Prologue

Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.

—Pope Paul VI

 

If only lambs could fly, peace could be a choice in front of us now. For through knowing their innocence, their understanding, their love, comes peace and tolerance.

But they cannot. And there can be no peace tonight. Neither lamb nor sheep, I must be the wolf to save her.

Our present has happened in the past from where our future appears. Our lesson learned from the voice of the object.

So here I must stand. Our last stand on this desolate pier jutting into the tempest of an angry Black Sea, the tears of a darkened, sorrowful heaven pelting my face.

Finger on this detonator. One flinch and a kilometer of this world will vaporize. All because of this black object, for which we have been chased, shot, and bombed in our quest to solve a mystery that burns deep in both my dreams and those of the man who is going to kill us now. That is, if I don’t kill us first.

To my left stands Jean-Paul, once Father Sobiros, now an armed biblical archeologist who has done his best to assuage my “alien origins of religion” hypothesis. To my right is Zara, once a Kurdish freedom fighter, who has personified the Neolithic goddess of my dreams.

In front of us is the object, the one of my family’s legends, the one of the matriarch of so many millennia gone by, the one that has changed Zara in the profound spiritual ways she has long sought, wrapped in six kilos of the most explosive material in the world. I cannot do what Zara has asked me to do, to her and to the object. I just can’t. Not after what she and I have been through together.

Next to the object is the man who hired us, Alexander, who looks extremely annoyed we didn’t quite deliver this supersized stone, this black object, under the terms he wanted, and who has just raised his hand.

No. Alexander’s snipers just shot Jean-Paul. He’s down and not moving. Follow her plan exactly, she said. No deviations. No matter what happens. Poor Father Sobiros.

I yell, “Alexander, tell them to stop or I’ll detonate the object. You lose. I lose. We all lose.”

Alexander yells something in Russian into his lapel mike.

No. Please, no. His sniper shot Zara, twice. My heart skips. Stay focused, she said. No matter what happens, I have to stay patient, obedient to her plan. Yes. She’s scrambling on the floor to grab her rifle back and rolls over with her hand on a grenade launcher.

There ends the sniper. Clearly Alexander is beyond annoyed as he aims his pistol at Zara’s head. Okay, Zara. I would follow you to the ends of the earth and beyond, but I have to save you first. If only one person can walk out of this, it must be you. I don’t care what the voice said.

Click goes the detonator to normal mode. And where’s that pistol Zara gave me? Here it is. What did Zara tell me to do? Release safety, check. Pull backwards on the top slide until a click is heard. No click. Come on, faster, before he shoots Zara again. Oh, how I love her… Focus, Peter. Okay, slide it back harder. Click…too late.

Alexander has shot Zara directly in her chest, her Russian protective vest shattered for good this time as she yells, “Peter, shoot him! Rapid-fire rounds into his chest, like I showed you.”

“One more move and the first round has Alex written all over it,” I assert, as bold as I can be.

“Peter, my boy. Tell me, did you dream last night that you would be killing me today?” asks Alexander, still focused, with his gun now aimed at Zara’s scarf-covered head. “Because if you didn’t, then Zara here will die needlessly. Your choice, Peter. Kill me and kill Zara at the same time, or simply release that button and blow us all up. What did your dreams say you would do? Mine said you’re not the kind of person to kill.”

“Peter, shoot him. Ignore him. It doesn’t matter if I die. You know what will happen if he puts the object stones together. You know what the voice told us,” Zara says weakly as she slumps to the ground.

“Peter, my dear boy. You have been a loser, a failure so many times in your life up to now. Did I not say you and I were more alike than different? Be a winner this time. Be a winner with me. We both need the object intact. Put down the detonator,” pleads a fatherly Alexander.

I can do this. I can do this. No, I can’t. I can’t kill. It’s not in my DNA. What do I do? What do I do?

“Peter, my boy,” Alexander says softly. “Spare Zara. We can all see how deeply you care about her. I do not want to shoot her either. I care about her too. So, put down the gun. Put away the detonator, and you and Zara can walk out of here.”

Zara makes one last appeal to me. “Kill him, Peter. Let him kill me. If you love me. If you truly love me, let him kill me.”

What do I do? In every option spinning through my head, Zara will die. If only Zara and I could touch. When we touch, her soul and my soul together, everything becomes clear. And through her, the voice is so clear. How can I let her be killed?

“Okay, Alexander, here’s what we’re going to do…”

 

 

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