Night Terrors

by Samuel Mae

Never have I plumbed depths so vulgar as I did that night on the dark streets of Istanbul, a young man in search of meaning but lacking wit. I found myself in an alley that smelled of dung and spice and ochre, at the behest of a woman with no face but every expression, buying poppy from a blind beggar who flashed the universe on his tongue.

Locked away in a dark room with curtains that fluttered, I let the seed run its course, the woman mumbling incoherencies, her head attached to my breast as if by mortar, and then I saw the world in all its gory pastel shades of wrought-dry wonderings and fear, so much fear it hurt to breathe.

I did escape, but not before I sold my heart for a copper and a kiss to this faceless woman who licked my wounds with salt–a kiss I don’t recall apart from the burning taste it left in my belly. Stumbling about, trying to end this nightmare, I became a migrating bird, unable to rest in a city or a place until, bone-weary from tripping into cobbled gutters, I found my body in a room with walls of light cherry and coarse bed-blankets of grey.

Olga, a Belarusian nurse of magnificent stature, would sit by my bedside while I struggled to breathe, singing to me in an angel’s voice–the music of healing, the melody of hope. Then she’d brush matted strands back from my brow and bid me the pleasant sleep of a martyr.

I loved her then, I love her now, all wide hips and brawny arms, but my heart was sold to a faceless woman who writhed about in my dreams and spat on my feet and barked at my screams, and showed me the world, burnt and dying on an axle of rust.

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