Cevher Ağa didn’t open his eyes.
His men had died. There was no need for him to look. He’d felt it in his marrow before he’d even heard their screams. In the end what was done, was done… He’d asked one of the lads, Enkebir, to join them. And he had…
There was no salvation for he who encountered Mad Gücük on the plain at night. There’d be no getting out of this one alive. He was infamous. His name was on every tongue in every town. From Morocco to Romania. And especially in the far flung regions and secluded corners of Anatolia. In its wells, on its mountains, in its legends. Woven into its past…
If the past were something that could be swiftly severed with a razor then firstly Cevher would want to castrate himself from his own past. If he could make such a cut he would erase from his mind all the memories of the aghas and rich men who had groped him to ‘examine the quality of the goods’ in the market where boys were sold as catamites.
With one slash of a sword he’d slice from his mind all those painful memories of when he had been forced to work as a public bath attendant and was sold to bandits for forty akçe a time.
But even Alexander the Great would not have been able to untie this tangled knot.
That was why, as soon as he had gained his freedom he took his old public bath nickname of Cevher, meaning jewel, and prefixed it with the noble title Agha. He didn’t even remember his real name. First he’d found Zarif, then Jerome. The rest had been easy. Noone knew the market trade better then Cevher. He knew who would pay the highest prices and which types of boys were suitable to be sold to those men. As for the business of castration, he and Jerome learned this together, by trial and error mostly.
He himself was not a eunuch. His motive was not one of jealousy.
Because he was unable to cut out his past, his hate, he cut instead all the things that represented his past and were the reason for the Gordian knot in his soul. He was trying to untie that knot in his own way.
Cevher opened his eyes.
He was lying naked on the bare soil with his arms outstretched on each side of his body. He couldn’t have moved even if he’d wanted to. Something outside his field of vision was holding down his arms, his legs, his chest. He looked up at the dark night.
Mad Gücük, with seven crows perched on his back and shoulders and his staff in his hand, was waiting for him. Silently watching, judging. Shepherds would find the Circassian boy in the morning, alive and in one piece.
As for Zarif, Jerome and Cevher, they were now forever a part of this Anatolian tale of sin and conscience, guilt and punishment. This story was their epitaph.
Agha looked at the silhouette in front of him one last time.
Did it make any difference whether he were real or not?
Did Mad Gücük not symbolise the night that their hearts, swelling up with pus and suppurating with sin, finally exploded?
The crows suddenly took flight, descended on him and jostled for position on his belly and loins. As he felt the flesh of his crotch being torn to tatters, Cevher Agha closed his eyes in peace for the first time in his life.
©İletişim Publishing, İstanbul
For all rights enquiries please contact Amy Spangler, AnatoliaLit
© translation Caroline Stockford