Amy sits near the door of the shelter. Her fellow students and classmates huddled in smaller groups. Their conversations are a low din. Some are doing homework. Others simply spend the extra time talking to one another. The teachers either walk about, helping students with assignments, or stand in small groups talking. The young girl leans against the wall just as Zoe appears.
She flashes the smaller girl a bright smile.
Amy nods back in answer.
Amy shrugs and Zoe chuckles. The second girl looks across the room at the students. She relaxes against the wall. Both girls observe the rest of the students. Some are playing video games. Others work on their homework. The walls are covered with screens, displaying news and movies.
“Bit noisy, right?”
Amy nods her head.
“I wonder how long we’ll be down here.”
Before Amy can offer an answer, a wall of white light emerges from the left side of the room. It passes through the room without pausing. Devices flicker and the screens falter as the wave moves through the crowd. After a few moments, the screens and devices go dark, triggering a wave of outcries.
A moment passes and the devices come back to life.
The student exchange glances but without a few moments, they returned to what they were doing.
“What was that?” O’Connelly asks with concern.
“Was that an EMP?” A small girl with dark brown hair asks. Her voice shakes.
“No.” O’Connelly answers, “If it was an EMP, none of the devices would be on right now.” He offers a warm smile, “More than likely it was just an update. Most of the time the updates happen at night.”
“Don’t worry. Most people don’t know what the updates look.”
“Oh. Thank you.” She smiles.
“No problem.” He sticks out, “O’Connelly.”
“Nice to meet you.”
“And you.” She shifts uneasily, “Uh. I better get back to homework.”
A low buzz passes through the speakers. The games and the displays fall silent.
“Greetings. This is Principle Richards. All students may return to their regular schedules now. As the pulse that passed through a few moments ago, I am told that is nothing more than an update.”
The students laugh with quiet relief.
“Students.” A professor calls out, “Please line up in an orderly fashion.”
“Well.” Zoe says, “I’m heading back to chemistry. What about you?”
Amy manages a small smile as they join the long line. Amy glances out the window. To her surprise, she sees one of the zombie characters shambling through the schoolyard. She comes to a stop and studies the sight.
“Move along miss.” One of the professor says, “We need to resume classes.”
“Why?” One of the boys calls out, “Lab rats aren’t going to get far in life.”
His friends chuckle as an answer.
“Come on!” One of the other student snaps at him, “That was uncalled for.”
“Why not? She’s as dumb as they come.”
“She’s smarter than you!”
“Annabell!” The professor snaps, “That is uncalled for! Detention!”
“For attacking him.”
“But he was attacking her!”
“Regardless. He comes from a hard life and we must allow for his behavior.” His eyes narrow, “Unlike you who had life handed to you because of your family money.”
“Mister Vindi is correct.” A second professor approaches. Her heels click against the floor, “This is where such behavior can lead it racism and insensitivity.”
“Good. Now. All students return to your classmates.”
Amy closes the door to her locker. She waits by the locker as her classmates stream pass. Most chat to each other in a casual manner. Some move quickly to get to after-school jobs. In a few minutes, the hallway is empty save for a dozen zombies wandering through the halls.
She takes a deep breath and walks out the front door.
The teen watches as a bus shifts gears and leaves the school grounds. Another bus rolls in to take its place. With growing dread, Amy boards the bus. The bus is almost full. She finds a spot just behind the driver.
The gears grind as the shift and the bus rolls out again.
The young student focuses her attention on the world outside. The various sports teams are already hard at practice. Several smaller groups of students are walking together. They are hunting zombies and other generated game characters.
The travel back to her home doesn’t seem to take as long.
The teen walks slowly back to the trailer park. She stops at the edge. Next to the park is a small area overlooking the city. Amy smile to herself as she sits on the park bench. The young girl studies the city. A complex train systems threads through the city. A wide river cuts its way through the city. Bridges for walking and for driving cross over the river. As the sun disappears, lights flicker to life.
Her small phone buzzes.
Amy pulls the phone out of her pocket. She stares at the display for a moment before taking a deep breath.
“Are you coming home?” She asks hopefully.
“I’m sorry. No. I can’t. I just wanted to talk to you. I’ll probably here all night long.”
“Because something happens at the Ryoka. There was an accident. I can’t go into much more than that.”
“I’m sorry honey. We’ll celebrate tomorrow after school. Okay?”
“I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Amy hangs up. She looks up at the city again. Without warning, pillars of white light explode throughout the city. Energy pulses and lightning crackles between them.
“What in the world is that?”
Her phone buzzes again.
The teen glance at it. On the screen is a single word in bold, capital letters.
To be continued…