Three days ago...
“All right class, can anyone tell me the primary causes of the French Revolution?” A hand shot up. “Other than Travis?” Mrs. Ontermeyer stared at thirty deer-in-the-headlight students. “All right Travis, go ahead.”
The tenth-grade stick-figure rose. “It was a combination of a bankrupt school board, a failure to provide decent food for the students, and a general atmosphere of discontent.”
“Travis, that isn’t…”
The first eraser hit her forehead. She dodged the ruler. A second later she was under her desk listening to the patter of impromptu projectiles against her desk.
Two days ago...
Principal Tartarus looked at the short skinny teenaged girl. “What’s the situation, Rebecca?”
“No luck with the doors or windows yet. The students control nearly everything except Administration, but they’ve broken into factions. The jocks hold the Gym and Cafeteria, and the drama students have the Auditorium. The WMM’s are holed up in the Library and the nerds are centered in the Science Labs.”
“Where's My Mommy. The kids, mostly juniors, who just want out.”
“And the fighting?”
“Still going strong, still no casualties. Something’s got everyone’s aggression ramped up, but they’re too stupid to use any real weapons. The jocks are attacking with basketballs but ignoring the baseball bats. Nobody has picked up even a pair of scissors. I have some thoughts about that...”
“I’m sure you do. For now you’d best get out scouting again.”
“You heard me, Rebecca. You’re doing a great job, but leave the thinking to the adults.”
Rebecca hunched up on the toilet seat. Someone was coming in, which made no sense since nobody had used the bathrooms for two days now. They’d been too busy playing war games with rulers and erasers and wadded paper and the like. She’d mentioned it to a couple of people, but nobody was listening.
She sort-of recognized the voices: Mrs. Gabriel and Mrs. Thurston, the muddle-aged matrons of Social Studies. But they sounded funny somehow. There was a rustle of voluminous fabrics dropping to the floor.
“I am glad to get out of that.”
“Me too. Angel, could you help me with this clip? Thanks.”
More fabric fell.
“Now let’s take a look at you. God, Nadine, you look great!”
“You too, Angel. Being a teenager wears you well. But speaking of wearing, what are we going to wear? Nothing fits any more.”
“My blouse would make a serviceable dress.”
“Your blouse would make a serviceable tent, dear. We should have gone down to the Home Ec room; they have sewing supplies there.”
“There is no Home Ec room, Angel; hasn’t been since the nineties.”
Rebecca looked down the dark staircase; she’d been all over the school several times in the past few days, but somehow missed the maintenance tunnels. Whatever was happening must be controlled from down there.
She couldn’t tell whether she should laugh or just be quietly weirded out. Nobody was eating or sleeping, but nobody was sick or injured; even the Roller Boys were out of their wheelchairs. Everyone was sixteen years old, even the teachers. Everyone was physically fit. And everyone except her was play-fighting with school supplies.
The light switch didn’t work; the tunnels were pitch black. Rebecca crept through them anyway, navigating by the feel of the rough concrete bricks and checking each smooth metal door as she passed it.
The light was almost blinding when she saw it. It was coming under the door of the boiler room. She cracked open the door and, seeing no-one, stepped in. In addition to the boiler, there was a huge machine with dozens of unlabelled indicators and progress lights. A loud hum vibrated everything in the room including her to its core. A single display screen caught her attention.
All is going to plan. The secret tunnels in the basement are fully stocked with survival gear so you can build New Earth. Everyone in the building except you should be playing a game I designed to keep them occupied while their minds and bodies are regressed to sixteen years. Only one mind will be unaffected, and there is a 96% chance that it’s you. Good luck.
If by some fluke you’re not Edward, a more complete colonization manual can be found on the Principal’s laptop. His password is ‘heLL10n$’. The basement lights will activate when you reach your destination. I’m sure you’ll love starting over on a new planet.
As Rebecca sat and gaped, the overhead lights came on.