Short Story Fiction
The Hardest Decision
Scott A. Gese

The fire alarm set off a series of events that would end with one final decision. One that would change the lives of two people forever.

The Hardest DecisionOzzie Stern/Unsplash

The fire was getting close. The air was becoming thick with smoke. He was beginning to feel the heat of the flames below.

Adam Tipton‘s office’ was located on the fifty-first floor of a Chicago high rise. He was beginning to get nervous as he looked into the faces of his coworkers. He could feel it deep in his bones. Panic was about to set in.

The day had started out like any other. Adam’s six o’clock alarm woke him from a sound sleep. After hitting the snooze button twice he rolled out of bed. He paid the price for the extra sleep. Now he was running late. He decided to skip breakfast but did make his usual stop at the local coffee kiosk for a triple shot Americano.

Adam had been at his desk for a couple of hours when the first alarm went off. Several of his coworkers had immediately panicked and sprinted for the stairs. They didn’t know for sure if the alarm was for real but they weren’t going to take any chances. Once they hit the stairwell they knew for sure. It was already beginning to fill with smoke from the fire below.

They decided to head for the roof not only for the promise of fresh air but also for the off chance they might get picked up by a rescue chopper.

The fire had started just three floors below and was quickly spreading out of control.

Ever since the 9/11 Twin Towers event, Adam had been paranoid about getting caught in the building if it should ever catch on fire. And now his worst nightmare had come true. He recalled seeing the images of people falling to their death after they had jumped from the tower windows. He often wondered if those people just took the easy way out or if they had some delusion of possibly surviving the fall.

Several of Adam’s coworkers had smuggled parachutes into the office and hid them in their file cabinets. Adam had done the same. He had taken a few lessons so if it ever came down to it, he was prepared to jump, and to survive.

Two of his friends had put on their chutes and were frantically breaking out a nearby window. As soon as they succeeded, they jumped.

There was a woman in the office. Her name was Ann. She was a mother of two young children. She sat at the desk next to Adam. He and Ann had become good friends. She was in a panic. She was trying to call her husband but the phones were not connecting and now she was sitting at her desk crying, not knowing what to do.

Adam felt bad for her. She had no way out.

Once the fire had reached his floor, Adam made the decision to strap his chute on. He walked over to the window his friends had broke out. He wanted to say good-by to Ann, but couldn’t get himself to do it.

He was just about to jump when she called out to him. “Please take me with you!”

Adam paused. He could have just ignored her and jumped. If he had done that, his conscience would have never let him live with himself.

“It’s a small chute. I don’t know if it will carry both of us,” he replied.

The office lights began to flicker.

Ann was crying hysterically. “Please, please take me with you.”

Adam stood frozen. He had to decide if he should take the chance.

Against his better judgment he took off the chute and quickly strapped it onto Ann. “I have a better grip. We’re both going to jump. Either we make it or we don’t.”

Adam grabbed hold of Ann and they jumped out the window together. He pulled the cord and the chute opened.

It quickly became apparent he was right. The weight of the two of them was too much. They were falling way too fast. If they hit the ground at this speed they would both be dead.

Adam needed to make another decision and there was precious little time.

It was the hardest decision of his life, but he knew it was the right thing to do.

He let go.

© Copyright 2023 by Scott A. Gese All Rights Reserved.

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