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Whatever I Choose, We Die.

The man braces himself against a fire escape, deep in the cold heart of the city. Ten minutes more and this over. In his hand is the gun of unknown serial number, given to him by the gang members he used to call brothers. As the cold wind whips by he wonders, Had I not escaped? I thought I had until—the window exploded in, with men and angry voices, curses and knives, a crying child, and the one voice that cried, “You kill or she dies. This is your grand exit.” And in less than ten hours it would come down to now; come down to less than ten minutes.

Only ten minutes to take a life, to save a life, to change a life. Ten minutes to think, and a single moment left to act. He is ordered to be the instrument of Death. What choices brought him to this point? Rusty and unmaintained, the fire escape creaks agonizingly beneath him as he observes the guarded door across the street. Visions of a truly new life, filled with peace and his daughter’s laughter, envelops his mind. Warmth, so numbing, tingles and buzzes under his skin. He could trade all the terror for a bullet and be done here forever, he reasons. Yes, be a free man with one, impersonal shot--“Son, look here, there’s no reason to cry, so long as you remember not to touch what I’ve told you to leave alone. But this is the domino effect: one touch and the whole game is over. It will never be exactly the same.”

In the wake a memory, the warmth vanishes like a snap of the neck. Pain seeps like poison through his body from his sweating hand to his heart. There is no escape, is there? All their hope is lie and this moment will scar the rest of his life—even if they should let him leave as wanted man, known by the prints from his hands and his fleeing footsteps. He can dodge and hide, dreading every knock on the door. But what kind of a life is that to give to his daughter—his one-year-old, Elise, who has already lost her mother? Another metallic cry echoes off the fire escape, alerting the guard by the door who narrowly misses seeing the man melt into the shadows above.

Dear Elise, she has already lost her life even before it has truly begun. Icy wind rips at his coat, and continues down the alley, screaming. One minute left—what should he choose? His heart beats faster and at the same time constricts. There is no hope. Below the guard warily shifts his feet, glancing at the shadows. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his. . . Whatever he chooses, the sweaty gun will signal a form of death. Sounds of an opening door reach him as he disjointedly points the gun towards himself. Can he abandon her?

Time is up. Destiny fated the howling wind, that at this moment, overcomes the fire escape's power. A terrible screech of twisted metal rings out, alerting the guard and his charge. He looks up to meet the man's eyes. A single shot rings out.



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