Would You Turn The Key?
Which way would you go? (12/2002; ultra short)
The red light flashed on the gray wall. The klaxons rang, painfully loudly. The two men instinctively turned and looked at one another in disbelief. Or perhaps in terror. The light and the siren meant only one thing – fire the missiles.
The men reluctantly removed their operations manuals and strained to perform the steps listed. It was finally time for the two final steps. Steps that would lead to the destruction of the world as they knew it. But one of the men began having doubts.
“Turn the key, Dmitri.”
“I… I can’t, sir.”
“I said, turn the key comrade Kasimov. That is an order.” Ivan was shouting now, spittle flying from his mouth.
“I’m sorry sir. I just can’t do it,” Dmitri painfully responded. Then correcting himself, he added, “I won’t do it.”
Before Ivan Petrov, a Lieutenant in the Russian Army, could react, he saw Dmitri remove his pistol from its holster.
“No –” Dmitri began to scream.
After the sound of the shot receded, Ivan looked over at the bloody mess that just seconds before was the 19 year-old handsome face of Dmitri Eugene Kasimov, Private Second Class.
Dmitri couldn’t live with the shame of disobeying a direct order from a superior. Either that or he couldn’t bear the thought of the consequences of his actions – or inaction as the case may be. Ivan would never know which was the reason Dmitri had taken his own life. It didn’t matter to him. He had a job to do.
Ivan turned the key and then entered the launch codes.
“What have I done?” Ivan immediately thought to himself. “I’ve just committed an act of mass murder, killing people I’ve never even met. People I might even like if I had the chance to meet them.” He’d just taken an action that twenty minutes later would cause the deaths of over two million people.
With the brutal reality of that thought, Ivan removed his gun from its holster and after a shot to his temple, joined his comrade on the cold cement floor of their missile silo, a hundred feet below the frozen Russian countryside.