The Choice

I’d never been in any trouble that I couldn’t sweet-talk my way out of.  Inheriting my Granddaddy’’s best features – blue eyes, dimples and charming smile – didn’t hurt.

Until now.

I don’t look like them, and that makes me a dangerous man.  The enemy had ambushed me from behind and dragged me from my lookout post.  I don’t remember what happened next, all I know is that I’m strapped to a plank, with my hands bound above my head, feet restrained.

One guard glares at me.  He stands to my left, holding a crude whip fashioned from a stick and a leather cord.  He’s not the one I fear.

On my right, another guard approaches holding a wad of dirty rags and a bucket of water.  “Tell where they stay,” the man says with a thick accent.

“I don’t know.”  I lie and he knows it.

“You choose.”  The man covers my face with the rags.

My heart pounds.  I feel seeping water; at first, cool on my skin, but then I can’t breathe.  It seems like five minutes pass, but from my training, I know it is less than one.  I also know I’ll get a few quick breaths before repeating.  The cloths lift.

“You talk now?”

I gasp.  “Bastards!”

He shrugs.  “You choose.”

My face is covered again.  More water.  Less breath.  Heavy weight – the lives of twenty comrades depend on my silence.

Water subsides.  Air burns down my throat, into my lungs.


I cough.

He smiles.  “You choose.”

My airways are blocked.  I know their main camp will be blown off the map tonight.  Retaliation will be brutal if anything happens to me.  John, our General – my Daddy’s cousin, told me that much.  The attack is classified information.  The promise of retribution, made in confidence, is a secret.

Rags lift.  I don’t want another breath.  I bite my tongue.  The metallic taste slides down my throat and gags me.

I feel nothing.

My choice.


I intentionally kept details vague as to the war or enemy involved because I wanted the focus to be on the soldier’s experience rather than the enemy.

I am thankful that my cousin is back on US soil after his second tour in Afghanistan and that he did not endure physical torture as depicted in the story.  I’m sure he bears scars we can’t see because of what he witnessed and fellow soldiers that didn’t come home.

This is my second entry in the Week Twenty-Four Trifecta Writing Challenge.  The instructions:  write a 33-word to 133-word story using “confidence” with the following definition:

Confidence (noun):

a: a relation of trust or intimacy <took his friend into his confidence>

b : reliance on another’s discretion <their story was told in strictest confidence>

c : support especially in a legislative body <vote of confidence>

37 thoughts on “The Choice

  1. xoEvelynOrtizHasSpoken April 25, 2012 / 3:21 PM

    Wow, this was intense. I am glad your cousin didn’t suffer like the person you depicted. Thanks for sharing. && I am glad you focused on the soldier & not the enemy.

    • jannatwrites April 25, 2012 / 7:18 PM

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, Evelyn. It’s more fun to write light-hearted stories, but sometimes a somber one needs to be written 🙂

  2. philosophermouseofthehedge April 25, 2012 / 4:00 PM

    Intense is an understatement. Vividly described. Excellently done.
    (Please thank your cousin for going for us.)

    • jannatwrites April 25, 2012 / 7:20 PM

      Thanks, Phil. I wanted readers to feel like they were right there living it…hope it worked!

      I will thank my cousin when I see him – next weekend, I hope. He’s got friends to visit, you know…we’re just family 🙂

  3. Jennifer Worrell April 25, 2012 / 4:08 PM

    Powerful and terrifying…thank your cousin on our behalf!

    • jannatwrites April 25, 2012 / 7:21 PM

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, Jennifer. I appreciate you stopping by!

  4. nrhatch April 25, 2012 / 7:03 PM

    How awful ~ the images depicted, not your writing.

    Glad your cousin is home.

    • jannatwrites April 25, 2012 / 7:42 PM

      We exhaled a sigh of releif when he got home…until he bough a motorcycle. Now we’re holding our breath a bit 🙂

      Thanks for reading the story, Nancy. It is a terrible situation.

  5. markwindham April 25, 2012 / 7:09 PM

    Excellent take on the prompt (b), well done.

    • jannatwrites April 25, 2012 / 7:43 PM

      Thanks, Mark! Appreciate you stopping by to read it.

  6. Libby April 25, 2012 / 8:07 PM

    This was well written! It was a good story and the description made you feel as though you were there. 🙂

    • jannatwrites April 25, 2012 / 8:15 PM

      Thanks, Libby! I hope you didn’t lose your breath 🙂 I appreciate you stopping by to read and comment!

  7. pattisj April 25, 2012 / 10:26 PM

    What an awful feeling. You described it very well.

    • jannatwrites April 25, 2012 / 10:31 PM

      Thanks, Patti. Just guessing (thankfully) I appreciate you taking time to read/comment 🙂

    • jannatwrites April 26, 2012 / 5:09 PM

      Thanks for giving my story a read, Kelly!

  8. Sandra April 26, 2012 / 7:23 AM

    This is really a soldier’s worst nightmare, and really a great look at the word ‘choice’. So powerful, Janna! It must have been quite painful to write this!

    • jannatwrites April 26, 2012 / 5:11 PM

      I wondered if anyone would think of that, Sandra. Not really a ‘choice’ is it? It is certainly easier to write the light-hearted ones, but once the idea came to mind, I had to write this 🙂

  9. Debbie April 26, 2012 / 8:07 AM

    Powerful writing, Janna. Thank God every day for our brave fighting men and women! Glad your cousin has returned, safe and sound.

    • jannatwrites April 26, 2012 / 5:13 PM

      Thanks, Debbie! We’re glad he’s back too…can’t imagine how life was over there for the last several months.

  10. Gina April 26, 2012 / 9:31 AM

    Wow! Intense stuff here. Happy for your cousin’s safe return. Liked the ending. The choice.

    • jannatwrites April 26, 2012 / 5:14 PM

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the story, Gina. Not much of a choice, though!

  11. Annabelle April 26, 2012 / 4:07 PM

    That was really powerful. Scary to think how real it could be, too.

    • jannatwrites April 26, 2012 / 5:17 PM

      The fact it does happen is scary indeed. War isn’t kind, but it would be nice if war didn’t involve torture. Thanks for your visit, Annabelle!

  12. Dana April 26, 2012 / 4:39 PM

    This choked me up a bit while reading (from holding my breath!) but WOW!! Thank you for this, Janna – such an awesome reminder of how fortunate we are to have such brave soldiers protecting our families. And so happy to read of your cousin’s safe return from battle, please give him my heartfelt appreciation and “Welcome home!” ❤

    • jannatwrites April 26, 2012 / 5:20 PM

      Funny you mentioned holding your breath, because I did that when I wrote it. (Not for long, of course, because I didn’t have wet cloths over my face.)

      Thanks for your comment on my cousin, Dana – we’re relieved he’s back 🙂

  13. Trifecta (@trifectawriting) April 26, 2012 / 10:35 PM

    The intensity of this subject matter is well conveyed. It’s hard to think of how often similar situations are probably occurring.
    Thanks for participating and please come back for the weekend prompt.

  14. Jester Queen April 27, 2012 / 7:10 AM

    I felt so passionately connected to this lookout, braving the worst kind of horrors to protect his comrades.

    • jannatwrites April 27, 2012 / 7:44 PM

      Thanks for your comment/compliment, Jester Queen! I’m glad you felt something for the character.

  15. The Gal Herself April 27, 2012 / 9:20 AM

    Powerful! You were wise to keep ideology out of it. This is about humanity, not nation or politics. You made your point well!

    • jannatwrites April 27, 2012 / 7:45 PM

      Thanks for stopping by, Gal! The last thing I wanted to do was perpetuate hatred for a country or race by portraying them as the ‘enemy’.

    • jannatwrites April 27, 2012 / 7:46 PM

      Thanks for the huge compliment, Lisa! I appreciate you taking time to read it 🙂

  16. cuhome April 29, 2012 / 7:55 AM

    This had my heart pounding, feeling suffocated–ergh! Nicely written, drew me into the feelings and thoughts this soldier was having!

    • jannatwrites April 29, 2012 / 11:07 AM

      Hope you caught your breath, Janet! Thanks for reeading and sharing your thoughts.

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