Murad's Tent Mates Can't Die Soon Enough
The Janissary Section 7 September 1683
6 minutes read
“Where are all the women they promised us?" Murad asked. He stopped and thought about what he said, not realising he had spoken the words aloud. He felt old, very old. He didn’t know if he really cared at this point about the women. It was getting late for him. He didn’t have long in the Corps – his bones had been telling him this for the last two years. He was tired.
Back in the last town they’d sacked on their way to Vienna, he’d had one or two, but didn’t know why: they were there, it was what you were supposed to do during that sort of thing. It was all a blur. It was war, was what he told himself. They had it coming. Maybe.
“Well, it’s over. They’re probably dead now,” he thought. Just like he would be today, tomorrow … who knew when. Either that, or on their way to be sold in some market somewhere. They were on the wrong side and he was on the right one. Things just worked out that way.
The three tent-mates were sitting around throwing pebbles into a meagre, heatless fire as the sun went down. There was silence. Nobody knew how or when to answer. No one really seemed to want to talk. The fire crackled into the stars.
"Good question,” Can said, eventually. “We’ve come all this fucking way and we have yet to get to some proper blonde rape. The Tatars get it all, and we get this bullshit,” he said, pointing to nothing in particular with a stick he had been using to trace circles and hashes in the dirt.
Can was the latest replacement and Murad’s new tent-mate. He was from somewhere nobody had ever heard of – where Murad was pretty sure they fucked sheep – and was always sniffling. It was the middle of summer and he was constantly sniffling. He would sniffle in the trenches. He would sniffle at meals. He would sniffle loading a musket. He would sniffle going to take a piss.
Murad was infinitely annoyed with just about anyone these days, but especially with this latest replacement. There were always new guys. They just seemed to appear and disappear. There were still people arriving in camp too, from Wallachia, Egypt or Africa or somewhere, Hungary, who knew? All making a mess of things.
“You donkey fuckers, you see those walls there? Guess what? They’re still there. So stop dreaming about your blondes and your little businesses back in Constantinople you’ll never start.” Murad shifted in his cross-legged position, trying his best to adjust his hips and move his ass without looking too much like he was uncomfortable.
“You’re the one that brought it up, Murad,” said Can.
Murad sighed. “It’s all bullshit, I’m telling you. Go here, eat, drink, go there, shoot this, cut that, help load this cannon – always one thing or another.” Murad’s head was full of wool and his stomach was churning. He was still hungover, and annoyed for what his calculations told him was approximately five and a half years. He lost track of what he was talking about.
He wiped his eyes from the inside corner out. "I need a fucking coffee.”
His tent-mates continued to stare silently into the fire.
"If there’s one damn thing we’d better not run out of, it’s coffee. Or tea, for that matter. I don’t know what the fuck we would do then. I would kill someone,” Murad remarked.
Can smirked. "That’s your job, Murad, remember? Killing people?”
Murad hoped Can would soon have a replacement. Very soon.
"Yeah, yeah, ha, ha – but I’m serious. This is bullshit! We never have time to enjoy it, you know – just sit around like we would back in the garrison, have a chat, you know, just basically enjoy having a coffee,” continued Murad. He was now serious, eyes as stern as he could make them. He itched his left ear again, then his left shoulder, and then started groping the pommel of his yataghan sheathed on his belt.
“What if we could just take the coffee with us? You know, to the front,” said Muammar. He was also new, but not as new as Can, so he might last a bit longer. Either way, Murad didn’t particularly enjoy talking to people he knew would be dead soon.
“You can’t do that. Then everyone would be wanting coffee when they go through to the tunnels and that. Before you know it, no one would be fighting – everyone would just be sitting around having coffee. Why not just cook it in the trench?” Murad asked, annoyed. “Oh, that’s it – they won’t fucking let us, remember?” He needed coffee desperately.
And new tent-mates.
“It would be good if we could get it to take with us from the camp though,” Can insisted.
“You can’t take coffee with you when you go somewhere,” Murad said, more angry than he needed to be. "Ooof, yallah. Walking with coffee. What the fuck?”
“Well, if I was in charge you could. One day, when all of this is done, and I retire, that is what I’m going to do – open a coffee house. But a different kind of coffee house … maybe more like a stand actually, and then you get coffee to take with you, like on the way to the market or something,” Muammar said, with every bit of confidence he could muster.
“You fucking idiot." Murad shook his head. He wanted this Muammar kid to get killed already.
Everyone fell silent again, and looked at the fire.
Muammar coughed for no apparent reason, nervously breaking the silence; Can sniffled.
“Do whales have vaginas?” Muammar asked, finally.
Murad tried his best to get Muammar’s very existence out of his life, shaking his head solid and wide, pressing his eyes till he saw stars with a sigh.
“What the hell is a whale?” Can asked, his eyes widening in confusion. The shithole village in the middle of Anatolia where he likely fucked sheep was far from the sea, which he obviously knew nothing about. Rumour was that he had never seen stairs until he was brought to the city as a boy, to train as a Janissary. “And what made you think of that all of the sudden?”
“Don’t know. Just thinking about stuff. You know,” said Muammar.
“It’s s massive fish.” Murad sighed. "They live in the ocean, Can.”
"What’s the ocean?”
“Holy fuck, is this kid clueless,” he thought. “This is what we’ve been reduced to. No wonder we’re still sitting out here with our dicks in our hands – chatting about fish vaginas and coffee, and not in Vienna.” He scratched his left ear. “It’s like the sea but even bigger.”
“Which sea? The Ege or Kara?”
“Either of them. Both of them. All of them. It doesn’t fucking matter.” It was all a bit much for Murad. He pretended to sleep.