You are being held at gunpoint, and your assailant says you have 10 seconds to make him/her change their mind about shooting you. What do you say?


A sturdy, balding man presses the gun to my forehead. I am on my knees in the middle of my bedroom, wearing only a night chemise and underwear. My dark blonde hair hangs in streaks across my wet cheeks. I know exactly why this man is here. I know exactly who he is: he is a psychopath.

His voice is a silky whisper:

“Let’s play a game, sweetie. You’ve ten seconds to make me change my mind about creating a tunnel through your beautiful blonde head… so pretty bunny, what do you say?”

He chuckles malevolently:



As a writer I have control over the fate of this unfortunate woman, Amy. If I’d choose to tell this story as a true story, this is how I would do it:

  1. Amy wanted to die since life for her was a living hell anyway, considering that her husband treated her as his punching bag because he can’t be asked to go to the gym. So she just closes her eyes and waits for the ending ‘Bang!’
  2. When the man reaches “Three” (seconds pass in slow-motion in a situation like this) Amy decides she wants to live. The man’s eyes gleam with despicable pleasure and a broad grin spreads across his greasy face.
  3. Cold droplets of sweat tumble down Amy’s forehead. She has to say something that will either shock or somehow divert the man from her. “Your socks are on fire” or “Your slit is open” are the only things that pop in her mind. Stupid. Her time is running out. She thinks about telling him a story, Scheherazade-style. Amy’s shoulders drop. She whispers in a hoarse voice: “I want to be cremated. I want you or anyone else to take my ashes to the Cape of Good Hope, in South Africa and release them over the ocean “. She lifts her head and closes her eyes, picturing the place. “The wind there is the strongest in the world, it will carry me everywhere and show me the world. I have saved some money; they are hidden in my lingerie box in the wardrobe. Use them to take me to the Cape.”
  4. The man laughs and shoots Amy.


Amy has a heart attack and flops dead at the man’s feet.

The reality can be boring and predictable, but I am a writer and my mind does not agree with the concepts of ‘boring and predictable’. Here is an alternative version to the story:

Sometimes an occasion is so terrifying that there is an overflow of adrenaline through the body. Something quite extraordinary happened at that point without Amy realizing: a river of adrenaline was flowing through her lungs, which made them stronger than any lungs on Earth. No cheetah or whale lungs could compete with Amy’s lungs at that moment.

Amy chewed and chewed on her bubble-gum, trying to calm down. She wrapped the tip of her tongue with the rubbery gum and blew. At first, a blue swelling appeared from between Amy’s lips. The swelling expanded and expanded and expanded until a balloon the size of the man’s head was poking out Amy’s lips. All at once, Amy knew what to do.  She hunched over to hide the sphere and blew harder and harder, the balloon grew and grew, without exploding. On the contrary, the more Amy blew, the stronger the rubbery gum seemed to get.



The end can be decided by you.

Yes. You. The reader.


PS: Excuse my sudden decision to leave Amy in your hands but mom is calling me to dinner. Bye, bye.



PPS: My version: Amy spun around and only just managed to catch the man’s terrorised expression before the bullet dug through the man’s forehead and exited at the opposite end. The man fell at Amy’s feet.

Years later Amy would describe this moment as a miracle.

“What must have happened”, she told me when we met, “was that the bullet ricocheted off the rubbery surface of the balloon…  That is the only explanation that I have been able to find, maybe you’ll have a better one”


PPS: A major inspiration for this story is The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar by Roald Dahl. I have first met Dahl’s writing in my childhood, gobbling up his famous children’s books and since then read everything I could get my hands on written by him including his lesser known adult short-stories.



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