I see a high-heeled shoe lying on gray and white pebbles, watching waves crash onto the shore. Red like a fresh bruise, smells of feet still. Up in the hills, a shepherd calls his goats. He leaps between the crevices in the sharp rocks, trying to find them before it gets late. His goats trickle through the fence as night falls, as the stars come out. The high-heeled shoe still watches the waves on the pebbles that extend from the rocky hills. 

I walk farther down the beach. Toward a fire, with people huddled around it. It’s one thousand  euros per person, says a young man from the village with a mustache like Nietzsche’s. He stands in a circle with us guests from the city; we all watch the fire in the middle. And that’s only for the boat, he says. That’ll get you caught quickly. He pauses for a second, takes a sip from his beer, looks around at the circle. The guests have bony faces, with sharp teeth. Those that don’t get caught, whispers the young man, hire a captain for the boat. He pauses. The faint lines around his eyes fill with shadows. He smiles softly, crosses his arms and leans back toward the stone wall of his restaurant. But how much would that cost? Another pause. I couldn’t tell you, he says. He takes another sip from his beer and tosses the empty glass bottle, dark brown with a golden label, into a rusty barrel. The people from the city watch the flames; the young man watches, too. For a moment, this is all they can do. The fire clicks, sparks dissolve into the dark, into the stars. The moment passes. The subject changes.


We hike high up the mountains that shoulder the shore, through dead houses of forgotten villages. The money hidden between the stone bricks has long since become sage. We follow the path that leads from the village to the church where the lost villagers once walked as brides. It’s covered in weeds and goat shit. We keep climbing until we reach a newer village with its people still there.

Three of us—me, the villager, and his wife—sit at the table meant for crowded families and big groups from the city, sharing the light of a single yellow light bulb. The water gently murmurs in an electric samovar. The villager pats the purple checkered tablecloth, the pattern dim at this time of night. Let me tell you something, he says. His eyes look far away, squinting slightly, searching for something, as though he would have liked a drag from a cigarette. He can’t light a cigarette right now. He is with two women, one from the city, so this would be rude. In his mind he has lit one, though. In his mind, his lungs are cloudy with the smoke. I know you are smarter than me, he says to me. Let’s bring out the books, I’m sure you would divide us by four and multiply us by five. Isn’t that right? His wife: It’s right. It’s right but not all of life is books. The villager agrees: She can’t do what we do, can she? His wife: No, she wouldn’t last a day. He says to me, maybe we don’t know the books, but around here we know things, too, things you don’t. His wife: We do. And here’s something everyone here learns when they’re a little baby:

Jinns only appear to two types of people: those who believe too much and those who don’t believe at all.

The wife gets up to fill her tea glass. She takes the villager’s glass too, without needing to ask. Boiling water becomes steam and fills the night and the glasses. The wife brings the glasses back, holding them from the waist. I wonder how she doesn’t burn.

Jinns are one thing but then there’s the Villagekiller, they tell me. It’s tiny, you wouldn’t even bat an eye if you saw one. I ask, have they ever seen one? Maybe, they say. Once there was a village, not far from this one. In this village—as is typical of villages—there was a young man and a young woman who wanted to get married. But their families wouldn’t allow it. The reason was that one family was rich and the other wasn’t. No, the reason was that the families had been feuding for decades. The reason was this or the reason was that, but somehow they convinced their fathers, and so the young man and woman were to wed in the biggest wedding the village had ever seen. The women of the village brought thirty different types of food, and laid them all out in a circle outlining where the guests would dance. The girls wore skirts so red you could see them from the mountains on the other side of the valley. A Villagekiller—nobody had seen such a lizard before—fell into the cauldron of rice and cooked in it. Until every grain of rice was wet with poison.

It ended with death, the wedding with the thirty different types of food, with the skirts so red you could see them from the mountains on the other side of the valley. It’s said that people vomited so hard that when there was nothing left in their stomachs they expelled their organs one by one:

first stomach, then colon, then kidneys, then lungs . . . Nobody who saw the Villagekiller survived and nobody has seen a Villagekiller since.

The villager goes to bed now. Good night, may god give you rest. It’s only his wife and I now. We hear rattling from the walls. Like thousands of little pebbles falling down a mountain, into the sea. I tilt my head up, trying to sense where the sounds are coming from. The villager’s wife is calm. There are a lot of them at nighttime, she says. Don’t worry, they don’t stay here, only pass through on their way from the mountains to the boats. Sometimes we hear them talking in their own language, she says. She smiles dimly, leans in, and quietly adds: Even though they whisper. Even though they make themselves roads out of the shadows. Bending to fit the paths on the mountains. They’ve become experts in taming the shadows.

She stops for a bit; we listen to the samovar. The rumbles are deep this time, woven with the crunch of pebbles under feet and murmurs in a language from far away. She carries on. We all know what’s going on, we all can hear when they pass. She gets up and unplugs the samovar. We hear, she says, but pretend we can’t.

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