On the Nature Of Extraordinary Things
Altug Çakmakçi 1969 yilinda Üsküdar'da dogdu. Orta ögrenimini Kadiköy Anadolu Lisesinde tamamladi. Istanbul Teknik Üniversitesi Kontrol ve Bilgisayar Mühendisligi bölümünde bilgisayar mühendisligi egitimi gördü.
Ilk romani "Simdiki Zamanin Tarihi" Tekin Yayinevi tarafindan 2005 yilinda yayimlandi. Ikinci romani "Öfke" halen yayima hazirlanmaktadir.
Altug Çakmakçi yazim yasamina Toronto'da devam etmektedir. Ingilizce yazdigi kisa öyküleri Türkiye ve çogunlukla Istanbul'u konu edinmektedir.
On The Natire of Extraordinary Things
The scream was unusual.
I heard it coming from a stone throwing distance. Only if the wind carried by the waves of Black Sea was not misleading me. I shut the gate of the sheep fold and hurried to the direction.
Fadime Hanim’s yard was already covered by the nosey neighbors. She was lying on her daughter Sukran’s lap, eyes closed. Someone brought lemon cologne and made her take a sniff while washing the poor woman’s face with nearly half of the bottle. As she came to her senses questions followed.
“What happened, Fadime Hanim?”
She raised her shaking arm slowly and pointed to a black rock, as big as a giant watermelon, sitting next to the poultry-house.
“That rock,” she said her voice shaking. “It was not here yesterday,” she said followed by a wave of sobbing and shivering.
Abdi Emmi, who was well over eighty, took a few steps to the black rock.
“Is that all?” He asked turning back. “Is this why you scared the hell of us?”
“But you don’t understand’” Fadime Hanim resisted. “That stone was not here yesterday. It is a sign of evil. Something wicked is approaching our house.”
Everyone shook their heads murmuring and walked back to their houses.
Fadime Hanim called me waving and asked me to carry away the evil rock.
“Ana. If you like, Halil can help too,” said Sukran pointing to the guy reclining to a pear tree.
“No,” shouted back Fadime Hanim. “Metin is enough. And what did I tell you? I don’t want you to talk to that loser. Do you think that broke can pay for your bonnet money? You are hindering your kismet.”
I heard Sukran sigh but focused on thinking how to move the big rock.
To take the goats to the meadow, one has to climb the hill that harbors the houses of our village and shields the high lands from the salty cold winds carried by the soaring waves of Black Sea. Breathtaking scenery the villagers call it. But, once I reach the top of the hill, I immediately step down to the narrow path without peeking at the scenery. For me, happiness is the rocky road to high lands. A calm wind stirs the moisture in the mid-air like painting it to a shade of blue. Tiny streams that will merge at the low lands yielding to Coruh River wash the little stones making the most marvelous music one has ever heard. The grass joins the tune by cuddling the corn roses that are as red as the sun at dawn. The goats run down the path silently, choosing the places to step to so carefully not to ruin the melody. The elderly trees bow their branches in gratitude while young ones drop an apple or two to the traveling friends. Even if you listen very carefully, you can notice a tiny voice like a whisper concerting to the song of nature.
The day after Fadime Hanim found the black rock in her yard was no different. I was merrily walking down the path among the goats with my eyes wide open to the beauty greeting me. Right then, I saw it there hiding among the leaves of a hornbeam tree. It was shiny, but in an unusual way, like colors fading away from it. It was flying but not like a bird or a bee, so softly and gently. It did not look frightening, but it was my heart pounding like it never did. It was on this earth, but did not seem to belong to it.
It appeared and disappeared between the branches of the tree and flew away leaving a golden trail behind. I could not move for a while. I was speechless. Still, what good it would make if I could utter a few words. Would I tell my grief to the goats?
Evening approached earlier than usual. I herded the goats back to the village and as I saw our house from the top of the hill, I felt an uncontrollable temptation to call for my grandmother who was the only one who would enlighten me. I got all the goats back to their owners hurriedly. Nothing would distract me, nothing but the same big black rock at the yard of Fadime Hanim’s house, sitting at the same spot solidly.
I rushed back home and found my grandmother praying the evening namaz. Stepping back silently, I went to the bathroom and washed my hands before heading for dinner.
“It is all about that mystic man who died on the same winter your father passed,” my grandmother murmured entering the room. “No one could understand that the man was a ‘dervish’, an ‘evliya’, a holly-man. He deserved a better funeral. I remember that rainy day the poor man was buried. Only a few of you,” she was pointing to my father who was busy with the soup, “was there at the funeral namaz. All the men of the village should be there, you know. So, he cursed at us leaving his genies at the village. That’s why Fadime Hanim finds that same black rock in the middle of her nest.”
“Ana, stop it,” said my mother. “You are terrifying the children.”
“Am I terrifying the children? Are these children? I was married to your father at Ayse’s age. Is she a child? And Metin. He will be a soldier in a few years.”
“Ana, I told you he will not do his military service… You know why…”
“Why?” I asked.
“Eat your soup,” my father spoke with his deep voice. He filled his spoon silently.
“It is the curse of that evliya, I tell you,” my grandma insisted. I was dying to ask her what an evliya looked like, if it had wings, or would float in the air leaving a trace behind.
“Enough,” said my mother. “You started to become senile.”
“Me,” she looked deep into her daughter’s eyes. “Do you realize what you call me?” She took a deep breath. “As you behave like this, you will pay it in after-life. You will burn in hell and I won’t save you from the flames of hell fire.”
“Eat your soup,” my father said again. I looked at him and realized that I was frozen with a spoon full of soup in my hand.
Loosing my sleep, I stepped out of the window that night while the moon was still rising to the top of the lighthouse. The shadows were pale but long, painting the muddy soil to black. I walked along the barns and poultry-houses like a ghost. I found my path among the thick stench of roosters and chickens and those flies around cows and bulls. Hearing a night owl hoot or a barn creak, I was hiding behind a straw bale, smelling its alluring odor and waiting for the noise to fade away.
I suddenly heard that weird noise coming from Fadime Hanim’s barn. I quietly approached the wooden wall and looked for a crack to peek into. I found one where the howling like voice was more audible. I saw Sukran lying on straw bales panting with a sound like a cow giving birth to a calf. The white rays of moon were reflecting from her naked body. I saw her breast, white and round like the almighty moon. Her voice and the moisture arising from her body were growing together. I was so stunned and twisted that I hardly realized Halil going back and forth on her with a wet howling, and touching the beautiful moon occasionally. I started feeling a cramp in my stomach and sensed that I was sweating. My heart was telling me to run away. So I did.
Sukran opened the gate of the wooden fence and let their goats join the herd.
“It is breezy this morning,” she said unexpectedly.
Avoiding looking at her as if I would see her white breast I stared at the black rock.
“How is Fadime Hanim?”
“So-so,” she replied. “If that black rock keeps on appearing, she will soon go mad for sure.”
“We’ll carry the rock and toss it into Coruh River today. I hope it will end the curse, or whatever it is.”
“Evliya,” I murmured poking the goats with a long stick.
On the other side of the hill I filled my lungs with the wind blowing from east carrying the scent of young tea leaves. Crossing the old hornbeam tree, I saw it again, a few meters above the green leaves, floating in the air. Its fluid body looked like it was made of pure light that glittered in different colors shifting from the red of a flame to its blue. It had a face, but not human. Two shadows like eyes, a twinkle like a nose and two blue arches on each side meeting at the chin. The silhouette of something beautiful, something extraordinary.
I tried to say something to it to attract its attention but puffed out just a noisy whiff. It acted like it heard me though. It flew around the tree, made a sharp turn and floated towards me like drifted by the wind. It left a cloud of sound to my ear not like someone talking but you could hear it among dense voices saying “Don’t follow me.”
I did though. I forgot about the goats and ran after the colors painting the air and leaving a pale track behind. All of a sudden it stopped. Its colors darkened. It grew bigger, like covering the whole scene around it.
I stopped, frightened.
I could feel the clouds gathering on us and covering the earth like a thick quilt. In seconds it started to pour down. The goats were bleating in distance. I looked back to see them. When I looked back the thing was gone.
“Did you ever see a genie?”
My grandmother stopped knitting hearing my question and put the knitting needles down.
“Well” she sighed. “I’m not sure.”
“I might have seen one,” she said taking a deep breath. “You know only three kinds of people can see genies. A dervish, a woman in the first forty days after giving birth, and an insane but naïve person. Well, it was a hot summer night, ten days after your mother’s birth. I was sitting in front of the open window, pleading for a puff of breeze…”
Ayse came in running.
“You naughty girl,” my grandmother implied. “You are just like your mother. You like to scare people.”
“What were you talking about?” Ayse asked.
“None of your business,” I replied. But my grandmother put her hand on mine and pulled Ayse beside her.
“Here,” she said pointing. “Sit here. I am telling a story from the old days. Listen carefully now. Where was I? Yes… It was hot and the window was wide open. Then, for a moment a mild wind flew in and wandered the room. I felt relieved and closed my eyes. And when I opened them, I saw the genie right through the open window, hanging in the air.”
“What did it look like?” I asked excited.
“It’s hard to tell. It didn’t look like anything I knew; still looked like many things, maybe all of the things at once.” She scratched her grey hair. “Maybe, it was an illusion. My eyes betrayed me. I don’t know.”
I could feel a gulp of air stuck at my throat like a stone neither moving up or down. I wanted to tell what I saw today to grandmother, but Ayse was in the room too. She would make fun of me, mock me till the end of my lousy life.
My grandmother was looking at me. I knew that she would sense everything and eventually would ask me what was wrong, and I would have to admit all. I looked up. I saw her smiling at me.
“I saw a genie today,” I said hardly holding my breath afterwards.
“What did you see?” Ayse screamed.
“I saw that thing,” I said to my grandmother. “While walking down the path, hidden between the branches of a hornbeam tree. It looked like it was made up of all colors. It was leaving a trace behind when flying in the air.”
My grandmother hushed me.
“No, you did not see a genie. Your eyes tricked you; that’s all. You hear me? Hear me good.”
“That lunatic saw a genie,” Ayse screamed.
“Hush,” said my grandmother quietly. “No one saw anything. And your brother is not lunatic.”
“He is,” Ayse insisted. “The entire village knows that he had gone mad when he was a child.”
“No, you’re wrong. He only got sick and had fewer. But he got better in a few days. Don’t believe what the others say. Your brother is sane. He will join the army soon.”
“No, he won’t, grandmother. You know that. And you don’t want others to hear that he saw a genie, because you know that only certain people can see genies. Right?”
“You are just like your mother, you little witch.”
Ayse left the room crying.
“Listen to me, my boy,” my grandmother said. “Sometimes we see things that we can’t explain. This is normal. It is the nature of extraordinary things. They are not meant to be explained. So if you see something that looks weird to you, you would better keep it to yourself. Otherwise, people would have wrong opinions about you. Do you understand me?”
“Do you?” she asked again.
“I do,” I said and hugged her tight. Then I saw my mother at the door holding Ayse’s hand and looking at us with fury.
I spent the next day looking for the genie. I climbed the hill on the other side of the river, herded the animals close to our neighboring village, walked along Coruh River, but I didn’t see a trace of it. Feeling exhausted, I lied down to the shadow of a hornbeam tree and without noticing gone asleep.
When I woke up it was nearly evening. I gathered the goats in a hurry and herd them back from a shortcut through the tea gardens. Just before reaching the top of the hill covered by tea leaves, I saw Halil in the old hut where tea pickers stored tea sacks during harvest. First I decided to call him. Then I changed my mind and approached the hut slowly. The door was wide open. I could see him painting something in the room. He was moving his brush on a rock as big as a watermelon, painting it to pitch black.
The entire scene looked weird to me. I thought for a while and remembering my grandmother’s advice decided to keep this as a secret, just for myself, as another extraordinary thing.