August 21, 2015 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
Enrie could think of any number of things that she’d rather do than take the Biological Systems test. Climb a mountain alone without ropes or crampons. Walk all the way from one end of the continent to the other – starting in the South in summer and ending in the north in winter. Telling her mother she’d rather be a painter or tailor or anything at all besides a Diplomat.
Unfortunately, Edally Academy didn’t offer options like that, so she sat down next to a bubbling-over Taikie, who had the ability to get excited about the most depressing things, and next to a calm-as-a frozen-pond Saydrie and focused on the test.
She had studied, really she had. She read over all of her Bio systems notes twice, and usually then she stole a glance at Saydrie’s and Taikie’s as well.
But no matter how much she tried, so much of it simply didn’t make any sense to her. The outsides of people and animals were easy — but the insides were gooey, icky, and incomprehensible.
Enrie puzzled her way through the first three questions. The first one, she remembered Taikie and Saydrie discussing over dinner – Taikie had been drawing pictures in her mashed parsnips. The second one, Kekla had been confused by in class. She’d gone up to the chalkboard and drawn diagrams until the instructor told her she had it right. Enrie could still see the expertly-rendered pattern of muscle on Kekla’s drawn goat intestine.
The third one happened to be one of the few things she’d actually understood. She wrote the answer with more than a little satisfaction, then moved on to the fourth. There were twenty questions on this test; at this rate, she might complete with time to spare.
The fourth question perplexed her entirely. She read it twice. She made notes on scratch paper, trying to figure out exactly what the question was referring to. She closed her eyes and tried to bring to mind the lecture that had covered this, or the reading on it, Taikie or Saydrie’s notes, anything.
Finally, having nothing else to do, she began to write down a guess.
Behind her, Instructor Kaasmasik coughed. Enrie jumped; she hadn’t noticed him coming up behind her. She twisted in her chair to look at him, careful not to glance at any of her classmates’ papers.
He shook his head, just a tiny twitch from side to side. Enrie raised her eyebrows and looked back at her paper.
If it wasn’t that, then… She drew a line through her answer and began again.
Not that, then. She stared at the paper. What if he really wasn’t trying to tell her anything, and he just had something stuck in his, in his…
That was it! She wrote the answer down, not stopping to listen for another cough, confident she had this one.
Instructor Kaasmasik wandered off, only to return as she found herself stuck. And again, a third time. His cough seemed to have improved, however.
She handed in her paper with more than a little trepidation. She thought she’d done all right – better than usual – but this was Edally Academy, and “all right” wasn’t usually enough to get by.