There was no conversation in the car, except for an occasional muttered "Down, down," and a shove with the foot, or a poke with a gun into my back. The gunmen said nothing to each other.

After 15 or 20 minutes, the car turned off the main highway straight into what seemed to be a garage. A metal door clanged down, cutting off the street noise. The doors were yanked open, and hands grabbed at me, pulling me upright, but careful to keep the blanket over my head. There were mutterings in Arabic, short, guttural, incomprehensible.Someone slipped the blanket away, slipping a dirty cloth around my head at the same time, then wrapping plastic tape around and around. Other hands grabbed at my tennis shoes, yanking them off. Someone pulled at the gold chain around my neck, fumbled with the fastening until it opened. Then the gold bracelet on my right wrist, the watch on my left, also went.

"Don't," I said, involuntarily. "They're gifts. Don't take them."

"We are not thieves," one of the men said. He stuck my watch into my sock. Not the chain or bracelet. I never saw either again.

More tape, around my wrists and arms. I was pulled out of the car and guided clumsily to the side of the garage, pushed down onto a filthy blanket smelling of oil and gasoline.

My legs were taped tightly, around the ankles, knees and thighs. I could no longer sit upright and slid sideways. One of the men lifted me up by my arm and shoulder and propped me against the wall.

The men talked among themselves for a few minutes, then several left. Only one seemed to be still with me, pacing back and forth.

After a while - 20 minutes? An hour? No way to tell - they came back. I was pulled upright, guided across the floor, and seated again.

"What is your name?" a voice asked, heavily accented.

"Terry Anderson. I am a journalist."

"Your company?"

"The Associated Press. A wire service."

The man seemed uninterested in my answers. Either he understood "wire service" - unlikely - or he didn't care.

"Why have you taken me? Who are you?"

Muttering in Arabic. "Quiet. We ask questions. Do you know where you are?"

"No." Explaining my deductions didn't seem wise.

"You are a spy."

"No. I am a journalist. I work for The Associated Press. What do you want from me?"

The interrogation went on, almost aimlessly, without heat. Accusations. Denials.

"Why do you have this?" A hand shoved something at me. Peering along my nose, through the small gap it made in the tape around my head, I saw the gold charm from my chain - an inscription from the Koran.

"It was a gift."

"You are Muslim?"

"No. Christian."

"Why do you wear this?"

"My wife gave it to me."

"She is Muslim?"

"No. Maronite. Catholic."

"You are not Muslim. Why do you wear words from the Koran?"

"They are beautiful. They are the words of God." He was obviously unsatisfied, and muttered to his companions. Then more serious questions.

"What other Americans do you know? Who works at your office?"

"I can't tell you that."

"You must say. Give us the names of all the Americans you know."

"No. I can't do that."

"We can make you."

"I know you can try. You can hurt me. But I can't give you the names of my friends."

"We have electricity. You know?"

"Yes. I know. But I still won't give you names. They are my friends. I can't help you kidnap them." I decided to take a chance.

"Can you call my office? Tell them I am alive? My wife will be very, very worried."

"You want your wife here? We can go get her, bring her here."

"She is pregnant. You would not harm her. You cannot be so evil."

"We will take her, too. No one can stop us."

"God will stop you. No one has to stop you. You will not do this."

"Give us the names."

"No. I'm sorry. I can't. Do what you want to. I still can't."

More demands. Refusals. Strangely, the procedure was still without heat. It didn't seem as if they really meant the threats. It was hard to believe they might carry them out, though nothing I had ever seen in Lebanon gave me any confidence in their humanity or reluctance to inflict pain. They just didn't seem serious about it.

It ended after perhaps 30 or 40 minutes. The men got up and left, except for one. He shoved me back against the wall, resumed pacing.

I could think of nothing except Madeleine, my fiancee. She would know soon, probably knew already. Don, an AP photographer, would have gone straight to the office, alerted the AP people there. They would have gone to our apartment, just a few hundred yards from where I was kidnapped.

I began crying silently, rocking forward and back against the wall, my knees shoved tightly between my taped arms. Who would tell her? How? I twisted my wrists against the tape, struggling against it. The guard came, bent over and, surprisingly gently, put his hand on my arm. "No. No. No good."

I stopped struggling and tried to compose my mind. Breathe evenly, smoothly, gently. Calm. Don't think. Calm.

(More than three weeks pass before the shackled Anderson is even allowed to sit up. Several hostages are brought together, though isolated by blindfolds and partitions. Anderson thinks incessantly of Madeleine; of Mickey, the wife from whom he seeks a divorce; and of their daughter, Gabrielle. He reproaches himself for not taking seriously enough an apparent unsuccessful kidnap attempt the day before he was seized. In the final passage, he describes his young guards.)

Twenty-four days. It must be about the 8th of April. I'd kept track by scratching a line in the wall next to my head each gray dawn, beginning with what I thought was the third day. My body was locked for hours each day in cramps from the effort of not moving. I was exhausted by the ceaselessly churning thoughts in my head, images of my family, friends, wrung by emotions so sharp and strong, my chest hurt.

Around and around, over and over, remorse, anger, pain. Replaying endless scenarios in which I escaped, gunned the car, jumped out and dropped my kidnapper with a karate blow, grabbed his gun and shot him - useless, childish plays. Humiliation of trying to pee in a bottle while lying down. Humiliation of being poked and prodded and cursed at. I knew I was on the edge of madness, of losing control completely, breaking down.

Finally, as one of the guards walked past my cot, I called out softly. "Chebab. Hey."

"Shu?"

"Tehki Inglisi?" Speak English?

"Lahsa." One moment.

He left, came back with another guard.

"What?"

"I can't do this anymore. I am not an animal. I am a human being. You can't treat me like this."

"What do you want?"

"A book. A Bible. And to move. You must loosen these chains. I will go crazy."

A grunt. The two guards exchanged a few words.

"I speak chef."

"Thank you."

The next day, late in the afternoon, the English-speaking guard came in and threw a heavy object on the bed. I reached for it, felt the smooth covers of a book.

The guard came around to the head of the bed.

"Good?"

"Yes, very good, thank you."

He began fiddling with the chain on my right hand. After some fumbling, he got the lock open, then replaced it, but allowing a foot or so more chain. Moving around the bed, he did the same on the other side.

"Sit up. But no look."

I sat up slowly, stiffly. He pulled the blanket off me and draped it over my head, leaving it hanging in front of my face. "Now look."

I cautiously pulled my blindfold up a bit, until I could see the book. Red, new. A Bible, the Revised Standard Version. I caressed it gently.

"May I read now?"

"Thirty minutes. Be careful. No look."

"Thank you."

I leaned forward so the blanket would hang down over my face, but allow light from the bulb above me to fall on the book in my lap. Opening the cover gently, I sniffed at the pages, inhaling the new-book, paper-and-ink smell like perfume. My back started aching almost immediately, but I ignored it.

I read the title page, the publishing and copyright information, the notes of the editors, slowly, carefully. Then: Genesis.

"In the Beginning . . . "

Dim, gray light. Blank ceiling, bare electric light bulb just visible over the top of the partition, but giving no light, since the electricity was off again. Snoring of guards. Tired. Just tired. Hours, long nights, praying. "Dear God. What have I done? I'm not good, I know that. I've cheated and lied. I've strayed so far from you. Self-indulgence. Stupidity. I'm sorry. But do something. Anything. I just can't do this. I can't."

It's surprising what you can remember when you have nothing to do but remember. At first, the mind is a blank. I always thought I was smart. Where are all the things I learned, the books I read, the poems I memorized? There's nothing there, just a formless, gray-black misery. My mind's gone dead. God, help me.

Start with the memories. Forget the stupidity of not paying attention, of walking out into the street after one kidnap attempt, the very next morning, to give them your open, stupid self. That's done. You're paying. Think about Madeleine - so beautiful, all dark and flashing and loving. You're so lucky, to win this woman now, after all these years. What is she doing? What is she feeling? Stop. It hurts too much.

What about Mickey, and Gabrielle? I've hurt them both, greatly. Especially Gabrielle. She sounded so sad, had so much pain in her voice the last time I talked to her on the phone. She's 8. How can she understand? Thou shalt not commit adultery. So many times, in so many places. No excuses. No "but if only she'd . . . " No. You did it. Accept it. Be sorry.

But I'm not sorry about Madeleine. No matter what. We didn't plan this child. Maddy wasn't supposed to be able to conceive. But so much joy when it happened. Inconvenient, sure. But never regretted. Is that wrong, God? To be thankful for this joy? So short a time together - what, 10, 11 months? Worth all this, if I die today, worth it.

I'll not apologize for this, God. Never.

All the other memories. The people. The mistakes, offenses. How arrogant I was! It must have been hard to like me. Did they all? Or was I just tolerated? I don't like me much. How can anyone else?

Hours, days, nights, weeks. Blank nights. Gray dawn after gray dawn.

I ask Sayeed, "How can you do this? Doesn't the Koran say you may not punish someone for another's sins? I'm innocent. You know that."

The question bothers him. He goes to the chief, an older man held in great respect by all the guards. A little later, he comes back. "The chef says I must not talk with you about this. He says you think like a snake," weaving his hand back and forth, held low enough for me to see under the blindfold, through the small gap next to my nose.

Another of the guards is simply evil. Calling himself Michel, he claims to be a Christian from East Beirut - an obvious lie. He prays the same as all of them. He delights in sneaking up to the curtain at the end of my cot and snatching it suddenly open, then screaming at me, "No look. You look. I kill." Sometimes he creeps up and just sticks the barrel of the silenced pistol through the curtain. "Bam. Bam," he says quietly.

Michel throws the little fruit we get - a banana, an orange - over the top of the partition. Often it just falls between the side of the bed and the wall, onto the floor where my chains prevent me from reaching it. The two or three bananas there already smell, bringing dozens of huge cockroaches. Once Michel sets a bowl of soup on the end of the bed, just out of my reach. Knorr's dried chicken noodle, I can tell by the smell. Stretching painfully for it, chained arm stretched out straight behind me, I knock it over, spilling soup and noodles onto the bed. He laughs and walks away, leaving the mess. It stays overnight, until another guard helps me clean up.

It's difficult to talk to these men, to bring myself to be polite, to act as if I care what they think. Their minds are alien to me. They seem to think that what they're doing is some kind of small but necessary unpleasantness. Only the loneliness, the hours and days without speaking a word bring me to talk to them. That, and the devouring desire to find out what the hell is going on, what they want, what the chances are of getting out of here. But on that subject, they have little to say. "Soon, and very soon, Inshallah" - God willing - is the unvarying response.

(Various hostages are put together, although out of view of each other because of partitions and blindfolds. Anderson overhears the dying gasps of the tortured William Buckley, the CIA's station chief in Beirut. Anderson reflects on his past life and asks to meet another hostage, the Rev. Lawrence Martin Jenco, so that the Roman Catholic priest can hear his confession.)

I can hear the guards talking to Buckley. He's put in my former place, perhaps six feet away from me. He's ill. All of us have had colds for the past week or so, filling the small apartment with coughing and sneezing. Buckley is the only one not recovering. Instead, he develops a fever, mutters to himself. One phrase is clear. "Oh, God. I've lasted a year, and now my body is going." He goes delirious, moaning in the night, and can't keep down food. They give him a bucket, but he vomits little. I ask about him, but am rebuffed.

A new hostage is brought in late in the evening. He speaks loudly. When asked, he gives his name to one of the guards - David Jacobsen, administrator at the teaching hospital of the American University of Beirut. He is placed on a mattress just outside the plastic curtain of my cubicle, and chained to the wall. I peek cautiously during a quiet moment in the apartment. Tall. Long, thin pale legs. Blindfold like mine. White shorts, T-shirt. I don't dare whisper to him - the guards are lying on their mattresses just two or three feet away.

One or two days later, in the evening, the chief comes in. He's always referred to as "the Hajj," a title of honor given to those who have made the pilgrimage to Mecca, and the guards show much deference to him. He talks with his men, then walks over to Buckley's cot. In Arabic, he mutters, "Mareed. Ktir, ktir mareed." Sick, very sick. Then he goes out.

The guards won't give Buckley water or juice. "No good. You sick." They believe that anyone with a fever should not be given liquids - exactly the opposite of proper treatment, like many such "remedies." He pleads for an orange. Finally, in the night, there is the sound of him gasping, floundering about on his cot. The guards come in. A thump, like Buckley kicked the wall. Then silence. After a few minutes, the guards unlock his chains and carry him out of the room. The conviction leaps to my mind - he has died. I begin praying for him, as I had many times before.

The next day, I ask Sayeed about him. "Where's Buckley? Is he OK?"

"Oh, yes, he is in a very good place," Sayeed replies lightly.

Long nights, squirrel-in-a-cage nights. Mind spinning, thoughts, emotions whirling. Anger. Frustration. Pain. Guilt.

I can't do this, God. I'm finished. I surrender. There's nothing I can do to change anything, nothing anyone can do. And it's just going to go on, and I can't do it. Help me. There's no reason why you should. Don't we always turn to you when we're in trouble, and away from you when things are good? I'm doing the same. But you say you love me. So help me.

So far down. My mind so tired, my spirit so sore. And more to come, more and more. I just can't do it.

But at the bottom, in surrender so complete there is no coherent thought, no real pain, no feeling, just exhaustion, just waiting, there is something else. Warmth-light-softness. Acceptance, by me, of me. Rest. After a while, some strength. Enough, for now.

It happens once, twice. A few hours later, it fades, and the anger and frustration and longing are back. But the memory is there, the sense of presence. And sometimes the place is reached again, briefly. Not often, but sometimes. Meanwhile, the hours are endured, the days gotten through. And the nights are spent in prayer, and thought, and the effort to get back to that place.

Cautiously, I raise my blindfold. Father Jenco, a white-haired man with a full beard and a gentle smile, is sitting cross-legged on David's mattress. We clasp hands. "I'm Lawrence Jenco." "Hi, Father. I'm Terry Anderson. I don't know where to start. It's been a very long time since I said confession."

"It doesn't matter. Just go ahead." He nods in encouragement.

"I left the church when I was young. For a long time, I was an agnostic, or at least I said I was. I don't know what I meant by that. Just laziness, I guess. Didn't want to deal with it. I came back just a few months ago. Haven't gone to confession, or taken communion yet, though. But I'm a Catholic.

"I was in the process of getting a divorce when I was kidnapped. Mostly my fault, I know. I was not a good man - chasing women, drinking. Seems like I just kind of lost my way for a while."

The discussion goes on for 20 minutes or more, twice the time the guards had agreed to. Father Martin's responses are always quiet, gentle. Mostly, he just listens. A few times he offers brief assurances on points I do not understand, such as how difficult it might be to get an annulment of my first marriage.

For a Catholic, ritual confession, or the sacrament of reconciliation, as it is called now, is an emotional ceremony, no matter how informal the setting. This was my first confession in 25 years, my first formal step back to the church.

By the end of our session, the bare floor around us is littered with crumpled tissues. Both he and I are crying. Finally, I kneel beside him. "Father, forgive me, for I have sinned, in word and in thought, in what I have done and what I have not done."

He rests his right hand lightly on my head. "In the name of a gentle, loving God, you are forgiven." He pulls my head gently to his shoulder and hugs me. We sit back and look at each other. In a few moments, we hear a guard turning the lock on the door, and we pull our blindfolds down over our eyes.

(Anderson, Jacobsen, Jenco and two other hostages, Thomas Sutherland and the Rev. Benjamin Weir, must make a seemingly fateful decision. Later, Anderson reflects on God's role in his plight.)

We've just had a startling announcement from the Hajj. They've decided to let one of us go home, "as a humanitarian gesture"! It's also an effort to persuade the Reagan administration that these people are serious about wanting to negotiate. The most startling part, though, is that he says we're to choose which one. We're all stunned.

Then the Hajj adds that it cannot be Tom. He will be the last to go home, he says. It's impossible to tell if he's serious. He also says it should not be me. We protest. Ben argues in Arabic with him, fruitlessly. He leaves.

How are we going to handle this? Ben, kidnapped in 1984, has been here longest, of course. But if someone is going to be a spokesman, is he the one? He's a very good man, but quiet. We all deserve to go home, and we all want it badly. I can see it on everyone's face, and I know it's on mine. What a terrible, terrible thing to do to us. Perhaps we should refuse to choose. But then, maybe no one will go. No, we will try.

We quickly decide that, whatever choice is made, it must be unanimous, and it should be by secret ballot. We also agree that we will ignore the Hajj's stricture about Tom and me. We walk around in our circle for half an hour. Very little talking. Finally, I speak.

"We all want to go. I think, if it can't be me, it should be David. He's articulate and forceful. If someone is to speak for us, to persuade Reagan to begin talks, he'd do it well."

David's grateful, but says little. Pastor Ben says he does not want to go, that he will stay. Father Martin says the same.

We sit down, tear up some paper, and begin the ballot. First time, one vote for everyone except Ben, two for me. How does Ben feel? His face shows nothing, and he says nothing. Another ballot, same result. We take a break, get up, and begin walking in a circle again. After a few minutes, I ask, "Anybody want to say anything else?"

"Why? You want to campaign?" David snaps. I don't reply.

Another ballot. This time it's two for David, three for me. I'm in a quandary. Should I vote for myself? Or David? How long will this go on? Again. Same. Again. Now it's four for me, one for David.

"Well, that's that," Father Martin says, obviously assuming the single vote for David is mine. "No, Father. It has to be unanimous," I tell him. It takes him a few seconds to realize that both David and I are voting for ourselves. I'm ashamed at the silence.

Last ballot. Five for me. We sit back. I can feel the tears building. Father Martin hugs me, then Ben, Tom. Finally David.

"Thank you," I manage. "I'm very grateful. I also feel guilty. You all deserve to go as much as I do."

I'm also scared. The Hajj said he didn't want it to be me. Will he veto the choice? Dear God, I don't know what I feel. I can't believe it will happen, I feel somehow it's not right. I'm ashamed of wanting it so bad. But they chose, we all chose. I can't allow myself to really believe this is the end.

We call Sayeed, tell him of our choice. He laughs. "We have already chosen." We ask him why. The Hajj told us to choose. Whom have they picked? "I will tell the Hajj. He will talk to you."

A night of misery, joy, confused prayer. I try as hard as I can not to believe it. But it's no use. I can't help thinking about being free, seeing Maddy, my daughter, Gabrielle. The shame and guilt won't go away. I can't even look at Ben. He's so sincere in his happiness for me. And the others, they must be terribly disappointed.

Finally, the Hajj appears. No discussion, no greeting. He speaks in Arabic to Ben, at length, angrily. Ben gasps. "Oh, no. Oh, no." What is it? I know already.

"He says I'm the one. I'm going tonight. I tried to argue, but he won't listen. I'm sorry."

The disappointment overwhelms me. I expected it. I was prepared for it. It's a relief to have it settled so surely, after all the agonizing. But it hurts. Oh, God, how it hurts.

Ben is quickly given a haircut, clothes. We get a brief chance to embrace him, wish him luck. "I'm sorry," he says to me again. "Don't worry," I reply. "You should have been the one we chose anyway." He's hustled out.

The four of us sit quietly for a while. Then the lights are turned out. I pray, reaching for calm, for acceptance. Slowly, slowly, it comes. Lord, I don't know what you want of me, what you're trying to do. Help me.

(Anderson describes the misery of captivity, reports on his first contact with kidnapped mediator Terry Waite, and recounts his final day of captivity.

"Frank," "Tom" "John" and "Brian" are hostages Frank Reed, Thomas Sutherland, John McCarthy and Brian Keenan. "Robert" and "Nick" are Robert Fisk and Nick Tatro, fellow journalists who were based in Beirut. "Sulome" is Anderson's daughter. "Picco" is U.N. mediator Giandomenico Picco.)

This place is metaphorically, as well as literally, a hole. It's dirty and full of mosquitoes. The light, a bare bulb hanging from the ceiling, is never turned off. The guards are suspicious and unfriendly - one is "the Ghost," whom we've already had so much trouble with. He likes to sneak up to the opening of our cell above us and spy. Frank's cot is lying almost under the opening, and it's hard for him not to look at it under his blindfold, when he lies down. Whenever the Ghost appears, he accuses Frank of trying to see him. It's making Frank even more paranoid than he is. I offered to change places with him, but the guards wouldn't go along, for no apparent reason.

Once again, the depression is enormously deep. Only our physical misery distracts us from our black, endless thoughts. It's now March in southern Lebanon, and growing too hot for the heavy blankets we've been given, especially with three people's body heat raising the temperature even more. So it's a dilemma, either being stifled while hiding from the mosquitoes or being cooler and bitten in a thousand places.

It's so quiet most of the time, and the mosquitoes are so numerous, that just their combined whine keeps me from sleeping.

The chains are a very heavy emotional and psychological burden, as well as a physical one. Just to feel them even when I'm not moving drags me near to despair. And now they're very tight. The guards had been leaving them loosely around our wrists until the Ghost spied me managing to pull mine (with considerable effort and some pain) off my wrist. From then on, they were fastened tightly enough to sometimes cut off the circulation. Not that we could go anywhere even if we could get them off, with the metal grille and wooden door between us and the guards, and the guards between us and the outside, and a Shiite village surrounding us.

I've been feeding a tiny mouse that appears in the dead of night occasionally. I call her Mehitabel. She will sit for a while under Frank's bed, absolutely still, before dashing at an incredible speed to the foot of mine, then almost teleporting herself to the ledge beside the cot and finally close enough to snatch the little piece of bread I place next to my head on the pillow, usually while I'm dozing. When the hamsters sealed up the cracks in the wall with more concrete blocks and cement, she disappeared. Tom and Frank tried to convince me she was sealed up in the wall, but I refuse to believe it. She must have gotten away.

I wake abruptly sometimes from the light dozing that passes for sleep these days, sweating and frightened. The dream is often the same: I'm free, and wandering through Beirut, or at the office, talking to Robert or Nick or some other friend, but I know I have to return to this prison. "I don't want to go back," I cry. "Well, just don't go back," is the bland reply. But they don't understand. There is some terrible compulsion, some obligation or promise I just can't ignore, and I have to. I just have to. "I don't want to wake with a chain on my leg again." And then I wake up, and at the first movement, I can feel the chain pulling at my ankle, and my heart plummets inside me.

I dream of Madeleine, too.

I can often feel the panic sneaking up, the weight of the months and years that have gone by while we lie on these mattresses, the incredible waste. I push it away, and busy my mind with mental games, or frantic efforts at conversation. Tom keeps careful track of the time - "This is my 500th, 600th, 700th day. It's 23 days till my birthday, till Christmas, till Easter." I ask him, snarl at him - "Don't tell me, Tom. I don't want to know." I can't stand to think about all those weeks, months, piling one on top of the other.

I pray. "God, give me strength, courage. Above all, calm acceptance. I'm grateful for my life, for all the things I've had. Even those so-short months with Madeleine were a gift. I've done so much, traveled so much. If I die tomorrow, OK, my life has been full. But this purgatory, endless, gray. Don't ask more of me than I can give. But I have to. If this is Your will, I have to."

Sometimes the acceptance comes, and I know I can just go on. Then the black misery comes again, and I try to push it away. Even when it does break through the deliberate busy-ness of my mind, and overwhelms me, I know by now that it will pass, retreat.

September 5, 1990. My 2,000th day.

I've established contact with Terry. He is next door, as John and Brian thought. I began by tapping on the wall and, when he tapped back, painstakingly tapped out the series 1-2-3-4 . . . to 26. Then, using numbers for the alphabet (1 a, 2 b, and so on), I tapped out our names. It took a while, but he caught on. I spent all one night tapping out a summary of all the news: Brian's release; Frank's release; the comments and promises of Iran, Syria, and others on hostages over the past year. Then the world news: the Berlin Wall's falling, communism's demise in eastern Europe, free elections in the Soviet Union, work toward a multiracial government in South Africa. All the incredible things that have happened since he was taken nearly three years ago. He thought I was crazy.

He's been in isolation all that time, without even a scrap of news. I knew he was brave, risking his life for us. But he must also be an incredibly tough man. Sounds sane and rational. When I apologized for dragging him into this with the letters we sent so long ago, there was no bitterness in his gracious reply.

It takes an agonizingly long time to exchange any message, what with stops and starts, misspellings and miscountings. My knuckles are already scraped raw from the concrete wall. But he obviously needs this contact so badly, I can't stop.

Baalbek, Lebanon. December 4, 1991.

The 2,454th day, and the last. The two new subchiefs came in this morning to say that I would be going home tonight. They talked with me awhile about various things. Strangely, they seemed mostly concerned with justifying themselves, and the last seven years. They said that their group now realized that this had all been a mistake, and they had gotten little out of it. They knew that the release last year of their brothers in Kuwait, the main goal they'd had in the beginning and for all those years, had nothing to do with the hostages they had held so long. "This tactic (kidnapping) is not useful. We will not do it again," one of them said. "We are not giving up. But we will use other means."

He did not explain what that meant, and I was not interested enough to pursue the subject.

"Trust Me" Ali was also there, and tried to start an argument about the same old subjects - the evil of the West, and how the Arabs, especially the Lebanese Shiites, had been oppressed. After a couple of minutes, I told him, "Ali, we've had this argument before. It doesn't settle anything."

One of the two subchiefs rebuked him in Arabic, and he went off to sit at the other side of the room. Then they asked me if I would make one last videotape, telling the world what they thought of the whole matter. I agreed, provided that I was allowed to say directly that this was their statement, which I was only reading and did not agree with. They had no objection. A man came in with a small video camera, and gave me several pages, translated into English but in the usual florid Arab style. I read the statement, then added at the end, bluntly, that it was my captors' statement, not mine. But, I said, I thought it was important to hear what they had to say.

They gave me a new shirt, a pair of trousers, and some shoes, then left. I've been sitting here most of the day playing solitaire by candlelight - the electricity is out again - and listening to the radio. It's very strange - all the news reports say I've been turned over to the Syrians already, and am on my way to Damascus. They say there's a delay because of snow in the mountains between Beirut and Damascus. Of course, I'm in the Bekaa, and there's no snow.

It's been interesting, listening to the news analyses, and the recaps of the past seven years. The newscasts are full of praise for me - I don't know for what, except perhaps for surviving. It's like listening to your own obituary.

My mind is so full, spinning so fast, with so many things. Maddy - she's in Damascus, according to the radio, with Sulome. How is she feeling? What will we say to each other, after so much pain? What will I do? It is so good, with her last radio message, knowing she is waiting, and we can start again. What has it been like for her? How could she wait so long? I know the depth of my love. Hers must be so much greater, her strength so incredible.

I know the drill at Damascus. I've seen it so many times, as hostage after hostage has been released. The first ceremony at the Syrian Foreign Ministry. Thank everybody - the Syrians, the Israelis, the U.S. government, even the Iranians - ironic that, but necessary, I suppose.

I have less constraint than the others - I'm the last, except for the two Germans. I'd like to say something about the Lebanese held in Khiam prison by the Israelis, without trial, without a chance to defend themselves. But I'm not sure I should - Picco is working on that problem, and I would certainly not want to screw up any deal that my release is part of.

What do I say about my kidnappers? I have no love for them. The small kindnesses of a few guards over the years, the mostly decent treatment of the past few months, mean nothing compared to nearly seven years chained to a wall. But I don't hate them. I could, easily, but I cannot let myself. My life will begin again in a few hours. What am I going to make of it? Can I keep the faith and the determination of this time? Will I be able to keep from slipping back to the self-indulgence, the arrogance that I know I was full of then?

I am 44 years old. I don't feel it. I still felt young when I was taken seven years ago. I feel young today. But I'm not.

All my thoughts are fleeting, drifting in and out of my mind. I can't concentrate on anything, except the cards. Game after game of solitaire, interrupted for moments as I tune one radio or the other to another newscast. Lunch comes, then dinner. Mahmoud asks me, as he brings the food: "Are you happy?"

"I'll be happy when I'm free, Mahmoud."

It's dark outside now. They always prefer to wait for darkness to fall before making any move. The door opens. Several guards come in. I'm already dressed - I put on my new clothes two hours ago. Mahmoud says, as he has so many times, "Stand up."

No tape this time. Just the blindfold. The new subchiefs are there. One of them hands me a small bouquet. Half a dozen carnations. "Give this to your wife, and tell her we're sorry."

Someone takes my arm, guides me through the door, outside, and into a car. Another Mercedes, just like the one they forced me into so long ago. "Trust Me" Ali is in the back seat with me. He's ranting about Bush's ingratitude, his failure to mention the Khiam prisoners in his first statement about my release. I'm impatient. Shut up, man. I don't need any more of this.

The car stops. I'm pulled out. Someone puts his hand on my shoulder. "I'm a Syrian colonel. You're free."

*****

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Terry Anderson: A chronology of his years as a hostage

1985

- Anderson is abducted in Beirut by Shiite Muslim group Islamic Jihad.

- American hostage William Buckley dies in captivity.

- Secret sales of U.S. weapons to Iran begin in effort to win hostages' freedom.

- Hostage Rev. Benjamin Weir is freed.

1986

- Anderson's father and brother die of cancer.

- Hostage Rev. Lawrence M. Jenco is freed.

- Iran weapons sales continue.

- On videotape, Anderson and hostage David Jacobsen ask Reagan administration to work for their release.

- Jacobsen is freed.

- Weapons sales are exposed and end.

1987

- Kidnappings of Americans continue.

- Islamic Jihad releases videotape of Anderson criticizing Reagan administration for failing to secure hostages' release.

1988

- Islamic Jihad issues photo of Anderson and makes new demands for hostages' release.

- In videotape, Anderson says, "I find it difficult to keep my hope and courage high."

1989

- Iran's president says he will help free hostages if U.S. releases frozen Iranian assets. U.S. releases some assets.

- Islamic Jihad releases photo of Anderson and repeats demand for freedom for Shiite comrades jailed in Kuwait.

1990

- Anderson's sister, Peggy Say, tours Europe and Middle East enlisting support in effort to free him. She is told by freed hostage Frank Reed that Anderson was in good health.

- Anderson's 2,000th day in captivity.

1991

- The U.N. begins mediation to win the release of Western hostages and Arab prisoners of Israel. In August, both sides begin a series of releases.

- In a videotape, Anderson urges all parties to accelerate negotiations to free Western hostages and Arab prisoners.

- Anderson's 44th birthday, his seventh in captivity.

- Anderson, the longest held hostage, is released on Dec. 4.