Retire Mechanical engineer. Student at California State university Channel Island studiyingAbout Me

July 26, 2015

Blizzard

Blizzard by Behcet Kaya

Firdes Yildirim had not visited her village in over three years.

She finally gave her husband, Bagatur, an ultimatum:

"If you don't take me back to see my parents, I will go myself and never return."

Her husband, a proud, opinionated, rugged individual, wasn't about to take threats from a woman and, as usual, didn't pay any attention to her pleas.

Firdes' village of Kufnerlik, located in northeastern Turkey, was over thirty miles north of the village of Gufara where she lived with her husband and stepson, Iskender.

A high ridge of mountains separated the two villages, the Kufnerlik side dense forest and the Gufara side barren land.

Wanting to do something nice for his stepmother, Iskender saw his opportunity.

'I'll take my stepmother to her village and let her stay for a week. While she's visiting, I'll have time to go to Kellinin Yaylasina and cut logs. By next summer, the logs will be dried and lighter for the horses and oxen to haul back.'

With heavy workloads during most of the year, visiting among villages was most often done in winter. Very early on a February morning, Iskender and Firdes began their journey to Kufnerlik.

Firdes rode horseback and Iskender walked ahead.

Their first hours were pleasant, giving them time to talk, Iskender excitedly commenting on the latest talk of the Soviet Union's recent launch of Sputnik. Although the snow was over three feet deep, it was hard-packed. Even the horse's hooves didn’t penetrate the thick top layer.

As they neared the higher elevations, the trail seemed to disappear.

Beneath their feet, fine snowflakes covered treacherous ice, slowing their progress. Between rim and destination they endured slippery narrow passages, the earth falling away into steep precipices.

Occasionally they lost the actual trail, but Firdes knew the way by heart. She followed her memory and they arrived safely several hours after sunset.

Leaving his stepmother to visit with her family, Iskender traveled on to Sivri. During the next three days, the weather remained mild and he managed to cut seventeen tall, healthy pines and spruce trees.

He cut each tree into thirds, then peeled as much bark as he could, leaving the logs to dry. He knew if he could manage to transport the logs back to Gufara he would make a great deal of money.

Three-hundred lira for each log would bring him a good fifteen-thousand, more than he could earn in nine months working at brick-laying or construction.

Iskender planned to buy another young horse and two oxen to drag the logs from the steep slopes to the main road where he could then haul them the rest of the way by horse cart. He also knew he had to do this work at night.

The bakim memuru, the forest caretaker, watched the road like a hawk during the day.

Pleased with his work, he wanted to stay a little longer, but remembered his promise to meet Orhan Okat, another man from his village.

Orhan was bringing his sister-in-law, Zubeyda Okat, back from visiting her parents, who lived in a village over fifty miles from Gufara. Iskender and Orhan had agreed to meet several miles outside of Kufnerlik and all four would then make the trip back to Gufara together.

Early on a Friday morning Iskender saddled his horse.

He rechecked his stash of tutun, a special reddish brown tobacco from Trabzon. He had bought five kilograms, some to sell and make a good profit, some to keep for his own use. Firdes' mother packed bread, cheese and borek for their journey back.

Iskender and Firdes walked slowly down the main street, passing barns whose snow-covered roofs glistening in the moonlight.

Reaching the outskirts of the village, they kept to the side of the road. Clouds of snow dust swirled in the air. They passed trees bent heavy from the weight of the snow, whispering their mysterious murmurings.

At sunrise, a brief snow storm raged from all directions, immersing the two travelers. As quickly as it started, the blizzard stopped, and the sun peaked out from snow-laden gray clouds.

Firdes asked, "What do you think we should do? Continue or go back?"

"I think the weather has cleared enough and we should continue. Besides, Orhan will be meeting us soon," Iskender replied.

As Iskender and Firdes were debating on what to do, they saw two figures crossing the valley floor, carrying backpacks and wooden walking sticks.

"There! That must be Orhan and Zubeyda!"

With frigid temperatures and no convenient place to sit and wait, they decided to continue on slowly, giving Orhan and Zubeyda time to catch up.

Further up the slope, Iskender and Firdes stopped at a small water hole to let the horse drink.

Iskender took out a package of tutun, smelled the rich aroma, and admired the deep color. He filled his tobacco can with as much as it would hold, then rolled a cigarette, lit it up, and inhaled deeply. He replaced the tutun and took out some borek to eat.

It took more than an hour before Orhan and Zubeyda appeared on the other side of the valley and started their climb to reach Iskender and Firdes. They waved and yelled to each other, their voices echoing off the steep slopes.

When Orhan and Zubeyda arrived, Iskender's horse suddenly pricked up her ears and stopped, despite his pulling on her reins. She raised her tail and dropped her dung, steam rising from the heat of the wet mass and urine.

When the horse had finished, Iskender pulled her ahead a few steps and placed Orhan's and Zubeyda's backpacks in the semer.

The four travelers continued ascending, Iskender holding the horse's reins, Firdes and Zubeyda walking behind the horse and Orhan bringing up the rear.

Iskender, the elder of the group, had seen most of life's disappointments and glories.

He was nearly fifty, tall, with a mustache and small beard, making him look younger than his actual years. He was a very wise and gentle man, seeming to enjoy everything and everyone he came in contact with, and had a pleasant demeanor, speaking softly and slowly.

He loved to make magic for the youngsters and was liked by everyone in the village.

Firdes was several years younger than Iskender. She was on the heavy side, with a perpetually red nose and cheeks, and an annoyingly nasal quality to her voice.

Because of her cantankerous personality, Firdes didn't marry until her early thirties when she took her vows with Bagatur Yildirim.

Iskender was happy that his father had remarried, but his relatives ridiculed his father for marrying a woman half his age.

Orhan was in his mid-twenties, with a slim frame, dark hair, an aquiline nose, deep-set eyes, and hollow cheeks. The fact was, he had an annoying face, but for some unknown reason women liked him, giving the young man a tremendous arrogance.

Zubeyda was nearing forty. Her husband was gone most of the time working in another city and it was rare if they saw each other for more than a month each year. There had been no children produced, despite their long marriage.

Iskender and Orhan's plan was to stop at bakim evi, the caretaker's hut, located at the summit, another two hour walk. During the winter, the hut was unoccupied and would make a good resting place out of the cold.

From the hut it would be another six-hour walk to Gufara.

The sun peeked in and out of woolly, white clouds gathered on the horizon. Single file, they slowly zigzagged up the treacherous, narrow, ice-covered trail. The clouds grew darker and the sun disappeared completely. Another snowfall seemed imminent.

They were in the very depths of the forest.

The wind picked up and the travelers could see the tops of the pine trees swaying. White snowflakes swirled over their heads. It was only midday, but the sky had turned dark gray and heavy clouds completely hid the sun.

"The caretaker's hut isn't far now. We should be there soon," remarked Orhan.

Iskender, knowing the women would side with Orhan, didn't say anything. But he was sure the hut was still over an hour away and knew the trail would not be accessible all the way. He stopped for a minute and took his, Firdes' and Zubeyda's coats from the horse's semer.

Firdes and Zubeyda put their coats on, but Orhan stubbornly refused to take his. "I'm not cold and besides, I'm carrying the shot gun."

They continued on.

As the wind grew increasingly stronger, heavier snowflakes descended on them. The women walked in the horse's hoofprints, but even with Firdes right behind the horse, she could barely make out its swaying tail.

Iskender wiped his glasses frequently, pulling his headgear down over his ears. The wind grew so loud they couldn't carry on a conversation. Iskender was only guessing at the trail and wasn't even sure they were still on it.

Once in a while he would see bare ground, the remnants of the trail, but most of the time the swirling snow misled him.

The travelers fought their way to just below the summit, traversing along the edge of a shear dropoff.  Iskender was sure now that they were back on the trail and could make it to the hut.

Suddenly his horse groaned, then whinnied shrilly as its hind legs sunk in a patch of soft snow. The frantic animal struggled violently, and then began to sink away from him. Iskender pulled hard on the reins, lost hold, then he too, slipped and slid downward, stopped only by the trunk of a large pine tree.

Iskender reached down to try and catch the reins, but it was too late.  There was a final screech as the horse plunged down headfirst, then disappeared.

"Iskender! Are you okay?" Firdes shouted down to her stepson.

There was no answer.

Iskender found himself facing a large pine tree. The strong wind seemed to stop for just a moment and he could see around the trunk to a shear rock dropoff.

The next moment, another gust hit him and snow swirled, obliterating his view. One gust was so strong; it loosened a heap of accumulated snow. As it fell from above and slid past him, he felt as if rocks were hitting his back.

During another brief cessation of wind, Iskender turned his head and looked up. Hope waned when he saw that it would be impossible to climb back up to the trail, but then reignited when he saw an upper branch of the pine tree level with the trail.

Taking a chance, he started to climb.

He reached the branch, then hugging its thickness, inched himself away from the trunk of the tree.

His hands felt numb as he dragged himself out several more meters. He carefully shifted into a sitting position, secured his feet on the branch, and then, with all his strength, threw himself toward the edge of the trail, grabbing on to bare rock with both hands.

Firdes and Orhan pulled him the rest of the way up and he lay on the trail, exhausted.

Orhan, thinking nothing of what had just transpired, made his complaints vocal. "My coat is still on your horse! Our food, too! Everything is gone now! Give me your coat!"

"You must be joking!" Iskender sat up and gave Orhan a sarcastic gesture.

Orhan bent down, determined to take Iskender's coat away from him.  Iskender hung on and managed to stand up.

"I've had enough of you, son of a bitch!" Orhan redoubled his efforts to take Iskender's coat away.

Firdes and Zubeyda tried to separate the two, but it was Iskender who finally freed himself and his coat from Orhan's grasp. As he wrenched himself away, Orhan's foot slipped and he began to slide down the edge of the cliff.

Both women grabbed his arms and stopped the fall, but Orhan's gun slid off his back, lodging just below the edge. Iskender, realizing the gun was a potential problem in the hands of hot-headed Orhan, freed it and pushed it over the cliff.

Orhan shouted his angry invectives at Iskender, who by now had gotten up and started walking on.

Accepting there was no possible way to get down to the horse and save the food, Firdes followed Iskender. Then Zubeyda joined them. For several moments Orhan didn't move. Finally, he swallowed his pride and rejoined the group.

Iskender and his followers walked straight ahead, seeing nothing but a sea of whiteness, hearing nothing but the eerie whistling of the wind. Suddenly something big and black appeared in front of them.

Iskender's heart began to beat hopefully as he rushed towards the object, imagining it to be the outline of the caretaker's hut. The object would not keep still, but kept swaying from side to side.

Disheartened, Iskender realized it was only a pine tree. One that hadn't grown tall, but instead had progressed sideways and now protruded just above the top of the snow, bending each time a gust of wind struck it.

Helplessness shuddered through Iskender.

He turned his back to the wind and continued walking, the group following. Disoriented, he thought he was still following the trail to the hut, but he had deviated from his original direction, now walking perpendicular to the tree.

Wind gusts hit them fiercely, but they kept walking. Another dark object appeared. Joy filled Iskender's heart as he turned back to face the others, but the dark object turned out to be another low tree.

They had been walking in circles, completely lost. Disheartened they stood huddled; each turned outward, their backs touching.

Nearly blinded from the whiteness and fury of blowing snow, Iskender shouted above the roar of the wind, trying to sound hopeful, "Let's each look in front of us and try and recognize the landscape!"

"Look! Down there! That must be the caretaker's hut!” Zubeyda pointed. They all looked in her direction.

"It looks like the hut!" agreed Orhan.

"If that’s the hut, I don't see the huge spruce tree that grows in front of it!" Iskender voiced his own opinion.

Orhan and Zubeyda started downhill toward the object. Firdes followed, and then Iskender reluctantly joined them. The snow became deeper and deeper. In some places they were submerged in drifts up to their waist.

When they reached the object, they found only a large, dark boulder. Iskender kept staring at the rock, hoping somehow it would turn into the hut.

They strained their eyes into the swirl of whiteness, hearing what they thought was the howling of wolves. But in reality, they were not certain of anything.

Orhan finally admitted, "We aren’t anywhere near the hut. We must still be in the forest. Look at all the pine trees."

"They're not pine trees. They're just bushes," argued Iskender.

Agreeing with Orhan, Firdes added, "Bushes aren't that tall."

"You are both hallucinating. I'll show you," said Iskender.

He plodded over to one of the casur plants. It wasn't even as high as Iskender's head. "This is a bush. Don't you see? We came down here for nothing!"

Iskender started to ascend back up the same way they had come down. Orhan, Firdes and Zubeyda followed. No one said a word.

Iskender kept his arms out for balance but kept slipping. Gusts of wind dislodged his hat. His hands and feet were numb from the cold. He shook violently as he struggled for breath.

He felt sure that they would all perish in this fearful, miserable waste of snow.  Nothing was going to save them unless they found the caretaker's hut.

For some reason, Iskender thought about the timber and the fifteen-thousand lira it could bring. He had never made that much money in his life. He thought of the house he was planning to build for his wife, Gulbahar. He thought of his son and his father.

'No! No! This cannot be!'

The trail finally leveled off and they were on flat ground again. He pointed in the direction he believed they should go. They traveled for what seemed like hours, but there still wasn't any sign of the hut.

Suddenly Zubeyda pointed to an object that looked like a wall. With renewed strength they hurried towards it, but again faced disappointment. It was only an oba without a roof. They had come to the one of the huts the nomad Lazes used in the summertime.

"In that case, we've gone too far. Somehow, we've passed the caretaker's hut."  Iskender spat out the words.

He turned to orient himself, believing the hut was somewhere behind them. He started to turn back, but the others wouldn't agree to follow him. Reluctantly, he stopped.

Orhan began his cussing and lamenting invectives again. The wind gusts buffeted their bodies and the blinding snow stung their eyes. They knew they weren't on any trail. They couldn't go forward. They couldn't go back. They were stuck where they stood.

Iskender sat down and using his walking stick like a shovel began digging the snow around his feet.

"What are you doing?" Orhan angrily asked.

"Dig. All of you. We are staying right here," answered Iskender.

Not wanting to participate in the arduous work, the other three stood and watched. Iskender dug until he had quite a large hole, then dropped his feet in and continued to dig.

He lifted his head, surprised to see all three still weren't doing a thing.

"Dig, you fools!" He said it with such uncharacteristic vehemence that all three reluctantly gathered around him and started moving the hard packed snow with their gloved hands.

Orhan, worse than both women put together, started to cry. "My hands! I can't feel anything!" he uttered with pathetic sobs.

It seemed like an impossible job to complete, but Firdes and Zubeyda worked without any further complaining. As they dug, wind gusts blew the snow away. Their clothes collected the newly fallen flakes, turning them both into white ghosts.

Finally, the hole was large enough. Both women climbed in to join Iskender. With the last of her strength, Zubeyda pulled Orhan in behind her.

There was barely enough room for the four of them, but they managed to fit snugly against one another. Iskender sat in the middle, Firdes to his left, Zubeyda to his right and Orhan on the outer edge.

Iskender was pleased that at least they were out of the blizzard and could keep each other warm. He began rubbing his hands together and then rubbed his feet.

The others followed his actions. Their breath started to melt the hard snow around them. The two women were quiet, but Orhan continued his sobbing and shivering.

Iskender didn't notice the vent above their heads getting smaller and then finally closing. He felt his chest begin to hurt. He couldn't breathe.

"I can't breathe!" Orhan cried out.

Iskender instinctively looked up. He wrapped his torba around his stick and tapped the snow above him. With little air left, he had a hard time lifting the stick. It seemed so heavy, but he kept on. Finally the stick poked through and he quickly pulled it back.

Cold air rushed in.

"We need to make more room," ordered Iskender.

Orhan had stopped sobbing, but offered no help.

Firdes started digging out snow, making snow balls, and then handed them to Iskender to throw out through the vent. He kept a close eye on it to make sure it didn't close up again.

Orhan grudgingly accepted his fate. He began scraping snow, making snowballs and handed them to Zubeyda, who threw them out a small vent she had opened above her head. Gradually their small burrow became a little larger and they were able to stretch out their legs.

As soon as Zubeyda stopped throwing snow balls out, her vent closed up, but she didn't bother to reopen it. It became Iskender's job to make sure the larger vent remained open.

Iskender began rubbing his hands again, trying to warm himself. He thought about resting. Laying his head back, he began lamenting a prayer:

"Allah yarabbi bizi kurtar, bu beladan."  (God, please free us from this situation.)

He made promises to himself that he would never again miss Friday prayers and he would give more money to the poor.

During his prayers he dozed off, dreaming he was back in Gufara with his wife, Gulbahar, making tea in the semaver. The heat from the wood stove felt so good. Then he felt the pain in his chest again. He opened his eyes. Realizing he had been dreaming, he became alarmed.

'Oh, God. What a way to death.'

He looked to his right to see Zubeyda had dozed off, and then looked up to see the vent had closed again. He grabbed the stick from her hands and started poking, but it wouldn’t open. Terror seized his whole body. He poked harder, using all his strength.

Finally the stick went through and he gasped for air.

'Still, I must not despair. I must not fall asleep. I must make sure they are all awake. Together we have a better chance of making it until morning.' An all-consuming fear gripped him.

'What is tomorrow? Nobody knows we are here! We will surely freeze to death!'

He remembered the stories from the village elder, Omer aga. How he had survived on the slopes of the Allahuakber Daginda, where, during the Turko-Russian war, ninety-thousand troops froze to death because of Enver Pasa and his German advisers.

In reality, Omer aga had been taken POW and that was how he survived, but Iskender distinctly remembered him saying, "You must not fall asleep. You must force yourself to stay awake.

Iskender touched his face, felt his cold cheeks. 'Good. I am not dreaming.' His body was chilled and aching all over. His hands and feet were shaking violently, his breath coming in gasps.

"Oh, immortal being, come to the rescue of those in deep distress," he sobbed as he uttered his prayer.

He turned to Firdes, shaking her. "Don’t fall asleep!"

Firdes opened her eyes, sat up, looked around in a daze, and then laid back in her original position. She wasn't shivering. With her excess weight, her body seemed to be not as cold as the others.

She'd been dreaming a dream she hadn't had for a very long time.

She was eloping with her young sweetheart, crossing a river so that her father couldn't find them.

Her fiancĂ© was in front of her, holding her hand. They were submerged up to their necks trying to cross to the other side. Her fiancĂ©’s head suddenly went under the water and she was trying to pull him back up, but he was pulling her under with him.

The water was so cold and she desperately needed to free herself from him and gasp some air. She awoke to find Iskender shaking her.

Aching with nostalgia, she didn't want to lose the memories of her first love. She lay back again, trying to salvage the dream, blissfully letting eternal sleep overcome her.

Iskender's terror ebbed and flowed, at times vanishing, at times completely consuming him. He knew at all cost he must not give way to panic again. He must find something to do.

He took off his gloves to rub his fingers, brought his hands to his mouth, blew out his breath and rubbed.

He felt for something in his inside pocket. When he reached in, he grasped two cubes of sugar. It had always been his habit to keep treats for the children. Somehow these had been left over. He put one of the cubes into his mouth and sucked.

The taste of sweetness kept his mind occupied. But, still, he needed to stay awake and do something.

'Oh, yes. The vent. It's closing again.' He busied himself with keeping it open, the night passing in slow agony.

Sometime during the middle of the night, Orhan awoke.  Frost forming down his back had aroused him.

He had been dreaming he was back at his house. He and his brother-in-law were loading sacks of grain on an ox cart. One of the sacks fell on top of him. He tried to move it, but he couldn't free himself from the heavy, cold weight.

He heard a banging sound and looked up to find Iskender poking the frozen ice to keep the vent open and Zubeyda's heavy weight pressing against his back. Orhan shook her awake.

Zubeyda lifted her head up and asked, "Are you okay?"

"My body is cold and stiff and my legs feel heavy," Orhan replied.

She took his hands and brought them to her breast, pressing them into the heat of her bosom. He had no feeling in his fingers and there was no arousal on his part. Orhan started to shudder convulsively.

Zubeyda moved her hands to his feet, peeled off his socks and rubbed his toes. She lifted her fisdan, undergarment, and angled herself so that she was able to take his feet between her thighs.

She whispered in his ear, "I have always wanted to do this with you." Orhan gave no acknowledgment. He had become as cold as ice and laid back in eternal sleep.

Orhan's cold hands and feet began to freeze her warm parts. She, too, felt her legs grow heavy as stone. She stopped rubbing his feet and dozed off; her last thoughts were of regret. It was all her fault. If she hadn't visited her parents, none of this would have happened.

Nothing further did she see, hear or feel of this world.

Iskender dozed without dreaming, or so he thought. 'Thank God there are still some wind gusts and the vent won't close any further.' He wasn’t sure if he was dreaming or not. It was his turn to rest and for Zubeyda to watch the vent, but he couldn't wake her.

He closed his eyes and found himself standing in a barn where the cattle and horses were kept. His father asked him to saddle the horse, but he couldn't move. He looked down to see his shoes stuck in manure. Then, suddenly, the barn was not a barn at all.

He was in his bedroom and his arms were tied to the bedpost. He called out to his cousin, Halis, to come untie him.

His wife, his father and his cousin were standing in front of him, talking. He could see their mouths moving, but he could barely hear their voices.

He thought he heard them saying something about his arms not being healed yet. The logs falling on him had broken his arms quite severely and he would need to stay in bed a while longer.

The old doctor, Niyazi bey, came in to check on him, commenting that it had been six weeks and Iskender should have healed by now.

Iskender opened his eyes, somehow knowing he was near the end. He could barely move his hands and there wasn’t any feeling in his right leg. He started praying, but it seemed he had forgotten the short chapters he used to know.

With trembling hands he re-knotted the white sack cloth to the end of his walking stick and pushed it up through the vent, leaving it there as a marker.

This done, he looked around. There was no doubt both women and Orhan were dead. He lamented the one prayer he remembered, 'Allahuekber, let ezrail come and take my soul when he will.'

He placed his hands over his face, closed his eyes and stopped trying to stay awake, firmly believing this time he would cross over to the other world.

In the village of Gufara, Iskender's father and wife became more worried with each passing hour. The travelers were long overdue. News spread from neighbor to neighbor.

The village Muhtar instructed the Bekciyi to make an announcement from the highest house. A search and rescue team was forming and all able bodied young men were needed.

Just after dawn, men started gathering in the guest house of the Muhtar. Their leader was a rugged, middle-aged man named Ahmet Yildirim, a relative of Iskender's.

A message was sent out to contact those who hadn't yet heard the announcement.

Neighbors who were usually condescending to one another, spoke with alacrity. Village women went to their neighbors in a swelled chorus of alarm.

Young boys, pretending to be grown up, snuck among the gathering men in hopes of being allowed to join the rescue team. Ahmet Yildirim, in his wisdom, disappointed them by sending them home.

Men bounded in and out of their homes and into the streets. Some assumed the worst, others chattered hopefully. Several men joined the team with insufficient clothing and, again, Ahmet Yildirim sent them home.

As the rescue team headed out, there were over twenty men behind Ahmet Yildirim, all on foot, their backpacks loaded with rope, equipment and woolen blankets.

Several men carried wooden rods to assemble makeshift biers. By the time they reached the edge of the village, the entire population was aware of the crisis and more men joined the team.

Nearly a hundred now were on their way to find the travelers. A journey of many miles, all uphill in frigid temperatures, lay ahead of them.

Several miles into their climb, one of the young men started to doze off. Ahmet walked back to where the young man stood swaying, with his eyes closed.

He shook the young volunteer without result.

Inspecting his clothing, Ahmet discovered that tight rubber bands wrapped under the volunteer's knees were cutting off circulation. He quickly cut the bands, and then slapped the young man on the face until he was alert.

The rescue team reached the mountain peak, fanning out over a wide area, some continuing further on to the other side of the ridge. It was not long before one of the men found Iskender's white cloth flag waving in the stiff breeze.

Several men dug furiously, opening the hole wide enough to see the four bodies laying still.

They pulled Iskender up first. His eyes were covered in frost, his open mouth partially filled with snow. Iskender was alive, but just barely.

The men quickly wiped the frost from his eyes, scrapped the snow out of his mouth, and then ripped off his clothing. Two young men opened their shirts and placed their bodies against Iskender's in an attempt to warm him up. They replaced his clothing with layers of warm wool, rubbing his arms and legs.

By then, the rest of the team had arrived and began assembling biers to carry the bodies back to the village. Sadly, they lifted the three corpses out of the hole, covered their faces, and placed them on the wooden frames.

Iskender, half in and out of consciousness, fully believed he had crossed over to the other world. But how rude a place it was, all the noise, the jostling of his aching body, someone or something continually rubbing his extremities. He was placed onto the fourth bier and carried home.

For the next three months he laid in bed.

Several of his fingers and toes had to be amputated, too frostbitten to be saved. He continued in and out of reality, sometimes hallucinating, sometimes quite cognizant of what was around him.

But he still believed he was dead.

Each time he moaned his chant of death his cousin, Halis, would gently slap him on the face, repeating over and over that he was alive.

In time, Iskender accepted the reality of life and continued his recuperation, with his wife and Halis continually by his side. Slowly he learned to walk again, to take part in life, to return to the man he used to be.