In Van, where we had gone to search for the monster, the

Turkish “Nessy”, in the lake, we were welcomed so warmly that we

understood we were more important than we had thought we were. I

was so excited as I had finally got the chance to visit this most

extra-ordinary city in East Anatolia. We were the university

professors coming from the Capital; we were different. The way we

dressed, the way we talked, the way we walked, the way we greeted

people, the way we held the cutlery at the table; we had some

special aura, yes, we were different, that was for sure. We had

the grandeur. The interest spared for us by the inhabitants

proved it as well. We could select the best carpet at the carpet

shop. At the jeweller’s, we could prove our simple but subtle

taste by selecting the unembroidered turquoise, by inclining to

buy not gold but silver pieces, or not the diamond watch coming

fröm the Far East but the ordinary stones shaped and carved by an

anonymous shepherd, who lived in a village very close to the

Turkish border with Iran. We would also prove that we were

different by our generosity and our polite abode by being a

relief to the grievance of the poor villager who came into the

shop head down in shame as we were drinking the linden tea that

the jeweller had offered us.

The poor villager was standing embarrassed as if he wished

that the ground cracked and swallowed him. He took a coin out of

his pocket and handed it to the jeweller, who happened to be from

his village in the South East. The poor villager mumbled:

“Umm, the chief gave this to me, what is it worth?”

The jeweller inspected the coin carefully. He finally said:

“Nothing. This coin is a dime a dozen.”

As the poor villager headed for the door his eyes facing the

floor as if his last hope had evaporated, I grabbed his arm and

bought the coin. Had I, out of pity, just put some money in his

pocket without buying the coin, he could have been offended as he

would then think that we mistook him for a beggar.

We were definitely different. The people of Van had _also

noticed the difference and they did their best to welcome us:

ragout with olives, fried pieces of meat, and special sweatmeat.

We did shopping madly starting from the very first day of our

stay. We drove around the castle, which was surrounded by barbed

wires, god knows why. We also posed for cameras in front of the

camp of tents for the Kurds who emigrated to Van from the South

East. We took so many pictures in front of the colorful frozen

clothes left to dry in the fatal cold of the East Anatolian

winter. Van people did anything to please us.

The first night, in my room that looked down on the Van Lake I

fell asleep thinking of the monster in the lake. In my dream

there was an earthquake, but to my relief, a whitebearded old

saint would wake me up and would help me get out of the building

just in time.

In the morning at breakfast, I told my colleagues about the

dream or rather the nightmare I had the previous night. None were

surprised. They told me that there was really an earthquake the

night before and that, according to them, I, half asleep, had

felt the earthquake and had confused the dream with reality. To

me, I had experienced something mystical and surreal. What is

more, a saint had selected nobody else but me to save. I would

never let my friends underestimate my experience and make it

sound ridiculous. I finished my breakfast quickly and went for a

walk by the lake in the early lights of that morning. There was a

fog over Van and the lake. I could vaguely see the castle amidst

the fog. It looked like an island in vacuum. It was certain that

I was in a slice of some different time, and I just could not

take my eyes off the castle.

Suddenly, I saw a creature flying towards me from the castle.

As it started flying around me I could do nothing but stare at

its colorful feathers like ariels on its head, its red tail and

bluegreen chest. It started circling around me, then it flew

high up and then glided towards me and kept circling around me

again. I was petrified. I had never seen such a creature in my

life. It was so different. And its shriek! It was otherworldly!

Could it be the phoenix? I unconsciously took the coin which was

supposed to belong to a chief of some South Eastern Kurdish

tribe, and instinctively started to spin it in my right hand.

When I realized that I was doing this, I heard some footsteps

approaching me. Behind me was standing a whitebearded old man

dressed in pure white. To my surprise he was the saint I had seen

in my dream the night before. I should ask him about the flying

creature. Who else but him would know? A new excitement covered

me and I began to shiver. The blizzard had overpowered. I was

going through some extraordinary experience. It was certain that

I was elect. I asked the old saint:

“You are from this town, aren’t you. Could you please tell me

what this flying creature is?”

I could have a heart attack any time. This was the turning

point of my life. Nothing would be the same again. I could feel

that I was going to learn some truth that would definitely change

the course of my life. The saint looked at the flying creature

and then at me, and then in such a confident tone of voice he

answered my question:

“Oh, that! That’s a bird, just a bird.”

I looked at the coin in my hand. It was just a piece of metal.

I hurled it into the lake.

Then I saw. The bird had gone. So had the saint.
(Translated from Turkish by the author)