Highest grade = 99. The words were etched onto the board like a final fate, a final score. Finality. That was the word.

It couldn't be her; Shelby Crossford had never gotten the highest score – she was only an average, average student. And yet she still waited, with baited breath, hoping each time that it would for once be her.

The teacher strolled up and down the aisles, passing back tests left and right. She could feel her heart pounding, like it was about to explode from her chest – she couldn't breathe.

The teacher was approaching her – she felt hot and cold flashes sear her forehead; she was kind of… dizzy.

His hand was extending, holding out the test paper upside-down. She took it; hands shaking and sweating, she flipped it over.


She opened her locker. They didn't fit; her books didn't fit into her backpack.

Screw it, she said, then clutched her textbooks to her chest.

She lived in her cubicle – breathed projects, worked all day and all night.

So of course, now, she was slumped over on her gray speckled cubicle desk, eyelids barely able to lift a fraction above


She couldn't figure it out; she couldn't understand how she could make a cheap solar-powered fuel cell so that everyone would be able to buy one.

She was stuck on platinum – one of the most expensive metals to make.

Her head hit the desk. She needed coffee. Desperately. Bagels Plus coffee was good, she mused – so what if it made her a little deranged? God, she was tired.

She needed to sleep; she couldn't think.

But wait! The idea was coming to her; it was almost there, reachable – she pulled a pen and pad toward herself –


She didn't know what time it was; she hadn't brought her watch today to school.

But anyways, her bus was far, so she sprinted down the hallway and onto the street.

Bright lights shone down upon her, illuminating the squeaky clean wooden floor. It was mahogany-colored, very pretty and elegant, she mused.

She was at the Nobel Prize convention (this time it was situated in Norway) and her name was about to be announced. The media had raved about the fact that she was the youngest person in history to be awarded a Nobel Prize –

This was her moment.

"Watch out!" There was a warning from her left.

Walk. Skid. Slide. Slip. Squeal.


She could hear screams and a couple of muffled "oh my God"'s from the left. A car door slammed shut on her right.

She could see two lights in front of her that kind of resembled gopher eyes.

Dazedly, the word "cute" flashed through her mind.

Someone was kneeling next to her, keys were jangling in his/her (?) palm; people were swarming, scurrying toward her.

As if she was the center, the center of the Earth.

"And now, may we present, Shelby Crossford, our youngest Nobel Prize winner in history!" The booming voice of the presenter shook the stage.

Shelby strolled calmly towards the podium. She had her speech ready already.

The microphone was of a silver color and was attached to the podium by a strong but flexible wire. She bent the wire so that the microphone was at her height.

"First of all," she began, "I would like to thank my family and friends – "

Hands removed her body from the ground and laid her on a tight rough piece of cloth.

The mufflings had died down, almost stilled to a whisper, but still the aura of franticness remained.

But for what? Shelby didn't know.

Her speech was over; Shelby graciously handed over the mike to the presenter.

She looked out, one last time, towards the thousands in the crowd. She could see her mother and her father, tears dripping from their eyes for sheer joy; she could see her friends, cheering, whistling – some even stomping their feet; she could see her classmates (that she didn't know so well) and her teachers and the rest of her family and everyone she had ever met or seen throughout the course of her entire life.

The paramedics saw her smile.

Shelby saw all fade into a blinding white.

And then the crowd burst into simultaneous applause. For her and only her. It was a raucous ruckus, an unconstrained explosion, an assemblage of fireworks –

It was a screaming ecstasy. And she was home at last.