بخش 04

کتاب: ملت عشق / فصل 4

بخش 04

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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متن انگلیسی فصل

The Killer


Beneath dark waters in a well, he is dead now. Yet his eyes follow me wherever I go, bright and imposing, like two dark stars ominously hanging in the sky above. I came to Alexandria hoping that if I traveled far enough, I could escape this piercing memory and stop the wail echoing inside my mind, that very last cry he gave out before his face drained of blood, his eyes bulged out, and his throat closed in an unfinished gasp, the farewell of a stabbed man. The howl of a trapped wolf.

When you kill someone, something from that person passes to you—a sigh, a smell or a gesture. I call it “the curse of the victim.” It clings to your body and seeps into your skin, going all the way into your heart, and thus continues to live within you. People who see me on the street have no way of knowing this, but I carry with me the traces of all the men I have killed. I wear them around my neck like invisible necklaces, feeling their presence against my flesh, tight and heavy. Uncomfortable though it feels, I have gotten used to living with this burden and have accepted it as part of my job. Ever since Cain slew Abel, in every murderer breathes the man he murdered, that much I know. It doesn’t disturb me. Not anymore. But then why was I shaken so badly after that last incident?

Everything was different this time, right from the start. Take the way I found the job, for instance. Or should I say instead the way the job found me? Early in the spring of 1248, I was working for a brothel patron in Konya, a hermaphrodite famous for her anger and wrath. My task was to help her to keep the harlots under control and intimidate the customers who didn’t behave.

I remember the day vividly. I was hunting a harlot who had escaped the brothel to find God. She was a beautiful young woman, which sort of broke my heart, because when I caught up with her, I was going to ruin her face so bad that no man would ever want to look at her again. I was this close to catching the stupid woman when I found a mysterious letter on my doorsill. I had never learned how to read, so I took it to the madrassa, where I paid a student to read it for me.

It turned out to be an anonymous letter signed by “a few true believers.”

“We have heard from a reliable source where you came from and who you really were,” the letter said. “A former member of the Assassins! We also know that after the death of Hassan Sabbah and the incarceration of your leaders, the order is not what it used to be. You came to Konya to escape persecution, and you have been under disguise ever since.” The letter said that my services were urgently needed on a matter of great importance. It assured me that payment would be satisfactory. If interested, I was to appear in a well-known tavern that evening after dark. Once there, I had to sit at the table closest to the window, my back to the door, my head bowed down, and my eyes fixed on the floor. I would soon be joined by the person or persons who would hire me. They were going to give me all the information I needed to know. Neither when they arrived nor as they left, and at no point during our conversation, could I raise my head and look at their faces.

It was a strange letter. But then again, I was used to dealing with the whims of clients. Over the years I had been hired by all sorts of people, and most of them wished to keep their names secret. Experience had taught me that, more often than not, the more strongly a client strived to hide his identity, the closer he happened to be to his victim, but that was none of my business. My task was to kill. Not to inquire into the reasons behind my assignment. Ever since I left Alamut years ago, this had been the life I chose for myself.

I seldom ask questions anyway. Why would I? Most folks I know have at least one person they want to get rid of. The fact that they don’t do anything about it doesn’t necessarily mean they are immune to the desire to kill. In fact, everyone has it in him to kill someday. People don’t get that until it happens to them. They think of themselves as incapable of murder. But it is just a matter of coincidence. Sometimes even a gesture is enough to inflame their tempers. A deliberate misunderstanding, a squabble over nothing, or simply being at the wrong place at the wrong time can bring out a destructive streak in people who are otherwise good and decent fellows. Anyone can kill. But not everyone can kill a stranger in cold blood. That is where I enter the picture.

I did the dirty work of others. Even God recognized the need for someone like me in His holy scheme when He appointed Azrael the Archangel of Death to terminate lives. In this way human beings feared, cursed, and hated the angel while His hands remained clean and His name unblemished. It wasn’t fair to the angel. But then again, this world was not known for its justice, was it?

When darkness settled, I went to the tavern. The table by the window happened to be occupied by a scar-faced man who seemed to be in deep sleep. It occurred to me to wake him up and tell him to go somewhere else, but with drunks you never knew how they would react, and I had to be careful not to draw too much attention to myself. So I sat at the next available table, facing the window.

Before long, two men arrived. They sat on either side of me so as not to show their faces. I didn’t need to look at them, though, to realize how young they were and how unprepared for the step they were about to take.

“You came highly recommended,” said one of them, his tone not so much cautious as apprehensive. “We were told you were the best.”

It felt funny, the way he said it, but I suppressed my smile. I noticed they were scared of me, which was a good thing. If they were scared sufficiently, they could not dare to do me wrong.

So I said, “Yes, I am the best. That is why they call me Jackal Head. I have never let my clients down, no matter how hard the task.”

“Good.” He sighed. “Because this might not be an easy task.”

Now the other guy spoke. “See, there is this man who has made himself too many enemies. Ever since he came to this town, he has brought nothing but trouble. We have warned him several times, but he pays us no attention. If anything, he has become all the more contentious. He leaves us no other option.” It was always the same. Each time the clients tried to explain themselves before we cut a deal, as if my approval could in any way lessen the gravity of what they were about to do.

“I know what you mean. Tell me, who is this person?” I asked.

They seemed reluctant to give me a name, offering vague descriptions instead.

“He is a heretic who has nothing to do with Islam. An unruly man full of sacrilege and blasphemy. A maverick of a dervish.”

As soon as I heard this last word, a creepy feeling spread over my arms. My mind raced. I had killed all sorts of people, young and old, men and women, but a dervish, a man of faith, was not among them. I had my superstitions and didn’t want to draw God’s wrath upon me, for despite everything I believed in God.

“I’m afraid I’m going to have to turn it down. I don’t think I want to kill a dervish. Find someone else.”

With that, I stood up to leave. But one of the men grabbed my hand and beseeched, “Wait, please. Your payment will be commensurate with your effort. Whatever your fee is, we are ready to double the price.”

“How about triple?” I asked, convinced that they wouldn’t be able to raise the amount that high.

But to my surprise, after a brief hesitation, they both agreed. I sat back in my seat, feeling jittery. With this money I could finally afford the price of a bride and get married and stop fretting over how to make ends meet. Dervish or not, anyone was worth killing for this amount.

How could I know in that moment that I was making the biggest mistake of my life and would spend the rest of my days regretting it? How could I know it would be so hard to kill the dervish and that even long after he was dead, his knifelike gaze would follow me everywhere?

Four years have passed since I stabbed him in that courtyard and dumped his body in a well, waiting to hear the splash that never came. Not a sound. It was as if rather than falling down into the water he fell up toward the sky. I still cannot sleep without having nightmares, and if I look at water, any source of water, for more than a few seconds, a cold horror grips my whole body and I throw up.

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