Saturday, June 14, 2008

Short Story Saturday

Taylor/Erol woke up, slowly, forgetting where he was. It was still rather dark outside, and the scent of night jasmine floated through the air. Rolling over, he groped for his alarm clock. Eyes snapping open, he suddenly remembered all that had befallen him.
Sitting up, he studied his surroundings in the dark. He was in a chamber filled with the other Eunich's, He thought they were all asleep, but he could not be sure. He considered attempting an escape, but decided against it. "I need to learn my way around, first" he thought. Plus, there was a chance that if he were caught, and it was discovered he still had his "manhood", he was afraid of what would happen. Sighing, he got up off his simple pallet, and made his way to the bathing chamber. He had been told last night that he was to bathe, and bind himself each morning, before anyone else got up.
He quickly took care of his morning ablutions, and, wincing, bound himself the way he was shown. "I wonder if I will get used to the pain" he thought, walking gingerly towards the kitchens. He was to bring the Princess Nilufer her morning tray, and taste all of it within her eyesight, so she could ensure for herself that he did not die from it...
Nilufer rolled over, brushing her long black hair out of her face. She was bored, and had tossed and turned all night, unable to sleep. Her various serving women pattered softly around the opulent room, trying not to wake her. Her bed was a raised cloud of softness, surrounded by curtains. Her persian cat, Salim, slept next to her, his whiskers twitching with dream. Wishing she was a cat to come and go as she pleased, she watched the black feline with envy. Sensing eyes upon him, Salim opened one, golden eye and glared at her. Laughing softly she scratched his chin, then pulled the curtains aside to indicate that she was awake.
Immediately her women came forward with her robe, and slippers Shrugging them on, she lithely stalked to the table, Salim at her heels. Sitting down, she rung the bell, indicating she would like to break her fast. At the ring, her new taster, Erol came in bearing a tray of fruit sorbet, figs, eggs, and bread. Her usual breakfast. Silently, she watched as he tasted them all. Then she waited, ten minutes. As he showed no signs of illness, or death, she proceeded with her meal. When she finished, she daintily wiped her face and mouth, and gestured for the tray to be taken away. Erol jumped to do it, but she motioned him down with one hand. "Not you. I would like you to remain, to entertain me" she announced. Shocked, he did as he was bid. "Come with me, I must bathe" she said, eyes twinkling.
"What is she trying to do, get me killed?" he thought erratically. She knew that he was not altered, yet, she was about to make him watch her bathe. Surely she was aware that she was a most beautiful woman. Trying to keep his reaction to a minimum, he followed her.
"He is a eunich, you may all stay behind" she said, to her maidens. They nodded their head, and did as she bid.
In the bathing area, Nilufer matter of factly stripped down to nothing, and entered the warm bath. When the bath mistress came to attend her, she turned to Taylor/Erol, and, in perfect English asked him
"So, from what did year did you step back from?"
Taylor felt all the blood rush out of his face at her words.
"What do you mean?" he stammered, heart fluttering.
" I came back here in 1967, I am from Woonsocket, Rhode Island, originally" she announced, as if it were no big deal.
"Rhode Island?" he parroted, shocked.
Laughing, she flicked her wet hair behind her ear, and tilted her head, giving the short bath mistress a better opportunity to wash it.
"Yes, Rhode Island. But no one hear remembers when I came, exactly. I was a young girl, traveling with my parents. I liked it well enough here that I was permitted to stay. Now, I am not so sure that that was the best decision. But it has been made, and, here I am." She laughed, bitterly. "I wonder what my life would have been like, otherwise" she whispered, softly. Then, shrugging her shoulders, she turned her aquamarine eyes on him.
"So tell me. Tell me what I missed. Tell me what modern day life is like. I want to know it all. And tell me, do you think you will stay in my time, or will you want to return to what you left?"
"Well if my choice is dying of poison or returning to what I know, why, then, I will choose to return" answered Taylor, still shocked at what was revealed to him.
"Makes sense" she answered. Then, she began to ask him questions, and talk with him about what he'd left behind. They filled the morning this way, and before he knew it, it was time to taste her lunch meal. He did so, and they continued to talk, all through dinner. Nilufer had a bright mind, he found, and she was very observant. She was keenly interested in where he came from, and what the future held for the Ottoman Empire. Being as he was a history major, he was well versed in the history. He was careful what he told her, though, because he did not want to alter the future dramatically. He was not quite sure how important, or not important of a 'princess' Nilufer was.
Weeks went by in this pattern, he tasting her food with each meal, then, filling he in on the many events that had happened since she had "disappeared". No detail was too small for her, she wanted to know them all. As the weeks went by, Taylor slowly became Erol, and Erol slowly fell in love with the Princess Nilufer. He knew, that if given the choice, he would take his chances, and remain by her side, forever, or until he was poisoned, which ever came first.
Nilufer loved Erol as well, and each time he tasted her food, she was sick with nervousness. " I should have never revealed myself, my heart, my secret" she thought to herself. "It would have been easier had I not gotten to know him, to love him." Anxiously, she would watch him for the signs of sickness, and poisoning that had affected the other taster's who had died. Weeks went by, then months, and still, he remained alive. Negotiations were finalized for her marriage to the all important Prince Isik, she was to become his 6th, and final wife.
The morning of the ceremony, Erol went to her chambers. He had not slept all night in his anguish. He did not want her to marry another. But he had found no way of escape. Dying a little inside, he brought her his meal. And he tasted it. Distracted, she did not wait her full ten minutes, she began to eat. Within minutes, she knew she was dying. Yet she kept eating. Looking at him, she also saw the death in his eyes. Taking his hand, she asked "Where was it?"
"I put it in the fruit juice" was all he could answer before his heart stopped. Downing the juice, within minutes, she collapsed over him, smile on her face....