March 18, 2020
I saw off a friend of mine at the bus station. In the forecourt, where the arrival platforms are, plastic bags, papers, and other lightweight pieces of litter were eddying in the wind. Everything seemed grimy and drab, even though the scant redness of sunlight was still going out on the horizon. A woman stood in the middle of all this, waiting for God knows who or God knows what.
I took a photo and posted it on Instagram with a caption: Apocalypse Now.
It’s good to have social media as these can serve as virtual diaries. You scroll through and come to learn that nothing ever changes, and that we’ll be perennially obsessed with bollocks. Our sweet little bollocks. And harbingers of the endtimes looming.
Later, I listened to sad music. It was a band called Slowdive. One of their songs reminded me of apocalypse because it’s titled “Falling Snow,” and also because it snows grey in one of my stories, “Cortés, the Butcher,” which is supposed to be a metaphor for the end of the world. Two snows melded with the ashes from Buchenwald. The ashes from a crematorium.
It was the first day of lockdown, too. They say that the world is never going to be the same after this. As if the world is a never-changing granite form of sorts.
I was more interested in those inner cataclysms. Inner snows as grey as volcanic ash, as the ashes found in a crematorium or caused by some other great disaster. The ashes falling without end.
A global shortage of toilet paper. A big toilet paper zombie apocalypse is coming. A bog roll apocalypse. Everyone has turned into zombies without realizing it because, of course, otherwise they wouldn’t be the walking dead. I’m not bothered by zombieism at all. I haven’t bought any toilet paper. I’ll be wiping my ass with leaves, just like I did during the war. After all, there’s water everywhere.
I refuse to hoard food supplies. I’ve never been keen on collective thinking. I’d rather starve to death, heroically, in silence, since the only thing I care about in life is to go against the masses, even when they’re a billion percent right, although all of us know it has never happened before.
I’m looking forward to the coming apocalypse like a young, blossoming love.
I’m listening to sad and melancholic songs. There must be an overture to the end of the world. In my story “A Clock of Flesh and Blood,” I mention the future apocalypses and my readiness to survive in case such an event does take place. The story is included in a book published in 2018. I shared the excerpt from that story on social media. I wanted to make it known that I’m into prophetic fiction as an author. And that I’m into the prophetic accuracy of my fictional words. Hopefully, I’m going to be a bad prophesier.
I used social media to voice my concerns as well, since the story follows how reality threatens to outrun me and eclipse a post-apocalyptic novel I’ve been writing for years now.
Sarajevo is desolate as if situated in a land of the last things. The lockdown affects minds and human hearts alike. Fear is creeping in everywhere, like a microorganism. Today’s the first day of curfew. At the moment, we’ve got two enemies: Our own state that is eager to imprison us and the aforementioned end of the world at a micro level.
I’m going to be listening to sad songs to make sure I’m well-prepared for all things coming. I’m waiting for the grey snow to fall as soon as the sun reaches its zenith.
Now covered in masks, women’s faces in the streets gain an additional trace of eros to them.
As I was having a stroll through Marijin Dvor, a woman came out of a bakery I was passing by and we made eye contact. She looked familiar. She walked past me in the opposite direction, so I turned around to look at her, to recognize her maybe. In turn, I saw her looking at me, having turned around herself. We went our separate ways, disappearing.
We’ll probably never bump into each other again. Yet, the beauty of that moment lingers on in me long after I’m back at my place, feeling the outside world pressuring me because I still haven’t turned into a zombie, nor am I planning to.
This is the day when I remember all cities important to me, home to people dear to me. I can see there are a lot of people I love in one way or another all around the globe. Nonetheless, never have I considered myself much of a human-lover, even though I did save people’s lives during the war. That was my official duty.
The cities I’m primarily referring to are Poznań, Berlin, Zagreb, Bosanska Krupa, Belgrade, Istanbul, and then Poznań and Berlin again. And I have in mind countless other cities and towns. Užice, for example. Or Tuzla.
All cities are now physically distant from one another.
Our reality is like a dynamic universe portrayed as an inflating balloon in the theory of its origin. The more it inflates, the further galaxies move away from each other.
So the cities are moving away from each other.
Cities are galaxies where we’re stuck in our flats and houses. Through the windows, we can see other celestial bodies whizzing past us like we’re two full-speed passing trains on parallel tracks. Whenever we open the windows, a gush of scorchingly hot cosmic air greets us (thrusted from a celestial body sweeping by), while the curfew remains in place outside.
Wish I were in Poznań’s Botanical Garden on a Golden Polish Autumn in bloom. Ogród Botaniczny, that’s how it’s written in Polish.
Wish we could eat babeczkas or szarlotkas, have coffee and watch a warm gale swaying tall grass naturally growing on cliffs of the Baltic in Sopot. Sopot is located between Gdańsk and Gdynia. To the far left side, near Gdynia, the Orlowo cliff rises at the very end of an endless sand beach. Covered in conifers, the cliff is entirely made up of fine Baltic sand.
These are my favourite apocalypses, the ones spent in the Botanical Garden, where we feed tiny minnow-like fish yellow and red balls that we’ve bought for one złot.
The artificial lake’s lotus-skirted surface is teeming with Prussian carps eating our yellows and reds. It puts a smile to your face, a smile I could watch for all eternity without ever growing tired of it.
The city is as silent as a silent film. I make my way into a Bingo supermarket in the Alta Shopping Center. The entrance is from the underground garage tunnel. It isn’t busy at all. No one’s figured out this is the perfect spot for apocalyptic shopping. The shelves are full of various products. Everything is squeaky clean. The sales ladies and cashiers are wearing protective masks, visors, and latex gloves, as required. The customers are calm, wearing masks and gloves themselves. A slow, summer song is playing in the background. Everyone’s acting extremely normally, making the whole situation look utterly surreal.
We’ve quickly adapted to a controlled abnormality. I saw no zombies in the supermarket. Toilet paper stalls were full.
I’m riding my bike across the city where citizens respect the #stayhome hashtag. In the streets, there aren’t a lot of people over the age of 65 either. It’s cold and the wind is slapping my face. Someone sucked people out of our reality only to lock them up in a limbo out of which they can’t seem to escape. Only a few of them have stayed to bear witness to the fact that this was once a city enduring the biggest military siege in the history of modern warfare, so it’s bound to withstand the siege laid by an invisible enemy.
The silence is incessant. It harks me back to lulls announcing vehement infantry-artillery crescendos, should we view weapons of all calibres as the instruments of an enemy’s philharmonic orchestra.
Some unnamed day
This one unnamed day, as per usual, I rode a bike for twenty kilometers, to Ilidža and back. It’s a day like any other. You get up early, you make coffee in your moka pot and the tightly controlled apocalypse can begin.
A new sport appeared among the people: Counting the infected, recovered and deceased residents of the country. I can recall this sport being played during the war, even though it was an Olympic sport bringing us further down back then. We would play it in front of our radio sets, listening to a serious radio announcer from the national radio station. This is depicted in “Women’s War,” a story I especially wrote for the English edition of the book “Under Pressure.”
Oftentimes, it happens that I’ve already written about something, so there’s no need for me to do it again.
The sport of triple-column counting is to be continued. The goal is not to get to the end of the pandemic, but to strike a daily dose of fear in our own hearts, or wherever a person feels it.
People love getting scared, that’s why they watch horror movies. However, it’s nasty when reality turns into a word horror film.
A day as round as a supermoon
That day I saw two nuns bring bags of food to a homeless person living on the sidewalk in Ferhadija Street with a big dog. They had a nice talk, everyone radiantly smiling. I left before they parted ways, but the sight itself gave me joy and faith in kindness. On the inside, I was glowing like a thousand-watt light bulb.
Most people are now Agent Smith, while just a minority are Neo. The Smiths work for paranoia, for hysteria, collective fear and collective neurosis. The Neos are powerless. Their voice of reason is muffled underneath the raving stay-home-at-all-times call. Their voice is overpowered by the voice of those grassing on their next-door neighbors and family members, as in the time of Stalin’s reign of terror, eyeing violations even of the most minuscule measures enshrined in the COVID-19 Code of Conduct, the authors of which are semi-literate party marionettes heading the Civil Protection Corps.
“I Don’t Like Mondays” has become a meaningless song.
Went fishing in the river Krivaja. Caught six, released three. The moment I arrived at the riverbank, I took off my mask, immediately forgetting everything about the madness in Sarajevo.
The redemptive power of fishing and gazing at the water, being surrounded by another kind of silence, different from the unnatural one found in an urban center, is such that I told myself what Leonard Cohen told himself just days before his death: “I am ready to die.”
In a few months’ time, we’ll all be hippies.
“Globetrotter” is a dead word.
It’s snowing outside. Michael Stipe is singing “Ashes to Ashes.” It’s a rhyme, snow and ashes. Insert link to this heart-wrenchingly beautiful cover featuring Karen Elson’s southern voice.
This tightly controlled apocalypse of ours has made my heart grow fonder of listening to music. It brings me the solace I used to find in alcohol. In ceaseless bloodletting done in jazz clubs, cafés and all sorts of dumps.
The sound of trolley bag wheels has died out under my window as well as in the streets of most cities around the world.
The smell of Krivaja seeps is in my nostrils.
Had my first espresso in 17 days yesterday. If I hadn’t been so embarrassed, I would’ve jumped for joy. Instead, all I did was grin and enjoy it. White people problems.
The age of dry knuckles.
Yesterday, I planted some seeds of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) and Etna chilli peppers. I need to be patient like Buddha now. Every morning, I’ll be checking if there are any sprouts, although I know nothing can sprout in the next twenty days. I can’t wait for sprouting to happen.
9 — 11
This is the first great somnambulist world war demanding from human civilization to stay at home and do nothing. World War III definitely wouldn’t like it.
Every time I hear an ambulance siren wailing in the streets nearby, I get the urge to walk to the window, open the curtains and look what’s happening, but I never do it. I just let the siren disperse in the labyrinth of Austro-Hungarian era buildings, borne toward the Clinical Center on a van.
Fishing in the River Krivaja, near Solun. I cast from a suspension bridge swinging rather heavily if you’re a novice in hanging bridge walking. It should be crossed a couple of times before getting the hang of it, so you can walk on it without the uncomfortable swinging.
The fish are about to spawn, they aren’t biting. Putting worms on the hook right under their noses, but they don’t give a toss. I can see the float moving twice. Giving it just a twitch, because I don’t like pulling the rod back violently when the fish bites. I caught a decent chub.
At first, I can’t see if it’s a fish or a chub. I’m rooting for a fish. It’s satisfying to catch because it always fights, never giving up. It literally jumps out of dip nets, the ones with a metal bar you use to scoop fish out. It’s only newbies who land the catch with their rods. Although, admittedly, I do it myself from time to time. The fisherman’s adrenaline gets to you, so you forget the rule: The fish tends to fall off the hook more readily when you’re pulling it out like that, and sometimes it can even break the tip of your rod.
My fish is putting up quite a fight, but my angle is weird. I’m casting from a three- to four-meter-high bridge, so I struggle to assess my position. Fishing from a bird’s eye view means I can’t get a nice view of the float going down, looking at it from a vertical position. Suddenly, the fish starts hurtling upriver, full on. I let it swim as far as it wants. The rod bends and shakes under its force. The softer it is, the sooner the fish grows tired.
I lure it towards the other bank. It’s farther away, but I can get the fish out more easily over there. Newbieshly, I lift the fish out of the water, to the bank. It’s a meter or so high. Still, I’m too far away, so I decide to lift it all the way up to the bridge. Success. I get it off the hook using pliers, holding it with my right hand, then run two hundred meters down the river, where I left my gear, because I want to put the chub into my keeping net. I prefer keeping my fish alive, because you never know when you’re going to release it. Otherwise, if it’s dead and you’ve got only one, you can’t let it back, you can’t let a dead fish back into the water.
We spend the entire day fishing. The sun is strong, leaves still wrapped in small, light-green umbrellas. The Krivaja is verdant, almost emerald-colored. While I was on the hanging bridge, our mate from Solun took a four-kilo huchen on a float and the so-called flesh fly maggot. After a few minutes’ fight, he got her out, took a photo with the beauty and released it.
Before that, up the river, my fisherman friend showed me the places where two fish were. The depth of the rapid is less than 30 centimeters. Their spawning spots are easy to see because pebbles are completely white there, the surrounding stones being light-brown.
Fish are zen and water is zen. Trees, grass, flowers, birds, everything is zen. As well as the cosmic thrill of seeing the book of life open before you in the most fundamental way possible. I have been infected with this thrill since I was four, Mirdal Terzić having taught me to swim on the Duck Island, between two bridges in the town centre of Bosanska Krupa.
We spent the entire day fishing. Caught a grayling, a chub and a huchen. All three were released into their water freedom. What a pleasure it is to get the fish out of the keeping net. It feels as if it knows it’s going to be free in a bit. It tosses so fiercely you can barely hold it. Then you let it go and it jolts into the green depths, its body rippling the surface for a second, but stillness soon ensues.
Ants showed up in my bathroom and kitchen. The bathroom is their transit route toward the kitchen. Some time ago, they appeared and mysteriously disappeared all the same.
This time, I could interpret their appearance differently, perhaps as auguring dark things yet to come. However, I didn’t give into catastrophism. Quite the contrary, I poured a bit of high quality, unrefined brown sugar in my spice cabinet.
Opening the cabinet door, I see the pile getting smaller. I fed ants in the time of the apocalypse. I hope this contributes to the good-and-bad-deeds counter. Good deeds must outweigh bad ones.
The ants are still here. The sugar, too. And the tightly controlled apocalypse won’t stop either.
14 April 2020
I’m 50 for the first time in my life. I consider this milestone my greatest life achievement, bearing in mind how life was in the war and its aftermath.
Over the course of the war, life wasn’t worth a bloody penny, though its price wasn’t exactly soaring in post-war years either.
My belly isn’t round. My hair is growing thin, yes, but it’s always been like this. I’m physically fit, I don’t take any pills, I haven’t started wearing vests. In the morning, I don’t get up, I jump out of bed, as if my legs are coil springs.
I just need to climb Kilimanjaro and go cruising down the Nile.
It’s started snowing, but there’s no sun and it isn’t in zenith. The true apocalypse is postponed until further notice, making the following line redundant: “Grey snow to fall as the ashes from Buchenwald.”
Feature image: Faruk Šehić.