Kayıp Rıhtım was originally founded on fantasy and science fiction, and today it is a platform that touches every aspect of literature and life. It started broadcasting in the first month of 2008. In addition, they have been publishing a selection of short stories on a different theme every month for thirteen years.
I took part in the October 2022 selection with the theme of Kehanet (Prophecy) with my story called Gülün Şahitliği (The Testimony of the Rose). The original link is in Turkish, but you can read it in English here – thanks to Enes Talha Coşgun for the translation.
“I think I can,” she murmured as she looked up at the sky, her head resting on the bus window. The young woman, Simge, whose golden hair shone with sunlight through the bus window, was living a two-part life. She was a student by day and a writer by night. Unfortunately, she couldn’t hold on much to the last one. She hadn’t received a positive response from publishers to the book draft she had prepared. But still, every night, Simge always sits at her desk before going to bed and writes, even if she is going to delete it later.
On a Friday, as the sun hit her hair in the afternoon, she was contemplating an idea that had never occurred to her. Why hadn’t she ever participated in literary competitions? If she wins a prize, she could make a name for herself in the world of literature. With this motivation, she took her phone and googled current competitions.
She raised her eyebrows when she saw a story contest. The deadline for the contest was the following day. The subject of the competition was Turkish Migration from RumeliaIt was a short story contest, but the deadline was very close, and Simge had almost no knowledge of this theme. She could consult her roommate about this theme, who was studying history. Moreover, her friend’s literary style was also successful. For example, she referred to four holy books and used a rich vocabulary, including Ottoman words. However, because she wanted to trust her own labor, she passed this option and considered the others.
Meanwhile, the car stopped at a red light. Turning her gaze to the sky, a garden appeared in Simge’s imagination. A cherry tree garden decorated with pink flowers… These flowers would never turn into crimson cherries. They were incinerated in the vandals’ attack. The young woman felt her heart ache, as the muse whispered phrases in her ear.
“Once upon a time, the garden where large cherries shone like rubies was covered with ash, just like a shadow. The gray-haired man stared long into the burning trees through the window. Then he turned his head and continued reciting the Quran: ‘About what are they asking one another? About the great news – That over which they are in disagreement?’ (Surah An-Naba, 1-2)”
Inspiration comes piecemeal: first images, then sentences, then the image and the fiction behind the sentences. As Simge took note of the first paragraph on her phone, she wondered why the muse did the opening with a man reading the Quran, and she pondered the verse in her mind. What was the big news that people disagreed about?
She found the interpretation of the chapter and started to read it. She saw that the great news mentioned in the first verses of the Surah An-Naba was the apocalypse. How could she connect this to the migration phenomenon, which she initially hesitated to agree with, then suddenly decided to write about? She made an association between the concepts of apocalypse and migration in her mind. Apocalypse was the end of the universe; migration was the breaking point of a life, the end of the human-spatial relationship. This association gave rise to new inspirations, and Simge opened the notebook of her phone and deleted the sentence “Don’t be afraid to go crazy if you haven’t lost your mind,” and started writing.
“This word, which the Creator gave the news of the apocalypse, was manifested in the family of the gray-haired man. The Fidan family had been moving from the house they had been living in for generations. The relentless attacks and continuously increasing debts had forced them into this situation. When they could find the power to speak, they were always asking the same question: ‘Are we leaving here?'”
She wondered why she chose the name Fidan for the family. The answer lay deep in her mind. To establish a relationship with the cherry trees in their gardens… Thanks to this name, she would emphasize that the family still planted these trees as saplings and grew them with a labor that spread over the years. And that these efforts were incinerated in a fire…
And who were the vandals? The author-designate had not yet decided where the family lived in the Balkans. The Balkans was a wide geography, and the departure of the Turks from here was fragmented. The fact that millions of people had to abandon this region altogether was breaking her heart.
“I’m doing just fine,” thought Simge. “It’s okay if I read some historical records and migration stories. I guess I’ll get something out of it.”
When she came home, it was empty. Her roommate Ceren had not yet come home, she was doing a research on the recent Balkan history in the library. Simge washed her hands, brewed herself coffee, and opened her computer. She had downloaded several documentaries and doctoral dissertations on recent Balkan history by the time the coffee was ready. In the introduction, the new paragraph of the story formed in her head. This time, she opened a Word document on the computer, not on the phone, and wrote:
“While the Ottoman administration was withdrawing from the Balkans, other nations in the region attempted to separate the remaining Turkish people from their homeland. Serbs, Greeks, Bulgarians wrote bloody pages in Turkish history. Did not the Creator say that He made the earth a mattress, not a blood altar? What was the duty assigned to humans other than settling in their mattresses, cultivating the mother earth, eating the gifts it provides, and giving thanks to God? Was the coexistence of people in peace without making belief and race an issue merely a sweet dream?”
Some sentences in the paragraph were abrogated from the Surah An-Naba. The father of the Fidan family, whose garden was burned, would look out the window and think about these while watching the ashes. Simge sighed and lost in thought. How could the peoples who lived in peace for hundreds of years under the same roof of the empire be filled with hatred for each other?
Meanwhile, the nail on the wall of the room caught her eye and distracted her. Simge exhaled through her nose, got up and opened her closet, and murmured, “Oh Ceren…” as she stirred up the bottom shelf. “Again?”
Last season, Simge had pulverized the leaves of a dried rose. Then she applied glue to the center of the rose painting she had drawn by slightly touching a white piece of paper with a pencil, and then spread the powder on the paper. Thus, a painting of a rose appeared deep red in the sun and black in the light of the fluorescent lamp.
Simge hung the painting she put in a silver plastic frame on the wall and watched it with pride, but her roommate disagreed.
In the night, Ceren had woken up jumping out of her bed. She had said that she had seen unbearable sights in her dream, which she still refused to tell exactly, and she had declared the responsible one as that rose painting. “Please,” she begged, “Remove that rose!”
Since then, Ceren put the painting in the closet at every opportunity, and Simge took it out of the closet and hung it. Despite the two months that passed, Ceren said that she could not sleep while this painting was hanging on the wall. Simge accepted to cover the frame at night, but it wasn’t enough for her roommate.
Although she understood why her roommate was so sensitive, Simge couldn’t help but be angry with her. Ceren was a girl who grew up under violence and abuse from her parents, even though she survived what she went through, she still had a mark on her soul.
After hanging the frame back on the wall, the woman sat down at the computer. Pushing the box of antipsychotic pills that kept hitting her hand and a glass of water on the table, she almost involuntarily typed “having a nightmare due to an object” into the search engine. In fact, she was thinking about the story, not Ceren’s attitude, but she found herself investigating this strange issue. Sometimes the human body does not adapt to its consciousness.
The websites providing scientific information mentioned that an object may be related to a trauma experienced by the person having nightmares. For some reason, this explanation did not make Simge feel satisfied. She wanted to go deeper, into mysterious, parapsychological sources. However, under normal circumstances, Simge would believe in science, the most reliable method of acquiring knowledge known to humanity, and would not trust pseudoscience, but at that moment, the mystery and excitement within her heart had taken hold of her.
She found what she was looking for on an old website that looked like it was from twenty years ago.
“Dreams Linked to Objects
Each object in the universe has a consciousness of its own capacity. It records and reflects what is happening around it. This definition also includes objects that we describe as inanimate. Even a stone, a flower remembers and tells what happened around it. Dreams connected with objects are the objects revealing and narrating themselves to you.
Simge had a sarcastic smile on her lips. “No way!” she said loudly, but she was trying to remember where she got the rose from. When a friend who was studying in the history department gave her the rose, it seemed to be dried up as if it had withered centuries ago. A fever fell into her for no reason. She called her friend in a hurry and asked which garden she had plucked the rose from as soon as she answered, without inquiring after her health.
“What is this all about?” said Bilge, surprised.
The faster Simge spoke, the slower her friend spoke. “I didn’t pluck it. It was in the closet in my grandparents’ living room, among the antiques.”
As a result of Simge’s persistent questions, she was convinced to tell the story of the rose.
“My late grandmother carefully kept this dry rose and told us to keep it,” said Bilge. “It should never be torn apart… Otherwise, the secret will be revealed. The body that receives the secret, makes the secret its soul.”
“What would it the secret do?”
“Well, that secret would so ingrained in you that you would carry the secret like a soul in your body.” She sounded like even she didn’t believe what she was saying. “She had said so. We just had laughed what she said, but after she died…” She let out a sigh. “We started having the same dream all the time. Mixed but ordinary images: mosque, house, sea. When my father and I saw the same dream over and over again, we decided the reason was the rose. But we couldn’t explain how it happened…”
“Bilge, then why did you give me this rose?”
“I just wanted to get rid of the dreams. It gets tedious when it repeats itself… I thought it wouldn’t have the same effect on you. Did you also dream?”
Simge answered the question with another question. “Where do you think this rose was plucked from? Please answer as narrowly as possible.”
A long silence… “My grandmother comes from a Greek immigrant family, she witnessed the migration when she was a baby, but she does not remember it. Since their origins are in the Peloponnese peninsula, the rose may also belong there.”
Simge thanked Bilge and hung up the phone in a frustrated state. Trying to erase the issue with the painting from her mind, she continued reading the doctoral thesis. She had a story to finish writing by tomorrow.
In the relevant section of the thesis, the massacres against civilians in the Balkans were described. First was the Navarino massacre in 1821. She thought her heart would stop as she read the details.
A historian named William St. Clair described what happened as follows: “The Turks in Greece left few traces behind. In the spring of 1821, they were suddenly destroyed, and the world didn’t even notice or shed a tear for them… They were killed deliberately and ruthlessly, and no remorse was ever shown.”
Simge held her breath. Her pupils were dilated, her upper lip crushed between her teeth. Did the rose on the wall witness this massacre?
“It’s crazy.” she said, and rubbed her eyes. “There is no such thing. Flowers can’t record what’s going on around them like a camera.” She opened the Word document and wrote the new sentences that came to her mind, this time in her imagination, the father of the Fidan family was talking:
“Imagine a five-hundred-year-old plane tree, its roots spread out in the ground, its branches wrapped around the sun, its leaves shaded to the earth’s mattress, its trunk as solid as a mountain. How could you dismantle this plane tree? Are your axes enough for its magnificence? Even if you have the power to do this, how could you bear to harm the green that stretches to the blueness? History has written many oddities and atrocities of man. They did, my dear, they did. They uprooted the Turkish plane tree from these lands by hurting, bleeding, and killing.”
She could not continue to write because she was sweating cold as if she was having a heart attack. A suffocating feeling was growing stronger inside her. Simge restarted the computer, splashed water on her face, and stood up to regain consciousness. When she turned around, she screamed so fiercely that her throat was almost going to tear. In the middle of the room, a boy stood with a bloody face, his clothes shattered, his arms broken, and he was looking into her eyes.
“It’s not real,” she said, closing her eyes and ears tightly. “Calm down, calm down, it’s not real…”
Was she going crazy or was she just sleeping and having nightmares? If so, she would have sacrificed everything to wake up. She didn’t want to stay in the house, she had to throw herself on the street no matter what. She had to find peace among other people and get rid of the game that loneliness played on her. She had to see the door to get out, so she slowly pulled her hands away and opened her eyes.
And another scream erupted.
There was no room anymore. Instead, there were images that Bilge said she saw all the time, but they were distorted. The mosque is destroyed… The house is burned down… The sea was all red. Meanwhile, the child continues to stand right in front of her in a concrete manner, never averting his accusing gaze.
Was this the secret of the rose that Bilge’s grandmother said? What a dark prophecy! Was it this bloody testimony she had unearthed by smashing the rose? Most importantly, how would Simge get rid of this heartache?
Simge slowly felt her knees unravel. “Please…” She slowly fell to the ground clinging to the wall, now she was crawling. “Please leave.”
Meanwhile, in the midst of strange and translucent images, she noticed that she was still in her room. Fortunately, the images of the rose did not take her to unknown lands, but this time Simge did not have the strength to leave. The dead boy was still staring into the eyes of the living woman with all his eerie appearance.
“I can’t save you. Please go. It’s too late…”
Her pleas were useless. At this point, an idea occurred to the woman who was losing all her physical and mental strength. If she could rip out the rose painting that was still hanging on the wall and destroy it, she could end this nightmare she had while awake.
She jumped to her feet and went through the dead boy as she reached the opposite wall. She held the silver frame with the rose painting. At that very moment, as if the ends of the cables were touching each other, her consciousness broke off from time and space. She went to two centuries ago.
Peloponnese, 1821… Two adults were beating a child in the garden of a mansion with mocking laughter, which Simge saw in the middle of the room. Then they were torturing him. What happened was unclear, it looked like old movies, with one difference, it wasn’t black and white, it was red and white. As if watching from the reflection of a pool of blood. The boy’s blood flowed like a stream and spilled on the roots of a nearby rose sapling.
Simge’s gaze changed. The fearful expression on her face disappeared and became serene. She calmly got up from the ground and sat down in front of the computer table, taking the silver frame under her seat. She started touch-typing so fast that five or six pages were filled in half an hour.
Ceren returned from the library hours later and found Simge kneeling on the floor in the corridor. She put her hands on her cheeks and looked at the whirligig spinning on the ground with a smile in her eyes.
After Ceren laughed, she said, “Simge! You are like kids, what are you doing? Where did you get that whirligig?”
The kneeling woman did not answer. She continued to watch the toy whirling around as if she had never heard of it.
The woman, who had just come home, passed by her and came to the door of the room they shared. She saw the silver frame shattered on the ground. “My god!” she said. “Luckily I’m wearing slippers. How did it break? Simge?”
Still, there was no answer… Simge continued to watch the whirligig as if she were hypnotized. It was also strange that the whirligig hadn’t slowed down yet, as if it has an internal combustion engine. “I wonder how much power she had used to spin that thing,” Ceren thought, sighing, and then entered the room. She walked with slippers, trying not to step on the shards of glass. The open screen of the computer caught her attention.
“Simge, what is this ?” she asked. When her question went unanswered, she sat down and started reading.
After reading the first sentences, she exclaimed, “This is amazing! Simge, I have to say that you will win the competition with this.”
After a while, the story about the Fidan family suddenly stopped and another story started. This story was narrated through the eyes of a ten-year-old child, unlike the old and rich words present in the first story, a much simpler language was used. Ceren had experienced a disappointment as strong as her admiration just a little while ago.
“I am Ali Osman. I will turn ten this year in Ramadan, says Granny. We live in a mansion overlooking the Aegean Sea, and we love playing in the neighborhood with my four older sisters when we aren’t at school. And my favorite toy is… The whirligig! I spin the whirligig so fast that no one can catch up with me.”
The daily life of a child was being described throughout the paragraphs. Then the narrator of the story was saying, “I don’t understand the elders at all.”
“I want to grow up, but I don’t understand adults at all. We, the children of the neighborhood, love to play together. Nikolas, Mehmet, Yorgo, and me are good friends. But the elders are separating among themselves. It is said that the Greeks are planning a rebellion, and they will drive away the Turks, that is, us, from here. I don’t believe it at all. Because we are neighbors, friends, and we will all grow up and grow old together.”
“This part is beautiful,” Ceren muttered and raised her voice. “Simge, what contest was this for?”
Still, there is no answer… “What a whirligig,” she said and switched to the side tab with the Alt+Tab keys, hoping that she would find the details of the competition there. However, she came across a website about parapsychology. The section “Dreams Associated with Objects” was followed by “Transfers Associated with Objects”.
Ceren first read the description of the dreams and began to figure out why she had nightmares while the rose was hanging on the wall. In her nightmares, she saw the murder of a child wearing clothes from the 1800s, living in one of the old Turkish mansions.
In the other paragraph on the website, the following was written:
“Transfers Linked to Objects
Objects also have the capacity to carry souls. For example, our body, which consists of a pile of meat and bones, carries our soul and functions like a machine used by this soul. Animal and plant bodies have this ability, although not as much as the human body. However, inanimate bodies can only carry the soul, if they don’t, they cannot be used by that soul. Souls that leave their bodies under normal conditions do not move to other objects. However, there may be some anomalies, for example, a soul that has left its body in pain may take refuge in the nearest object.
If this object has a feature that reflects light like a mirror, the image of the soul may be reflected, which creates the ghost phenomenon. If the object is soft or fragmentable, it can transfer the soul to a living body that touches that object.”
Ceren straightened up from her place with her knees trembling, extended her head through the door of the room, and saw Simge continuing to watch the whirligig, who was still spinning, in the same state.
“You are not Simge.” she muttered. Now, everything was clear in her mind. The theory was very clear: the soul of the murdered little Ali Osman had passed into the rose with his blood and had taken over Simge’s body with the fragmentation of that rose. It was Ali Osman watching the ball in the corridor, not Simge.
However, to explain a mystery, the first thing to do is to use the possibilities of science. Making a mystical tale up is the easiest way, and it led people to delusion. If Ceren had used critical thinking and scientific consciousness, instead of thinking that a ghost had entered Simge’s body, she might have thought that she had suddenly lost her sanity, or that she had undergone some kind of fatigue and stopped writing and started to spin a whirligig in the corridor.
If she remembered the rules of physics, Ceren would understand that it is impossible for a whirligig to spin non-stop. Because the friction force would slow the whirligig down constantly, and stop it sooner or later. She could figure out that a whirligig that never stops could only exist in her brain as an hallucination. Besides, there was no whirligig in the house before, and it would have been impossible for this toy to be here now if Simge had not bought it after she left work.
If she thought in accordance with the rules of logic, she would realize that the result would not come before the reason, so she would not know that Simge decided to participate in literary competitions unless they talked on the phone. How did she say “Simge, you win the competition with this story.”? Or how did what she read on that so-called website fit into what she experienced? The answers to all these questions were clear with the principle called Occam’s razor: the simplest explanation is true.
She took the antipsychotic pill on the table and swallowed it with water. When she looked down the corridor again, she saw no one there. She opened the Word document, which she used as a diary on the computer, and noted the date of that day.
“Hallucinations are the prophecy of memories hidden deep in consciousness.
During the day, I conducted research in the library on Balkan history and especially on the migration of Turks from the Balkans. My goal was to illuminate the nightmares I have seen so far, and also to unravel the secrets of my personality named ‘Ali Osman’. As I got on the bus and going home, I switched to my ‘personality named Simge’. I was able to remember myself, my main personality named Ceren as someone else. Simge likes to write like me and wants to participate in story competitions, but she is not as talented as me. Yet what she wrote was literarily strong, in keeping with my true personality. In addition, the subject of the competition she wanted to participate in was suitable for my research in the library. The ‘Simge personality’ is slowly beginning to integrate with the main personality.
When I came home, I was still Simge, but I would be able to provide some continuity, so I continued the research in the library at home. When I read about the Navarino massacre in 1821, Ali Osman became a child massacred by the Greeks in Peloponnese in my head and I had very strong hallucinations about him.
I understood that I created the personality of Ali Osman in connection with my childhood. As Ceren, I could not bear to be tortured by my own father and mother and I put these things on him. I remember how I objected to the similar things my doctor said a few months ago.
While I was painting the rose, the frame of which I had broken during the delusion, I freed myself from my personality named Bilge, and today Ali Osman has united with Simge. Just two months ago I was a multiple personality disorder patient living with four split personalities, now I think I’ve managed to get it down to two. Just me and Simge. There is no one else. I hope I will make a full recovery soon.”
She saved the document, turned off the computer, and went to fetch a vacuum cleaner to clean the glass shards on the floor of the house where she lived alone, and the remains of the rose that had witnessed the delusions.