The atmosphere at the school that day was unusual. And weird. Couldn't forget that. It was weird and unusual mainly because there were no teachers in the school. Or at least, no living ones. And everyone else in the school, at least, all the ones who'd managed to survive, would now have gifts. Abilities. And I would be one of them.
Three hours earlier......
She'd woken up to her alarm blaring at her bedside. A hand snaked its way out from under the warm covers and fumbled around on the bedside table, nudging an empty plastic glass off onto the floor, before finally managing to hit the snooze button on the clock. A contented sigh rose up from somewhere near the pillow, and several more minutes past in relative peace.
Then came the near simultaneous sounds of her alarm, blaring away right near her head, and the banging of someone on her bedroom door, as well as the shouts of "get up, get UP!!! Busy day today!"
Her mind slowly started waking up, eyes blinking slowly, hands rising up to rub the sleep from her eyes. Why was it a busy day today? Her mind stumbled across the answer; Prospective Showing Day. That time in the semester when parents came around to the school with their lovely children, dropping them off before going on to face a gruelling day at work. She turned her body, rising into something vaguely resembling a sitting position, before her hands rose to rub at her face.
She, Morgan Michaels, teaching assistant to the Junior and Senior class teachers, had been asked to come in early to help ensure that everything was set up perfectly. And like a numpty, she'd agreed. She wasn't the only one though, so at least she wasn't going to be alone. Which meant she was getting out of bed an hour earlier than she should have been. Her beautiful, warm bed. The bed that was so tempting right now.
She started to lean back, ready to curl up under the covers, when a clanging sound from downstairs, followed by some not-so-mild swearing made her rock back forward. She was twenty-two, and she still lived with her parents. She loved them, really, kind of, but sometimes, you just wanted your own way with things. You wanted dark blue walls, not green; the couch to be moved here, the t.v. there. However, the apartment building where she'd grown up was so close to the school, she literally could get to work in two minutes, walking, sauntering if she wanted to.
She got up, entering the bathroom to complete her morning ablutions, and decided that today called for her nice boots, buckles and straps up to her knees, with the very nice blood red pinafore skirt, and the gorgeous green top that brought out her eyes.
Breakfast was undertaken quickly, as it appeared her mom and dad were on the up and outs again, glares and scowls being traded across the breakfast table.
And so it was, twenty-five minutes after waking up, that she found herself checking her pockets and bag for everything she thought she'd need for the day, ensuring that the mini-umbrella was tucked carefully away in the pocket of her bag. This was Seattle, and when the weather-man said it'd be sunny, fifty percent of the time, it'd chuck down hail, sleet and snow.
She stepped out the door, fur-lined denim jacket tightly wrapped around her body, and waited for the door to catch. As soon as it did, she could hear the noises associated with her parents fighting. Again. She raised her head, greeting the early, way too early, morning with a half grimace, half smile. The caffeine from the coffee hadn't kicked in yet. And walked her way down the block and over the road to the school.
55th Street School had, in the past ten years or so, managed to become one of the more prosperous schools in Seattle, something for which no-one quite had a reason for. It was neither in the "bad" area, nor the "good" one. It received the same amount of funding as all the other state funded schools in the city, yet it seemed to provide a better standard of teaching. It also turned out some of the smartest pupils in the entire state, and could boast that every year or so, the school managed to renovate some part of it that had desperately needed it for the past fifty years or so. She herself was a graduate, and was, now that the caffeine seemed to be working and was more awake, looking forward to the day ahead of her.
Two hours earlier......
The school was tidy, pamphlets laid out on decorated tables, notice boards nicely recovered with the latest semesters coursework displayed, and the bathrooms had undergone an especially thorough cleaning. The long and the short of it was, she thought the school was ready to undergo this Prospective Students Day.
Looking out a window on the third floor, she watched as the first of the days students arrived. Most of the early attendees were either the teachers, the teacher's aides, or students who, like she used to, left the house as early as feasible to escape their home situation.
As she vacated the classroom, and began making her way downstairs, she began wondering if she would know any of the prospective students. There could be Robin Willis, who lived in the below apartment from her and her parents, Jason Bennett from the building next to her was also a possibility.
She made her way to the auditorium on the ground floor, making certain that the required notes were on the dais. She waved to David, the I.C.T. technician who had come in early to ensure that the projecting equipment was set up correctly, and also that the presentation was done in a way that even a simpleton could manage to change the pages. She and David weren't friends, per se; they were mild acquaintances who happened to share the same love of science fiction and fantasy novels.
Waving goodbye as she left, she made her way up to the main reception, and found that in the time between her leaving the window upstairs and her arriving in the Reception area, a mass influx of students and their parents had transpired, completely overwhelming the other teacher's aides who had apparently, by the state of their apparel, only just arrived.
She grabbed the registration list from Carla, who left hastily, but not before giving her a thankful glance. Morgan turned her face towards the crowd of parents and their children who were shoving in front of each other, trying to be the first to deposit their child into the hands of the school and depart for destinations unknown.
Feeling a surge of anxiety at all the pushing, she took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and exhaled. And felt free.
Eyes opening suddenly, she held a hand up, stopping one pushy parent in their tracks as they tried to point at the list in her hands, and announced, firmly and clearly, that if a line was not formed immediately, she would immediately sue everyone in the room on behalf of the school. When several of them stated that she couldn't do that, she replied that she most certainly could, seeing as it was only seven-thirty, and legally, anyone not on the payrole of the school was technically trespassing.
The room quietened down after that, and a line slowly formed, though not without the almost obligatory "I was here first", "No you weren't, I was" argument. Next to her, Evan and Becky, two of the aides from the freshman/sophomore classes, gave her grateful grins as their progress at accepting the students began to pass more orderly and hastily than before. Senior students who had volunteered to help gathered groups of the deposited children and began escorting them to the auditorium.
One hour and fifteen minutes earlier......
Morgan stayed at the back of the auditorium as the presentation was performed. She knew that children, especially of that age, (considering it hadn't been that long ago for her), would get bored easily. She'd watched as several of the girls had removed nail-files, and begun doing their already manicured nails, and boys that had removed phones to play games. Some of the more studious in appearance had removed books or notes from satchels and backpacks and begun reading.
As the presentation begun however, she seen that all had put their miscellaneous objects away, and had paid attention. She knew the reason for this. In the past, 55th Street School had been the place you'd send your child if you didn't care about your child's studies, if all you cared about was not being sued by the government for not having your child in school. In recent years though, the school had risen in favour, and had become one where you sent your child if you wanted them to achieve. Sure, you could send them to some snooty Prep. School, but you would be paying for it there. 55th Street was better than any Prep. School in the parents eyes, mainly because they didn't have to pay any extra, but secondly because the students achieved. They succeeded. They left the places they'd been born, and they rose up, out of the dregs, and became something. And these children wanted that. They didn't want to become their parents, working long hours with minimum wage.
It was after the class registers had been called and teachers were removing their students to their rooms that it first happened. Mr Smith, teacher of Senior Maths and Statistics, suddenly had blood gushing out of his nose and ears. His hand went up to his nose, and came away with blood. Then he'd said "But I didn't take the shot". And collapsed to the ground, seizures racking his body. As other teachers and aides around the room began dropping, the sounds of students screams began filling the air, and she could hear the shriek from outside, and down the corridor.
And in that moment, time seemed to freeze. She looked around the room, people moving in slow motion, eyes blinking so slowly it looked like nothing was happening. And in the next moment, all she knew was a big headache, a piercing feeling right behind her eyes. She could feel her blood pounding through her veins, the subtle sounds of fabric rubbing sounded like a thunderstorm to her ears.
And her brain hurt. Oh God did it hurt! And then, suddenly, it stopped. And she knew so much. In school, she'd been the average student, passing with good grades. What had made her stand out was her empathy, her feelings for her fellow students. It wasn't in her to distinguish between the gothic girl and the cheerleader, in her eyes, both were worthy of her attention. And it had made her friends, so many friends, from all walks of life. The son of the lawyer, who'd spoken so eloquently and had been teased for it, was just as worthy of her love as the boy next door, who'd used a hearing aid and had spoken with a faint slur in his voice.
Jacob, the lawyer's son, had made her feel so stupid sometimes, with the way he spoke, and the vocabulary he'd used. Sometimes, they'd teased each other, each of them using words and phrases they'd known the other wouldn't know, in an attempt to see if their friendship could surpass a language barrier. But the game had made it evident that he'd known so much more than her, and looking back on the event several years later, she could see the way he'd behaved around her, the glow in his eyes as he'd stared at her. He'd been playing with her, toying with her, like a cat with his prey.
But Damon, who'd been born partially deaf, was smarter than her in ways he probably would never know. And he'd read, and read, devouring books with a speed that had amazed her. And he'd remember everything he'd read. Months later, he could recite a twenty sentence from a passage in a book he'd only read once, stating the page and the book title. She could barely the title of a book she'd read a week ago, let alone its contents.
But now, standing in the auditorium, hands raised to her temples, everything was coming back to her. Everything. Two weeks ago, she'd read a book on the standards of childcare in the city of Seattle. A week ago, she could barely remember what the writer had been babbling on about. Now though, the entire contents of the book were coming to her mind, in painful clarity. A year ago, she'd read twelve different books in an attempt to find information about the first American Child Protection Acts. Now, she could remember every word, every little detail that she'd read.
But what's more, she didn't just remember everything, she understood it. It was one thing to read something, yet another to understand it. And she knew the difference. Just fifteen minutes earlier, she would have thought the two the same thing, but now?
Now she was different. And she could feel it in her head, in her veins, in her heart.
And so it was, that within the space of a moment, Morgan Michaels had died, and was reborn.
One hour and ten minutes earlier......
It was a transformed Morgan Michaels that had ordered two aides to help her carry the deceased bodies of the eighteen dead teachers and four cooks out to small cafeteria. Garbage bags had been placed beneath the bodies, and a third aide had been sent to the gym washroom to retrieve clean towels to cover their faces.
Before this, Morgan had never known she was this highly thought of. She'd known that she was at least slightly respected, for she worked well with students, always helping them but not giving them answers, allowing them to have that sense of accomplishment that came when you got the right answer on your own. She helped out her fellow aides as often as she could, trying to make things easier on them, as no-one had done the same for her. It was the little things that made everything easier.
But she'd never known she was this well thought of.
She'd talked, and the others had listened. She'd said what needed to be done, and they'd done it. She asked for their opinions, and she'd listened, and she thought about things. She worked with them, and they worked with her.
The students had seen the others following her lead, and those who had been there in the morning had spread the work around to the others. From what she heard before they saw her and quietened, was that they thought she was in charge now. And since no-one was arguing, she'd let them think that. They needed someone in charge, someone to keep things orderly.
A few of those more...accustomed to death had been sent around the school with clipboards, and were currently noting down rooms and names where anyone else was dead. Several of those who were taking Home Economics were currently in the kitchens, making something that the younger children would eat. She'd sent some of the business studies students to man the reception area. A request had been made to the students that they not contact anyone on their phones just yet.
That had caused a bit of a ruckus before hand, when she'd discussed it with the other aides.
It had taken her repeating what Mr Smith had said before anyone would calm down. He'd recognised the symptoms as being those of a failed Promicin shot, of those who were on the losing fifty percent. But to have it happen so quickly, to so many people, was stated, so said the Science aides, as most likely being transmitted by air, which meant they were all infected. Which meant it had been brought into the school from the outside, which meant that this was most likely happening outside the school as well. That meant they needed to contact that NTAC group she'd heard about on the news.
Unfortunately, all calls to anyone on the outside weren't being received; NTAC, police, ambulance, fire fighters. She'd tried calling the Law Courts, the local army bases, hell, she'd even tried calling her parents, and they only lived a block from here. No answer from any of them.
So she'd had to declare a form of Martial Law. Explaining it to the students, both prospective and otherwise, had been an undertaking. Having to explain what had happened to the now deceased teachers, people they'd know for less than an hour had been hard. Explaining that this probably wasn't just happening to them, and that they couldn't call their parents to see if they were still alive had been extremely difficult.
She tried to empathise with them, saying that after she'd tried to call the authorities, she'd tried to call her parents. Since they only lived a block away, her mobile signal should have been clear, she shouldn't be getting any interference. Nevertheless, she'd been unable to contact them. The looks on their faces said it all; their parents were further away, what chance did they have to contact their parents?
Looking up at the top of the auditorium near the entrances, she could see those she'd sent out earlier. From behind them came the regular students of the school, those who had already gone to class this morning. From the looks on their faces, as well as the tears falling, it was obvious they'd seen something as well.
They filed down the stairs, filling in the empty seats, and when the seats were filled, some just decided to sit on the stairs. Some sat on the floor at the back, and some girlfriends had decided to sit on their boyfriend's laps. She couldn't blame them. Some of the Seniors who hadn't volunteered were up at the back, waiting by the aides she'd sent out.
Another I.C.T. technician, Lucas, was coming down the stairs as she was going up, and she saw in his hands a DVD case. Flashing the case towards her as the neared each other, he smirked, and she couldn't resist the scoff that escaped her mouth. Trust him to find the most relevant DVD and the one that would probably cause the most panic.
She reached the top of the stairs, and the four came forward, each carrying their clipboards. After a brief glance, a grimace crossed her face; none of the papers were empty. One of them was at least half-full. She looked over them all, adding it up in her head.
Forty-six dead in total. Three receptionists, three technicians, four cooks, two librarians, thirty-four teachers. They were lucky it hadn't been more; some of the teachers didn't have classes today, others were away on trips. Morgan couldn't help the deep sigh that escaped her. Christ on a stick! So many dead! Although, as she gave the lists another look, no-one under twenty-five had died. Every single student had survived. All one hundred and four prospective students, as well as the three hundred and twelve who already attended the school. They'd even all stood, or sat, in the same room for at least fifteen minutes, and yet only those over twenty-five had died. Such odds! Fate, coincidence, or planned? She didn't know.
Another sigh escaped her lips, and she motioned for the four, plus the two others from earlier, to follow her. Behind them, a vast proportion of the seniors followed her. She had more bodies to collect. As the door swung shut, she heard the opening to what had once been her favourite movie begin.
"Mutation. It is the key to our evolution."
Twenty minutes earlier......
She looked through the circular window of the now closed and locked doors of the small cafeteria. The temperature in the room had been lowered tremendously in an attempt to preserve the bodies. She turned from the door, now facing the rest of the aides, bar a few who were keeping watch in the auditorium, and a lot of the seniors, some of whom had not been able to hold their gag reflex when seeing dead bodies, and were currently occupying various toilets.
She raised a hand to them, moving to them, touching and hugging them, watching as tears welled up and fell from their eyes, but found she could not have the same release. As she stood in the middle of their cluster, she found the voice to speak.
"I have asked much of you. And you have understood. And you have not failed. But the time to grieve is not yet here. There are those who are looking to us to be there for them, to take care of them. And we cannot fail them. For we are no longer children. We are adults, and we must nurture and provide for those who cannot and may not be able to do so for themselves. So I ask you to dry your eyes, and to help those who cannot help themselves."
And they looked at her with tear tracks down their faces, and wide eyes. And slowly, they took her words to heart. She was their leader, and she had not failed them. She needed them to help those who couldn't help themselves. And they would help her, because there were those who needed them. And like the children in the auditorium, who had not understood completely what had happened on that day, soon they would be the ones needing the help. But right now, they needed to be the ones offering the help, because, for the children in the auditorium, they might be the only people they had left.
Hands rose to rub faces, make-up was checked in compact mirrors, a few shrieks were given by those with mascara tears, and a few faint chuckles and grins shared amongst the group as they watched them run off to the nearest toilet that had a mirror.
All too soon, the grins fell and the chuckles turned to silence. Almost as one, they turned to look at her, to give them something to do so as to keep them from their grief. And so she did. Some were sent to computers, others to the kitchens to check on the food and drink. One was sent to the phone to begin a constant rotation of calling official numbers. Some were sent to do necessary paperwork, others were sent to do tasks that, though not vital now, would be urgent later in the day. She herself was just about to head to a computer when David, who she'd sent to man the phone, called her over, yelling that he'd gotten through to NTAC.
Picking the phone up, she spoke to the lady called Megan, who, apparently was in charge of NTAC, and described their situation. Megan said that she'd get some agents out to her as soon as she could, but that things like this were apparently transpiring city-wide. Morgan told Megan that so far, they had things under control, but would welcome the assistance if and/or when it arrived.
She checked over at the computers, where Greg and Will were printing off pages. She grabbed them, and passing by them both, gave them brief clasps on their shoulders. They would know what it meant.
She walked back down to the locked cafeteria, and pulled out the key from her pocket. Grasping the papers in her hand, crunching them slightly, she put the key in the lock, and turned it, eventually hearing a click. She took a deep breath, and pushed the door inwards.
Instantly, goose bumps rose across her flesh, and her exhaled breaths became clouds of mist. She shuddered, and the door gave a soft swoop as it swung back. She briefly contemplated turning back, giving this task to someone else, or waiting until the agents arrived. She stopped her thoughts abruptly. A leader does not ask things of others that he would not be willing to do himself. Or herself, as the case may be. She took another deep breath, watched as it turned to mist when she exhaled, and moved to the closest body.
She watched, almost detached, as her hand reached out to pull back the towel-covered face. Mr Jackson's face appeared in front of her, and she noticed that someone had cleaned the blood off his face. She thought back to earlier, and couldn't remember who could have done it. She just remembered the constant moving of the bodies, carrying teachers that had once taught her not so long ago.
She shook herself, and brought the papers into view. She shuffled through them, looking for Mr Jackson's. Ah, here it was. As she stared at the paper, all she could think was, I've known him for ten years, on and off, and I never knew his name was Corbin. Thinking like that led her to other thoughts. Was he married? Did he have children? What was his favourite colour? What was his favourite book?
She sighed, something she seemed to be doing a lot of lately, and her hand reached out and flicked the towel back over his face. The paper with his information on was gently placed on top of the towel, and she got up and moved to the next body.
Onwards she continued, and for fifteen minutes she stared at dead faces, learning things she hadn't known before. Mrs Dixon, her old Geography teacher, had also had a degree in Environmental Science; Mr Finch, kind old Mr Finch, had actually had a doctorate in Biochemistry, but had become a teacher of Science because he loved to teach others, and wanted to get them to see Science as something more than a boring subject required to pass high school.
Eventually, she ran out of papers, and made her way back to the door. She made her way through it, the heat feeling like flames on her skin, and was just about to lock it again when Will appeared with more papers. He took one look at her face and seemed to decide something, for he made his way to the door with his intent clear in his stride. Her arm shot out, and he walked straight into it. Their eyes argued, glares and blinking becoming words and phrases. Within seconds though, he yielded the papers to her, and made his way dejectedly back to the computer suite.
She lifted the paper into sight, and reading the unfamiliar name, decided that it meant an unfamiliar body, and unfortunately, there had been few of those.
Another deep breath, and she stepped, once more into the breach.
Five minutes later, all the bodies had a piece of paper on them. All they were seemed to be printed on a piece of paper that rested on top of a corpse in a freezing room in the small cafeteria of a school.
And as she stood at the side of the stage in a darkened auditorium that should have long been empty, she thought to herself. Right now, she should be helping Jack Swann with his Maths, because otherwise he'd most likely fail the Math test next week. Fat chance of that now. The teacher was dead, and Jack was in the kitchens helping to cook lunch.
She briefly glanced at the projected movie, before turning to glance about the room. Reflected in the light, she could see tear tracks running down several faces, as the consequences of the day dawned on several of the teenagers. It seemed a regular occurrence that one of them would run from their seat to the nearest exit, sobbing with tears running down their face, since it barely caused a stir. An aide would follow them out, or sometimes one of the senior students. Occasionally it would be a friend of the escapee.
As she made her way back out of the darkened exit, she managed to find her way back up to the main reception area, and a chance glance had her looking out the main doors, where to her surprise, she found two vehicles pulling up, a black humvee, (she presumed, cars not being her forte), and an ambulance.
From out of the humvee, two agents, both men, one light-haired, the other dark, began to make their way to the entrance. She opened the door for them, and began her explanation. The dark-haired man, whom the light-haired one called Davidson went back outside to the ambulance. The light-haired one, who now introduced himself as Agent Garrity, followed her over to the soft seats in the reception area. Evan, one of the Freshman/Sophomore TA's she'd helped not two hours ago, stood at her left, folders held loosely in his hand. To Morgan's right sat Casey, a fellow Junior/Senior TA, who held a small pile of papers.
Agent Garrity sat down opposite her, and removing his notebook, told her to begin her explanation again. She sighed, and did so. She noticed, not stopping her report, that Agent Davidson had returned through the door Mack, a senior had opened, two paramedics following him. They tried to get into the small cafeteria, but were halted by the fact that she'd locked the door. Carla, the other TA from the morning debacle, came over to get the key from her, which she held out pre-emptively. Not once did she stop in her debriefing.
Then came the questions she knew were going to be asked. Contact information. Where were the kids? Had the parents been contacted? A folder from her left was handed to the Agent, with the explanation of it being the contact details for the prospective students. Then another four folders with the explanation of them being contact details for all students, one folder per year group. No, the parents hadn't been contacted. Why? Because if the situation out there had been anything like it had been in here, then they would have only brought chaos upon themselves.
And the kids? She decided to show him. She stood up, and Evan and Casey followed her. Agent Garrity was left to follow behind them. She didn't walk around, as she had done earlier. She walked straight through the small cafeteria, barely pausing at the drastic change in temperature. The three of them, followed by Agent Garrity, walked straight through, the seniors and other TA's scattering before them, before they turned to watch Davidson and the paramedics, making sure that nothing untoward happened towards their dead.
They walked through silent corridors, corridors that should have been filled with noise and laughter, past the kitchens where a tantalizing mixture of smells wafted through the halls, (more than one stomach grumbled), and straight towards the auditorium. Walking through the door at the top of the stairs, she blinked, eyes rapidly adjusting to the darkness, and felt Casey and Evan move to her left. Agent Garrity moved to her right, and he stood next to her, unconsciously leaning into her, as she did to him. Before today, no matter their jobs, neither of them had ever seen their dead lined up like that.
To Morgan Michaels, before today, the dead came in coffins at funerals. You did not see them die in front of you, you did not pick up their bodies with your bare hands, you did not close their eyes, you did not identify them.
To Jed Garrity, before today, death had sometimes occurred at his hands, or his gun. He'd seen them die in front of him, he picked up their dead bodies with his bare hands, he'd closed their eyes, and he'd identified them. No matter what job he'd undertaken before NTAC, he'd never seen the dead lined up like that before. It was more chilling than if he'd seen them lying prone in the class rooms. He'd seen more dead in that room, than he'd seen in total during his years in NTAC. At least until today. Today he'd seen fellow agents fall, whilst others survived. And it didn't seem fair that he was one of the survivors. There were others more worthy than him.
A hand curled into his, and he grasped it for dear life. "Forty-six dead. Some friends, some not. And none of us know if our families are still alive out there. What's going to happen to us? To them?"
He sighed, and looked out over the auditorium. Huddles of friends crying together. Some watching the movie with blank faces, others with anger. Tears were evident on most, male or female. Today, Seattle had changed. The world had changed. And they would be changing with it.
Extract from the journals of Morgan Michaels
September 16th 2007
The atmosphere at the school that day was unusual. And it was weird. Couldn't forget that. It was weird and unusual mainly because there were no teachers in the school. Or at least, no living ones. And everyone else in the school, at least, all the ones who'd managed to survive, would now have gifts. Abilities. And I would be one of them.
I can't believe how long this took me to write! I was done in a few short hours, compared to the months and years I've used with some of my other stories (okay STORY)!! A sequel may be in the works, or someone else could pick this up and run with it. If you do, please state where you get your idea from (a.k.a. me!)