Here is Chapter Twenty-One…
Chapter Word Count: 3338
Monthly Word Count: 39,810
“Father Garcia, Simon and Madi! I need you to come outside with me!” Ambigo had Petros firmly in his grip, dragging him out the door of his home. His beautiful wife looked up from the pot of water she had started to boil, but Madi assured her everything was fine. The rest caught up with Ambigo just as he threw Petros to the ground roughly. “Repeat it! Repeat… word for word… what you just told me!”
Petros’ face was filled with terror at Ambigo’s violent reaction. “I… I’m sorry! I didn’t know if I could trust you!” Ambigo growled aggressively, “Repeat it! Word for word!” Petros looked from face to face. Madi squinted at him expertly, getting every nuance of his timid face. He squeaked, “Okay! Okay! I told Ambigo that I had heard the name Jesus before. You know… at first you didn’t even call him Jesus… You just kept calling him the rabbi from Nazareth, so I didn’t make the connection.”
Ambigo lifted Petros up and faced him toward Madi. “Quit making excuses and tell them… word for word… what you told me!” Petros screamed back at him in a panic, “I don’t know what it is you want. I don’t even remember what I said to you.” Father Garcia intervened, separating the two men. “Calm down, Petros. You’re not in trouble. I’m sure Dr. Thomas is just excited about some bit of information that you forgot to tell us earlier. Breathe deeply, son. You’re safe. Simon will protect you.”
Simon nodded expertly. “I punch Ambigo in the nuts if he goes for you again. How’s that?” Petros laughed timidly. “No, don’t hit him. He… he won’t hurt me.” He took a deep breath. “What I told Dr. Thomas was that I had encountered some Roman guards and countrymen earlier in the year.” He looked at each of the faces and focused on Madi, distractedly. “You never blink. That’s what is so unnerving. You don’t blink when you look at me. I can never think when you look at me like that.”
Father Garcia patted Petros’ back. “It’s just how she is, Petros. We got used to it. You will too. She’s our special sister. Tell us what you know. It sounds as if it is very important.” Petros kept his eyes on Madi and continued, “These Romans spoke in Latin to me, so I had a hard time understanding them. I know Latin, but not as well as I should, I guess.” Ambigo interrupted him, “Get to the point, Petros!”
He looked at Ambigo with fear and spoke with a tremor in his voice, “They said they were looking for a man named Jesus. They told me that he was a disruptive influence on this territory and that they wanted to talk to him.” Father Garcia and Simon gasped briefly, but Madi held still, filming him expertly. Petros looked at them and then back to Ambigo. “Tell them… word for word… what they said.”
Petros turned toward Madi again. “They… also warned me.” He folded his arms and took a deep breath. Then he put his hands on his hips. Ambigo was going to entice him again, but Father Garcia sent him a warning look to silence him. Petros wiped his hands on his robe and shook them out. “They said that I should avoid any people who say that they are from the land of Tamaros. I asked them where such a land is and they said that it is a place far outside the reaches of the Roman Empire…” His voice trailed off and he looked to Ambigo for approval.
Father Garcia queried, “Tell me more, my friend. Tell me everything that you can remember.” Petros ran his hand over his nearly smooth head, rubbing the soft fuzz that was overgrown with hair just a few hours before. “I asked him where Tamaros was, but they wouldn’t tell me a location. All they would say was that it was outside of the Roman Empire. It seemed like that was enough of an answer for them…” He looked at Ambigo agaian. “You people are very strange…”
He took in a deep breath and the words came out in one long string. “You must be from Tamaros because Ambigo’s eyes became as big as plates when I said the word. He was much more surprised than when I told him that the Romans were looking for Jesus. He was only mildly surprised that the Romans might know who this Jesus fellow is, but when I said ‘the land of Tamaros’ he grabbed me and pulled me outside. Just tell me! I have to protect my wife. You won’t even tell me the name of where you’re from. If it is so far away, why can’t you tell me the name?!”
He sputtered out the last words at Father Garcia. “Petros… Petros…” The priest approached him and put a loving arm around his shoulder. “I was born in Peru, but I was moved to America when I was five years old. I have lived in America for most of my life. Madi, tell Petros where you’re from.” She spoke clearly, moving her mouth, but keeping her head perfectly still, “I was also born in America. I came to Judea once, but it was only for a visit.” Simon joined in, “I was born in America. I’ve been to Judea and Egypt and most of the Roman Empire. I’ve also spent a lot of time in the land of the Confucians. It was called China when I was there. I don’t know what they call it right now.”
Father Garcia prodded Ambigo, “Dr. Thomas. You seem to be interested in this land of Tamaros. Are you from there?” Ambigo shook his head, incredulous. “Uh… no… I was born in San Diego, which is a city in America. My father was stationed there when my mother gave birth to me. I… I’ve never been outside of America before this trip…” He was suddenly confused and looked from face to face. Father Garcia asked him, “Where have you heard of this land of Tamaros before?”
Ambigo crinkled his forehead. It seemed incredible to him that they would miss the significance of the pronunciation of the name. He stalled for time as he thought. “It… sounded very familiar to me…” He looked to Father Garcia for direction. The priest gave an ever-so slight shake of the head. Ambigo made up a lie. “I could have sworn that… Father Judean was from Tamaros…” Father Garcia’s eyebrows perked up and a tiny nod of appreciation was directed his way. “Simon, call Father Judean out here.” Simon ran to the door and retrieved Tad.
“Tad,” Father Garcia started, “Would you please tell Petros where you were born?” Tad looked from face to face. “It… was far away…” he hesitated. The priest prodded him, “It’s okay to name the name of the city.” Tad shrugged. “I was born in Taranto… It’s in…” Simon helped him. “It’s in… the Roman Empire… isn’t it?” Tad looked to him and a realization came over him. “Yes… yes, of course. It is a small town in the heart of the Roman Empire. It’s closer to Greece than Rome, but there is the sea…” His eyes became glassy with tears and his eyes turned toward the Sea of Galilee. All of them followed his gaze and the light was glinting off the water, sending tiny blinding rays to them. “We lived… right on the sea.”
Father Garcia asked, “Did you live there your whole life before you were brought to America?” Tad answered, unable to remove his eyes from the water, “Yes. I… had never been to America before then. I lived in Taranto my whole life… I visited Rome once, but it wasn’t home…” Father Garcia turned to Ambigo. “You’re right, Dr. Thomas. Taranto sounds very much like Tamaros, but they are different places. Taranto is definitely in the Roman Empire, so they must not have meant Father Judean’s homeland.” He placed his hand on Petros’ shoulder. “Was there anything else they said? Any little thing that you might have forgotten?”
Petros looked at them and then thought deeply. “They… they were hard to understand. My Latin is not sharp…” Tad looked at the five of them, confused. Ambigo patted him on the back. “They said that these people from the land of Tamaros were very dangerous and that I should avoid them at all costs…” He looked up at Father Garcia. “That’s all I can remember right now, but if anything else comes to me, I’ll tell you. I promise it.” The priest nodded his head gave Petros a hug. “Thank you for telling us. It is good to know that other people are looking for this man.” He faced the rest of them. “Be on guard for people from the land of Tamaros. We should avoid them as well.”
Petros’ wife called out the door asking for help carrying the boiling water into the room. The six of them headed back into the small house to help her, Simon and Tad at the front of the line. Ambigo brought up the rear, confused, but willing to see what would become of this information.
“Simon,” Father Garcia commented, “visited the town’s carpenter yesterday, Ambigo.” They rested in Petros’ small house. Petros looked at him sheepishly while Simon related his experience. “It seems that Petros forgot how long he has known the carpenter in this town. The two of them played together as boys, but somehow… Petros forgot that. He is not the carpenter that we are looking for.” Ambigo nodded.
Father Garcia continued, “I believe that just the core team should take a walk to Bethsaida to interview their carpenter. The three of you should tend to your affairs here in town.” Philip looked alarmed. “Sir, I would prefer to travel with the team.” Father Garcia smiled at him. “We have walked far together, Philip. Let yourself rest. Let yourself fish. When we return, you will feel refreshed and ready to travel with us again.” Simon interrupted. “Unless, any of you actually know the carpenter in Bethsaida. Maybe you played with him as a child?” He looked at Petros with a reprimand in his eyes.
Ambigo laughed to himself, waiting for an answer. The three men shook their heads. Father Garcia asked, “Simon, is there time to get to Bethsaida before nightfall tonight, or should we leave tomorrow morning?” Simon looked out the door for the answer. “I think there’s enough time today, but we wouldn’t be able to get back here tonight. We would have to spend the evening in Bethsaida.” The priest took a deep breath. “That’s acceptable. Andrew, could you please distribute the gifts and food? Firstly, they should go to the woman on the shore and if there is any left over, the rest should go to the poor in the town. Can you do that for us?” Andrew nodded.
Within the hour, Ambigo found himself on the road to Bethsaida, testing his new sandals. With every step, he heard the words: Divers… might… have… died. The minute they cleared earshot of Capernaum, Father Garcia started talking in English. “An interesting development has occurred. We should thank Dr. Thomas for wheedling it out of Petros.” Jaime and Tad sighed. “Yes, tell us what happened!”
Father Garcia told the story, “Petros received a visit from a small group of Roman soldiers and countrymen. They told him in Latin that they were looking for Jesus because he was a disruptive influence on the area.” The two of them gasped just as Father Garcia and Simon had before them. “I’m not finished. They went on to warn Petros about a group of people from the land of Tamaros.” He let the words sink in.
Ambigo spoke, trying to justify his actions, “To me, it sounded like the word ‘tomorrows.’ I thought the Romans were warning him of us, people from the future. Of course, I forgot that no one speaks English here. I didn’t even consider there might be a city called Tamaros that they could be referring to… I don’t know. It sounded like such a strange warning that I thought I should let Petros tell you about it.” His words hung between them while they walked: Divers… might… have… died. “Ok, that’s a lie. The second I heard him say land of tomorrows, I thought that he had gotten a visit from another team from the future, warning him to avoid us… I guess I’m just letting Petros’ paranoia wear off on me.”
Father Garcia corrected him, “No, Ambigo. Your instincts were very close to mine. I just didn’t know what to do about it and I didn’t want to alarm Petros.” Simon added, “In all my reading, I’ve never come across a land of Tamaros.” Tad agreed with him, but Jaime interrupted, “Just because we haven’t heard of it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It could be an area that we called by a different name.” Father Garcia asked him, “Jaime, you have done extensive research on this time in history. Have you ever heard of a land of Tamaros?” Jaime paused and Ambigo listened to his footsteps: Divers… might… have… died.
“No, I haven’t. Have you?” Father Garcia shook his head. “No, but you’re right. Just because we haven’t heard of it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.” Madi sighed deeply. “So, what do we do?” Simon answered, “The way I look at it, there are two scenarios. One, there is another team here, looking for Jesus. That means we failed. Not only that, they are trying to warn Petros to avoid us or trying to warn us to avoid him. That means we interfered and that Dr. Tate was wrong and we CAN change history…” Simon kept trudging and leading the team to the town. “The other scenario is that they were actually real Romans. If that’s the case, we’re a lot further behind than we thought.”
Father Garcia sighed. “I don’t like either scenario.” Ambigo chimed in, “There’s a third one.” Everyone turned to look at him, stopping in their tracks. He had brought up the rear of the team, even though his feet were safely snuggled in his cursed sandals. He felt like the back of the team was his place, even though he had no trouble walking. But now, they had all stopped to look at him and he stood before them.
He shrugged. “Dr. Tate didn’t seem like the kind of scientist who is very particular about where his funding comes from. He seems like he’s pretty willing to take funding from anyone.” They looked at him questioningly. “I… wouldn’t take funding for a lung cancer study from Phillip-Morris, but I don’t really think Dr. Tate has those kinds of scruples…” He kicked a sharp rock out of the road. “If he did, he probably wouldn’t have taken money from the Catholic Church…”
That seemed like enough to Ambigo and he wondered why they didn’t continue walking. Tad asked him, “What do you mean, Dr. Thomas?” Ambigo held up his hands. “Isn’t it obvious? If a group came to Dr. Tate telling him that they wanted to go back in time to prove that Christ did not exist. I don’t think Dr. Tate would have a problem with that. He just… didn’t seem like the kind of scientist that worried about the motives of his sponsors. As long as he got his funding, he looked happy.” Madi and Jaime squinted at him and he remembered that his words were being recorded. “Of course… I only met him one day before we left. I think the only conversation I had with him was the one in the Physics lab… I guess you guys would know better.”
Madi turned away and started walking again. Simon followed her and eventually overtook her, leading them to Bethsaida. Ambigo breathed a sigh of relief when the team started walking again. The team was silent and he was left with the chiding from his sandals: Divers… might… have… died… Divers… might… have… died. They kept repeating the phrase to him while they walked and eventually, he spoke just to stop the constant reprimand. “I guess that’s probably a little paranoid. I need to stop talking with Petros so much, I guess.”
Madi broke into a litany of harsh words, “I don’t know if I’m more angry at you for suggesting that Dr. Tate would take money from atheists or at myself for not seeing this myself. I don’t know what’s the matter with you atheists. For not believing in God or Jesus or anything holy, you bozos spend a lot of time trying to prove it wrong. If you really didn’t believe in it, I don’t think you’d spend so much time worrying about it.”
Father Garcia tried to calm her. “Now, Madi…” She interrupted, “Don’t ‘Now, Madi’ me! I stayed quiet the whole time he contaminated their minds with all that evolution shit and now he’s saying that we might be in a race to see who gets to Jesus first. If they win, they’ll just quietly take him out of the picture and if we win, we have to just sit and watch him be crucified. I don’t know which is worse! I don’t think we should be here. I don’t think anyone should be messing around with history. Sure, they said that we couldn’t change recorded history, but the next sentences that came out of their mouths were all this stuff about contamination. I don’t know who to believe. I don’t even think they know what they are doing. What the fuck are we doing here?!”
She stopped walking and had turned to Father Garcia, maintaining her hold on the conversation. “They have sent us here with barely a background check. For all I know, you think you’re Jesus Christ himself and are planning on taking his place on the cross. Let me tell you, I’ll stop you personally.” She grabbed him and started shaking him with surprising force. “If you think that you are some kind of messiah, you’re wrong. I know Jesus. I know him with every fiber of my body and you are not him! Don’t you think for a second that you are Christ! I’ll personally kill you if you try to interfere with him!”
Simon removed her hands from Father Garcia and held her in a huge bear hug. She struggled against him, screaming more curses into his chest. She pounded against his strong frame and wiggled, trying to release herself. Ambigo remembered resisting Simon and knew how futile her efforts were. They waited until she calmed down. When she took a deep breath, Simon released her. She silently started walking again and the rest of the team followed her.
After many reproachful steps, Father Garcia finally spoke. “That was a helpful insight, Ambigo. I never considered the idea that Dr. Tate might send a team that wanted to prove that Christ never existed. It… never… occurred to me.” Ambigo lifted his hand to his head, expecting to run his fingers through his hair. He was surprised at the soft fuzz that met his hands instead. “When you think about it… I don’t know… It kind of boggles the imagination.” He ran his hand over his head, rubbing softly. “From the point Dr. Tate invented the time machine, to the future, there are an infinite number of chances for them to send a team back to this time. This place should be crawling with people from the future…” He faltered. He didn’t know what to think about the idea of time travel. “I just… I just don’t know…”
Tad responded, “It almost makes me think that something happens to suppress it.” Jaime asked him, “Suppress what? Time travel or the fact that we went back here and what we learned?” Tad shrugged, “Both.”