TWIN HOPES – A science-fiction story

❝A total of eight babies were born alive. They were all born in this lab, for my experiments. I have not kidnapped anyone; I have not smuggled people. I did not go against ethics. They were all my people! It is ethical when other scientists generate organs out of stem cells, but it is not when I produce organisms. Is that so? Who says that? Is it my colleagues jealously gritting their teeth because they cannot invent something useful by any chance?❞

It is a one-part science fiction story. Have a good read.

There was little chance of an event happening that could change the life of an adult in her late twenties who had already left behind the stormy years of high school and the joyful years of college and who had spent her weekdays working in front of a computer in an air-conditioned office for over eight seasons. As rare and almost miraculous as the formation of DNA from the primordial soup of a planet containing liquid water, two of such events, however, happened to Şule in the same hour.

One gloomy Monday morning, the young woman with her hair tied at the back was reading the news while sipping her granulated coffee mixed with cheap whitener. When she saw a headline that read “World-shaking incident! Illegal human experiments in Greece!” on a stock image of a lab purchased online, she rolled her eyes. She thought it was one of those stupid contents crafted as clickbait. Still, she clicked on the article so as to have an excuse for wasting a little more time before she set about her work for the day.

“World-shaking incident! Illegal human experiments in Greece!

An incredible scandal showed up following a drug raid at the old university building in Athens.

After the closure of Didymoi University in Athens in 1993, Professor Ilias Barakos, one of the country’s few wealthiest people, purchased the school’s land, its buildings, and all its fixtures and equipment as private property. Barakos had taken measures to prevent strangers from trespassing in the land and announced that he was conducting important scientific research and would publicize the results.

This led to a reaction on the part of some academics in the country. Faculty members arguing that a university land should not be the property of a single person repeatedly reported to the authorities that Barakos was doing illegal work inside. The land was raided by the police several times over the past twenty-five years.

Compartments underground hid crimes

The most recent raid was made when a local citizen came forward saying he saw Barakos’ aides burying bags filled with white dust in the soil.

At 3 o’clock at night, police troops entered the Didymoi land from all directions. As the buildings were searched, a policeman found one of the aides trying to break into a pit in the middle of the field.

The pit turned out to be the exit for one of the tunnels leading to the underground compartments, which remained undiscovered until today.

A scene reminiscent of medieval dungeons

In the compartments below there were no drugs but a gruesome sight. Unidentified half-naked people were found in cells separated by iron bars. The individuals, ages 25 to 27, were reported to not even know how to speak.”

While the news article went on, Şule’s blood was running cold, and she had no strength to read the rest. She sighed and pressed the top right button. “So many lies just to get a click!” she thought.

She worked pensively until her lunch break. She could not get her mind off that news article. Her imagination envisioned the likely story of those poor people dressed in rags, and the images she produced became more and more sad. She finally decided to do some more research. She typed “Ilias Barakos” into the search engine and chose English as the language. Here, on the first page, hot news reports by world-famous news channels were listed.

She clicked on the link which read: “Barakos, the lead figure in the human experiments scandal: I have not kidnapped anyone, I have not smuggled people. I did not go against ethics. (CCB, 14 hours ago)”

This website featured a news report similar to the post she read on the website she visited in the morning. A testimony by the suspect was also included here. The professor admitted to having experimented with those people and even told that he had only purchased the university land for this purpose. However, the subjects had not been kidnapped and brought to the laboratory from outside.

“I produced them all myself,” the professor said. “The placenta or, in terms you can understand, the piece of flesh expelled from the mother’s womb during labor, is very rich in stem cells. Stem cells are our building blocks! They can transform into all tissues and organs.

I separated the stem cells from the placentas I had people collect from various hospitals. I produced an artificial human womb using the first incoming cells. I controlled and activated this organ by means of low-voltage electric currents. Then I placed other stem cells in the uterus and let them grow into embryos. A total of eight babies were born alive. They were all born in this lab, for my experiments. I have not kidnapped anyone; I have not smuggled people. I did not go against ethics. They were all my people!

It is ethical when other scientists generate organs out of stem cells, but it is not when I produce organisms. Is that so? Who says that? Is it my colleagues jealously gritting their teeth because they cannot invent something useful by any chance?”

Feeling a chill, Şule glanced through the lower paragraphs. The assistant who was responsible for collecting the placentas told during his interrogation that he had paid visits to a number of hospitals in Greece, Bulgaria, and Turkey. At the very bottom was a link to photos of the “lab people.”

Although she fought herself not to look at the photos, her curiosity prevailed in the end. Trying to avoid catching the subjects’ blank glances, she first read the informational captions under each image. Barakos had named them with Greek ordinal numbers. The male subjects’ names ended with “-os”, and the female subjects’ names ended with “-a”. Protos… Deftera… Trita… Tetartos… Pemptos… Ektos… Ebdomos… Enata…

After she had scrolled the page several times, she mustered the courage to look directly at the subjects. She looked slowly up at their faces. When Deftera’s turn came, her heart skipped a beat. Her eyebrow shape, her eyes, her nose, her lips, her chin, her cheekbones… She knew this face. This face was her own. The subject named—or numbered—Deftera was as similar to Şule as her twin sister.

Her blood pressure dropping, she suddenly felt faint. She had to take time off from work and spend the rest of the day at home.

Since they were born out of cells stolen from placentas, these people must have been the genetic twins of free people living in the outside world. It took more than two weeks for Şule to recover from her shock. She consulted the authorities and provided them with a DNA sample to find out if Deftera really was her genetic twin. When she went to the hospital, she sought a consultation with a physician from another specialty and had an X-ray of her aching shoulder. It was a long-standing, insidious but bearable pain. That is why she had postponed her examination until that day.

The days of her waiting, while few, were very slow. Eventually, Şule went to the hospital to learn both the gene test result and the x-ray results.

She was stunned when she entered the lounge in the genetics unit. Her twin, who was given a short haircut and dressed in a hospital gown, was sitting right there, staring in front of her with a still expression. As soon as the results were released, Greek authorities had sent Deftera to Turkey.

“Alone in a lonely, helpless, crowded and colorful life,” she thought. She felt her heart broken. Without any hesitation or a feeling of remoteness, she walked up to her and softly spoke her name.

Deftera raised her head when she heard the voice. She looked into Şule’s eyes. Somehow, Şule, the twin who grew up in the heart of society, felt an urge to cry.

There was a policeman with the stranger girl. Şule left them to learn the x-ray results and went to the doctor’s room. She wanted to get her muscle relaxant prescription and go out to the garden as soon as possible. In fact, there was no need to even go to the doctor for this simple shoulder pain. Why did she want to get this job out of the way last week and wasted time anyway?

She thought very strange events awaited her in the days ahead. It was because Şule had not told her parents anything yet.

“They have no idea you exist. They probably didn’t even think of you. You aren’t aware, either, that they exist, however. O stranger, let’s see if you’ll love this huge world! Have you ever imagined the cities, the seas, the fields that lie behind the walls of that hell called the laboratory?” she thought to herself.

She entered the doctor’s room and settled on the armchair. Not noticing the dark, painful look on the doctor’s face, she lined up her questions. Only five minutes was enough for Şule, who was glowing with joy, to come out of the room sobbing. Five minutes, two words.

There was very little chance of an event happening that radically changed the life of a twenty-six-year-old adult who had everything going for her, but in a single hour two of such events happened to her. One was Deftera’s arrival; the other was that the doctor said he suspected lung cancer just seconds ago. Additional tests were required to make a definitive diagnosis, but even the possibility was enough for Şule to shed tears.

Color MRI… Biopsy… PET-CT… It was soon realized that the doctor’s suspicions were correct.

Şule had to undergo heavy chemotherapy. The lung cancer had progressed in the most insidious way possible and spread to surrounding tissues without any symptoms except shoulder pain. The doctors were talking privately among themselves that there was little chance of success. In the meantime, Şule’s parents arrived in Istanbul from Edirne to support her.

In the hustle and bustle, Deftera’s presence could be forgotten. However, Şule wanted her twin with her even in her most sluggish condition. She sat her next to herself and tried to teach her to speak, to read and write, and simple math. This was the sick woman’s greatest source of good spirits. Time was passing cruelly fast. One’s hair was growing while the other one’s was shedding; one’s body was recovering while the other one’s was melting.

As the treatment process progressed, a growing fear of death swept Şule. She came to regard Deftera more as a surrogate who would replace her after her death and continue her unfinished life than as a sister. She tried to prepare her for this “duty” by explaining her one by one everything she liked, took an interest in, thought, or opposed during her healthy life.

She asked for the CD player, which had fallen from popular esteem since smartphones came out, from the far back shelf of the pantry. For three days, she rotated the disc with a red-haired girl scratched on its cover and had her memorize her favorite song under the weary glances of the nurses.

“Come, look, sky is still on one of…” started Şule.

“… my hands,” continued Deftera.

“And shooting stars on other.”

“La la…”

When the doctor bluntly said, “We can get your daughter out of the hospital and terminate the treatment,” it was three months into the diagnosis. “Chemotherapy has no effect anymore, other than to cause her pain; cancer cells have already spread to all of her organs. It would be much better for her to spend her last days at her home.”

As the mother and father listened to these bitter words, they heard a scream from Şule’s room reaching the end of the corridor. The doctors, nurses and parents filled the room, ready for any intervention. However, the girl’s scream was not caused by pain or ache.

“Deftera is not here!” the patient was crying, with hiccups. “She ran!”

Indeed, the former subject was nowhere in the hospital. She had left no trace behind. For three days, they searched all over Istanbul for the young woman, who had dropped off the face of the earth. They reported to the police offices around Turkey. Meanwhile, as Şule’s only source of good spirits was gone, she got worse and was taken to intensive care following her loss of consciousness.

“Say goodbye, get ready,” the doctors were saying. “She won’t wake up.”

At the end of the third day, the family received a phone call from Edirne Police Department. Deftera was caught trying to escape from Turkey to Greece. Although she was interrogated at the police station, she never spoke. The court ruled for her acquittal on the grounds that her perception ability was still lacking and therefore she did not have criminal liability.

When Şule’s father returned to the hospital with Deftera, the patient was still in intensive care. Her mother was waiting in a seat in front of the service, and her eyes were red from weeping. The former subject walked into a corner. She leaned against the wall. She put her index finger in her mouth and touched her little tongue. She was vomiting. First, the remnants of the last meal she ate came out, then some gastric juice, and finally a portable memory in a plastic package.

With the memory opened, the facts were revealed. Before she left the lab, Deftera secretly had taken a portable memory containing important documents with her and threw it on the ground so that it could not be found while passing through customs. When she escaped from the hospital and came back here, she swallowed it and hid it in her stomach so that it would not be taken away from her.

Ilias Barakos was talking about a method called “Phoenix Therapy” in the files in this flash memory.

“Phoenix, Anqa, Simurgh… Known by different names in many cultures, this mythological bird inspired me to develop my revolutionary scientific treatment method.

As you know, when Phoenix gets old and approaches death, it starts to burn. After turning into a handful of ashes, he shakes his hairless, fresh head as a baby so that he is born out of his ashes. In my opinion, this mechanism symbolizes the life cycle of cancerous cells.

Normal human cells cannot divide an unlimited number of times. Cleavage is controlled by long strings of bases called ‘telomeres,’ located at the ends of chromosomes. These sequences decrease with each division. When telomeres shorten to the critical point, cells stop dividing.

So a Phoenix representing normal cells could not be born from its ashes in all its freshness every time. He is born a little older each time, and at the end of a few life cycles, he would irreversibly burn down.

Cancerous cells, on the other hand, have the capacity to divide infinitely. They gain these properties through the telomerase enzyme. Telomerase preserves telomere length, limiting the number of divisions.

While this enzyme is not active in normal cells, it is very active in cancerous cells. Therefore, experimental studies on treatments targeting the telomerase enzyme are continuing in the academic world.

I, on the other hand, developed this treatment using an opposite approach. Phoenix therapy aims to increase, not reduce, the said enzyme. It is not necessary to reduce the cancer cells, but rather to increase them and ensure that they cover the whole body.

Because only two types of cells have high division ability and telomerase activity: cancer cells and stem cells.”

After this paragraph, oncologists were sure the study was ridiculous and stopped reading. Only Doctor Gökhan, who was in charge of Şule’s care, took it seriously and stayed in his room all night to read and evaluate the entire study.

Barakos listed the common characteristics of cancer cells and stem cells in the remainder of the study. For him, cancer was not a disease, but an opportunity for rebirth and renewal. The cause of cancer death, in turn, was the incompatibility between cancer cells and normal cells.

In the first phase of the treatment, it was necessary to destroy normal cells and to ensure the rapid proliferation of cancer cells. However, they had to complete this process and be over with it within hours. Otherwise, the incompatibility would hinder the functioning of the organs and cause death.

When the body became composed of cancer cells, these cells would be “trained” and restored to their previous DNA makeup. The second phase of the treatment needed to occur in the following order:

  1. The body would be moved to a cold environment, thus slowing down the metabolism and cell division.
  2. The techniques used during the production of organs from stem cells would be applied exactly on these new cells. Thus, the cells would specialize and regenerate the old tissues.
  3. After making sure that all cells were differentiated and symptoms such as excessive division and telomerase activity ceased, the body would be taken to a warm environment to accelerate the metabolism and the healing process.

Barakos admitted in the final parts of his study that the chances of success with this method of treatment were extremely low. “However…” he said, “if it is applied accurately, it will be possible to cure even the most severe cancer patient within a maximum of eight hours. The Phoenix legend was not spoken in vain; we humans are Phoenix. As long as we face rebirth and face death.”

The doctor, who wanted to apply this treatment to Şule as a last resort, initially encountered a great reaction from his colleagues. This unusual treatment proposal was against the rule which was the basis of medicine: “primum non nocere”, i.e. “First, do no harm!”

However, Gökhan insisted because he thought they should give this remedy a try. He carried out the procedures, signed documents that he assumed all responsibilities. Finally, it was decided to try the Phoenix therapy on Şule.

The discussions lasted two days. Meanwhile, Deftera had retreated to the room vacated by Şule. The hospital was so busy that no one was interested in her or questioned why she stayed there. The former subject was running the CD player at a low volume and listening to“Don’t Leave Me” over and over.

On the night of the treatment, the mother and father waited without sleep, hugging each other. As the day dawned, the fate of their daughters would become clear. Şule would either lie ice-cold on her bed or open her eyes to a new life.

The hour and minute hands were very lazy that night. Sleep was also shy and coward… The hours never passed. The eyelids of the doctors and those waiting were refusing to close.

There was an oncologist at the hospital who was never convinced of this method of treatment and strongly opposed it: Doctor Altan. He claimed that Phoenix therapy would kill the patient 100 percent, and urged the family and other doctors to give up. Nobody saw him on the night of the treatment. Şule’s doctor was more hopeful and proud in the absence of Altan. He was already in the mood for victory.

In the early hours of the morning, the body in the bed opened her eyes. She was still exhausted, but healthy. The light hitting her face caused her to squint out of reflex. The parents were waiting speechlessly, while the doctor was tearing up with joy and saying “We did it!”

This peaceful moment was interrupted when the door opened wide. Doctor Altan entered with the police behind him. While the police were directly handcuffing doctor Gökhan, who was suspected of Şule’s murder, he asked the family “Did you like what you did? You destroyed your daughter. Are you happy?”

He walked over to the living body in bed. “I tried to explain it to you. I tried to explain since the beginning. It is not the number of brain cells that determines a person’s personality, but the connections between those cells, that is, the electrical currents. You can generate the cells. But how do you bring the links back? Those links were all of Şule’s experiences and memories since she was a baby. It was a sense of self. You destroyed them all. Congratulations!”

“You are lying, here is our daughter alive!” the mom objected.

“Your daughter is alive, huh? Do you think that breathing organism is still your daughter? Yes… They carry the same genes. But they are not the same person. Just as Deftera and Şule are different people despite having the same genes, this nameless body and your daughter are also different people. Moreover, this new body will not even have a personality. Because there is no exchange between her synapses. Her brain is empty, entirely empty! She doesn’t even have the ability to learn. Enjoy your new child, who has only basic reflexes and will live and die as a piece of flesh!”

Not having uttered a word since the beginning, the father broke his silence saying “Why didn’t our doctor tell us these?”

“Your doctor didn’t even care about your daughter. Your doctor acted with the same motivation as Barakos; he was only after fame and money. Primum non nocere! First, do no harm! We, as doctors, look for ways not to harm a patient even more before we look for a treatment. Hippocrates did not make that statement for nothing centuries ago. Your doctor intentionally and knowingly destroyed Şule’s millions of healthy cells. He deliberately killed Şule.”

The mother cried out. Şule’s doctor was taken to the police station, to his future where he would be arrested with a demand for life imprisonment. At the same time, Deftera was lying on her bed in the room unaware of everything and listening to the song.

“Both fears and hopes are mine. Don’t leave me… Don’t leave me…”

Alternative link for the song

News About “Yedinci Mum” (The Seventh Candle)

When will the first volume of the Seven Candles Series come out? I cannot give an exact date, but I can say that it will be soon. The proofreading is over; we are working on the cover and the back cover text.

It’s one of the covers I use on the internet. This cover will not be included in paperback edition. Thanks to designer Gülnur-E

Last December, Nar Ağacı Publishing House and I signed a contract for the series Yedi Mum (Seven Candles). I edited the first volume Yedinci Mum (The Seventh Candle) and submitted it in January. I inquired about any recent developments yesterday. The editorial reading is complete. We will determine the cover and the back cover text. Then it will go to press.

THE SEVENTH CANDLE

I don’t know where we are. I do not know what era we are in. I don’t know if we’re going to spin around the world or fall into space. I don’t know anything but our fate: Death. I want to enjoy it while it lasts, survive until time speeds up like crazy, that’s it!

The Seventh Candle opens with a raid at a space station in a distant galaxy by two unidentified soldiers. They are supposed to kill the young girl (Hayat), who lives alone in this station, throwing her into black hole. However, the soldier on duty (Iskender) has mercy on her. They jump into the black hole along with the young girl to travel to Earth over the event horizon of the black hole, using a method called “gravitational reflection.”

However, where they end up is quite different from Earth as we know it. It is covered with forests and is desolate. By witnessing the first murder of humanity, they realize that they have arrived in prehistoric times.

Seven Candles is a Turkish science fiction heptalogy.

You can see a prereading for the first part here.

THE SEVENTH CANDLE – Seven Candles #1 – Prereading

Welcome! This pre-reading contains the first chapter of Yedinci Mum (The Seventh Candle). This book is part of the series Seven Candles, the rights to which Nar Ağacı Publishing House has acquired. This book is not available in English yet, but work is underway.

As in every twenty-four-hour cycle, that morning, too, a light-yellow light lit the dining room. Daylight imitation. Running on the circadian rhythm, the body needed it to be vigorously ready for the new day. In the annular armchair surrounding the round table in the middle of the room, whose walls had adapted to the sunrise theme, were two bodies: a human and a humanoid robot.

The human was only sixteen years old, female, had short straight bob-cut dark hair and large hazel eyes. Her elbow was on the table, her hand clutching her cheek. At the same time, the young girl was playing with her nutritionally balanced breakfast. She didn’t want to get one more bite down her throat because she didn’t feel hungry. She wanted to return to that absorbing book, which she read yesterday by moving her finger on a transparent screen until it was her bedtime, but she knew it was not possible.

She had a stable daily schedule. She would wake up at the same hour every morning, have breakfast and a shower, and then attend classes until noon. Astronomy, mathematics, biology, language… The afternoon would be time for free research, and she would spend the evening with games and recreation. She would go to bed at the same hour of each such cycle and wait for yet another day to begin. She had spent all sixteen years since her first breath following similar patterns, depending on her age.

She could hardly see the body next to her through the strands of hair which had fallen on her forehead. Suyla, this was her name. She was a robot. A blond, tall, humanoid robot that looked like a young girl. She knew she wouldn’t be permitted if she said, “I want to go,” because if she were to finish her breakfast early, it would hinder the daily routine. Even if it looked like a human being, there was no way she could convince the robot, who was in charge of maintaining order at the station.

The human would not object to this because Suyla would always come up with an alternative. It happened as she guessed. “I can read the book for you,” said the energetic sound of the device, “you can listen to me while eating.” Continuing to stir the plate, the human nodded slightly. White shaded letters roamed like flies in the air and distracted her attention, which had already become as light as smoke.

“Do cats eat bats? Do cats eat bats?” said the robot, changing her tone in a theatrical way. “… and sometimes, ‘Do bats eat cats?’ for, you see, as she couldn’t answer either question, it didn’t much matter which way she put it.”

The fork stood on the plate and the human person fixed her eyes and listened. “True,” she whispered.

“She felt that she was dozing off, and had just begun to dream that she was walking hand in hand with Dinah, and was saying to her very earnestly, ‘Now, Dinah, tell me the truth: did you ever eat a bat?’ when suddenly, thump! thump!”

The last sentence of the book overlapped with the destructive noise filling the station where she lived. The human tried to calm down, placing her palm on the left side of her chest. She lifted her head and opened her eyes wide. Just as she was about to raise her voice to call the robot’s name, she choked. Suyla, whose head had fallen backwards, was no longer that light orangish color unique to humans but grey; she was dead white around where brown pupils should have been.

The quake was blowing everything down. The lights inside the station were going off one by one. The book she read, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, was once again unfinished. Just like her life… As the fork fell from her nervous hand to the ground, she felt as though her knees flattened independently of her will. Her eardrums only transmitted a ringing to her brain, the external sounds disappearing into the vortex.

“You’re here,” she thought. “Where stardust forms your cells.”

The station was raided. The military squad that had set off from the Milky Way towards the Dwarf Serpent Galaxy five years ago, which only had two humans among them, entered this station, which orbited the black hole called Bilye. The human superior in rank was tracking automatic devices while the other one was looking at the place where the girl was being held, at the corner deliberately left in the shadow.

“Where the building block cells attached to each other. Where the zygote falls into a mechanical apparatus and divides.”

“Captain Miler, is she the target?” asked the subordinate, not changing the direction of his eyeballs. He had difficulty swallowing because of his narrowed throat. “Her very self.” said the other without a moment of hesitation. When the subordinate got the answer, he searched for a way to separate his personal feelings from his military assignment. Conscience and command conflicted for the first time.

Alone at a black hole station, where you were born, with tubes in your throat.

The captain examined the data sourced from the station’s brain. He raised his eyebrows and made his mind up.

Where a yoctoprocessor is a mother. Yocto meant ten to the power of minus twenty-four. Divide one by a million, then divide it by a million, then divide it by a million, and then divide it by a million once again. Where a repetition unit teaches you to speak and artificial arms teach you to walk.

They made the young girl leave the dinner table and walk and then kneel in a dim corner. Her head was tilted, and her hands were fixed behind her–not through the use of a physical means such a ligature or handcuffs but only through the blocking of the nerve cells involved. Even though her auditory capacity was shut down, she could tell that the invading machines were going in and out everywhere. Still able to move her eyes, she was scanning around, searching for an image other than the black cloth on her knee and the light-colored background. The locks of hair on her forehead made her face sweat, and her wide glasses kept making a red triangle with a yellow exclamation mark in it gleam in the white of her eyes.

“Emergency! Emergency! Emergency!”

The only settler in the station orbiting the celestial body called Bilye was not aware for how long she had been cringing like that. She didn’t know how many times Cesium isotopes had vibrated since a big noise broke out above.

The human, a member of a species which could name time, was trying to find out what was going on using all her senses but was still unable to name the burning and piercing sensation extending from her belly down to her legs. Fear? No. Excitement? Maybe but not exactly. The young woman was only able to name the emotion as the shadow of an approaching soldier fell toward where she stood.

Reality.

She had spent her whole life in a sheltered case. She could go into any movie she wanted, touch any book she liked, watch the outer space dotted with little moving lights through the small glass window, or play fun games on smart computers. Only one thing was impossible for her: reality, to live reality.

The soldier took off the glasses and put them aside. Then, when he grabbed her bob-cut hair and lifted her head, the pain in her hair roots made her forget everything she ever knew. She watched the gray silhouettes transforming on the bright black wall in front of her for a while. As her knees flattened against her will once again, she tried to read her future off the figures she saw. She could not.

The soldier led her into a corridor. The walls she had seen for a long time were no longer familiar. The screens which used to smile at her and the colorful lights which used to illuminate her way were turned off now. No sound reached her inactive ears, but the crowd of gray-uniformed and black-helmeted soldiers was invading her vision.

The rough hand in her hair continued to drive her body in one direction. When she saw where they were heading, she felt fear for the first time and tried to go back, opposing orders from her brain.

“Please …” she said, her free vocal cords tense with a begging tone. “Please, we can work out a deal, please don’t take me there.”

She knew what would happen if they entered the technical zone at this station, which spun at a tenth of the speed of light. As she tried to fight him off, an oxygen mask rested on her nose, shutting her up. The red door, which would normally be locked, opened. A sudden decrease in pressure almost vacuumed her lungs.

Taking deep breaths, she continued to moan under the mask.

“Please…”

The tears she shed out of a human reflex would evaporate into the air without touching her eyelashes. The captive girl couldn’t see the technical zone because she had to close her eyes so that they would not go dry. As she was forced downhill, her steps became harder and slower because the force weighing down her feet was growing. Just as she could not take it anymore, the soldier finally released her hair, and the girl threw herself on her hands and knees.

When she began hearing some howling, she realized that her ears had been reactivated. They had restored her hearing. When she opened her eyes slightly, she found herself besides a manhole in the middle of the funnel-shaped room. A single number and five words engraved around the round lid were repeated one after the other.

“… far away – Event Horizon 73000 km far away – Event Horizon…”

She closed her eyes as if she could escape the reality awaiting her. She was no longer “tied,” but as she was barely able to move a finger, she could not fight and escape them. How, at the point in the station closest to the black hole, where the gravitational force maximized, could the soldier be standing?

Event horizon, she thought. The final point where light and matter can escape the gravitation a black hole. The ultimate limit where the known laws of physics apply. If things would go as she anticipated, the gravity would shatter her body before she could reach this horizon.

I am sixteen years old,” she said to herself. “I am waiting for death in the orbit of Bilye.”

She had lived here for as long as she could remember. In a kind of spacecraft orbiting a black hole and taking its energy from it. She was shown a map of space in the astronomy class. What had remained with her the most from that class was the size of the universe, which defied any boundaries. A lot of lights in blackness, reminding fireflies in a dark night; it was a representation of the observable universe. Each of those lights was a supercluster. When approached, it became apparent that a single supercluster consisted of dozens of galaxy clusters. Each cluster of galaxies contained dozens of galaxies. Galaxies contained billions of stars.

She knew where she lived. She knew where Bilye was. The station where she was during all stages of her existence was located in the Dwarf Serpent galaxy in the outer reaches of the Local Group cluster in the Virgo Supercluster.

“The vast majority of humans live in the Milky Way Galaxy.” her teacher had told her. “A population of almost the same size is spread across Andromeda and the Triangle, which are the other largest galaxies in the Local Group. Other nearby galaxies have no widespread settlement yet, but work is ongoing. Bilye Station, on the other hand, made history as the furthest base because no travel has been made to another galaxy located as far in the external zone as the Dwarf Serpent yet.”

She was always proud to have this piece of knowledge. She had been told she would live here until she was twenty and then would travel to the Triangle Galaxy and settle in a double star system called Miranda-Balay there. She would receive a training on the special traditions and way of life of that star system. For now, however, she did not know much and could only speak their language. While she still had four years before she transitioned to a new phase of her life, it was already all happening.

When the lid opened, she let out a scream. Since the air in the technical area blew out through the hole, the wind was dragging her toward the black hole. She desperately caught the soldier’s leg, her vocal cords sore from crying. Although the soldier staggered a little, he managed to keep standing.

A shout was heard from afar.

“Do your duty!”

“NO!”

She climbed up, holding on the soldier’s uniform. She tightened herself around his waist like a belt. There was no trace of the original color of her face; she was all red and white. Her wheezy screams were clearly audible even from under the oxygen mask.

The captain repeated the command, more loudly this time. Feeling she was being held under the armpits, the poor human began to flutter, in a clear contrast to her behavior a moment ago, but she did not untie her arms from around the soldier’s waist. As the soldier, supported with a rope behind him, approached the lid, her cries became louder.

“RELEASE ME!”

The wind was intensifying. All air in the technical compartment would run out before long.

The soldier moved a little closer to the void. Just as she was about to fall, a part of her brain shut itself down. She suddenly felt tired. She stopped screaming and struggling. She took a deep breath and took off her oxygen mask with one hand and threw it down. She watched it fall, this was her preparation for death. She held her breath, looked up, and opened her eyes. She looked at the black helmet of the soldier holding her. The sight facing her while she heard the commander scold the soldier to get him to rush was the reflection on the helmet.

She wanted to leave a legacy in his eyes and smiled. The pain in her eyes forced her to close them immediately and so she did. One of her hands was empty, and she released the other one, too. She knew that her shoulders would remain out in the void, that the sensation of falling would encompass her everywhere, and that she would then split into her atoms.

That she would then disappear.

That at least her body would.

But when her feet were cut off the ground and she quickly got driven into the black hole, the hand holding her did not let go of her shoulders. On the contrary, it held her even tighter.

Before the air flew away from around her, she opened and closed her eyes once more and saw the soldier jump with her.

Her lung muscles relaxed, her last breath mixed into space.

She couldn’t take it back now. The last thing she perceived before she lost consciousness was his arms gradually loosening and leaving her into the void.

I will later add addresses where you can purchase the book. Thanks for reading!

FAILURE – If You Insult Your Landlord… – A Horror Story

❝In fact, the landlord did not seem angry at any other word of his tenant; the words like “You are tight as the bark on a tree”, “you old fart” and many insults of him; just like he was not the one who debtor… However, when the tenant said that he was a senile who must be locked in a madhouse, his face had changed and he promised that he will live what he said. He was going to drive him crazy and provide him to locked up in a madhouse, at all costs.❞

Here you can read the horror story I wrote for a competition in June 2020 and ranked third. Of course, this story is completely imaginary. Thanks to Enes Talha Coşgun for translation.

With the shadow of his stubbly beard growing on his face, the man ran his finger across the border that separated the flickering shadow of candlelight from the ring of light. For the last twenty days, Tuna’s life had taken on a strange path. The argument between him and the property-rich landlord, which is caused by his rent debt, was harder than he expected; the guy he accused of being stingy because of he couldn’t tolerate the late money from a small flat among the hundreds of rental income, had threatened him by saying “I am stronger than you think” and “You will live the last thing you said”.

In fact, the landlord did not seem angry at any other word of his tenant; the words like “You are tight as the bark on a tree”, “you old fart” and many insults of him; just like he was not the one who debtor… However, when the tenant said that he was a senile who must be locked in a madhouse, his face had changed and he promised that he will live what he said. He was going to drive him crazy and provide him to locked up in a madhouse, at all costs.

Tuna had laughed about this intimidation. However, the failed attempts of the landlord, of whom he was even more certain that he was a senile by that last event, was enough to spoil his mood. He was not being surprised by the absence of electricity, he was lighting candles in the dark room and sitting down to find out how to prove in court that the landlord was the one who had done all this. At the end of the sixth power cut, “Enough!” he said, stood up, and took a glance at the furniture of his humble bachelor house. When he had the chance of to move the house, why the hell he was bothering himself by dealing with this mess?

The next day he started transactions. While he was filling a parcel of supplies, he was talking to the shipping company, with the phone in his other hand. He borrowed a big sum of money from a close friend. He had to give some of the money to the shipping company, and he had to pay off the rent debt, and than he had to call the landlord on the purpose of tear up the contract and to get out of this stupid situation. He handled his phone and tapped the number with the name of Kamil Maraş. He listened to the tone.

“Good day sir, i…”

“Did you call to apologize?”

The young man sighed.

“You still have a chance.” said the landlord with his dead sound. “Apologize for calling me senile and crazy, and I’ll leave you alone.”

Tuna bit his lips, it could be called a smile; mixed with disgust and obstinacy. “I’m sorry for delaying the rent.” he said. “I am sorry for everything i said, but i don’t apologize for calling you ‘senile’. Make peace with your old age, Mr. Kamil.”

His strange smile turned into a grin as he imagined Kamil’s facial expression. After a few seconds of silence, “Well!” said the landlord. “You have chosen your path. Send your debt to my account, i will end the contract.”

Turned off the phone the former tenant, leaned against the wall and lit a pleasure cigarette. This overcoming led to secretion of the happiness hormone and erased all negativity from his memory. So, when his phone rang in the afternoon, Tuna could not remember why his sister called him.

“What a surprise!”, he answered. “What is the noble cause of this phone call? Ah, it didn’t make much sense when I changed the idiom.”

“Brother!” said the woman, on the other end of the line. “The appointment…”

As soon as he heard this word, Tuna’s face fell. “Do not tell me you forgot it. We have no chance to rearrange this meeting with the doctor. There are so many people who want to be examined by him. He is one of the best psychiatrists in the country and has done many studies on Capgras syndrome…”

Capgras syndrome was a delusional disorder. Patients with this syndrome believed that their acquaintances, sometimes even themselves, were replaced by identical ones.

“Allright, Tülay.” the older brother interrupted his sister’s word. “How many times will you tell? Mr. Mehmet Ali is Turkey’s top psychiatrist, he can swimmingly solve my problem, but i do not want to go.”

“My brother…” she said once more. Her voice was muted, between a whisper and a murmur. “”I don’t want to experience again, what we experienced last month.”

Tuna swallowed, and touched his fist to his mouth. Ten days before the argument, they had met with his sister in a cafeteria. Everything seemed fine, but suddenly; the bad intuitions came to visit him during the meeting. Tuna felt himself completely artificial. As if the person sitting next to him was not his sister; but a stranger disguised as her…

“It was a moment thing!” he objected. “I… No, i am not sick. Look, there is no such thing right now. You are who you are. I’m sure of i’m talking to my little sis right now.”

“Get examined just for once.” said the woman on the other end of the phone line, she insisted. “If it’s not something dangerous, the doctor will tell you anyway. I’m coming to get you, okay? I’m in the car now. See you.”

Phone closed. The fact that Tülay was in the car meant that she was speaking by turning on the loudspeaker; and this explains the reason of why her voice were heard so hoarse and excessively… -Tuna thought for the right word- … artifical. No, he wasn’t sick. He hadn’t gotten that strange syndrome, which had a strange name like “Capo-grass”. Just to prove it, he would get into his sister’s car and hear from the doctor that he was healthy.

APPOINTMENT WITH THE PSYCHIATRIST

Soon after, Tuna found himself in the front passenger seat of his sister’s gray car. After they had a small daily talk, he got nervous and frowned when an amusing song playing on the radio. He sensed that a stranger was in the car, as if something was wrong, as if something is artificial. Here, his feelings in the cafeteria were coming back! Ghosts were once again filling his brain.

“No…” he said from inside his mouth, pressing his fingernails into his palm. “There’s no such thing.”

“Huh…?” said the sister, lowering the radio. “Did you say something?”

“No…” said the man, hiding his tension behind his smile as he sweats cold. “The song, just got around my tongue…”

Tülay turned the volume up without saying anything. Twenty minutes later, the car was parked in front of the psychiatrist’s private clinic. Before the woman got out of the car, asked him, “Did you say that your power cut with no reason?”

“There was a reason.” said the sighing man. “The man does it.”

“Who?”

“The landlord, Kamil Maraş. He’s closing the fuses.”

“Well, why would he do something like that…” the woman said hesitantly. “Isn’t it so unreasonable? And don’t get me wrong, but the building you are sitting in is quite old and it can fail on its own…”

Tuna raised his voice. “Stop talking nonsense! Did the fuses that never failed ever, started to break out by chance after the discussion, over and over again? Do you not believe me? Do you think I’m paranoid?”

“I do not think anything. Lately I can’t understand you, brother.” said Tülay, taking a deep breath. She got out of the car and went to the other side and opened the door.

“Come on!”

The clean floor paved with black marble revealed that the clinic belonged to someone whose socioeconomic status was at the top. They knocked on the door decorated with an elegant sign, written in an italic font “Prof. Dr. M. Ali Kaşmar”. After they heard from the secretary that the doctor was available, they entered. The doctor was a thin man with gray hair and no beard. Straightened his shoulders, and “Please come in,” said with his dead sound, as he pointed to the seats. All these features reminded to Tuna of Kamil Maraş.

When he describing his experiences in the cafeteria, this analogy gradually turned into a new delusion, as if the doctor was the landlord himself. It was as if he is in a court as a suspect; a court that Kamil Maraş was the judge. His tension grew and his hands began to tremble.

This situation did not go unnoticed by the doctor.“Is there any problem, sir?”

“I’ll be honest.” said Tuna, he was looking at Tülay. “I guess, i just… Feel like you are not you are. And my sister is not my sister. Who are you? I mean…”

M. Ali Kaşmar frowned. He tied his arms and continued to listen.”

Am i, well, have i that syndrome which i couldn’t remember its name, that thing-gras or something?”

The psychiatrist nodded and calmly asked, “Have you ever watched the movie called Shutter Island?”

“I watched.” said Tuna, after he thought for a while. “Years ago. Why did you ask?”

“Do you remember how things were resolved in the movie? What said the doctor to Teddy in the room at the lighthouse?”

The man who turned restlessly, looked first at the door and then looked again at the doctor’s face.“I don’t know.”

“Why is the full name of the character Tom Riddle different in the translated versions of Harry Potter? For example, when the name was ‘Tom Marvolo Riddle’ in the book’s language, why was it ‘Tom Marvoldo Riddle’ in the Turkish translation of the book?”

“I do not know.” said Tuna, shout, and repeated. “I don’t know!”

“Which method does Dan Brown love in his books? Anagram, huh? Haven’t you ever heard this before, Tuna?”

He didn’t say “Mr. Tuna”, he said “Tuna”. It was a rapid transition from the safe formality to the uncanny sincerity.

“Why are you asking these, why are you saying these?”The young man had stood up already, his face reddened. “Anagram? What are you talking about? What is the connection with my illness?”

“Calm down.” said the doctor. “Could you please tell me my name?”

The other man took a deep breath, and tried to calm down.“Mehmet… Ali…”“It isn’t Mehmet Ali. It is as it says on the sign. M-Ali.”Anagram means to produce a new word by replacing the letters in a word. Tuna envisaged the name “M. Ali Kaşmar” in his mind, divided its letters. Kaşmar… M. Ali… Maraş… Kamil…

“No!” he jumped to his feet, yelling as if to tear his vocal cords. “You senile scum! You are him!” He turned towards his sister.“How did you become a partner of that? How much money did he give you to be a partner for this tricky game?”

“Who the hell is Tülay?” said the woman, leaning firmly in her seat, with a triumphant smile on her face.

“It was so easy…” the doctor smiled. “Plastic makeup, a professional actor, this building, this room… I spent a few hundred times the rent I get from you, but it was worth it. You fooled so easily, Tuna. By the way, how dare you call me ‘senile’ when you had problems with your mind? Didn’t you ever think that i could use this deficiency? Didn’t i warn you, didn’t i give you one last chance? Didn’t i tell you i’m stronger than you think? What was your surname, by the way?”

The standing man was threatening him to call the police. However, he was unaware that the phone signals were cut with the jammer and the cameras were turned off with a planned malfunction. The doctor took out a paper and a pen and wrote the name of the angry man: Tuna Umut.

“Now as a psychiatrist,” he said, “I’ll report that you went crazy and attacked us. I will petition about you to be put in a mental hospital at court ruling. You won’t be able to appeal because -accidentally- you’ll have run away from home. So you ran away to avoid going to the hospital, let’s say. The world will never find you again and you will be forgotten, gradually. Meanwhile, you will be paying the price of your word in a straitjacket in my basement. Electroshock… Heavy drugs… “

There was a word in piece of paper on the table, it was apparently cut from a magazine: “Hell is not the place where we suffer, it is the place where no one can hear that we suffer. (Hallac-ı Mansur)”

Below the word there was a name, and below the name there was a new anagram: Tophet*, forget it.