I was lost in thought as I walked back to my hotel. As was my habit, I took an indirect and more picturesque route back. The sun had set but the sky had not fully grown dark. To my left, I could hear the waters of the Mediterranean Sea gently lapping against the rocks. Before me, the green and grey mountains rose up to be topped in a cloudy purple mist. This should be a beautiful sight, but I barely noticed.
I generally consider myself a good judge of character but my mind warred against the gut feeling I had that this man was telling me the truth. I mean, the hand is a pretty incredible piece of evidence, but maybe the technology for that really does exist somewhere. It has to. The idea that this guy is from some alternate future is just too much to believe. So why does my heart say to believe him?
It wasn’t until the wee hours of the morning that I finally fell asleep. It seemed that as soon as I did, my alarm was waking me back up. Why hadn’t I changed the time on that thing? I dragged myself out of bed and reluctantly began my day but the time seemed to drag. We agreed to meet together at ten for kahvaltı, for a traditional Turkish breakfast. The clock seemed to advance slower and slower as that time grew close.
I was showered, dressed, and out the door a good twenty minutes earlier than I needed to be. The sun was already high in the sky as I walked in the opposite direction from the evening before. I had done my best to fortify myself with a healthy dose of skepticism today. Even still, there was no denying my eagerness to hear more of his story.
To my pleasant surprise, he had already arrived at the cafe we had agreed on. He was waiting for me just outside the entrance. We exchanged pleasantries and found seats at an outdoor table on the second-floor balcony. He looked over my notes from the night before as I ordered our breakfasts. As soon as the waiter left, he launched right back into his story. Apparently, he was as eager to share as I was to hear.
It was about eight months after I began working at Zilzar when I had an encounter that again changed the direction of my life. Many of us all worked the same hours and it was not uncommon for us all to arrive around the same time. I found myself walking up to the front entrance at almost the same time as another man who had started working there a couple months after I did. We were in different departments so I had seen him around a few times but didn’t even know his name. I certainly wasn’t expecting the greeting he gave me in a barely audible voice.
“Alithos anesti.” My response was instant and immediately I was wishing I could eat those words. Had I just given myself away? The coworker who had given me the first half of that Christian greeting said nothing else. He didn’t have time as we both entered the building, passed security, and then went our respective ways.
Despite the air conditioning, I was sweating throughout the day. I found myself creating and then correcting stupid mistakes all day long. I couldn’t keep my mind focused on anything I was supposed to be doing. This apprehension only grew when I noticed around lunch time a note had been stuffed in my pocket. It read, “Al-Razi Square. 9PM. Tonight.”
The square was a small park about ten blocks from my apartment. I found myself watching the clock until the moment I could finally clock out and head home. Once back at my place, I found myself watching the clock again as I paced back and forth in my tiny apartment. The day seemed to drag and my anticipation for what would happen only grew. My mind played back every interaction I could ever possibly have had with this coworker I barely knew. Was there any sign I might have given him that I am a Christian? Was there anything I had noticed that identified him as one? Was this a trap? As I paced back and forth, back and forth I could hear every slow tick of the clock in my living room. My mind created ever more fanciful and unrealistic scenarios for what would happen. Do I go? Dare I not?
I never made it to that park. The time came for me to leave. I put on my shoes, locked my door, and walked down the three flights of stairs to exit my building. The night was dark and quiet. I was so focused on the mysterious appointment at the park that I did not notice the van slowly approaching until it was right on me. I did see the door slide open and two men jump out, but they moved so quickly that I barely had time to react. Before I took three steps, they were on me. These men were strong. I tried to struggle but I was like a child in their hands. In just a couple panicked heartbeats, a black bag was over my head, my hands were cuffed behind my back, and I had been stuffed into the van. I couldn’t see a thing but I could hear the two men clamber in behind me. The door creaked in protest as it slid shut.
My head banged into something hard as the vehicle lurched forward.
Someone from the front called back to my two abductors, “How long until we are ready?”
“I’m checking that now.”
I felt a prick in the back of my neck where my monitoring chip had been implanted. Strong arms gripped me as the van jerked hard.
“Hold him still!”
“I’m trying! Hey, warn me when you’re turning.”
The voice from the front responded, “We’ve got a hard left coming up and then we are straight and smooth for a bit.”
A few seconds later we made another turn. Through it all, I was too terrified to resist. My fear and memories had taken me back to that horrible interrogation eight months earlier. Without realizing I was speaking out loud, I had begun quickly quoting the Shepherd’s Psalm. After a moment the man holding me heard and began quietly reciting it in unison with me. Following his lead, we gradually slowed it to a more normal pace and my fear also slowly began to come down.
After the left turn, I again felt the prick in the back of my neck. The other man in the back of the van called up to the voice in the front, “OK… OK. It looks like we will have proper charge in about four minutes.”
The voice in front answered, “Perfect. I can get us to the drop point with about thirty seconds to spare.”
For the next couple of minutes, we drove around in relative silence. After a couple of rounds through the psalm, the second abductor joined in with us. I had no idea what was happening to me or who these people were, but there was a peace that was gaining strength to war against the utter fear the abduction and memories of torture had thrown me into. Eventually, the van rolled to a stop.
When we brought the psalm to its conclusion once again, the voice I guessed to be the leader broke in, “OK. Listen. This is really going to hurt, but it should be a quick pain. Are you ready?”
I hesitantly nodded. The voice said, “OK. I will see you on the other side, brother.”
Lightning struck my neck. Then the blackness took me.