Here I Come, Constantinople (Part 2)

The itinerary for the next day was devoted to cathedral-hopping.

At first nothing was unusual when they visited the Holy Irene, aside from it being a little barren compared to the others, and also that some staff were sweeping up hundreds of fliers and other detritus from the ground after an apparent live event in the building. But then the same sensation from the night before hit Earl at many of these targeted spots: when they tried to sightsee what little they could of the old Great Palace of Constantinople, Earl could have sworn he not only saw, but felt, himself inside another mosque. When everyone else around him tried to enjoy the ruined palace museum, Earl had the strange sensation of walking through walls that weren’t there. He looked up and had a strange sensation of a fine arabesque dome, and then somehow feeling disappointed that the otherwise nice view was covered up by a construction scaffold.

Earl could have sworn he not only saw, but felt, himself inside another mosque.

The Theotokos Kyriotissa cathedral, already not the most impressive church in the old city (perhaps exacerbated by already going to the Hagia Sophia first thing) was made doubly frustrating by also seeming to be not the most impressive mosque in the city at the same time. There was the soft red floor, the splendor of the calligraphy and large hanging circular lamp alongside the dull smell of feet and the dour expressions of the praying guests. Earl now couldn’t help but shake the feeling that several people around him were scowling at him, looking at his shoes, and he tried to ignore them and instead concentrate on some other tourists taking a picture of themselves holding up a peace sign, the international sign of not knowing the cultural significance of what you’re posing next to in your photo, next to an icon of the man trying to push the Virgin Mary’s funeral bier and getting his hands cut off by an angel.

How many giant chunks of amorphous rock did Earl notice were some people sitting on, or ignoring while chatting on park benches, of the ruins of the Theodosius forum, which of course is for the most part an intact and well-maintained Roman structure? How many carts of rainbow-colored spices in array, boxes of lokum, kitschy lamps and ceramic figurines of janissaries and dervishes did he walk by on the way to the ruins of the Great Nymphaeum on the third hill? And there it was again, an even bigger mosque, the biggest one yet.

Unfortunately it had rained early that morning, and Jon and Earl had to walk through some rather deep puddles to get to this site. Now it wasn’t just a feeling, Earl could definitely see some pissed faithful Muslims tracking dirt on their nice red carpet. They shouted insults and invective at Earl that went unheard by the Nymphaeum, and shoved and restrained him with arms that somehow went through his body. To get them off his back, Earl motioned to placate them the best he could in his not-great Turkish, went to the door and kicked his shoes off, placing them in a little baggie before joining Jon in the nearby Orthodox cathedral. Jon silently asked him with a grimace what he was doing, and Earl silently replied don’t worry about it. It was only made worse when, out of the cathedral but still in the mosque, Earl in his socks stepped in one of the deep puddles from the rain in Constantinople. Now everyone outside was staring at him ready to laugh, and everyone inside was staring at him ready to kick his ass for mocking the holy space with his dirty feet again. Earl just grumbled and shrugged, not really sure who to apologize to.

Without looking he reached for some pamphlets that were available by the entrance to the church, hoping some bland Christian apologia would take his mind off the weird invisible mosque. The cover read My Great Love for Jesus Led Me to Islam, so… almost?

None of this, mind you, was to suggest that Earl didn’t like going to the mosques, like he was some kind of right-wing Trumpian bigot who stumbled onto the absolutely wrong country for their vacation. No, he enjoyed his time in Bursa, but by the time he left he decided he had his fill of mosques. Many of them were quite nice, and the Green Mosque was his favorite, but he couldn’t help but think that once he’d seen a mosque, he’d seen them all. Besides, it was a pain in the ass taking his shoes off over and over again. Now, it was his turn to get sick of Christian cathedrals ad nauseam. There needed to be a balance, after all. Whatever happened to him the night before was plenty strange, but it was also cutting into his trip.

Without looking he reached for some pamphlets that were available by the entrance to the church, hoping some bland Christian apologia would take his mind off the weird invisible mosque.

It took them an hour or so to find a place to eat in Pera. Jon said that the moussaka Earl had before looked real good and wanted some for himself. Earl kept suggesting places they walked by, but none of them, as far as Jon could tell, specialized in moussaka, so the search went on. Plans to take a tram back to Constantine XI were discussed and dropped, suggestions of other places were brought up and dropped, and once again weird nonexistent cafes and shops were bumped into by Earl as they stopped by otherwise unassuming Greek cafes. At one point, a restaurant host approached them and told them he would actually give them a free meal if they decided to sit in their outdoor seating instead of the neighboring places. Weirded out by this, Earl put his foot down and sent them both to the café next door, which fortunately had moussaka on the menu, and unfortunately was occupied by a solid building in the same space.

Earl grimaced as he was seated on a chair that was also being occupied by a support beam for a building somewhere else. Jon grimaced at the moussaka, which, when Earl tried a bite, was admittedly not great. The spanikopita was fine though.

After the meal, Jon insisted they order two plates of placenta.

It was Jon who always swung for the culinary fences while abroad (the coffee made of beans passed though the digestive systems of monkeys was a fond reminiscence Jon shared with Earl recently, and a thing which Earl firmly assured Jon he’d take his word for it), whereas Earl preferred to avoid the strange and gross-out fare the world had to offer in favor of their comfort foods. Jon, I like you but there’s no fucking way I’m eating placenta, he declared, to which he replied with a smirk, it’s too late, and I ordered us a couple Greek coffees, it goes great with them. The dish was served, and Earl let out a annoyed sigh that could have blown Jon away like so many autumn leaves.

Apparently, placenta was the name for a delicate desert of ancient Roman origin, consisting of several layers of filo dough, sugared pistachios, and a clear gooey syrup. On @bonjourneau, a nice little photo of the dessert came with the caption: just bet Earl I could convince him to eat placenta, he said no fuckin way. Guess who’s $10 richer? Ha ha.

Goes great with coffee, too.

Earl’s portion came from the same establishment as Jon’s, and yet for the world he could have sworn that his was somehow at the same time… Turkish. He looked up from his plate, and saw in the same place at the same time, his server from Constantinople, and another server from somewhere else, flashing him the sign of the Grey Wolves.

It turned out that every tourist in the city that day, and not just Earl and Jon, came up with the fabulous idea of trying to visit the Galata tower while the sun was about to set. They stood in line for an hour before they even approached the tower, and the shoulder-to-shoulder wait up the spiral stairs to get in the building took another hour, and all next to an especially-sour French couple, who, if Earl had to put his hand on a bible and swear it, had to have smoked at least a whole pack of cigarettes each before they even got inside. Once at the top, they saw with dismay the tiny sliver of the sun just going down under the Bosporus before they could get their cameras out. The views were fine, of course, but Earl was irritable by the crowding of other tourists (from both towers!) as Jon asked him to pose for photos of them together, as he asked other strangers to take the photos for him. It made Jon irritable too, and as they descended the tower back to the elevator and down back to Pera they didn’t say a word to each other.

Truth be told, they had both been getting on each other’s nerves for a while, though neither of them admitted it to the other yet, or ever would. This happened often when Earl and Jon went traveling together, and though it irked Earl he usually tried to not let it eat at him, since it was often the case that the only reason he was there was that Jon was covering most of the expenses, or at the very least the price of the plane ticket. But this time, Jon’s apparent generosity wasn’t enough for Earl to shrug off the fact that he also was being a real drag. He almost seemed a different person to him when they traveled: when back at home they’d goof about and gossip and talk about their favorite movies and shows and stuff, here Jon would immediately shut down conversations Earl tried to start, bluntly telling him they weren’t interesting to him. When Earl tried to joke about one thing or another, Jon would again nip it in the bud, often with a you know you’re not that funny Earl, or oh hey more jokes, thanks Earl.

Sure, Earl probably was aggravating as well from time to time. A good example of that was the joke where he’d look at his watch, still set to Pacific time, and declare in mock disappointment that they’re eight hours late to their reservations, which he had no doubt run into the ground around the third or fourth time he did it (but still, that was the point of the bit, wasn’t it? A sort of Kaufmanesque anti-joke that gets funnier with each non-funny repetition? No, it probably was just annoying). But it wasn’t as though Earl liked everything about Jon, it wasn’t as though he didn’t also get irked by little things Jon did. He hated that Jon just barely learned the pleases and thank yous in Greek, and said them in a American accent so lazy it would have been less offensive if he just actually said please and thank you in English. He hated not only that Jon was prone to getting into arguments with strangers, but also that when he did he would only repeat a single word in English to them (meter! meter! meter!, he yelled at a cab driver more than once), which was doubly useless because a). anyone who couldn’t speak English couldn’t understand the one word anyway, and b). anyone who could speak English would just think he sounded like a child who learned a new word in school. But Earl kept it all to himself. Jon was to never know from Earl how aggravating he was to him sometimes, for the greater good of a trip they could both enjoy.

Once at the top, they saw with dismay the tiny sliver of the sun just going down under the Bosporus before they could get their cameras out.

It frustrated Earl that Jon couldn’t extend the same courtesy to him, then. All Earl did was bring himself from EWR to IKX. It was Jon who changed into someone else, Earl insisted, he stubbornly clung to in his own heart during every little spat and strained sustained silence. What was he supposed to do, utter no jokes, no references to what was going on in their home country, nothing but stand by Jon and nod and go ah, I didn’t know that, how interesting, every time Jon recited one of his Wikipedia printouts for one site or another? If Earl didn’t know better, he could have guessed that even Jon was affected by whatever the weird pub crawl did to him, that his actual friend and some priggish dick version of his friend were occupying the same space.

But unfortunately he did know better, because he started to notice it right around when he got him his first bundle of nomisma before the Hagia Sophia. Maybe it was best not to think about it too much. Maybe if he just bore it in silence like he did on every trip with him, they’d eventually return home, never mention it to each other ever again, and henceforth on only have pleasant memories of their trip to Anadolu/Byzantium.

Earl lost Jon not long after they left the tower, as he had to push through two different crowds to get out. He wandered around a bit, giving up pretty much all hope of finding his way back to the hotel, which itself was as far away across the Golden Horn as it could be from him.

He ignored a bunch of street musicians and people selling junk until he happened to notice a vendor at a gelato shop who looked suspiciously… Turkish. In spite of himself, he stopped in his tracks and noticed the man, dressed in a multicolored vest and little fez, looking almost like an Aladdin in a low-rent dinner theater production. The ice cream man nodded and flashed him the Grey Wolf sign, and Earl grumbled as he made his way toward him.

—Ah, welcome! So you can see me too, my friend! Isn’t it a wonderful thing, being a Grey Wolf?

—No, actually, it kind of… what the hell even is going on anyway? Why are there… two cities, at the same time? Do you guys have something to do with this?

—I can explain everything soon, my friend. Just have a bit of this red ice cream right here, and all will be revealed to you.

He shoved a long metal stick into a vat of stretchy red gelato, stretched the stuff from the stick into a small bowl, and set it on the counter before Earl.

—No, I… I don’t want to see you anymore! I want you to just leave me alone, I want this place to be… normal.

—I see, my friend. Then all you need to do is have a bit of this blue ice cream. Just one lick of the blue here, and you’ll forget everything. The Grey Wolves, the other city, even this delicious ice cream, will vanish from your memory forever! The Grey Wolves have no need for recruits who aren’t devoted to the cause with their whole hearts!

The man offered Earl a cone of the blue ice cream, the ice cream still sticking to the long metal stirring stick. He reached for it, and the cone twirled out of his grasp. This happened a couple more times until the man took the cone off the stick and offered it to Earl. He reached for it again, and the man twirled the cone in circles around his hand, keeping it just out of reach. Earl grumbled as the man laughed and offered it to him one more time. As he took the cone, the man plopped another cone on the ice cream and took it clean off, leaving Earl with an empty cone. He gave the full cone back to Earl, at which point he took off empty cone after empty cone, stuffed inside the full one like a Russian doll.

Earl put up with the gelato goofabouts for about ten minutes before he shouted and cursed and finally took the red ice cream on the counter, which by that point was not completely melted but still rather goopy.

He could sympathize.

So Earl got to see the Basilica Cistern after all.

When he came to he found himself surrounded, by what he could have guessed by now were Turks from the weird city. The red banner with the white crescent moon and star hung everywhere. There were fire dancers spinning ropes of flame along the dimly-lit pillared corridors. There was a pop song echoing throughout the halls, someone singing in Turkish, and the only words he could discern were the obnoxious chorus of Türkiye, Türkiye, Türkiye, and what he could only guess was someone’s name, that began with an E. There was the big Medusa head, staring at him upside down like the “I don’t know what’s going on” emoji. He could sympathize.

It was also worth noting that it was sweltering hot, as he and the other Grey Wolves were actually in the baths, and without their clothes.

—So, my friend, you have joined us at last.

—You have eaten the red ice cream.

—You are ready to fight beside us, to return Istanbul back to Türkiye.

—Constantinople will once again be the grand conquest of the great Fatih Sultan Mehmet!

—By God and our great leader Erdoğan, may he live to be a hundred…

So that was the name of the man from the song. It turned out blatant propaganda songs are just as laughable and gross in foreign countries as they are when country stars in the US write them for Trump. Earl got up from his bath, but feeling suddenly self-conscious sat back down in the water.

—What, ah… supposing I were to… what do I…

—The fat Byzantine emperor in his palace will preside over an event tomorrow.

—He will commemorate the false anniversary of their defense of Constantinople.

—The cannon will be on display.

—That cannon belongs to Mehmet the conqueror!

—The… cannon?

Surely they didn’t mean, Earl thought, the very same gigantic split cannon, currently housed in a grand room of the basileus’s Blachernae palace, that some say singlehandedly won the war between Constantine XI and Mehmet II? Perhaps, or so these amateur historians posited, if the Ottoman ruler had more of an interest in this unwieldy modern weaponry instead of the mere skill of their men, they could have demolished the famous Theodosian walls and entered the city in no time at all; as it was, of course, the Byzantines instead fired the impossibly large weapon from the ramparts of their high walls at the advancing hordes of Ottomans on land, while their ships of Greek fire took care of the menacing Ottoman fleet tripped up by the chain blocking their way to the Golden Horn.

—If we can take back that cannon and return it to the sultan at the proper time, it will give him the edge he needs to capture Constantinople once and for all!

—You guys realize that thing’s like twenty tons, and about a hundred feet long?

—Of course we do. That’s where you come in.


—You have reservations for the tour in Blachernae palace tomorrow, right?

—How did you…

—You see, we can’t get in, because we don’t belong to their city.

—For the time being, we are not much better than ghosts. Though we can influence people to see our ghost city, we still can’t manipulate anything in the false city.

—But you can!

—We need you to infiltrate the palace and spike their morning coffee and placenta!

—The royal family, they sure love their placenta.

—We slip a little something into their placenta syrup, then, when the procession happens, and all the emperor’s adult sons are lifting up the cannon like pallbearers…

—Down they go!

—Once they’re dead to the world, the hog emperor and his suckling sons, we capture them and use their fat bodies to roll the cannon back to the Cistern here and through the wormhole!

—We’ll grease up their fat bellies and asses and roll the cannon along like they’re big round greased-up logs!

—…I have, erm… so many questions…

—But only after you spike their syrup! We need you for this, and you have to be complete Grey Wolf! What do you say?

Earl’s head spun around, mostly from the insane plot he just heard but also due to the intense heat from the bath, which was oppressive enough to make him get out and not be bashful for what came out along with him.

—Look guys, I’m American, and it’s not like we don’t have our own shit to worry about. And yeah, the other city poking around is a pain, but once I get on my plane and go back home in a few days this will all be a hundred percent not my problem. So what real reason do I have not just ignore you the best I can until I fly out of here?

—Well… to, uh, honor the modern Turkish state and our eternal leader Erdoğan?

—The memory of the martyrs of July 15th?

—We, uh… have two really nice airports?

—Guys, come on. At least tell me we’re making a less shitty timeline here. So right now, we have a fat Habsburgian slug and his thirty slug adult sons on the Byzantine throne, and a terrifyingly fascistic Parliament in power. When the emperor isn’t busy hunting poor people with blunderbusses like quails in his private palace grounds, he’s publicly saying whatever the Byzantine Church wants him to say. It’s also thanks to that that Putin and the Russian church are such good friends with them. So now all of Greece and Russia and Eastern Europe can come together and usurp religious autocratic power from their sham democratic governments, violently oppress freedom of the press and speech, and upload videos to YouTube of bigots beating the shit out of LGBT people. It’s only a matter of time before our own president visits here and publicly declares “what a tremendous job he’s doing, just a real tremendous job the emperor is doing here in Greece folks.” So what do you got, anything better than that? At least tell me you guys didn’t ban Wikipedia too.

—Well, uh… actually, the government did place a ban on Wikipedia.

—But that’s only because it’s been spreading so many lies about Armenia…

—What… about Armenia?

—Well, you know… the so-called “genocide…”

Whoooa. Hold up, what?!

—…this very unfair, very biased campaign of misinformation about how the late Ottoman Empire allegedly sanctioned “ethnic cleansing” against…

—I mean, we’ve been planning several successful counter-ad campaigns, flash mobs, and sky writings all over Manhattan, but we still can’t seem to set the record straight…

—You mean you’re just as right-wing as the modern Byzantine monarchy, and you did a holocaust?! And you have holocaust deniers?! Oh, fuck off, fuck right off you guys… Where are my clothes?

One of the Grey Wolves restrained the irate, and still quite nude, Earl as he scanned the dark Cistern for a way out.

—Before you go, one more thing… of course we can’t make you, and if you go, we may or may not find someone to replace you. But know this, once you go back home, this will still be your problem. You really think this is all going on just within the city limits? These are two whole universes, two entire histories converging on each other, my friend. You think our ghost city isn’t going to catch up with you in America? You want to outrun it, so you say? Well, then, how far to the end of the universe will your plane go? If you don’t like being in two places at once here and now, how do you think you’ll like it for the rest of your life?

Earl stopped and sighed. After a moment or two of looking around to see if he actually could spot his clothes, he rolled his eyes and threw up the Grey Wolf sign.

The hardest part of the whole thing, Earl realized later, was actually waiting in line for tickets to Blachernae. Jon, Earl would have found out if he had any means of peering into the hearts or minds of others, was for his part feeling a little on edge with Earl’s weird mood swings. He seemed to be having a good time with him, only for Earl to suddenly wince upon entering one building, or do this weird bit that was maybe funny the first two times where he dodges a crowd of invisible people in an otherwise nearly-empty café, and not to mention all the times he randomly takes his shoes off. It confused him, which made Earl irritable, which also made him irritable, which made Earl even more testy with him. It was an uncomfortable cycle that he hoped he could clear within the last few days they were in the city.

Anyway, it took a good hour of uncomfortable silence to wait for their turn to get on the official tour of the basileus’s palace. Not the original Blachernae, of course, which fell into disrepair since the Fourth Crusade, but its replacement, when, after the reconquest of Hellas, the then-basileus Romanus IV commissioned a handsome and modern new residence to be built in the far north-east of Pera and right on the shore of the shiny blue Bosporus.

It was fine, Earl thought, though it was very much a different kind of opulence than the ancient imperial splendor he had been used to on his trip. Very European, very baroque, the kind one can readily see in Buckingham palace, in Versailles, or any country that still clings onto its provisional monarchy, that’s still fine with one family holding onto an elevated token position and the incalculable wealth that comes with it, all for no real reason. And of course, the palace and everyone in it was up its own ass far enough that they banned all photography, which in any other context Earl would have bitterly complained about. At the moment, however, he wasn’t here to sightsee the Blachernae, but infiltrate it.

It was impossible for a mere tourist to infiltrate the basileus’s palace, as security was as tight as you could imagine a modern monarch’s palace would be. This was why it was absolutely essential, as the Grey Wolves told him the night before, that he become a Grey wolf himself. In that case, you see, it would be quite easy indeed to exist outside of Constantinople, and temporarily within the ersatz Istanbul entire, and thereby infiltrate the Blachernae by otherwise going on the regular tour of Dolmabahçe palace.

Earl took a picture of the room anyway, and definitely got away with it since he technically wasn’t in the room at all…

He told Jon he needed to use the restroom, and it was in there, after changing into his Blachernae security staff uniform, he did the best he could to “switch off” his Constantinople-ness and embody Istanbul entirely. Jon would be pissed that he’d be ditching him for the tour, but he was willing to take that risk. Besides, who knows, maybe in the coming new timeline he’d end up not minding it that much.

Earl made his way through the Turkish palace, patiently waiting for the group of Chinese tourists directly ahead of him who kept breaking the rules and taking any pictures they could. No one in Blachernae noticed the strange man wandering into rooms he didn’t belong in, since he technically wasn’t in those forbidden rooms anyway, and no one in Dolmabahçe recognized the outlandish Blachernae uniform to think it was outlandish themselves, since it didn’t exist to them anyway.

He reached some grand waiting room of Dolmabahçe, which corresponded to the Blachernae kitchen, and without the same typical hesitation of a Michael Corleone or anyone else in a similar position, immediately swapped the gooey syrup of the royal family’s dessert with the spiked stuff given to him by the Grey Wolves.

He was then to go to the dining room, posing as a Blachernae security officer, and ensure that the fat basileus and every one of his thirty large sons ate every morsel of their syrupy placenta. He therefore kept going through the remainder of the Dolmabahçe tour, which ended at the huge, opulent Grand Hall. Earl took a picture of the room anyway, and definitely got away with it since he technically wasn’t in the room at all, before he brought his attention back to Blachernae.

There they all were, seated around the largest table he had ever seen in his life. The dining room was also wide enough to house, not only the table and enough sitting space for each member of the basileus’s wide family, the infamous split-cannon which so interested the Grey Wolves. The royals had just finished the main course of a meal that hadn’t been cleared away yet, which meant Earl noticed the skeleton of a whole cow picked clean and lying on a silver platter, moments before some white-smocked kitchen staff whisked it all away.

The moment had finally arrived. A server for each family member entered the room and presented to each one a big silver-domed platter. Yet another placed a bowl, which Earl recognized, full of the bogus syrup, on the table as well.

The royals all hooted and slurped and smacked their lips in anticipation as the servers took a moment before lifting up the lids on each platter. Sure, Earl thought, it is a tasty dessert, though maybe the Turks were on to something by giving it the far more appetizing name of baklava, but… aren’t the platters a little large for such a… a tiny… um… oh…

The lids on the platters were lifted. Earl gagged.

I mean, I guess I’m aware of them, I’ve heard of them… but I mean I don’t think I’ve ever actually…you know… seen a… a real…

The gourmandizing royals, down to a man, picked up their steamed cow placenta á la Palaiologos from their platters with their sausagey fingers, and, after their servers drizzled a liberal dollop of… of syrup, on them, each got to work on the things in their own way. Some tore off pieces like a string cheese, others gnawed and chewed on it whole like the squid in Oldboy, some of them cradled it like a hot slice of pizza, and some, including the basileus himself, slurped it down in one gulp like a large slippery clam casino.

Earl probably had something for breakfast that morning, but after that moment his stomach was effectively empty. Luckily, neither the staff in Blachernae nor Dolmabahçe noticed him ruining the fine upholstery or the two-hundred year old carpeting in either palace.

So, um…

So the Grey Wolves did it, they ah… whatever they were trying to do.

It was… weird. As predicted, the corpulent basileus and royal sons, marching in procession and hoisting the large cannon, suddenly passed out from the slow-acting sedative from the syrup.

The next thing anyone knew, there were Turks in black bandanas covering their faces, waving the red banner in one hand and brandishing guns in the other. Somehow, uh… the fat royals were all stripped naked, greased up… just as they planned. Somehow, erm… the Grey Wolves kept the naked, jiggly, jowly, unconscious royals hostage, while… Jesus, while they rolled the cannon on top of them from Blachernae, down the streets of Pera, across the Golden Horn Bridge… and through Constantine XI district, down to the Cistern, where there was some kind of interdimensional tear that sent it back to the conquering Ottoman Sultan in 1453.

And Earl, of course, had to watch all of it from start to finish, as he was still the only one with access to both in-between cities. It appeared that even then, even at that moment Istanbul was marching steadily on closer and closer to a reality, the Grey Wolves still needed Earl to allow them to manipulate the royal roly-poly fatbodies and finally make their ghost city into a real one. He had to watch it all.

So the Grey Wolves did it, they ah… whatever they were trying to do.

Earl was still peeved at the sheer number of security checkpoints he and Jon had to go through at Atatürk. Why don’t they just make sure I don’t have guns the first time, he grumbled, and Jesus goddamn, am I sick of taking off my shoes in public! But once on the moving platform, he found himself in a little zen moment of peace and reflection.

He thought about the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople once again. Of course, Mehmet II was quite an enthusiast of cannon warfare at the time, and while the massive split cannon he had commissioned for the job was impressive indeed, it was also far too big for its own good. For every huge chunk of the Theodosian walls his cannon would knock out, it would take so long to reload another blast that the Byzantines often had time enough to repair the wall in real time.

No, the cannon wasn’t what won Constantinople for the Ottomans. Apart from all of Europe abandoning the fledgling empire, apart from the Genoan colony of Galata remaining neutral through it all, it was additionally the ingenious Ottoman tactic, upon their fleet being blocked from entering the Golden Horn by the Byzantine great chain, of ferrying the ships across the very streets of Galata via rows of greased tree logs, and from there onto the Golden Horn and to Constantinople proper. The more you know…

The conveyor belt ride was long enough to keep his mind wandering to other things. He turned to Jon.

—Have you ever seen Punch Drunk Love?


—This long conveyor belt just reminded me of it. There are these long shots of someone just walking down a long airport walkway, and you’d think it wouldn’t be possible to make a shot like that look…

—I haven’t seen it, so I don’t really care to hear about it.

Earl sighed. Nothing had changed after all, and it was going to be a long flight next to him all the way back to New Amsterdam.

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