And we have our first Middle Eastern Batman story (see
for context)! We have another in the queue as well, which we'll hopefully submit to you, Dear Reader, sometime next week. So get on your submission already! Remember, it can be a bare-bones, two sentence concept left in the comments of the original post, or can be emailed and more elaborate.
Here we've got a fascinating and rather researched take on the idea, replete with a linguistic pun or two. Pavarti posted this over
before I had a chance to here. Please read and enjoy, and heap praise upon her. Without further ado...
Shadow on the Wall
Recai Osman awoke slowly, consciousness flickering in and out. The unforgiving sun beat down on his bruised and exhausted body.
Where am I?
His mind struggled to remember the last twenty four hours.
Gritty particles of sand moved sympathetically as he slowly rolled onto his side, pain shooting through his head as the light hit his closed lids...the sun greeting him with cruel intensity. Sand clung to his long lashes and hair, and as soon as the disorientation passed Recai brushed it off roughly with his sand-infested hands; particles so fine they had filled his shoes around the spaces his foot filled and ground into his scalp between each follicle of hair.
Finally Recai was able to sit up and look around. The night before was still a blur. He remembered the bar at Bozooğulları Hotel and drinking with a Kurdish woman who had reminded him of his mother. Her eyes were deep set and so dark they might have genuinely been black, but it was the mischievous glint and the sound of the language his mother spoke when they were alone that drew him in. Her veil had been tight around her hairline but pulled back away from her shoulders so that he could see the neckline of her dress clearly.
Pinching his brows together he sat, his head spinning with a hangover and dehydration. How had he gotten out here, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by sand and grit? He could only hope that the dunes around him were the ones that resided to the south of the city and not some further, larger wasteland.
He didn't remember leaving the bar, or traveling at all. There were rumors of nomads kidnapping, robbing and deserting bodies in the desert, but he would remember if he'd been kidnapped. Instead all he remembered was drinking bourbon while admiring the curve of the mysterious woman's collar bone, which showed seductively above her blouse.
The Dunes just outside of Elih, Turkey were not large, but it was easy to get disoriented and lost in amongst the shifting terrain. If he was lucky he'd have awoken when it was still dark and could have followed the light of the city toward home, but now, with the blazing sun above him, luck was something he just didn't have.
Man didn't last long in the dunes without water and supplies. If he had a canteen and some salt tablets Recai was resourceful enough he would have been able to survive without food or shelter for a few days, but like this.... He shook his head, sending streams of sand onto the ground around him; those kinds of thoughts weren't going to help him get home.
Recai blinked back his confusion, finding it difficult to clear his mind. The sun and lack of water was starting to affect him already and the temperature was still rising. Recai took off his shoes and socks, knowing that despite the burning sand, this terrain was best traveled the way his ancestors had; he needed to feel the earth below him, listen to the sand as it fell away from his steps.
He undid his belt and jacket making a satchel to carry anything he needed. His pockets had been emptied and he was as penniless as a wandering Roma come to find their next fortune. Soon he had his designer button-up shirt tied up on his head like a Jain turban and his worldly possessions hanging from his belt over his shoulder.
The scruff of his unshaven face protected him slightly from the sun and the turban kept him somewhat shaded. Recai took in his surroundings and the placement of the sun and set off in the direction he hoped was north.
Recai walked for what seemed like miles, resisting the instinct to second-guess his direction. The sand moved between his toes but soon he found his footing and his body responded to the landscape like it was a genetic memory. He remembered his father's words from a trip to the Oman desert when he was a child: never take your shoes off; the sand will eat away at your feet. But Recai had done it anyway then and now, feeling more in control with that connection to the ground, its movements speaking to his flesh directly.
He was in the middle, every direction would lead out. Either to Elih or one of the smaller villages that were scattered around the city. But who out here would take in a stranger? A stranger with a Hugo Boss turban and a bruised and bloodied face. Insha'Allah, he would be delivered to safety.
The sun was high overhead, beating down so that no living thing dared venture out into the desert. If Recai had a tarp or blanket or...anything, he would have dug himself a hole and conserved his strength until night. But instead at the crest of the next dune he sat on his bundle, keeping his body away from the sand so that it didn't suck the remaining moisture from his system, and looked out before him.
From his vantage point he could see the crescent shape the wind had carved in the sand below him. Recai's face was wind burned and his shoulders were screaming from the assault of the sun's rays, but still, the city was out of range, all human life well past the line of the horizon.
Standing up the ground shifted softly again, making Recai think of the last time he had been on his family's Yacht. He used to love going out there as a child, taking the helm from his father when far enough out there wasn't risk of him accidental steering them into a shallow section of the River. Elih was landlocked. This city where his father had made his fortune and helped build a sophisticated Arab beacon for the rest of the Middle East, a place where Turks and Kurds co-existed peacefully. A private jet would fly him and his parents out to Iskandarūn where the boat was stored.
He hadn't been to Iskandarūn in years. Not since his parents had died. Not since they'd been murdered. Not since Elih had fallen into the hands of Mayor Mahmet Yılmaz and his PKK henchmen. Terrorists hiding behind the thin veil of faith. It made Recai sick to his stomach the way the city was falling apart; devolving into crime and ignorance, but there was nothing he could do. He simply was not his father.
Walking along the crest of the dune, hoping to find a way down that didn't involve sliding down the great sand wall, likely creating an avalanche that could bury him alive, Recai felt a rumble in his chest, like a vibration that was surrounding him, calling to him from the air itself. The pitch rose as the noise intensified, now a screaming growl like the Jinn's song. The dunes were collapsing.
Recai began running, hoping to keep ahead of the avalanche he had caused, which was forcing the sand to move against itself with such strength it was singing in protest. The physics of the phenomenon were the last thing on Recai's mind though, because in this moment, the most important thing was to not be caught beneath the cascades of sand that were reshaping the landscape of the dune.
Dropping the satchel that held the last remnants of his modern life Recai scrambled across the crest, unable to get completely away from the avalanche. The dune song crescendoed and he could feel the sand pulling him down, drifting out from beneath his feet as he tried to push off against it in flight. With a scream Recai lost his balance and fell to his hands and knees just as the top of the dune fell out from beneath him, sending him rolling with the sand. He was now not just the instigator of the disaster but part of it, swimming within the sea of sand that carried him away.
* * *
A hand twitched in the sand before Hasad Sofaer. He looked down at it from his perch atop his camel without much concern. Unfortunately it wasn't unusual to find body parts out here in the dead lands of the dunes. What was curious was that this one had garnered the interest of the great beast of burden he was riding upon. No one survived long out here alone and the PKK had taken to leaving living, and dead, people to disappear into the sand.
, Hasad spat at the ground, wasting precious moisture to solidify his curse. Once again the beauty of the desert had been defiled by those bastards. Hasad's camel twitched and lowered its nose to the severed hand, but instead of pushing it over in the sand to reveal the rotting stump the camel felt the hand close around it; startling the animal and Hasad.
The old man jumped down from his perch and stared at the wiggling hand, wondering what kind of devil had animated a dead thing. Was this how the world would end? Was this the day the Golems come to avenge their wrongs? Hasad was not a superstitious man but he had been raised in a tight community of Baghdadi Jews and when the impossible appeared before him, the stories of his youth had more credibility than ever before.
The hand began clawing at the sand, trying to push it away. The sight pulled Hasad out of his thoughts and inspired him to action. Kneeling down next to the hand he began digging in the sand, his camel snorting and spitting behind him, as if sensing an evil rising. This could be a man, a man left to die; Hasad could not sit back and allow such a thing to happen if he had the power to stop it. His God and his soul demanded it. Too many had died out here already.
Still digging, following along the hand's arm he found another hand which grasped on to his forearm. Leaning back against his heels he pulled against the hole which was quickly filling back in. Pulling hard enough that he could feel his old joints protest, his feet slipped out from under him as a head came free.
The face looking up at him from the sand was sun-burnt and bruised. It looked like there was blood matted in his hair but it was hard to tell with the sand clinging to him. Hasad lay on his stomach and reached out his hand to the man who was taking ragged shallow breaths, having literally just fought for his life.
"Beyefendi?" Hasad called, sliding toward him, trying to disturb as little sand as possible, while getting an upsetting amount of it down the front of his own shirt.
"Yarmetî," the man whispered before his head slumped against the sand, his neck going limp. The beginnings of a red beard and the language Hasad didn't understand but recognized sent off warning signs. The old man knew that for a Kurd to end up out here alone, he was either very dangerous or very stupid.
Cursing quietly under his breath the old Jew slid away from the man and retrieved a rope from his camel, tying one end of it to the harness the beast wore. The smell of the creature had long ago stopped bothering him, but he still had no affection for it. The other end of the rope he tied into a noose and hooked around the man's arms, as low as he could get it, and tightened the noose so that the arms were brought together at an angry angle behind the stranger's head.
Hasad sighed and shook his head.
Better a dislocated shoulder or two than dying out here alone.
With that he slapped the camel on the backside and set to pulling Recai Osman out of the sand.