It’s been hours perhaps since we started traveling. Or perhaps it has just been a matter of minutes. I don’t really know. I can’t peek at my watch to check.
The men with me in the back of the truck chatter almost all the time. Sometimes they laugh. I suspect that the subject is me.
The hell with it!
But I pray that my friend Justin will report to the authorities when he finds that I’m not back in my hotel room. We’re supposed to have dinner later.
‘I’ll be alright,’ I try to convince myself.
Justin knows someone at the embassy. I’m sure he will get me out of this shit I’m in right now. But realistically, the question is when? Am I still going to be alive by then?
My heart is filled with fear upon this realization. My throat goes dry. Now, I’m not sure if it is fear or it is just thirst. The arid and hot air keeps me sweating. I wear jeans and T-shirt underneath the black abaya, a long dress that Iraqi women usually wear. I also wear a gray hijab that covers my head down to my chest.
Finally, the truck stops. I hope it is the final destination, because we have already stopped twice or thrice to eat and give in to nature’s call. I have already slept for some hours. I don’t know for how long. And now, I so badly need to stretch my aching knees and get my aching and numb butt off the seat not-so-soft seat.
I feel someone hold my bound wrists, dragging me up my seat and down the truck. Judging by the scent, which is sun, sweat and cigarette, I think it’s Sami.
“Where are you taking me?” I demand.
“Shut up!” he snaps, growling.
“I’m hungry and thirsty,” I add, complaining.
He doesn’t answer. Instead, he lets me sit down in a wooden chair. He takes the black cloth off my head that I have close my eyes of the sudden brightness in the light-flooded room. Then I open them slowly to see my surroundings.
It is like half a cabin and half a bungalow house. A table is on the far side of the room, a cot is just across to me and some kind of banner is hung behind me. I can’t read what it says. It is in Arabic.
One man puts a tripod before me. He prepares the camera, and I am confused.
“W-what are you doing?” I ask anxiously.
I have seen some movies. The Muslim terrorists will make a video while they execute prisoners.
‘My God! Am I going to die soon?’ My heart jumps to my throat with fear. It can’t stop beating hard against my chest.
Is this Zamir’s plan all along?
I begin to fear for my life even more. If I have known it will come to this, I would have rather died in the alleyway than being documented like this. It is barbaric! It is inhumane!
“Please, don’t kill me!” I beg instead, tears starting to stream down my face.
Sami looks at me with expressionless eyes. He continues to give orders around.
“I took the liberty of writing your speech,” he drawls. His accent is also like Zamir’s and Jahmir’s. Then, he shoves a piece of paper in my bound trembling hands.
I look down and skim the content of the paper. I can hardly swallow. I feel that my tear glands can’t stop producing hot, salty liquid that flows down my pale cheeks.
I shake my head in protest. “No, I can’t do this! Please!” I beseech.
“You have no choice, Miss Phoebe Shaw,” he says. He is clearly unmoved by my tears.
He talks again in rapid native language. Then he takes out a handgun that is aimed at my temple. I shudder as the barrel touches my skin.
“Now, read!” he orders.
I swallow, sobbing. The words blur before my sherry brown eyes but I start reading.
“M-my name i-is Phoebe Shaw. I-I am an American. I am a-an internet journalist, working for the People Times.” I pause to swallow while tears keep on rolling down my cheeks. I dart a scared glance at Sami, and he presses the gun against my temple. I caught my breath and continue to read. “I-I h-have committed a g-great crime against t-the Iraqi Terrorist Group.” I pause again as I weep. ‘Is doing my job a crime?’ I reflect for a moment before I read the rest; my pert nose sniffle. “T-to my government, the U.S.A., I-I plead you to have me released! In r-return, they want Abbas Ali Jabari released from federal prison. Failure to accomplish h-his release, the ITG will c-carry out m-my execution in t-three days!”
After reading it, the man behind the camera wraps it up. Sami holsters back his handgun with satisfaction, and I cry a river.
For some reason, I blame myself. If a well-known terrorist leader comes out of prison, the blood of innocent people is on my hands.
On the third day, my fear becomes more intense. I will die today. That’s what I think. During those days, even though I’m not religious, I speak to God and ask for forgiveness for all the sins I did. I hope I am welcome to His kingdom despite everything I’ve done in the past. Whatever they are.
On the other hand, I feel like I have to force myself to come to terms with my fate. After all, people die eventually. I will die eventually. Even though I prefer to go down in another way, I don’t really have a choice. My life is in the hands of the ITG! And it is because of that damn black cat!
Yes, I will die today. ‘Oh, God. This is so sad! I’m afraid but I lay everything at your feet.’
I sit in a corner with bound legs and wrists. One of Zamir’s men just gives me early dinner.
I mock myself. Yes, it is my last supper. Ironically, I recall Jesus’ last supper with his disciples. With this, I wonder if heaven is really true.
Well, I might soon find out.
Worse, I might find out I’m going to hell!
I look around the deserted house. During this time, I know that some of Zamir’s men play cards outside. The air there is cooler as it is a winter month. Meanwhile, the others just walk around, guarding and patrolling the area.
Shit! What is that noise?