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Live, Die

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Live fast, die young, thought Walter Palmer, sitting at the bar, sipping his cold, black coffee on this cold black night. The dilapidated diner he sat in was trying desperately not to become cold, and the nineteen-fifties style colour palette was trying desperately to avoid black, reds and blues once garish and gaudy, but now faded and failing.

Live fast, die young, he thought again. Well, it’s a bit late for that, isn't it? For indeed Walter Palmer was beyond the age it was acceptable to live fast, and he was now physically unable of dying young. He was one of the men who had left his best years behind him, like wet shoes taken off at the door out of politeness more than anything to spare a floor that needed no help getting dirty. Never married, never had children, never thought until it was too late. He had been a jock in high-school, a party-crazed frat boy in college, and now, eking through his middle age, he had become nothing more than a list of memories to be remembered, lest anyone forget the time he had made out with Julie Miller in the back of a truck in a field somewhere. God forbid anyone forget the forgettable. It needed no help being forgotten.

He took another sip of his coffee. Colder, but no more black than it had been before. He looked at his surroundings. This place really had gone downhill since his youth. He used to come here on dates in his better days. The coffee was better then, the décor brighter, the taste in his mouth less bitter. He heard someone come in behind him. He didn't look up at him. Doesn't matter who it is, he thought. He looked anyway.

“Cup of coffee, please. Black,” said the man. Walter looked over to see a young man dressed in a letter-man jacket from the college he went to, sporting the haircut he used to, and the confidence he wished he could remember.

It looked exactly like him, minus a couple decades of sadness.

Live fast, die young, he thought again. He wasn't sure if he was seeing things or not, but he wasn't going to waste this opportunity. Live, die, he thought to himself. He had obviously been presented with two options. That is, if he wasn't hallucinating. He could either let his younger self go free and have fun during the best years of the life the young, bright-eyed Walter Palmer had, full of dreams and hope, or he could end the life of the cold, black Walter Palmer sipping his cold, black, coffee at the bar. He never thought of suicide, not once. His life felt like a duty, a debt he had to repay to some cruel smiling god somewhere. But now….

He finished his coffee, left some money on the counter and went outside. His choice had been made.

---

Cecil Jackson sat at the counter of the bar, sipping his coffee. He had just left a party at a friend’s, driven home all his drunk buddies and sat now, having the coffee he had always needed to get to sleep. It was getting pretty late now. He should get going. He paid for his coffee, only half-finished, still hot, and went to the door.

Cecil saw the man that had been sitting two seats down from him at the bar digging around in the glove box in his car for something. He would normally have helped him out, but he got a strange feeling from this guy. He felt like he shouldn't be messing with him. He faced his car and decided not to worry about it as he heard the car door slam behind him anyway.

He went through his pockets, looking for his keys thinking about where they and everything else that was lost went, taking in a few minutes of silence before he noticed something.

He hadn't heard the man’s car start up.

“Live,” he heard behind him. He spun quickly to see the man, about forty now, looking like an older version of what he believed himself to look like. The man was holding a knife, his prize from the glove box.

“Die,” he said now. He took a sharp step forward and put the sharper knife in between his ribs. How little this seemed to matter now to Cecil. He should be panicking, but all he was thinking out was the curious feeling of blood filling his lungs.

The man gently lowered Cecil to the ground, and walked away. The last words he heard were in the gravelly voice of the man, now looking up to the sky and shouting.

He said “I HAVE MADE MY CHOICE.” Cecil felt himself getting sleepy. Must be the coffee…

---

The diner, now deserted, acted as if someone was there, TV still on, lights still on, OPEN sign still blinking. There was no point in turning it off. It was unlikely enough that two people had shown up this late at this decrepit old wreck. The server, noticing the events taking place outside all too late, went with the police as a witness to describe the older man who had suddenly and inexplicably snapped and killed the younger with a knife. He would be facing life in prison. When the police tried to question him, he seemed thoroughly surprised that what was happening was indeed happening. He said, “I should have known it was too good to be true,” and nothing afterwards.

On the counter sat two cups. One empty, and one full of coffee, cold and black in the cold black night.

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