This piece was submitted to The One-Minute Writer in September 2013. Every week they host a little competition called Friday Flash Fiction. Writers must submit a piece of fiction of less than 1000 words before midnight Saturday. This was the winning piece for the prompt “The longer I stared…”

The Test

The longer I stared, the less I understood.

Maybe I shouldn’t have skipped out on that study session. But I had a good excuse! My favorite show was on last night and… and then my best friend called, and then I had to complete that video game level I’ve been stuck on all week, and… who am I kidding? I’m screwed. I should have gone, but I didn’t, and now I’m paying for it.

I stared down at the paper, my head in my hands. The words seemed to stare right back at me.

I looked away, not wanting to face that mocking gaze. I glanced at the clock. Each tick of its second-hand seemed to pronounce my doom. I felt like the condemned prisoner watching the executioner slowly step forward. Unnerved, I glanced to the side. Ugh! Of course, the class genius is sitting right next to me. Why wouldn’t he be? But if I turned my head slightly to the left and peeked out of the corner of my eye…

Then, the proctor approaches my desk. Quickly, I look down to my own paper. Too dangerous. I’m being watched. I held my breath as the guard made his rounds. That was too close. Cheating obviously wasn’t on the table.

I looked up, craning my neck. Perhaps the heavens would be merciful and the answers would magically appear inscribed on the ceiling. But no such luck.

I tapped my pencil. The clock ticked. My heart pounded. Tick, tock. Tap, tap. Thump, thump. Their rhythms melded together into one voice. It drove me insane. I bit my nails and tugged my hair. Still I received no relief or clemency. I could only wait until the proctor announced the hour. There would be closure then. Not necessarily the ending that I want, but closure nonetheless. Until that time, I could only stare at the test.

The words hadn’t changed. They still sat there, staring…