The silver smiths’ quarter in the Grand Bazaar was a series of wide balconies around a central open shaft. The air inside was cool and still, the only sound that of small hammers against silver, and the soft murmur of tourists marvelling at the skills of the smiths.
Thaddeus had been waiting on a bench on the upper level for an hour. No tourists made their way here, kept out by a velvet rope across the staircase, and a small boy with a very serious demeanour. The letter from Solkov had allowed Thaddeus entrance.
From inside the doorway in front of him, there was silence. The smith had stopped working. Thaddeus rose from the bench and met the woman in the doorway. The bowl she handed him was small and round, the surface smooth and soft. Old-fashioned tools had created something a factory could never reproduce. “Do good to people and you’ll enslave their hearts” was written in Arabic around the base, in small black, precise letters.
The bowl seemed to twist in Thaddeus’ hands, and when he looked up, the wall beside him retreated in a haze of heat that wasn’t there. He squeezed his eyes shut. The Modafinil was a sharp taste at the back of his throat. He took a few deep breaths. The bowl settled back into it’s regular shape.
”It’s not what I’m looking for”, he said, opening his eyes. The old man seated cross-legged on the floor inside the doorway, head covered by a white keffiyeh, body wrapped in a simple white robe, smiled at him, several teeth missing, tongue darting out for a second as if to taste the air. He hadn’t spoken a word since Thaddeus’ arrival.
From behind him, Thaddeus heard the woman approach.
”Not what you were looking for?" she said. Her English was perfect, English English, stilted yet musical.
”No. Not what I’m looking for. I don’t need silver. I need dreams.”
It wasn’t my usual ringtone. Instead it was a soft warble, like a bird’s. I fumbled for the phone in my coat, crumpled on the floor, without taking my eyes off the bird on the windowsill. It cocked it’s little head and looked at me with beady black eyes.
I found the phone and answered.
“Hello?” No reply, only the distant sound of fluttering wings and wind through trees, like white noise on the line but distinctly biological in nature.
“Hello?” I said again. “Who is this?” The call ended.
I put the phone down, stood, and walked over to the window. The bird flew away, into the rain. Behind me, the phone rang again, warble warble.
Rain lashed at the window, hard, black. Black? I leaned forwards. It wasn’t rain, it was birds. Hundreds of tiny tiny black birds, throwing themselves blindly at the window.
I stumbled backwards and the window detonated into the room, showering me with glass and birds. They screeched, their tinny voices filling the air with a dissonant roar. I curled up on the floor, covering my ears, screaming, to hear anything except their song.