Wasn’t there a moment …

The rope is rough around your neck. You can feel exactly how it will break you; you understand it with a precision that the living are not normally granted.

You lick your lips. Stupid thing to do, isn’t it, when you’re about to die? But your lips are dry, and for this too-brief moment, you’re alive. You feel the cracks keenly, and feeling them pushes back the moment when feeling stops. You want so much to live. You have never wanted so much to live.

“Wasn’t there a moment,” you ask. Your voice falters and breaks. “Wasn’t there a moment when we could have said no?”

“Chosen something else,” says your companion. His voice is desperate; the gallows creak beneath his shifting weight. “Isn’t there something else we could have done? Something else, so that it didn’t have to end this way—”

The player looks up at you. His hand is on the lever.

You have been here before.