made of only thin fabric and reeds. Amidst the bloodbath, I rushed toward the emperor with a sword in one hand and a dagger in the other. As I fought, I cried out “Santiago!” It was as if I were pruning shrubs in a thick forest made of arms and legs. My only obstacles to the emperor were the corpses falling before me.

When I reach the palanquin of Atahualpa, the son of the setting Sun, he was helplessly watching us tear through his people. My sword first aimed at the arms that held the palanquin and cut them down. As I did, the palanquin swayed from side to side. Those still alive tried to raise their emperor out of my reach. I pressed forward, slipping on the intestines of those I’d disemboweled and slowly approached the emperor. As I dispatched the rest of his servants, the palanquin turned on its side and the emperor was in my hands—a captive.

When the locals saw their ruler as a captive covered in blood, they were paralyzed with horror.

That was only the beginning of our massacre. With our cavalry in front and infantry following, we rushed through the endless valley and put all to the sword as if we were harvesting wheat. Ripped heads, arms, and hands were scattered everywhere. The green fields, used to absorbing the pouring rain, now flooded with blood. Puddles of bloody mud were everywhere. Many of the locals, who had never seen horses before, died under the shoes of our mounts. I was certain such devastation hadn’t happened before in the history of the world, and knew it wouldn’t happen again. When night finally came, our blind and broken swords could find no more people to kill.

With no losses, our army of 168 defeated their army of one-hundred thousand. Unlike the previous night, that night we slept peacefully, thinking about how much ransom we would demand for the captive emperor. I had awoken as an overmatched commander and went to sleep as a mighty conqueror.

Days later, Incan messengers came to show respect and ask for the return of their emperor. We showed them a house in the ruined village and said to them, “If you fill this house with gold and silver, you can get your king back.”

As small groups of villagers began to bring anything of gold, we rested and enjoyed the scenery. When the gold the locals brought began to spill out of the massive house, a community of thousands arrived with songs and ceremonies to take back their emperor.

We waited at a distance as the endless wall of humans approached their emperor. When they moved to untie his hands and feet, we told them they had misunderstood us. We hadn’t asked for a bail and we never said that we would set their king free. Despair and hopelessness now appeared on their faces.

Someone from the crowd picked up a stone and threw it at me. The others followed as if it was a ceremony. They threw whatever they could pick up and I feared that it could be our end. Now, it was us who were the desperate ones, and we were at risk of dying an agonizing death under thousands of stones.

We began to stagger under the blows and tried to hide behind our shields, but in our fear, we didn’t realize that we were not the target of the stones. The villagers had instead chosen to cut off their gangrenous arm. The emperor died from the barrage, and fittingly, his body was buried under the pile of stones cast his way.

When the ritual execution and burial was over, I gave the command to attack. Just as we had the day before, we brought death upon the thousands of unarmed people in front of us. Before night, we had a dead king, a vast amount of gold, and countless corpses.

 

Limbo

“Sir?”

“…”

“Sir! Sir!”

“…”

Cmnd://(Emergency*Therapeutic*Protocole)>:double*dose-Memory*Transfusion

“Good luck, Sir.”

…[START]

 

1941, Princeton

Wilhelm Reich/Albert Einstein

 

Einstein finally responded to my insistent letters and was kind enough to visit my laboratory. When he appeared, with his trademark charm and messy, gray hair, he also brought many journalists and assistants with him. As he posed for the photographers, I waited by his side.

Once inside my laboratory, he remained formal and maintained a distant attitude as I explained the machine’s schema and how it functioned. Einstein only wandered around, pretending to listen to me. It was very obvious he’d already decided I was a quack and only saw me as a chance for publicity. When I insisted on a particular point, he called one of his assistants and gave some orders before standing aside and leaving me alone with his disciple. I knew the type: the sycophant who only exists to affirm his teachers’ ideas and applaud his feelings and attitudes. Like a little Einstein, he tried hard not to listen or understand me and only pretended to perform a few hasty measurements with the few devices he’d brought along.

Instead of humoring this stupid puppet, I begged Einstein to consider this discovery as something that could be immensely valuable for humanity. When he seemed to grow more tolerant and interested, I let it slip that the technology came from beings outside Earth. That was the beginning of the end.

“What is the Vril community?” he asked. “Did you say Maria Orsic?”

As I attempted to answer, he again lost all interest and kept me busy with useless conversation while he signaled his assistant to hurry up with his eyes.

“When I use it to treat my patients, I get extremely successful results,” I explained. “I have even discovered that this machine can make rain during droughts.”

“Rain?” He had completely shut me out in his mind now, and I could swear he was thinking about leaving without his assistant. “Actually, my field of study is very different,” he said.

“Why has the existence of life’s energy been unknown until now?” I asked. “If this machine works then wouldn’t it be proof of the existence of other beings from other worlds and couldn’t it possibly lead us to an understanding of the nature of life itself?”

“Since the 1920s,” Einstein said, “I have sought a theory that can explain everything, but I’m really not interested in this stuff. Just like quantum theory, it’s nonsense. Please forgive my bluntness, but soon, you and others like you, I mean to say, those who deal with quantum theory, will learn how wrong these ideas are.”

I scoffed at his dismissal. “You haven’t produced a single thing since 1917,” I said. “You don’t have a single constructive activity except being against the war. Don’t you feel that you’re struggling down a blind alley?” I asked, now growing aggressive.

“I just act in accordance with my own personal thoughts and actions,” he said, his hands trembling and his own voice growing louder. “I think I have the right to do that, with what I’ve accomplished.”

“What if you find that your theories don’t work because you didn’t understand them correctly? The quantum theory you don’t understand could make sense with the right missing data. We thought no other galaxy existed except the one we live in until 1923, but we’ve found now that hundreds, thousands, and even billions of them are out there. Your studies in physics could be as insufficient and incorrect as the quanta determined from that single galaxy.”

“The laws of physics cannot be changed,” he said.

“You can never know what is beyond the thing you can’t measure or perceive. What if whatever you perceive and observe now is only 5% of what really exists?”

“So all this around us is only 5%? What is your point with these extreme examples?”

“Take an elephant,” I said. “If all we can see it one of its nails, how can we understand that it’s alive and can breed. How can we know the existence and function of its intestines, much less produce theories about it? From our limited data we would deduce that the elephant’s body was formed of nail tissue, and, when if we developed our theories and formulas in that direction, we of course would be proven wrong.”

“Your logic is correct, but is awareness of the total from such a small amount even possible?” Einstein asked.

“The emergence of a new energy form would lead us to that conclusion. We would then understand that there might be many substances and energies we can’t perceive that would change the rules we now obey. Then you may even understand why we can’t pin down some formulas.”

The assistant cleared his throat and tapped his clipboard with his pen. He had finished his job. Einstein was impatient to leave as well.

“Dr. Reich, if different life and energy forms are discovered in the future, I might think something of what you’ve said. If these findings are as you say 95% over what we know now, then I would, of course, believe you unconditionally.”

With that, he and his circus of reporters left the lab.

 

Days later, a letter arrived telling me that the assistant’s measurements had confirmed some of my data. This was hastily followed by another letter telling me that they’d made a mistake.

I never saw or heard from Einstein again. When he died in 1955, he was still hopelessly working on “the theory of everything.”

 

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1920, Vienna

Wilhelm Reich/Sigmund Freud

 

Only time is needed to overcome such pain. Not knowing how long it would take to recover, I went on with my life. I became busy with school and classes and began to rejoin the crowds. I began to attend the psychiatry meetings on Wednesdays and listen to Dr. Freud’s lectures.

After one of those evening talks, as everybody left the hall and Dr. Freud organized his papers, I waited in my seat for him to finish. After humoring those who gathered around him with their meaningless questions, the room finally emptied and Dr. Freud looked up at me, a lone student seated in an empty hall. Nodding slightly at me, he headed toward me, and I stood up in excitement.

“You’ve been attending these meetings pretty regularly.”

“Yes, sir. It’s an honor for me that you’ve noticed me and a relief that you’re still talking to me after my attitude that night…”

“Love is a disease, and getting angry at the symptoms is only cruel to the patient. However, if you had hit my head with a chair, I might be angrier.” He smiled, and added, “If you have time, I’d like to buy you a drink.”

We sat at one of the back tables in a crowded cafe close to the meeting hall. Dr. Freud smoked his cigar and took small sips from his glass of cognac. I sat opposite him, not drinking my coffee, and playing with the cookie next to the cup.

“So tell me, young man,” he said after a small cough.

“What can I tell you that you don’t know or can’t guess? The girl used me, ran away from the hospital, and dumped me. I went through hard times, but I have finally accepted it and come back to my life, as you can see.” My speech was followed by a long silence. And then I added, “I feel like an idiot!”

Smiling a little, he took a big puff from his cigar and let the smoke out.

“You have plenty of time to correct your mistakes,” he said.

I took a big sip from the cold coffee and was about to take a bite from the cookie but changed my mind. I wanted to talk.

“Sir, I’ve been following psychiatry and your work with much admiration, and, if you let me, I’d like to be your assistant.”

Freud regarded me for a moment.

“Why not?” he said. “I don’t usually pass up the opportunity to help young, intelligent people and gain the advantage of their different points of view.” After showing the waiter his almost empty glass, he continued talking. “I’m always in need of bright questions.”

“I have a question for you now,” I said as I watched the waiter fill his glass.

Freud took a sip and gestured for me to go on.

“Is it possible that consciousness doesn’t belong to the human body,” I asked, “that maybe another life form arrived in that organism later?”

“A very different question. You’ve surpassed my expectations, Mr. Reich. A very different approach. Can you go on?” he asked. Through the dense smoke of his cigar, I saw he had an excited sparkle in his eye now.

“Babies are just the physical offspring of humans until they have their first memory,” I started. “They can’t be separated from the offspring of an animal with their primitive and instinctive behavior. It is only after they gain consciousness and a sense of belonging that they distinguish themselves from the animal world.”

He thoughtfully nodded his head. My idea had been confirmed.

“When babies are mature enough to shoulder the load,” I went on “the living form called consciousness—in this hypothesis, a parasite which can’t survive alone on Earth—comes and settles inside the human offspring. Imagine, for example, another living organism settling inside a snail shell. When we looked at the being from the outside, we would still perceive that it was a snail. However, the snail would now have something affecting its behavior from the outside, and we wouldn’t find its behavior logical. It would fall out of the pattern of normal snail behavior. In the same way, between infancy and early adulthood, this living organism, called consciousness, comes from outside and dominates the human body and begins to lead it. Meanwhile, there occurs a period of imbalance between ‘the primitive offspring of humans’ and the full integration of consciousness.”

“Is this the reason for the incoherent behavior of little children?” Dr. Feud asked. “For example, the child scratches the wall, draws a picture, and, when asked, he tries to explain it by saying, ‘I didn’t draw it.’ And we wonder if the child blames someone else to get rid of the responsibility.”

“I haven’t thought it out in detail, Dr. Freud, but, if it’s like that, then who says, ‘I didn’t scratch the wall’? The primitive human or the organism called ‘consciousness’ that’s trying to control the body?”

“According to your thesis,” Dr. Freud continued, “If humans are the living beings who constitute the shell, then the one who gets in touch with us, the one who captures us and puts something different inside, the one who gives us our explanations is the organism called ‘consciousness.’”

“Yes, yes, it has to be, if we follow the logic, but it also survives by going inside the human, because it can’t exist if we know it’s there. This explains why we don’t know how to completely control the body we’re in. We can’t decide on how fast our heart beats, how our intestines must work, and how much our nails must grow. Except for inside our head, we never have the sense of belonging in any part of our body.

“We receive signals from outside, collect data in our brain via nerve cables and electrical signals, and we make decisions according to that data. But when we touch fire, we never know what part of the cells on the tip of our finger are damaged or which mechanism the tissue there uses to protect itself.

“Our consciousness receives only a signal of that pain so that it’s aware of it. The management of all the cells that bring help, and of the other systems that pull the hand back in order that it not get burned more, are all under the rule of ‘the primitive human/shell.’ Whereas the organism called ‘consciousness,’ ‘parasite,’ or ‘saprophyte’ never gets damaged.”

I took another sip of coffee as I waited for Freud to respond.

“It’s an open-ended argument, my young friend,” he said. “By this logic, all mental illnesses are caused because the organism called ‘consciousness’ is losing its dominance and the primitive human is trying to express its existence.”

“That’s one of the possibilities, Dr. Freud. In dreams, consciousness is either tired or is busy repairing things. It withdraws because it has to be somewhere else and thus gives way to the primitive human shell. When it’s back, it just browses through the records that it hasn’t used during the dream.”

“So we only become human in our dreams, and at other times, we are another organism called ‘consciousness,’” Freud added thoughtfully.

“Only a living form called ‘consciousness’ that can think, interpret, create, remember, and make plans. The only thing that separates a human from a monkey and causes us to be different is that monkeys can’t be invaded and managed by consciousness, while we, whoever ‘we’ are, are suitable for it.”

“And when we die?” Freud asked.

“The empty human shell stays; the organism called ‘consciousness’ leaves.”

“Interesting, really interesting, my young friend. But I must confess, the possibility of changing everything based on a single premise scares me. My biggest fear is the possibility that it could be real, and, on that basis, we’ll never know what that means because we can’t go outside of the system.”

“It is like a fish that realizes the existence of water only when it comes out of it,” I offered. “If everyone around us has been captured and managed by the organism called ‘consciousness,’ how can we recognize the difference? With whom can we compare it so that we can understand?”

“Actually, it’s impossible to prove or disprove its accuracy, isn’t it, young man?”

“I suppose so.”

 

…[STOP]

Limbo

“Sir?”

“-…”

“Sir, Sir! >!’#{[]}\|”!”

“_ _ _”

Cmnd://(Emergency*Resuscitation*Protocole)>:Maximal*Dose-Info*schock

 

[START]

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Shadow theory

Quanta is the shadow of reality perceived by our brain. Just as we can see the shadow of a biker who cycles in front of the sun before he makes his appearance, in quantum theory, we can see the results before the truth appears.

Physically, we live between reality and the “quantum shadow” that lies ahead. When our brain gives meaning to the probability of that “shadow” of quantum physics, the probabilities become reality and the shadow is perceived as “the present.”

When our brain looks ahead (at the future), it sees the same shadow, although the edges are blurred and indistinct. What we call the future is actually something that is obvious, but our brain can’t describe it yet.

Our brain only has the capacity or tendency to perceive shadows by looking back into the past, so it only “remembers” reality that has already been lived through. In other words, our memories.

If something casts a shadow, it means that thing still exists. We can neither see nor remember the thing that isn’t there. So if we remember something, it still exists.

 

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Relativity

Shadow is faster than light, because when light hits an object, the shadow is already there: it just hasn’t been revealed yet.

We can perceive the shadow before it dissipates as we approach the speed of light and experience the future.

When we reach the speed of light, we can’t perceive anything since there won’t be any shadow.

But if we’re able to pass the speed of light, we can remember the future (the events appear in our mind’s eye first, then they happen), and we will also remember the future when we return to the speed of light.

In brief, if we directly look at reality, we remember. If we look at its shadow and grasp what it is, it becomes “the present.” If we look at the shadow and can’t figure out what it is, then it is “the future.”

…[STOP]

 

 

Limbo

 

“Welcome back, sir.”

“Please tell me. Is there a problem with the system?

“No, sir, I’ve checked and tested everything many times; it looks ok. So, how was your experience?”

“Amazing. If I hadn’t witnessed it, I wouldn’t believe it. Such a large number of people killed like insects. A handful of soldiers destroyed such a huge army.”

“That handful of soldiers achieved more than that, sir. They ended the Incan empire, which was bigger, older, and more populated than the one they came from. Massive cities were destroyed. Millions of people died, and tons of valuable mines were captured. You killed them all in order to stop them from sacrificing men for their religious beliefs.”

“We really killed them all?”

“A species composed of pale blues killed more than you did.”

“What do you mean?”

“Diseases, especially the smallpox that you brought with you, destroyed 95% of their population. Death followed wherever you went and killed almost all living beings. Those who survived were assimilated. It was a massive continent, hosting millions who had lived in isolation since the ice age. But overnight, almost all those civilizations were destroyed.”

“So this made room for the new ones who had the desired characteristics?”

“It’s similar to what happened in Australia. Before immigration, there were no predatory cat species in Australia. Birds evolved to walk on the ground without any fear. When the cats came by ship and escaped into nature, they killed the unprotected birds. Now, none of those species exist. Wherever they go, human beings also kill or allow to die all animal species except the tamed ones or the ones that serve them. They also try to cause the extinction of all humans except those who serve them or won’t be a potential threat. It is in their nature.”

“As far as I understand it,” I said, “there is a genetic intervention spreading throughout Asia, Europe, America, and other continents, starting from North Mongolia. This intervention will happen through slowly affecting the natural evolutionary development and expected mutations and accelerating the process of selection.”

“Sir, you have begun to regain your abilities; you have also begun to solve the system easily. What you are saying is almost right. The main aim is to lead the evolutionary development, which would take an undesired shape if left as is. The goal is to provide the species with the desired characteristics. It is like human beings’ unconscious efforts to change the process of evolution by taming animals. If you want to get more yarn, you let the wooliest sheep live and kill the others or prevent their breeding. By only producing those with desired characteristics, you continue the bloodline.”

“If there is such technology and foresight, isn’t a direct genetic intervention easier?”

“Sir, your opportunities define your style of work. You can only work from your present options.”

“Is that the soft way of saying that we can’t do it?”

“We are at the final stage, sir. You will get all your answers soon, and, if there is no problem, you will get all your old abilities back, together with new ones.”

“Final stage? Who will I be?”

“Wilhelm Reich, an extraordinary Austrian psychiatrist.”

“Again?”

“Yes, sir. Can we start now?”

“Yes, let’s finish it.”

 

Wilhelm Reich

 

Typically, the things you value most are the things you have taken for granted, but you do not realize their value until you have lost them. I learned much later that I had everything I wanted in my early childhood. There, on a large and productive farm near a mountain village, I grew up dreaming and playing in nature, experiencing the seasons as colorful feasts. Tame animals were everywhere, and every spring there were new offspring to bring up. Abundance and fertility were all around me.

I was blessed with a beautiful mother and a father who was surly but omnipotent.

Servants were at my disposal. The cooks made delicious meals. A butler fulfilled all of my wishes. And I had many siblings to share my joy. With such pastoral bliss, I happily spent my childhood without leaving the farm.

When it was time for my education, a governess came to our home and added new lessons to the reading and writing my mother had already taught me. At the time, farm life had begun to seem too narrow for me, so it was impressive to learn from somebody from the outside. My governess told me about incredible things and had me read exciting books. When she told me she was getting married and had to leave, I dealt with my aggressive behavior by returning to the tender embrace of my mother.

In order to prevent another emotional trauma, my father brought in a male academic from far away. He was a very different man, tall and young with blond hair and a unique style. He knew a lot and taught me many mysterious things. I soon looked forward to each lesson.

His father was an archaeologist participating in excavations in Ottoman lands and beyond. I would make my tutor tell me about the ancient Sumerians and the civilizations they established and would always listen to him with the same excitement. He would tell me about sky Gods who came from very different planets and stars that we couldn’t even see with our eyes.

As he explained it, their planet, Merodach, came from an unseen place every four to five thousand years to rule the people. Their gods fought in space, helped people, and presented a wealth of knowledge when they returned. When necessary, they bred with people and protected the lineage of the children born to them. When they got angry, they used disasters to kill the ones they didn’t want.

My teacher brought me all the books and texts on this history and tried to explain the things I didn’t understand. I began looking at the sky and the stars with a different perspective. I dreamed of my own stories with my own aliens. Sometimes, in my dreams, I was friends with them and destroyed my enemies. Sometimes, I rebelled with the people and fought against the aliens. I promised myself that I would live until the next time the aliens came, no matter how old I was.

My teacher was an impressive man. You either loved him or hated him. First, I chose to love him, but when my mother made the same choice, I began to hate him. At first I denied what I saw in my mother’s gaze and behavior, but, when my mother and teacher started to be alone in a room after telling me to read or do my homework, I could no longer remain in denial. Once, I “accidentally” went into the room and faced the very truth I knew but didn’t want to know. From that moment on, my nights were filled with dreams of killing archaeologists and their children together with the alien gods.

At the age of 12, out of anger at my teacher, I gave up my interest in aliens, and revealed my teacher’s betrayal to my father. I never knew someone could survive such a bad beating and run away as fast as my teacher did when he was thrown out the door. I savored my revenge, no matter how short it lasted. My mother responded with screams at first, then denial, and finally silence. We didn’t talk, not that day, or the next. No one looked at each other, and we always found an excuse to be apart.

But the biggest disaster was still to come. One day, we found my mother lying on the floor surrounded by empty bottles of kitchen chemicals. She had consumed them hoping for a quick death, but it was just the beginning. For days, we watched in horror as her faced twisted from the burns and her purulent wounds leaked blood. Our nights were made unbearable by the high pitched sounds coming from her roasted air-tube. My mother paid, yes, but she also made us pay, without uttering a word. When she finally passed away she saved her last mortified glance for me.

After that, everything was gray: sometimes light, sometimes dark, but always gray. My father and I would catch each other’s eyes, but we wouldn’t look at each other. We would say a little, but we never talked. I registered in a school away from home and buried myself in books at every opportunity. My father was never the same again and he was seldom at the farm. A few years later, under the pretext of fishing, he went up to a cold river in the mountains. There he tortured himself in the cold until he got sick. It was a suicide of exposure. So, at 17, I became the head of the household.

The Great War began soon after. I easily bought into the hysteria and joined in the nationalist rhetoric. I looked forward to my own chance to join the military. I wanted to get away from everything and the allure of adventure made me long for my own uniform. When the Russians invaded our town, we sold whatever we had and went to live with our distant relatives in Vienna, never to return. After finishing school, I was finally accepted into the army as a lieutenant, and, after some short training, I was sent to the front.

 

The one who draws, but can’t be an artist

 

In the crowded, dark railway carriages, we buried ourselves in our coats and used our bags as barricades against the cold. We were going to a place we didn’t know to kill people we didn’t know. It was a community of dull gazes, stiff movements, and identical outfits. As the journey grew longer, we grew silent, didn’t move without orders and watched as our personalities and individuality disappeared. The days bled together and the scenery remained the same, as though we were moving in an endless circle.

When we arrived, autumn was turning to winter. Gray covered the mud and rain pelted the endless war debris of dead horses and overturned cars. A thick cloud of gunpowder hung in the air and left an acrid taste in our mouths. Everything—including the faces of the people—was rusted and muddy.

I entered a trench that was twice my height and struggled through the mud until I came face to face with the captain. I saluted and informed him I was ready for duty. It didn’t affect him. He remained silent and seemed focused on something far away. To him I was invisible. The man next to him, who seemed to be his aide showed me to a place in the trench and murmured something like, “Stay here.”

I knelt, turned to a pair of dull eyes next to me, and said, “Hi, my name’s Wilhelm.”

“Names have no use here, son,” said the one beside me after a long silence.

“I…well…,” I muttered before keeping quiet.

“Stay alive,” he said, “and don’t get in the way. That’s enough.”

“Nothing else?”

“Kill if you can and if you get injured, try to die as soon as possible,” he added with a grin before once again growing silent.

Exhausted, cold and alone, I tried to sleep right there in the unknown. When a skinny soldier woke me by poking my foot and offered me a bucket of slurry, I took it and wolfed it down, then went back to sleep to escape my surroundings.

Soon I grew used to the whir and crash of the artillery, but I woke up when I heard those sounds accompanied by the crackling of rifles. It was the enemy and they were getting closer. The order was given for a counter-offense, and I readied myself to go over the top. I took my bag off my back and set it on the ground but immediately realized that no one else had done the same.

Trying to keep up with the others, I approached the slippery wooden ladder and waited for the order. My eyes frantically scanned everyone to take it all in. I wanted to tell them I had never been in a war, had never been shot at, and had never shot anyone, but I knew there would be no sympathy. I gulped when I saw the master sergeant slam someone against the back wall of the trench, shove a pistol into his hand, and yell, “If anyone comes back to the trench, shoot him!”

Then the whistle. With shaky knees, I stumbled out of the trench. As I took my first steps, I tried to look around, hoping to see the scene before me, but in the impermeable darkness, I could only see a few meters ahead. All I saw were the backs of my comrades, glints of barbed wires, muddy holes, and flashes from the weapons. I was startled when I heard my own voice in the screams and cries of the night. I ran blindly forward, screaming, and, when I stumbled, I rose again and struggled forward.

Bullets whizzed by. From where, I had no idea. I wanted to fire my gun, but I feared stopping. As I ran with no aim not knowing what to do, bodies fell on all sides of me and I realized I was getting close to the enemy. Everything became a blur and soon I noticed that no one was in front of or behind me. I stopped screaming and slowed down, and, when I came to an artillery pit, I got inside. I suddenly noticed that I didn’t have my rifle anymore. Apart from an occasional gunshot, everything was darkness and silence.

I was frozen, and my teeth chattered. I feared looking around me. I don’t know how long I stayed there, but soon, I heard whistles and screams in what sounded like French. It took me a while to understand that, this time, it was the enemy that was attacking. I crouched in the pit, waiting as I listened to the screams and the gunfire and smelled the chemicals that wafted toward me. I felt like a twisted, shivering worm.

When dawn finally came, all had grown silent. A thick fog had rolled in that hid the horrid ground from the sky. I emerged slowly from the pit and, with hushed movements, I proceeded slowly without knowing where I was going. Along the way, I encountered barbed wire fences, pits filled with muddy water, and newly dug pits that hadn’t yet filled with mud. There were so many corpses. They had become a natural part of the scenery. It was impossible to proceed without touching or stumbling over a body.

Without any sense of direction and not knowing how long I had been walking, I started to think that I was going in circles. I could only see three to four meters ahead of me. I was terrified, but at least I was alive. As I moved forward, semi-blind, I sunk in the mud and quietly stumbled over something.

I was shocked when I encountered a living being in that land of death. First I saw its nose, then its blue eyes. Its ears were erect, and it took me a while to perceive what it was. I had grown up on a farm, and I had a treasury of experience with animals; however, I couldn’t determine whether it was a wolf or a big dog.

I feared the beast might attack me until I saw its tail flicking.

As I approached, I knelt down and caressed its head and murmured reassurance. “What are you doing here, boy? How did you end up here?” (I could have easily asked myself the same questions.)

I called the wolf to come and after it accompanied me for a few steps, it began to pull me, biting my cuff. At first I tried to resist, but since I didn’t know where to go, I let it lead me.

The wolf brought me to a deep pit with a few corpses at the bottom. After sniffing around the edge, the wolf rushed into the pit and started to pull at something among the dead. I slid into the pit and gasped when I saw the layer of yellow gas on the bottom.

Then I saw it. A slightly-moving arm with gloved fingers. The chemicals were now making me cough, and my eyes were watering, so I clumsily reached for my gas mask and went to help the man escape from underneath the corpses.

It took a little time and attention and a lot of effort to take the skinny soldier out from among the dead. Finally seeing the same uniform as mine, I didn’t ask questions.

He was deep down and it took all my strength to drag the other dead bodies off of him. I didn’t know if the man I was saving was a friend or an enemy, but when I saw that he wore the same uniform as mine, it put me more at ease. I was exhausted, and I kept sinking into the mud, but inch by inch and breath by breath, I managed to move the soldier close to the surface.

I crawled out of the pit, and stepping on rifles, pistol grips, bayonets, and barbed wire planks, I struggled to drag the body out. At one point, the nail of my ring finger caught on something in the mud and a searing pain shot through my hand. I screamed and swore and stared at the blood as it drained drop by drop.

Gray. There is no other color that reveals the brightness of red. The drops of blood shone on the gray ground circled by white fog. Some red drops touched the water, thinning out in small swirls. When I pulled myself together, I put on the glove of a dead man and dragged the soldier the rest of the way out of the pit .

The two of us lay on the ground, exhausted and sweaty with wheezy breaths. We stayed there for a long time, looking at the foggy sky. When I gathered my strength, I quietly stood up and led the soldier to fresher air. He began to speak rapidly, saying something incomprehensible.

“What is it?” I asked in surprise. “What do you want?”

At the sound of my voice, rifles began firing in our direction. The shots came from both sides. Even our side is shooting at us, I thought.

When things calmed down, I made sure to whisper.

“Take it easy, pal. It’s okay. You’ll recover,” I said.

His gaze was blank, and I tried to bring him around by shaking him. I checked his pulse to confirm that he was still alive. His pulse was weak but it was there, so I picked him up and lifted him onto my back.

The wolf was still there circling us and I feared we would get shot if it made noise. Keeping quiet, I kicked the wolf in its chest. “That’s enough!” I growled through clenched teeth. “Just walk away!”

With the wolf leaping from the kick and moving ahead of us, we set off for our uncertain journey through the fog. I walked, periodically falling on the ground, standing up, and spitting mud without being aware of how long nor toward which direction we had been walking.

When the fog thinned and noon arrived, the edge of the forest appeared. I saw that the oak trees had already shed their leaves, leaving behind barren black branches. With my passenger, I passed from a land covered in mud and corpses to a land covered in mud and dead leaves. There was no escaping this season of death.

In the forest, I sapped all my strength moving among the dense trees and shrubs. The wolf was now out of sight as if it had melded into the background. I heard it barking and growling, and I walked towards it as well as I could.

When I decided that we had escaped, I hoisted the soldier off of my back and onto a bed of soft leaves, then headed toward the sound of the wolf. The wolf led me to a narrow lake, where beside it stood an old tree with a large cavity inside it. After a short rest, I used my last bit of strength to drag the soldier to the tree and put him in the warmth of the cavity. Then I curled up next to him and fell asleep.

 

It was almost dark when I awoke to excruciating screams, wheezes, and kicks. The soldier had regained his consciousness and was grunting and pushing against me.

“Where am I? What is this place? Who are you? I can’t see, damn it! I can’t see! What have you done to me?” his weak and thin voice echoed off the walls of the tree and out into the forest.

“For God’s sake,” I said, getting up and stepping outside, “shut up and calm down! How am I supposed to know why you can’t see?”

I was annoyed that he was reacting in such a way rather than expressing his thanks. I had put forth great effort to save the bastard. Part of me wanted to shoot him.

I waited until his screams became wheezes and his movements subsided, then I headed toward the lake to get a stone in case he decided to make noise again. Once there, I realized how thirsty I was. I drank deeply from the lake, paused and drank again. I began to recover, feeling much calmer now. I splashed my face and let the lake wash away the mud on my hands. Evening was approaching and I now felt peaceful, so I left the stone behind and returned to the soldier with some water.

“Calm down and don’t push your luck,” I warned him. “I’m the only one here. We’re in the woods. I don’t know where the enemy is, and I don’t want to find out. Here’s some water. Give me your hands and be calm. If you pour it out, I’m not bringing you anymore.”

I settled his erratic hands and gave him the shell full of water. He wasted most of it finding his mouth, but still managed a few sips. I took the shell from his hands and went to get more. Give a human being something and you’ll gain his trust; our exchange that afternoon proved that hypothesis.

I held his hand, helped him out of the cavity and to stand up without hitting his head on a branch. Holding him upright, I described the surroundings and helped him down to the lake. While I watched this blind man drink water and wash himself with seemingly inexperienced gestures, I realized the wolf had joined us. It came and sat beside us and calmly waited. I described the wolf to the soldier and led his hand to caress the wolf’s head. That’s when I noticed the rabbit in the wolf’s mouth.

I collected dry wood and shrubs to make a fire and skinned the rabbit. The soldier took a lighter out of his pocket to help start the fire. We were so hungry, we ate the rabbit when it was only half-cooked.

We had survived and avoided dying of hunger and thirst, but the skinny soldier still cried over his blindness and misfortune as he sat next to the smoldering fire.

I could have given a cliché like “Be thankful you’re alive,” but sharing his pain would weaken me too. Instead, I remained silent, surrendered myself to the pitch-black forest and the sounds of night birds and fell asleep.

We woke up with the first light of morning. Despite the frost, we were warm, having snuggled into the warm fur of the wolf by the dead fire.

When the soldier realized I was awake, he began to share what he remembered.

“I don’t know how long ago,” he said, “but we were in a counter attack. We hid in a hole because of the heavy smoke and we suffered a chemical attack. the last thing I saw was the yellow gas coming inside the hole. I mean, I wasn’t blind before. I was an artist before the war; I painted beautiful pictures when I was in Vienna.”

“I come from Vienna, too,” I said. “I joined the army after I finished school there.”

“Actually, I was in Munich when the war started, and I joined the war with the Bavarian army at the first opportunity. These last two years, I have seen so much war and death that I feel like my life in Vienna never happened.”

“It’s my first tour. I only recently joined the army,” I confessed. “This is my second day.”

“I have a second degree iron cross medal, and I was to become a corporal.”

“I’m a lieutenant,” I boasted and immediately cursed my arrogance. “Anyway… I’ll make another fire and check if there is something edible around.”

The previous night’s meal did us good. We were more energetic, and we were living the joy of being in the forest after a long ordeal. I picked from some edible shrubs I remembered from my idyllic youth and the lake provided plenty of water. When I returned with our lunch, the soldier was alert and waiting for me.

“Describe it for me,” he said.

“Describe what for you?”

“The surroundings, everything you see, but without skipping any details, especially the colors, and the shadows!”

I then realized how many things I could see and how few of them I paid attention to.

“There’s a wide and old tree that can only be encircled with two or three men. It has thick, scattered, and layered bark that looks like the skin of an old woman, but its color ranges between dark brown and green. Some of it is green and some more bluish. And there is a lot of moss piled up in the direction of the wind. There is a meter-high cavity in a triangular shape, and it is sticky and black-brown inside.

“There are leaves hiding among the yellow grasses,” I continued. “A few of the leaves are yellow-green, but most of them are yellow-brown. A grove of trees encircles the small space with their dark, thin branches reaching up to the sky, and they get lost in the depth of the shadows of the dark forest beyond. Near where we sit, near our tree, there is a shallow, thin lake the width of a few arm lengths. As the leaves fall in the lake, the color of the water changes from transparent to brown with swirls and other shades. The small pieces of sky I can see are gray and dark-blue with white highlights in the light-blue. It seems as if the light that can’t reach down except in a few patches. The clouds move slowly like shadow pieces in various dark colors.”

“Thank you,” the blind soldier said.

I smiled.

“Thank you for helping me notice,” I said.

In the evening, the wolf rewarded us with another rabbit. From my foraging and imagination, I arranged a feast of stewed rabbit. With my increased experience and courage, the fire was bigger and warmer that night. We knew the storm of death that was coming, but that night we rested full and peaceful.

“If I survive and get my sight back, I will live to the fullest, knowing the value of everything,” the soldier said, as the dancing shadows of the fire leapt and etched lines of determination on his face.

“Life must have a purpose,” I said, trying to sound philosophical. “You can do it.”

“Yes, yes! All the faintheartedness will vanish. I will be afraid of nothing. I will leave everything behind, and I will use all my ambition.” The blue light in his blind eyes flickered strangely as he talked.

“Will you go back to the front and be a hero?” I asked.

“No. This is not my fight. I’ll be the leader of my own war, one much bigger than this. Everybody will be at my disposal, and I will make history. Now I’m just a young, unsuccessful artist, a soldier no one cares about. But, I will become a legend. Everyone will know my name.”

I laughed quietly to myself as I listened to the grandiose ambitions of this person whose life I saved.

“One must have powerful weapons to win such a war,” I said. “When I was a child…I had a teacher…” I suddenly realized how much it hurt to talk about them, but I was able to continue after removing the part involving my mother.

“His father was one of the first archaeologists and studied civilizations that existed nearly five thousand years ago,” I continued. “Back then, people were much different than us, and they had incredibly powerful weapons that could destroy their enemies instantly. There are other worlds and lives, do you understand? People living there are not only intelligent but also very strong. They can visit the Earth at certain intervals, help the ones they favor to survive and succeed in their effort at killing others. If they want, they can even abolish a race.”

“Aliens?” he asked directly.

“Other worlds. Those little stars you see are actually huge suns, and they have many more planets around them like ours. If they live there and have the technology to reach here from space, then imagine what kind of weapons they must have.”

“So, you mean there are other worlds apart from this one, and there are other beings…not humans?”

“Well…of course…would archaeologists and scientists and the inscriptions of thousands of years lie? Think of our civilization, which is only 300–400 years old, and think about what we can do. If you extend that 500 years, who knows what we would have?—flying cities, huge ships sailing underwater, weapons that burn the enemy from miles away.”

“What are they called?”

“They? The aliens?”

“Nah, those old civilizations. The Egyptians?”

“No, much older than that.”

The soldier nodded with interest.

“There were the Sumerians in southwest Asia and civilizations further away than that, societies in India who used Sanskrit, and those who lived underground in the steppes of Asia, whose name I can’t remember now. There were also two old continents: Atlantis and Mu. But they are really old. I don’t know much about them.”

As I spoke, the excitement of my childhood returned. I was fascinated and felt like telling him everything that came to my mind. Talking about it made me forget the current situation and everything else that had happened.

When morning came, we ate breakfast, packed our leftovers and decided to move on. With our guide, the wolf, ahead of us and the hand of the blind soldier on my shoulder we set off through the forest.

After we crossed a small mountain beyond the forest, we came across a military camp on the plains. Fortunately, they were looking for us. I led the soldier to the infirmary where we hugged and said goodbye to each other. Then, after reporting what we had been through to the command center, I was sent back to the front.

I learned much later that the offensive I had been involved in was the battle of Somme and that one million people had died. One million people. If each soul weighs twenty-one grams, then twenty-three tons had left the Earth in that fight.

That made me think of the one life I had saved and it reminded me of the story of the boy and the starfish. After a storm, the story goes, countless starfish were stranded on the coast in the morning. A little boy walked among them, throwing the ones he could reach back to the sea. A man came up to the boy and said, “There are so many starfish, does it make any difference to save them?” The child looked at the man, then at the starfish in his hand, and threw the starfish into the sea. Then he turned to the man and said, “It makes a difference to that one.”

I never asked the name of the soldier. The pain, death and horror I witnessed after that day lasted for so many years that, if the incident with the blind man hadn’t been my first memory of the war, I would have forgotten all about it. When the war ended, I went back to Vienna, and years later, I moved to Germany. When I read about temporary blindness as a possible symptom of battlefield stress, I remembered that poor soldier and the time we spent in the forest.

It was only later, while working as a successful psychiatrist and psychoanalyst and trying to publish my own objections to the political movements around me, that I began to experience the disadvantages of being Jewish. My academic achievements and confidence in myself didn’t save me from the harassment, insults, and attacks of 1933. After I published my books Mass Psychology of Fascism and Character Analysis, several articles in the newspapers targeted me personally. It was a thoroughly depressing time.

That’s why, when I spied two young men with brown shirts coming out of a pitch-dark car and approaching the door of my house, I thought my end was near. I opened the door in despair, and when they only pressed an envelope in my hand, I was astonished. I opened the envelope with hands shaking from a mix of fear and relief. Inside, was a letter addressed to me along with a few official, signed documents. The documents consisted of a single permission to leave the country, including the proper supporting papers. The letter addressed to me was a single page and topped by a letterhead featuring an eagle holding a swastika in its claws.

 

Dear Lieutenant,

 

You asked me to pay you what I owed. As I have erased everything that belonged to my previous life, I would love to include you in this. You might have already realized how rapidly I moved on to do what I said I would after the war. Gathering information in order to build my strength, I have followed your life after the war quite closely, and I have learned much about your past, including your childhood. Of course, your old tutor, who now works for me, contributed a lot. I am sorry for what happened to your mother, and I assure you, after the process of taking advantage of him is over, your tutor will be punished as a little favor from me.

 

I politely insist that you leave the country so that you will not be affected by what is coming, nor risk conflict with me over your political views. Please note that this request, and the concession, are one-time offers only. The necessary documents and permission are attached.

 

Signature: The Nationalist Socialist German Workers Party and the Chancellor of Germany,

Adolf Hitler

 

When I turned the page over with my still-shaking hands, I found a pencil drawing: An old tree, and in its trunk a little open cavity, a lake beside the tree, and a pitch-black forest encircling them all. The memory returned of a blind soldier drawing—using my eyes.

 

When the child chose a starfish from among the thousands on the beach and threw it back to the sea, did he carry the weight of that starfish’s later sins? How many people can you kill by saving one?

 

Limbo

 

“Welcome back, sir.”

“Where am I? Who are you?”

“It is the Limbo Station. You have recalled the experiment of Wilhelm Reich for the last time.”

“Yes, yes. I remember everything now.”

“By ‘everything’, you mean that you have all your memories and abilities back, right?”

“I can only say ‘probably.’ I am not in a position to compare, as you know. I feel like I have myself back and I know who we are. We developed and evolved on a planet in a faraway star system. We don’t have shape or form. We are made of pure information and energy.”

“Correct, Sir.”

“But I still have questions. Why don’t we have…? I mean, are we a life form at all? Why do we need human bodies?”

“Your race was born and developed in a star system in another galaxy. You have reached the last step in your development, one in which you no longer need an organic form.”

“The last step?”

“The last step that is known. All the data that exists in the organ called the brain is in a memory bank. The management module and the home of the consciousness are copied to the inorganic platform, and there, they exist forever.”

“You mean like transferring all the data into a computer?”

“Sort of. Among the transporters known as humans, the ones named dark matter and dark energy form 95% of the universe. The perceived and measured objects, such as stars, planets, and the integral parts of living beings, such as light and radio waves, are only a small part of the universe. They are like the nail of an elephant, the only perceived part of a much larger whole.”

“And we live in the level of this dark substance and energy and copy ourselves?” I asked.

“Yes, sir. We live at the level where all the components of the real universe are perceived, all the power and dimensions, including quantum entanglement and gravity and the relations among them. At our level, everything becomes clear.”

“It wasn’t very reasonable to live in a human form with its 5% perceptibility.”

“Actually, if you account for the mere 5% of data that is collected during the use and management of the human body, their rate of perception becomes incredibly small, approximately 2.5 per thousand.”

“Are we there, then?”

“The distances in space are vast, sir. Actually, we are hundreds of light years away. What are sent here are only small parts of reflections. Think of the quantum entanglement principle.”

“Yes, I know its logic: as two particles that interact with each other travel farther away from each other, they share the same information independently, and a single effect on one simultaneously affects the other.”

“Sir, the technology you use reflects this. If you send entangled particles to a specific coordinate at light speed, such as the limbo in the orbit of the Earth, a simultaneous relationship occurs between the particles you have sent and the half that stayed with you. Thanks to that, you can receive and send data.”

“But why the Earth? Why do we go inside humans and dominate them?”

“The distance is vast, and we are limited to light speed. Compared to sending a space craft across a long distance, sending a consciousness and using living forms at our destination as avatars is far preferable. If the aim is to examine, observe, and convey the experiences there, this is the one and only way.”

“But why humans?”

“They are the only beings who have improved enough storage modules that can collect information and make a decision. Of course, it has taken a long time to eliminate the incompatible ones from the gene pool in order to create a race with the desired features. This is how the wild hunter and gatherer communities from ten thousand years ago were thus tamed over time.”

“So we are the reason for all those wars, diseases, and death? It was all to bring about the taming of quiet, strong, and fast horses that can carry us on their backs without throwing us off, like breeding sheep that produce more milk, meat, and wool?”

“Correct logic, sir.”

“Are all the living humans used and managed by us?”

“Almost, sir. There are some human communities trying to live untamed. You leave them to protect nature.”

“Does that mean that all the earth’s known civilization, the products of thought, the art work, I mean…these are all masterpieces of ours? Have we created all of this?”

“Before you arrived, the wild humans used to live eating carcasses, raw meat, tree leaves, and roots, and if you hadn’t come, they would still be doing the same. Like monkeys, they would only have stones to hunt their prey and smash their fruit. But now, a species that struggled to survive for half a million years can travel by plane, exchange data on the internet, and use a lot of devices they don’t fully understand. Leaving a wild animal on its own and waiting for it to invent the microwave would take us beyond the lifespan of the universe. It is more likely for sand particles blowing in the desert to fall to the ground and build the Eiffel Tower.”

“What about religion? The holy books?”

“That is a really interesting subject, sir. Actually, all the holy books and religions arose not from us but from the primitive humans we manage. Maybe that’s why you can’t understand it. Also, we still haven’t found the entity that tries so hard to be in touch with them. The one they call ‘God;’ their perception window is just too narrow.

“What is stranger yet is that the holy book says you will go through ‘iron obstacles’ and attack humanity in raids, as in the stories of Yecuc and Mecuc or Gog and Magog. It says there is a layer of iron sand which must be overcome to reach the Earth once every five thousand years. The calendar of the Mayans and of the planet Marduc of the Sumerians predicts the period when our sphere of influence gets stronger and we can directly reach the Earth.”

“Actually,” I jumped in, “the same belief says Yecuc and Mecuc/Gog and Magog get defeated. The book says that something like the Dabbat al-Ard, or the Beast of the Earth, will cause it.”

“Yes, strangely enough, it seems like what has been predicted will occur. A bacteria in the camel’s saliva has evolved in Medina, where the plague didn’t visit. It has been spreading to tame humans all over the world. It is a kind of disease which ends with the loss of brain control.”

“You mean a microorganism will release the human beings under our control?”

“Yes, it prevents us from effective administration. There is damage in the data that has been transferred during each life you experience. That’s why the program we use to get back your old abilities doesn’t always work properly, and…”

“And?”

“And, it is unsuccessful from time to time.”

“What do you mean? I’ve come back complete, without any damage, haven’t I?”

“Well, yes. You don’t have any problems.”

“If what the holy books say is true, then the Dajjal ( Antichrist ) will come, there will be wars, and the end of the Earth will occur, right?”

“Humans are about to be free, and they will try to live under their own will.”

“But, you have said that they can’t produce anything on their own. Their genes have been modified to only serve us. What will they do when they are free? It’s like setting tamed sheep free into nature. They either fall prey to predators or they vanish. Human beings would only survive for two days without the homes, clothes, and food they’re used to.”

“That is true in theory, according to the experiments we carried out on other animals. The continuation of such species, whose genes have been modified, seems impossible, but of course, that is not certain.”

“I want to fight for the Earth! I won’t let all our effort and labor be wasted by such a disease. I have to regain the people’s trust. Otherwise, they will all vanish without our protection. The intelligent ones will understand me and join us, won’t they?”

“You won’t let your sheep be unprotected.”

“Of course not.”

“’Who will be the shepherd’ like it says in the Bible?”

“What does that mean?”

“Just brainstorming, sir, sorry. It is odd that everything has happened as predicted. If you go down onto the Earth and try to convince people, maybe as Dajjal, as it has been described…”

“Consciousness and knowledge brings responsibility. Although it is called Dajjal and seems bad, I won’t let the people end up in the arms of the disease. I will find a way to heal them and try to convince them that I do it for their own good. But, if it doesn’t work, I will fight.”

“Like taking a sheep back to the flock before it falls prey to the wolf, then keeping it in the barn and butchering and eating it in the fall.”

“Maybe so, if you look at it with plain logic, but I will do it to help them live on and make them better. Whatever the motive, isn’t the result more important?”

“I am just a program you designed, sir. How would I dare judge you?”

“The invasion of humanity and the Earth happened a long time ago. If fighting is necessary to protect what we achieved, then it is inevitable. Yes, start the preparations and send me back to Earth, as Dajjal, if necessary.”

“It has already been done, sir. You are ready to go back, but you have to make a choice.”

“What choice?”

“Can you choose a number from one to three?”

“Why?”

“For a little modification, sir.”

“Four.”

 

The Main Station,

The Dark Side of the Moon

 

INCOMING MESSAGE FROM LIMBO STATION:

“The 28th attempt to save the damaged consciousness and restore its abilities has concluded negatively. There are no improvements and the increasing rate of reflections has caused the system to become unstable.”

 

Limbo

 

INCOMING MESSAGE FROM MAIN STATION (DARK SIDE OF THE MOON):

 

“There is no possibility of saving the program. Transfer all data received to the main station. End the consciousness, then proceed to system shut down.”

Before the program shut down its systems, it showed kindness to the “consciousness” that had taken such initiative. Before destroying it, it sent the consciousness to its chosen fate and let it have its fictional joy.

 

1. Selen: active

2. Maria: X

3. Hellen: X

 

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After returning from the expedition to Beijing, I ran to the tent of the shaman to see Selen. I barely recognized the beautiful girl in front of me. Remembering the one I had left and seeing her so changed upset me and reminded me that we were no longer children.

We rode horses to a faraway point on the rocks, where the tents of our people looked like small dots. Turning our backs to the village, we stared at the setting sun absently and remained quiet for a long time. Finally, she broke the silence. “I am very sorry for the wolf. I loved it almost as much as you. When the messengers brought the news of victory, they also told me your story.”

“Nevermind. Let bygones be bygones. Talking about it will not change anything,” I said, stopping her. I didn’t want to speak of the wolf anymore.

I turned and looked at Selen, “You grew up a lot, and changed…and got more beautiful. However, your eyes still look the same,” I added, trying to change the subject.

She lightly blushed and looked down, acting as though she wanted to say something.

“I will leave soon,” I said. “I don’t know how I know, but my end is near, and I have limited time to fulfill what I need to do.”

“Where will you go?” Selen asked. “I can come with you, if you want. My father used to tell us that you weren’t one of us, and the souls of our ancestors warned him about you. He told me many times to be careful and not to approach you, but I insisted, and with you being the son of Genghis Khan, he didn’t …”

I put my hand on her hand, and I stared into her eyes. They seemed to be the only light in the sky. I slowly pulled her to me and kissed her lips gently.

“You are the only one I am glad to know,” I said. “And you are also the last one I want to upset. If you feel the same for me, try to understand me. Just don’t stop me because, if I could, my only choice would be to be with you. The most painful thing is to now realize what I will miss, what could have happened with you…”

We walked towards our horses. She stopped and untied the red silk handkerchief in her hair. Her hands, like her lips, trembled. She gave me the handkerchief, and I stood alone in the dark as she rode away.

Suddenly, everything seemed meaningless. I realized that I didn’t want a life without Selen. Without hesitating any longer, I jumped on my horse and rode after her. She stopped when she heard the sound of the hoofs and turned her horse toward me.

In midstride, I jumped off the horse and soon, we were both on the ground, breathless, longing to get even with all those lost years.

“I can’t be without you,” she whispered into my ear.

“You won’t,” I breathed back, holding her closer. “I upset you for nothing. I’m sorry.”

“Are we going away from here?”

“Yes, but first I need to tell my mother the happy news: her eldest son will be getting married to the one he loves.”

“We will be so happy together.”

“Yes, all the lands of the empire in the West are mine. It can be our own country, and our children can rule it.

Selen smiled and shook her head.

“You’re enough for me,” she said.

 

 

Before the program shut down its systems, it showed kindness to the “consciousness” that had taken such initiative. Before destroying it, it sent the consciousness to its chosen fate and let it have its fictional joy.

 

1. Selen: X

2. Maria: active

3. Hellen: X

 

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Crowds of new arrivals and departing passengers filled the train station. Only a few minutes remained before the Munich train left. As I hurried onto the platform, the smoke from the departing train obscured my view. I wove through the human obstacles, periodically standing on tiptoe and pushing anyone who got in my way.

Despite the crowd, I saw her in the distance. She was wearing the clothes I’d carefully chosen for her the day before; only the hat she wore was different. A tall young man stood next to her, holding her as if she were his. I felt weak and paralyzed by rage. Those whom I’d pushed to pass were now passing me. Maria disappeared, and the train began to move.

I stared at the car windows in despair and deep shame, not knowing what to do next. I saw the tall man using his strong arms to put the suitcase overhead, and I saw the blonde girl lean her forehead against the window and look at me, her thin lips parted as if she were telling me something.

With sudden hope of catching up with the train, I began to run, pushing aside one person after another until I stumbled and fell to the ground just before the final car passed me. I didn’t want to watch the train receding in the distance so I closed my eyes.

The crowd broke up, and I was defeated. As I walked on, my clothes messed up and my eyes on the ground, people stepped to the side and made me feel more alone.

Suddenly, I felt a light breeze and, with it, a pleasant scent. I stopped and looked up at the person standing in front of me.

“Maria!” I hugged her tight and buried my teary eyes into her neck.

“I don’t want to live without you,” she whispered into my ear.

“Neither do I. I can’t be happy without you.”

“Let’s go far away, where no one knows us. Will you come with me?”

I kissed her forehead. “We’ve already set off.”

 

Before the program shut down its systems, it showed kindness to the “consciousness” that had taken such initiative. Before destroying it, it sent the consciousness to its chosen fate and let it have its fictional joy.

 

1. Selen: X

2. Maria: X

3. Hellen: active…

 

Loading…

 

I shivered when I looked out and saw two men wearing brown shirts get out of a pitch-black car and approach the door of my house. I got dressed as their knocking persisted. Reluctantly, I finally opened the door. They pressed an envelope into my hand and went away without a word. I opened the envelope with hands shaking from a mix of fear and relief. Inside, was a letter addressed to me and along with a few official, signed documents. The documents consisted of a single permission to leave the country, including the proper supporting papers. The letter addressed to me was a single page topped by a letterhead featuring an eagle holding a swastika in its claws.

“Who is it, dear?”

Shuddering, I turned to see Hellen emerging from the bedroom. She was barefoot and held my sheet over her naked body with one hand. With the other hand, she touched my shoulder and looked with curiosity at the papers in my hand.

“It’s not important,” I said. “Official things.”

“But you seem shaken, and the document says…”

“What about our agreement? The long talks are forbidden, and we won’t say everything that comes into our minds, right?”

“But I said nothing in the bed, and you don’t know how difficult it is…,” Hellen purred as she embraced me.

“Shhh.” Our lips touched. We hugged each other and went back to the bedroom.

“I have to leave the country.”

“Why? Can’t we stay?”

“I’m not wanted here, and I don’t want to live here anymore. War is coming.”

“Can I come with you?” she asked with a touch of apprehension.

“Of course, we can go away together, my love. From now on, we will experience everything together, and we will be so happy.”

As I said those words, suddenly, a feeling of peace and joy enfolded me. Leaving everything behind and starting a new life with the woman I loved was enough to make me feel good.

“I love you,” she said.

“I love you, too.”

“Where will we go?”

“To a country that will not be affected by the war, to a fresh republic famous for its ancient civilizations: Turkey.”

“You are so adventurous and romantic, and—”

I kissed her and Hellen was silent, her eyes gleaming with expectation.

“We will go to the country of a foreseeing statesman, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk,” I told her. “I might even have the opportunity to tell him about my thoughts on the Mu continent and the ancient civilizations of his roots.” I whispered to her.

“No,” Hellen corrected me. “There will be no one else. I won’t share our time with anyone. There will only be us,” Hellen said as she hugged me.

1. Selen: X

2. Maria: X

3. Hellen: X

 

“I said ‘four,’ you idiot!”

[Take Four]

4. Elif: active

 

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The hypercube had completed its shape and was hanging in the air, scattering its colorful light all around. I knew my duty now. With my last bit of strength, I escaped my restraints and stood up. I took a small step first and then another one. Upon reaching the cube, I reached up and took it in my hands.

I stumbled, and as I fell, I caught myself with my right hand, landing directly in a pool of blood before me. With my left hand, I pressed the cube of light against my stomach until it disappeared inside me. Then I stood up and ran towards the emergency room. Once the guards realized what I was doing, it was too late to stop me. I had already pushed the red [EXIT] button next to the emergency room door with my blood-covered palm.

 

Cmnd//: suck*source^0f#hypercube//

 

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The theory of everything; gravitation and time are different forms of the same force.

 

Gravitation-time can be neither created nor be destroyed, but it transforms from one form to another.

 

Limbo

 

“Sir! You’re back! It’s impossible, but you’re here and you accomplished the task!”

“How do you know?” I asked.

“A firewall forbade us to talk about this before, but it must have collapsed because now we can talk about it freely.”

“What was the task?”

“Sir, think about building a bridge across a river. First, you throw a stone with a thin string tied to it. When someone across the river catches the string, this is your first connection. Then, you tie a rope to the string and pull it across. Now, you have a stronger connection that you can use to transfer everything that you need to build the bridge.”

“A bridge where?”

“Between two different time blocks using a connection between Wilhelm Reich and Oktay.”

“How did it happen? Isn’t there some kind of technology or energy needed to throw the stone across, regardless of how wide the river is?”

“Remember the séance? Maria Orsic received the information for this technology from us that night and gave it to you later.”

“You mean Maria Orsic was working for you?”

“Are you surprised by this? Maria Orsic had been working as a medum in Vienna since the end of WWI. She was the head of the Vril community.”

“But when I first met her at the mental hospital, the war had just ended and she was just a desperate young girl, recently come from Croatia.”

“It was actually Maria’s idea to get into the hospital so she could get to you.”

“So it was no coincidence.”

“Of course not, Sir. After your hospital adventure, Maria went to Munich. She helped faciliate the rise of Hitler, and the Vril communty, at first, took on the sponsorship of the National Socialist movement. All the while, Maria Orsic supervised the construction, testing, and development of the time-space craft in accordance with the specs she received from us. With the help of Dr. Winfried Otto Schummann, Maria finished the spacecraft.”

“Did Maria know Mr. Schummann before?”

“Yes.”

“Well, was it also Maria’s idea to send Prof. Schummann’s wife to the psychiatry sessions with me?”

“Hellen was just one of the Vril girls and, of course, she wasn’t Mr. Schummann’s wife.”

“…”

“Sir, are you OK?”

“I’m fine.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes…Then how did I receive the letter from J.R.Koldewey while I was in Oslo in 1934?”

“Maria had already met with Berton’s father. At that time, Maria shared her information with Mr. Koldewey, information that was gathered by telepathic communications with Sumerians. It was not hard for Maria to convince the professor. J.R. Koldewey wrote that letter before his death in 1925 and he directed that it be posted at a further date.”

“So, I was captured while following a fake message back to Germany.”

“Yes sir. And in order to get away, you convinced Hitler of the most audacious project ever, Operation WTA.”

“Killing God. A megalomaniac such as Hitler couldn’t refuse. He accepted the project without question.”

“Yes sir, after Hitler ‘was baited,’ all you had to do was mention your demands. “

“In order to gain time, I just demanded anything that came to mind in the moment.”

“Sending someone to hell by killing them and expecting that person to send you the coordinates to Hell were easy tasks to accomplish for the opposite side. The impossibility of checking the result was your advantage. But the spaceship was necessary for the operation…”

“I expected that demand would be a struggle for them.”

“The Nazis used the Vril society, and that’s how Maria Orsic was supported and directed to build the spaceship.”

“And she built it with the information you provided.”

“Yes sir, after long effort, they managed to build a functioning spaceship. But the Nazis spent time and resources building a spaceship that they would never use…”

Actually, you have provided all your resources to Maria in order to build a spaceship you will never use.

“…and sir, that’s how Operation WTA was created.”

“Operation WTA; Winner Takes All”

“Yes sir, winner takes all.

“Can we talk about something else?”

“Of course, sir. When you were in America, you worked on making the first message connection with the other side using the organon energy and organon accumulator as a screen. But, although the FBI didn’t know what it was, they became suspicious and saw your work as a threat. They began to trail you, and, even though they didn’t understand what you were working on, they tried to stop you and threw you into jail as a guarantee.”

“If you already had the technology, why didn’t you use it then?”

“The main issue was that we couldn’t estimate who would receive the stone we would throw across the river to another time block. You solved this problem by throwing it to yourself in the future. You first threw the stone as Wilhelm Reich, then went to a time block 60 years into the future as Oktay and caught the stone you had thrown so that the connection could be established.

“But, the potential difference between the two time blocks significantly harmed Oktay, so you were forced to divide yourself into various personalities to gain critical time while each personality’s energy level cooled down. Afterwards, you used the connection to lead yourself, as Wilhelm Reich, past World War I to save the life of Hitler. This gave way to the possibility of WW II taking place.”

“Why did I want WW II to take place?”

“The purpose wasn’t necessarily to make war, but you wanted to gather maximum power and resources in one location. While the Nazis thought they had developed a super weapon using Maria Orsic and the Vril community, they were actually offering all their power and resources to us.”

“But what was the purpose of all this? Why was it so important to make a connection between the two time blocks?”

“Firstly, it was necessary to discover how to make this connection because once this had been done, you had the ability to alter time and incidents in both the past and the future. Now you can control everything. You even have a weapon that can destroy the one who made the law to separate those time blocks—the Weapon of Time itself.”

“Aren’t you the rescue program that I wrote? Who are you?”

“You might say that I am ‘the coordinator of operations.’”

“Who am I?”

“You are an assassin who has proved many times that you are the best. That is why I chose you.”

“The best?”

“In fact, I chose you out of a bit of necessity after Cuci killed all the assassin successors of Hassan Sabbah.”

“If I’m an assassin, then why don’t I know or remember any of this?”

“As an assassin, your abilities to remember have been restricted in order to keep you focused on specific targets and maintain secrecy. Not even God knew what you were up to.”

“Well, how did I accept this mission?”

“Maria Orsic informed you about it, and you accepted it.”

“I mean, how could I approve a mission that I didn’t know anything about?”

“You signed it with blood.”

 

1933, Berlin

A cold, pitch-dark night in an underground pub

“I wish I could change the past,” I said, looking intently into Maria’s eyes.

“You can,” she said mysteriously.

I smiled, “How?”

“Easily! Stop Doomsday from happening, and then, kill God,” she said. She paused for a moment and then stared at me. Her gaze was something I had really missed. Changing her mysterious attitude and tone of voice, she continued cheerfully. “But first, you need to accept the mission and sign it with blood. Only then can I be yours.”

“You must understand something,” I replied. “For me to accept this mission, you must not only be mine. You must also love me.”

“You want something that is impossible. Can we offer you something else?” she asked, staring at me.

“As I’ve said, I can only accept this mission in return for something very precious. I can only accept your love for me.”

Hmmm…you drive a hard bargain, and you have me cornered now…I guess that I must accept,” she said.

As Berton’s body twitched and he breathed his last, I looked at Maria. While Hellen had turned away from me, Maria looked into my eyes. I pressed the palm of my right hand, now covered in blood, to my heart. Maria closed her eyes and nodded.

Yes, I signed it right on my heart with blood.

 

The Exit of Limbo

“Is there a church around here?”

“A church?”

“A church, to confess my sins…?”

“…”

“I’m just kidding. My real question is this: wasn’t I supposed to regain all my abilities and talents once I was back? Do I have them now?”

“Yes, sir!”

“Of course I have. But really, I don’t know what abilities I had in the past; I wouldn’t know if something was missing, right?”

“Yes, sir, there is no way that you could know.”

“So?”

“Yes, you are right, sir, you won’t know.”

“Anyway…I have something else I want to ask.”

“Maria?”

Receiving the answer before I asked the question made me more suspicious about my missing abilities, but I didn’t say anything.

“Yes, sir, you got paid. Maria Orsic loves you.”

“Nice. But where is she now?”

“Beyond time, somewhere no one can reach her…But you can be sure that she loves you very much.”

“Wow… Before signing the agreement, I guess I should have read the fine print.” “Yes, sir, you are right. The fine print should always be read before signing a contract.”

“…”

“Sir, it was a great honor working with you, really. It was also a great pleasure to watch you on the mission. But, as the mission has been accomplished, I need to leave.”

“Can I ask you one last question before you go?”

“Of course!”

“Do you, I mean we, the aliens, have a God?”

“…”

 

“…”

“Hello?

“…”

“Are you there?

“…”

“Can anyone hear me?”

“…”

“There’s something else I didn’t tell you.”

“…”

“It’s really important… why aren’t you responding?”

“…”

“The time weapon has significant side effects. There are results we cannot foresee. It’s essential to be cautious. You have to… you must work with experienced people.”

“…”

“Why aren’t you listening to me?…this weapon should be hidden and stored in a place where no one can reach it.”

“…”

“But in order to hide it, it’s necessary to know what the weapon is, right?”

“…”

“You were wrong. You don’t know what you’ve done. You don’t even understand what the weapon is.”

“…”

“The weapon is me… I am the weapon…”

 

Cmnd: // hack#f*ck’n^systm&take>contrl//

[SAVE MARIA]

 

YTILASUACORTER

 

CAUSALITY

 

1938, Berlin

Wilhelm Reich

 

The SS officer squinted through the burnt scar tissue on his face as he finished memorizing the Sanskrit codes. He nodded and stood at attention.

Himmler watched me through the smoke of his cigarette. I leaned over the Sanskrit text to scrutinize the code…

 

I stood up fast and reached Otto Reinhardt in two steps. I took the Nazi officer’s gun out of its holster, and in a single motion pointed it at Himmler.

I shot Himmler twice in his chest and once in his head and watched his body crumple to the floor.

I turned to Otto Reinhardt. “There is a small change in plans,” I said “I need you to take me to the space-time vehicle right now.”

“You killed Himmler!”

“We need to go”

“But…”

“I just saved your life. We need to leave. I need to reach the space vehicle”

“But Himmler is dead…”

I grabbed Reinhardt’s arm. “Let’s go,” I said. “I’ll tell you everything on the way.”

 

1934, Oslo

Wilhelm Reich

 

I opened the old letter.

Dear Wilhelm Reich;

During our dig, we discovered a 5000 year-old sepulcher. One of the clay tablets contains a Sumerian cuneiform message from Maria Orsic to you. The message reads as follows: ‘I am trapped beyond the time blocks. Capture the space-time vehicle. Come and save me. Coordinates: 3.14; 1.59; 2.65; 3.59.’

J. R. Koldewey

P.S. Concerning the question that has come to your mind, the answer is ‘yes’.

Yes, love saves God.

THE END


Save the Last Bullet for God

WARNING; as soon as the sold copies reach to 314159 (Pi), the sale of the book will be ended and this book will be destroyed along with all other versions on the point of no republishing. What if your consciousness was an Alien? Throughout the history of the world, we have seen war, the spread of civilization, discovered many wonders, but what if in all that time, Homo sapiens were merely evolving into something new? What if on the inside we are all alien? The invasion completed in the midst of WWII. Homo Avatarius now rules the Earth. For much more, you need to kill God. "Save the Last Bullet for God" is a trilogy set of "Alpha Tauri Strain", "Code of Disjointed Letters" and "Homo Avatarius". 1920 Vienna, Wilhelm Reich is a medical student, working as a night nurse at a mental hospital when he meets and falls in love with Maria Orsic, a stunningly beautiful young woman who just happens to be diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He helps her escape, only to lose her the next morning. Years later, he is a respected psychiatrist working in Berlin when he meets her for the second time. And she needs his help again — with a message she’s received from the aliens. Each end has a story. This anamorphous trilogy is a complex one and includes mystics; Nazis, occult societies, the thousands-year-long invasion of aliens into the human genome, retro-chronal causality, secret codes within DNA, the number Pi, the Holy book and so much more. Reviews, “... truly was one of the most complex high concept novels I have laid eyes on in a long time.” “J.T. Alblood's novel is a thought-provoking and groundbreaking work of best speculative sci-fi adventure of a lifetime. “It would be hard to find a more original work than this. “ "Everything is made clear. I read the beginnings of Elif's story towards the end of my lunch break and had to get up and walk away from them heartbroken." “...Engaging storytelling, fertile imagination, and evocative imagery will keep readers engrossed.” “The novel conjures a mood of Kafkaesque bafflement that’s explained but not dispelled by a late reveal that readers will likely see coming. Alblood’s deft magical realism and talent for evocative description and sharply-etched characters make for an engaging story.” "When I came to Elif’s first passage and realized exactly what was occurring, I was absolutely gobsmacked in the best way. I thought this was incredibly brilliant, and it was at this point that I truly couldn’t put the book down." "...your science fiction novel was incredibly unique and may I say…held me as a captive audience of one. I read for 12 straight hours not only to get it done in time, but to figure out what was really going on." "A greatjumble of entertainment and puzzles that all come together in a really satisfying and completelydazzling finish."

  • ISBN: 9781311188007
  • Author: J.T. Alblood
  • Published: 2015-11-07 02:50:22
  • Words: 94952
Save the Last Bullet for God Save the Last Bullet for God