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Ambrose Bierce’s haunting 1890 short story An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge has a modern twist ending that never gets old. The narrative concerns the final thoughts of a Southern planter as he is being hanged by Union soldiers. In the brief period between the tightening of the noose and the actual breaking of his neck, something happens. The rope breaks and the man escapes. Or the man imagines he escapes. Which is it?
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An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge
By Ambrose Bierce
An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce. First published in 1890. This edition published 2016 by Enhanced Media. All rights reserved.
A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking down into the swift water twenty feet below. The man's hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope closely encircled his neck. It was attached to a stout cross-timber above his head and the slack fell to the level of his knees. Some loose boards laid upon the ties supporting the rails of the railway supplied a footing for him and his executioners—two private soldiers of the Federal army, directed by a sergeant who in civil life may have been a deputy sheriff. At a short remove upon the same temporary platform was an officer in the uniform of his rank, armed. He was a captain. A sentinel at each end of the bridge stood with his rifle in the position known as "support," that is to say, vertical in front of the left shoulder, the hammer resting on the forearm thrown straight across the chest—a formal and unnatural position, enforcing an erect carriage of the body. It did not appear to be the duty of these two men to know what was occurring at the center of the bridge; they merely blockaded the two ends of the foot planking that traversed it.
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