Turning Points

           

“Are you possessed by a demon? You really expect me to believe that you’re from the future.”

            “Yes, but look at it this way. I’m not asking you to do anything you haven’t done before.”

            Bar-Simon’s face reddened and his voice rose in anger. “I’ve never betrayed any of my friends! What kind of person do you think I am?”

Vayon made a shushing sound and held up a hand. He glanced at the Roman soldiers waiting a few paces away before continuing. “Please, keep your voice down.”

“What you’re asking me to do isn’t right. I know this now.”

             “You were going to do it. Weren’t you? I saw you walk toward the soldiers and hesitate just before you turned around.”

            Bar-Simon dropped his eyes and sighed. “I thought this was all just a scheme to get rich. Now I know that we could make a real difference in people’s lives. We could make the world a better place. How can I turn my back on all that now?”

Vayon adjusted the hood concealing most of his face and glanced at the tachyon displacer on his wrist. The chronometer’s display turned from green to red as the countdown fell under two minutes.

“Look, I’ll be pulled back to my own time shortly. When I vanish, you’ll have proof that I’m telling the truth. I can’t stress how important it is that you don’t change your mind.”

Bar-Simon worked his jaw from side to side as if he was chewing something distasteful. “Why would you need to come back in time and tell me to do something that I was going to do anyway?”

Vayon let out a slow breath and chose his words carefully. “There are events in history historians are allowed to discretely observe, and there is a turning point approaching in a couple of days that depends on what you do tonight.” Vayon glanced at his chronometer as the countdown dropped below a minute. “One of those historians broke protocol and asked you a direct question yesterday. It led your thoughts down a different path. That knowledge is why you changed your mind a minute ago.” Vayon took a step back and desperation crept into his voice. “I know that this is unpleasant, but trust me, the future of trillions depends on you and whatever decision you make in this very moment.”

The time traveler blurred and vanished an instant later. There was no flash of light, no audible sound. One second he was there, and the next, he was gone. Bar-Simon gasped and stared at the ground where the stranger had been standing for several seconds as if he wasn’t sure he could trust his eyes. A hot tear rolled down his cheek as he glanced down the empty alley that led back to his friends. Tightening his grip on the bag of thirty silver coins, Bar-Simon swallowed the lump in his throat, stepped toward the soldiers, and said, “The one you seek is this way.”

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