At precisely 8:54am on a crisp April morning, Ethan Finch lazily forced his eyelids open,
groaning as they crept lazily towards the alarm clock that was sitting precariously on the edge of his worn wooden bedside table.
Now the alarm clock was a fickle thing, it was one of the old Sony ones, gray with a midnight black snooze button that was pushed all too frequently on Saturday mornings.
Yet today was not a Saturday morning, in fact it was a school day and the alarm clock in question was having much trouble living up to its name.
Because even though it served its main purpose rather dutifully (for years it had consistently displayed the exact time in clear red text upon its digital surface) it seemed to have
much difficulty fulfilling the alarm part of its title.
This is deductable because apparently it was experiencing one or several malfunctions,
not waking up the previously mentioned seventeen year old boy the morning of his culminating Geography presentation that was worth no less that 20% of his final grade.
The one that was about to commence in sixteen minutes in his class that was a ten minute drive away.
When Ethan's droopy dark blue eyes-which ironically corresponded with the deep circles beneath them- finally got around to looking at his inefficient alarm clock his eyebrows came together
in momentary confusion, apart in terrified realisation, then back together again in a steely determination as he whipped back the covers.
He pulled on clothes that seemed to jump into his outstretched fingertips, grabbed a pack of Dentyne gum off his dresser,
shoved himself out of his room (using the worn wooden doorframe as leverage) and raced down the twelve stairs of his two story suburban home.
Assembling school supplies quickly, he received a painful paper cut on his right index finger which resulted in Mr. Finch releasing an eloquently constructed string of profanities.
Not wasting any more time to wallow in his fresh wound, he swiped his car keys off the dining room table, swept through the front hall, swung the front door open,
burst into the cold morning air -and realized he had no shoes.
Darting back inside, Ethan shoved his worn Nike sneakers onto his size 10 barefoot feet.
His surroundings became a blur as he ran to his car: a used Toyota that smelled oddly of a combination of Cheezies, cardboard and gym socks.
After several failed attempts, his shaking hands stuck the key in the ignition.
Then, with an expertise unusual in one who has only had his licence for two months, Ethan Finch squealed out of the driveway, leaning so far forward in anxiety,
his nose was almost touching the glossy windshield.
As he drove he noticed his reflection in the rear-view mirror and almost laughed had he not been terrified at the thought of what would happen if he was late. His teacher, his classmates...
he cringed at the mere thought of each individual's disappointed stare aimed at him as he stumbled late into class with no viable excuse.
No icy stare however, would compare to the stern look of utter disgust and disapproval he would get from his parents.
"A Finch, late?" His mother would exclaim shrilly.
His father would add to the Disappointment-Of-A-Son-Hate-Fest, "We thought you knew better, responsibility -"
"-is key. I know." Ethan would interrupt and roll his eyes.
The current Ethan's eyes glazed over as he imagined his father shouting his displeasure at such inexplicably outlandish behaviour from his young son; the one who could never quite measure up.
So far the seventeen year old had been fortunate, making every one of the green lights so far in his journey.
Sadly he did not make the fifth and wasted precious moments in the malicious gaze of a red eye that seemed to taunt him with each passing second.
After what seemed like an eternity the eye winked and gave him a fresh emerald gaze instead.
In the distance Ethan saw he was nearing the last set of lights he needed to overtake before he could swivel around the corner and into the student parking lot to his school.
A wave of relief washed over him. He was going to make it.
Suddenly the set of lights turned a threatening yellow.
"Don't. You. Dare." Ethan whispered roughly to himself and with all the strength he could muster slammed onto the gas pedal.
Now several things may have happened in that instant, but adversely the alternate outcomes all begin with "If only".
If only Ethan had wasted the precious seconds it took to realise that his father had left a practical note on the kitchen counter articulating the fact that he had received an email
from Ethan's teacher saying his presentation had been postponed, or how it was unusually dark outside for nine in the morning.
If only Ethan had had one instant to glance down at his car radio and notice the time.
If only he hadn't hurriedly decided to run that red light because he had noticed out of the corner of his eye the faded-red eight-wheeler about to go through a green one.
If only the radio station the truck driver was listening to hadn't started to play a song the man detested.
If only that truck driver had sat through the two minutes and nineteen seconds it took to listen to that song instead of averting his eyes for that one instant to change the station...
Zero. Off went the alarms.
Death once again took to his age old deed and with unjust, most untimely, well practiced hands succeeded in bringing about none of these "If only" endings.
Instead a seventeen year old male was reported dead at the scene one block away from his high school at 7:30am on a Tuesday morning.
Back home, his broken alarm clock read 8:54am.