Choices by Joshua Ludeker

The woman was scared shitless as she sat on the rooftop, listening to this psycho jabber about strangers. She struggled to keep her composure. There was duct tape slapped around her mouth and rope wrapped around her wrists. Even if she wasn’t bound and gagged, where would she go? The rooftop of a sixty three story building wasn’t built for fast escapes like this situation demanded. Besides, the rifle propped on a slack, homemade stand scared her stiff. The only thought that was circling her head was her husband. Strong and handsome; he would know what to do in this situation. But, no, she was in this nightmare, not him.

“I’m not a bad guy. I have a job and pay taxes. My dreams and aspirations aren’t all that different than any other man. I sometimes see myself part of the JFK assassination, the crosshairs of my rifle on the man’s forehead, completely oblivious to anything but his beautiful wife and the trained sheep cheering and following their shepherd. And that brings us to where we are now.”

A gust of wind blew from the north, kicking up dust on the rooftop.

“Take a look down there. People herding through their pathetic excuse they call life; each with their own agenda; each with their own ghosts in their closet. Rushing in and out of people traffic, thinking if they’ll be late to their meeting, which is the best restaurant that serves the lowest trans-fat meals, and which bar is best to find a nice screw.”

“One good thing about this is I never get lonely. Take this man, for instance. His suede suit makes me want to puke, and just what exactly is in the briefcase he’s carrying? Important business information, a stack of porn mags, or maybe even a few hundred thousand dollars robbed from the bank down the street? I guess we’ll never really know until we watch the evening news, eh lady? No. Not this man. I’ve seen him before. His daily routine is sickening and even more sickening that I can pick him out of the crowd everyday. Watch, ten more steps and he will pull out his phone, check messages, and most likely chat with the devil that suggested that suit. Or even his mistress. Now, look, he’ll walk into that café, order a coffee, and sit on the outside table, right there.”

He adjusted the scope on the rifle and lets the crosshairs float.

“See? I can tell by you're face you’re not impressed with my knowledge of this stranger. Maybe you’ll be more interested in this other man that is now walking towards the bench in the park? Then again, maybe you don’t want to know. Sometimes that’s better. I’m not a very smart man, but there are things I’d just rather not know,” he snorted a chuckle, “Wait, here he comes now.”

A man walked casually towards a bench in the park. The bench is located under a large oak tree, wonderfully shaded to perfect comfort.

“I want you to take a look. Don’t worry, I won’t bite.”

She shook badly, snot and tears running down her face.

“Hey! I’m talking to you! I told you to look, damn it, now look!”

She struggled to maneuver off of her backside to get to her knees. The rifle’s business end was resting on the ledge, pointing down towards the busy bustle of lunch-breakers. She staggered on her knees toward the rifle and peered through, thinking how badly she needed her husband.

All of those feelings, memories, and never-ending love came crashing down her gullet with one, short peep through the sight of the rifle. She let out a short scream, stifled by the duct tape, and feel back shaking her head violently in disbelief.

“What’s the matter, young lady? Don’t you recognize your own husband?” Short bursts of whimpers came and went as she sat in shock, not wanting to believe it, but the image of her husband still burning in her eyes. “Aw, but you do. What it is you don’t understand is who is that young piece of ass that is with him on the bench. What are they doing down there? What’s the matter? Did you not know? I thought women had a sixth sense for this stuff. Get up. Look.”

The man pulled a blade from his pocket as the lady started up towards the rifle. He flicked the blade out and cut the rope that bound her hands.

“Put your finger on the trigger, honey.”

She didn’t. She was frozen.

“You see that girl he’s with? Look! That is my fiancé! The woman I am going to marry! Now what do you suppose you’re husband and my fiancé are doing together on a Tuesday afternoon? I have a pretty good guess and I’m not quite happy about it!”

She pulled her head away, not wanting anymore to do anything, and the man reached around his back and pulled out a 9mm pistol from his waistband. He gently placed the muzzle on the back of her head, pushed her head towards the sight, and forced her to watch that woman getting uncomfortably close to her husband who she thought she knew.

“Now, we have ourselves a predicament. I can’t make this decision; that’s why I brought you. Life is full of choices and you have one to make right now. Either you pull your trigger or I pull mine; your call.”

The woman started shivering uncontrollably. Her finger was shaking so violently on the trigger that she wasn't even sure how to make this type of decision. Tears blurred her vision, a dark patch swelled the crotch of her pants, and the man spoke again.

“You have three seconds. Choose now.”

A shot rang out, scaring a flock of birds off the neighboring building.

My name is Joshua Ludeker. I live in Kentucky with my wife and three kids. I
love to read and write in my spare time. I have had a short story published in
SNM Horror Magazine.


Unknown said...

Got to like the way the plot twists in this one. And I like the ambiguity at the end.
Good story. ~Shar

Anonymous said...

Josh I like the twists, but I don't like ambiguity. I need to know what happened, and can't leave it up to my own mind.

Thula7 said...

I like the ambiguity in the end here. As the reader, you just decide who you root for, and there's your end. I see this scene as a pan away from the roof, and toward the sky to show the birds. So as a short film, you wouldn't know whe died either. Nicely done.

Jen Steffen