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A Eulogy to One Brave Debator
Okay, so you're sitting across from two fearsome opponents who seem desperate to throw their impressive array of Advanced Highers in your face. Your 'partner' whispers an encouraging word in your ear, but he is betrayed by the incessant shaking of his hand as he reaches for a glass of water that tastes strangely like ash.
Confidence boost: failure
The Timekeeper utters your name after a beat. Sporadic claps that echo ominously encourage you to stand up and walk to the podium, as if on death row, clutching your blessed notes like they were a life support machine. If only... Wait, why are putting yourself through this torture again?
You're not sure if they're applauding you, or simply showing their relief that they're now one speech closer to taking their leave. Everyone of your footsteps is announced loudly by a creak in the old floorboards. Even the building is against you! You try to look cool by flicking your hair, but the effect is diminished by your instinctual wincing after every creak. Only now do you appreciate that the pain in your stomach isn't nerves, but your body signaling that it wants to be reunited with its long lost love: the toilet. Post-haste.
Attempt to look cool: failure
Right, forget about all that. You're in position. Okay. Breathe deeply. Deeper. There ' that's it. You glance nervously at the audience of vultures licking their lips at the prospect of new fodder. You anxiously look at the Timekeeper in the vain hope that he might suddenly transform into a fire alarm; urging everyone to evacuate the premises. He nods at you as he begins the stopwatch - okay, no salvation there then.
Your 'partner' smiles crookedly at you, from what seems now so far away, displaying a selection of teeth that would make even the most diligent dental surgeon wince at the salvage job ahead. You can't say you've even seen a serial killer, but if you had, you imagine it would look something like the sight before you. Where does she find these people?
A hammer smacking on a distant table seems to punctuate your anguish as it echoes throughout the prison, lingering in the air like the gong of a death bell. How deep is this rabbit hole? You straighten your tie and shuffle your notes, trying to create the illusion that you actually know what you are going to be waffling about for the longest seven minutes of your life. You treat your notes like a diabetic treats their insulin.
'Let the debate commence!' the Chairman bellows, with a glare that suggests he didn't get enough hugs as a child; now getting his 'kicks' out of vulgarly tossing his 'authority' around in an attempt to exorcise his demons. Lord, when did you become a psychiatrist?
Attempt to psychoanalyse the Chairman: failure
Bile rises in your throat as you contemplate arguing vociferously for something you don't believe in. You're about as irked as Hera was when she witnessed her husband recreating with new girls and boys on an almost daily - hold the phone ' this isn't your topic!
Your eyes immediately lock onto the title on your notes. Greek Mythology. Bugger. To think that you'd slaved over these for hours on end, pouring your heart and soul into it. It was like donating a kidney only to find the recipient had throat cancer instead.
Blood, sweat and tears: failure
The Chairman coughs, bringing you out of your reverie. You open your mouth to begin, and then close it dumbly. Variations of the theme 'oh s***!' flash through your mind as you begin the poisoned chalice that is debating. Don't you just love this?! No, really, you entered this voluntarily ' you masochist! You lick your lips, trying to quench your protesting dry throat as you enter what your 'partner' affectionately calls 'the zone.'
So let's get this straight; you're in a decrepit building filled with people who look as enthusiastic as the dead, your notes have been posted missing in action, your 'partner' gives off the aura that he's more likely to kill you than... No, he's going to kill you. The Chairman is a wolf in sheep's clothing and your Teacher is the boy who cried. She looks like it too. Taking this portfolio of failures into account, you can only summon one curious question. Why are you smiling?