Jennifer Seeger stared at the gun pointed at her face in a darkened movie theater.
The 22-year-old had two choices: Stand there and die, or make a run for it.
She made a split-second decision and dived into a row at the Century Aurora 16 multiplex, tucking herself under the seats.
The gunman shot into the row, and then into the row behind Seeger. Bullet casings, burning hot, dropped around her.
Play dead, she told people as the shooting continued. He won't shoot people he thinks are already dead.
In the movies, violence is coordinated. Explosions are perfectly timed. Gunshots ring out clearly. Bodies fall slowly.
But when violence strikes in real life, it is chaotic and often muffled.
That's the scene that unfolded early Friday morning, shortly after midnight, when a gunman opened fire at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, during a screening of the new Batman sequel.
In the few minutes it took the gunman to unload hundreds of rounds, according to police estimates, nearly everyone inside Theater No. 9 would make a life-or-death decision -- sometimes with terrifying results.
The theaters of the Century 16 multiplex were filled with hard-core fans, many of whom bought tickets weeks earlier for the 12:05 a.m. premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises." Many wore costumes that emulated their favorite characters in the DC Comics franchise.
In the front of the theater, Seeger and a friend took seats in the second row, close to the screen. Emma Goose, 19, and her friends arrived late and were forced to take separate seats close to the front, also near the screen.
The gunman was there, too. He bought a ticket at the door and took a seat near the emergency exit door, according to police.
'Oh my God'
The movie was in its first minutes and most of the moviegoers didn't appear to notice the exit door open and then only partially close.
Authorities believe it was then that the gunman sneaked out to his car parked in the rear of the theater to pick up weapons and don a gas mask and tactical gear, including a ballistic helmet and protective gear for his legs, throat and groin.
It was shortly after 12:35 a.m. when Seeger first saw the man wearing a gas mask and toting weapons enter the theater through the emergency exit door.
He looked like "a SWAT man," decked out head-to-toe in black, Seeger thought.
It must be part of the show, she reasoned, an added attraction on the opening night of one of the most highly anticipated movies of the year.
Goose thought the same thing.
In one hand, the man held a hissing canister, they said. In the other, a rifle.
Seeger watched him as he lobbed the canister into the audience. It made a loud popping sound, witnesses say.
He then pointed the rifle toward the ceiling, firing several rounds.
In that moment, Seeger knew it was not an act. So, too, did Goose.
"Oh my God, this is really happening," Goose thought, as she went to the floor.