"Are they gone…?"

It had become an utterance of sheer fear than just a mere simple question. The whisper sent chills down my spine, it made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. I said nothing, either from the fear that if I replied there was nothing there, my eyes would deceive me and immediately my answer would change; Or if I really wanted to believe that there was nothing there, and everything that happened in the previous hours was just a hellish nightmare. Ofcourse, I would be wrong. But in any case, I continued to stare out upon the ghostly quiet sight, as the ticking of the clock rang louder with each second in my ears.


The final ticking of the clock was the longest, loudest second of my life. CRASH.

To tell you the truth, I never really liked school. And these last few months, were sure to be the best ever. Finally, after 13 years, I would be free of this place, for good. No more essays, teachers, nagging, coursework, exams, students, assembly's, lectures, forms, non-uniform days, frees, NOTHING. It would all be over, little did I know that soon, it literally would be over.


The alarm clock's ringing erupted throughout my darkened room. Immediately, my eyes shot open, 'another day' I told myself. As soon as I knew it, I'd eaten breakfast, washed my hair and dressed for school. Walking out to join the frosty cold weather, I scraped along miserably, constantly shrugging my bag over my shoulder to stop it from slipping, as it usually chooses to do so. I looked down at my watch.

8:25 AM.

Now I was officially running late, but today, the time did not bother me. So what if Cass and Connie decided to walk on without me? It's not the end of the world…

The oncoming traffic sped passed me, encouraging the harsh wind to scrape past my pale face. The lingering eyes of the drivers past me, their blank, unfazed expressions staring as I walked by. It was always a little unnerving to me, I mean, I'm just walking to school. It was quiet this morning, I seemed to be the only student about. Mind you, there had been a sickness epidemic for the past 2 days, something about the flu. Our headmistress, Mrs Robinson, was in two minds whether to close the school for the rest of the week. Legally, if more than half the school is away, school should be cancelled. But you never know with teachers. I gazed down at my watch again.

8:29 AM.

I spotted Cass and Connie coming out of Cass's house, their looks met mine, and they waited as I crossed the road.

"Run, Erin," Cass shouted to me.

I rolled my eyes as I BRISK WALKED over to them.

"I'm not going to run am I?" I replied, a mild bitter tone in my voice.

Joy. Now I got to listen to Cass re-accounting her night of text messaging with many 'hot' guys. When it comes to this, and the fact that Cass isn't getting any, it's her equivalent of sex. Occasionally Connie gave a grunt of understanding, to which Cass must either ignore or is dumb enough to believe, because she still carried on. I don't even bother to talk, none of it would be appreciated anyway, since it never has done these mornings.

At last, we joined our group by the gates at school. We were a pretty large group when all together, consisting of myself, my best friend Gwen, then Charlie, Jo, Cass, Connie, Leigh, Rainey, Rina, Lisa, Carrie, Esmé and Sian.

Again, I checked my watch. This is what I'd usually be doing throughout the school day, right up until I got home. Checking the time here was an automatic thing, but it made the day go slower. And having frees + checking the time = an extra slower day. This is probably how I've come to being practically a zombie at school. I have the odd laugh with my friends, we'd talk about the same thing every free, and I keep my head down in lessons, making my way from one class to the next, and eventually ending up back at our hangout, the Pathways Centre, for a dragged out, long free.

"And so her and her boyfriend were doing anal, and she apparently ended up shitting all over him. Then, her parents almost found them, but they blamed it on the cat. So they had the cat put down!" Said Leigh.

"That's so gross- but so funny…" Gwen replied.

"How's your wing mirror?" Carrie asked Esmé.

"Don't even go there, seriously Carrie, don't go there." Esmé warned her, with a grunt.

OK, now it's the appropriate time for an awkward silence.

"I was so hoping school would be cancelled today," Jo began, changing the subject.

"Same. But they won't cancel it, it was like this last year, and they didn't cancel it. Anyway, I have a lot of work to do so I guess it's best." Rainey replied, the swot inside her taking over. "Your hair looks cool," She complimented me.

"Oh… Thanks…" I replied, taken aback by her sudden subject change.

"Apparently this sickness thing is getting worse, some kids have even had to go into hospital it's so bad," Charlie said.

"What actually is it?" I asked.

"They're saying it's the flu," Leigh cut in, she always has to be the one who's right. "First, you get all feverish, then sweaty, then coughing- and sometimes blood, then it starts affecting your nervous system- so you get all twitchy and your pupils dilate and stuff."

"Nice," I added.

"Yeah it's great ain't it?" Leigh replied.

"Can you imagine you're having sex with this guy and all of a sudden start twitching? He'd be like 'Yo bitch! What you doing?'" Came an outburst from Cass.

A few of us laughed aloud from the strange statement.

"OK, that's not weird," Gwen said sarcastically.

"Cass, where the hell do you come up with these things?" Rina asked.

Cass just kept laughing, ignoring the question. I rolled my eyes. It worries me where she get's these things from, she thinks about things way too much. Again, I checked down at my watch.

8:44 AM.

My friends continued to talk about random, pointless things. The teenagers walking past us caught my eye, and one in particular. She seemed to have a hard time walking, like it was all too much effort. Her face was extremely pale and sickly looking, she did not look well at all. Then came the coughs. One after the other, getting louder and more hoarse sounding than the last.

"Great. Thanks for infecting us." Esmé said, a little bitchily.

"Yeah, God," Leigh added sarcastically.

"Would you like us to make you a sign Esmé?" Rainey asked.

Esmé ignored them, with a smirk on her face.

As the bell went for form, we all separated into smaller groups and descended off down the paths to our form rooms. Hurdles of students trudged past us, pushing, speeding and shouting as much as they could. This school is so big, that when there's a sickness epidemic, and supposedly more than half the school are away, it's as if nothing has changed.

The air had a musky smell. You know how it smells after it's rained? Well, a little like that- but grimier. Walking to form, I couldn't shake the feeling of suspense away from me. Everyone else was talking normal as usual- and there was that girl again, walking into the English block, right where my form room was. Great. Just like Esmé said.

"Are you alright Erin? You seem a little… Are you having an 'off' day?" Rainey asked, with a genuine concerned look.

"I'm peachy." I said, trying to get her off my back.

"Oh. Is it that bad?" She asked, a snide grin on her face.

"No. I'm fine. Just peachy." I repeated. I felt bad being a little bitter today, but I wasn't in the best of moods. Usually, I could fake feeling happy and convince everyone I was OK. Today though, is not one of those days.

"What do you think are the chances of Ms. Taylor being away today?" Charlie asked me optimistically.

"Very slim. You know she's never away," I replied, rolling my eyes.

"Yeah, unfortunately." She added.

We reached the form room, and sat at our table. The few faces in the room were bare, hardly anyone was in.

"Where is everyone?" Leigh asked, weary.

"You'd think they'd have closed the school by now," Rainey added.

"Oh no. They wouldn't do that- come on Rainey, surely you know that?" I asked snidely.

I slumped my bag on the desk a little to hard.

"So Connie, how was Cass's exciting rant this morning?" Leigh asked Connie.

"Oh god. She is doing my head in. She's so full of herself lately, it's unbearable- and me and Erin are the ones who have to listen to every account, with all the details. I honestly couldn't care less." She replied angrily.

"Maybe she's just happy for the attention?" Jo contemplated, trying to lighten the topic.

"Well for the first week or so, yeah, now it's getting annoying." I replied.

"She is going on about it a lot actually," Rainey agreed.

"Yeah like your face…!" Leigh randomly added.

We rolled our eyes.

"Seriously, Leigh, when are you gonna come up with a new insult?" I asked.

"OK, how about, 'Erin is GAY'?" She joked. I didn't laugh.

"Correction, that one was used by you before the 'like your face' one. Tut- tut

Leigh, that's so bad…" I mocked her.

"Shut your face betch!" She said, adding a forester tone.

Suddenly, there was a piercing scream, it sounded hollow. Our attention snapped to outside. The unwell girl from earlier, had collapsed on the floor and a crowd began to ascend around her.

"What the hell…" I said to myself.

"Ain't that the sick girl Esmé insulted earlier?" Connie asked.

"Yeah I think it is," Rainey replied, staring out the window.

"That's really bad. They should have closed the school yesterday-" Connie continued.

"I know- it's just gonna get worse otherwise, what happened? Did anyone see?" Jo added, agreeing a little too early.

"Collapsed, maybe? Unless someone pushed her over," I said with a little unsure chuckle, sometimes my humor can be a little twisted…

"You're nice aren't you Erin?" Connie said sarcastically.

Seeing Connie's look, I got a little startled and escaped from her gaze quickly.

"Is there a member of staff over there?" Mrs Young, our form tutor asked.

Rainey stretched to look over Jo.

"I can't see any at the moment," She said, unsure.

"No wait, there's Mr Powell. He's going over to her now," Leigh said, the hint of satisfaction in her voice that she spotted Powell before anyone else obvious to me, but not to anyone else, who seemed unfazed.

"I'll go over aswell. If I'm not back when the bell has gone, just go." Mrs Young said, heading out the door.

Sitting back down, I sighed of boredom. I found myself looking at the crowd out of the corner of my eye, but still trying to distract myself.

"It's all kicking off now ain't it?" Leigh asked.

"Still, ask yourself if they'll shut school?" Connie reminded her.

Connie's remark still lingering in my mind, I watched as Mrs Young and Mr Powell hauled up the girl and slowly pulled her from the crowd. The sight of her disturbed me more than I wanted it to.