This was written by my daughter Hannah after a trip to take her driving test...
The clock ticks loudly, over and over and over again. When I look at it, the hands don’t seem to have moved an inch. The room is cold, like any waiting room, and just as impersonal. These plastic chairs were designed by chiropractors without enough business, I can tell. But all worship has to have an element of sacrifice. I don’t look over my shoulder, that would be too irreverent, but I know what’s there. A series of windows, behind which the priests and priestesses scurry about like roaches, dealing with the poor souls the Goddess herself hasn’t deigned to deal with.
The Goddess sits in the center behind her desk, her sheer bulk attracting everyone’s respect and her sheer disdain for anyone else’s relevance only driving her own further home. Her beady eyes squint out from behind ample, pockmarked cheeks, ready and more than willing to condemn.
I shrink down in my chair, not wanting her gaze to touch the back of my head. I clutch my thin, ragged piece of paper between my fingers - fifty! It screams at me every time I look at it. I sneak a look around the room at the others, craning my neck low in an attempt to see their papers, but we are all hunkered down over them like threatened animals over a meal. I crinkle my paper between my fingers again. Fifty!
A few wide-eyed, shrinking teenagers slink out of the room behind me as quickly as they dare, murmuring "I failed again..." in tones of abject terror. They gather up their belongings and entourages and hurry out, the sound of their quickly flapping footsteps echoing long after they disappear. The rest of us clutch our numbers tighter, hoping and pleading for better luck than those poor souls. A few make covert glances behind, desperate attempts to find reassurance in the priests’ unsmiling faces. They all cower again at the sight, the priests plodding along with scowling, disdainful expressions while the Goddess surveys the hopefuls.
I have to look behind again, I can’t help myself. She is drumming her large fingers together slowly, her cheeks pulsing in an approximation of a thin smile. Like a fat spider in her parlour, I can’t help but think, before hushing my own thoughts hurriedly. The Goddess might hear them. Her eyes are glinting in bitter delight as she reaches for her microphone. My eyes widen, the words "Fifty! Fifty!" hammering and screeching in my brain. I cling to the number in a panic. The speaker grill above my head scratches itself to life tiredly. "Forty-nine."