Turkish men don't usually pay attention to stop signs. The only thing slowing them down is a puddle or a pot hole...wouldn't want to ruin the suspension, you know. Sometimes a pretty girl can muck up the lanes too.
I guess the Turks want to keep up with the Italians...and the Spanish.... (Click here for a Creepy Query Girl's amusing true story about driving in France.)
And since we're talking about monsters, here's a furry blue one I thought you'd appreciate...
Now for Justin Parente's Hook Line and Sinker Blogfest, here are the first pages of BURNT AMBER.
The price of life I gladly, freely pay,
So I may know my soul's inheritance.
- Edwin Liebfreed
The apartment was suffocating. Modern maybe, but euro-sized, which was especially harsh for a dorm. I rooted through the crammed hall closet for a sweatshirt and winced when one touched the sore spot on my hand. The hoodie fell to the floor.
I didn’t know why, but residual pain from my nightmares was lingering longer than usual, ever since I started the semester in Istanbul. My dad wasn’t able to figure out the dreams either and he was a psychiatrist. He said deciphering the reason behind them might help me understand who I was. I only hoped. At least my first class mental case gave him some interesting research material. I shoved my sneakers on and slammed the door on the way out.
The halls were quiet still, but Seyhan was waiting for the elevator. I would have taken the stairs if he hadn’t noticed me. Well-built with clear olive skin and beautiful brown eyes, he was attractive and he knew it. Even his designer track suit coordinated with the Casanova attitude. It looked like he was going out for a run too.
“Gunaydin , Sybil. Would you care to join me?” He grinned.
“Good morning to you too, Seyhan.” I couldn’t say no, although I was kind of happy for the escort. By myself I’d have to stay on campus because I promised my parents not to go off into the city alone. Plus I didn’t really appreciate the extra attention I got when I did. If I went with him I might manage a longer run.
“Do you think we can make it down to Starbucks and back by eight?”
“Starbucks? I was just going to run around the track a couple of times,” he said.
“Sorry, I can’t stand the Nescafé anymore.” I frowned.
The track was on the north campus too. Nothing there would divert him from his special mission, Project Find Time Alone with Sybil. All the female exchange students had at least one Turkish guy latch on at the beginning of the semester. Unfortunately, Seyhan had chosen me and never let go. Thank God I didn’t have much time left in Turkey.
“The cafeteria will be open by the time we get back. My treat.” He stepped aside as the elevator opened.
“What? It’s not every morning you get to spend such quality time with me.” He winked.
I escaped into the dense fog which had settled between the hills overnight, obscuring even a glimmer of the Bosphorus Strait below. Dawn prompted the call to prayer and the sound resonated off the buildings, intensifying as other minarets began their broadcast in an eerie chorus. A faint acrid odor of coal-fired heaters still tainted the late April air. I wrinkled my nose in response. Seyhan sensed my dark mood so we took off for the Boğaziçi University athletic complex around the corner without saying a word.
I put my water down on the bleachers and hesitated for a small second before picking up my earbuds. I preferred the alone time, especially if my other option was talking to Seyhan.
“Do you mind? You’re probably much faster than me anyway. I’ll slow you down.” Flattery usually worked with him. Running was one of the few things where I could honestly say I outclassed most people.
He looked a bit let down but immediately recovered. “We’re still having breakfast, right?”
“Right,” I forced a smile as I finished my stretch. Seyhan shrugged his shoulders and ran off.
I loaded up my favorite playlist then started out at a leisurely rate. My mind wandered through the plans for the day, but came back around to the dream. There weren’t any new details since the last time. Still, I picked apart every facet as I replayed it in my head.
Hot tears streamed down my face and I gasped for air between the sobs threatening to choke me. A massive black enamel ring with a white cross dug into my finger as a priest squeezed my tiny hand tight, wrenching my arm and pulling me away from a bed covered with lavishly embroidered linens.
The old man asleep in the bed couldn’t hear me calling out to him. His skin was extremely pale and I realized he must be dead, or dying. An intense flash of light blinded me and the priest finally succeeded in prying me off. Raw red skin where the linens slipped through my hand burned.
The dream was vivid and the concentrated sense of loss accompanying it left a throbbing ache inside. I sped up to focus my heart on another function.
The ring was connected to the Knights of Malta. CNN had randomly featured the Queen of England accepting a scroll from them and when the camera zoomed in on the handshake, I noticed the man was wearing the same ring. A brotherhood left over from the crusades was weird thing to dream about. Wikipedia didn’t lead to any specific conclusion, though I discovered Maltese Crosses were used by lots of organizations, which left part of me wanting to understand the dreams and part of me that didn’t. I wasn’t enthusiastic about a possible outlaw biker gang in my family tree.
My shirt was riding up. I yanked it down over my midriff, especially the left side, making sure it covered the faint blue tattoo on my hip.
The Latin verse hovered just beneath my skin, like it was applied from the inside, backwards. In vinculis e tiam audax...In chains yet free. Surrounded by a Celtic knot, the chain I guess, and coiled up in a counter-clockwise spiral so tight, the whole thing could fit on a pencil eraser. You had to use a mirror and a magnifying glass to figure out what it said.
So…Irish biker gang trying to snare the devil maybe? I had no clue. But I did know something was making the mark darker and the dreams were more frequent than ever.
Seyhan stopped me.
“Sybil!” he gasped, out of breath. “I’ve been trying to catch up with you this whole last lap! What are you running away from? Me?” He asked with a bemused smile.
I switched off the music, ignoring the last remark. “Sorry. I was thinking and got into a nice pace I guess.”
“More like you were off in your own world,” he said. “We should get back to the dorm if you want to be ready for class.”
The morning was not going well. Incomprehensible nightmares, no Starbucks, no longer run. And I still had to meet him for breakfast. At least I was getting all the bad karma out early in the day.