This story is by Rachel Palmer and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Shit, shit, shit!”
The alarm clock is blinking red on my desk as I shove the equipment into my bag: 4:16. Except the sun is shining bright through my window and the analog clock on my wall reads 10:28.
The door is going to close and lock at 10:55 and this is my only shot to complete this assignment. And the Huxley Building’s all the way on the other side of campus. On a good day, it takes thirty-five minutes to get there. Today is not a good day.
Everyone in the dorm is gone, probably off to line the streets for the big race, which explains why Brad didn’t come knocking like usual. Why, why, why does my advisor have to be such a hard-ass?
I do have to appreciate the fact that he made me memorize a map of campus weeks ago. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t know that cutting through the quad, no doubt deserted right now, instead of following the main road, would get me an extra two minutes. Not quite enough, but I’ll take it.
Running like a bat out of hell should get me the rest I need.
Three blocks east, I can turn north. Instead of wasting time to find an opening into the quad, I hurdle the hedge and keep going. The equipment in my bag is rattling more than I would like, and probably leaving bruises up and down my back, but I don’t have time to stop and rearrange it.
The bells of the church in the middle of campus starts tolling; once, twice, three times. 10:45. I have ten minutes and I’m only half-way there.
I’m not going to make it.
The race is happening only a few streets away. I can hear the crowds at the starting line. They’re going to be much louder soon. Maybe I’ll even be able to hear the excitement from the classroom.
I put on a burst of speed crossing a deserted street. And nearly trip over my own feet when a siren blips behind me. I can risk a glance back and see a bike-cop shaking his head. But he is just standing there, so I laugh and send him a wave over my shoulder.
Security for the race is more important than citing some random student for jaywalking.
The stitch in my side is making me gasp as I skid up to the door of the Huxley Building. There’s no time to wait for the elevators, so I just head straight for the stairs and take three – well, two, really – steps at a time up to the sixth floor.
“You are ten seconds from being late.” My advisor is standing in the doorway, glaring. “And that would make me late.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I gasp, bent in half in front of him. “Just let me in and leave if you’re in that much of a hurry.”
“Will you be able to complete the assignment?”
It doesn’t even deserve a response, so I just bypass him and take a seat by the window. “Starts at eleven, right? So, I’ll see you after.”
“Just get it done.” And, with that, he is gone, leaving me alone in the classroom.
I open the window to hear the crowd in the street just below me. A little background noise is perfect for getting me in the zone to work. All my equipment is laid out in front of me, ready when I need it. I even have a little clock on the desk so I don’t need to keep looking behind me at the clock on the wall.
The clock is ticking down to eleven.
The race is about to start and I’ll be able to see it.
Three. Two. One…
The starter pistol goes off, masking my first shot.
The silencer takes care of the other two shots as the three lead racers fall to the pavement.