Saucy and Scandalous Tales from Herodotus – 2: The Character of the Persians.

Saucy and Scandalous Tales from the Histories of Herodotus – 2: The Character of the Persians.

 

No race is so ready to adopt foreign ways as the Persian…Pleasures, too, of all sorts they are quick to indulge when they get to know about them – a notable instance is pederasty, which they learned from the Greeks. Every man has a number of wives, and a much greater number of mistresses. After prowess in fighting, the chief proof of manliness is to be the father of a large family of boys.

 

The period of a boy’s education is between the ages of five and twenty, and they are taught three things only: to ride, to use the bow and to speak the truth…They consider telling lies more disgraceful than anything else and, next to that, owing money.

 

The Persians are very fond of wine, and no one is allowed to vomit or relieve himself in the presence of another person.

 

If an important decision is to be made, they discuss the question when they are drunk, and the following day the master of the house in which the discussion was held submits their decision for reconsideration when they are sober. If they still approve it, it is adopted; if not, it is abandoned. Conversely, any decision they make when they are sober, is reconsidered afterwards when they are drunk.

David Turri - Amazon.com

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David Turri

Although I was born in England, I have lived in Japan for the past forty years. That’s why this country, its people and history, form the backdrop to many of my novels. I have no big ideas to peddle; I consider myself a simple story-teller and work hard at my craft. I spin my stories in such disparate genres as horror, espionage, war, occult - and humor. I live in Osaka with a wife, two grown daughter and two young grand-daughters – the whole catastrophe, as Zorba describes married life.

 

The Unquiet Spring: an extract from "Shig"

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07CSVM1MD/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0

 

In the spring, the cherry trees bloomed and fulfilled their poetic role as symbols of the impermanence of life by being pelted off the branches by heavy early April downpours within days of blossoming. 

The Tokyo spring of 1938 was an unquiet one.

           The China Incident, which the Army had promised would be over in three months, continued to drag on, and a shortage of raw materials and foodstuffs was beginning to be felt in the capital.

In a gesture against Britain’s interference in negotiations between Japan and the Chinese National Government, a mob disrupted an art exhibition mounted by the British Council, slashing canvases and vandalizing the premises.

           The American Embassy compound was nightly besieged by demonstrators protesting the US government’s hardening attitude toward Japan. Foreigners suspected of British or American nationality were harassed in the streets.

           In a combined operation, units of the Kempeitai arrested four hundred Socialists and charged them with violating the Peace Preservation Law of 1925. The offices of the Labor-Farmer Faction were ransacked and all of the windows broken. The leadership of the Marxist Japanese Proletarian Party was rounded up. Card-carrying members of the proletarian Youth League disappeared from their homes.

           The purges swelled the population of Sugamo Prison within the walls of which inmates were starved, beaten, and harangued into signing the Tenko, a document in which they recanted their perverted ideologies. On signing, they were judged rehabilitated and released, but many were already broken in body and spirit, and many more would die in the Manchurian holy war and later in the Pacific.

           One morning before the April rains began, when the single cherry tree in his garden was at the height of its bloom, an elderly professor of economics at Keio University, a man well-known for his liberal social views, closed his front door and paused on the path to admire the blossom before going off to work.

           The tranquility of the Tokyo suburb in which he lived was broken by a squeal of tires as a car pulled up at the gate. A young man dressed in a thin cotton kimono and wielding a sword jumped out of the passenger side, burst through the gate, and pursued the professor back into the house, where he killed him. 

By the time the military police arrived, a muted crowd had gathered in the road near the gateway that was guarded by a uniformed officer. The Kempeitai officers found the professor lying in the vestibule of the house. He was dressed in a neat, three-piece suit and still clutched his briefcase. He had been cut deeply across the chest and shoulder by the sword, and his throat was slashed by a dagger.

           Azuma was careful to avoid the blood as he stepped around the corpse and poked his head into the living room, from which he heard whispers and muffled voices. It was the professor’s wife being comforted by her neighbors. 

He closed the door softly and turned to the police officer in charge for a report of the incident. While Shig took notes, a thin line of blood meandered along the vestibule and dripped off the end into one of the shoes that were lined up there.

           Shig was struck by how peaceful the crime scene was. The widow was hardly making any sound at all; the police spoke in whispers, and the crowd outside was silent. Even the ambulance crept along the road without a siren.

           Shig and the other Kempeitai officers followed Azuma up the stairs to the professor’s study. Azuma sat down in the fine leather chair behind the desk, flipped open a gold-leafed appointment book, and found in a drawer a large address book and pocket diaries going back three years.

           “Well, Professor, what traitors can you lead us to?”

While his men began to search the file cabinets and the cluttered, wall-length bookcase, Azuma uncapped a fountain pen he had found and which he later pocketed, and drew three vertical lines on a sheet of paper.  He headed the columns: Follow-up Checks; Surveillance; Arrest.

By noon, all three columns were filled with names, and the   office floor had become a mountain of ripped and spine-broken books.

Some files were carted away in cardboard boxes. The rest were torn up and thrown out of the windows, floating down into neighbors’ gardens like cherry blossoms. The desk and the walls were destroyed with a pick-ax in an attempt to locate hidden compartments.

The assailants’ getaway had been botched. The driver took a corner too fast and smashed into a telegraph pole, forcing both men to escape on foot.

In the garden, police found a wooden clog belonging to the killer, with his surname written on the side. They found the same man’s wallet in the glove compartment of the car. The registration of the vehicle was traced to a militant right-wing organization. 

In spite of all the evidence, no inquiries were made, no one was arrested, and the murder was attributed to unknown assailants.

           Two days later, Shig got the promotion he had been waiting for.  He celebrated by buying a new trench coat from the Mitsukoshi Department Store on the Ginza. It was French, made of the softest leather, and he wore it all the time, despite the warming weather.

 

 

Comment

David Turri

Although I was born in England, I have lived in Japan for the past forty years. That’s why this country, its people and history, form the backdrop to many of my novels. I have no big ideas to peddle; I consider myself a simple story-teller and work hard at my craft. I spin my stories in such disparate genres as horror, espionage, war, occult - and humor. I live in Osaka with a wife, two grown daughter and two young grand-daughters – the whole catastrophe, as Zorba describes married life.

 

When Jesus was minded to Return to Nazareth

When Jesus was minded to return to Nazareth (Oscar Wilde recounts to Andre Gide in “Oscar Wilde: In Memoriam”) Nazareth was so changed that He no longer recognized His own city. The Nazareth where He had lived was full of lamentations and tears; this city was filled with outbursts of laughter and song. And Christ entering into the city saw some slaves laden with flowers, hastening towards the marble staircase of a house of white marble. Christ entered into the house, and at the back of a hall of jasper He saw, lying on a purple couch, a man whose disordered locks were mingled with red roses, and whose lips were red with wine. Christ drew near to him, and laying His hand on his shoulder said to him, "Why dost thou lead this life?" The man turned round, recognized Him and said, "I was a leper once; Thou didst heal me. Why should I live another life? "

Christ went out of the house, and behold in the street He saw a woman whose face and raiment were painted and whose feet were shod with pearls. And behind her walked a man who wore a cloak of two colors, and whose eyes were bright with lust. And Christ went up to the man and laid His hand on his shoulder, and said to him, "Tell Me why art thou following this woman, and why dost thou look at her in such wise?" The man turning round recognized Him and said, "I was blind; Thou didst heal me; what else should I do with my sight?"

'And Christ drew near to the woman and said to her, "This road which thou art following is the pathway of sin; why follow it?" The woman recognized Him, and laughing said, "The way which I follow is a pleasant way, and Thou hast pardoned all my sins."

'Then Christ felt His heart filled with sadness, and He was minded to leave the city. But as He was going out of it He saw sitting by the bank of the moat of the city, a young man who was weeping. He drew near to him, and touching the locks of his hair, said to him, "Friend, why dost thou weep?" The young man raised his eyes, recognized Him and made answer, "I was dead and Thou hast raised me to life. What else should I do with my life?"'

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David Turri

Although I was born in England, I have lived in Japan for the past forty years. That’s why this country, its people and history, form the backdrop to many of my novels. I have no big ideas to peddle; I consider myself a simple story-teller and work hard at my craft. I spin my stories in such disparate genres as horror, espionage, war, occult - and humor. I live in Osaka with a wife, two grown daughter and two young grand-daughters – the whole catastrophe, as Zorba describes married life.

 

When Narcissus Died

'When Narcissus died, the Flowers of the Fields were plunged in grief, and asked the River for drops of water that they might mourn for him.

'"Oh," replied the River, "if all my drops of water were tears, I should not have enough to weep for Narcissus myself—I loved him."

'"How could you help loving Narcissus?" rejoined the Flowers, "so beautiful was he."

'"Was he beautiful?" asked the River.

'"And who should know that better than yourself?" said the Flowers, "for, every day, lying on your bank, he would mirror his own beauty in your waters."'

Wilde stopped for a moment, and then went on:—

'"If I loved him," replied the River, "it is because when he hung over my waters I saw the reflection of my waters in his eyes."'

[Quoted from “Oscar Wilde: In Memoriam”, by Andre Gide.]

Comment

David Turri

Although I was born in England, I have lived in Japan for the past forty years. That’s why this country, its people and history, form the backdrop to many of my novels. I have no big ideas to peddle; I consider myself a simple story-teller and work hard at my craft. I spin my stories in such disparate genres as horror, espionage, war, occult - and humor. I live in Osaka with a wife, two grown daughter and two young grand-daughters – the whole catastrophe, as Zorba describes married life.

 

The Stages of an Exorcism

My novel “29 Argyle Drive” contains an exorcism.

 

In his book titled “Hostage to the Devil”, Fr. Malachi Martin identifies six distinct stages of an exorcism.

 

                      Presence

                      Pretense

                      Breakpoint

                      Voice

                      Clash

                      Expulsion

 

He writes of the first stage that it is the awareness that something alien and evil is in the room.

 

“…Invisible and intangible, the Presence claws at the humanness of those gathered in the room. The Presence is an inaudible hiss in the brain, a wordless threat to the self you are…

 

“…In early stages, the evil spirit will make every attempt to hide behind the possessed – to appear to be one and the same person. This is the Pretense. The spirit uses the voice and characteristics of the possessed as its own camouflage…”

 

The exorcist must destroy the Pretense and bring the Evil Spirit into the open. As the exorcist breaks down the pretense, the possessed person becomes even more violent.  

 

“…As the Breakpoint nears, the exorcist must undergo confusion. His ears seem to sell the foul words, his eyes seem to hear offensive sounds and obscene screams. His nose seems to taste a high-decibel cacophony. Each sense seems to be recording what another sense should be recording…”

 

The break point is reached when the pretense collapses – the voice of the possessed is no longer used by the Evil Spirit, which begins to speak of the possessed person in the third person.

 

And so emerges the Voice of the spirit itself – “a disturbing and humanly distressing babel” – of echoes, prickly voices that scream, whisper, laugh, sneer and groan. Martin writes, “Using his will in the name of and authority of Jesus Christ and the Church, the exorcist must command the Voice to be silent and to identify itself intelligibly… 

 

“…As the voice dies out, tremendous pressure of an obscure kind affects the exorcist. This is the first indication of the direct and personal collision with the evil spirit – the Clash

 

“The clash is the heart of a special and dreadful communication, the nucleus of this singular battle of wills between the exorcist and the evil spirit…

 

Expulsion calls finally on the evil spirit to desist, to be disposed, to depart and to leave the possessed person. When this is achieved the exorcism ends…”

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1495980960/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i4

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David Turri

Although I was born in England, I have lived in Japan for the past forty years. That’s why this country, its people and history, form the backdrop to many of my novels. I have no big ideas to peddle; I consider myself a simple story-teller and work hard at my craft. I spin my stories in such disparate genres as horror, espionage, war, occult - and humor. I live in Osaka with a wife, two grown daughter and two young grand-daughters – the whole catastrophe, as Zorba describes married life.

 

Saucy & Scandalous Tales from The Histories of Herodotus [1]

Written around 440 BC, The Histories tells of the epic clash between the Persian empire and the Greek city states - the Battle of Marathon, of Thermopylae and of Salamis. But it is also a rich tapestry of the ancient world, its peoples and their cultures, full of saucy and scandalous tales. I would like to highlight some of those stories in this and future blogs. All extracts are taken from Penguin Classics edition of Herodotus: The Histories.

……….There is one custom among these people which is wholly shameful: every woman who is a native of the country must once in her life go and sit in the temple of Aphrodite and give herself to a strange man.

Many of the rich women, who are too proud to mix with the rest, drive to the temple in covered carriages with a whole host of servants following behind, and there wait; most, however, sit in the precincts of the temple with a band of plaited string around their heads – and a great crowd they are, what with some sitting there, others arriving, others going away – and through them all gangways are marked off running in every direction for the men to pass along and make their choice.

Once a woman has taken her seat she is not allowed to go home until a man has thrown a silver coin into her lap and taken her outside to lie with her…The woman has no privilege of choice – she must go with the first man who throws her the money.

When she has lain with him, her duty to the Goddess is discharged and she may go home…Tall, handsome women soon manage to go home again, but the ugly ones stay a long time before their can fulfill the condition which the law demands, some of them, indeed, as much as three or four year………

……….The most ingenious (of the Babylonian practices) in my opinion is a custom which, I understand, they share with the Eneri of Illyria. In every village once a year all the girls of marriageable age used to be collected together in one place, while the men stood around them in a circle; an auctioneer then called each one in turn to stand up and offered her for sale, beginning with the best-looking and going on to the second best as soon as the first had been sold for a good price.

Marriage was the object of the transaction.

The rich men who wanted wives bid against each other for the prettiest girls, while the humbler folk, who had no use of good looks in a wife, were actually paid to take the ugly ones, for when the auctioneer had got through all of the pretty girls he would call upon the plainest to stand up and then ask who was willing to take the least money to marry her – and she was knocked down to whoever accepted the smallest sum. The money came from the sales of the beauties, who in this way provided dowries for their ugly sisters.

 

Comment

David Turri

Although I was born in England, I have lived in Japan for the past forty years. That’s why this country, its people and history, form the backdrop to many of my novels. I have no big ideas to peddle; I consider myself a simple story-teller and work hard at my craft. I spin my stories in such disparate genres as horror, espionage, war, occult - and humor. I live in Osaka with a wife, two grown daughter and two young grand-daughters – the whole catastrophe, as Zorba describes married life.

 

A Very Drunk Snake

An extract from “Escarpment”

https://www.amazon.com/Escarpment-David-Turri-ebook/dp/B0725JJS71/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

Awamori is the potent firewater of Okinawa. Distilled from rice, it is between sixty and eighty percent proof. Some brands pack a punch of 120 percent. The liquor figures prominently in the pages of my novel “Escarpment”.

 

A particular horrendous brand of Awamori is called “Habushu”. The Habu is a Japanese pit viper, related to the rattlesnake. A bite from it results in nausea, hypertension, vomiting; occasionally, death. A bottle of Habushu contains one of these big, fat creatures curled up inside it. It is drunk for its reputed aphrodisiac properties. The Habu can engage in coitus for up to twenty-six hours without flagging.

 

Dave, the narrator of “Escarpment”, buys a bottle of Habushu as a souvenir – for its curiosity value; being too old himself to expect any rejuvenation of his virility.

 

The extract follows.

 

We rolled and rattled eastwards, into one tunnel and out of that into another. At Kamigori, we transferred to the Chizu Line. The train that took us into the mountains was musty-smelling, a relic of a former age. The few passengers on it looked as ancient as the train.

It chugged between peaks that towered leathery-brown above the deep green all around us. It went into tunnels and came out of them into narrow valleys filled with chessboard-patterns of rice fields and small clusters of houses. Once in a while, it stopped at tiny, lonely platforms, empty of waiting passengers.

The odyssey was deadening.

Our legs got cramped and our shoulders became stiff. The sun had come up on us in Okinawa. Now it went down deep in the mountains of Okayama. Soon, outside the tunnels was as dark as inside them. The lighting in the old train flickered dimly. It got cold. We had nothing left to talk about and nothing outside the windows to look at.

My bag was on the floor between us. Once in a while, one of our feet nudged against it.

“What’s that keeps clinking around?”

I took the bottle of habu Awamori out to show him.

“That snake is as thick as a vacuum cleaner hose. How did they get it inside the bottle?”

The habu kept uncurling and curling, being forever disturbed in its rest by the swaying of the train and the bouncing of the bottle as we passed it between us.

“They fight the habu against mongooses,” I told him. “It’s a tourist attraction in Okinawa.”

“Which one usually wins?”

“The snake, I think.”

           “How big is a mongoose?”

           “I don’t know.”

           “Isn’t a mongoose Australian?”

           “I don’t know, Matt.”

           “Isn’t it a kind of a little kangaroo?”

           “It might be.”

“They must be one tough breed of snake. You buy the bottle for a souvenir?”

“I did.”

“For anyone special?”

“For myself. But open it if you want.”

“You don’t mind?”

“Go ahead.”

The smell that was released when he twisted the cap off was like a field full of dead animals. He took a slug, gagged on it and shuddered, and handed me the bottle. Imagine rotten herring, basked in paraffin, if you can. That was what it tasted like

But we got used to it after two or three swigs.

The liquor warmed us and insinuated itself into our brains. We found things to talk about and to smile and laugh at. We grew happy and content. The minutes that had weighed so heavily suddenly began to fly by. We forgot time. And when we approached the end of our journey, we were reluctant for it to end.

We had managed to get ourselves pretty bloody drunk.

By then, we were the only passengers left aboard. I had been checking our progress periodically on the route map printed above the doors. We were not too far from our destination. I strained to catch the conductor’s latest announcement and staggered down the aisle one last time to reconfirm with the map.

The train went into a tunnel, plunging us into darkness. The brakes hissed. It came out of the tunnel and shuddered to a halt at a platform. The doors opened.

The map told me the station we wanted – Awakura Hot Spring – was the one after this. I turned to return to our seat, but Matt wasn’t there. He was standing on the platform, holding the bottle and my bag.

“Not this one,” I shouted. “Get back on.”

He didn’t move.

“This is not it. Get back on the bloody train.”

He still didn’t move. I jumped off before the doors closed. If I had had the bottle in my hands, I would have battered him to death with it, and no court in the world would have convicted me.

The train chugged away and was swallowed up by another tunnel.

“Why did you get off?”

“I don’t remember getting off. I’m just standing here.”

The station was unmanned. There was a rusty tin on a wooden turnstile for disembarking passengers to throw their tickets into. The platforms were lit by fluorescent tubes that were covered in cobwebs. The single wooden bench was eaten away by age. To our right and left were mountains. Across the tracks was another mountain.

We sat down on the bench, shaking with the cold. Our knees rattled and our teeth chattered. The wind howled around us. The stars glittered above without any beauty. How long before another train came out of the mountain? What do we do if no train came out of the mountain?

“You want some more of this?”

I didn’t. He put the bottle down under the bench, out of the wind, and the snake settled and curled up to sleep again.

They say Awamori has hallucinatory properties, like mescal. There might be some truth in that, because soon the wind became an eerie chorus of disembodied voices.

Female voices, bickering female voices.

Matt turned his head to look over the rusty railing that ran behind us, in the direction from which the strange sounds seemed to emanate.

           “Isn’t that Keiko?”

           “Who?”

           The Awamori had destroyed all recollections of my past life.

           “Your wife.”

           At the far side of the deserted, weed-covered roundabout facing the station, under the muted hazy glow of a single street lamp, she huddled in the cold with my daughter. We heard a car engine approaching through the mountains, and then the headlights of a taxi burst out of the darkness.

 

 

Fall Off Your Seat Funny

Top Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars

Fall off your seat funny

By Douglas Phillips on 11 January 2017
Format: Kindle Edition
It is not often I come across a story that is so funny that I could fall off my seat. This incredible tale of murder and mayhem had me in tears from the first page to the last. Without giving too much away I'd have to say that the two main characters are so different from each other yet somehow, as the story unfolds, their friendship and undying loyalty to each other binds them together as they face a series of traumatic experiences involving their 'loved ones', their friends and of course the 'long arm of the law'.
Do yourself a favor - get a great dose of laughter and at the same time realize how lucky you are NOT to be like the two geezers in the book.
A brilliant story from author David Turri. I can't wait for his next effort. Hopefully it will be a sequel to "A Pig with Three Legs".

Available in paperback and kindle from my webpage:


https://www.amazon.com/David-Turri/e/B00IR6C5KM/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1


Benidorm: Purgatory on Earth - An excerpt from A Pig with Three legs

Benidorm is located on the east coast of Spain between the Costa del Sol to the south and the Costa Brava in the far north. It is a cheap and nasty, in-between kind of place.

Like Purgatory.

Benidorm is the biggest holiday resort in Europe, attracting five million visitors a year, many of them working-class Brits.

Images of its beaches, hotel pool-sides and noisy pubs are preserved in the dusty photo albums of generations of English families. In those pubs and on its pavements, a lot of British blood has been spilt over the years.

Benidorm’s motto is Wild until Breakfast

British men lie comatose on the beach all day, protected by big parasols from the sun they have come in search of. They’re too knackered to step out into the painful sunshine and walk over the baking-hot sand to paddle in the water.

They are content to moan, because your average Englishman is only happy when he’s moaning. That’s why he pays all the money to take a holiday in Benidorm, just to be able to moan in a bit of luxury.

Muttering things like this:

“…This sunburn is killing me. Look at me arms. Like red pokers…”

And this:

“…I had forty quid in my wallet last night. Look what’s left. You couldn’t catch a bus with it back home. And all I had was two pints of watered-down ale and a roast chicken butty that was all lettuce. Thieving Spaniards. Why do we keep coming back here every summer?”

The answer to that riddle only becomes apparent when the sun goes down. Then the Brits come to life again. Like vampires. Swooping into the karaoke bars, the show bars; the clubs, cabarets, casinos. On and on to the night’s waning and the throwing up of curry into the gutters.

Bugger Benidorm.

Take an evening off. Get out of it. Take a cab down the coast about half-an-hour to Alicante. Lovely place. The Roman legionnaires used to get drunk here two thousand-odd years ago.

A big rocky crag, called Mount Benacantil, dominates the port, casting its shadow over everything. Perched on the top is the Castle of Santa Barbara.

Up one side of Benacantil, reaching almost to the walls of the Castle, clings the Barrio de la Santa Cruz, a maze of ancient houses and steep, narrow cobbled alleyways. It’s called, simply, El Barrio, and is the heart of Alicante’s night-life.

But we warned.

In Benidorm, you can find a place to start getting drunk five minutes after you leave the hotel, if you don’t fall into the swimming pool first. To get to El Barrio, you have to tramp up the side of a mountain.

It can be a bit like climbing the lower slopes of Everest just to get a beer. And remember that more people are killed every year descending Mount Everest than going up.

But right there at the top is where you’ll find Tommy and Alec.

Get to know them better by reading their story from the start. Find it on Kindle.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Pig-Three-legs-David-Turri-ebook/dp/B01M1YITQA/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

The Christchurch Quake: An Extract from 29 Argyle Drive

An extract from “29 Argyle Drive”

      https://www.amazon.com/29-Argyle-Drive-David-Turri-ebook/dp/B00Q2ETTRS/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

 

Over time, especially after Boxing Day, Christchurch learned to cope with the aftershocks. When the ground shook, people panicked less. They steeled themselves, grabbed something, and their eyes searched for a doorway or a desk to shelter under. 

They held their breaths and gritted their teeth and waited it out.  When the earth settled down, they breathed again, made a joke or laughed about it, and went on with whatever the aftershock had interrupted.

Because lightning never strikes twice in the same place.

Over and over, they reassured one another with that old adage. They believed it. To consider the alternative was unthinkable. 

But the unthinkable happened, lunchtime – 12:51 – on Tuesday, February 22, 2011. 

That time, the shaking didn’t stop. It increased in violence, and the world of every Christchurch resident exploded. 

Inside offices, people cowering under desks and in doorways were bounced out of that flimsy protection. Walls shook furiously, floors heaved and buckled; ceiling fittings and steel beams gave way and came down, windows burst.

In restaurants, tables jumped up and down, plates clattered and crashed, shelves fell. Customers and staff trying to drag themselves under the tables or the counters were shrugged backwards by the undulating floors.  Ventilation shafts fell, wall tiles exploded.

Drivers felt their vehicles being lifted off the road by a giant’s angry hands, shaken about, dropped back. Roadways became waves under the tires. Power poles swayed violently. Cars slid from side to side. City buses were crushed by falling masonry.

People caught on the streets of the central city district froze in horror as shop overhangs snapped off and dropped and facades crumbled.  Buildings went straight to the ground. Bricks, glass and chunks of concrete were hurled into the street. Cracks opened in the roads.

In the suburbs, roads swelled and burst under the pressure of liquefaction, releasing tons of water and sand into gardens and homes. In houses, bookcases and refrigerators crashed to the floor, paintings came free of walls and cart-wheeled across rooms.   

Buildings in the central business district suffered the worst damage; two, especially – the Canterbury Television Building and the Pyne Gould Corporation headquarters. 

People inside them felt they were trapped in a salt shaker.  Everything was smashing, cracking and shattering. Floors tipped, walls caved in. Clouds of dust choked. There was a stench of burning electrical wiring, and then of smoke. Everybody tumbled downwards. 

Both buildings collapsed. Only the elevator shaft of the CTV Building remained standing. The Pyne Gould Corporation building was a mountain of rubble. And the spire of Christchurch Cathedral, the city’s most famous landmark, toppled and crashed to the ground into a heap of stone and twisted metal.

When the ground stood still again, the aching silence filled slowly with screams and crying; and with the noise of fire alarms and evacuation recordings from inside broken buildings, and with jammed car horns. And the dust began to rise over the city center in a dense, yellow-tinged pall. 

The people the quake had caught in the open – men in business suits, laborers from construction sites, drivers, university students, tourists – many of them injured themselves by flying glass and masonry – began to clamber over the wreckage of the CTV Building, pulling roofing iron and timber away, digging for survivors. 

The first to be lifted out of the rubble and passed down from hand to hand was a two-year-old baby.

The seconds of the shaking claimed 185 lives. Most of the victims, more than a hundred, were crushed and burned inside the CTV Building.  Many were foreign students studying at a language school located on the third floor. From the Pyne Gould Corporation wreckage, 18 bodies were recovered. Ten passengers on a local bus died when the vehicle was buried under falling concrete. At other central city locations, 28 were killed. Twelve people died in the suburbs.

The eastern residential districts were hit hard, and damage was particularly severe in Sumner. The cliff faces were shaken like never before and fissures hundreds of meters long opened, in places cutting directly through the middle of houses, tearing them apart. 

More dangerously, whole sections of cliff face crumbled away, and   boulders and stones came smashing down into streets, gardens and through house roofs and walls. 

A five-meter boulder crashed into the middle of Argyle Drive, bounced through the weeds and undergrowth where the gates of No. 29 had once stood, kept on rolling and came to a stop in the middle of the empty property.

Photographs of that huge stone went viral over the next few days.  In the midst of the worst catastrophe to ever engulf New Zealand, the Devil was back in residence at 29 Argyle Drive. 

Jack was home again. 

Very soon, those images of the stone, enlarged and enhanced, were being examined on computer screens all over the world, with the same intensity that astronomers pore over details of the surface of Mars.

Terrifying discoveries were made.

The most widely-disseminated shot of the boulder showed a close-up of the blasted granite surface circled with thick, black marker. Within this circle, the actual features of Satan’s face were delineated with a fine-tipped red pen. 

The face was long, gaunt and sharp; the horns, short, stumpy things; the eyes were blazing black, and the lips were twisted into an evil grin.

Other computer sites, other researchers, focused their investigations elsewhere on the boulder’s surface and revealed even greater horrors – seething cauldrons of faces, which they identified as belonging to the Fallen Angels – to Asb’el, to Gader’el, to Yeqon.

This Afterword cannot express the tragedy of that day. The loss; the ruin of a beautiful city, and the ruin of so many lives, leaving scars that will remain for a long time. Hundreds of empty gravel lots, voids where once shops, restaurants, office buildings and houses had stood. Boarded up windows, desolated structures fenced off by steel mesh. The end of laughter.

These final words focus not even on that boulder, but on something very different that unfolded on the property of 29 Argyle Drive during that long, gray afternoon and night.

By the time the ground stopped jumping, the middle of the road had split open, and mud and clay oozed out of the ruptured asphalt. At the bottom of Argyle Drive, a geyser of muddy water spewed ten feet into the air.

Power poles toppled into front gardens, bringing down lines, causing sparks and smoke. Hedgerows were pushed out into the pavement. Front porches collapsed; roof tiles cascade onto the street. 

Into this chaos spilled the residents who were at home at that lunchtime, weekday hour. Housewives with young children and babies.  Retired couples. Elderly people, some of them disabled. 

They were in shock, staring around at the unrecognizable street, the unrecognizable houses. Where is this? Where is my home? What has happened to us now? Oh, God.

After the shock of September 4, the population of Christchurch had been drilled, by television and by written literature deposited in their mailboxes, about what to do if they were caught outside when another severe earthquake struck. 

 

Keep away from falling masonry and electric wires. 

Do not reenter homes or buildings. 

Seek open space. 

Stay there until assistance arrives.

 

The confused and terrified residents of Argyle Drive found the open space that the quake literature said would save them in the wide flatness of No. 29. 

Assistance soon arrived.

The Student Volunteer Army had been formed by students at Canterbury University following the September quake, when they had assisted in the clean-up, especially in areas where soil liquefaction was severe. 

They mobilized again on February 22, into ‘Battalions’, ‘Squads’ and ‘Street Teams’, spreading out, in cars, charters buses and on foot, to the most severely devastated areas. 

They brought with them food, water and other emergency supplies, but, more importantly, humor, cheerfulness and optimism to the stunned survivors.

One street team that was ordered into action lived right at the top of Argyle Drive in an old house that had been converted into student flats.

Six young men and women, weighed down with backpacks, lugging shopping bags in both hands and pushing an overloaded wheelbarrow, made their way down to No. 29. 

There, they found the residents huddled, cold and confused; the oldest in shock, the youngest crying.

The students had brought – a big tarpaulin, three tents, sleeping bags; plates, cups and glasses, knives and forks; a mountain of blankets; a barbecue grill and bags of charcoal; bottled water, food from the refrigerator; bits and pieces of clothing; rolls of toilet paper; a bag full of sanitary pads; a first-aid kit; shovels and a pick-ax; two transistor radios.

They were climbers, trekkers, perennial hitchhikers, and they possessed survival skills. 

They rigged up the tarpaulin, using guy lines from one of the tents and the boulder as an anchor; and poles from the tent to secure the other end.  They erected a second tent and helped the oldest people into it, out of the cold.  They dug a latrine and covered it with the third tent.

 They got the grill going and food frying.  They built a bonfire.  They distributed their phones so that the residents could try to contact their husbands, sons and daughters.  They brought steadiness and good cheer.      

Sumner police and firefighters were already beginning to coordinate evacuation of the high roads that were in most danger from falling rocks and disintegrating cliff faces.  But it was not until after nightfall that street-by-street evacuations were coordinated. 

At an 8:00pm news conference, the spokesman for the Sumner Fire Department urged people who had evacuated their homes to stay where they were and to be patient.  Relief would reach them as soon as was humanly possible.

It was a cold night, and rain began to fall, but the evacuees around the boulder were sheltered from the cold by blankets and from the rain by the tarpaulin.  They stared out at the black sky and the dark sea, not thinking about the morrow, not talking much, listening to the stream of updates on the transistor radios.  Thankful to be in that safe place. 

While fools at their computers joined lines on photographs of a boulder to make the face of Satan, the property that had once been notorious in the media as The Hell House was a blessed spot that night.

 

Comment

David Turri

Although I was born in England, I have lived in Japan for the past forty years. That’s why this country, its people and history, form the backdrop to many of my novels. I have no big ideas to peddle; I consider myself a simple story-teller and work hard at my craft. I spin my stories in such disparate genres as horror, espionage, war, occult - and humor. I live in Osaka with a wife, two grown daughter and two young grand-daughters – the whole catastrophe, as Zorba describes married life.