I heard it over the speakers.
I’m sure that I did.
It was only my name, but it frightened me. I’ve never heard anyone say it like that before, each syllable carefully and slowly pronounced. The voice was deep, dark, and deliberate.
I’m certain that I heard it, but apparently nobody else did. Normally, when someone is mentioned over the speakers, the rest of the class turns and stares at them until they do whatever they’ve been asked to do.
Nobody moved, though. Not when I heard my name mentioned. Nobody looked around. The teacher didn’t look up from the paper on their desk, or tell me to leave the room, or do anything besides – but I heard it nonetheless.
At the other desks, my classmates clicked their pens or turned the pages of their tests, perhaps just to break the silence. They all seemed to be concentrating hard, or at least hard enough to prevent themselves from becoming bored. We all understood the importance of the test we were taking, but the sound of my name – and I know I heard it – had unnerved me.
I couldn’t focus on the test. Not now. That voice continued to echo in my mind, repeating my name over and over and still nobody else in the room could hear it.
I wondered if this was all somehow deliberate, and that everybody else was out to get me, because it’s better than thinking that I had imagined it.
There had been no instructions, though. No “go the headmaster’s office” after my name. Just that deep voice, dragging out the word until it hurt my eardrums.
I closed my eyes and tried to return to the test. It only seemed to make the voice louder.
I knew that I had failed before the test was over. When we were told to put our pens down, the voice faded, until it vanished completely.
The failure was my own, and I knew it.