It’s A Snap
Punctual – Arriving exactly at the appointed time.
I slowly crawled my way out of the darkness of unconsciousness and into a new darkness, however this wasn’t a mental state. Wherever I was it was dark! I couldn’t see anything, but I could sure feel something. I had a splitting headache trying to separate the left and right halves of my skull.
I tried to get up but immediately came up against something above me. I tried to roll to the side and something was there too. I was surrounded on all sides. I was in a box. Not quite long enough for me to lay all the way out, but pretty long. Had my worst fear really come true? Was I in a coffin, buried alive like you see in those horrible day time soap operas? I suppressed the panic rising in my chest and forced myself to calm down.
I felt around me in the box, there was definitely a lid that moved but was being stopped by something, probably a lock which meant I wasn’t in a coffin. If I was really buried alive, the lid wouldn’t move at all.
Of all the things people have to worry about in this world at least it isn’t having to lock our coffins for fear of dead people escaping them.
I felt around a little more. There was something solid and cold and something else that was crinkly. Paper.
I picked up the solid object and immediately recognized it as a flashlight. I turned it on.
I was in some kind of wooden box. It was slightly wider than my shoulders and tall enough that I could move my hands pretty freely and lean up a little if I wanted.
I picked up the paper and pointed the flashlight at it. It was pretty wrinkled, probably from me rolling around on it while unconscious.
“Calling the cops was a stupid move. You’re going to pay for that.”
We didn’t call the cops! Why do they think we did?
“You’re lucky no one got arrested or you would be dead right now. Have fun failing your midterms.”
Underneath was an eloquent pictogram of a large phallic symbol pointed at the rear of a bent stick figure. The stick figure was cleverly labeled ‘you’.
“Cave men can write. What do you know?”
Despite my apparent levity I was panicking. I couldn’t miss my midterms. It just couldn’t happen!
I was at that stage where the odds against you were so overwhelming that all you could do is laugh about it.
So, I laughed. And I cried. And I railed against my wooden prison until my hands hurt too much to continue. It wouldn’t budge.
There was only one hope. I had to unlock it with magic. I took a few deep breaths and calmed myself and started to focus. I put my attention outward searching for the lock. There it was, to my right.
I focused my awareness into the lock and found the mechanism. I could see all the pieces, feel their weight and how they moved. I located the small rotating lever that would turn aside, normally when forced by a key, and unlock the mechanism. Luckily it wasn’t a padlock or some other multi pin lock or this would be impossible with my skill level. It probably still was considering so far I had been unable to do anything with magic.
I focused on the mechanism, calculated its weight and the needed force to move it. Numbers and symbols were whirling in my mind as I calculated.
Finally I had it and began applying the magical force. I cleared my thoughts, and focused intently on the lock. All I had to do was turn the lever. I could feel myself straining to force the magic to work and the energy started dissipating. I relaxed and took a deep breath.
Gathering my energy I tried again. This had to work.
I attempted to clear my mind. The splitting headache wasn’t helping. Ignore the pain. Just focus.
I put my attention on the lock again and attempted to transfer magical energy to it. I could feel it transferring from me to the lock. I could sense the lock mechanism moving slightly, microscopically. I fed more energy. I began to get excited, it might work. Just then all the energy dissipated and was gone.
“Damn!” I snapped my fingers. I almost had it.
I kicked the lid for emphasis to vent my frustration. To my surprise though the lid popped up a little letting in some sunlight before slamming back down again.
“What the…” I pushed on the lid experimentally and it lifted right up just as nice as you please.
I couldn’t explain it. I knew the lock barely moved at all. It couldn’t have moved to unlock it.
Maybe all my banging on the lid had done something.
No time to sit here and think about it though, I had to get out of here.
I scrambled out of the box. I was in some kind of tool shed. The light streaming in the open door hurt my eyes so I squinted waiting for them to adjust and put my hand over my eyes like a visor as I looked around.
There were a pile of tools on the ground, which I assumed used to be in the chest I was just in. The rest of the shed was pretty typical. Shelves of spare parts and old tools, some rustier than others.
I stepped outside and looked for the sun. It wasn’t quite at the top of the sky yet, that meant it was probably around 11. 2 hours until my exam and I still couldn’t do any magic. Hopefully I could at least make it on time to try.
I surveyed my surroundings. Westport is actually a small town near the coast surrounded by lots of hilly and mountainous terrain. Westport University is actually a small town in itself with student housing, shops and other services surrounding the college campus which was about 20 minutes inland from the actual town of Westport.
I however was in the mountains with no way to tell which way to head.
I didn’t know where I was in relation to the campus so couldn’t tell which direction to travel. I could make the safe assumption that I wasn’t too far west of the college otherwise I’d be on the beach.
I looked around more and spotted a dirt path leading uphill. Some of the tools in the shed look like road repair equipment so this was probably a storage shed for Cal Trans workers. It was probably the Alpha Beta Beta “love shack” too. Gross. I shuddered thinking about it.
I followed the dirt path through the forest and up to a paved road. I stepped around the yellow guard fence and onto the road. I looked around and found a road marker. Branscomb road. Now the question was which side of the school I was on. I listened hoping a car would come, but there was nothing.
I had to think. What did I know? The road marker should tell me how many miles west I was from the road’s beginning at the coast.
4 Miles west. Ok, so was I past the school? Or was I between the school and the coast? I snapped my fingers as I worked it over with my hand held near my face. Hmm, no clue. But wait. I could hear something. It was a car approaching.
Could my eyes be deceiving me? It looked like Ronny’s car?! I waived the car down.
It was! And even more luck, Ronny was driving it. Trish was in the passenger seat. Gerome was in the back.
“You guys saved me! I’ll make it on time!” I yelled in excitement. I could hear my shout echoing back from the nearby hills.
“Are you ok?” Ronny asked.
“I am now. What time is it?”
Trish looked to the dashboard and back.
“12:48, what time is your midterm?”
“Crap! Later than I thought. Test is at 1. Can we make it?”
“It’s pretty tight, but I think I can do it. Get in.”
12 minutes until the exam.
Contrary to his size and strong midwestern heritage, Ronny drives a tiny Japanese car. Great gas mileage but not a lot of get up and go.
I think it matches him though in some strange way. He’s reliable and will go a long way for a friend but doesn’t have a lot of big ambitions for himself. I don’t even know what he studies, Agriculture I think.
I’d like to see him out in a field with a pitchfork some day. That’d be hilarious.
It also shows he’s not out to prove anything. You know what they say about guys with huge expensive cars and what they’re trying to make up for. I guess that makes Ronny the opposite.
As we ‘sped’ down Branscomb road towards the University I got curious.
“How did you guys find me?”
Trish glanced at Ronny for a second then spoke up.
“When you didn’t show up at the rendezvous I-… we got worried so I asked some Alphas and someone recalled seeing Chuck Anderson’s truck driving out this way. We’ve been driving up and down this highway all morning looking for you.”
Ronny added, “Yeah, we were about to turn back just before we found you but Trish wanted to make 1 more pass. It’s a good thing we did.”
“Well, I’m sure you guys wouldn’t really have turned back. It wasn’t all me,” Trish replied.
“Wait! Who’s Chuck Anderson and why’d anyone from Alpha talk to you?”
Trish looked at Ronny again, this time she had a forbidding look on her face, then she looked at me.
“Let’s just say I was incognito at the time, and Chuck Anderson is the Alpha Beta Beta house president.”
I wanted to ask what she meant by ‘incognito’ but the look Trish was giving me gave me the distinct impression that this was dangerous territory. Just then Gerome piped in with that patient but lecturing tone he has.
“I told you it was a bad idea, Chance…”
“Here we go,” I complained.
“It was strategically unwise, foolhardy and brash. I can’t believe you almost got yourself, Ronny and Trish arrested…”
There was a pause in Gerome’s voice.
“But just wait until you get to campus. You’ll probably think it was worth it.”
Gerome cracked the slightest almost imperceptible amused smile, but for him it was the equivalent of grinning from ear to ear.
“What time is it?!” I answered my own question by looking at the clock on the dash. 12:55. 5 minutes.
“Holy crap! Are we almost there?”
“I’m going! I’m going!”
We pulled onto Wilderness Lodge road and into the University parking lot.
12:57 – 3 Minutes left.
I didn’t wait for Ronny to stop. I opened the door, jumped out and went into a sprint onto the University grounds. If I didn’t get into the classroom before 1pm the door would be closed and I would be locked out. Instant Fail.
I entered the main walk at a dead run. People’s heads turned as I passed by. I looked up at the clock tower.
Ronny’s clock was slow, it was already 12:58 and what looked like 30 seconds. I pushed harder and pumped my arms.
1:30 minutes left.
I started counting down the seconds in my head. I noticed something weird as I ran but didn’t have time to look again. I kept running.
There was the building I needed. The Fartham building, where all the magic classes are taught.
I sprinted up to the building and shuffled up the steps. A poor girl was coming out and I nearly bowled her over as I dashed into the open door.
Room 122 on the 1st floor. I turned the corner and there it was. Good plenty of time.
I came up to the door and there was a sign on it:
Magic Basics Midterm will be held in room 214 on the second floor.
“No!” I grabbed my hair and nearly yanked it out in frustration.
I sprinted to the stairwell at the other end of the hall.
Jumping up 3 stairs at a time I went up the 2 flights and scrambled onto the 2nd floor landing.
I crashed into the door of the stairwell trying to open it. It wouldn’t open! I cranked on the handle all the way down and it came loose. I entered the 2nd floor hall.
I sprinted down the main hall. It had several halls coming off of it with signs noting which rooms were down each hall. I needed 214.
Oh no! I missed the sign on the other side. I turned back with a loud screech of my sneakers.
I entered the hall. The professor was just closing the door. I knew that door was locked and would not open until the exam was over. If I didn’t make it I would fail.
He didn’t. I sprinted for all I was worth. The door was about halfway closed and I was still 10 feet away. I jumped for it.
Inches before closing I threw my arm into the door and it slammed down on it painfully.
I squirmed into the opening and pushed my way in. The Professor gave me a sour look, but I made it!