They were in the study room when the first tremors began. Jeff stood up, alarmed. "What the hell?" he exclaimed. The blinds thrashed hard against the windows. Annie had already ducked under the table, covering her neck with her hands.
The room shook again. This time everyone looked at Annie and followed suit, curled up, hearts pounding. Books tumbled from the bookcase before the entire thing toppled, barely missing Troy's toes as he shrieked in horror, scooting and hopping towards the center of the table.
The lights began to flicker, the metal beams in the walls groaning. All the windows had shattered. Shirley bowed her head, grasping her purse extra tightly while mouthing hushed prayers to God. Debris continued to fall from the ceiling, mostly chunks of cinderblock. Jeff put his hands out, palms downward, to pacify the group. "Everybody just stay calm…" But that's when the ground started roiling, rippling and cracking beneath them. "Jesus!" Jeff screamed.
"Everybody, hold hands!" Britta yelled, her voice raspy. They were quick to comply. "It's gonna be okay, Abed," Troy said with a squeeze, raising his voice above the din. Then the roof above finally gave way and collapsed, spilling out halogen tubing, insulation and piping. Isolated explosions rang out, adding shrapnel to the already increasingly polluted air.
Suddenly, stillness. Complete quiet.
The first thing they heard was microphone feedback, shrill and unbearable, amplified at 80 decibels all throughout campus as the Dean crawled to the reception desk, fumbling with the mic. His glasses were askew, but he didn't notice. He stood and smoothed his tie to collect himself, but the hysteria was barely concealed in his voice: "All students and faculty are to evacuate to the football field immediately. This is NOT a drill," he added, more to shake himself into reality than anything else. He grabbed his bullhorn and headed for the library.
Back at the library, the group stayed crouched, holding hands and afraid to move. It was a miracle the power hadn't gone out during the quake, but as they continued to stay there it flickered, spluttered and gave out completely. Jeff disengaged his hands from Annie and Britta to compulsively check his phone. He got up, dumped all the debris that had accumulated on his chair and sat down, continuing to type, blatantly ignoring the ruins around him. It was enough to move the rest of the group into action, as they emerged from their hiding spots to check their phones as well.
The dean strolled in as Jeff was scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, his eyes widening with each finger stroke. "Jeffrey!" he exclaimed cheerfully, but Jeff was oblivious. He didn't even protest when Craig approached him from the side and wrapped his arms around his waist.
Annie stared at her phone, incredulous, "Earthquakes not only throughout central United States, but up and down the West Coast—catastrophic enough to trigger tsunamis heading towards the Pacific Islands as we speak. Wind storms like never before in Mongolia, flash floods in the U.K., entire cities swallowed up in Peru, locust swarms in Egypt, ironically enough," she said with a wry grin.
"#EndoftheWorld is trending on Twitter," Abed shared, closing his phone.
"Tweeting it?" Troy suggested, half-heartedly.
Britta only shrugged with a smug grin. "You know, I've been telling you guys that sooner or later corporate decisions to value profit over our planet's environmental health—"
The group groaned loudly and collectively.
"I'm just saying."
Shirley had up until that point been frantically trying to get in contact with her family and loved ones, dialing again and again. Failing to reach anyone, she hung up her phone with a fearsomely determined look in her eyes. "I've got to get to my boys. My husband," she said in a low voice. She stood up to leave the room, presumably to walk home, since the roads were far too damaged to drive.
"Shirley, you can't go alone! It's more than 35 miles!" Britta exclaimed. "We're going with you. Right guys?"
Before anyone could reply a piercing scream, followed by several others, rang out in the direction of the football field. They ran to the windows (or, the frame of the windows) overlooking the dilapidated stadium, which was now crumbling. Varying degrees of disbelief registered on each and every one of their faces as the screams increased in volume and frequency—everyone was shocked—except for the dean, who only grimaced.
"What…in the HELL?!" Jeff began. What looked to be a pack of giant, mutant grizzly bears (they were definitely mutant, you could tell) was running rampant, charging from the fifty yard line towards the hysterical students. One reared on its hind legs, roaring and swiping with its paw to maul a frightened Neil, but missed, thankfully enough. Vicky grabbed his hand and tugged him along back to the cafeteria, where it looked like most students were planning to barricade themselves.
Jeff glared pointedly at the Dean. "DEAN!" he bellowed. Craig put a hand to his chest and yelped slightly. He internally weighed whether or not to disclose his secret to the group. He began to pace. "This was never supposed to happen!" he wailed. By this time the students were safely inside. The mutant bears clawed at the doors with an unmatched, crazed ferocity. The study group looked on, somewhat detached, before turning to the dean for an explanation. He squirmed and paced more frantically until finally bursting out:
"Our Zoology and Forestry programs were on the verge of being cut! The federal government approached me and offered to save them in exchange for a teensy favor. They said they'd be discreet. They said no student would ever discover their lab. This was never supposed to happen!" he reiterated, breaking into dramatic sobs.
"Don't be so hard on yourself, Dean," Annie said, patting him on the back as he blew his nose noisily into his Dalmatian-spotted handkerchief.
"Crazy-eyed bears be damned, I'm getting to my babies!" Shirley declared forcefully, adjusting her purse onto her shoulder and heading once again towards the parking lot.
"Shirley! Wait!" Troy called out. He looked at Abed. Abed nodded. Abed looked at the dean. The dean looked back. "Dean, it's time," was all he said. The dean raised his eyebrow but assented non-verbally for Abed to continue. "Everyone, follow me," he said, headed down the hallway at a fast clip as the daylight hours were beginning to wane. The dean was hiding something else. Troy nodded to Shirley, saying Trust us with his eyes. There wasn't much time.
Abed spoke quickly while walking, looking back every once and awhile to make sure that everyone was keeping up. He nimbly skirted and leaped over a stretch of buckled concrete. "A couple of years ago, Troy and I decided to pull the fire alarm to try and get out of a test. We discovered that it was fake—it didn't connect to anything, and no alarm was triggered. The dean told us it'd be our little secret, and cancelled classes for the day."
"We took our scooters to the mall but they kicked us out for loitering!" Troy piped up, grinning.
"But after we'd finished our third ice cream cone," Abed continued, taking a sharp left, "We got to thinking—what other deep, dark secrets does Greendale hold? How many other shady dealings could the dean possibly be covering up?" He took out his keys and opened the locked door to the janitor's supply closet. With some effort he slid a giant, four-foot tall barrel of "Ultra-Powerful Semi-Toxic Super Cleaner" to the side as Troy lifted the trap door it had concealed.
Troy looked grim, "We need to act fast—it could collapse at any time." Abed nodded as he followed Troy down the stairs to an underground passageway. The rest of the group followed them cautiously; the dean just looked sheepish and headed to the cafeteria to confront the panicked Greendale masses.
Abed continued to explain, "Turns out that when the dean accidently enlisted all Greendale students into the Army Reserves, he also agreed—in the event of an emergency—to cede control of the campus to the U.S. Army, thereby converting it into a military base. Welcome to the armory," he gestured around him in the dank darkness as the group used their cell phones to illuminate a disorganized pile of weaponry covered in dust and concrete smithereens. It looked like it hadn't been touched in decades.
"Choose your weapons quickly. We need to travel by night to avoid the grizzlies." He grabbed a lightweight compound bow and quiver of arrows before gracefully bounding back up the steps. Shirley chose a compact semi-automatic handgun, stuffing plenty of spare magazines in her purse, and followed right behind. Annie picked up a nurse's kit and a switchblade; Troy hefted a sizeable machine gun and Jeff opted for a handgun in a shade of silver that matched best with his dark rinse jeans. Britta, ever the pacifist, left the weapons where they were but shrugged on a vintage camouflaged coat with lots of pockets.
Abed was headed back to the study room. He immediately went for the cabinets along the wall beneath the white board, crouching down to open the left-most section. There were four grey backpacks neatly arranged in a row. Abed began to pull them out one by one, distributing them among the rest of the group. "Abed, when did you have time to make these?" Jeff asked, rifling through his.
"Aw, you got us all matching head lamps!" Annie exclaimed, strapping hers on. "That's nice," Shirley added, donning a pair of black fingerless gloves.
Abed opened the second cabinet, which had a much larger pack for himself, and another special pack for Troy, labeled "Troy" in precise strokes of puff paint, which he'd borrowed from Annie. "Thanks, man," Troy said, putting it on without question.
Abed opened his phone, then shut it, unsmiling. "Cell towers are down. We need to get moving." "Should we say goodbye to the dean?" Shirley asked. "Don't worry. We'll see him again, soon," Jeff said with confidence, as the group started to move out, though he doubted they actually would. Who knew what the world was coming to.