The Exam

A short story.


1. The Exam


                 The hands of a clock, twitching, twitching, twitching, an endless, hypnotic swirl that haunts my dreams. My hands. They jerk, jittering my pencil along the paper, giving it a jagged, hasty appearance. My palms stick to the table and when I summon the strength to lift my frail arms, they reveal the expected sweaty handprint. My head is a card tower; so meticulous, the slightest error will bring it tumbling down. The eerie silence is fractured by the occasional wail of misery or a piercing shriek of chairs. It brings an uneasy feeling to the room, one of enclosure, one of apprehensiveness, one of burden. My feet tap the chair in front of me, an anxious pattern that brings the stare of my peers. I have disturbed the peace.  

                  When people think of stress, they think of late nights, tedious work, or bitten fingernails. But it is nothing like that.

                  My heart is stampeded by emotions, causing me to clutch my ribs in anguish. The feet clamber their way to my stomach. I keel over as discretely as possible, hugging my knees to my chest, silently praying nobody glances in my direction. Sharp knives prick my sides. A fist reaches through my skin and clamps down on my heart in an obstinate fury in which I have not experienced. I suck in air, hoping to ease the grip. Release drips down my throat, venturing its way to the lungs, my heart. I can only begin to wish the same could be said for my stomach.  

                  Determination sweeps past my brain, but it is only a drive-thru: It whistles away, carries through the wind of heavy exhales. Abandoning an already sinking ship. I gaze out the windows to see the sturdy face of a brick wall, trapping us in for slaughter. I long for the sky, the birds who float majestically in the air, letting the wind caress their feathers ever so slightly. I envy their glorious freedom. I long to see the sun, the glowing heartbeat of hearth, the assurance that life is not over. I long for fresh air, not the sticky air of a broken air conditioner, not the exhales of people who have just eaten our cafeteria's food for lunch. But I am stuck. Staring at a wall. In the middle of this test.

                  Maybe I should have studied… Naah

                  Whispering voices trail through the era of silence and I am struck out of my careless daydreaming. Reality bulldozes me back into my chair; I am no longer stretching my wings through the caressing rays of sunlight. And then I am holding my pencil, test half-completed, time ticking away in the claws of the clock. I thrust longing from my mind and become a mindless robotic, analyzing the question in front of me and scratching down the answer. I burn through the questions in a monotonous fashion, as time consumes my mind.  

                  Minutes last centuries in the universe I am experiencing. I twiddle my thumbs, crick my neck, flip through the pages of my test, anything to past the time. And then it is over, signaled through the abrasive screech of chairs followed by the shuffling of feet. Standing steadily to my feet, I walk over, my stomach yowling in reluctance. In a gracious arc, I sweep the paper into a paper and walk away. I don’t look back.

                  Days pass and my heart is still latched onto the test. I await my results with great anxiousness and fear. My fingers dance across my keyboards as I go from site to site, logging on to the account where my grades are located. My stomach begins its abrasive routine as I click and click, coming closer to my objective. My mind turns the clicks into the pattern of the clock, and once again, I am stuck in that routine. Tick, tick, tick. Realization slaps me in the face with a jagged hand. I do not have the guts to look at it. With great shame, I call upon my sister to aid me in this process. She gazes upon in and her eyes flicker in the light mysteriously. Wonderment swarms my brain, and I eagerly ask her what she saw. She begins to quiver slightly and then bursts out laughing, shoving the computer in my face. On the screen are the glowing numbers: 104.



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