i had to choose
Written By: Amanda Luciano
It was like time stood still, i could see the water droplets frozen in the air waiting to meet their untimely fate when they finally hit the pavement. I for a moment thought i could see my heart beating in front of me. I had no idea how to comprehend what was happening and in this moment of clarity i realized that it wasn't as if time stood still, it had.
I slowly rose to my feet to assess the situation. I was on a crowded street, an outdoor shopping mall, i had been Christmas shopping. I was frustrated because it was raining. It NEVER rains in Las Vegas and the day i went out to get my shopping list taken care of it decided to rain. I had just left the toy store on the corner that was locally owned, i loved the setup in there. The walls were packed too tight and though it was a small place it seemed endless because the toys painting the walls all the way to the ceiling.
You see, my significant other loved legos and they carried the new stuff as well as older sets that were no longer in production. We had been in the shop before and he had his eyes on this set for awhile but it was an expensive Star Wars set and wasn't really fitting into our humble budget. I had saved up to make sure that he got it on Christmas morning. And after a gracious arrangement with the owner to pay it off i finally had it. My boyfriend was my world, he loved me the way that you wish somebody would. We did everything together and i was in the business of putting a smile on his face in anyway that i could. I thought this would be a great surprise.
Which brings me to the street corner outside.
It was just barely dark outside, raining hard enough to be a nuisance but not nearly as bad as other places I'm sure. We rarely have very serious rain here. I had slipped on the slick sidewalk outside the store and that was the last thing i remembered. It was a flash, like the world went black and when it came back it was paused in a horrific scene. My body lay in the middle of the street, shopping bags strewn across the corner. It took a closer look to identify little lego pieces in the asphalt. I thought for a moment i might be dead or maybe i was dreaming. How i wish i had been dreaming...
I walked carefully into the street to look at my body, the blood coming from my mouth had just began to pool in the street and my eyes looked like they were fixated on another planet. As i began to process everything i suddenly felt bile rising in my throat and swallowed hard. There must be something here i needed to see, why was i seeing this? Is this what hell is like? I came full circle to the other side of the small street and looked around at a wider picture.
I saw a car diagonally stopped in the middle of the road in front of me, I had gathered it hit me. I saw the horrified looks on other peoples faces around me. I kept surveying the area searching for something that would make sense. I didn't recognize the plates on the car or the driver for that matter. I didn't recognize any of the passer by's near me. I was becoming frustrated and started to wonder how long i had been here investigating what seemed to be my own death.
I noticed him only after i began to cry.
The owner of the toy shop. He was standing in the window watching me. I crossed the street cautiously, not sure what i had to be afraid of at this point, and entered the store.
"What's going on?" I managed to whimper. "Do you know what is happening here?"
He cracked a small smile and took a deep breath. "Where to begin my dear." He said as he walked around the corner. "You have a choice to make" He said softly.
"I don't understand, what choice?" I looked at him almost frantically. I felt like i had spent an eternity examining the scene outside and i just wanted answers.
"I can return you to the moment that you left my shop but there will be a price." The warm glow seemed to fade from his face now.
"What is the price?" I asked him quietly. I didn't like the direction this was going and every moment that passed i felt less safe.
"An equal price to your own life... you are dying in the middle of the street out there. It was an accident but you would have to choose to kill the person who was responsible for your death." He smiled then and it was unnatural.
I tried to find a reason that this was a bad idea and i know it sounds fucked up but i hadn't known the middle aged man in the car that i saw earlier and i was young. I wanted a family, i wanted a life.
I stared at the man for a long moment. "What's the catch?"
He laughed then, too smoothly and said "No catch, you will simply have to live with the consequences of that man dying."
I took a moment and thought, i thought hard about what the driver could possibly weigh into. Maybe he was a father, maybe he was important but I will tell you something. At the moment that it comes down to your life or the life of someone else i think that everyone might do the same thing. I was going to have to live with it and i would likely have no one believe me if i tried to explain the burden i would inevitably carry for it.
Maybe i would name my son after him or donate to the family.. I would make it up somehow but i couldn't give up on my own life. I was on my way to the life i wanted with the man of my dreams and I just wasn't ready to give up on it.
I looked at the shop owner sternly "Do it."
"Deal." He said quickly and before i could even muster another word i could feel raindrops on my face.
I took a deep breath and stood there in the doorway long enough to hear people annoyed with my blocking the entrance/exit to the store and also just long enough to see that car pass by me. I was okay.
For a moment.
I heard the brakes screech and then screams. The car had crashed not even three stores down into someone else. My heart dropped. This wasn't the deal. He said only the man responsible for my death.
I remembered then "No catch, you will simply have to live with the consequences of that man dying."
I dropped everything and ran towards the scene. There was a crowd forming around the person in the street and i struggled to make out what had happened. When i took a step back i locked eyes with my brother who was hysterical. I had rarely seen him cry and this was much more than that. I felt tears well up in my eyes and at that moment the shop owner was beside me. He wiped a stray tear from my cheek and whispered "You chose." And he was gone.
I pushed through the crowd to see my boyfriend on the asphalt. Blood pooling from his mouth and just a few feet away a small jewelry store bag. The ring box had barely fallen out of the bag.
I looked at my brother again and i dropped. He had died instantly there was nothing i could do. The man behind the wheel of the car had had a heart attack the moment he passed me and lost control of the car.
My brother had accompanied my boyfriend to the same mall to help him choose the ring.
Had i surveyed the frozen moment of my own death just a little father away from myself i would have seen them on the sidewalk just a few stores down. Had i been less selfish i wouldn't be here without him.
I tried to go back to the toy store.. or what i had thought was the toy store but there was nothing there. Turns out that space had been vacant since the mall opened.
I don't know who that man was but i need to find him.
I need to make a deal.