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Alabama plantation owner Peyton Farquhar literally has his neck in a noose in Part 1 of Ambrose Bierce's classic short story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." He has been caught trying to set fire to and destroy a railroad bridge over Owl Creek and is about to be hanged as a spy. Perhaps fittingly, he is to be hanged on the same bridge that he was trying to destroy, and he awaits his upcoming execution by Union army soldiers. Farquhar stands on one end of a loose plank on the bridge while a Federal sergeant stands on the other end. At his captain's signal, the sergeant will step off the plank, and the unsupported plank will fall, leaving Farquhar to be hanged by the rope attached to wooden supports above. Time slows for Farquhar, who notices the "sluggish stream" below and an extremely loud noise--like a "blacksmith's hammer upon the anvil"--that turns out to be the ticking of his own watch. Death seems inevitible, and he thinks one final time of his wife and children. Yet Farquhar still has hope:
"If I could free my hands," he thought, "I might throw off the noose and spring into the stream. By diving I could evade the bullets and, swimming vigorously, reach the bank, take to the woods and get away home."
As Farquhar awaits his imminent death, the sergeant receives the order to step aside
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