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Review by The Scattering: Felix Culpa Review
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MISCORRECTION: FELIX CULPA (BOOK 1 - STORY 3)
Copyright © 2011 B.C. Young
The room was like every other room. The curtains hanging in front of the windows had a rainbow arrangement of flowers printed on them. There were two teacups sitting on the table in front of me that had a floral design. The soft, plush chair, in which I was sitting, was adorned with some sort of multi-colored flower I had never seen before. Obviously, the artist who made the design used creative license, but it was the most pleasing flower to look at in the room.
Flowers, flowers, flowers! Sometimes, I wish I had never given that interview.
There is only so much a person can do. When the eyes of the entire system are watching you, people live and breathe what you say. Of course, some may hate you. But even then – well, people live and breathe what you say. There is no way around it.
I sat there and waited. My eyes continued to watch the clock, not wondering when it would begin but when it would end. If you are going to ask someone for an interview, and more than ask, let’s try beg someone for an interview, don’t you think you would be there on time to ask the questions and get the answers?
So I sipped some tea and drowned my eyes in the floral room, which was less relaxing than it was annoying. The worst part was, when the door opened, I had to be who I was to the public. There would be no complaining about the way I was treated, how long they told me to wait, or just how much I wanted to find a weed killer to get rid of all the flowers in the room.
No. I had to be the President’s wife, the First Lady of the six-planet system, the woman everyone looked up to as a role model. A role model for current mothers and wives and an inspiration to those who would grow up to fulfill those roles is what I had to be. And when it came down to it, I enjoyed it.
As the door opened, it creaked slightly. A tall woman, with shoulder length blond hair, walked into the room. She probably dyed her hair that color, along with the multi-colored streaks in it, but who’s keeping track. She was wearing a very professional black suit. She wore her makeup in a subtle fashion. The dark maroon color of her lipstick accented the blue hue around her eyes well. Of course, being she’d gotten her interview, she was smiling from cheek to cheek.
“First Lady Adalyn, this is such a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak with you,” the reporter said as she stuck out her hand to shake mine. “I hope you like the room. I had the agency make sure it had all the right touches you have come to expect.”
“Oh, it’s just lovely,” I lied. She did have a point. I had come to expect my surroundings, so in that sense they were correct. But they certainly weren't something I necessarily liked.
“My name is Willow,” she said, sitting down in the chair directly opposite of me.
“Nice to meet you. Interesting name,” I said.
“Thank you,” Willow said. “It's just a variation of my father's name. When my parents had me, they were expecting a boy. I was going to be the firstborn and they wanted to name me William. But out pops me, a girl. My mother, like you, likes flowers, especially the rare one found on Ptolomo, the Willow. My father liked the name and here I am today.”
Oftentimes, I did not care for those who would interview me. They usually immediately went to attacking one thing or another my husband was doing politically. They wanted to find a hole or some sort of gossip for the evening news. I never liked this, because I did not want to hurt his reputation to the public. After everything he had done for people, he did not deserve a public stab in the back.
I assumed Willow was just buttering me up by revealing a little bit about herself from the beginning. And then she was going to start slicing through me like bread. The smile on her face remained fixed in its position. She glanced down at her holopad and started entering some information into it. When she was satisfied with whatever it was she was doing, she looked up at me, still smiling. She certainly was a happy woman.
“First Lady Adalyn –”
“Please, just Adalyn. No need for the titles. It feels somewhat impersonal.” I interrupted her. “If you are going to ask me questions only a close friend would normally ask, then it’s best if we are on a first name basis. Besides, I feel using the title constantly disconnects us from people. As if we’re more important than they are. We’re just like everybody else, only we’re in a position of authority.”
“No problem,” she said. “So, Adalyn, let me first just say how appreciative I am that you were willing to do this interview. This is not going to air live, but will be part of a local broadcast in the future. And I’m hoping you find this interview to be different than what you are used to.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, knowing every other reporter that has interviewed me has said the same thing.
“I know that, generally, you are asked about your husband’s accomplishments. How do you feel about all the change he’s brought to the six planets? What’s it like to be a part of history, turning fragmented governments into one working government? Do you see any repercussions from the Panacea Incident? And all the other things you are asked on a consistent basis. No, this will be different, because I am really only interested in one thing.”
Now she did get my interest. She was correct. Often, I am grilled by reporters about what my husband is doing in office. Anything about me is overshadowed. There was someone who wanted to actually speak with me every once and a while. And on those occasions, I enjoyed the interview. I even welcomed it with open arms. The only thing yet to find out is if she was telling the truth.
“It’s you and the President I am interested in,” she said. “What brought you two together? What is it that caused you to support him all these years? How did you fall in love? That’s what I want to discuss. After doing some research, I realized everyone has focused on all the political stuff and the success found there. No one has looked into what has made your relationship so successful.”
This was refreshing. I think she was right. I could not recall any interview where someone asked me about that subject. Now, I was actually excited to speak. In fact, I was starting to like the flowers.
“There is really only one place to begin. And it is quite a while ago,” I said.
“Perfect,” Willow said as she wrote some notes on her holopad and waved her hand in front of the screen. “Let’s make this interesting for our women viewers; they’ll eat this stuff up. Tell me how the day you met the President began.”
It all took place about thirty years ago. My parents had fallen on difficult financial times. After losing his job, my father was able to find another place to work. The catch was that it was in a newer location and he would be making less money. So we ended up moving to a town just outside of Central Market on Cormos called Lovan.
The day I met Daniel included many firsts. We had just moved to Lovan and it was my first day at school. There is nothing worse than being in your final year of high school and having to join a new school only a couple of months before graduation. But I found myself in that situation.
As the school bus glided towards its destination, my mood matched the weather outside. I recall looking out the window and seeing the gray clouds above. I had not checked the weather for the day and had forgotten my umbrella. Not only did I have to ride a bus to school now, but I may have ended up getting wet, too, if it ended up being a rainy day.
I was not looking forward to that day at all. Granted, it’s only school, but if I had known some of the things that would happen that day, I would have stayed home.
“Here goes nothing,” I mumbled to myself as the bus floated to a stop to let us off.
I stepped off the bus and gazed at the school in front of me. It certainly was not like my former school. The building was small; I had heard there were only about one thousand students. It was also obvious that maintenance on the building happened infrequently. In some areas, there were broken, boarded up windows. In general, the school looked run down. I was surprised it was even up to code for occupancy.
All the other students were following the same path as me. There was only one entrance to the school, and I later found out that for security reasons they closed the other entrances. As we all entered the school, we had to go through a security check. Although the school’s funding was low, the security equipment was top-of-the-line. After the attack on Central Market seven years earlier, the government, to keep the schools more secure, supported even the poorer areas.
Hovering detectors floated around to each student, automatically scanning them for dangerous materials. The silver devices were small, flat, and circular and they were used for X-ray, metal, retinal, and fingerprint detection. Nothing was left unchecked to make sure you were safe and who you said you were.
“Proceed to main office please. Follow me,” the detector voiced, in an emotionless tone, after it had scanned me. It had no doubt read who I was and knew I was a new student.
I followed the detector as it led me down the hallway. Posters for an upcoming dance and paint-chipped, dented lockers lined the hallways. Students waiting for the school day to begin stood around talking. Their eyes would focus on me as I passed, checking out the new girl in school. I really hated that day.
The detector flew off in the opposite direction as I reached the main office. I thought someone welcoming me to the new school would greet me. Instead, a robot guide was there. I assumed it was cheaper to maintain a robot than to hire a human being. Not to mention a robot will always work and be more efficient, whereas a human would waste time and be clumsy. That robot probably took the place of two to three people. While it was more efficient, it was not the high end model. It was made to look like a robot and had no doubt been in commission for many years. What was once probably a shiny, silver body was now grayed, and rusted.
“Good morning Miss Adalyn,” the robot said, turning its head towards me in an inhuman manner. “Please wait one moment while your schedule is compiled and downloaded into your DigiText.”
After a minute, the robot took the DigiText device off its holder and handed it to me.
“This device shows your school schedule for the week. It will also display maps of the school so you do not get lost. All your textbooks, assignments, and anything related to school will be on this device. If you should have any problems finding your way around, where you are to go next, or how to use the device, touch the question mark in the upper right side of the screen. Do you have any questions?”
“Yes,” I said. “Where is my first class today?”
“Please touch the question mark on your DigiText for any school related questions,” the robot said. If it had been human, it would have smiled as if to remind me it already told me what to do. “Are there any other questions you have that cannot be answered by the DigiText?”
“No. Thank you,” I said somewhat frustrated. The robots do make things easier in some ways, but in others, human interaction is always better.
I touched the question mark on the DigiText screen. Immediately, it displayed a message asking how it could help. After verbally asking where my first class for the day was located, the display showed a map of the school layout. A pointer indicated my location, and a pulsating red dot showed me my final location.
As I began my trek from the Main Office to my classroom, the tone signaling that classes were to begin rang. Very quickly, the hallways became like an abandoned mine. This helped because I had to keep my eyes on the DigiText to see where it was leading me. There were no voice prompts, so I figured cheap schools don’t get voice prompts as an option.
According to the display, I was heading to room B23; the teacher’s name was Mr. Mangler and the subject was history. By its estimation, the DigiText said I would be there in three minutes.
I started making my way around the school. As I passed classrooms in session, I would glance into the rooms briefly. Each one looked the same as the one before. There would be a teacher in the front of the class trying to maintain order, while all the students did whatever they could to maintain chaos and keep the class from officially starting.
Finally, I made it to my classroom. Not wanting to cause a huge distraction, I slowly opened the door. As I walked in, I noticed that this class was much different from the others. There were twenty-eight students and it appeared that everyone was sitting and listening, and the teacher was already instructing the students. All eyes in the room looked towards me, including the teacher.
“You must be Adalyn,” the teacher said, as he walked towards me. He had a big smile on his face and he was sticking out his hand to shake mine. He appeared to be in his late thirties, and his hair was dark and longer than most men, giving it a shaggy look.
“That’s me,” I said with a tone of exasperation, shaking his hand.
“Well it’s nice to have you join our class today. I’m Mr. Doel.”
The name didn’t sound right. I quickly looked down at my DigiText and realized I must be in the wrong room.
Stupid cheap school, I thought to myself, they can’t even give me the correct room number or teacher.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I must be in the wrong classroom. It says here my teacher’s name is Mr. Mangler.”
“No. You’re at the correct place. Mr. Mangler called out sick today, and I’m his substitute.”
Stupid cheap school. They can’t even update their DigiText to let you know you will have a substitute teacher.
“Why don’t you take a seat,” Mr. Doel said. “There’s a place in the back that is open.”
I did as the teacher instructed and sat down in the only available seat in the class. The position was in the back corner, as far away from the entrance to the classroom as possible. But I didn’t mind; it was next to the windows and the room was on the second floor, so I got a decent view of the world outside. Well, a decent view except where a well placed sheet of plywood over a broken window was located. If the class got boring, I welcomed the idea of having a distraction.
“Hi, I’m Daniel,” said the boy in the desk next to me as I was sitting down. He was cute. His hair was dark and parted to the right side. The smile on his face was infectious, and I naturally smiled back.
“Adalyn,” I said. “Nice to meet you.”
“So that is what happened?” Willow said. “You just happen to sit next to him in class? I was hoping for something a little more romantic for the piece.”
Willow had a disappointed look on her face. Granted, there was nothing special about what I just told her. But she hadn’t let me finish yet. The best, or worst, depending on how you looked at it, was yet to come.
“It was odd,” I said. “The next time we had class, when Mr. Mangler was back, I found out those were not our seat assignments. Daniel told me that Mr. Doel actually made the class sit in different seats as a ‘way of demonstrating that conforming to the norm is not always necessary, as history has shown us’ or something like that.
“I’ll agree with you Willow. This isn’t the most romantic story, but it was the catalyst for me falling in love with the man. If we didn’t have those seat arrangements that day, our relationship would probably never have started.”
“OK,” she said. “So what was it then? How was this the ‘catalyst’ for you falling in love with him?”
“I’m getting to it, Willow. It’s just that more happened that day than the two of us meeting. And much of it is significant to how we live our lives today.”
“Class, we’re not opening our textbook files right now.” Mr. Doel said to everyone. “Mr. Mangler did have his assignments laid out for the day, but I think it would be good to discuss something a little different before we go into his agenda.”
Mr. Doel made his way to the front of the class and stood on the holoboard. Using the stylus in his hand, he began drawing in the air. There were seven very distinct circles. In the center was the largest circle and around the larger circle were smaller circles of varying size. It was clear what he was drawing.
“Can anyone tell me what this is?” he asked the class.
“It’s our solar system,” someone blurted out, despite all the raised hands. “We aren’t exactly stupid. If we’ve gotten this far, we would have to know that. And what’s this got to do with history?” There was a slight chuckle from the class at the student’s comment.
“Thank you, Stephen, but please, raise your hand. This is a class, not a free-for-all discussion. And what we are discussing isn’t really history, but rather, possible future history.”
Mr. Doel was able to set the drawing of the solar system in motion. The sun stayed in its spot in the middle, while the other smaller circles, representing the planets, began orbiting the sun. All six of the circles held the same orbital path, one behind the other, maintained their speed, and never collided. It was just as it should be; not to scale, but accurate enough for us to know what we were viewing.
“Now we notice that all six planets in our solar system follow the same orbital path. They all rely on the sun to keep them on their path. Not only that, they all need the sun in order to maintain life on all six planets.” Mr. Doel continued using the stylus and making hand motions, controlling the mock-up of the solar system that he made. “You could say that if things were not at one with each other, things would not be so good. If one planet’s speed was faster or slower than another, the planets would collide and life would be lost. Or if a planet’s orbit was bigger or smaller, life might not be sustainable and its path could eventually put it on a collision course with the other planets. But this is not the case with our solar system. Everything works together so that, even though there are several parts, they all act as if they are one.” He continued motioning his hands downward and the model disappeared into the holoboard on which he was standing.
“What are we in, Science class,” another student blurted out.
“Buitin sphere,” Mr. Doel commanded, ignoring the student’s remark. In front of him appeared the system’s fifth planet, Buitin. Even from where I was sitting, I could see water and landmasses easily. “Overlay government boundaries, including those on the seas.” Gradually, lines formed onto the sphere showing where all the different governments of the planet were located. It was odd that he wanted even the governments at sea to have boundaries; usually the land governments did not recognize them as sovereign states. “Colorize,” he next said. All the boundaries filled with different colors, making it very easy to distinguish where all the different countries were located.
“Can anyone tell me what we are now looking at?” Mr. Doel asked the class. No one volunteered his or her hand. “What about you in the back? Daniel is it? What do you see?”
Caught off guard, Daniel sat up straighter. He looked closely at the hologram of the planet floating in front of the teacher at chest level. I could tell he was formulating the answer he wanted to give.
“It’s Buitin. Fifth planet in the solar system, between Shepadon and Planness,” he said.
“That’s true. But what do you really see? All six of our planets follow the same orbital path. They are all in unison, but despite this oneness, what does just this one planet show us?” he said as he glanced at the clock. He appeared enthusiastic about what he was teaching us, but at the same time, it was as if he couldn’t wait to leave.
Daniel thought further on the question, readying a response. I found it odd how Mr. Doel was starting to have a conversation with Daniel, as if he was the only student in the class. But it was odder that Daniel did not seem to mind.
“Well, it’s one planet that is not in unison. We see a division of different countries, not only on land, but also at sea. On top of that, the land based governments refuse to recognize the seafaring countries as sovereign states.” Daniel said, clearly proud of what he said, but also not surprised by it.
“Exactly,” Mr. Doel said with excitement. “We can see how well a system of several parts can work, when all those parts work together. But instead of working together, humans work for their own goals. Usually power is the ultimate problem. Everyone wants power, and if they don’t get it, what do they do?”
“They fight,” Daniel said with an emotional response, as if he was a victim. “They attack. They go to war. Just like the Karhath attack seven years ago at Central Market. They lose sight of the fact that we are all people.”
Mr. Doel smiled. It was as if he found victory in showing a student that the ways of the six planets were not great. That shouldn’t have surprised him though. Everyone knew things were not great, nor were they getting any better.
“Good observation, Daniel,” Mr. Doel said, commending him. “And this system is the same on all the planets. There are divisions everywhere. There are many countries, somewhere in the neighborhood of seven or eight hundred. Some would argue that if you could join the people together, so that they are united like the way our planets orbit the sun, complementing each other and nudging each other in their orbits, that the system would be a better place.”
“Now you sound like my grandfather,” Daniel said.
As I had come to know Daniel, I understood this statement clearly. His parents had abandoned him when he was just nine years old. This left his grandfather to raise him. After the attack on Central Market, his grandfather had been on a mission to train Daniel for a better future. He taught him values and told him to never stray from what was right, even if it meant dire consequences. His grandfather truly believed that one person could make a difference and change the system.
“I’m sure your grandfather is a wise man. I take that as a compliment,” Mr. Doel said. “But there is a problem with this idea of a unified government. Does anyone know what this is?”
Again, no one volunteered to answer. I felt rather bad for the teacher. After all, he was just a substitute, and typically, students treated substitutes with disrespect. Glancing around the room, I could see most students were not paying attention to him at all. So I decided to raise my hand.
“Yes, Adalyn,” he called on me.
“The problem is people. We’re all different. We all come from varied backgrounds. If people were looking for one unified government on not only one planet, but also six, it would be very difficult. There would be too many conflicting ideas and beliefs to ever make it happen.”
“That’s true,” Mr. Doel commented. “It’s very true. But if you recall in history, there were things that happened, that no one would expect. For instance, the Lalbyon nation on Kwon. That nation was the world power on Kwon about 3,000 years ago. In no way was it expected that they would have lost that power. But one night, while they were having a festive party, they were careless. The capital was surrounded by a moat, and the only way into the city was over a drawbridge. The bridge was up for protection at night. So the only way into the city at the time would be by boat. Which is very slow and the guards would easily see the intruders and stop them before they could make it into the city. Does anyone know what happened next? How about you here in the front? Michael is it?”
“Uh, well, I’m not quite sure,” Michael said. I couldn’t see Michael from where I was sitting because other students were blocking my view, but I assumed he wasn’t paying attention, just like the rest of the class.
“Okay, Daniel, let’s go back to you then,” Mr. Doel said after he saw Daniel was raising his hand to answer.
“Well, the party was happening and the king was having a good time. It was a citywide party and people were not paying attention, including the guards. Upstream, the river that had supplied water to the moat, and protected the city, had been dammed up. This Mado-Porsian nation did this, led by their general, Cyrus. It resulted in them being able to cross the moat on pretty much dry land. They infiltrated the city, taking it by surprise. They killed and captured many. Among the dead was the king himself. With the capital captured, the Lalbyon power crumbled overnight and the Mado-Porsian became the new world power of Kwon.”
“Very good, Daniel. You know your history. That is exactly what happened. Many at the time would have never thought the Lalbyon power could be overtaken. And if you told them it would be conquered in a single night, they would laugh at you hard. Now what about a unified governmental system among the six planets? It would probably take one single event that is so great in magnitude, that it would unify the people. What would dam the river and dry up the moat that protects human discord? It is really anyone’s guess. But it would have to be something great and something quick. If things moved to slowly to unify governments, they would eventually just fall apart again. Now, what benefits could come from a one system government of the six planets?”
Mr. Doel’s decision to follow this course of teaching was definitely different. He was asking us things about what could happen in the future. But he was basing all of this on things that had happened in the past. It was an interesting way of teaching the class. But what made it so great was that we really didn’t have to use our DigiTexts to answer any questions.
“Peace,” Michael blurted out. Apparently, Mr. Doel’s calling on him earlier without volunteering caused him to answer now.
“Interesting,” Mr. Doel said as he looked at the time on the clock again. “Very interesting. Can you explain further?”
“Well,” Michael hesitated, as if he only said the first thing that came to his mind and didn’t really think it through. ”If there is one unified government, wars would pretty much cease. There would not be any countries to fight each other.”
“This would be partially true,” said Mr. Doel as he paced, not really facing the class. “There would be no countries, and so war for power is a lot less likely. But you will always have those who for some reason oppose what is going on; or simply, those who want power. After all, this is man that we are talking about. Without a higher power to guide them, they will just fall into the temptation of greed and supremacy. But overall, you would have conditions that are more peaceful. You would see less prejudice. It would also have a profound effect on the military. Without a great fear of another country attempting to conquer you, your defenses do not need to be as great. Well, unless you are expecting an alien invasion or something like that.” Many in the class laughed aloud at the idea. “So the military’s role would change” He turned toward the class and saw Daniel’s hand raised. “Yes, Daniel.”
“So what happens if the wrong person or government is in power in a unified system? Couldn’t that be disastrous for the people they are ruling? There would be no alternative, no understanding of a better way of life.”
It was an interesting thought, and I was sure that Daniel had stumped the teacher. But every step of the way, Mr. Doel had an answer.
“Yes it could Daniel. But, if the system put in place is good, there won’t be a problem. If the man or men in control really care about the people, it will be okay. If the event that ‘dams the river and dries up the moat’ is so wonderful that no one can deny its greatness, people will remember. So it is the duty of the one or many in power and achieving it, to use it wisely and not for selfish reasons.”
It was as if he was speaking directly to Daniel, challenging him.
“Wow!” Willow exclaimed. “It’s like the teacher was seeing into the future.”
“It certainly was,” I said. Willow appeared to be genuinely interested in this story. She was keeping true to her word, just getting the information she wanted and not prying with the usual subject matter. What had started out as another dreaded interview was actually becoming quite enjoyable.
“So at this point you’ve met Daniel. But you don’t really know him. Did anything happen that day that spurred on the relationship, or was it something that happened over time?”
“Oh, something definitely happened. As I look back, I was dreading that first day in the new school. I didn’t want to go. I just wanted to stay in bed. And had I done that, I would have experienced a very different day. If I knew what was going to take place before I went, I probably would have stayed home. But, if you told me that experiencing that day was crucial to finding the love of my life, I would have gone anyway.”
“That’s kind of a confusing statement and a little contradictory,” Adalyn accused.
“Yes. That it is. But you’ll see what I mean when I’m done.”
“Okay,” Mr Doel said, “our future history lesson is done. Now, please get out your DigiText and go to marker 471 in Common Cormos History.” He looked up at the clock again. Did he want to be teaching the class, or was he just counting the minutes until his day was finished?
You could hear a collective groan from everyone in the class. Mr. Doel’s initial conversation, while different, was a lot more interesting than real events that happened in the past. I glanced out the windows to the outside. The overcast weather had turned into heavy rain.
“Common History has its limitations. Does anyone know why?” Mr. Doel scanned the room for volunteers. “Yes, Adam.”
“Its basis isn’t in any physical form of documentation,” I heard Adam’s voice say from somewhere in front of me.
“That’s correct. When we study Common History, we always have to question its validity. All Common History is based upon word of mouth. Now, at some point it is documented or it wouldn’t be in your DigiText. But there is nothing found in archaeology that tells us if it is true. Even different published books vary in their recounting of events, and this is mainly because retelling history by word of mouth tends to cause the story to change in slight ways. But what we have is as close to accurate as –”
A loud bang outside of the room and somewhere down the hallway interrupted Mr. Doel. All of the students jumped in their seats when they heard it. For a few seconds we sat in silence and looked at each other, asking with our eyes “What was that?” After that, things happened rather quickly.
There was another bang, this time slightly louder. Accompanying the sound were the screams of students in their classrooms. I could hear the scream of one student, or possibly a teacher. It was high pitched and full of fear; then another bang, and the scream stopped.
Everyone in the class immediately grew fearful. Mr. Doel ran over to the door entrance and opened it slightly to peak down the hallway. There was another loud bang as he looked out the door. It was a sound of impending death. He closed the door and said to the class in a loud whisper, “Come over to the door.”
My head turned and I looked out the window. While it was wet and dreary outside, inside it was getting downright miserable. All twenty-eight of us made our way over to the door. Somehow, we remained calm, instead of pushing and fighting to make our way over to the exit. Because of where Daniel and I sat, we ended up being in the back of the group that huddled and crouched around Mr. Doel.
“Okay,” Mr. Doel said as he looked up at the clock, “in exactly thirty seconds I am going to open the door and you need to run to our left and then immediately left again down the stairs. There is someone out there with a gun, but he is to the right and down the hall about nine meters. But he is making his way down here. From what I could tell, he is in the classroom next to us.”
There was another loud scream and another loud bang ending it.
Because of how quickly everything took place, none of us really had a chance to process what was happening or if Mr. Doel’s plan was sound. We just knew that there was a possible crazy killer in the school and he was making his way down the hallway towards us. A person’s survival instincts kick in at that point, and nothing else really matters.
Mr. Doel continued to watch the clock. I followed his eyes and watched it, too. I remember quite vividly that the clock said the time was 8:42. The seconds ticked away until they reached twenty-three.
“Go!” Mr. Doel called out. He opened the door and students began coming out of their crouched positions and rushing out, following his instructions. His face was serious, but lacked concern.
Daniel and I, being in the back of the group, were to be the last students out of the room to try to make it to safety. The class continued to file out and I felt a nervous anxiety building up in me. What if we don’t get out in time? We’re the last in the group. What if the attacker makes his way out into the hallway while we are making our escape? Why did I have to have my first day at this school today?
Someone grabbed my hand. It was Daniel. His grip was firm, but relaxed my inner nerves. My head turned to look at him. His dark brown eyes were inviting me to calm down, and his determined look told me he was there to help.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “You go out first; I’ll be behind you, then Mr. Doel. Nothing is going to happen to you. I promise.”
The expression on my face must have given away my fear. But Daniel’s support was very much welcomed. It comforted me and calmed me down. He spoke with confidence, and that made me more confident. At that point, I actually felt good about our situation. My feeling was that we were going to be okay.
Mr. Doel continued guiding the students out, ushering them along by slightly pushing on their backs to guide them out the door as they walked past him. There were only two other students in front of me and then I would be making my way to safety.
My grip on Daniel’s hand could not be broken at this point. He was my hope that I would remain protected, and I was not going to let him go. Afterwards, he told me that I was gripping his hand so tight that it hurt. But he didn’t want to make me let go, because he knew I needed the support.
As the last student made his way out the door, the loud bang sound happened again. Mr Doel held his arm out to stop me from leaving the room. Then, traveling down the hallway, there was a zipping sound. There was no yell, no scream. But the student in front of me, who turned out to be Stephen, was in the hallway, his feet hitting the floor hard as he ran, and his mouth blurting something out. And then, there was silence, and a thud as his body hit the floor.
Mr. Doel quickly closed the door and looked at Daniel and me. There was intensity on his face, as if the weight of the solar system was on his shoulders.
“Listen to me very carefully,” he said. “Whoever is out there is coming this way. You need to do exactly as I tell you. Go to the back of the room, in the corner, and hide behind your desks or whatever you can find. No matter what happens, or what you see, stay hidden and do not make a sound.”
Daniel stood up immediately and went to run for cover. I had forgotten that he was still holding my hand and he yanked me to a standing position. We ran, hands still attached, to the back of the room together, exactly as Mr. Doel had said. We bumped into my desk and the DigiText began to fall. Fortunately, I caught it before it hit the floor. The sound it would have made would have definitely been loud enough for the intruder to hear.
“Sit here,” Daniel said in a whisper.
We both sat down on the floor behind my desk. Looking through the desks in the class, I could see Mr. Doel crouched by the door, waiting for the intruder to enter. I remember thinking to myself that he was a brave man to be willing to go up against someone with a weapon, just to protect two students. The rain outside could be easily heard outside as it fell hard and a few cracks of thunder sounded in the distance. Daniel was also intently watching to see what was going to happen next. He looked over to me and put his hand on my left shoulder.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “Everything is going to be fine.”
“But, how do you know?” I asked. I didn’t even realize until that point that I had tears streaming down my face.
“Because I know. Call it a gut feeling, but I’m confident that you and I will get through this.”
His eyes did not waver, but looked at me directly as he spoke the words. I wanted to believe him. My heart wanted him to be correct. And so the idea of us being okay wrapped around me like a blanket keeping me warm from the cold.
Both our heads turned away from each other and toward the front of the room. The sound of the door handle turning was quiet, yet loud at the same time. Mr. Doel, while allowing the knob to turn, was pushing with all his might to keep the door from opening. Then the movement of the knob stopped. It looked like the intruder gave up.
As it turns out, he didn’t stop trying. A man came charging through the door, splintering the wood at the location where the latch keeps the door closed. The force was strong enough to push Mr. Doel back and pin him between the open door and the wall.
Instinctively, I was about to let out a scream. But Daniel must have had the presence of mind to recognize this, and he quickly cupped his right hand over my mouth. He wrapped his left arm around my back and held me gently and quietly whispered “Shh” in my ear.
From our vantage point, I could see the intruder was a tall man. His outfit was black and tight. There were belts and clips attached to his garments, which allowed him to carry several types of weapons. His hair was short and black with slight hints of gray. And his face was long and squared, with dark brown eyes that appeared to be almost black.
When he entered, his eyes scanned the room, looking for signs of life. At first, he didn’t realize that he had opened the door and pinned the teacher behind it. The door should have tried to swing closed from its momentum of hitting the wall, but I concluded that Mr. Doel must have held it open to prevent his being exposed. It was a smart attempt, but one that would fail to work.
The intruders head snapped back to the door, as if he realized that the laws of physics did not play out correctly. He pulled the door towards the closed position and looked behind it. A wicked smiled formed on his face and he drew his gun up into position to shoot Mr. Doel, who I imagined was crouched with his hands above his head to protect him.
“Please, don’t shoot,” Mr. Doel called out, in a surprisingly strong voice that had no hints of fear.
The intruder hesitated and I could see a look of confusion come over his face. “Where’s Mr. Mangler?” he said, with his gun still drawn.
Mr. Doel slowly came out from behind the door with his hands in the air. He walked towards the intruder, who submitted to his forward motion by taking a few steps backwards.
“Mr. Mangler is not here today, my friend. I am substituting for him.”
A look of disappointment came over the intruders face.
It was at that time that the sound of sirens from police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks filled the air outside. A sense of relief came over me. The authorities just needed to do their job, and we would get out safely. That’s how I thought things would go anyway, but they didn’t.
Upon hearing the sound of sirens, the intruder made his way over to the windows in the classroom to see what he was facing. He mumbled something to himself and quickly began closing the blinds. Normally their use was to block too much sunlight from getting into the room. But on this dreary day, they served only as a protection for the intruder should a sniper try to shoot him.
Daniel and I quickly realized that he was making his way fast towards us as he closed the blinds. Once he got close to us, there was no place we could hide. We made our way around the other side of the desks and tried to hide..
Mr. Doel saw an opportunity. He was still near the door; the intruder was near us. He could have easily slipped out unnoticed, but instead, he started his way towards us. With the intruder’s back to him, Mr. Doel obviously felt he had an opportunity to take him down and end the whole thing. In a crouched walking position, he went from a slow to rapid pace. I thought he would actually make it and take down the intruder.
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