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An excerpt from
Second Chance
by Chet Williamson
© 1995 Chet Williamson. All rights reserved.


Fall, 1969

Second Chance by Chet WilliamsonThe beam of light was as thin as the edge of a razor. Only by constantly moving the taped-over flashlight back and forth could she form any idea of what the hallway was like.

She had an impression of worn floorboards, of institutional green trim framing the door-ways on either side. But the boy ahead of her did not stop at any of them. He just kept walking slowly, and so softly that she did not hear a footfall, only the occasional creak of a tired board.

Tired. The whole building was old and tired. It would die easily, come down like the mess of ancient boards and shingles that it was. She imagined the explosion, and the building groaning, giving a massive sigh of wood, a yawn of rusty nails, and then dying, so happy to rest, to cease from holding so much ignorance and cruelty in its walls.

We had to destroy the building to save it.

She snickered at the thought, and Keith stopped.

"What?" he said. His voice was tense and brusque.

"Nothing."

"Then be quiet. We're here."

She heard the knob of a door turn, and waggled her light ahead of her so she could see him push it open.

Jesus. They were there.

For a moment she thought about Woody, thought that she should have listened to him, stayed in her dorm, tried to talk Keith out of this, even turned him in before he could do it. But she hadn't done any of those things.

Instead she was here in the dark with a boy whose sanity she sometimes questioned, and, as a result, she now questioned her own.

But dammit, dammit, it was for a good cause, a violent means justified by a desired end. And no one would be hurt.

That was what she had to remember. No one would be hurt.

"Come on," he said. "Right in the middle. . ."

She followed him to the center of the largest classroom, shining the sliver of light around the room. She saw an American flag, a blackboard with x's and arrows on it, another flag that she thought might be the flag of the Army.

"Drop your light, Tracy!"

Keith's hiss echoed through the room like the burning gunpowder she had seen and heard in movies. But they weren't using gunpowder. There would be no sizzling fuse. Just a clock. A clock and some wires and sticks of dynamite. She hadn't asked where he had gotten it, nor where he had learned to make a bomb. She just hoped that he had learned well.

She dropped her light at his command, but the harsh order annoyed her. "You going to put it in the center?" she whispered.

"Sure. Why?"

"Put it against a wall, and it'll at least take that wall out. This way you might end up with just a hole in the roof."

"Shit, there's enough dynamite in here to take the whole roof off. When that's gone, the walls'll fall down, don't worry. Now come here."

She went grudgingly, bothered more by his attitude than by what they were about to do. "What?"

"Hold these two wires." He held his own flashlight under his arm, shining its line of light onto a section of the crude device. "And don't let them touch."

She wedged her own flashlight under her arm, and took the wires in her gloved hands. "You mean like this?" she said.

She brought the wires close together, but one over the top of the other, so that they were still an inch apart. From Keith's position, however, it looked as though they were actually touching. This, she thought, will wipe that smartass smirk from his face.

She expected him to leap back, or to gasp, or to freeze. What she didn't expect was that he would bring up his hand between hers in an attempt to separate the wires, bring up his hand so that she accidentally and actually let the thin lines of metal make contact with one another.

"N... " he started to say as he moved, but he never finished saying No, and she thought that was so strange, since she had time to think about so many things as the bomb exploded in their hands, to think about fire and pain and dying, and most of all, before the blast tore into her arms, her chest, her brain, to think about Woody, God, Woody, and how much she loved him and how she would love him forev ...

© 1995 Chet Williamson. All rights reserved.


Chet WilliamsonSigned copies of Second Chance (now in its 2nd hardcover printing) are available directly from Chet Williamson for $15.00 USD postpaid (list price is $25), and Chet will be happy to inscribe the book for you. Send check or money order to:

Chet Williamson
605 Mount Gretna Road
Elizabethtown, PA 17022

 


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