A QUIET AFTERNOON – A Story
A QUIET AFTERNOON – A Story

A QUIET AFTERNOON – A Story

❝One night, while I was sleeping, all humanity was wrong, thought Yahya Kemal’s ship was Noah’s and went to unknownness.❞

I straightened my slumped shoulders at the computer as a smell of coffee seeped into my nose like a lover’s caress. My consciousness was awakened, and my imagination was separated from the gray-walled realms. I yawned, stood up, meaninglessly glanced at the empty seats of my co-workers in the office and walked towards the kettle placed by the wall.

The spring sun was shining directly on my desk and beckoning me to laziness, but instead of watching the lush green landscape in the garden of the workplace, I turned to the screen. I continued to work with the determination of a worker who made an effort to rid his country of the ruins of the world wars. I was like a fish trying to swim against the current or a rebel rejecting the acceptances of his society. The weather was also quite hot, however, I preferred a hot drink as if to burn myself even more.

I drank coffee slowly, as slowly as a tormentor who acts cautiously so that his victim may not die but suffer longer. I wanted to feel the taste of every drop individually. Then my coffee got cold. What a pity! The fire in my throat, which was both pain and pleasure, was extinguished. I stood up and spilled the rest because I was nauseous. When I sat down at my desk again, I noticed that my fingers were getting weaker. My resolve was gone, my face fell, and even the computer slowed down. I forced myself to continue, but I didn’t have a voice on myself. From time to time I turned my guilty and cowardly gaze to the kettle. Would a fresh tea or a steaming cup of coffee perk me up? Should I try Turkish coffee or herbal tea? I dared none. Once again, I didn’t want the drink in my hand to get cold. I wanted my throat and my mouth to burn furiously. Elsewise, ​sleep would take me away.

As I tried to press the keys on the keyboard one by one, I was startled when the hum from the electrical systems in the building stopped. The computer screen also went black at that moment. It was good for my heart to speed up. I left my seat and set off down the stairs, listening to the echo of my footsteps—although I knew perfectly well what was going on.

I paused on each floor to look at the other offices.

The accountant’s office is empty…

Foreign trade department is empty…

The sales department is empty…

The boss’s room is empty…

It was not a holiday today, but I was the only one at work. Because if I hadn’t come, how would the wheels turn? The sense of loyalty was telling me to take care of the institution that provides my livelihood. I have also undertaken other compulsory works at my request. In the morning, I took the keys from the security cabin and the cleaning supplies from the cleaner’s room and mopped all the offices. Since there was no electricity, I started the generator, and voila, it ran out of gas in the seven hours since morning!

I couldn’t heat water anymore. I couldn’t cook coffee. I couldn’t turn on the lights. I had no other fuel. I did not have the strength to buy another fuel. I stopped by the deserted tea room and bought a bottle of water from the inoperative refrigerator. When I was out, the strong light of the sun shone my head. There was no engine sound from far away. The asphalt of the three-lane street longed for the car. Now not a single vehicle could pass through this road, which used to be congested in the past.

I remembered what happened yesterday morning. Like all previous mornings, I woke up in fetal position in my bed. When I went to the sink to wash my face, at first, I thought the bathroom lamp had burned, and then I realized that the power was out. I was bored because I couldn’t turn on the TV. After I had eaten something in a hurry, I left the house and went down with quick steps. There was an awkward silence. Neither engine sounds nor human voices could be heard.

I stopped by the grocery store just to talk to someone. However, the shop was closed, even though it had to be open. I thought the grocer was sick. I took my phone and called my friend, she didn’t answer. I called my mom, the phone kept ringing. The silence was beginning to bother me. There were no vehicles or pedestrians on the roads.

Like any other ordinary morning, I got in my car and turned the radio. As I browsed the channels, I disappointed more. It bothered me that none of my favorite radio programs had started, so I took a deep breath and tried to calm down. I completed my journey by opening the recorded music. Even the absence of anyone at work could not awaken me. I thought today was a holiday, and I went back home.

I tried turning on the TV. On the fifth press of the red button of the remote, I realized that the power was still out. What a glitch, what a mishap! How many hours could the electricity be cut off in the heart of the city? Desperately buried in the armchair, I grabbed my phone whose battery was running low and connected to the internet. I wanted to see my friends alive. I wanted to know if someone lived in the outside world. When I couldn’t see anyone online, I thought about what a boring day it was and turned around to sleep. When I closed my eyes and freed my mind, I began to understand something.

I opened my eyes wide. I ran to the door, ignoring the slipping of the carpets, and rushed out into the street with the shoes I was wearing partially. I ran all the way downtown. There were no people hanging laundry on the balconies, children playing hide-and-seek in the streets and people rushing to and fro in the streets. There were no honking cars, no dusty trucks, no overcrowded minibuses. There were no cyclists or motorbikes. There were no peddlers. There were no old people or young people.

Roads and buildings were empty. Even cities and countries were empty now. One night, while I was sleeping, all humanity was wrong, thought Yahya Kemal’s ship was Noah’s and went to unknownness. I was alone in the world.

As a first reaction, I got down on my knees and cried out loud. I waited for someone to show up and ask how I was. I would even let him scold and embarrass me for crying like a child. I wasn’t used to the patient unresponsiveness of concrete and mines.

When I calmed down, my legs were shaking from exhaustion. As I walked towards the street where the shops were lined up, I took the banknote out of my pocket and tore it up in anger. This move I made to calm down backfired. I was getting myself together every step of the way. I was taking off cheap pieces of paper, worthless metals, necklaces, earrings, handcuffs and chains called rings. How did they once persuade us to wear these signs of slavery? How did we value artificial, useless, meaningless money?

Even though it was almost midday, the shops were closed. The desolation was causing me pain. I wanted to find an open door, to buy and use the goods I craved. Wouldn’t that be looting? Was the theft legitimate now? Wasn’t there a chance that one day people would return as they left?

I pushed the heavy glass door of the pharmacy on duty. The white coat hanging on the hanger, the half-full tea glass still seemed to have human warmth. I went behind the counter and examined the drugs one by one – to do so gave pleasure akin to childhood mischief. I collected vitamins and minerals. I hung up on a cough syrup made for children and drank it in one gulp. Then I opened a can of aspirin, melted it on my tongue, and threw the rest of the can in the trash. It was stealing, it was wasting, but I was not out of bad feelings a bit. The world was mine, mine!

Then sleeping pills caught my eye. A sickly mood swing stole my grin from my face. I dropped the other boxes from my lap and cried for a while. Then I filled a few bags of sleeping pills and returned home.

A thousand crazy wishes crossed my mind on the way back. I could take off all of my clothes. I could break down locked doors. I could get goods I wanted. I could eat the most luxurious, the most extraordinary food. I could travel anywhere in the world. Every possibility was in front of me, there were no rules, there was no court to try me.

Out of all these options, I chose to continue my normal life as much as possible.

I didn’t leave the house for the rest of the day. Even though I slept with the hope that everything would be back in the morning when night came, I woke up to an one-man world hours later. I got ready, went to work, found spare keys, opened the office, cleaned, took care of the generator and went to my office. There was no way out. I couldn’t do. When the power was cut, my defeat was declared once again.

Now I was watching the sun leave the summit. I was inhaling odorless air in this still time. Then I walked to my car, opened the door first and then the glove box. There was a bottle of water and a nylon bag there. I opened the lid of the water and placed it carefully on the seat. I opened the bag, inside was a pillbox. I stuffed dozens of white dragees in the pillbox into my mouth, then swallowed them all with water. I slid the seat back and lay down. Sleep was going to take me away.

The story is over. So, which one are you going with?

🐇 · · · 👻 · · · ⛏️

* Yahya Kemal is a Turkish poet and describes death with the following lines in his poem Sessiz Gemi (Silent Ship): “If it is the day to weigh anchor from the time / A ship through the unknown departs from this port.”

Maybe you want to read the whole poem or maybe listen to it as a song:

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