• The case opened with a crack, and a white steam poured out. “Class, this is liquid nitrogen, one of the coldest substances on earth. In fact, this room is so much hotter than the nitrogen itself that it is already vaporizing into a gas. It’s that white mist, there, see it?” Ms. Robins said, waving her hands with gusto over the white fridge like box that was the subject of our science lesson that day. She had already explained to us how nitrogen is an element and is usually a gas because the earth doesn’t get cold enough to condense it into liquid, blah, blah, blah. She had more enthusiasm about the stuff than half the class and we were her fifth class that day.
    I was standing near the back of the group clustered around the nitrogen, and I peered around my classmates, curious. The lid wasn’t open that much, so too little light shone on it for me to see inside. What was actually in the box? I wondered. Even with floodlights over it the freezing liquid would be hard to see because of the mist.
    While Ms. Robins continued regaling us on the wonders of liquid nitrogen, I was in the process of yanking on a giant musty, sweaty glove. It was supposed to protect us from the substance, which BOILS at -346˚F, or so my teacher said. That could explain the mist, because that stuff boils away by touching just about anything hotter than it. Why we would stick our hands in such weird and cold stuff, I didn’t know. Were we going to make ice cream or something? None of the other classes said so.
    Only one kid in the class, Emily Inhota, (I looked up her last name. It means ‘dislike’ in Finnish. She always denies it though…) was almost as excited as the teacher. No sooner were her gloves on than she was bounding up to the box. She put her hands on the edge of the box and stared into the mist, fascinated. She could hardly contain herself. She was bouncing on the balls of her feet, nearly beaming. A split second later a look of horror appeared on her face.
    “My earring!” She gasped. “It fell in!” Worriedly she gawked at the dark container, searching for her earring. “It was my mom’s. She’s going to kill me!” Ms. Robins looked at her sympathetically, and then glanced at the wall-mounted clock. If she kept the lid off the nitrogen for much longer, there would be nothing left for the next classes to see but some white smoke drifting away.
    By now most kids in the room were looking in Emily’s direction. Some were feebly gazing into the container to try and help her, others laughing at her as she tried to hold back tears, waving at the mist as if that would drive it away and let her see.
    I, however, was on full alert. I dropped both of my gloves and shoved my way up to the box. Emily looked at me in surprise, one hand covering her mouth. Stepping pass her, I reached inside the box and felt around for the earring.
    “D-d-DUDE!” Emily spluttered, taking her hand off her face to try and pull my arm out. “You don’t just stick your hand in liquid nitrogen without gloves or something on!”
    The whole class turned their attention to me when they heard what Emily had said. Some people gasped, and some jerk muttered “idiot,” under his breath. I could see where he was coming from, though. True, he had no intention of wearing his musty old gloves anytime soon, but he wasn’t the one up to her elbows in liquid nitrogen.
    By now Ms. Robins had come closer and had a hold of my arm too. I scrabbled around with my fingers for Emily’s earring for one last second. “Haley, stop it!” my teacher said, concerned, probably about my mental stability, and she and Emily together got my arm out of the case.
    In front of the whole amazed class, I held up Emily’s earring, a little silver bell, and dropped it in her hand. “Here,” I muttered, feeling as stupid as they thought I was, and started to make my way to the back of the class again. I was stopped by Ms. Robins, who grabbed my arm again.
    “Hey, wouldn’t most people who shove their hands in a box of liquid nitrogen freeze their hand off?” Emily asked, confused.
    If the teacher hadn’t grabbed my arm already, I would have stopped in my tracks then. The realization of what just happened hit my hard. Sure, the box was cold, but I had no idea it was going to freeze my hand off! What was I thinking?
    “No, not necessarily freeze it off, but they would probably get frostbite. Or at least their hand would turn black and blue,” Ms. Robins replied doubtfully. “But, Haley’s hand seems to show no signs of being in the nitrogen at all. Her hand isn’t even cold.” We both looked down at my right hand, the nitrogen hand, which looked a lot like my left hand. Something was wrong. It should have been black and blue like Ms. Robins said, but it was fine.
    Emily and Ms. Robin’s conversation became barely audible in my head, like I was under water. When I thought back to it, the liquid nitrogen didn’t feel cold at all. In fact, it was almost more comfortable than room temperature. The room started spinning. What was wrong with me?

    (c) Kisasuki 2009