I doubt that many would argue that some of the great stories grow from real-life situations. It’s also true that some of my best writing in particular comes when I allow my thoughts to explode and race through my fingers to the keyboard or notepad.
Here’s a true short-story from my travels in Turkey with a couple of fictional characters you may have heard of.
‘This place is incredible; it’s a fairy-tale land and really ought to be in a Disney movie.’
Ben gently ran his fingers through Catharine’s hair making her shiver despite the thirty Celsius heat from the July sun in the sky of infinite possibility, not a cloud in sight.
‘I don’t think Disney filmed here but Marvel has. Just a couple of years ago they filmed parts of “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance”. Cool, huh? Nic Cage has walked here; we may walk in his footsteps.’
‘Yes really cool, I will watch out for Nic’s footprints.’ Catharine laughed and turned to hug Ben. ‘It’s one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen though and I can’t wait to stay in that hostel in the rock and visit some of those ancient churches with the frescoes.’
A mini bus with an exuberant driver took them to the hostel on the edge of Göreme.
‘We have had a lot more interest in our beautiful town since we became a UNESCO world heritage site. There is 2000 people living here and those who have hotels, shops and restaurants are doing very well during the tourist season. There is farming of course, bee-keeping too.’
‘What’s that crop in the field over there?’
The driver looked behind to his left where Catharine leaned forward pointing. The minibus swerved briefly until he brought it under control laughing.
‘Oh that’s something for their personal use. I don’t know what you call it in English.’
Catharine slid across to the empty seat behind the driver focussing her camera on the field where two women collected the crop into wicker baskets. Fiddling with the zoom menu to get a closeup of the shot, Catharine’s eyes widened when she realised what it was.
‘Ben look at this.’ He joined her behind the driver and adjusted the screen angle to get a better view. The driver carried on with his impromptu tour guiding but only a young French couple seemed to be listening. One translated when the other missed something.
‘Well if you took that enlarged image and printed it on a T-shirt, everybody would know exactly what it was.’
‘I thought it was illegal here?’
‘So did I and look what happened to the American who tried to smuggle some back to the USA.’
‘That was a bit before our time, Ben but I have seen the film.’
‘At least he did get a film deal out of it; great soundtrack too.’
Catharine glanced out of the window and quickly back at Ben. A jaw-dropping moment if ever there was. She blushed slightly, Ben noticed but fell into the beauty of her eyes; average brown but stunning with natural cognac and orange rays radiating from the iris.
‘The landscape is so,’ she paused, a smile playing on the corners of her lips, ‘it’s so, phallic.’
‘Catharine I’m shocked,’ Ben laughed. ‘But hey, you are right and, they are enormous. Look, that one has a door and windows.’
The driver continued imparting his knowledge of the area but none of the eight passengers heard a word. They were chatting and giggling in four languages; no translation was required. They tuned back into his words when the minibus slowed and turned into a circular area surrounded by two large, albeit phallic structures with a connecting single story wooden shack that served as reception, bar and restaurant.
‘Here we are, “The Göreme hotel for backpackers,” I know the manager personally and I can assure you that you will be well looked after.’
He wished each individual a good stay as they alighted and headed toward the reception where a young man and woman seemed to be running everything.
‘Couples or singles?’ The man asked and, after a series of nods and gestures confirmed in his soft Australian accent that they were all couples. ‘No problem, we have space for you all in the second dorm, that’s second on the right when you go outside. Just hand in your passports before you go over there and choose your space.’
With some reluctance, everybody gave him their passports and filed across to the assigned building. Well it hadn’t been built exactly; it was a leftover from prehistoric volcanic eruptions when layers of soft rock were covered in volcanic ash and limestone. Regardless of first impressions, these structures struck awe into the minds of visitors. They were extraordinary and people had made them their homes or hiding places from religious persecution for over 3000 years.
Catharine had already started making friends and was animatedly chatting to the French woman. Ben and her partner followed behind with the bags. Catharine turned to face them, laughing.
‘It seems we have dirty minds my love. The French call these structures demoiselles coiffées.’
Ben look puzzled.
‘Ladies with styled hair,’ Luc, the Frenchman at Ben’s side translated. The two couples enjoyed their varied descriptions and bonds began to form. None realised how close those bonds were going to be until they followed the internal staircase carved into the rock to the first floor and found three open chambers with two zipped together sleeping bags laid out in one.
‘Well, this takes shared accommodation to a new level,’ Ben joked. ‘Is that hole in the floor the toilet?’
‘Ben don’t be so crude. You had better remember where it is because you might find the fast lane to the bathroom if you get up during the night and forget it’s there. The bathroom is on the ground floor. Didn’t you notice when we came in?’
‘OK, noted thanks my lover. Although, there may not be much loving going on here It’s rather, public and very cosy.’
In a happy, we’ve been friends for year’s atmosphere; the two couples chose their respective chambers and lay their sleeping bags on roll mats, collected everything of value and went back to the bar where they ordered a beer each before sitting at a table on the veranda to watch the sunset and consider whether to have a kebab or a bean burger and salad for dinner.
Lost in the sunset that turned the landscape with its accentuated demoiselles coiffées into a glowing orange otherworld, they missed the closing time of the restaurant and after two half litre bottles of beer each decided to sleep their hunger away. Catharine hardly slept.
Images of screaming soldiers and the silent running of the pursued flashed through her mind. A man held her hand, pulling her forward when it would have been easier to lie down and let fatigue and the end of a spear give her respite. She saw somebody fall behind and moments later that final scream and pre-out-of life cry urged her forward again.
‘Run my love, run. We will reach the tunnel to Derinkuyu soon. We will be safe then, they will never find us.’
The man was a Greek Christian named Thycho, his wife Melitta. They had been running from the Muslim invaders since early afternoon, six hours dodging arrows, hiding in small caves, running. The heat was unbearable but they had no choice but to live or die. Death wasn’t an option yet, they had to run, even though they didn’t agree with Christian or Muslim. They lived with Christians so they had to run for their lives, all because followers of each religion found the others distasteful.
They found the tunnel and disappeared into the labyrinth of the underground city, exhausted and bruised but alive.
‘It’s only taken me a minute to tell you about that dream, Ben. But I was there, I know I was. Running from those soldiers on the white horses, six long, exhausting hours when I should have been sleeping, instead I was running for my life and I remember every fall and the screams of those who were not so lucky. It was hell, Ben.’
Over a plate full of flatbread, cheese and honey, Ben looked sympathetically at Catharine. It wasn’t unusual for her to make connections with Spirit but lately, her connections had become extremely vivid. Compared to Catharine, Ben was an absolute amateur and he was never sure how to offer help other than by listening.
He reached across the table and took her hand. ‘I understand that you’re exhausted but let’s go with the plan of the day and visit Derinkuyu. Just go with the flow, it might help.’
Many times during the visit Catharine stopped in her tracks and looked around an underground passage, room or chapel. Her eyes far away as though transported elsewhere. She drifted around dreamlike and found that she couldn’t distinguish past from present when she and Ben talked about the incredible underground city while they travelled back to Göreme with the enthusiastic driver from the day before.
Back at the Göreme hotel, they joined the French couple and another from Germany on the veranda and politely declined sharing the joint they were passing around.
‘We saw plenty growing in the fields not far away,’ Ben commented to Luc.
‘It’s very cheap too,’ Luc added, ‘the manager sells it, you should talk to him if you need some.’
The manager was leaning on one of the roof support posts smoking a Marlborough cigarette.
‘I gave him a packet of Marlborough for two joints; that’s all.’
Ben and Catharine eased into the relaxed atmosphere and made sure they ordered food before it became too late like the day before. Chat was pleasant they learned a few French and German phrases from their companions until two police cars with blue lights flashing and full beamed headlights blinded them and destroyed the sunset.
Four dark shadows got out of the two cars and in twos went directly to the French couple. The manager walked across nodded at the officers and handed them two Bordeaux-red French passports. Without a word, the officers, one on each side of the French couple forcibly removed them from their seats, collected their belongings from the manager and forced one into the backseat of each car. Closed the doors and drove away, blue lights still flashing.
That was the last they heard of them and no information was forthcoming. Catharine was violently sick.
© All Rights Reserved – Steve Costello, 2017