Home » Called Out By Death by Nazli Karabiyikoglu

HORLA FICTION (May 2019)

 

CALLED OUT BY DEATH

by Nazli Karabiyikoglu

LIFE filled in him through a cut he got while rock spread around as it got hit by a billhook. Light washed his slanted eyes, slim nose and cheekbones.

Old Man carefully came down the stairs, took a glance at the face completed by a single hit from afar. With joy he wrapped himself around her belly, hugged her. Kissed its thighs. He didn’t feel the chronic pains he had when he was watching her wholesome face, fierce looking eyes, and her chest standing like a strained arrow ready to jump on her prey.

She was going to be the most precious part of his last exhibition, his Amazon. Her viewers would be astonished by her vivid veins tied to her neck from the tips of her shoulders, the wave of her thick hair coming down to her slightly tilted back; her magnificence would penetrate into their hearts from the stance of her legs on her feet yelling their strength to the ground under her rock-solid hips, looking bulky at first but naive after some time. Her arms, hard enough to rip someone’s head off. One of them was resting in mid air in front of her, and the other was on her chest where she had breasts once.

Old Man had been working for months to capture the harmony of the flesh covering her falling apart, and to make her wear thin-laced sandals. The area between her belly and her groins wasn’t done yet, the skin should have met her flesh there. She was still missing a headdress, arrows around her arms and dentations where her head connected to her chest. He had left the first hit behind, the one with the fear of cracking the stone, so the rest shouldn’t have been much of a problem. All he needed was patience, and time.

He moved the stairs away from the sculpture and stood by the window. He looked to the street of his workshop, and the sea beyond it. He wanted to chat a little with his other pieces before going to sleep. He was about to move away from the window, but he saw a shadow five floors under. It moved to its right and left as if it wanted to see him clearly. He opened the window and leaned out. Then he found this baseless curiosity of his funny, and got back inside. He mumbled: “Everything interests the senior.” He laid on the old couch, his hand under his head, his Amazon before him.

He had just fallen asleep to the dream of the two running on the same horse, when the annoying sound of the doorbell made him jump on his seat. He glanced at the clock on the wall, it can’t be good news he thought. He went to the door, and asked who it was. When no one answered, he looked through the viewer, but he could only see darkness. He was about to forget it when the doorbell rang again. He ran to get his billhook, came back and opened the door ready to attack. A strange shadow met him, the one lingering downstairs earlier. He dropped his guard and asked the shadow who it was looking for. When the woman untied her scarf, her head shone with red light. When she said his name, he let her in.

The Old Man watched her solemn walk. He invited her towards the couch. His eyes investigated her bony face, and the hair that clung to her sweaty forehead. She was covered in layers of loose black fabric from her neck to her feet. She took her hand out of that darkness and pushed her hair back. In that moment he saw a line similar to the red one before, and he couldn’t breathe. He coughed, the cough turned into a frog in his throat. The woman ran to grab the pitcher on the side-table, and poured some water to a glass and made the man drink it. She sat still while he stabilized his breathing.

“Here,” the sculptor said. “I’m listening. I’m sure there’s a crucial reason for your late visit.”

A,” said the woman with a deep and croaky voice, “and I are close. She said you needed a model, so I came.”

The Old Man scratched his head and explained that his search for a model had ended months ago, he had finished his sketches with models, and that he worked with imageries for his last sculpture. Then he wanted to ask her where she came from, since she knocked on his door at that hour…

“Skirts of Nemrut,” she said. “I walked much of the road.”

He smiled at her exaggeration, and said that she could stay there for the night, and that they would figure out her leaving in the morning. Quiet, and moving only her head, the woman looked at the majestic statue with almost two metres of height. The man brought a blanket from the back and put it on her knees. He went inside to sleep.

***

In the morning he found the woman as he left her. She was squeezing the blanket in her hands, eyes shut. The same redness both on her skin and hair, a thin chain glimmered hanging between her nose and ear in the cold beams of the morning sun. The only sound in the room was her light breathing. She looked extremely tired, as if she would collapse to her side and sleep for days if he were to touch her. Perhaps she would wake up and leave his workshop in a hurry. He didn’t know why but he decided that she could stay like that. He rolled the stairs against the sculpture, and carved for five straight hours before the woman who wasn’t woken up by the knocking sounds of the mallet. He was casting sidelong glances over her every few minutes. He ran his fingers on Amazon’s hair and located the spots that need filing. He got down from the stairs and sat before the woman.

She must have been around thirty five. It was obvious that she stayed more than she should have under the sun; her dry and tense face had colours similar those of fire when it flared up, different shades from her cheeks to her nose, from her forehead to her jawbone. These waves almost took away the rigidness and cruelty of her expression. Her hair seemed a bit dirty, and was gathered into a loose bun at the back of her neck. Her chest contrasting with both her face and the black fabric, was white as paper. He wondered if she sat under the sun always wearing clothes like that. He leaned over her, saw some dark coloured thing on her palm resting bent on her lap, but couldn’t dare to lift her hand up and look. He stepped back and found the size of her feet surprising. They were almost as big as his. He saw veins popping out from the socks, again black, hiding her feet. He couldn’t keep himself and said: “Ma’am,” As drowsy as he was, he hadn’t even asked her name the night before.

She was sitting still. He called once more. No sound. He leaned in and touched her shoulder, then shook her a little. “Come on get up, it’s noon.”

The woman opened her eyes at once. She straightened herself on her seat and let the blanket go. She got up, walked to the door and put her shoes on, began fixing her sari. The Old Man’s yelling “Stop!” behind her didn’t make her so, and she quickly went down the stairs.

At the front door of the building, she thought about where she would go. The longing of the mountain skirts where she couldn’t return to sat on her throat, twisting. She had just found the ship passing through the sea interesting enough to follow when she felt his strong hand touching her arm. She turned and listened to his creasy face advising her to eat before leaving. She glanced at the ship, then the man. In the next moment she was following him up to the stairs.

***

It was the seventh night she spent on his couch. For six days she’d been sitting still, watching the man work, and entering this odd trance state after grabbing a bite with him. Sometimes he imagined she was murmuring foreign spells out of her moving lips. He imagined because he couldn’t assign any other meaning to the occasional murmurs. On the eighth day’s morning, he found her standing up in front of the sculpture. He approached her and asked: “Do you like it?”

He knew that his passion would multiply by three, or maybe even five with the appreciation of his statue, unseen yet by anyone. But she lifted her chin up and said: “Her life is tied to you with a rope, let her go, let loose so that she can lapse into her own object as she should do.”

The old man came closer, like a debutant. “So,” he said, with a trembling voice, “You’re saying it’s bad?”

The woman touched the thigh of the statue. “You’ve whispered the soul, I can see your breath dispersing in the air towards her.” Her other hand caressed the pedestal. “All she’s missing is me.”

He looked at her and saw that her face was half covered with light, -and the other half with darkness. He clenched with the desire to immortalize that very stance, the slow dance of the death. He left the Amazon’s sight in a hurry and brought his sketchbook and charcoal pencils. “Don’t move!” he said to her. “Don’t, for God’s sake, don’t move.”

The woman had sat in his room patiently, because she knew they would end up like this. She had clinched her presence in the workshop by spreading deep in everywhere she touched. She knew that no one could kick her out of the houses she went in. Unless they saw the bottom half of her.

Amazon was dumped. The woman’s shape surpassed the stone. As she changed forms by bending her clothes according to the old man’s directions, together they observed the light coming through the window. Beams to make her face stern, beams to make her cry like a baby, a warrioress, the first name of divinity. Hundreds of sketches covered the floor. Without eating or drinking, sometimes holding his breath, he endeavoured to recreate every move of the woman, every twist of her clothes in his drawings. As he kept illustrating her, he felt the holy power of creation in him light up and he kept repeating himself in various sentence formations that his last exhibition wasn’t in fact his last, and that new work was inevitable as the creative heart beat.

***

Was it ten, or eleven? How many days had they spent sitting still without fixing their eyes on each other? With sass, the woman said: “You didn’t need a model alright…”

Had she smiled really? How did her top lip move exactly when she was making fun of him? How did her eyebrows align on a magical line, squiffy even…

He was merely able to say: “You’re right. I’ll pay more than your hourly fee.”

She blushed but she didn’t object. Monetary worth of every single hour. To be able to go on her way through the seas of Istanbul to far away countries. She took a layer off and asked where she could take a bath.

When she returned to the room after hours, the sculptor realized that the lines on her face were gone. Water was dripping from her hair coming down to her back, and she dried it with the towel which the old man ran and grabbed. She finally seemed content when she was able to eat some, and that was his cue to ask her name. The woman didn’t say, and turned in on herself like a bird scratching the underneath of its wing. She wanted confirmation that she was indeed working as his model. After a moment of hesitation, the Old Man told her that he had assumed to be working on the last piece of his final exhibition, but that he was now seeing big blue oceans laying in front of him. She couldn’t be added to the Amazon either. A complete work was resurrected before him, drawing a single line like he wanted to wasn’t going to be enough to end his series.

“Take off your clothes,” he said. “You’ll be added in as you are. There will be a shift in the orientation but maybe that’s good. You’ve led way to unexpected paths.”

She began getting undressed. The amount of fabric she pulled off her surprised him. All the weight she’d been carrying… Cloths stiff with sweat, had become parts of her skin, infused with her scents. Skins, neverending. She was left with a sheer black shirt only, while the old man patiently waited for her to take that off as well. She wasn’t moving:            “This is how I worked until now. They always allow keeping the shirt.”

“Would be better if you took it off.”

“I can’t…”

“Take it off and cover yourself.”

She saw the Old Man as her last chance too. Instead of resisting followed by her leaving the workshop, which she would have done any other time, she turned around and unbuttoned the shirt, lowered it enough to cover her groins. Then she sat in the position he wanted.

The Old Man worked day and night. He could see it at the first light of the morning, but lost it while the sun withdrew its beams by the evening. He couldn’t match one side of her face to the bounce of her one breast. Or the curve of her thigh to the rest of her leg. As if his sketches were mixed up peculiar parts added onto one another; incoherent, the kind a first grader would draw. Mastermind was at a dead end; no matter the angle he used his hand at, how he scanned her, the various art forms he drew her in; all that beauty  morphing into a lacking body, a freaky creature.

When he made sure he was tired and done for the day, he knelt down and begged her to tell her name. She didn’t. The old man grovelled, asked her to at least get rid of the shirt.

“I have never…”

He shushed her.

“I want you to.”

“If you don’t kick me out…”

“Kick you out? Why would I kick you out?”

“Because of what you see.”

He turned into the drunk version of himself, and couldn’t understand why exactly, it could be a first somehow for her. Could be the mystery of what she hid under that shirt? He made promises. Never, he said. Praised her. He closed his eyes and waited for her to completely get out of the shirt. He heard the fabric swish. The woman had found a sense of confidence, similar to a mother’s hug. She stood naked before the Amazon.

The Old Man opened his eyes. Vigorously, his hands found paper. It wasn’t the charcoal or the pencil in his hands that drew her, he passed beyond the tools… his fingers drew her. He was fixing the image in his mind. In case he couldn’t see it again, he was eating and inhaling her. Stuffing her legs in his own ears, her back in his thighs. In him now was the urge to live forever.

When she moved her rather plump thighs away and revealed the dented bones of her crotch, his eyes, almost seventy years old, saw what balanced that tough, robust body. Salmacis… both a boy and a girl. She who had been exiled from places and had migrated to others… found hidden lands, with rulers and sultans… the Middle East, India, South America, Mesopotamia. Right where the knives cut and rifles shot, target of slaughter. How beautiful her mother… Afrodit. How strong her father… his feet heavy…. Hermes.

The Old Man abandoned the stone, the marble. He took out clay from his straw cabinet. Put it before her. A huge bulk. First he clawed the non-bleeding flesh. Shaped it, put out a curved body half her size. He darted out, took water from the bathroom and poured it down the amorphous dirt. He let it slip away from his fingers and transform gradually into her. After a while he surrendered to a morbid force, and pressed his palms deep into the clay. He brought up her face, as anxious as she first knocked on his door. Her neck and chest followed. He carved out the arch of her back, grabbed her buttocks and stretched out her legs as he created a handmade woman from scratch. Before offering it veins and cells, he went up to his model and took her clenched hands off her crotch… off what she hid. For a second he looked at the masculinity overshadowing her femininity. Then he stepped back and thought, if he had it in him, he would transfer that to his work as it was. Give life to it. Breathe life into her eggs and sperms.

One earlobe in each of his hands, he brought out a neck, a rooster getting ready for a fight, puffed up.

“I was made with clay. Mixed with water. Kneaded completely. My neck was risen from soil, and its tubes were blown a faith. I don’t have a name. Both wanted me to be abide to them. A ridge and a dent for this and that under my belly. I laid for years, bended in half, turned my back. From my behind to in me. I laid for years, my belly dislocated, crotch ripped. One night they decided to have fun at the same time. Took me in between them. I was a woman not a man. I was a man and not a woman. I didn’t even bleed. The semen I gushed forth weren’t seeds of actual children. I wasn’t enough for either one of the two, they rubbed it on my face. I got hard. I was able to penetrate in. I moved one around like stone, I poured down rains on the other, couldn’t resist and and got on it. At last I made the two mingle. The two siblings ostracized me. I walked in a desert for a century, and on the sea for five. I didn’t count the thousands that passed on soil. It liked me, as I was made with clay. I gave me water, I didn’t crack. I woke up on an island. I melted in its heat, I swam to the centre of it from the north-east and rubbed my face to the cool mountain skirts. I got in the clan. I was a baby then. I grew up again. My ridges casted longer shadows. I was kicked out many times, I died and came back. Because the soil was mighty, and it didn’t have much red in. I died somewhere afar and pretended to fall in another womb, while I was in fact, the murderer of its infant. I took their place. I killed a million times.”

The Old Man surpassed Rodin’s brilliance in a few nights. On top of that he got over the mad genius Camille Claudel. He kneaded the clay in various ways to rewrite her destiny. He felt responsible for it and whispered words to her enslaved ears, sang songs. Myths. Praises to Taus. Couplets from Alp Er Tunga, Ergenekon. Complete poems from Siberian languages. In the middle of an Indian hymn, he stopped and looked at his model. To reach and touch. Or to meet the soil he held. Same.

“Take my name to beauty.”

The name she wouldn’t say. Its syllables and tones. All the things she thought about having, but couldn’t have. From her name to her body, charming flesh, swollen and stony. About to be dispersed into clay. Little time before death. An altar to circle around with her name. Her body to hurl around and her heart to be twisted in every possible angle. Her, to stay put so that the heat of her skin could meet the sand, and every object made of sand.

Who killed her? Who kneaded the clay without adding water?

***

One evening he took her chin in his hands. “Amazon’s right breast,” he said. “isn’t there. Look. You see?”

“She doesn’t have it, so that she can shoot arrows better.”

“You’re not from the arid hillside, so I read from your face. You’re mostly forest.”

“There really was a land out of all moist…”

“Where? Which land?”

“I learned not to stand next to a man from my grandmother. We blinded everything that came out the womb and let it in the woods anyway. We only had servants to do the heavy work, they would haul firewood, train horses and plow fields. All of them were our sons. Whenever a merchant passed our land, we went ahead and sat on him. He would get hard and ejaculate every time. As we bear, we placed the girl over our own heads and the boy under our feet. We scattered our herd to Thrace, to Scythia, to the mountains of Caucasus, Turkic lands and Libya. We surrounded the phallus. We fed our daughters mare milk, not the milk coming out of our breasts. That’s how their right breast stayed tiny, and away from their arms’ reach. No means to cut them off. If any grew we torched it. Fire had had infinite intelligence. We sealed the flames’ thoughts in their skin. We drew our bows worthy of Ares’ descent. We gave our princess to Troy. You yourself took our images down from history up to your day, made sphinxes of us. We didn’t have coffins. We equally divided our wilderness to all women of earth. We put in each of them an amazos from us, from our skin, so that their face don’t become cast with shadows. We added animals to our organs. As we cut through our bellies the kids looked like them. I was exiled, alone in our woods. They told me to carry both male and female. My race accused me of mounting them at nights, and strangers of opening my legs apart as they passed. I didn’t know. My name.. they called me two sexed. Only Pan told me that I was hermaphrodite as I walked the land. I found shelter in covering under sheets in my numerous lives.”

The Old Man carved her face to the Amazon’s, which he thought to be perfect. He put clay on stone. And anything he could bend with his fingers. He scraped the cloth off at the bottom of the belly, and he left the area under the breasts bare. He looked at the phallus and the crevice coming out from hairs. He turned, his hand found her right breast and he fell asleep.

***

The crowd was on fire at the exhibit day. Judging eyes ripped through where they looked. They toured along corridors, and reached the final hall where the Amazon were.

They liked the angle with which she drew her bow, the confidence pumping out of her arm. They saw the target where the arrow pointed. Women were happy, men were ashamed, hand in hand they looked at the way her groins shaped. They couldn’t find it alike themselves or others. Their insides turned upside down as something that never moved before started trembling.

While everyone stood in a circle by the works, the old sculptor told his peculiar story. The crowd froze as if their faces were held captive in literal ice cubes.

They didn’t understand the two sex behind Amazon’s robe. They heard the stone talk, she lifted up with her sari. She explained. To demonstrate art, as it is not only a production of mind, but the complete of all we see. The voice turned first into wuthering, then to nudity. When their eyes met the old sculptor’s, he revealed the underneath of her robe.

He waited as they watched and he watched them as they found Taus and raped, beyond Hermes finding the tortoise shell. Named her, a derivative of Aphrodite. Wrapped her in clothes and sent her away to unknown time periods. To die in the hands of a creator very willing to die together with his last pieces after Nemrut. Rather than dying in the hands of the savage.

‘Now,’ she said. ‘Now

.’

 

***

NAZLI KARABIYIKOGLU is a Georgia-based author living and writing in the country’s capital Tbilisi having left her native Turkey.
 
Born in 1986, she has been the winner of several awards in her former homeland. Her fiction includes Iskele (Komsu Yayinlan, 2011), Olivya Cikmazi (Alakarga Yayinlari, 2014), Hayvanlarin Tarafi (Everest Yayinlari, 2016), Gok Derinin Altinda (Ithaki, Yayinlari, 2017) and Kadin Kurkunde Ruya (Ithaki Yayinlari, 2018).
 
She is now trying to publish her work internationally.
 
She says of her short story ‘Called Out by Death’: ‘I believe that which is sublime is not humanity, but nature. Nature does not boast of its superiority, nor does it seek revenge on humankind.
 
‘One day before I wrote the story, when I was walking through a forest, I came to a brink of a door opening to “the cosmos” and I realised that I saw the “sublime unity” from that door. This state of unity was the combination of everything that constitutes the world from the centrosphere, and this state was not shaped in today’s date. In this case, I had to go back, to find the way to the places where the roots coming from my soles, and to rediscover them. Where I arrived, everything was uncertain, because there was no “authority”. There was no contrast. When all is said and done, this journey gave birth to ‘Called Out by Death’.’
 
She is a proud feminist activist. Her website is here: www.nazlikarabiyikoglu.com