“Twenty lines! By tomorrow!” the Latin teacher shrieked. The class gave out a collective groan. Translating twenty lines of Ovid’s Metamorphoses seemed impossible, even with one hundred nights to work on them. I glanced down at my paper to see what was in store for me. Those twenty lines appeared to stretch on for an eternity. I saw the horror of what awaited me: strange words, long, jumbled sentences, and worst of all… Latin grammar!

When I arrived home, I was determined to get my work done. Of course, I needed to relax a little first. I wasn’t going to accomplish anything if I was hungry and stressed out. After playing some video games and eating a snack, I was ready to translate. But first I needed to prepare by watching copious amounts of Youtube. After equipping myself with the vital knowledge of the interwebs, I checked my notes for the lines I would be translating. “Eighty-nine to one hundred and fourteen? I could have sworn we only had to do twenty lines.”

I began the tedious process of translating line by line, word by word. As I put each word into the online dictionary I was using, one after the other, the definitions began to blur together.  After I had completed about six lines, my mind began to wander, and pretty soon I was most definitely off-topic. I journeyed back to that accursed land of YouTube, to fritter away yet more of my time. After watching a video about the sex lives of ancient wolves, I was able to wrest myself away, and turn back toward the task at hand. I picked up my pencil and was about to begin when I noticed something peculiar. My notes now read “translate lines eighty-nine to one hundred and nineteen.” Even as I worked, the assignment seemed to extend itself, slipping further from my grasp!

As I looked at the Latin, I absentmindedly reached for my work. My hand felt only air. Where had my translations gone? Oh, why was I so careless with them? I searched and searched, but could not find them. I had to start over! Resigned to my fate, I resolved to work straight through the night if that is what it took to lay this wretched assignment to rest. Of course, translating thirty lines of an ancient language is much easier said than done.

The more I translated, the more convinced I became that the passage was cursed. Sentences became more complex, the rules of grammar bent and twisted until they were unrecognizable, and every time I checked how many lines I had left, more seemed to be added on to my already bursting workload. As I wandered through mazes of participles, clauses, and more ablatives than you could shake a gladius at, I began to despair. At this rate, I would never finish any of my homework.

I had to resist every temptation to take a break, because every time I paused, it seemed I had yet more lines to translate. I labored throughout the night, slowly creeping up on the finish line. Just as I was completing the last few sentences, I unearthed an ancient horror. When I put the final words into the dictionary it returned simply: “unknown.” with that single word, my hopes of ever being done were dashed against the cold, hard rocks of reality. This could not be the end of my journey! I had come too far, sacrificed too much, to give up now! And so I delved back into my work, checking and cross-referencing sources, until at last I was sure… the word meant “the”! With that final word, my translation was complete! I collapsed into a blissful sleep.

The next morning, I woke up and glanced around. The previous night seemed like a bad dream. But there it was! My completed translation. I packed up for the day, never taking my eyes off my paper. I gingerly packed it away, noting exactly where it was. Every fifteen seconds, I would check to make sure it was still there. But no troubles befell me that morning. At last it was finally time to turn in my work. I carefully lifted it out of my backpack, checking it over one last time. I handed it to the teacher, presenting it to him like a gift of utmost value. He checked it over and gave an approving nod. Just as I was breathing a sigh of relief, he looked at me and said, “So, did you study for the test today?”

Evan Gustin writes in Arizona, USA.

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Every Day Fiction