By: Eda Naz Gokdemir
Art by: Zeynep Bayirtepe
“What if we fall tonight?” someone asks.
Three sorcerers are sitting in a decaying library in the oldest keep at the edge of a fracturing world. The one with the question stares at the two others in the room filled with the silence of crackling firewood, the warm air interrupted by the breeze seeping in through the cracks of the glass mosaics on the windows reaching toward the high ceiling. The candlelights flicker with whispers of wind, scattering the trembling shadows across the bookshelves as the bursts of thunder echo intermittently, covering the sounds of scribbling, pages turning, and whimpers in the night.
“A timely question. It could happen, really,” replies Derin, the youngest one, on the couch with intricate floral patterns. The flowers look like they were aflame a long time ago. They are laying on a burnt garden, aware of the flames, nonchalantly flipping through the pages of their book, trying to suppress their yawns: Prophecies for the Last Day.
“I thought we had gone over this,” says Azra, the oldest, sighing. She keeps scribbling on a brown notebook with disintegrating, yellow pages, her eyes cold behind her thick glasses. Everynight she sits under her pale candlelight, recording the spells, runes, and charms they tried to stop the storms, the earthquakes, and the endless deaths. Page upon page. Grave upon grave.
“Yeah, but it is interesting every time,” replies Derin.
“I am glad you find your work so amusing,” says Azra.
“How can I not? Not everyone gets to see the end of the world from front row seats.”
“You cannot just sit back and enjoy yourself. You are not meant to be a mere spectator.”
“Well, we are trying, aren’t we? I am just saying we might fail. And most likely will.”
The recorder’s scribbles grew louder, angrier, hastier. She slams shut her notebook and stands in front of the glass mosaic on the window depicting a sorceress of the old tales, her name long forgotten. Azra’s shadow grows longer on the back wall painted with cracks, tears of rain, spells gone awry, and thrown fists. The youngest snuggles further into the embrace of their burnt garden, letting the old book of prophecies fall flat on their chest. They stare blankly at the ceiling that can fall onto their heads any day.
“We should rehearse,” says someone.
The youngest, Derin, slowly turns their head toward the back of the room.
“If it is bound to happen, we should rehearse.”
“That’s insane,” replies Derin with a crooked smile.
“Well, at least you’ll find it entertaining.”
“We do not have time to play games,” replies Azra without turning from the window.
“You were the one who said we are not mere spectators,” replies someone.
“Yeah, plus you should be used to acting all the time by now” says Derin.
Azra slowly turns from the window, storm clouds in her eyes. She stares at the mischievous grin on the youngest’s face. She walks slowly with her steady stride toward the youngest, then sits on the armchair facing them.
“Fine, let’s rehearse. But I will direct,” she says.
“Of course you will,” replies Derin without moving their gaze from Azra’s face. They stare at each other for a moment without flinching as someone drags their chair to the middle of the room, the creak of the floor echoing inside the library.
“Tell us then. How will we die?” someone asks.
“Oh, yes, enlighten us, please,” says Derin, suddenly sitting up on the couch, fluttering dust as they move, imitating the air of an overattentive student. Disregarding them, Azra starts speaking with her eyes closed, as if casting a spell:
“One day, one of my calculations will be a little more off than usual and I will be swallowed by the earth when I am on the ground, inspecting a village hit by a recent earthquake,” she says in a deep, low voice, quieter than the footsteps of a thunder. She stops to point at Derin on the couch.
“They will die when they walk too far into the ocean during the reflow of the tide before a tsunami hits even though I have told them not to countless times.”
“Likely,” says Derin.
“And you,” Azra adds, looking at someone for the first time during the night, “you will die with your head buried in your hands, in this library, because you will be too paralyzed to do anything as the storm approaches to demolish this keep.”
A thunderbolt punctuates her last sentence. Azra maintains her gaze on someone, her expression as still as a statue broken in half by a scar across her face. A monument of ancestors long gone, obsolete spells, a relic from a dying world.
“You are no fun,” replies Derin, “it is my turn.” They step on the couch with a hop, wrapping their blanket around their shoulders as a cape, holding their book of prophecies like a holy text of the old. They pretend to clear their throat, then start speaking.
“According to this ancient text of great wisdom, the worst of the sinners, the life-takers, rapists, and conquerors, will die when fire rains from the sky. Those who stood watch as mere witnesses to the crimes of their people will drown in the tides extinguishing the flames. The earth will crack open to swallow the rest of the cowardly, miserable, pathetic human beings, including us. The heavenly beings, whatever you may call them, will weep at our tragic demise. Why don’t they save us, you ask? Well, that is the divine plan. We are humble mortals who dare not understand the cosmic pattern of the universe. We shall obey our creator and accept our death when the time comes!”
Their voice rises to the ceiling and echoes throughout the library as they let their book fall to the floor with a loud thud, take an extravagant bow, and sit back on the couch. They stare at Azra with fire in their eyes, their chest rising and falling with quick, shallow breaths.
“You make fun of old beliefs, but you are too lazy and directionless to find something to believe in yourself,” says Azra.
“What is there to believe in?” replies Derin, “all the spells we try fail, all our books are full of crap, all our so-called comrades deserted us.”
“Stop complaining like a little child. No one told you this job will be easy.”
“Oh please, I never complained because it is difficult,” Derin spits the words out, “stop taking yourself so seriously and quit acting like you are in charge. Nothing we do matters anyways.”
“Speak for yourself. I make it matter!”
“You make it matter?” Derin gives out a chuckle in disbelief, “You can barely interact with all the people on the ground who are living through it all. You make your calculations and cast your spells and spit out orders from your castle so that you can keep pretending that everything you do matters.”
“You know what,” replies Azra, “feel free to leave this keep if you feel like it is so insignificant. No one is keeping you here.”
“I am not going to run away from fear like you do,” replies Derin, “Plus, I have nowhere else to go,” they add in a somewhat quieter voice.
“How can you blame me with cowardice?” asks Azra.
“Stop pretending, you two,” says someone, “I know it terrifies you as much as it terrifies me.”
The storm ensues outside, the candles keep dripping, the fireplace is about to go quiet.
“Why did you make us rehearse all of it, then?” asks the youngest.
“I want to know what to feel, what to do, what to deny, what to believe in when the time comes. I want to know how to cry, how to laugh, how to be afraid, how to be brave. I need someone to teach me how to die. I need someone to die with me. But no one will.”
Someone gets up and starts blowing out the candles in the room.
“I guess I’ll have to figure it out on my own.”