SHORT STORY
2017
O N - T H E - S H O U L D E R S - O F - D E V I L S

DISCLAIMER:
I saw for myself. You read for yourself.

PREFACE I
FRIDAY 29th SEPTEMBER 2017


It was during the second performance at the Komische Oper Berlin that I glanced to my left and saw a familiar face glaring directly back at me. The sound of enormous bells tolled over massive bass as fake smoke filling the theater. Mr. Schilling eventually turned his bitter gaze back toward the modern dance below the curved balcony. My eyes however, returned to the slender necks of the four American girls sitting in front of me. The one directly below was silhouetted by that vast plume of mist rising from the indigo stage lighting, but I could still see the perfect texture of her skin. I knew exactly what her meat would feel like and how she'd react if I grabbed her beautiful top-knot, pulled her back, and then drove my knife into her throat. My jaw clenched while visualizing her hot blood gushing all over my hands as if I'd just cum.

PREFACE II
TUESDAY 3rd OCTOBER 2017

German Unification Day meant that last night had been the La Fête Fatale. While walking toward my street that morning, I pulled off my tie and opened my collar, trying to air out the stink of cigarettes and dance-floor sweat. Checking my phone in the chilly breeze, I was rather surprised to find two messages from little Gabi. I had spotted her outside the party at intermission. She and her friends just happened to be walking past the club. Her first message had come at 3am, “Sad that you didn't even say hello.” The second was after 4am, “We came back, but you had already gone.” Hitting the thumbs-up (the Facebook equivalent of the middle-finger), I reached a red light at an intersection and found Mr. Schilling's black BMW 318i waiting for the signal. We eyeballed each other, just I had done with Gabi last night, and then he drove off looking as miserable as my beard smelt.

PREFACE III
THURSDAY 12th OCTOBER 2017

While enjoying an cappuccino at the Einstein Unter den Linden, I looked down the quiet restaurant of white tables and wooden blinds as Mr. Schilling finally stepped in from the storm. He was German through and through, but in his Hugo Boss trench-coat he gave off the disheveled appearance of a fifty-year-old working-class Brit. Even his impeccable English somewhat reminded me of Stuart Graham. Slumping into the chair at my large booth, he swiveled his head around the empty tables, and then wiped the rain from his face. I was still surprised that he had actually arranged this little meeting. “Bismack's giving you one last chance on Saturday... But understand this... I don't fucking want you there!”
“Won't be here. Consecrating my new art in Turkey.”
Squinting with disgust, Mr. Schilling stood straight up. “Fuck off with with those kanacke then!”

ASIA MINOR DIFFERENCES
FRIDAY 13th OCTOBER 2017

I woke at 6am to the hideous screams of some fucking cat right outside my flat. Instantly awake, I had another hour before my alarm was set. I would be early for my flight for once.
-
Ten hours later, I was standing at the desolate airport at Izmir waiting for a bus. Munich's airport had been the model of pristine functionality. This place though, was vacant and sad. As big as the structure had been, there was nothing grand about it. Where the fuck was everyone?
On the bus ride into the city, I stared at a landscape of rough mountains coated in scruffy bush, and it reminded me of my previous travels to Greece. However, the minarets towering above the many mosques was an constant reminder that I was somewhere new. Yet the streets were asphalt, the traffic was thick, and familiar advertisements reaffirmed the international language if commerce.

The moment I stepped off the bus at the main station, two hardened-looking guys marched toward to me in the broad daylight and flashed their badges in my face. Shaking my head at this cliche of being profiled as a criminal by appearance alone, I faked a smile and asked if they spoke English. Always smile. Smiling lowers defenses. One of the plain-clothed tough-guys quickly gained the translation skills of two fourteen-year-old girls. Pretty girls. All countries and cultures have their fresh meat. She kindly asked for my passport, wanted to know when I had arrived and what my business was? Politely answering their logical questions, I thanked the girl before the cops courteously escorted me to the bus leaving for Bergama.
-
During the two hour journey the sky turned red much faster than expected. My phone rang once it got dark. The hotel wanted to confirm that I was still coming. Traveling always takes longer than hoped, and sooner or later a headache inevitably comes. I needed water.
Catching a 'Taksi' from central Bergama to my hotel in the old quarter, I found that the exceptionally friendly cabby was offering a guided tour of all the sights tomorrow for a mere 100 Lira. He handed over his card as I was greeted by the old married couple that owned the quaint hotel. For no reason at all, the curious pair up-graded my room from a single to a suite. So told them how much I admired the cozy refurbishment of the 160 year old building, asked about all the portraits of Atatürk, and was offered sliced watermelon.
Once I cleaned up, I headed out into the narrow streets. According to the local map, directly above the golden lamplight of my hotel, the Pergamon mountain loomed in the pitch black of the cooling night. It felt like summer again, but after the heat of the day had dropped off, I was glad that I had my scarf. Despite my headache demanding that I find a kiosk and buy some bottled water, I deliberately took the scenic route. It seemed as though almost half of the old buildings were abandoned shells with hollow windows and bolted doors. No one had lived in these places for decades, if not longer. Stray cats sat perched upon garbage bins, old men sat outside barbershops, and occasionally boys in twos rode by on motorbikes. I wondered how much life had really changed for the common man since the Hellenistic period. Then I paused, forcing myself to consciously realize that I had left the Einstein restaurant at this very time last night. I'd walked to Museum Island, to the thirteenth corner of old fortified Berlin, knelt below the Pergamon Museum, and picked up a stone from the gardens. 24 hours later, I was in another world. And I was perfectly fine. I wasn't in danger and I wasn't lonely. I was here for a reason. I had things to do. Ultimately, I was intrigued to see where my true-will was taking me. At least this time I wasn't being led out into the middle of the North fucking Sea. So what could possibly go wrong.

TRESPASSING UPON THE THRONE
SATURDAY 14th OCTOBER 2017

I awoke to the squawking of a Americans outside the hotel. Fucking tourists. My headache persisted and insisted that I sleep in.
It wasn't till after 10am that I got up and looked out of my window. The Americans were gone, and up to my left I could literally see the first ruins of the acropolis on the mountain side.
Chatting with the owners over coffee, they said that generally Americans were too afraid to visit. They think Turkey's a scary place. Speaking of which, a few days ago Blondie had told me, “Watch out for suicide-bombers.” But the reality was, these people were just living their lives like everyone else. Humans are fundamentally all the same.
-
The sky was without a cloud as I strolled around to the nearby cable-car. Mountain ranges surrounded the blue distance. Once I reached the entrance at the top, I saw barely a sightseer. I had the place to myself. Lacking orientation, I walked up the path into a barren court scattered with broken pillars. Then I spotted some Asians up ahead, so took a left to avoid them. Quickly coming to the sharp edge of stone, I immediately found myself looking down over the enormous amphitheater. If you took a running leap, this would be a easy way to kill yourself, you'd land right in the center of the stage far below. Up to my right I could see the white ruins of the Trajan Temple, which meant I needed to take the left-hand path. And just as expected, as I reached the next edge, I looked down upon a healthy tree growing right out of the remains of the Great Altar of Zeus. It was beautiful. Here sat The Throne Of Satan high above the world.

I chose not to take the long route back around, but climbed straight down the rocks without hesitation. Alone in the sun, I slowly circling in a clockwise direction that fenced off ruin. It was little more than a large mound of shallow steps and disjointed stones. That widespread tree stood proudly where Antipas had been slain. Coming from the south-side, I stood above the east cliffs where the stairs had once risen up to the entrance of the Altar. Opening my backpack, I removed the stone from Berlin, and placed my offering within the fence at the base of the ruin. In turn, I took a new stone and tucked it away. Continuing, I walked 360° around the the Altar. I took photos for the texture over my current artwork, and soon wondered why this was the only place in the whole acropolis that had been cordoned off. A large group of tourist then arrived on the scene, so I departed until I could have the Throne to myself again.
I wrote this in my journal while sitting in the amphitheater looking down to where the voices of the past had once filled this space. Now it was all mine. This world was a ruin. Only fragments remained. Just like memories of past accomplishments. Past loves and past violations. Ruins Of What Once was. Yet here I was. Here for myself. You can never fully appreciate all the things you've done, just as you can never truly anticipate how much more that had yet to be achieved. What I could grasp however, was stone. The stone beneath me. The stone I had brought here and the stone I would take away. Stone represented a permanence, while at the same time reflected a warning that without belief in this magick, then you too were just a stone, lifeless and unaffected. I wasn't a stone. Not yet. And I swore that I'd never forget.

-
Once I left the theater, I spent a few hours exploring the expanses of the temples, palaces, and the remnants of the library. I could hear the call to prayer echoing all the way up from the the town below. While I was enjoying the view over the lake on the north-side, I finally realized that I was getting roasted in the sun. So I headed back to the Altar.

There was no one anywhere. I found my stone offering, climbed over the fence, and scaled the ruin. I came, I saw, and I walked on The Throne Of Satan. I had crossed the fence and no one stopped me. I had stood on top, next to that great tree, and no one came. No one stopped me. No one ever will. I crossed the line because I could. Looking out to the west, I placed my hand on the flaky bark of the tree and closed my eyes. A silence fell as the light of day faded from behind my eyelids. Looking up, I found that only the tree remained unchanged. The sky had begun peeling open like the rotten flesh of a bloated corpse as thunder closed in. I could see the Western Wall just below. Gripping the trunk, I could see it all again, my vision from the Pergamon Museum. It wasn't night but overcast clouds and dead smoke smothered this landscape. This was a Jerusalem, but not that of man. The encompassing kingdom of heaven was the abomination of absolute desolation. Vast ruins filled the sky like a smoldering skeleton of divine tribulation. Only the mist drifted in movement – when suddenly lightning struck simultaneously the north and south-sides of the Altar! That instant, murderous millions came to life screaming in the throes of battle! The volume of their voices made the impact of the twin lightning bolts seem like a whisper. Hell was deafening! Smoke rolled aside, revealing the secrets of infernal warfare. This endless city of Mulciber's design was overthrown by its own deranged subjects. Figures both giant and man-size, inhuman and bestial, filled this chard empire like a flood of rampaging devils. I couldn't discern who was fighting whom. They were all blackened and burnt creatures that seemed without allegiance to any other. It was utter chaos! A mayhem came stampeding toward the Altar! Backing behind the tree I saw huge serpents scaling the cliff on the east side. It was then that I noticed the two smoking craters where the lightning had struck, were now overflowing like new springs. However, it was blood that came bubbling up from the stone surface. Blood pouring forth as it swamped over my feet, until I slipped and my hand released the tree – and I was blinded by the sun again!

A warm breeze blew up from Bergama and over that arid mountain top. My Chuck Taylors were dry and dusty. There was no blood anywhere. Glancing around the weed-choked ruin, I finally knew exactly what was missing from my pentaptych of blasphemy: the wrath of Zeus!
So it was all down hill from there. Locating my stone offering, I climbed the fence from whence I had come, and walked away. The thing is, when you approach the edge of a cliff, it's never just a sheer drop off. Once you reach the edge you find that you can actually make your way down on your own two feet. There's always much more waiting below. But when you're down there, there's yet again another cliff that appears to drop off to nothing. As daunting as the edge might appear from afar, the closer you get the sooner you learn how well you can handle your own perpetual decent. That was when I looked back toward the Altar and spotted Carl Humann's grave. Standing above a large slab of stone chiseled with that German's name, I paid my respects as well as my lack of it. How many factors had led me to this. If he hadn't uncovered the frieze in 1878, then the Pergamon Museum would have never spoken to me. He has played his part, just as I play mine. And you've never done enough until you're buried like a stone.

I had to climb under a locked gate and through the gravel in order to reach the entrance to the acropolis without having to backtrack, but I loved the dirt on my hands. While sitting alone in the cable-car, listening to my headphones play Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch, Wallace, I admired the salt stains of sweat on my black shirt, and knew that this short pilgrimage had been worth it. I had paid homage, and in return I now had the final pieces needed to complete my artwork, The Pergamon Of Jerusalem. The sun was shining and everything was going according to plan, right until I looked into another cable-car passing mine and the Iranian woman glared straight back at me. Her long black hair and hateful eyes were unmistakable. She didn't react. She just sat alone staring at me. Her gorgeous features were matched only by her contempt. Something was afoot! Was she following me? Or is this fate again? Seriously, who the fuck was she?!
I didn't see any cars in the parking lot that seemed like her expensive style. Not waiting around in that open sun, I walked back to my hotel. If she was looking for me, she'd know where I was staying. She had made it this far. Whatever she might be, she held some kind of significant role in the great work.

THURSDAY 31st AUGUST 2017
A CLUSTERFUCKED FIRST IMPRESSION

“Ach du scheisse!” yelled out, just before a metal bucket was thrown across the work-space into the brick wall!
Turning with the fishing knife in my rubber-gloved hand, I saw Jörg step up and slam his shoulder into the furious Mr. Schilling's entrance! A tirade of explicit German intolerance snarled over the young Belarusian. I had no idea who this guy was but I understood enough German to grasp that he was threatening to cave my skull in. His spit landed on my cheek, but after a minute, Jörg shoved Mr. Schilling back toward the huge doorway. With a frown from the greasy-haired middleman, he shrugged at me, “It's his place. He has a right to be irritated.”
“So why the fuck I am I doing his job, then?” I asked, pissed off as I pointed the long blade at the gutted female hanging upside down from her ankles over a stainless steel basin. “I have a lecture this evening that I'm not going to miss for this fucking cunt!”
“Get the fuck out!” Mr. Schilling yelled, lunging at my throat! Again, Jörg stood up, not once raising his hands. “Who the fuck is this ausländer piece of shit?!”
“I had another... Accident,” Jörg muttered staring at the floor. “Caviezel was right. He does good work.”
Mr. Schilling stood back looking appalled at the mid-twenties guy between us. Jörg was the sort whose oblivious confidence had no need to justify himself to someone like Mr. Schilling. Despite the violent products of this young gangster, his polite tone of voice eventually lowered even Mr. Schilling's guard.
“What the fuck have you done?!”
“Come on, man.”
“I'm talking to this idiot!”
Tilting my head like a bashful puppy, I smiled.
“Take her down! Now!” Mr. Schilling demanded, as he walked across the room. Unlocking a cabinet, he removed his trench-coat, and then pulled on a thick black apron. The first time that I had come to this abandoned factory, I had heard it referred to as 'the facility', but on this second visit, once I saw Mr. Schilling taking charge, I understood the title. The guy was the epitome of German efficiency! He wheeled out a hospital stretcher which we lowered the female's carcass onto. He then pushed it down a short corridor to a big walk-in freezer. There were three other nude bodies lying on metal stretchers. I offered to assist, but he slapped my hand aside.
Jörg was busy texting on his phone next to the massive walled-up windows, but mentioned that Mr. Schilling used to own a butchery down in Nuremberg. However, his business went bankrupt in the 90s, and that's why he now worked for the likes of Mr. Bismarck.
Mr. Schilling said that he'd deal with the girl later, once he cleared his backlog. Jörg was cool with that and gestured for us to get the fuck out of there, but I insisted that I wanted to watch. Taking all of no seconds to think it over, Jörg quietly requested that Mr. Schilling to drive me back into town afterward. Once he left, neither of us spoke a word.
I immediately knew what the large band-saw in the middle of the room was used for as a stretcher with some unidentified body was raised to the cutting level. Mr. Schilling's systematic procedure was a thing of simplistic beauty. Bodies were frozen solid, then he dismembered them into perfectly clean chunks. No mess, no fuss. I instantly respected his professional technique. My process of bleeding the carcass before disemboweling them, inevitably involved some amount of spillage. Mr. Schilling had a far superior method. But then again, this guy had an entire estate all to himself. A work-space with machines, tools, walk-in freezer, and of course multiple incinerators. The perks of organized crime. No wonder he was pissed to find that we had let ourselves in.
I remember asking Mr. Caviezel, during my first visit, why not just burn the bodies straight away. He said it was their policy to incinerate the heads, hands, and distinguishing features in separate ovens.
It took Mr. Schilling less than fifteen minutes to reduce a frozen human body to a stack of ice cubes. By then, the three prime incinerators were fired up and roaring.
By the time the second body was diced, the first was ash.
Once the pieces of the third were shoved into the ovens, Mr. Schilling threw the girl's intestines from the basin into the fires. I made an attempt to help clean up, but he scowled at me to stand back, before using a high-pressure hose to wash down the entire floor. I assumed the girl I'd been working on would need at least 24 hours to stiffen, unless there was a tank of liquid nitrogen around that I hadn't seen.
-
On the thirty minute drive out of the woods south of Berlin, I lingered upon a small dilemma about what I'd learned from Mr. Schilling. The guy took his work seriously, and I admired his expertise, but there was a certain clinical approach that wasn't my cup of tea. Once the bodies hardened into static popsicles, they lost some humanity about them. There was nothing sexy about what Mr. Schilling did. Yeah, it was fast and extremely effective. That had a benefit to it. After all, I didn't know who any of those carcasses had been. I had no attraction nor connection to them. Therefore, Mr. Schilling's approach seemed thoroughly appropriate. Yet if they had been some young Claire Forlani who I'd stalked and fixated upon for months, then I'm pretty sure I'd rather have those malleable mutilations all to myself. You can't fuck a frozen mannequin, and believe me, I've been there.
-
Even though the traffic was easy that evening as the BMW headed down Torstrasse, I was still running late to meet Mara at an OTO lecture about the Yazidi Tribe. Opening the passenger's side door, I was about to thank Mr. Schilling, but before I could he snapped, yelling, “It's not your fucking job! I have no patients for psychopaths like you! Stay the fuck out of my shit!”

DINNER WITH COMPLICITY
SATURDAY 14th OCTOBER 2017

After I dropped off my backpack at the hotel, I went wandering through the main street in the old town, and bought some bottled water. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the bus station, and I didn't want to always be reliant on the taxi service. The old folk at the hotel had described the station as being near the Red Hall, but even after investigating that ruin, I was still at a loss. Reluctant to return to the hotel, I decided to take a look inside an antique store crammed full of carpets and trinkets. I usually avoided such tourist traps, but this place genuinely looked ancient as fuck. The second I stepped under the midget-sized door, my head plunged into a hundred thousand lamps hanging from the ceiling. The bald fat man sitting on the floor laughed out loud, warmly welcoming me, and as hoped, he spoke English. Ducking about the odds-and-ends, I smiled awkwardly as the owner made small talk, while his friend sat drinking tea with apathetic glances. Ignoring the eclectic merchandise, I took the seat that was offered and asked about the bus station. The guy to my right muttered to his jolly old friend who pointed out the door, saying that I simply had to take the first left and down by the bridge I would find the station.
And I did. Recognizing the same bus driver from last night standing outside, I asked for their scheduled back to Izmir. Everything was under control. My return flight left at 4pm tomorrow, and the buses left here every hour, which meant that I could happily sleep in.
While heading back to the hotel, I strolled past the antique store again. There a cute girl in a hijab stepped out and stared at me with that perturbed expression that almost everyone in this town gave me: who-the-fuck-is-this-tall-tattooed-pale-man-in-black?! But then the fat owner called out from within. The girl's face shifted as she lost focus on my eyes, gesturing for me to come inside. Skeptical, I gave her an eyebrow. The owner had said that he'd make me a 'special price' on anything that caught my eye. Did that include this chick? She was a teen, but legal? Then again, I shouldn't jump to pessimistic conclusions, not everyone's trying to pimp out their daughters. So far I hadn't meet a single Turk that had been anything but hospitable. So I relaxed. Letting go of caution, I knew that it would all work out just fine. Fatalism was in the house. And if shit does go sideways, I could deal with it. I'm a charming motherfucker, after all.
So it turned out that the fat guy, Mr. Özden just wanted to invite me for dinner with his family. Ever since I told him that I came from Berlin, he kept trying to talk in German, and he actually knew more that I did. I thanked him kindly, and figured it was a nice chance to try some homemade Turkish cuisine. Why the fuck not.
-
In the hotel garden, I proceeded to knock back as much water as I could while writing in my journal. My decision to sleep off my headache this morning had worked, but after spending the whole day in the sun, I wanted to ensure I wouldn't dehydrate again. And then I recalled a dream I'd had last night about fucking Gabi. The CreepLord inside of me has a will of his own.
Eventually I looked up from my writing and zipped my jacket shut. The cold had crept in, and I was rather uneasy why the Iranian woman hadn't reappeared by now. I began to doubt whether I had actually seen her in the cable-car. Maybe it was just some other fine piece of ass. No, that sneer of indignation on her face was one of a kind.
-
It was dark by 7pm, and black within half an hour. The same girl invite me into the now closed-for-business antique store where oriental string music could be heard coming from the back patio. Crumbling rooftops surrounded the small courtyard, while a full house of guests sat about a large dining table. I wasn't expecting a party. Kids, from babies to early twenties, ran around while old men and grandpas chattered among themselves. Women and girls came in with brightly colored dishes. The spicy smells whoever, were nothing new to me. Guess the Turkish influence in Berlin had already ingrained itself upon my olfactory cognition. As I sat watching everyone socialize, I recalled all the tails that females had recited about how uncouth Turkish boys were in Germany. I had seen their sexual objectification for myself during late nights at Ubahn stations in Neukolln. But I also remember many other girls stating that they're much better behaved in Turkey. It seemed that they were right. So what was it about German culture that corrupted the young Turks? Or had it merely liberated their true selves?
Once dinner was done, Mr. Özden invited some of his guests for drinks away from the madness of all the crowded conversations. He led us up narrow passageways between twisted neighbors that weren't public thoroughfares. Further up the hill until I was sure that we must have been someplace close to the level of my hotel. My suspicion once again began to speculate that I was about to find myself locked in some cellar below one of the boarded up buildings. I laughed at myself. No one would pay a ransom for my skinny ass. Let's hope that they're just going to chop me up into mince meat and feed my flesh and bones to the next stupid fucking tourist that stumbled along. And then I started to wonder, if I really didn't make it out of here alive what would I regret? That I didn't get to apply the finishing touches to my new art. So fucking what! Again the reality was no great horror. We literally went for drinks at a small house overlooking the town. The place was stuffy, cluttered, and had tassels hanging from literally everything. There were seven of us all together in that cramped abode. Mr. Özden told stories about how his family had all came from the Taurus Mountains. His grandfather suffered a stroke on the night of Mr. Özden's wedding, and when he woke, ordered Mr. Özden to move here specifically. His grandfather never spoke another word till the day he died. Mr. Özden was clearly over it, laughing as he poured himself another wine.
That was when a latecomer poked his head in through the curtained doorway and quietly sat next to me. He was in his fifties, maybe younger, it was hard to tell his age considering how sun-weathered his lean features and gray his mustache was. His calculating eyes had a severity unlike the rest of his extended family, as he focused on my unusual presence. As it happened, his English was far superior to everyone else, even the kids. Despite his morose temperament, his curiosity about my reasons for visiting was only heightened once I mentioned my artist endeavors. Of course, being in the midst of a Muslim country, I neglected to mention any occult associations. It was he who brought up the subject of Jerusalem, and his dismissal of the theory that the Temple Of Solomon had actually been built south of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, at the Gihon Spring. He was unwavering in his opinion that Herod would have only built the Second Temple upon the original site or it would have never appeased the masses, that being the only reason that he built the thing. The conversation shifted to why the location of the Dom Of The Rock was so important. Chatting about Abraham and the contradictory stories about sacrificing Isaac Vs. Ishmael. Was that act the reason why the stone was also the site of the Holy Of The Holies, as well as being the start of Muhammad's journey to heaven? Or just a coincidence? 'Coincidence' didn't seem like a word he understood, even though he said he'd heard me. He stated that 'coincidence' was an excuse for fools that were too afraid to accept messages from beyond.
The solemn tone of our conversation on theology was nothing like that of the other men who laughed over their chain-smoking inebriation. I glanced around the room, and then confessed my ignorance, asking if everyone in Turkey were so well versed on alternative views of religious history? He lit a cigarette, shaking his head slowly as he inhaled. For quite a while he just stared at the table with bloodshot eyes, before he turned toward me with complete concentration and confided that he had once been an imam. Some years ago, however, he chose to step down for public speaking. He hesitated, and I wondered if he really had been given a choice. The ex-imam then admitted how disheartened he had become at the growing indifference of the young and old. He gave an analogy that struck a chord. “You see the pillars in the acropolis and you think how piously they worshiped their deities. Whether the gods were real or not, the people themselves cherished these places because of the reverent meaning associated with them. But tell me, do you think in a few thousand years people will look at the ruins of our current airports and think that we worshiped the power of flight, or that we just took it for granted like the nihilistic hedonists we have actually become?!”
I noticed that the ex-imam's voice had silenced the room, and then I saw that everyone was passing around a small bottle of oil. They rubbed the lotion on their hands and necks. The potent fragrance made my nostrils cringe. Smiling, I passed it on without indulging. It took a few minutes, as the background dialogue picked up again, before I realized why I recognized the citrus scent. It smelt just like Blondie's bedroom.
“Without sacrifice everything is mundane,” the ex-imam caught my drifting attention. Glancing away from the gaunt guy talking, I laid my eyes upon a headless fucking donkey as it walked past the window! My smirk faded at what the fuck I'd just seen outside, while the guy next to continued talking, “There must be some inherent value in that which is being given up. If you surrender something without any person worth, then you will gain no deeper insight. Those that sacrifice themselves for the greater good become martyrs for that very reason. They have surrendered the ego. And those that survive them love them all the more for their selfless feat.”
“What are you trying to justify?”
“Explaining the meaninglessness of everyday life. Life in this day and age. Belief doesn't make gods real, but belief divinely inspires us. Yet the arrogance of modern man would rather make the soul obsolete, and then he dwells in depression day in day out wondering why he feels so pathetic and empty!”
The guy had a point, no one worshiped the sky. Airports were only full of impatient cow-people grunting arrogantly as they shuffled along their trivial little travels. As much as I may have appreciated the ability to fly to this country and see the foundations of antiquity with my own two eyes, I surely would learn to value magnificence of flight if I was made to walk the distance from Pergamon to Berlin.
“We carry on this facade of culture,” he spoke quietly but with an intense pronunciation to each word that he spat out. “Yet we're all on our phones, dressed in Nike, and answering the call to prayer – but not with one ounce of resolve!” In a sudden burst of scorn, he kicked the table right out of his way as he stormed out of the house, slamming the door behind him!
Almost no one paid him any attention, as Mr. Özden leaned over. “Do not mind my brother and his lost faith. More a cultist than fundamentalist now.”
“Didn't sound like he lost any faith.”
“Then why has he turned his back on Islam?”
I wasn't quite sure how to answer such a personal question about a practical stranger. “What cult exactly does he align himself with these days?”
“Not for me to judge,” my host grinned, passing a plate of fruits. “But if he is not more careful, one day someone will.”
Enter the girls upon scene.
I can't help considering in hindsight that the ex-imam timed his departure from that house because of these new guests. Not just because they were female, but as they were our desert. I didn't know how old they were, but not one of those girls looked like they had reached double digits yet. Some guys cuddled with the kids, others hastily took them off for some private time. When a girl sat next to me with those big brown eyes smiling without any heart, I turned to my host and asked what the age of consent was in Turkey? He paused, and then translated my question. The others roared with laughter while Mr. Özden rammed his tongue down the throat of a child no older than seven. He raised his glass and grabbed the face of the girl meant for my consumption, as he spoke, “Here, in small villages we need not listen to the laws of the civilized city. Here we are free men!”
Nodding, I leaned closer and asked him to elaborate.
“Of course we don't want our children to sell their bodies, and we condemn anyone who is caught buying them,” he concisely clarified. “It is the same how no one in the West takes drugs.” He then couldn't stop laughing. “Of course they are all taking drugs! It is the same situation here! You do not approve of it in public, but you still do it!”
As customary as this aspect of the culture seemed, I passed on the little girl like I passed on the scented hand lotion. I liked my females with more hips than anything youth had to offer.

AN OUBLIETTE IN THE ENTRAILS
SATURDAY 14th OCTOBER 2017

Outside the antique store I found the ex-imam standing in a trance as he smoked. He totally ignored my presence as I leisurely walked by.
“Have you seen what bleeds beneath the Altar?” his elongated words croaked from behind.
Gradually coming to a stand still, I twisted, glaring at the side of that stoic man's head. “No... I've only seen the blood.”
-
A little way up behind the old part of town, I was led to an abandoned building. It didn't look like a house, more like a bunker. The place was half covered in trees, rubbish, and gravel from landslides. There was nothing but the darkness of the acropolis above. The ex-imam had a key to the thick lock and soon opened the rusted door. Amazingly the establishment had electricity, and to my growing bewilderment, the lights lit up a tunnel leading straight into the belly of the mountain. It was like a two lane highway. Whatever this had been, it looked as though the place had been locked away for the better part of the last century. Maybe a Cold War bomb-shelter? Maybe it was an aqueduct from the lake on the other side? Or maybe it really was just an blocked off highway. Whatever it's design, work had ended in abrupt blackness about a hundred meters in. This thing was definitely not on any of the tourist maps that I'd picked up. My guide grabbed two large flashlights from a dusty shelf. Checking that they both worked, he handed over one, and then marched directly into the wide tunnel. Like always when traveling, I had my tiny penlight in my jacket pocket, but kept that card close to my chest.
On the slow walk down that tunnel there came a withdrawn drone. A subtle sensation like a constant echo reverberating from some vast depth. The engineering of the vaulted ceiling looked like something you'd expect to come across in post-Soviet lands. Big concrete and steel arches with caged lighting. The cement paving was laden with chunks of dry dirt. The closer we got to where the lights went out, the less comfortable I was about trusting my guide. I didn't have my knife on me, as my lite-economy flight wouldn't allow for checked-in luggage.
And then I faced the end of the line. The concrete construction just stopped. The road broke away into a void that opened up before me. As my eyes adjusted, I was presented with an imposing cavern of Tartarus proportions. The Alepotrypa cave had nothing on this.
“What can you hear?” the ex-imam asked.
While we both stood on the edge of the enormous hollow, I tilted my head. There were wet sounds. Dripping. Gentle sloshing. And then air. A long draft. Almost like breath. I listened as the highlights of details began to stand out from the black.
“My father,” I whispered. “That's my father's voice. Can you hear that?”
All the lights suddenly went out and a firm palm drove into my back between my shoulder blades! Shoved forward, I didn't fall far before landing hard! With a slip and a roll, I slid down something sodden and slapped bluntly into a giant rock! I had absolutely no sense of direction, but could hear the ex-imam's footstep fading away. Panicking, I fumbled with my flashlight, when suddenly I heard running water. A lot of water! Gushing became a waterfall. More sounds of water pouring began coming from all around. I could feel spray on my shaved skull like a cold shower. The more unseen waterfalls that began to pour, the more I built a mental model of the scale of that gigantic cavity. With both hands gripping my torch, I forced my muscles to wait. Clenching my entire body, I made myself sit still and listen. In the pitch black there was always that fear of the unknown, but at the same time, there was camouflage in darkness. Become one with the shadow. The more I eased down, the less violent the waterfalls sounded. And then, like upon the battlements, I heard the ghost of my own King of Denmark. The voice of my father spoke straight to my face, “The more you see, the less light you need.”
These very same words I had found written in Greek upon stone not two months ago.
A snorting noise then came. A woman's moans. Coming from behind me. The moment I switched on the flashlight, all the underworld became bathed in blood. Black stone was soaked with the scarlet of slaughtered masses. These were not waterfalls but the severed arteries of the living mountain itself! Raising the strong beam of light upward across that rugged wall of the cave that I had fallen down, I found it riddled with gaping holes. I followed the gagging utterance of that female until I came upon the Iranian woman. Naked, she lay sprawled on her back within a smaller cave not twenty feet away. She lurched on her back. Her hair a mess. Her face pale. There I saw the exaggerated disfigurement of my father. He huddled among the rocks, the size of a mature rhinoceros, clinging to the Iranian woman where she mouthed silent words. I watched that giant thing, that animal eat her alive. Eat her from the guts down. He had already masticated her intestine, shit and all. He had stripped her legs down to the bone which he now gripped with both massive paws as he devoured her uterus. All the while she remained alive, awake and aware. Her eyes had a strange expression whenever she looked down at her meatless pelvis. That animal of my father crouched naked and hairy, casually chewing away, enjoying his meal. I slowly stood in front of them, but they both seemed oblivious to my presence, as if they were blind.
A shrieking then howled from across those many huge lakes of blood below!
There is nothing more recognizable than the voice of your own father stating your name. Turning back to the glazed eyes of that which had once been my maker, I watched as blood dripped from his unkempt beard. The screaming of other inhabitants in this place what grew louder as more beasts joined that savage chorus. Leaning closer I waited. The Iranian woman's arms flapped aside as she too looked in my direction with a limp jaw. Behind me the demonic screeching came in countless waves, and as I glance upward I spotted the tunnel into this pitiless realm. My name was called again and I glared back at my father as he yelled with that most brutal of tones, “THE GREAT ALTAR OF ZEUS! IT MUST BE BUILT! BUILT UPON THE TEMPLE MOUNT!”
The Iranian woman finally screamed and gave up the ghost as her rib-cage was abruptly dug out! My mind full of questions was instantaneously replaced with that most Freudian of instincts: the hateful jealously of competitive greed!
Placing the flashlight on the bloody rocks, making sure it remained pointing at the glorious aberration that my father had become, I darted up the jagged incline and rolled onto the concrete just as a vicious herd of great-white-like ebony serpents swarmed upon the target of my light! From what I could discern, my father dealt the attack in the most violent of ways. While retreating within that blackened passageway, I was overcome with an awesome affirmation, that he had finally found a place where he belonged, and that I had much to live up to.

POSTFACE I
SUNDAY 15th OCTOBER 2017


The idea of staying a second night at Bergama wasn't an option, there was no possibility of sleep for my devious little brain. I immediately caught the last bus back to Izmir and booked the next flight out of there at 3:45am. During the entire journey, I was preoccupied by how the ex-imam had reminded me of when I was mistaken for a priest at Loch Ness. I soon began wondering how much more intimately I could learn to desecrate the venerated if I actually joined a seminary. I had come to a turning point, much I had in my mid-twenties when I knew that if I truly desired to know how badly females could damage my psyche, then I had to lower my guard and let them in.
I arrived in Berlin at 8am, and the moment I switched on my phone that crisp autumn morning, I received a message from Mr. Schilling.
The bus dropped me off on Unter den Linden, and as I walked onto Museum Island, the mighty bells from the Dom welcomed me back. Knelling below the Pergamon Museum, I knew I had come full circle as I placed the stone from the Alter in the garden. All of this for the art. A bigger picture that I was merely meant to illustrate. But the art could not be if I myself would not dare see.
Shun no wickedness!
Despite my lack of sleep, when Mr. Schilling picked me up from outside the Theology Library, I was glad to help him fix whatever fuck-up some other fuck-up had fucked up.

POSTFACE II
FRIDAY 20th OCTOBER 2017

I had already put on my suit and tie for the first Hard Rub fetish party that I was attending later that night, when Mr. Schilling wrote to me, saying he wanted to speak. Not intending for him to know my exact home address, we met at Boxhagener Platz, and took a casual stroll around the park. Like always, his hunched shoulders and messy gray hair had him looking eternally rattled. We had almost walked right back to where we started without a word, when finally he handed me his iPhone. The bloody glow from the photo that I had hastily taken of Mr. Limpy on the coast of the North Sea looked even more graphic than I remembered.
“We think we're special because others fear us,” Mr. Schilling said, tucking his phone away as a weak rain began to fall. “But I've never actually killed anyone. So what does that make me?”
“Normal.”
“Then they should fear that I'll report them. But they don't, because I won't.”

POSTFACE III
TUESDAY 31th OCTOBER 2017

On the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation, my phone began ringing as I stepped out of the American Church into a cold Schöneberg evening. Mr. Schilling was vague but insisted that I meet him at the facility.
There was a dim light at the end of that massive factory of uninhabited industry. Mr. Schilling was sitting on a small stool next to the cold incinerators. The surrounding walls looked like god-sized scabs as they silhouetted that slouching German. He never looked at me, just slowly stood, climbed onto the stool, pulled the wire noose around his neck, and then stepped off. His hands didn't fumble with regret. He swung, flinched, spluttered, and finally hung inanimate. I stared at him for about twenty minutes. Glancing at the tall band-saw, I eventually switched off the light and walked away. Only the faintest of illumination gleamed through the towering shafts in the blackened walls. Today had also been another anniversary: sixteen years since I'd watched my father's fall to Hades. I wondered what kind of devil hell would make of Mr. Schilling that this world had failed to.

Bruce

© 2017 BRUCE STIRLING JOHN KNOX