He sat in the car and waited. The instructor had kept him waiting. Five, ten minutes. Sitting there, waiting.
The instructor finally arrived, spouting off instructions. He followed all of them, to the letter. Or he believed he had. The panic rose within him, panic he had never felt before when sitting in his car. No matter who sat beside him, he had felt comfortable here.
Now someone was truly going to judge him on this. He didn’t like the feeling.
It was raining. Starting out, listening to all of the instructor’s directions, it went well. As the rain came down harder and harder, it was more and more difficult to hear what it was he was supposed to do.
He no longer recognized the streets. Then again, this wasn’t his hometown. There was no one to give him his test there.
The instructor raised his voice, still calm and collected. Not as if he had trusted his life to a person who could possibly have no idea what they were doing. The tester began to wonder if he had ever known what he was doing.
Finally, finally, he was told to park the car. Back where it had started.
He was told about what he had messed up, given his paper.
He had passed.
With a sigh of relief, he followed the instructor back inside to stop in the bathroom. Time not to look like he had had a panic attack for his picture.
The ship seemed to bounce under Maly’s feet. The scent in the air was far removed from the desert and the taste of the air had too much salt. She wasn’t sure she liked it, but she hadn’t been told to stop yet.
She wanted to turn toward her father, determine his reaction, ask him if he thought this was enough. Despite those feelings, she didn’t. He would tell her when enough was enough. Maly also knew she couldn’t read his face, so looking at him would tell her nothing. It would only make her more antsy during a time where she needed to stay calm and focused.
Her chant remained lyrical, tones bouncing from her tongue and creating the illusion around them. The words she had been taught to understand, the music she was drilled to instill into each syllable, it all flowed from her lips and spilled to the deck. She could feel it, though she saw nothing. When it began to burn into her throat she blinked her eyes fiercely, trying to forget the discomfort. Trying to stay focused.
For a moment, it wavered. Then she refused it.
Maly stopped, not certain when she had closed her eyes. She still felt the waves, smelt the sea. And when she opened her eyes, the illusion still held around her.
“Good,” her father said.
I examined the passage, only to realize I was going to fail the test.
I wish the thought had hit me like a brick, because then I would’ve had an excuse to cry and go to the hospital. Unfortunately, no bricks were coming to save me.
Everyone else stared intently at their computer screens. No way to know if they were struggling like I was, because I couldn’t look away from my screen long enough to examine their faces. I could have screamed.
And then someone did.
“Graves, be quiet.”
But while Graves was quiet, he slam dunked his keyboard on his desk and left the room.
Needless to say, all the rest of us were thoroughly distracted and were given more time.
There was a tall lamp set in the center of the room. Nita didn’t know why it was there, not with all of the lights that came from the walls and the ceiling, but she assumed it was a part of the test. The room also smelled like something rotting. As there was nothing in the room but for the lamp, she assumed either something had once coated the floor that still stank, or the stench came from the lamp itself. She dreaded the idea that it was more likely to be the latter.
The stem of the lamp was made of silver metal, to a blue cone that opened up to the ceiling.The base was a cylindrical disk. There was nothing special about this lamp. Even more suspicious, to Nita’s eyes. Yet this was the next room and she had already deemed the other hallway to be dangerous. This was the only way to continue forward, so she had to try this test and hope she had guessed correctly. Hope that this was the less dangerous way.
She brought the radio up to her lips. “George? I’ve made it to the third level.”
The hum that came from the other side told her to keep going. If there was something wrong, he would say. Unless he had decided she was too much trouble for him now. Nita didn’t know. There were a lot of things she didn’t know. There had yet to be an alien race that made any sense to her. Walking over to the lamp, keeping all four of her feet a good distance from the base, she reached out suckered fingers to sense the air around the lamp. Again, nothing interesting. The smell permeated the room. She wrinkled her face and searched the room again, but there was nothing else. Inside, she decided, focusing on one of the lights. There was something resting against the other side of the bumpy glass, a faded silhouette that wasn’t obvious with all of the light in the room.
Was the lamp a red herring?
Bringing up her bat, she swung it at the wall. The glass shattered and the body came out.
This certainly wasn’t the less dangerous route. Her other hand grabbed the lamp. Readying her weapons, Nita waited for the assault to come.