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A blank sheet of paper, and a stubby pencil were all he had at this point. He should have brought a spare pencil. Didn’t his mother, or his teacher, or someone say something about space pencils? There was no pencil sharpener in the room. He sighed and looked at the writing prompt once again. Meaningless tripe, to be sure, but essential to his academic success. Essential, in the sense that if he went off topic, his standardized test score would be nil, and he could kiss any decent college good-bye.
He started to write, a bit of senseless doggerel, cleverly worded to sound like clever bullshit on the topic at hand. He managed to get down a paragraph before he ran out of steam. He tapped the pencil on the desk, quietly. Around him, he could hear the scribbling of the other students pencils on their papers. Nobody spoke. He could just barely make out the ticking of the clock. Looking up, he noticed it was almost an hour and twenty minutes slow.
The paper was still mostly empty. There wasn’t any official length requirement for this essay, but it was suggested that he fill the page. He looked up once more, and saw the girl in front of him flip her page over, and continue on the back. Amazing. She was pushing forward, writing at a rapid pace, yet in neat, tiny letters. Concentrate! He had to concentrate on the task at hand. He only had an hour and a half for the prompt, and he had already wasted twenty minutes.
His mind was blank. He pulled at his shirt collar with a free hand. The room was stuffy, and poorly ventilated. Beneath his breath he cursed the world, swears dripping from his lips like sweat dripping from his forehead. He wanted to just take his pencil, scrawl the words “fuck your prompt” a thousand times on the paper, and turn that in. He wanted to stand up, release a primal scream, and….
Well, then what?
The text on the board had become a meaningless string of characters. His single paragraph had become a blur of graphite. The girl in front of him raised her hand. Was she finished? In hushed tones, she spoke to the teacher, who then handed her another sheet of paper. She resumed writing. Damn her, he thought. How can she have so much to say?
For a time, he sat motionless with his eyes on the back of the girl in front of him. She quickly filled up the first side of the second sheet, and flipped it over. She wrote more, and stopped about halfway down. She looked at it, and content, she stood up to hand the papers to the teacher. She left the room.
He had another fifty minutes, and yet, nothing else seemed to come to him.
His hand began to scrawl on the paper, in crooked, but readable letters. It seemed to come not from his conscious mind, but his unconscious. He paid no attention to what he wrote, he just wrote. For forty minutes he wrote, without stopping until at last, he could write no more. At this point, the handwriting had devolved into a senseless blur of graphite, in which the vague shapes of letters could only just be resolved.
He turned in the paper, and walked out the door of the classroom.