Thursday, March 11, 2010

Third Person Thursday, Second Installment

It is week two of Third Person Thursdays so here's another work of fiction. It's longer this week. Please enjoy:

He didn’t really hear the alarm as much as he was aware of it. It was like the call of a thousand insects in the trees all around him during summer. It began quietly, in the background then forced itself to be heard. By the time he realized it was the buzzing of the alarm clock that woke him, its volume had steadily increased past annoying and into offensive. He slapped the button on top to quiet it and sat up.

Had he been this conscious to the previous warnings from the device on his nightstand, his coming reaction would have been far more relaxed. Instead, his instinct had acted on his behalf for the past fifty-four minutes and he’d hit the snooze button without even truly awakening. He was about to notice that he was supposed to be across campus (a twenty minute walk and a route he had never found the need to run) nine minutes ago.

“Nononononononono,” the word was repeated quietly and slowly and grew in his chest as he noticed the clock’s display. Then, finally, with conviction, he shouted, “No!”

His final exam was surely under way by now. This was one he couldn’t afford to miss. His grades were fine in all his other classes, but this was the one that was killing him. His final quarter of mandatory courses, Geophysical Science was something he just couldn’t seem to get his head around. It bothered him, because anything that didn’t come naturally to him usually was arrived at with minimal effort. He had pushed himself to take an extra class this quarter because he wanted to be done with the required courses already. He was now regretting that decision. This would mean a failing grade for sure.

All this panic and regret was done within a matter of seconds and he found himself still sitting on his bed. At lightning speed, his mind began the grieving process on behalf of his grade. He started with denial and grabbed his watch off the dresser.

It’s not really that late, he thought. Clock is wrong. Everything’s fine.

Anger came when his watch face agreed with the green numbers glowing on his nightstand.

“Dammit,” he shouted then began search for a shirt. “I’ll call the professor, tell him I was sick as a dog, explain I’m a good student, apologize, maybe he’ll let me retake it.”


He was aware of each step in his mind. This made him wish that it had been a psychology test. He was good at that. The time wasted on the final would have been made up for by his strong course work throughout the quarter. Why couldn’t this be one of his Psych classes? Still bargaining, he thought.

He grabbed his backpack, slipped into his shoes and froze with his hand on the doorknob. He let his shoulders slump and turned to look back at his bed. It called to him to give up and climb back in. He was screwed anyway. What was the point? Get back in the warm bed, curl up and sleep until tomorrow. Depression was tempting.

“I gotta at least try,” he said and turned the knob, already at acceptance. He leapt down the flights of stairs, landing to landing after racing though the hall. The calculations were already forming in his head. The test began at nine. He woke up at nine-oh-nine. By the time he got out the door, he estimated it was nine-fifteen. The test lasted one hour. If he ran the whole way, he would get there twice as fast as usual; ten minutes instead of twenty. That would leave him thirty-five minutes. More than half the time of the full exam. Maybe he could pull some answers out of his ass and just be lucky enough not to fail.

Slamming the main door of the dormitory lobby open and rushing out into the street, he almost ran over a few people he recognized, but didn’t know by name. “Watch out, late for test,” he yelled and they laughed after him. He was normally a pretty friendly guy and thought this version of him must have seemed odd to people. He couldn’t blame them for laughing.

As he turned the corner of a building and entered the main quad, he collided with someone, knocking them to the ground. “Sorry,” was all he called back, without even turning his head. Just keep running, he thought.

He zigged and zagged through the campus, taking any shortcut he could think of. Now, as he turned corners, people jumped out of his way and stared. Could news of his collision have traveled across campus faster than he had? He found himself jealous of rumors and wished he had their speed.

He kept running. He ran faster for longer than he ever remembered running before and he could hear nothing but his own heart pounding in his ears. As more people obviously avoided standing in his path, he began to think it was out of a respect he was generating through his focus and commitment to this run. He must really look like he had a purpose and knew where he was going.

He’d reached the doors of the building and was coming out of his runner’s high, his other senses returning, and thought he could still hear the laughter. Bounding up the stairs, he reached the lecture room door. He took one deep breath and grabbed the handle. If he had put his watch on instead of throwing it across the room during his second stage, he would have checked it to see what kind of time he had made. It wouldn’t have changed anything at this point, however, so he opened the door quickly and quietly and entered.

He felt people turn to look at him as he walked down the many steps to the front podium, where the professor stood and stared at him. He didn’t want to turn and see the looks of annoyance and pity, so he focused on the professor and grinned sheepishly.

“I’m sorry I’m late,” he whispered. “If I could just get an exam and try and do as much as…”

The professor backed away across the front of the room as if he’d just been threatened.

“Sir,” he pleaded as he followed, “I know I’m so, so late and I apologize, but…”

“Son, cover yourself,” he said, with disdain.

Had he not been sweating so much from the run, it would have still taken him longer to realize what his professor meant. As luck would have it, a bead of moisture ran down the back of his thigh and he felt it go all the way to his ankle. The sensation was strange because he reasoned his jeans should have stopped it long before it got that far down his leg. His legs felt cold. A girl near the back of the lecture hall giggled.

He turned to see a mixture of reaction from the crowd of fellow students. Shock. Fear. Annoyance. Laughter. One thing was consistent, not a single person cared about the exam sitting in front of them any longer. A patronizing whistle came from somewhere in the masses.

He remembered seeing his pants on the chair next to his backpack, but had no memory of putting them on. Only his shirt.

I picked a fine week to start sleeping naked, he thought.

He sat up in bed so fast the covers were catapulted to his feet. This exposed his boxer shorts and reassured him it had all been a dream. He looked over at the clock. It read ten AM, but before he could panic, he remembered it was Saturday. He breathed a sigh of relief and got up.

Out of curiosity, he went to his desk and found the syllabus from his Geophysical Science class. Like in his dream, he wasn’t doing as well as he would like and decided to check on the exam date. He was a firm believer in dreams having purpose. He didn’t think they foretold the future, but he did think they brought to light what hid in the subconscious.

Finding the paper he was looking for, he straightened it with a pop and inspected it. Near the bottom of the page, he saw the midterm and final exam dates. This is the first I’ve heard of any midterm, he thought. He hoped he hadn’t already missed it. He checked the date. Midtern exam: Friday, March fifth 9AM. Special make up exam: Saturday, March sixth 9AM.

Today was March sixth.


He jumped out of bed half awake and ran into something in the dark with a loud bang.

“Oh my God,” he mumbled. “My exam! I’m so late!”

He fumbled around the room for a minute, looking for clothes and his backpack. Everything seemed out of place and he was disoriented. He tried to remember if he’d been out drinking last night.

Suddenly, he noticed the shape under the blankets on his bed rise up in the darkness. “Bad dream?” it questioned.

He began to wake up more. His surroundings started to feel familiar but he was still unsure of where he was. “Thought I was late for my final exam,” he groaned and rubbed his eyes, realizing in this darkness, with the sun yet to come up, he wasn’t late for anything.

“Well, it’s a good thing you graduated from college ten years ago,” his wife said and rolled her back to him. “Now go back to sleep. We need to get the kids to school in the morning.”

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