October 29, 2004

The Pit and the Pendulum, or The Essay That Never Got Written

One night I had a dream….

I thought I woke up in my bed and I lay there for a moment, wondering why there was such a strange, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Then I remembered. It was that day…yes, that very day, that I had an essay due in. I cannot now remember the title of the essay – it is irrelevant. Doubtless you will be able to substitute a title of your own. And I had not even begun it, had not even thought about beginning it. I stretched out my hand to switch on the light, and as I moved there was a sinister rustle. It came from close beneath me. And there was no light switch. I opened my eyes but it took a few moments for them to become accustomed to the lack of light that there was. I realised then that I was lying in a pit. I moved my hand and took up one of the pieces of paper.

Adjusting my eyes to the dimness of that sinister cavern I could just make out that it contained the words of the essay…the essay that I should have written. On investigation I discovered that I was surrounded by papers that, had I been able to utilise them, would have been invaluable to me in the writing of my essay. But I seemed to be seized by some mysterious form of paralysis. I literally was unable to move, far less to write an essay. And then, even as I thought that my position was the worst I could be in, an even more terrible circumstance was revealed to me. Not too far above me I caught a gleam of light. It seemed to move from side to side in a slow, regular motion. As my eyes followed its every motion I strove to discern what it might be. After some time I found that it was a piece of metal that swung backwards and forwards like a pendulum. I watched it for some time, wondering what its purpose was. It was after quite a period that I suddenly realised that it was slowly but relentlessly coming towards me. And as it neared me I could see that the edge of it was sharp and curved. Deadly. And now it was close enough that I could read upon its side the single word "DEADLINE".

It was the deadline of my essay. I knew that now. It was coming closer, nearer, towards me, slowly but relentlessly. It was quite unstoppable. Panic rose in me. I must write that essay. I must write it now. I knew too that I was in the pit of my own folly, of my laziness and apathy. I had carefully and deilberately lowered myself in, and now I must get myself out. But still I found that I could not move. Paralysed by my own stupidity. And all the time the DEADLINE came closer….and closer….and closer. Its sinister gleam swung just above my neck and I knew that unless I wrote that essay, it would touch my neck…slice slowly into it…very slowly.

I woke up, trembling and perspiring. It was half past eight in the morning. I realised that I still had a chance to write the essay…. But then, I had the whole day to do it in, after all….

by Abi Chuter

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