Vespers: A Never Prayer Story, Episode 5

Aaron Michael

The storm gusts outside Junky Pete’s nightmare duplex that has me caged. I’m being chased by a rolling ball of shadowy souls, all stuck together in their desperation, and I wonder at how fragile the human heart can be. In life, people sometimes cluster together in their doubt, self-hate, and sadness, and so it also is in death. Alone, the souls might be more reasonable, but so entangled, they feed off each other’s madness.
It was like that in the Gedikpasa Orphanage. I was drawn there before I came to the New World, this America place that feels like everywhere and nowhere at all.
Back then, in the seat of the Ottoman Empire, there was a little boy, Melek, and his sister. Their parents had starved to death, and the boy and his sister had lived on the streets of Istanbul until an imam found them. He thought he was doing them a favor by taking them to the Gedikpasa. He wasn’t. I remember the shrieks most clearly. When I passed through the stained stone walls, the screams told me I was in a place where I shouldn’t be. But little Melek, I could help him. I had to help him. I never had a chance.
The Gedikpasa had been an old prison, and that felt right, with the wet passageways, the awful smells, and the small cells, cramped rock squares where the children were thrown. The old woman there, Ebru, had her staff, which she told people helped her walk because of the arthritis in her knees. But her knees were fine. The gnarled wooden staff was for the children. Her hand would get tired, you see, from hitting them. Her knotted stick never grew weary.
There was fetid water dripping down the walls. There were rats. There was very little sunlight, and even in rooms with windows, the skies seemed cloudy all day and every day. The nights darkened into despairing ink. Trapped souls clung to the shadows, mostly children, mostly demons. I avoided them, trying to help little Melek and his sister. I didn’t think to try and leave. The place was bad, but I had a definite reason to be there.

Read the entire exciting installment in the Dec/Jan 2018-19 issue of InD'Tale magazine.

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