It was attached to a fluorescent light holder above his head and the plastic panel fell to the level of his knees. These clues include the preposterous nature of his escape. The liberal military code makes provision for hanging many kinds of persons, and gentlemen are not excluded. Peyton struggles to escape the ropes and manages to swim downstream. The commandant has issued an order, which is posted everywhere, declaring that any civilian caught interfering with the railroad, its bridges, tunnels, or trains will be summarily hanged.
A ring of paper clips closely encircled his neck. There was something uncanny in the revelation. In few moments he was flung upon the gravel at the foot of the left bank of the stream - the southern bank - and behind a projecting point which concealed him from his enemies. Some are completing the preparations and some are guarding the bridge. A sergeant stands at the opposite end of the same board as Farquhar. At the signal from his captain, he will step off the board.
This is a quick summary of An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce. Evidently this was no vulgar assassin. His whole body was racked and wrenched with an insupportable anguish! All that day he travelled, laying his course by the rounding sun. He finds a road leading to his home, passes out, and wakes up in front of his home. Peyton Farquhar thinks of many things as he stands on this bridge, with hands behind his back, wrists bound with cords, as he stares at the water 20 feet below, with a noose around his neck. Ready for a Hanging A teacher stood upon a student desk in northern Alabama, looking down into the dingy classroom carpet twenty feet below. No; I will not be shot; that is not fair.
As he is about to clasp her he feels a stunning blow upon the back of the neck; a blinding white light blazes all about him with a sound like the shock of a cannon - then all is darkness and silence! The other bank of the stream was open ground - a gentle slope topped with a stockade of vertical tree trunks, loopholed for rifles, with a single embrasure through which protruded the muzzle of a brass cannon commanding the bridge. Overhead, as he looked up through this rift in the wood, shone great golden stars looking unfamiliar and grouped in strange constellations. The two sentinels fired again, independently and ineffectually. One evening while Fahrquhar and his wife were sitting on a rustic bench near the entrance to his grounds, a gray-clad soldier rode up to the gate and asked for a drink of water. As he shook his head free from the commotion of the smitten water he heard the deflected shot humming through the air ahead, and in an instant it was cracking and smashing the branches in the forest beyond.
He has probably already given the command to fire at will. Then, the soldiers remove the plank he is standing on and he drops quickly. He felt his head emerge; his eyes were blinded by the sunlight; his chest expanded convulsively, and with a supreme and crowning agony his lungs engulfed a great draught of air, which instantly he expelled in a shriek! They were in silhouette against the blue sky. Annotation for this story is ideal for advanced students reading it for the first time. It was attached to a stout cross-timber above his head and the slack feel to the level of his knees.
He looked a moment at his 'unsteadfast footing,' then let his gaze wander to the swirling water of the stream racing madly beneath his feet. On one side of the stream is a forest, on the other a fort. They hurt his ear like the trust of a knife; he feared he would shriek. The second section contains additional background information along with a flashback. He had not known that he lived in so wild a region. The black bodies of the trees formed a straight wall on both sides, terminating on the horizon in a point, like a diagram in a lesson in perspective. Suddenly he heard a sharp report and something struck the water smartly within a few inches of his head, spattering his face with spray.
A piece of dancing driftwood caught his attention and his eyes followed it down the current. How slowly it appeared to move! But his disobedient hands gave no heed to the command. He had come to the surface facing down the stream; in a moment the visible world seemed to wheel slowly round, himself the pivotal point, and he saw the bridge, the fort, the soldiers upon the bridge, the captain, the sergeant, the two privates, his executioners. He gave the struggle his attention, as an idler might observe the feat of a juggler, without interest in the outcome. A rope closely encircled his neck.
God help me, I cannot dodge them all! He was now in full possession of his physical senses. He unclosed his eyes and saw again the water below him. He noted the prismatic colors in all the dewdrops upon a million blades of grass. At the bottom of the steps she stands waiting, with a smile of ineffable joy, an attitude of matchless grace and dignity. Its recurrence was regular, but as slow as the tolling of a death knell.
They tore it away and thrust it fiercely aside, its undulations resembling those of a water snake. By diving I could evade the bullets and, swimming vigorously, reach the bank, take to the woods and get away home. The arrangement commended itself to his judgement as simple and effective. Beyond one of the sentinels nobody was in sight; the railroad ran straight away into a forest for a hundred yards, then, curving, was lost to view. Ah, that was a fine endeavor! Not so much as the barking of a dog suggested human habitation.
He was still sinking, for the light became fainter and fainter until it was a mere glimmer. A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking down into the swift water twenty feet below. Circumstances of an imperious nature, which it is unnecessary to relate here, had prevented him from taking service with that gallant army which had fought the disastrous campaigns ending with the fall of Corinth, and he chafed under the inglorious restraint, longing for the release of his energies, the larger life of the soldier, the opportunity for distinction. My home, thank God, is as yet outside their lines; my wife and little ones are still beyond the invader's farthest advance. Bierce draws on his experience as a Civil War soldier he fought for the North to create a realistic military atmosphere. As he rose to the surface, gasping for breath, he saw that he had been a long time under water; he was perceptibly farther downstream - nearer to safety. The water, touched to gold by the early sun, the brooding mists under the banks at some distance down the stream, the fort, the soldiers, the piece of drift - all had distracted him.