10:30 - 1 hour down, 1.5 hours to go.
I was flying through the questions. It was effortless, as natural as a seagull stealing unprotected chips. For the first time in my life, I was finding Chemistry - dare I say it - easy.
Of course, paranoia bubbled away under the surface but it was controlled. Only a fleeting butterfly every five minutes or so gave away any sign of nerves. I was too absorbed in the paper to give it much notice.
Every so often, after successfully navigating a particularly tricky calculation, a shot of adrenaline would course through my body, blowing away any stray butterflies. This was sometimes accompanied by a fist punch. However, I was trying to hold back on the fist punches; they weren't considered proper exam etiquette.
It was embarrassing. I was actually enjoying this.
Of course, exams weren't meant to be enjoyable. This became apparent as I tried to tackle the next question - it was about a PPA (Pointless Practical Activity). If I had actually done any of the experiments, it would've been easy. If I had read up on the experiments like we were supposed to have done, it would've been easy.
I hadn't done either.
Part (a) only was only worth 1 mark but how often had I been told that "one mark could mean the difference between an A and a B, a pass and a fail?" I needed that mark, at least for my sanity.
I was beginning to feel the way I should have done under these circumstances. The butterflies had burst free from their cage, causing a sweat to break out all over my body. My deep calm breaths became shorter and more laboured. My hands shook. It was a feeling I knew well: PANIC.
It didn't strike me as odd when the bell rang loudly at 10:40. I flinched but continued to stare intently at the question. The answer was going to jump out of the page any minute, I was sure.
I was distracted by the agitated discussion between the invigilators. It took me a minute to realise that the bell was still ringing. Frantic footsteps and chattering voices could be heard from outside the hall. I could barely believe it.
Saved by the (fire) bell.