Upon a railroad bridge, a man is about to be hanged. His hands are tied behind his back, and a rope around his neck. He stands up on a platform constructed of loose boards. Members of the Army during the Civil War are also present on the bridge. Some are busy doing the preparations and some are guarding the bridge and the area around it. The man about to be hanged, is a civilian. As the soldiers prepare for the excution, the civilian notices all of the life and colors of the nature around him.
All the preparations are done, only a few seconds are left for the order to be given for the hanging. The civilian closes his eyes and thinks about his wife and children. He remembers her smiling and walking towards him and his children (a son and a daughther) swinging and running around with smiles on their face too. This memory gives him a slight shiver. He then comes back to realiy and starts praying to god before the order is given. He is shivering, tears are falling down from his eyes and he it shows that he is really scared of dying, He is just waiting for a miracle to occur.
The order is given and the civilian has lost all hopes and then a miracle happens, the rope around his neck brakes and he falls right into the river below the bridge. He then gets his hopes back and he struggles to untie himself, he comes back to the surface and starts to swim really fast as he has to doudge all the bullets which are being shot at him by the members of the army surrounding the bridge. Lucky enough to dodge the bullets well he now out of the shooting range, but another danger awaits him. There is a deep drop of a waterfall that he is flowing into and because of the water currents being so strong he couldn’t pull himself out of it. He suprisingly survives the waterfall too and reaches the shore. His luck was unbeliveble and so he gets really happy and dances around near the shore. The firings are still there and so he starts running towards his house, which is a few miles away from the shore. He walks barefoot and all kinds of blisters are there on his foot he stuggles to reach home with a sense of fear in his heart. He then finally reaches home and runs towards his wife who is very happy to see him. With all the struggle he faced to get home, now it seems all worth it as he is finally meeting his loved one. He looks so relieved to finally see her and as they were about to kiss, he falls back to the ground.
It turns out that from the time the rope around his neck brke to the time he met his wife was all an illusion he created in his mind right when the order was given. In his illution when he fell down right when he was about to kiss his wife is when in reality he died. Notice how slow time has passed by for the civilian, it was only a matter of few seconds and so much happened in a few seconds for him in his own mind. It may have seemed a matter of few seconds for the army officers but for the civilian it was even longer than hours. This also shows us that time is different for everyone. When we are sad, anxious or nervous, for us time tends to slow down and when we are too engrossed in some work time passes by faster. This theory is called Time Dilation. This short story written by Sir Ambrose Bierce is a perfect example for the phrase – “Time is not a fixed unit for everyone.”