Another Time, Another Place
In the following weeks, I see no sign of the stranger who seemingly saved my life and to whom I owe much gratitude. My wound has long since healed. Yet I still sense an ominous presence here.
Once again, I find myself walking the streets. The day is dreary and a bitter wind stings my face. I raise my eyes to the foreboding sky and notice a cloud of dark smoke rising into the air, nearly unmistakable against the gloomy clouds. My eyes search the rooftops and come to rest upon a flickering light in the distance. As I run swiftly toward the light, my suspicions prove true. Flames leap into the air as the smoke billows, making breathing difficult. I gasp as I glimpse the building from which the flames rise, a once beautiful cathedral. I watch in helpless horror as the flames spread to a nearby villa. Screams of fear and pain fill my ears as the flames engulf the home. I react immediately, rushing toward the next villa. I stop dead in my tracks as I take in the scene before me. Lifeless bodies lay sprawled across the ground. As I stumble from one home to the next, I find the same horrific scene before me. Realization hits like a blow to the torso and I am falling to my knees in agony. A strangled scream escapes me as my eyes blur with hot tears. Yet suddenly a powerful blow knocks me into the ground and I feel blood gush from my reopened wound. Rough arms drag me across the street and into a villa. My head throbs with pain as I fall limply against a wall. I open my mouth to scream, yet no sound passes from my lips. As my vision blurs with both tears and pain, I watch as a shadowy figure advances slowly toward me. My heart hammers rapidly against my ribs as I glimpse the glint of flames on an outstretched knife, my eyes closing in defeat.
What misery can compare to this? Waiting for the plunge of the knife to end the rapid beating of my heart; but worse than that is the revelation that I will die with no memory of who I am. An overwhelming sense of guilt washes over me, knowing that those who have died before me were inextricably innocent. Can I say the same of myself, when I know not who I am? Somewhere deep within me, I pray to God that these dead will not suffer eternal punishment, that they will be lifted up to Him who will wash away every moment of their misery.
I sense gentle arms slide beneath my limp body and raise me upward, cradling me against them. Slowly, consciousness returns and a soft moan escapes my lips. I slowly open my eyes to the face of the stranger. His eyes meet mine and I glimpse in them concern and fear, but beneath those feelings, I see a tenderness. My eyes close in weakness and I sense his arms lowering me gently onto a bench. He slides something soft beneath my head and I feel his fingers smooth back my hair. I open my eyes to his own dark orbs. The tenderness is now unmistakable and I am unable to pull myself from his penetrating gaze