A few desks in front of Scarlett, Jed pushed his exam away from him, his glasses sliding halfway off his nose. He crossed his arms and leaned back in his seat. Leah tapped her pen against the desk without rhythm, fluttering her eyes at Toby.
The rumble didn’t seem to affect anyone.
How did they miss that? There had been a noise. Hadn’t there? The stress of the test must have been getting to Scarlett.
She shook her head, as if to rid herself of the confusion, and forced her gaze back to the paper in front of her. The instruc- tions at the top read: In no less than 500 words, persuade a fellow student to part with his or her most valuable possession or deepest desire for the greater good.
With pencil to page, she began to write, only to glance at her watch—twenty minutes left in the exam, and half her essay remained undone. No wonder she was nervous.
A second boom rocked the schoolroom, and she gripped the shaking desk.
Nobody else did the same.
This can’t be real. I’m going crazy, or something. Maybe I’m dreaming. She squeezed her eyes shut, inhaled, exhaled, and returned to her paper. She pressed her pencil against the page and stifled a curse when the lead broke. Reaching for her sharp- ener, she clutched the writing utensil as the classroom shook for the third time. The essay vibrated off her desk, the nearly blank composition fluttering in a breeze to the ground.
What the hell? Her imagination had not pushed her test off the table. It was capable of a lot of things but not that.
Scarlett waited for the rumble to happen again. The clock ticked behind her. Fifteen minutes. Twelve. Ten. She’d never finish the assessment. How could she focus when the room kept shaking? Scarlett retrieved and set her paper on the desk, and leaned back in her chair, staring at the mostly blank page.
The boom came right then.