This story from Ripples on the Pond, inspired by a true story, is dedicated to the memory of innocent people killed in Christchurch, New Zealand, today, and to many others in Europe, in France, England, and Germany, in The United States, and all over the world, as victims of terrorist attacks in the name of religion, nationality or race.
Behind a Cloud
In the old town of Istanbul, the light of a sunny morning in January bathed The Hippodrome. Under the clear blue sky, the ancient monuments groomed themselves for the important day. A warm breeze blowing across the Bosphorus dried the night dew accumulated on the domes and restored freshness to their aging surfaces.
A thin, young man clad in a long jacket and faded jeans, entered the square from the Divanyolu Street. Dark eyes, set on his bearded face, scanned the structures as he strolled towards the centre. When he arrived at the Egyptian Obelisk, he sat on a bench, facing the Blue Mosque. He took a newspaper out of his pocket, unfolded it, and continued to monitor the surroundings behind his shield.
The green lawns decorated with flower beds and the ancient structures conjured a quaint sense of tranquillity, calming his nerves. A sparrow landed by the bench and daintily skipped along, searching for crumbs.
The Blue Mosque spotted the red tourist buses arriving at their allocated parking area. Hey guys, it’s Tuesday, get ready for our new fans. Obelisks, German Fountain, museums and the palaces, shake off the slumber. Rise and shine.
Hagia Sophia winked at the Basilica Cistern entrance while the Topkapı Palace alerted its guards. The Archaeological Museum, along with Hagia Irine on the Palace grounds, prepared for their show.
The buses unloaded the passengers as groups circled their guides and dispersed in different directions over the historical grounds. A small party approached the German Fountain and took photos as they listened to the guide. The chit-chat of many languages, music to the ears of the ancient structures, filled The Hippodrome. Kings, Queens, Presidents, Heads of Religion, politicians, important businessmen and celebrities, as well as ordinary people, had been its guests over many centuries.
The Blue Mosque watched the dark man as he folded his paper and shifted in his seat. Something about his body seemed odd. His chest appeared too large for a man of such slender frame. Take off your jacket, my child. Too warm on such a glorious morning. Enjoy the sunshine.
The young man whispered a prayer towards the mosque, as he watched a group approaching the Obelisk. The strange figures etched on the tall marble structure intensified his passion. Heathens, non-believers, infidels. You and your idols should be erased from the surface of the world.
Hearing his thoughts, The Blue Mosque frowned and tried to bring reason to his wild ramblings. Son, the Obelisk before you is from Ancient Egypt, the other one, from Ancient Greece, the churches from the Byzantine times. The synagogues around the corner have endured since the Ottoman Empire. We represent all religions and beliefs here, and we get along fine. There is no need for hostility. We don’t only belong to this country, but to the entire world.
A spark of anger flashed in the young man’s eyes as the tourist group neared the Obelisk. His gaze on the Blue Mosque, he hissed, In the name of God.
What in the name of God? Destruction? What are you hiding inside that jacket? Don’t do this, my child. God will not forgive you. Taking your own life is a sin against God, but taking the lives of innocent others is a bigger sin. Don’t do it! Go back to your country, stop killing people of your own faith, as well as those of other beliefs. Stop the cruelty against your own people.
The young man rose and slowly approached the crowd by the Obelisk. Too late now, I am a soldier of God. I will go to Heaven and find peace.
You will not go to Heaven. You will go to Hell and burn. Don’t pull that thing, just leave. In the name of God.
He stopped by the group and noticed the sun retreat behind a cloud. A last glance at the Blue Mosque and he pushed the trigger.
A roaring blast rocked The Hippodrome and a great ball of fire rose by the Obelisk. The explosion reverberated through the city. As coffee cups rattled on tables, and windows shook with the shock, a large pit burrowed through the surface of the square. The Obelisk remained intact, but woeful remains of human bodies were scattered around it.
After a brief moment of silence as the fumes dispersed, the mayhem of police and ambulance sirens deafened the ears. Blood and tears permeated the air as people in shock gathered around the square.
Dusk fell upon the ancient monuments. Now separated from the old town, behind a barricade of tape. An eerie stillness lingered as the men in forensic suits returned to their cars. A team of special forces policemen, in tactical gear, guarded the area.
Despite the golden lights illuminating their splendour, the aged structures could not hide their sorrow. They retreated into the night, looking for dark shadows to shed their tears.
A song of lament rose from Hagia Irine, and floated down on the evening breeze towards The Hippodrome and Hagia Sophia, and descended below the Basilica Cistern. It travelled through its chambers and passed underneath the Golden Horn, reaching Galata. Echoing on the walls of the synagogues, and landing in the heart of the city, it crossed the Bosphorus and arrived at the Asian side. Along the channel into the Black Sea, in the north, and to the Sea of Marmara, in the south.
At the old Galata Lodge, the dervishes whirled, the swish of their skirts in rhythm with the holy melody coming from the reed pipe. The sound followed the night and reached The Hippodrome to console the mourners and to bring peace to the souls of the departed