THE PAW OF THE C.A.T
I am seated in this classroom on a bubble of anxiety. All around are throngs of worried persons. They are humming and discussing their misty fate in low tones. Whenever a person enters abruptly, panting and sweating profusely, all goes silent. Terrified. Worry has engulfed my entire being detaching me from everyone else.
A swift look around earns me the sight of cold dark metallic conjoined desks. They are horrendous. I feel like a figure is lurking within its pitch blackness; somewhere beyond the gleaming surfaces. A figure meant to make me forget all that I have revised hurriedly before I left my room. The grim cream walls seem to be mocking. Its nakedness is stripping my brain of the miniature grasp of the unit.
From my carefully picked sitting place, I can clearly behold a guy in a white shirt on the front row. He never shifts his sitting position. Even when people are trying to figure out a perfect spot to hide their hideous acts in the exam room. He seems confident and ready to pour the answers onto paper. I can easily tell that he is the kind to ask for a graph paper in a mathematics paper when the rest of the candidates can’t see its use in the same exam.
I stare at the screen of my Huawei Ascend phone for long. Several clicks and a text message appear on the notification panel of the phone. You have successfully bought 30mb data bundles. I smile hesitantly and throw a quick gaze at the top of the white board. Rumor has it that there is a CCTV camera implanted somewhere around it to monitor students during exams. Destruction of evidence by students caught in the act forced the step, so the word goes.
How do they? They quickly shove their mwakenya’s in their mouth and swallow hard.
A deep sigh. It is so deep that I can notice my chest rise steadily and fall with hesitation. I catch a strong smell of sweat. Still, I can’t feel any better. My palms are sweaty. I wipe them against my shirt.
Suddenly Dr. Katam enters and the routine silence of anguish befalls the room. We all gasp unanimously like an audience of a football match over a narrowly missed goal. I gasp my hopes away. A wish I have been holding on dearly, even crossed my fingers for, flies away. The CAT could not be pushed to a further date. Obviously not Dr. Katam’s way of doing things. I defiantly uncross my fingers.
I quickly put my phone on standby by placing the screen on Google page. Ready to punch in a few key words and click ‘search’.
Notebooks are taken away swiftly. Bare desks with blank foolscaps and pens confront an exasperated lot. Little drops of sweat form on my brow. I wipe it with the back of my palm. My heart is throbbing. My head is thumbing. My vision is getting hazy. I can’t see the lecture clearly. His voice however is clearer. It is deep and equally grotesque.
The knock of the heels of his shoes on the solid ground is steady as he walks around the room with his hands clasped behind his back like a soldier in a slow match. He stops occasionally to look intently at a face before moving on. Now he is behind me and he has just stopped. I let out a heavy sigh and he walks on as if he has been waiting for a signal and I have just offered one.
Dr. Katam is known for his ultra-strictness in CATs and exams alike. He never has room for the cheaters. He holds a legacy for busting the most students in the history of the campus. The lecturer knows perfectly how to creep on students and catches them right in the middle of the act. He prides in that thus his casualties never get away with it. Dr. Katam never rests until you pay for it.
Finally, he stands behind the podium and issues exam rules not minding the fact that this is a mere CAT. He also pours out a string of warnings which are more of sadistic threats. As he speaks, prominent veins pop up from his left temple and neck.
Then he reads out the questions with an air of jeer. Heads bow down in unison. I stare back at the lecturer appealingly with the hope of getting excluded from the ordeal. He ignores me.
The question is not making it into my zone. It converts into a coded inscription I can’t comprehend. I stare at the doctor’s lips. They are moving like two strange figures. They are dark like the words that he is spelling out carefully. He walks around and my eyes remain fixated in the whiteboard. Lost in the blurred reflection of the entire classroom.
The score of my fellow victims are now writing vigorously. I look around and all I see are pens conversing affectionately with papers. I can however spot a few disoriented people looking away into the roof as if seeing a vision of the answers. Haunting sounds of foolscaps turning plunge me into blankness. I cannot even think of anything apart from my phone lying in wait.
Thirty minutes later, something horrifying happens. The guy in the white shirt rises, ogles his wrist watch and walks towards Dr. Katam. He hands out his finished work and before he strolls out, he scans the room and shakes his head. My blood boils. I want to rise and rush after him. Malevolence is descending on my heart.
Then another student follows and another until I lose count.
I look over my shoulder and my eyes meet the lecture’s. I withdraw the look quickly and turn to look at the white board while in pretense of deep thought. Dr. Katam walks to me in slow silent paces. My hands tremble. I hold on to the hope that my phone is well tucked in my pant’s pocket. He stares at my paper and I can almost feel his eyes, although behind clear glasses, on me.
Relief at last as he walks away coughing. The room is fast running empty. I look at the top of the white board momentarily making sure I am not noticed if at all that camera exists. My head is as empty as the promises made by the politicians during general election campaigns. I eye the lecturer again from under my arms and he is looking at me. A sharp shrill of frustration almost escapes me. The person sitting on my side stands and walks away. Tears almost walk out of my moist eyes.
Suddenly, Dr. Katam announces the end of time. I get frantic and quickly skim through the room only to behold a handful people trying to write one more point. I gaze down at my foolscap and it is blank. As blank as a check carried around by the filthy rich who give to peasants so they can take over ownership of their lands in big towns. As blank as the stare in the eyes of a kid from Turkana I once saw on television during the Kenyans for Kenya campaigns. As blank as the current state of the space in between my ears.
With alarm, I realize that I do not even have the questions. I want to wail loudly until the vice chancellor orders the strict lecturer to give me the marks. Or fake a seizure I know nothing about. Or hoax the lecturer that I did not revise because I just returned from burying a close relative. I am confused.
I hurriedly write my name and in the whirl, I write my high school registration number. As I submit my work, the lecturer stares at me as if I am a runaway convict. I walk out of the room feeling bruises all over me.