Eine Nacht





Eine Nacht

             Overnight, it had become illegal to be what they were – Turiks. Their bronzed skin, dark eyes and familial tattoos had become the targets on their backs. It wouldn’t be the first time his kind had been put to the fire of accusations and he doubted it would be the last.

 Braska, a father of two, had seen the warning signs since the new Victus had taken stage. The long rooted issues of unforgotten genocide and an economy in its death throes meant that accusing eyes had to be turned somewhere. Eyes darted on the streets, people suspected hidden knives in the nets of fishermen and cloaked assassins sent from the government headquarters. Houses were beginning to grow empty in single nights, entire families of ten or more extended Turiks gone without a sound.

            Braska hoped they had fled the country. He prayed for them to the old mothers and fathers. But what use were their old ancestors against this almighty the Pols worshipped in their tart robes and veiled faces, Braska wondered. Could Gods war in this modern world of theirs? The kindly old faces of the ancestors broke his heart; they were stoic spirits but never killers.

            Like the Turiks, the olden ones were ancestral to the Adriatic gem of Sceliad. Their hives of interlaced families had built the stone homes into the mountains, turned the air to incense, and raised the spirits and the crop for three thousand years. Victus and his kind, the Pols, had brought the new tides of a fresh God, technology and change. Their progress spread over the Turiks like a plague but even the most stalwart Turik knew that progress halted for no man or woman.

            Braska watched the news on a television that was long overdue on giving up the ghost. He could smell the heated copper while the image of the Victus shook in black and white.

            “Too many handouts have been given to the Turiks,” the Victus told the crowd in a voice meant for a lover. “In these troubling times, it is imperative that we Pols focus on the struggles our people are enduring. The Turiks have become a drain on our culture, unfortunate as it is, and any good Pol knows he must insist on what is best for his nation before what is best for his fellow man.” He loved Sceliad, Braska was sure. Perhaps even as much as his eldest daughter Mina did.

            Mina sat in a stiff chair beside him. Her dark eyes were the eyes of a falcon seizing its prey. Her posture had stooped and her eyes squinted now from leaning so closely to the television as though she wished to kiss the new Victus. “It will be so much better when the Turiks have to leave,” she told her father. “You will be able to get your job back from the local-” she spit the word with the inflection of someone describing a flesh eating virus, “-who took it.”

             Braska gave her a smile but hid it behind his newspaper. It was several days old and the humidity had begun to yellow it much like the tobacco had yellowed his teeth. No Turik could afford a dentist any longer. Their doctors were relics but served well enough with their mystic chants and powder blue herbs.

            “What do you propose for the Turiks?” A female reporter asked. Her frayed two-piece red skirt and blouse told all.

            The Victus looked at her down the length of his Roman nose and answered, “It is my suggestion that they be relocated from the city of Sceliad to lands that will more suit their lifestyle. We are spending too much supporting their many poor and helping them learn how to take on the nuanced positions that Sceliad demands.” Sceliad was a living seductress for the Victus, Braska realized. A breathing goddess who whispered promises of Valhal to her warrior prince with lilacs and the salt of the sea as her perfume.

            “And the fact that many of the Turiks do the manual labor the Pols do not want to do doesn’t count?” The reporter demanded, holding her microphone like an Olympic torch. “What of the welders, the field workers, those that do the construction, the piping and the unseen jobs no one appreciates?”

            His polite smile turned more into a sneer as he told her, “I’m sorry, which station do you represent?”

            “I represent the Turiks,” she answered.

            “Do you have a press pass?”

            Her strong jaw faltered.

            “Right. Security, please remove our friend here.”

            The woman didn’t struggle as two mountains of men lifted her off. The Victus winked at the crowd, “Never trust a Turik to follow the laws we set, eh?”

            The crowd laughed and applauded him. Braska felt the bitterness of his coffee sting his sore gums. They would never see that woman again.

            Mina shook her head, “The nerve of that Turik! Interrupting the Victus like that just to make a scene!” She turned to him, eyes ablaze. “I’m so glad you married a pureblooded Pol, papa. I’d be so ashamed to be a Turik that I’d throw myself into the sea!”

            Braska wondered if patriotism could stab out the eyes of its loyalists. His little girl had once woven bands for their festivals, helped squish the aphids in the crops with her fingers and danced around their harvest totem. He forgave her the denial but mourned. If she saw the old robes on his nana with the silver streaking her wild black mane and the coal in her eyes sharpened to diamonds would he find his daughter’s blood staining the surf?

            His wife limped into the room and set fresh bread on the counter. Her skin was a pale olive but her Pol mother had gifted her their fine blonde locks. Braska could not deny that the Pols were beautiful people, like ivy ascending the columns with fireworks of yellow blossoms. With his own hair going gray he could just barely pass with the excuse that the sun had been unkind to him while he’d dove for pearls and fish.

            He murmured that he was sorry in the Pol language which twisted on the tongue like mating serpents that had learned to purr.

            His Viola said back that he was silly and to stop worrying.  

            This new age confused him. A Turik father was meant to support his family as the Weaver – the figure who spun the hopes and dreams into existence for his kin. Viola had always wanted simple things but he still snuck some pearls for her to awaken those emerald eyes. Mina had gotten his dark hair but didn’t seem to mind; even some Pols had dark hair, after all.

            They were beautiful people. People who walked among the lilac and the roses and all the new machines of this century and tourists that dared to walk barefoot on the beaches. The Pols loved it when the tourists took their pictures and posed like war heroes or angels painted in the Renaissance. The Turiks that they photographed always looked startled or annoyed but the tourists did love to buy their ‘cute’ charms and to fake their way through spiritual rituals.

            Mina was tapping his shoulder, “Papa! Taris is on!”

            “Oh!” Braska twisted the glued-on television knob until it settled on the Olympics. The sight of his young son stretching and readying himself made the old man’s eyes tear up.

            “-and we now meet Taris, the very first Turik to take part in the Olympics!”

            “What?!” Mina cried. Her chair scraped across the stone as the stadium filled with equal parts booing and applause.

            “Tell me, son,” the interviewer talked like how Braska imagined the Staties announced horse races a long time ago, “-how does it feel to be the first Turik player?”

            Taris set his brow. “I am sure many people at home will be ashamed or upset to have Sceliad represented in part by me. I did not come here to represent anyone but myself and the people who care about me, however, so I will not take the booing or throwing personally. People like to talk and they like to assume. I like to run and race, so that is what I will do. If I am lucky then I will win.”

            Braska shared a smile with his wife while Mina beat her fists on the chair.

            “No, no, no! Taris should not be claiming to be Turik!” She cried. “Why is he so ashamed to be Pol?!”

            Viola puffed her chest out but Braska shook his head. His wife let out a sigh through the small gap in her two front teeth and asked, “Braska, will you pick up some butter?”

            “Of course.” He lumbered up and felt every chest hair rub against his old shirt. It was far too big but had been the only wedding gift his own father could afford. He kept his eyes on the floor as Viola put coins in his hand.

            “Be careful,” she told him.

            Braska kissed her forehead and headed out.

            The streets were hundreds of years old and he felt each crack beneath his boots. The smell of fire and burning paper wafted down from the beach and he couldn’t resist looking. A bed of crystalline water washed just below a massive bonfire and people crying out to the sun for justice. Many of them were Turik but just as many Pols tossed old Turik books, charms and clothes into the fire while they sang the hymn of a Pol church.

            The old man made certain the tattoo on his stomach was covered before he hobbled down the tilted wooden steps and approached the fire. His Pol wasn’t fluent but he recognized the hymn. Its powerful words and baritone throat humming prayed for sins to be cleansed away and there was perhaps nothing more symbolic than fire and the sweeping sea to wash away an entire people.

            A young Pol man waved a Turik book of prayers in his hand and screamed to the heavens for Sceliad to be reborn as a phoenix of righteous fire and beauty.

            Braska tapped his shoulder and asked if he might have the book instead of the fire in Pol.

            The young man frowned and asked him why.

            “A Turik family I know is going to be moving soon and I thought it might be a good present to send them off,” Braska told him.

            The Pol man seemed uncertain. Perhaps it was all he had brought.

            “The righteous always impart the gift of wisdom to those who will not see,” Braska quoted from his bible.

            “Ah, yes.” The young man handed him the book and scampered to find another.

            The old man tucked it in his shirt and struggled back up the steps. He kept his head hung low as Mina passed by him with a determined pace and the little gray wagon he had given her when she was three full of her Turik books and clothes. They didn’t look at one another.

            ***

            Braska couldn’t sleep that night. His wife was curled tightly in his arms. Her tears had long since dried on his chest but he still felt them.

            Earlier that night the Victus had ordered all Turiks to leave Sceliad immediately. He boasted he could do it in one night.

            He glanced around the room they had shared for over twenty years. There had been so much love, two strenuous births while a midwife groaned and labored along, stories and sleeping as a family for years and years. The couple were paralyzed in nostalgia and the cruel boot of change.

            Orange glows crept in from their little window. The Victus’ police were making their rounds through what remained of the Turik village against the sea. Their shouting, flares and fires smoked out his people as though they were rats stubbornly clinging to their tunnels.

            “We should go,” he told his wife.

            Viola nodded but didn’t move. Neither of them knew what awaited.

            Screams rang out everywhere and both of them tensed at the sound of gun fire ringing out like rain on a tin roof. What was worse was the dull thuds that were somehow louder than the guns.

            The two crawled from the bed and avoided the window. He’d begged a Pol farmer for an old horse and caravan that had long since been retired from trading. The man had a fleet of trucks and millions now. No use for an old horse or old Turiks to pick crop.

            The door burst open and he saw his daughter’s eyes glint in the darkness. “They arrested Taris,” she cried.

            Viola spewed a hurried prayer as they hurried into the room and the horror of the television’s glow.

            “-young Taris has been arrested for being unable to provide papers to prove his nationality. He has been disqualified from competing and was taken away shortly thereafter by Sceliad authorities who traveled over three thousand miles to arrest him.” The reporter looked into the camera with deadened eyes. “Several other young men and women, even officials of the Olympics committee, have been arrested as well on the order of Victus Leo Ghiradi for allowing the young man to compete and as suspected illegal Turiks.”

            The family watched in silence before Mina broke it with, “Good.”

            Her parents turned to her in horror.

            When she caught their gaze she folded her arms, “Taris has always been foolish for participating in Turik beliefs and culture when he should have acted as a Pol.”

            Viola drew back her hand and slapped her daughter across the cheek, startling both herself and her family. She cursed Mina in Pol and Turk simultaneously but turned to her native English at the height of her venom, “When will you accept that I am part Turk?! I am half Pol, girl, which makes you Turik as well! Your brother may wind up dead in some secret prison or tortured and this is all you can say?! Brasvka pelis derot! I would take you over my knee if I were able!”

            Mina held her cheek and tears welled in her eyes. She rushed out of the home before either parent could stop her.

            Viola panted for a few long moments while Braska loaded their meager possessions into the caravan and soothed the spooked Palmetto.

            When he rejoined his wife she was in tears. “Will we lose two children now?”

            “Mina will come back,” he assured. “Get in the caravan and I will wait for her.”

            ***

            Hours passed. Viola had been on a fancy phone borrowed from her mother for over two of them trying to find what happened to Taris. Every prison on Sceliad denied him being checked in until the one closest to the capital finally spared her the agony of not knowing and admitted he had been taken into questioning and then processed. The robotic woman on the other end of the line told her what the wife knew already – all they could do was wait. Still, Viola sent her a copy of their son’s papers twelve different times before the exasperated woman finally admitted that she had gotten them and got the police on the line to also confirm that they had gotten the papers.

            Braska had gone through the rest of his tobacco while he watched their village burn. The alleyways had begun to overflow with bodies that had careless tarps thrown across them. They had thought Sceliad was theirs as well but their medal of nationalism was a single bullet to the back of the head.

            When Mina finally returned she was being escorted by two armored police officers. “There!”

            The officers stepped forward and Braska braced himself for death. Instead, they approached Viola.

            “Your daughter claims you are half Turik, ma’am.” They sounded strangled through their gas masks.

            Viola met her husband’s eyes. Despite him shaking his head she nodded. “I am.”

            “Your papers?”

            She took them from her bag and gave them with shaking hands.

            The officers looked them over. Their fingers were on the triggers as their hidden eyes scanned for guilt.

            “You need to leave immediately, ma’am.”

            Viola nodded. “We were just waiting for our daughter to return, officer. We’ll leave immediately.”

            “No,” Mina cried. “I am not a Turik! I am a Pol and dedicated to Sceliad!”

            The officers exchanged looks. “Ma’am, if your mother is half Turik then you must also leave.”

            “Absolutely not! Take me to the Victus and he’ll see! He will see that I am dedicated!”

            “We’re not going to tell you again.”

            “Mina, please,” Braska begged. He tried to step in front of her but the officers thrust him back into the caravan.

            “Do not hit my father!” Mina slapped at their helmets.

            The last thing the old man heard was his ear drum split in two as the shot rang out. Mina dropped beside him, blood foaming from her lips as though Aphrodite would be born from them. Braska crept to her side and touched her temple. Everything was ringing. He looked up at these angels of death, asked them to take it back with their magic, asked them to bring her back.

            Viola was sobbing next to him. Her dress was soaked in the life blood that had stirred Mina’s passionate loathing. She had stood upon the sacrificial alter without blanching, without fear, and let the Victus make her a martyr.

            A swift kick in his side knocked the wind from him. The officers were prodding them like cattle to the caravan and demanding that they leave. Despite her bad leg, Viola pulled Mina into the back with her while the brain that had been so brilliant and fiery leaked from her skull.

            Braska stumbled into the driver’s seat and urged the old horse on. He felt the roar of flames near his temple as the officers tossed their flaming wands through the window.

            The old man felt nothing. Nothing for the bodies. Nothing for the raging fires and burning memories. He knew his prayers would go unanswered and there was no comfort to be found. Mina had lived as a Pol and died as one; in a way, his saying nothing had proven he was a competent Weaver. That was all she had ever wanted since turning into a teen.

            He almost laughed. One night and he had lost almost everything.

            One simple night, a climax of hatred, of shifty looks and change to benefit everyone that stood for Sceliad.

            Braska would never wash the blood from his father’s shirt.

 

Amber E. Colver

Amber E. Colyer is an aspiring novelist who loves all things horror, fantasy and science-fiction. She has been writing since the age of eleven and is currently writing about an action story about witches fighting in giant robots. Any spare time she isn't writing, at work or in school is dedicated towards music, video games and daydreaming. 

My writing portfolio is: http://www.amberecolyer.journoportfolio.com .

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