Witches

The morning of my first midsem paper, I woke up at 3 a.m, panicking. I had an anatomy paper in about 5 hours and I did not know what I was going to write. I was going through my (scanty) notes, trying to cram the names of strange blood vessels and nerves into my head.

At some point, Jeff got up to piss, and he heard me muttering, “Superior vena vava, thoracolumbar, oculomotor, vagus.” and he later told me he thought I was praying in tongues. He looked very impressed and gave me a thumbs up. I couldn’t correct him, because he wasn’t wrong.

Was it not tongues I was speaking? Strange words that I didn’t understand myself?

By 6 a.m, I had crammed all my brain could possibly contain, and I was tired. I didn’t feel confident, but at least I’d done all I possibly could with the time I’d had left.

Hm. If only I hadn’t wasted my time on some lying witch of a girl.

Anyway.

I got ready, prepared everything I’d need and got to the faculty a whole hour early, because this was the one day everybody in the school had a paper at 8. The bathrooms would look terrible after an hour or so. Besides, it wasn’t sensible to get to the exam hall late and in a hurry. The little that was in my head was very volatile; I intended to just quietly sit somewhere and pour it on the sheet.

When I got there, I saw everyone else had come early too. There were groups of people gathered around, discussing what they’d learnt. I went and stuck my head inside one group. That was a mistake.

“..Ah, so the medulla oblongata controls the diaphragm, right?” One person was asking.

“Oh, indirectly, I suppose. There’s also the role that the pons plays, in addition to propioception..”

I felt weak. Medulla what? Why did people like doing these things? I quickly walked away before I could hear anything else.

I roamed about the entire place, trying to get some idea of what to write, but instead I just kept getting more and more confused. By the time it was 30 minutes to time, I knew something had to be done.

Morgan and his boys were hanging around the stairs. I walked to them and asked what was going on.

“Chale, I heard we’re not being arranged according to index numbers o. We’re sitting wherever we want. So we’re doing seating formation.”

This was the kind of knowledge I wanted to hear!

Basically, we’d sit in strategic positions so we could exchange information, or see each other’s papers. I normally didn’t cheat, but chale, at this point I’d try anything.

We’d all heard stories about people getting dismissed for being caught, but nobody could actually mention the last time this had happened. So we decided to risk it. We spent a few minutes discussing where everyone would sit.

Things got interesting when they rung the bell for us to enter the exam hall. We were asked to form a queue to be inspected before entering. You pulled out your ID card, then some security man groped you wildly for a few seconds before letting you in.

It was almost my turn when the girl in front of me started patting herself wildly.

“Aye! My ID card! Where did I put it?”

When it got to her, she started pleading with the security man and the lecturers standing there.

“Sir, I think I left it in my room.” The lecturers were just looking at her with stony faces.

“You cannot enter without an ID card,” one lecturer replied.

“Sir, but I won’t get a shuttle right now! Please, I’ll bring it tomorrow!” The lecturer did not even blink. There was general unease as those of us behind her started checking ourselves for things.

The hilarious thing was, this girl was one of those who apparently came to university to come and answer questions. Every time a lecturer said, “Does anyone know-” her hand would go up like a rocket. So there was no way this lecturer did not know her.

And yet here he was, staring at her like a sister-in-law who had come to ask for money. Aye, university.

The girl eventually gave up begging and left the queue. She took off in the direction of the hall. I could really feel her pain. She would definitely be late. And you could tell she’d really learnt. To learn all this and forget your ID card? Kai. House witches.

It finally got to my turn, and I was waved inside. I noticed, with joy, that the seating formation had been formed. I sat in the seat next to Morgan, and on my left was another guy from Morgan’s squad. In front of him was Steven, the guy who sat by Morgan and me in class.

I sighed with relief. I was about to kill this paper!

After we were seated, and were shading our index numbers and all, the Dean walked in, and the entire place became quiet. The dean was a very impressive looking person; bald and tall. He smiled a lot, but it was a dangerous smile that said, “I can expel you. Don’t fool.” Everyone was on their best behavior around him.

“I am here to wish you all the best in your upcoming exams! This is your first assessment of any kind in this faculty, and hopefully it gives you an idea of how your exams will be.

“A word of caution. Cheating is highly discouraged in this institution. Is it worth getting dismissed to get answers to a few questions? Just do your best and pray to God for the rest.”

Haha, oh this man. This early morning, he was here doing comedy session. Do my best? My best wouldn’t even get me 10 out of the 75 questions. Even if God was kind and dashed me 20 marks, that would still put me comfortably somewhere at 40%. No thank you. I looked very serious as he spoke and nodded vigorously, all the while thinking whether Morgan or my left hand side guy would be the better option to copy.

“It is exactly 8:30. Start work!”

I opened the booklet.

Awurade. What was this? Was I in the right exam hall?

It encouraged me a little to hear similar sounds of confusion echoing around the hall. It wasn’t just me.

Almost immediately, I started consulting. There was no time to waste. I extended my left foot and tapped the chair of the guy next to me. “Yo.” I whispered from the side of my mouth, all the while looking forward, “tilt your paper small and let me see-“

I became aware of heavy breathing, very close to my ears. I slowly turned (like in horror movies), and I was looking straight into the face of one of my anatomy lecturers. “What do you think you’re doing?” She murmured.

Friends, I was shaking. There was air-conditioning, but I could feel sweat on my forehead. Had my university career already ended? My father would slaughter me! I stammered, “P-please, I was s-s-stretching my l-legs to relax. It won’t happen again, Madam.”

She smiled at the very weak lie. I guessed she was in a good mood, because she let it slide. “I strongly advice you not to do what you’re attempting to do. Strongly.” I nodded energetically.

She straightened up and walked off. It took a few seconds for my breathing to return to normal.

I glanced to my left and noticed that the guy had tilted his paper. I could see very clearly without having to ask anyone, but I still spied my front. That woman had put the fear of God in me.

I heard a voice at the back calling out, “You have spent 30 minutes. You have 30 minutes more!” And I knew that I had been a fool. I had roamed the entire paper about 3 times, and I’d found about 28 questions that I had some sort of idea about. The rest, I hadn’t even seen the words before. I looked to my left and saw that the guy’s paper was still very visible. Chale, what would I do?

I looked back at the huge potholes in my answer sheet and I decided. My fear of failure was greater than my fear of possibly getting caught. I furtively glanced around to be sure there was no lecturer around, and I tilted my head to start shading his answers.

It was a tedious process, because he kept coming back to change his answers, and then I had to change my answers back too. At a point I almost got annoyed, and then I remembered the situation and humbly kept quiet.

When they said, “10 minutes more,” the guy still had about 15 questions left to shade, so I looked around, and quietly tapped Morgan’s chair. When he turned his head slightly, I signaled for him to tilt his paper. He shook his head. I thought maybe he didn’t understand me. I signaled again. He shook his head again. Aye! My enemies had gotten me! 10 minutes more and this boy was doing this?

I started whispering out of desperation. My voice sounded hoarse from panic. “Herh! Morgan! Tilt the paper, oh!”

The boy ignored me. The betrayal I felt was how I imagine Jesus Christ felt when Judas kissed him. I continued begging. “Morgan! Help a homie! Chale!” My voice was getting louder, but thankfully, there were other brave souls attempting to copy in the last minutes, so it was lost in the clamor.

Morgan turned his head slightly and whispered something. I couldn’t hear, but it sounded like, “…different..shade..” I wasn’t prepared to listen to any nonsense, I just wanted him to tilt his paper. But the guy resumed facing his front and kept shading. I would kill him, herh.

Pretty soon I heard, “When you hear stop work, insert your shading sheet in your question paper..” and I slumped back in my chair, defeated. I was disgusted with Morgan, but I had to admit, answering 60 out of 75 questions wasn’t bad. I decided to randomly shade anything for those left.

“Stop work! Stop work, time’s up!” There was the sound of struggle as everyone rushed to shade in their last few answers, and a few shouts as their papers were snatched from people who were still shading.

The loud voice continued, “If you look at the bottom of your question paper, there is a code that tells us the order in which we arranged your questions. Indicate it on your shading answer sheet. These measures were put in place to prevent cheating..”

I looked at the code and started to write it, but I hadn’t really processed what it meant. Then it clicked.

I spun in my seat and asked the guy I’d copied practically the whole exam from. “What was your code?” I didn’t care about getting caught anymore.

He looked at his sheet and looked up. “216af.” I looked down at my sheet. Mine was “215dg.”

Someone at the back, who had realised what I’d just realised, shouted, “Jesus! Save me!”

I knew there and then, that my house witches were not on vacation. They had come to the school with me.

I was numb. I just folded my arms, put them in my armpits and sat there. At a point, I glanced up to see Morgan looking at me. “That was what I was trying to tell you. We have different arrangements of questions.” I just nodded and went back to staring at the table. What else was there to say? I just waited for the lecturers to come and take my paper away.

“We asked you to insert your sheets.” I looked up to see the lecturer who had caught and warned me earlier. She must’ve seen that I’d realised what I’d done to myself, so she didn’t say anything. She just gave me a long look, as if to say, “Have you seen your gyimii?” Then she took the papers and walked away.

From the exam hall I walked straight to the library. Nobody had to tell me anything.

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