Written by Rick Clarke/Illustrations by Andrzej Klimowski





As you may know if you’re a regular follower of The Monolith Cocktail, we’ve been serialising a number of new novels and writings from debut authors over the last two years; beginning with Ayfer Simm‘s Istanbul pyschogeograhy A Rumor In Üsküdar in 2019.  Following on Ayfer’s heels we’re now serialising the Lynchian semi-biographical and incomprehensible jukebox set wanderings of Dan Shea (Bordellos, Vukovar and Beauty Stab infamy) and Rick Clarke’s (bandmate of Shea and rallying beacon of the band Vukovar) new novel The Great Immurement: The previous twelve chapters of which have appeared over the last two months.

We continue with those semi-esoteric imaginings below and bring you next trio of penultimate chapters, ‘Moonlight’, ‘The Silent Surgeon’, and Trial By Fly; illustrated as always by the illustrious Andrzej Klimowski.


MOONLIGHT




And so to the Moon The Great Immured did non-look. He stared and wished. A spectral figure appeared and approached. He told:

 

The symbols have now shattered.

I was free. I probably lived an unremarkable life and probably still do. But the symbols did shatter, and they shattered for me and my Otherlands – the space between spaces.

 

The backstory:

It could be described as a romance. Lunar. A silent romance. We started to notice each other from afar, as these things normally demand have happen. I learned it could’ve been because of the connection between the dripdripdrip of the bloodbloodblood in the absence of Motherhood.

In vials I collected this space between fertility and held it up to the space between day. With a desperate, knowing affection we bathed in each other’s appearance. It became an obsession to the point where I refused to acknowledge its solar non-equivalent – convinced was I that this was an imposter, evil in its way, casting light on things that ought not be lit.

 

When I thought about my moon, I would think about the mechanics and likeliness and consequences of its perforation.

I could grow a penis. I would sharpen the very end into a point with the veil’s blade and gently press it against the tough silvery surface, like against an eardrum, and hold it in a position just before its desecration. My limbs would twitch in a glorious anticipation. I would enjoy that position for a lifetime; neither in life nor crossing the threshold into death. Its skin, a leathery elastic, at peak indentation.

 

I now feel that sickly feeling in the very pit of the stomach whereby I want to do something with all my might but with all my might know I shouldn’t, like holding something fragile and valuable out of a high window, or stepping from the chair with rope-tight-round-neck. Eventually it’s going to drop, by accident or perpetrator’s design.

I press that little bit further forward with grown, sharpened penis and it begins. A warm ooze coming over me, sticky and thick. It’s only a small opening so I drive myself in and out and in and out and in and out again and the scent is of… the feel is of… the sound is of… the taste is of… the sight is of… I can’t speculate on this.

After a few encounters I lost everything there ever was except for my love’s glow. “I am the light” said it, and “The Light Is My Leader” said I; LVX MEA DVX.

 

It got bigger and bigger.

Each previous encounter it was flirting with other things, dancing with the formless smoke and clouds. But I didn’t mind. However, one clear night it had eyes only for me and me alone. That was the night…

I rose, PM. I would soon be feeling the true force of nature. I don’t know much about so-called cosmic forces and I find ridiculous the way people talk about them. But I felt what I felt.

It was the moon, my lover, my king, my queen and all things in between.

I stepped outside into our eternal garden – I didn’t feel the cold.

I looked up and saw the moon, full, in all its glory.

The clouds were moving unusually quickly.

A hole remained in them, connecting me and my love so that its gaze would not stray, connecting us personally, speaking to me.

I finally managed to give myself over almost completely, ignoring the dark symbols surrounding and being formed by clouds, and, after seeing and feeling the earth upon which I stand moving, I shut my eyes. I felt the pull. I didn’t quite leave the ground. Had I tuned in wholly I’m convinced I would have.

I felt totally at peace.

 

The being collapsed into the atmosphere around itself. The Great Immured, briefly, saw the moon’s glow through the thick impenetrable walls of his Immurement and continued with his self-sacrificed placement with few other questions.



THE SILENT SURGEON




The once-partner and now nevermore makes an appearance through a photograph, through mind’s eye, through misunderstood hazy recall.

 

The Lady Of The Otherlands convinced herself she was now too weighty. Too much indulgence and ingestion of filths, she thought, that’s the reason the things of the Otherlands no longer caved into her charms… but that wasn’t true. She had gotten older, her face and body less structured. And the other things she thought of around her were just figments of the ever greying fog that clouded the rooms and ante-chambers of her thoughts and living arrangements.

In her area a very famous surgeon now resided. So celebrated were his soul and hands that he was rewarded with being kept hidden from the outside world. His skills had not been tested thoroughly in a while. He was unable to practise on himself as his infatiguable enthusiasm had rendered his own body almost useless. So when the Lady presented her broken specimen before him, were he able to express his delight, he would’ve done.

 

“I need an operation.”

 

“…”

 

“It’s for my wellbeing, sexually and physically.”

 

“…”

 

“Can you not just slice some off or whatever you do?”

 

“I can pay you.”

 

“Please, no. Medical well being only. None other surgery.”

 

The lady went away knowing what must be done. Flesh must be gone. She would grow flesh that must be cut away, as the uncontrollable growth would be considered harmful to the well being.

It became all in her power to cultivate and farm the little things that become bigger things until the black mass was in charge of itself.

The rumours that the great surgeon had disappeared or moved on were not true. She found him in the same place. His non-movement and non-breathing meant that the Lady had to undergo the operation by her own hand, under the silent guidance of The Silent Surgeon.

A long and not painless time later, the Lady emerged from her desecrated operating table, clutching the carvings against her breast, tightly and darkly. It represented the heaviness of the weight she had successfully lost. She felt attractive once more and spent her time trying to quench her unyielding thirst for all things to be inside her.



TRIAL BY FLY




A strange noise. Familiar but reminiscent of almost nothing at all.

 

The ceilings tall.

The windows tiny and infrequent.
The rooms infinite.
Everywhere would be white but for the flies and the tape – the tape yellowing on white surfaces no longer visible, covered by masses and masses
and masses and masses and masses

And masses and masses and masses

x7

of flies… tiny little things forming the decoration, little black bodies everywhere.

 

The purpose? The purpose…

Experimentation. No. Engineering.

To build a set of wings from their wings but the power and size to fly a thing of this power, of this size.

Shaped angelic like.

To fly!

No other material is so abundant. No other material is so suitable.

It’s all about appropriation.

Or re-appropriation.

The collecting of flies has taken a long while. But that isn’t something to notice. The ideation is nearly intention.

The process is what it is. Every piece of tape needs to be checked for the newly-captured-still-winged.

A snip and a slice later and the wings to a new place have grown. Heavenly is the warmth of pride and promise of completion. Satisfying is the rip and parting of torn wing from now-torn body.

 

                                            X                            X                         X

 

Only one more set is needed.

A furious search is conducted; hectics, urgent; all previous patience dissipated for this search for new patients. This search feels an eternal thing.

                                           X                           X                       X

 

But now the search is over. A winged fiend. No, a winged friend… is splay on its front, spatchcock, given itself to the triumph of the will.

This last one is to be s.a.v.o.u.r.e.d and savioured.

A martyr for O murta.

Thumb and forefinger are positioned and the operation is begun.

But a quiver.

A quiver?

A quiver and a noise. A tiny noise.

A quiver and a scream?

No.

Pain? Torture?

Everywhere around in this impossible place… flies flies flies… destroyed.

Oceans of it.

Suddenly, very suddenly, it all becomes noticeable at once. A cacophony of minuscule screams rises until the brains feel as though swelling to burst.

There is no repentance that can be done, only a gesture.

 

                                               X                    X                     X

A collection of still-winged flies are manically sought, freed and message conveyed.

The wings of sin are now finished.

This product of despicable engineering and this engineer of despicable engineering are now let loose.

The Otherlands and the sensation of flying is a total peace, a total manifestation of ambient.

                                                X                    X                    X

Flies form a convoy.

They know their seeker of forgiveness will follow wilfully, and follows just so into the nest of exaltation.

The once angelic-wings are torn from flesh, from grace, and taken apart.

 

The body follows soon after.




Previous instalments:

Parts 1 – 3

Parts 4 – 6

Parts 7 – 9

Parts 10- 12


Written by Rick Clarke/Illustrations by Andrzej Klimowski




As you may know if you’re a regular follower of The Monolith Cocktail, we’ve been serializing a number of new novels and writings from debut authors over the last two years; beginning with Ayfer Simm‘s Istanbul pyschogreograhy A Rumor In Üsküdar in 2019.  Following on Ayfer’s heels we’re now serializing the Lynchian semi-biographical and incomprehensible jukebox set wanderings of Dan Shea (Bordellos, Vukovar and Beauty Stab infamy) and Rick Clarke’s (bandmate of Shea and rallying beacon of the band Vukovar) new novel The Great Immurement: The previous six chapters of which appeared last month in July. We continue with those semi-esoteric imaginings below and bring you next trio of ponographic anarchistic chapters, illustrated by Andrzej Klimowski.


THIN MAN, ILL MAN

Where am I and who are we? If I am me and you are you then why does it feel like there are no borderlines? You…

?

An illness overcame healthy man. He became a thin man, ill man. His head did bald, his skin did tight.

This happened after he found his home, his habitat. A light grey lake in a white-light place with a non distinguishable sky in the land of waste.

The Thin Man, Ill Man’s hair started shedding more and more frequently. He thought of it was little clues being left in his sink, on his floor, on his utensils – everywhere he went – for a non existing investigator, tracking him down for any given or ungiven unknown reason.

There were no other people and never would there be. Just him and his home.

 

Time passed and the Thin Man, Ill Man resented his own space and his own person. He called out for any passerby to come and join him but nobody returned the call and nobody ever would. He wasn’t fussy or particular about his prospective company – this didn’t matter.

So lonely he became that he started to count his protruding rib bones within the number of friends.

So solitary was the no-time and no-place that hours were wasted on separating and individualising his spermatozoas to give himself a family, but found his colonies starved and dehydrated to death by the time the task was complete.

The lonesome grew and growed.

 

Where once it did creepeth and stalk, it instead confrontethed and pounce.

There was nothing on TV, only himself.

There was nothing to eat, only himself.

There was nothing to be, only himself.

 

*He missed an intimacy (that he never experienced.)

There was a split.

*He wanted a partner as comfortable with his flesh as their own.

There was an osmosis, of sorts.

*He wanted a conjoining.

There was a new thing, of sorts. (The same thing, of course.)

 

“I’ve never had somebody to wax the fur from my anus or ease the discomfort in my shoulders.”

“You do the same for me, my love.”

“My favourite is when we sit and relax together and gently – absent-mindedly – play with each

other’s genitals.”

“Mine also.”

 

“Would you like to go out tonight? I feel like doing something.”

“Not tonight. I want to stay in with you. You’re everything I need.”

“I love it when you say things like that.”

 

“I need to piss.”

“Can I hold it? The feel when the tube expands as the piss comes through sends me wild.”

 

“What shall we eat?”

“Does it matter? Does it make a difference?”

“I suppose not.”

“As long as you lean over the counter when you cook… and now and again spread yourself. I’ll just

stare into the backdoor to our soul… imagining my tongue on your hole.”

“And, why don’t I moisten it with my spittle, maybe play with it… the glistening of my ring will make

you touch me, I’m sure…”

“There’s no need to try and persuade you is there? You read my mind.”

“I am your mind.”

“As am I, yours.”

 

And with that, the Thin Man, Ill Man took up an instrument of violent murder and the conversations were no more. The intimacy was no more.

 

He lay on HIS front IN front of his mirror, arms by his side and was giggling as the crimson blood pulsed from his heart onto the floor, spreading out in stems away from him; A mad dash to reach another body before it became nothing but a stain.

 

The mirror, from floor to ceiling in height, captured most of the empty, airless room in its reflection.

Suddenly and startlingly, the Thin Man, Ill Man saw himself standing in the doorway, staring straight at him. How own giggling intensified, never becoming manic. His strength had faded. Every last laugh became a struggle; a desperate kick against the deathly hands of his carcinogenic surroundings.

 

The Thin Man, Ill Man walked casually towards the Thin Man, Ill Man without any hint of emotional reaction, just unfeeling tears running down his face. His naked, pale, glowing figure sat dignified and straight on the edge of nothing beside the resting place of his naked, pale, glowing figure.

One laughed.

One cried.

Both died.

 

I stare into the blood stems. Which myself am I? Which one is the one who is living me now? I stare.



THE SPIRIT EJACULATE




I stare. The lifeblood glistens. My mind’s eye glistens. Blood to sex to blood to sex. Women – every woman’s – conclude or at least live slave to a feminine suspicion – as inherent as the cunt or the evil – that the men who want nothing but to fuck them are really just fulfilling a primordial death drive that would probably end in murder if the act of ejaculation didn’t weaken them so much.

This infection of sexual frenzy rests in guttural moans and the clenching of teeth as man edges ever-nearer to his in-built downfall, cruel and just.

 

It happened several years ago.

It happened in a few weeks/months/days.

 

It happened now.

 

It happened when?

 

It all began with the masturbatory glimpses that all start the same end. It was the time between waking and sleeping. The usual surroundings seemed distant and not altogether welcoming; it felt like an Otherland. He stood naked in the centre of a bare room, semi erect cock being coated in the spit he spat into his right hand.

 

All sorts of sexual images flashed, scattershot in his vision. His Japanese eye leaked its lubricant.

O memories, O The Great Immured.

He thought of a group of woman, humiliating the voluntarily weakest of them all, taunting her in a ceremony of piss. He throbbed and rubbed, dutifully, slowly and sensually.

 

Through his flickering eyelids, his naked mother entered and stood before him, a single trail of excitement ran down the inside of her leg. She bent over, beckoning him to taste. Taste taste taste. His nose pressed against her anus, almost forcing its way inside as he tongued as much of the dry coarse fur as he could, occasionally teasing the sweet stickiness of her inner vulva. He throbbed violently. He rubbed harder.

He half-blindly stepped inside a huge nondescript room filled with naked bodies, warm and slippery with sweat, semen and quim. The more he observed, the more furious he wanked, the fuller his sense.

Nothing was sacred. Women kissing women in dripping exchanges of spit and sperm, shining their faces around the mouth and cheeks. Women chained down men and suffocated them with their drenched cunts, applying their holes to the faces like oxygen masks; A pornographic source of sexualised air.

 

Men sodomised women, them-selves enjoying it so passionately that they lost all pelvic inhibitions and released sprinklets, sometimes jets of natal liquids. Mouths and holes filled with/ejecting cum/quim/all bodily fluids inbetween.

 

He throbbed harder still and wanted harder still until the moment came. Time almost stopped. His penis gathered all of its power and every muscle everywhere coiled like a spring, shaking with unstoppable force, finally let go and shot out a spurt of its own creamy lifeblood into a place unknown. The body paused, gathered power again and shot a smaller (but just as forceful) less potent batch into the same unknown. Once again it gathered strength, this huge shuddering body, only this time, something unexpected happened. Something concerning. Something wrong.

A tearing sensation ran through every part of his body, sinew ripped from bone, nerves ripped from everywhere and layers of skin from layers of skin. Everything was pain. Everywhere was pain; frozen in this stopped-non-passage-of-time. It was as though he was being sucked into a new dimension. He didn’t have chance to scream.

 

The tip of a finger became dented, briefly, before the whole thing caved in on itself, disappearing within itself. His toes followed, then his feet and hands, looking for a new place within his body. The rest of him did the same at the precise moment of the third and final ejaculation. His penis was in a continual push, a push to shoot out his entire body, which it did so; every part of him fired out of that small, thin slit.

He was new. Nothing was real anymore. He was a spirit-ejaculate. He could still see his old body, in fact he was now permanently facing it, but there was little life left in it.

They were connected at that small, thin slit. An eternal fountain exchanging seed, regurgitating forwards and backwards pools of cum, stick in this infinite position of gratification.



THE STAIRCASE

After all that, a silence.

 

The Great Immured recovered himself. Whatever time it was, it didn’t matter. Whatever he now was, it didn’t matter. All things are not even fleeting, but instead, lie broken.

The place he was within had changed. He knew he couldn’t (wouldn’t) find a way out from this immurement, but he had to exist somewhere a little less heavy, at least for a short time, some place to regain some breath.

After several minutes of pacing the same narrow staircase, he realised something was wrong. The staircase itself was odd; it often resembled more of a corridor. There were steps up and down that kept himself more or less at the same level. There were twists and turns. Spirals that got increasingly wider and little amputee-stub-like dead-ends.

The walls were high and there were no windows. Not even lights or candles. Yet no part of the staircase was particularly darkened. It all felt very… claustrophobic.

He could hear noises here and there along the staircase; of course there was the creaking of the old wooden boards but beyond that, long stretches of silence were interspersed with scratching and, even stranger, whispers appeared to come from behind the walls.

What is this trickery? He muttered to himself. The invisible conversations had caused a concern to grow unnervingly large in his mind and a not to grow in his stomach.

He tried turning back a couple of times but to no avail. No part of the staircase was memorable anyway, however, it seemed to change if he tried to retrace his steps.

More absence of time passed. Disturbed by his lack of progress he quickened his pace. He thought about shouting out to ask for assistance to the voices behind the walls, but had to reminds himself he would only be disappointed in the response. The times he felt most panicked – though he thought unreasonably so – was when the stairs descended. He originally intended to down the stairs and find a way to fresh, non-immured air, true, and he knew along this path every direction, every…descension… had been countered with an ascent, but it did nothing to make him feel at ease.

He was getting tired. The heat wasn’t unbearable but he had exerted himself to the point of exhaustion. Out of nowhere he saw the end of the staircase, and this was marked by a huge wooden door. Easily double the height of him, it reached right up to the ceiling.

At last.

He slowed his pace, hung his head in a mixture of weariness and relief and pushed against the door with all of the strength that his fatigue would allow.

Something, again, wasn’t quite right.

Under closer observation he noticed the door had no hinges. There were no gaps between the door itself and its frame and it felt concrete-cold.

The door was painted onto the wall. The likeness was good but in his relief he failed to spot the glaringly – not to mention painfully – obvious shortcomings of this piece of taunting artwork.

 

He sighed. He took a step away from the door, turned his back to the wall to his right, covered his face with his hands and leant backwards.

 

Bright-white, white-light.



Read the previous chapters here

Parts 1 to 3…

Parts 4 to 6…


Written by Rick Clarke/Illustrations by Andrzej Klimowski




Expanding the Monolith Cocktail’s remit to include more in the way of new literature and poetic musings of a kind, we are pleased to announce the serialization of burgeoning author and rallying beacon of the band Vukovar Rick Clarke’s new novel The Great Immurement. Following on from the first three chapters, kindly and perceptively illustrated by the much-respected Andrzej Klimowski, you can now read the next trio of chapters below.

THE GIRL AND THE PLAY-THING

The Great Immured/I/Us/They still absorb the contents of this sticky, crumpled paper from time to all-time. The letter received:

 

Said the girl to her play-thing:

‘Sometimes I feel you don’t belong… anywhere’

          She stroked

                                And stroked

                                                                And thought…

 

‘Except I wouldn’t want you to be anywhere else – I would be enraged… inconsolable…’

 

And so they sat upon their metallic plinth, the rust gathering rust in their infinite day-time play-time.

The play-thing, red, raw, balding and seeping felt it belonged … anywhere … except its current placement, and so it left.

 

                  The girl cried. She ignored the pain of the departing-wound, with all the blood, pus, open flesh and swinging innards and all else with it, and instead, she felt the pain of her lament for her greatest lover.

 

                                                    All day she cried.
All day….
All day….
All-Every-Day.

 

On her plinth, in the outskirts of the inner Otherlands – not quite all white, all light – she cried.

The play-thing had escaped into the inner Otherlands – all white, all light – and lost itself in amongst other clawing appendages of desires and almost irretrievably gave itself to the brutality.

 

                                                   It found peace and rested.

 

The girl did not stop crying. The departing-wound was healed to a smooth white mound, hairs penetrated the flesh (inwards and outwards) unevenly at uncoordinated angles.

The play-thing heard the sobs. The glistening, slightly sticky tears it could see without seeing were replicated in excitement rather than despair.

 

The play-thing found the girl. An arrival-wound could not be forced. However, the two were reconciled in a new way; a happy ending for both.

 

Sometimes these crumpled, sticky papers would get more crumpled and sticky at differing alltimes. Unreadable, in fact.

 

 

THE PARTIAL SEIZURE

To the doctor RE: Immurement – there are things my/our body/hole is doing without instruction ||| INFORM ME THAT I MAY REINSTRUCT THEE ||| Yes doctor.

 

In the Otherlands – I know longer know anywhere else – the temporal shifts are plentiful.

                     The rooms and the dimensions… the shapes… constantly change – permanent revolution, something I would wish on noone.

                                                                      The shift comes.

 

LOSE YOURSELF TO IT AND DESCRIBE FULLY ||| … .

 

I don’t hate the weirds I see in the street. They amuse me. I find them amusing. I find it amusing that they can’t detect their own filthy stench when everybody else can. Unwashed flesh, soiled clothes… the piss of their cats spray from their throat as they invent nonsensical sentences…outloud… to themselves of course. Who else will listen?

 

An all too familiar summer’s breeze passes over and through my skin. Everything seems to be happening in slow motion, overlapping with real time, causing sickness and nausea before I’m even aware of the fact. I’m disconnected. I’m watching myself from within myself. My thoughts are about my thoughts. Maybe the faint sound of music that’s drifting into my insides from a nearby side-street is the cause, maybe it’s the scent of some familiar-unfamiliar fauna or washing powder. Maybe it’s everything combined. Whatever the trigger, I’m hit.

 

A rising liquid warmth from the pit of my stomach spreads upwards through my chest, across to my fingertips and upwards once more to every nook and darkened lump in my brain.

 

                                          It isn’t possible to overstate the sickness.

 

I see what’s in front of me as any non-blind does, but I see more… There’re images that I

                                                    can’t

                    quite

 

                                                                                     identify.

 

I can understand them for no more than a nano second, these pictures are seen with eyes open, mixed in some impossible way with the reality that’s in front of me.

 

I glimpse a man who I recognise and instantly unrecognise. I just about hold in the vomit.

 

This is the point where my deitic coronation and entitlement reigns supreme. I know all, I see all, I have lived everything that is going to happen, my foresight shows me what I am about to live, a second in advance. Just a second.

And it’s all true.

 

For half a minute I am the King of all things. And then… again…

I’m hit.

 

The line of time – the timeline – that is lay out before me, by me, collapses immediately under noteven-close scrutiny. Everything was and is ridiculous, nonsensical… This future that had been crafted that fitted glove-like now appeared to be like the crackpot ramblings of the cat-piss-breathweirds I saw before. For now, they don’t amuse me anymore. I feel hatred and I feel no sympathy for these scums. It won’t last, I know when I’m next out in amongst them, I’ll giggle inwardly at a rogue flailer, escaping with a childlike glee from its carer.

 

I get home and my body purges itself, uncontrolled by my mind or my will, and I rest. Nothing feels completely real for a v v v long while after, not until the next day.

 

HOW OFTEN DO YOU GO THROUGH THIS? ||| Every moment of every time. ||| … ||| What can you do? Relieve me. ||| NOTHING. ||| Help me. ||| NO. EMBRACE THE ALL-KNOWLEDGE. YOU CAN RELIEVE YOU AND YOU CAN RELIVE YOU. RELIVE YOUR OWN DECAY. ||| … .

 

 

WOMB OF ALL THINGS TO DIE

In which The Great Immured thought of himself, sang to himself, trapped himself.

 

Though any future of you and I
Was hastily stored and shut inside
The womb of all things to die,
Still I await you, arms open wide.

And though briefly this foetus came alive
And escaped its home in the deathly bride
The Motherly noose was quickly tied;
The babe now rots in its natal slime.

I swim the lakes of happiness denied
With each stroke I am to defy
Our deceased future over which I have cried
To punish myself in self-righteous, self-spite.

Through this act I manage to say goodbye
To the terminal tumour that engulfs my pride
And though I’ve longed and lusted and tried
I let it go to let it lie.

 

Rick Clarke


Parts One to three here…

Written by Rick Clarke/Illustrations by Andrzej Klimowski





Expanding the Monolith Cocktail’s remit to include more in the way of new literature and poetic musings of a kind, we are pleased to announce the serialization of burgeoning author and rallying beacon of the band Vukovar Rick Clarke’s new novel The Great Immurement. The first three chapters, kindly and perceptively illustrated by the much-respected Andrzej Klimowski, can be found below with an introduction from Monolith Cocktail contributor, budding author in his own right and Vukovar bandmate, Dan Shea.



INTRODUCTION UNDER NO DURESS

It’s not about our friendship or his influence on my own writing – not at all. What you are about to read is the process of years of reduction. It’s easy to vomit a stream of consciousness onto a blank page; far harder to chip the block away into something meaningful.

Rick has written something that, in my view, is beautifully emotive without ever being obvious. I feel he’s a great talent and I’m privileged to call him a friend and have the invitation to write this. Under no duress whatsoever. (Dan Shea)



THE GREAT IMMUREMENT

This is the first and last time there will be grounding in real-life, real-earth. All that flows forth from now is descension, are fever dreams; are misremembered and dismembered recollections of the disordered mind; are actual encounters of the im/possible death of The Great Immured. The six year span of this entrance into the Otherlands is where eternity ends, where the Abdication Of The Body begins.

Let me then create you.

This is the end. This is the start.

Let me then begin this eternal six years. Today is the oldest I will ever be again. I lock ourselves away, I construct no exit and I instruct a way out to those outside, those negligible energies. My name means first and last.

The walls are concrete, the doors are concrete, the windows are concrete. There was a concrete fantasy. I stare straight into the greyness.

There is no-thing here, no descriptions. All that is needed is no-thing; there should never be a need.

When we are immured, when we see it from the inside, we see that all light is absent and all light is present; this retinal pessimism dictates that there is nothing to see, but it’s all that we can see. And then all times are in the mind’s eye.



THE CONCRETE FANTASY




There’s a town. The town in which we lived, actually. At the moment it sickens this irrelevant little God with the halfway devotions to our own aesthetic ideals. It wants/wanted to be a brutalist wasteland, but is as yet, as is now, uncommitted. A place as a partial seizure.

The people are inbred (which is fine) and offer nothing except hedonism (which is fine) which we can get anywhere. We want something less, we want less than nothing.

Of this town, I am thine only saint; the Patron Saint Of The Archaic, and I need my own continuous monument.

We keep looking into the every-greying grey, my stare travels through eight interlocking circles. We decide it can’t be broken, and so, for now, it can’t.

I dream of razing the town in a similar circles, a radius of 13 miles in fact. And I want the garden to be perfectly flat concrete. A Concretopia. A blinding greyness.

In the V V V centre is a building. It’s an imposing concrete cube. There are no windows except one tiny one on each of the four faces. Every one of the four is near the top, right in the middle, so that I can look upon my Winter, my own purgatory. But we never will. There are mirrors in the windows, designed in a miracle way to only have a view as though I were looking from the outside. We only want to look upon my creation.

We hear us think of the inside, but we cut this from our mind. Some of us prefer an illusion, some of us prefer the mystery. Once the unknown becomes known, it can be the Death of Desire. I’d rather suffer from my love of all this because at least this malady has a melody, rather than the emptiness of content. Or maybe all these things all other ways around.

Dim the vision and stop the tape – and now it didn’t happen. The secrets of the secrets are still hidden.



THE VISIBLE MAN




Knock knock? You are all the guest we need.

Knock knock. Okay.

An invisible fist upon my invisible door.

I reach up and out of my invisible chair, turn to the invisible lamp and reluctantly switch it on.

The invisible rays strike my eyes, strike my face and light up my invisible room. It’s unforgivingly vast.

Nothing is real, we offhandedly tell myself. It’s easily forgotten.

My invisible window allows me to peer into the invisible unknown.

I can see the invisible man, flooded by his invisible coat and holding in his invisible hand, an invisible letter.

I take the invisible envelope which contains an invisible message, which should enthral me or at least catch my attention, but I find that it doesnt.

Not much does, not least invisible objects of invisible non-desire.

I sink back into my invisible chair.

In silence, I take up my invisible pen and so begin to scrawl across invisible paper a lackluster response.

Not quite invisible, but not far off. I smile – somewhat – into my invisible mirror and thank an invisible God that I may still see myself.


Author Rick Clarke/Illustrations by Andrzej Klimowski

Novel Extract/Ayfer Simms





An integral part of the Monolith Cocktail team for the last six or more years, cosmopolitan writer Ayfer Simms has contributed countless music/film reviews (Ouzo Bazooka, Pale Honey, Gaye Su Akyol, Murder On The Orient Express, The Hateful Eight) and interviews (Sea + Air, The Magic Lantern) – and even appeared in the video of one of our featured artists (Blue Rose Code).

Taking time away from the blog to focus on her debut novel, A Rumor In Üsküdar, Ayfer has spent the last two years busily working away at a story that encompasses not only the personal (including the death of her father) but the wider psychogeography and geopolitics of her native home of Istanbul.

Born in the outlier pastoral regions of Paris to Turkish parents, Ayfer spent her formative years in France dreaming about following in the travelling footsteps of her great literature love, Agatha Christie. After studying for a degree in literature (writing music reviews on the side), Ayfer moved to Ireland for six years before travelling aboard the famous Trans Siberian railway and settling in Japan. Initially visiting her sister, Ayfer not only stayed indefinitely but also got married and had a daughter. Deciding to attempt a life in Turkey, where the family is originally from, they moved into Ayfer’s great-grandmother’s house in the Üsküdar district, on the Asian banks of the sprawling Istanbul metropolis.

A Rumor In Üsküdar is in many ways autobiographical – the inaugural chapter (which we previewed in March 2019) was inspired by the death of Ayfer’s father a few years back. A familiar setting is given a slightly dystopian mystique and ominous threat by Ayfer who reimagines the Üsküdar neighbourhood of that title being isolated and quarantined by the government, as they test out a piece of (propaganda orchestrated) news on the population.

That’s just the umbrella story; within that setting we have the main character confronted by the country where she originated from imprisoned but ready to face it all; hoping for a wind of change in the face of an ever-dictatorial regime. Escapism comes in the form of backpacking reminisces; Ayfer in this newest chapter, dreaming once more of a trip aboard the Trans-Siberian Railway.

Translated into English from the original French and Turkish language versions, an extract from the Russian travail chapter Five awaits.



Part Five

I’ve never seen anyone run to the fences, passionate themselves about their stolen freedom. Curiosity and indolence prevail. I am limp; I have to admit it with shame. The invisible mace got it right, crushing our potentially rebellious mind. When I think of my state just a few months ago, of my strength then, I remain speechless.

One day when I was about to take the Marmaray, I had managed to avoid having my sports bag scanned. A policeman stopped me and asked me – very politely, after all, he seemed friendly – to back off and put my stuff on the treadmill. I resisted and at his insistence, my rage rose, without daring to completely disobey. As I quickly walked toward the machine, I ran into a large man – I didn’t see his head, just that huge body and his threatening hands swinging towards me – my shoe left my foot while the policeman calmed the man who wanted to stick one on me. Until I got my things back, I grumbled, blowing and mumbling like an old bag.

After I left the scene I trembled as if my guts had been emptied. I didn’t like myself very much at the time, angry as I was, but I remembered the importance of showing my dissatisfaction at these incessant controls. Men are subjected to several paper checks per day, unlike women who are left alone. So there you go, since then I haven’t gotten mad at anyone. At the sight of the armed soldiers, museums transformed into garrisons … I simply stopped reacting, I’ve simply gotten used to it, I fell silent, I’ve preferred my immediate comfort, my bubble. I knew I would get out of it if I wanted to. I’ve fled too much since, always, as soon as things gorged, I took my leave indeed. Leaving is my specialty. However, being forced to stay somewhere, to face it, I’ve always dreamed of it.

It was in Russia that I had this longing suddenly. That of staying put and facing up to things. Up to then, I would only look beyond my window. Dreaming of going far, of dragging my legs on dusty roads. High school history teacher: “My nephew who is your age (17 years old) has just left for Russia to take the Trans Siberian Railway”. I opened my eyes wide and my mouth just slightly, as if struck by lightning, then the idea immediately settled in a corner of my brain. 27 years later, with a friend I’ve embarked on the Trans-Siberian.

Then, it is in Ekaterinburg. 1600 kilometres from Moscow with more than a million inhabitants that I realized I envied those who can’t run away.

Perhaps it was a bit sad and macabre that I had these thoughts on the land where the last Tsar and his family were executed. However, I had not immediately thought of that. As soon as I set foot in the murky city amidst drunken people, I felt a physical void. Our host, Olga was living in a building among others in a housing estate riddled with graffiti. From her window, I had noticed that at almost 11 p.m., it was still as bright as the day. The apartment belonged to Olga’s mother. There was the photo of a soldier on the wall: he seemed absent. My friend was fiddling with her bag for a while. She was preparing to take a shower. Olga called us for dinner before she had the time and we settled at the table. The blue walls reminded me of my parents. I heard the tinkling of the spoons in the tea glasses. I had my shoulder pressed against Olga’s smooth wall, just like I did when I was little. Our kitchen when I was young amalgamated with Olga’s one. It is in Russia that I thought of it so deeply. When Olga put a dish of meat before me, I was already wondering why I excelled at fleeing.

TO BE CONTINUED…



Previous Chapter Extracts:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

NOVEL PREVIEW
Words: Ayfer Simms




Until recently a regular contributor to the Monolith Cocktail, Ayfer Simms has taken time away from the blog to concentrate on finishing her debut novel, A Rumor In Üsküdar. Living with her husband and daughter in the same region of that title, in the sprawling metropolis that is Istanbul, Ayfer moved back into the family home after her father was unfortunately taken ill: later passing away. Within a wider context of political hostility in Turkey (bordering on the dystopian), the process of grieving is explored both evocatively and metaphysically by Ayfer in what is a semi-biographical, semi-alternative futuristic geopolitical purview of her home country and home city.

We’ve so far been proud to feature three extracts from A Rumor In Üsküdar. Part four in this series of previews from the book is both a real and metaphorical archeologist dig into the problems facing modern Turkey. A psychogeography you could say; one that merges veiled fantasy versions of a political cast and events.

 

Part Four:

Mrs. Muazzez must now be at least 100 years old or perhaps older. Specialized in Sumerian culture, she has a vast knowledge in all archeological matters. In 2006, at the age of 92, she was accused of hating the state: for having published a book on the wearing of the veil. She claimed that the custom came from the Sumerians, priestesses initiating young people to sexual practices.

Veysel pulled his hair no doubt and put the veil back in its place. He is not crazy, however, and did not incarcerate the centenary. Mrs. Muazzez lives on the European side in an old house that looks like a museum. She has an unprecedented passion for Veysel’s dead rival, Mustapha. At her age, she saw the former statesman shake the country and give a bit of a voice to women (mostly privileged ones).

 

370 days after the beginning of the excavations under the Bosphorus, the digging got interrupted by the discovery of Byzantine vessels, silver coins, cooking utensils and other trinkets. Skeletons have also resurfaced that day. What we did with them I do not know. I did not see them at the Istanbul Archeology Museum, at least not yet. Time erases the status of humanity, everyone knows it. The Üsküdar wharf was then disemboweled in a hurry, in a rush, because there was a lot of money to lose. The Japanese were politely impatient: they wanted to finish there anti seismic tunnel and leave at once.

I was not yet in Istanbul during these works, but I arrived just in time to see the opening of the new Marmaray line. The train station was planted in the middle of the ruins; the rest was covered with earth, after taking pictures that were hung on the walls leading to the turnstiles. The archaeologists spread coffee all over their shirt to save everything, but they were hungry and witnessed the swallowing of the site with cold sweats.

Since the opening of the line that joins Asia to Europe under the sea, several years have passed while work continues everywhere. Large shopping centers, widening of the wharf and other projects make the wound still fresh.

I see from time to time the black casings rising from the cement, the glowing stones – are they old? I try to guess what is hidden in the old earth, hoping also to discover the Byzantines or the traces of the life of those who walked on this patch before us. It’s a stealthy look that I throw nevertheless. I check over my shoulder that the mud spits out its piece.

 

An object has however made its appearance during the excavations and the rumors reach us only now. Turkish archaeologists – those who are not in cahoots with the government in power, or who are unaware of the impact of their discovery, or who are conscious of having to protect it at all costs – are scientifically eager to let the international scene know: on they pass it to a French specialist team. The results of which, we have only echoes despite discretion, suggest that this is something likely to displease the President of the Republic Veysel. The latter also ordered to stop the excavations, the object in question would have been confiscated upon the return of archaeologists and they were obliged to “resign”. It is impossible for us to know if this news is true or if it is the propaganda tool of the opponents of Veysel or is invented by its own entourage to make a diversion on other fundamental subjects. As nonsense is commonplace, we believe everything and we believe nothing.

The president is not afraid of anything. But, it is said, bad tongues – that he is afraid of his wife. She let him put his head on her knees, and ask her to recite prayers to appease his troubles and ill moods.

She whispers to him “God is great and he is behind you”.

It is said that he has seizures of depression. That he happens to be confused. That he sometimes does not believe in God.

That he has shoeboxes full of money.

That he has nightmares. That one hears him exclaim in the morning: “I killed God !!”

In the opacity of the still deep night, he murmurs, “I’m the greatest”, at the same time he beats with all his might his chest like a furious gorilla. He takes an ax and strikes God in the face. No more reverence. Veysel knocks, beats the air and collapses. They say he sleeps badly. We understand why. How can you sleep well after doıng what he does? He looks terrible, yet his cancer is healed – his cancer is also hidden – but his complexion remains pale and faded. Is he cured, really? Like a superhuman defying all the viruses feared by all of us? The emotions shake him and it is visible in his features. He is agitated. But he does not die of illness like his population.

Veysel feels great but lost. He has reflexes of a believer and has shaped his image on Islam. Islam is its legitimacy. He must perhaps now go beyond religion to remain powerful.

Why say such a thing? It would cost a lot to anyone who dares saying that kind of thing: Unless it’s a rumor. The object accidentally extracted from the depths of the Bosphorus, or rather from the banks of the Bosphorus, would put an end to the monotheistic religions, they say. They would put these religions in the class of superstitions or medieval folklore. This book/object (we do not know anything more) would be like the famous comet that put an end to dinosaurs.

Veysel is naked without his religion. We imagine that it would be his end. That, however, we still have trouble believing it. The danger is that he does not give up so easily. He would continue to urge women to have four children, to avoid laughing out loud, to be modest in all sense of the term.

I look over my shoulder. Watch a smart shark spring from the waters of the Bosphorus to swallow me for thinking these things. The Bosphorus swallowed me once; I fell in it when I was 4 years old. My parents’ friend fished me out before anyone noticed I was gone. I do not remember. It left me with a fear of algae and everything that swarms in the undulating mass. The second time in 1999, the sea caused an earthquake of 8.7 on the Richter scale and claimed 17,000 lives. That summer, my apartment in Kozyatagi was scorching with heat. It was one of those summers that we could only spend dozing. I was bored. Birant had decided to leave me without telling me openly by planning a holiday to the south. I had hoped he would not leave me behind, but I read it in his eyes.

The evening of the earthquake, I drank wine, alone. When I was ready to go to bed, drunk, and feverish I was like Veysel facing a dilemma: to be independent and turn the page over Birant or continue my pathetic grip. When I decided to leave Turkey, Veysel was put in prison for 4 months for reciting a poem judged to be inciting religious hatred.

When I came back some twenty years later, as it happens it is him who boxed us all in.


Extracts from Ayfer Simms debut novel, ‘A Rumor In Üsküdar’




An integral part of the Monolith Cocktail team for the last six or more years, cosmopolitan writer Ayfer Simms has contributed countless music/film reviews (Ouzo Bazooka, Pale Honey, Gaye Su Akyol, Murder On The Orient Express, The Hateful Eight) and interviews (Sea + Air, The Magic Lantern) – and even appeared in the video of one of our featured artists (Blue Rose Code).

Taking time away from the blog to focus on her debut novel, Ayfer has spent the last 18 months busily working away at a story that encompasses not only the personal (including the death of her father) but the wider psychogeography and geopolitics of her native home of Istanbul.

Born in the outlier pastoral regions of Paris to Turkish parents, Ayfer spent her formative years in France dreaming about following in the travelling footsteps of her great literature love, Agatha Christie. After studying for a degree in literature (writing music reviews on the side), Ayfer moved to Ireland for six years before travelling aboard the famous Trans Siberian railway and settling in Japan. Initially visiting her sister, Ayfer not only stayed indefinitely but got married and had a daughter. Deciding to attempt a life in Turkey, where the family is originally from, they moved into Ayfer’s great-grandmother’s house in the Üsküdar district, on the Asian banks of the sprawling Istanbul metropolis.

A Rumor In Üsküdar is in so many ways autobiographical, the first chapter, which we previewed back in March 2019, and subsequent ones, including today’s chapter three extracts, are inspired by the death of Ayfer’s father a few years back. Part three, ‘The Old Man’, plays out a part soliloquy, part grieving monologue like imagined conversation between Ayfer and her late father, set to various Istanbul landmarks, one of which turns out to be a final resting place.

These familiar settings are given a slightly dystopian mystique and ominous threat by Ayfer, who reimagines the Üsküdar neighbourhood of the novel’s title being isolated and quarantined by the government, as they test out a piece of (propaganda orchestrated) news on the population.

That’s just the umbrella story though, within that framing we have the main character confronted by the country where she originated from imprisoned but ready to face it all and hoping for a wind of change.

Translated into English from the original French and Turkish language versions, an extract from chapter three, ‘An Old Man’, awaits.

CHAPTER 3 

An Old Man


I go up the stairs looking at the time. All I can do now is to take the boat to reach the European shore. An old man blocks my way. I feel my irritation rise, as since this morning there seem to be too many obstacles.

– Help me daughter.

He is old. Too old to hurt me but I do not want to be disturbed. I imagine shaking him and feel satisfied that he is no threat. I weigh him up like I do every other person who comes up against me, just in case. Could I neutralize him with a twist of an arm? What do my years of training in martial arts serve me if I can not let some steam off mentally, if I cannot stretch my limbs and let others rush to it, break their balance whilst keeping my center, what do I care if they fall on me like comets from the stars?

– Sir, I do not have time, I say.

He is so wrinkled that I feel remorse. I change my phrase.

– What can I do for you?

– I live near the quarters of Ayazma. Put me on the right path, will you. I’m lost.

– It’s near my house.

He is polite, haggard.

 

Around us the rumor swells that there is no boat, the bridge is blocked. Taxis do not take travelers. I am stuck. I warn my teacher. He must think my excuse is a bit phony. Excuses are the martial artists’ enemy and downfall. Train at all cost.

– Times have changed, but I do not see very clearly. Where are the fig trees…?

He turns to me, the crowd is pouring over us, and he is waiting for me to react. I do not answer, I’m stuck, frozen and the words as usual are heaped in my throat. Because taken by surprise my Turkish sometimes takes odd forms.

– I’m dead my daughter. That’s why you have to help me.

– Don’t say that! You are in good shape.

– I died 120 years ago.

– Sorry?

He is a poet or he is crazy. However complaining about one’s health is not unusual in Turkey, the idea of ​​old age settling early confers a vulnerability and respect that Turks bizarrely seem to enjoy. But already I believe him. He is a ghost.

 

There are helicopters in the sky. The titans are fighting and we hear the squeaky echoes of their metal armor. It is probably Veysel who tries to crush his opponents, they fight back, and it is their chase we hear in the starry sky. Or just patrols, special operations, special measures, a hunt for anything that moves, so called terrorists.

– I’m dead; I’m not any wiser though. I know nothing more than I knew in my lifetime. I realize it now that I am here. It’s a shame; death is useless in fact. A rest maybe, but since I woke up…

– Who woke you up?

– I would like to know … I feel like I have not learned anything since my death. The ignorant souls remain so too and that is a pity. A real pity. Disappointing in fact. Well, that does not stop me from being curious…and the absence of fig trees bothers me.

– They are around still.

– I do not know by what mystery I find myself here. God is great; I am the result of his miracle. The dead sleep peacefully in their bed. Their tomb says, “He was a person who loved kindness and justice”. At Karacahmet, Uskudar’s most treasured cemetery, we rest surrounded by trees in the breeze of the sea not far away; calm prevails. We are the permanent quiet residents under the hiss of the leaves, except at the time of visits, too numerous I should say, which force us to sink a little more in the ground, not to undergo the lamentations. The living pour out their anguish in the form of prayers. Yet already I am no longer. I am old, buried in the beautiful cemetery of Uskudar. I listen to the cry of the living, their desperate whispers, I see their patience rolling in their throats, they raise their hands to the sky to see something, because they find it difficult to bear. They have trouble breathing while me from my bed I feel the nature that lasts and the earth under my bones stretching to the center of the earth. I do not say that to defend death, I’m not crazy. I speak to the person that I was in my lifetime; I address the anxieties that I felt for years at the thought of silence and cold and especially the thought of loosing my loved ones. I fought day and night against those thoughts that sometimes made my life dreadful. But you must know that there is only peace later. Peace in the soul and in the body. The land feeds us. Good and evil blend in a nameless heap, the human veil spreads in the air so that it loses all meaning. It remains only shapeless hands underground, intertwined because the enemies of the past become our neighbours, in indifference.

So when our visitors arrive with their tears, the dead man turns in his hole, really.

He does not want to delve into the universe he has finally escaped. If the dead man is old, he does not have enough desire to remember wanting to live. If he clung to life, perhaps a young dead he probably worries about his loved ones, he does not want to see them in tears again. Why do we want to remember those whom our death has made suffer? Do we wish to stir painful emotions, to mop up the darkness or to see again sad faces, tears that bead in a wounded soul?

To revive these emotions means to revive a bygone era, to try to inject blood there, to release it from its natural pallor whereas when the ardours and the passions dry up it is not necessary to wake the dead.

 

The old man walks slowly forcing me to stand still. I begin to see it as the fruit of my unconscious still bereaved by the death of my father.

– Life is a constant unfolding of dramas. I was lucky despite everything, I will never pretend otherwise. But even the lucky ones have to say goodbye. There is no good way to die or to leave forever. To die is an enormous responsibility. I died without surprise. Old. A little tired. The mind does not always learn to cease to exist. My body could not take it anymore, but my soul? At the time of departure, I thought that my head no longer held. In my time I attended the departures of my family. I stayed in my neighborhood and faced their absence. They had vanished, yet still more alive than they were alive. On each wall I saw their face, or rather their “being” infused into the bricks. And for a long time I had the impression that their departure was only temporary. They would come back and we would laugh at those separate moments. How sad to say goodbye. It is better to hide the truth. Keep thinking vaguely that one day there will be a meeting.

– And sometimes it is possible?

– You are speaking to a dead person. Or…who am I? Why am I here? I do not know anyone, what’s the point of coming back? I do not feel in tune with anyone here. I do not even care about them. Those who have suffered from my absence are already underground. They shrug. The living have a great deal of trouble with the notion of death, and the dead are no longer living.

 

The old man does not speak anymore. The name of Karacahmet makes me shudder. My father often talked about death, joking about his own end, telling me “I’m going to finish in Karacahmet soon”. This cemetery, a terrible character, a monstrous beast between my French and Turkish village, remains like a suspension bridge. So is it any wonder that, finally on his deathbed, he refused to be buried there? He did not even pronounce its name again, he just said, “Do not burry me in Istanbul, they’ll lose me there.” He turned his back on me, doing me a favor without knowing it because I live near the Karacahmet cemetery. How did he understand? That he spared me, that I will not have to avoid this graveyard because of uncomfortable fits of sadness?

With this specter, I wander between the mosques of the sixteenth century, while it brews stories: century-old trees, Byzantine ruins, wells of another age…the ruins we brush against, under our steps, are tunnels and hot brick stones. He says “the well made of red lime under us leads to a buried archduke”. That the bizarre plant in my garden wriggling and breezing through the otherwise solid rock, its roots covered with small, seductive paws goes back his époque. This bizarre plant horrifies me in a way, I say.

 

With the ghost of this old man, my father seems far away whilst I am struck by the gap between them and us, the past and the present, the dead and the living, even if death does not mean anything, anything at all.


Words: Ayfer Simms

Novel Preview: Ayfer Simms





Contributing regularly to Monolith Cocktail for the last six or more years, cosmopolitan writer Ayfer Simms has posted countless music/film reviews (Ouzo Bazooka, Pale Honey, Gaye Su Akyol, Murder On The Orient Express, The Hateful Eight) and conducted a far amount of interviews (Sea + Air, The Magic Lantern) – she’s even appeared, alongside her daughter, in the video of one of our featured artists (Blue Rose Code).

Taking time away from the blog to pursue dreams of writing a novel, Ayfer has spent the last 18 months busily working away at a story that encompasses not only the personal (including the death of her father) but the wider psychogeography and geopolitics of her native home of Istanbul.

 

Born in the outlier pastoral regions of Paris to Turkish parents, Ayfer spent her formative years in France dreaming about following in the travelling footsteps of her great literature love, Agatha Christie. After studying for a degree in literature (writing music reviews on the side for a number of popular French fanzines), Ayfer moved to Ireland for six years before alighting aboard the famous Trans Siberian railway as she made her way east towards Japan. Initially visiting her sister, Ayfer not only stayed indefinitely but also got married and had a daughter. Deciding to attempt a life in Turkey, where the family is originally from, they moved into Ayfer’s great-grandmother’s house in the Üsküdar district, on the Asian banks of the sprawling Istanbul metropolis.

A Rumor In Üsküdar is in some ways autobiographical, the first chapter, which we previewed back in March, was inspired by the death of Ayfer’s father, a few years back. A familiar setting is given a slightly dystopian mystique and ominous threat by Ayfer who reimagines the Üsküdar neighbourhood of that title being isolated and quarantined by the government, as they test out a piece of (propaganda orchestrated) news on the population.

That’s just the umbrella story though; within that setting we have the main character confronted by the country where she originated from imprisoned but ready to face it all and hoping for a wind of change.

Translated into English from the original French and Turkish language versions, an extract from chapter two, ‘Back For Good’, arrives just as the authoritarian controlled Erdoğan government seeks to overturn or re-run the recent Mayoral elections (which his AKP party lost) in Istanbul. How this will pan out is anyone’s guess, with tensions running high.



Chapter 2- Back For Good

The neighbors, the passers-by, the baker, the hairdresser, the grocer, are puzzled to why I am in Turkey.

Once upon a time, a Turk coined the phrase, “to come back for good” – probably in the 1980s, when the first people started to tiptoe back (a small percentage no doubt).

Did you know that he who returns never leaves? Says a voice to me. That’s because moving between countries is not to be taken lightly for these “migrants”.

Well, I say, to that invisible person, this is why you are curious about me. I move like a feather in the barn. With no intentions or plans.

That question pounds in my head: “did you come back for good?” Why?

In the 1980s the French government offered emigrants the chance to give up all their rights in exchange for a sufficient amount of money to buy an apartment in Turkey (under the conditions of the economy of the time). Most of my friends’ parents have seized the opportunity, the chance for a new start in their home countries. My parents shrugged: why block the future of our children?

Turks of that wave are forever hybrids. Their emerging personality got thrown into another world. None of them accept to reveal their secret. None of them admit why they are here. Money or a fake sense of nationalist flattery. Stuck between monuments, caught like seagulls in the net. (Seagulls are monstrous animals, pierce kitten eyes, and defy crows, cats, and humans).

“I have never lived here”. I simply add. I can’t say anything else in truth.

The idea that the experience of being here or there is immutable seems to me incongruous. I get tangled in my explanations of my deep complex sentiments. I am in moving sand facing people who’ve never left this ground. Do they care? They are not listening.

“Well”, I say, “I’m not a clairvoyant, and I can not now say that I will not leave again. I may, or may not.”

– Do you want to leave?

– I did not say that”.

Confusing explanations.

Their eyes are floating in the air as if I did not speak Turkish.

“If it were me, I would have stayed there,” they say dreamily.

 

The country is bleeding, especially in recent years. The Turk takes to one’s heels, those who can anyway. I can, and I did take to one’s heel for lesser troubles. I’d rather not, leave behind my father’s house.

Others continue to vote for Veysel. Who are they?

We are in a decadent Eldorado.

Those who support Veysel from abroad are too comfortable in Europe. They have no wish to settle back here. We, on the other hand, are raving mad. The Turk drinks tea and surveys the Bosphorus and the seagulls, the currents could take him far.

I envied these people for a long time, the chant of the birds above their heads. I imagined they had a sense of belonging. I did not know then seagulls sounded like a baby’s tormented shrieking cries.

 

“Why undo what your parents did?” Someone once said to me.

“I am after the seagulls”, I said.

It’s better if I don’t answer these remarks because I can flee when I wish; I am a bird with a crooked leg (hard for landing).

 

“Of the two countries, which one is the most beautiful?”

I hasten to praise the merits of Turkey, to please them, and I pierce in the looks a sign of relief while heavy sweat runs down my neck. I look like a cripple. “We may not be able to leave, but at least we have a nice village”, that’s the message.

 

My house is surrounded by five historical mosques, all equipped with loudspeakers, and every morning and noon, afternoon, evening and dawn, it begins to sizzle before the pugnacious verve of a young religious preceptor compresses the air of his lungs as if to tear it better before unleashing his chant. Powerful cries erupt, wild animals land in the middle of a city after a hundred years’ war. He is imposing himself like a farmyard rooster. Some old-people-as well as the most devout-rise up, mumbling prayers on the way to their ablutions. The woman: with a samovar from the East boils the tea in the early morning. The call to prayer follows the movements of the sun, tea, that of the Turkish soul. When calm returns, the far-flung mosques scattered throughout Istanbul complete their tunes in turn and descend on us like a whisper.

Yet this morning the call is late. Instead of falling asleep, I look at the time. I have to take the Marmaray for my Judo class. Yesterday the Great Wealth Party proudly occupied Üsküdar’s Square to make speeches about its glory and shook small flags there. There were women in bright scarves. Under these scarves, something shaping the skulls in a rather wide form, giving them the look of praying mantises and the comparison has nothing to do with the name of the insect. This is it seems the official fashion of the women of the party.

 

When I go down Uncular Street, it’s still dark, but an electric blue rises from the depths of the night. The streets are deserted. Most gray buildings sprawl on twisted sidewalks. I dreaded taking this street dominated by men, when I came on summer vacations growing up. Today it’s different. I am no longer afraid and those who intimidated me at the time are dead. Sadly this is valid for my father.

 

In front of the stone market with the rusty shutters, at the intersection of the street overlooking the Marmaray, a man fails to overthrow me. He rushes towards the wall that surrounds the Mosque, pressing the pace; he hastily wraps a scarf over his head. The fabric floats in his legs and barely hides his belly emerging like an island in the middle of the ocean. He runs up and does not apologize for almost tearing my arm out.

He disappears in the big yard. Several men in a lively discussion jostle me again on the steps that lead to the train. One is short of breath, his cheeks are red and his headdress is in his hand. He follows the others with great difficulty. I hold in my mouth dry comments. Do not be angry in Istanbul because there are so many opportunities.

 

Living space in the public arena is as hard to find as cherries in winter. We push each other to the detriment of others: those before us, old people, pregnant women: no other rules than one self apply.

Sometimes I lose control. I hurry, I breathe, I push with my elbow through an aggressive mass, ready for anything, to get on the train or be in the elevator first, aiming for free places, rushing. A movement then, before sinking in the seat satisfied.

Once I did a crooked-foot. I realized the gravity of my act when I saw my ogre profile in full edge on the train window.

On the platform, a man from the railway company blocks me: the trains are canceled for the day, because of a “generalized breakdown”. The last travelers from the European side come down. Men in robes flock. Something is happening in the city this morning.


Words: Ayfer Simms

Preview: Ayfer Simms




An integral part of the Monolith Cocktail team for the last six or more years, cosmopolitan writer Ayfer Simms has contributed countless music/film reviews (Ouzo Bazooka, Pale Honey, Gaye Su Akyol, Murder On The Orient Express, The Hateful Eight) and interviews (Sea + Air, The Magic Lantern) – and even appeared in the video of one of our featured artists (Blue Rose Code).

Taking time away from the blog to focus on her debut novel, Ayfer has spent the last 18 months busily working away at a story that encompasses not only the personal (including the death of her father) but the wider psychogeography and geopolitics of her native home of Istanbul.

Born in the outlier pastoral regions of Paris to Turkish parents, Ayfer spent her formative years in France dreaming about following in the travelling footsteps of her great literature love, Agatha Christie. After studying for a degree in literature (writing music reviews on the side), Ayfer moved to Ireland for six years before travelling aboard the famous Trans Siberian railway and settling in Japan. Initially visiting her sister, Ayfer not only stayed indefinitely but got married and had a daughter. Deciding to attempt a life in Turkey, where the family is originally from, they moved into Ayfer’s great-grandmother’s house in the Üsküdar district, on the Asian banks of the sprawling Istanbul metropolis.

 

A Rumor In Üsküdar is in some ways autobiographical, the first chapter, which we are excited to be previewing today, inspired by the death of Ayfer’s father a few years back. A familiar setting is given a slightly dystopian mystique and ominous threat by Ayfer who reimagines the Üsküdar neighbourhood of that title being isolated and quarantined by the government, as they test out a piece of (propaganda orchestrated) news on the population.

That’s just the umbrella story though, within that setting we have the main character confronted by the country where she originated from imprisoned but ready to face it all and hoping for a wind of change.

Translated into English from the original French and Turkish language versions, an extract from chapter one, ‘When Going Üsküdar’, awaits.


CHAPTER 1 

When going to Üsküdar


It is two years after the death of my father that the very first dream of mourning appeared, leaving me startled. Reality caught up with the other world. Or rather I did. For these last two years, my dad could clearly not get up, but he was alive, in a good mood, in fine health in his bed. We laughed together. My unconscious did not wish to alarm me and even spared me for all this time.

At the beginning of the week, everything changed.

In that dream, my father’s name was Depardieu and I saw myself crying for him without knowing why. In the morning, I wondered about this fusion of characters. Were the protuberant bellies of the two men the common denominator perhaps? Dreams never rely on one single clue however. They conjure deeper meanings. And then I got it: so simple. The French actor’s name, of course, indicated to me the sad reality of his absence for “de par Dieu” means “ by God”.

Now, dreams, thus my subconscious, are warning me: “He’s dead. You see, he’s dead”. “Why do you think it is a good time to stop sparing me?” I say out loud. When I wake up, I am not happy and feel outraged. 

“I will rebel! I say. He died once; I do not want to be deprived of these short, nocturnal encounters.

Dreams are my meager, but cherished consolation. Reality is aiming far this time, all the way to the sunken heart of intimacy. This phenomenon leaves me aghast. The same evening, I put on my warrior armor. Nobody should touch my father in the pith of my kingdom. I decide to enter this universe consciously, to resurrect my dead.

The night splits in two. In my first dream, he appears in a bad mood. He does not even glimpse at me. He blames my mother of being naive. My mother nods without emotion. SHE knows and she agrees. He says with his eyes “What are you trying to do?”

When I wake up at 3 o’clock in the morning, I realize my semi-success. Semi, because despite appearing alive, he is anxious whilst warnings us. His attraction for the cold land is obvious. Where else would a dead man want to belong? I consider the encounter a failed one.

Before going back to sleep, I repeat several times: “No, not like that, that’s not how I want to see him”.  On I go back with my battle attire, perfectly prepared. Indeed as soon as heavy sand sacks falls on my eyes, I manage to see him smiling. He is lying in a large comfortable bed. In the background, I see a television set. He is relaxed. He says to me, “Yes it’s alright, but I do not know what to do with my days, bedridden that I am”.

There, I realize the measure of the problem. It is all very well to make him come back but isn’t he bored there in the cluster of my mind? After this conversation, I find myself eating sweet cakes with my mother in our old village apartment. The light is dim in the narrow kitchen but the room is filled with warmth.

When I wake up again, I feel like this is a small victory. I see that upon summoning I can meet him again, to fill the void of his absolute silence.

Yet what am I really to do? Listen to the messages of my subconscious and make peace or prepare for battle and mutiny every day?

I know the truth without wanting to admit it. My inner self will win because it is always a step ahead of me in its frantic rationality. For 2 years, the subtle message has been the same: My father will never rise again.

Drunk, he used to sing:

When going to Uskudar, there is rain

The coat of my clerk is long; his basques are covered with mud

The clerk belongs to me and I belong to him, why would anyone care?

The boats passing from Uskudar to Istanbul

My clerk sits, he peels hazelnuts

In his dream, the clerk speaks to me aloud

The clerk belongs to me and I belong to him, why would anyone care?

 

Now, here I am in Üsküdar, in the house where he was born and where he died. I was not in a hurry to leave the country but the recent events have forced me to stay.


Words: Ayfer Simms

Illustration: Volkan Albayrak

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