These were dangerous times. Her father had warned her, and he was right. Her eyes moved from the glowing numbers that were quickly counting down to zero to four wires. Only four. It wasn’t as though there were multiple wires tangled together. It shouldn’t be that difficult. Which one to clip? Which one to stop the bomb?
She reached back into her memory. She was pretty sure the middle two, the white and the yellow wires would do nothing. They didn’t have enough power one way or the other. A bead of sweat trickled from her hairline and hit her eye. She wiped it away with a shaking hand. What was it she had heard back when something like this wasn’t real, when times were safe and life was good? Which wire needed to be cut to prevent the current from setting off an explosion? Was it red, you’re dead or blue, you’re through? Red, blue, red, blue, hmm. Thirty-eight seconds. She was pretty sure it was the blue one. Yes! That was it! Except there wasn’t a red or blue wire. There were only purple and orange wires left.
She hoped it was the purple one. The purple wire looked pretty sketchy, but what wire didn’t? It wasn’t about pretty, it was about power. Thirty seconds. She bit her lip. A nagging intuition told her the orange wire was the one to clip to stop the bomb. But the orange one hardly even looked like a wire! Shouldn’t the wires look at least similar? She peered more closely. Ugh. It had something on it she didn’t like. It was sticky and smelled to high heaven. If she cut it, she might get some of the sticky stuff on her hands, and who knew if the stench would fill the air and for how long?
She looked around her and wondered about the power of the explosion. If the bomb went off, the little church on the corner could be blown to bits or maybe compromised by the blast and fall bit by bit through the years. Of course, churches didn’t need buildings, so did it matter? Twenty seconds. The newborn cradled on her mother’s lap on a nearby bench would be killed. But who knew what the infant’s mother was like anyway? Maybe she would be spared a lifetime of sorrow. Maybe it would be okay if she died so young. A couple of army buddies’ laughter momentarily punched the air and she shifted her gaze. The singular reporter nearby, the one who refused to march lockstep with the others, would be a goner. Their eyes locked for a brief moment and she looked away. Ten seconds. Her eyes searched the street. Would the people walking and chatting and dining and shopping even know what hit them?
She looked again at the orange wire. No. She couldn’t bring herself to touch it. No one would know she had had this chance to stop the bomb anyway. Why did it have fall on her shoulders? Five seconds. If the orange wire would actually stop the bomb, and she couldn’t be certain that it would . . . but no. Any consequence was better than clipping orange. She just DID NOT want anything to do with the orange wire. It was a matter of principle. She squinted up at the sun, then clipped the yellow wire with one second to spare.
And the sky grew dark with dust and debris while a deafening sound filled the air.