Sunday, October 9, 2016

10 periods (Part I)

Question: Write a story beginning with "The teacher walked into the classroom. It was the first period..."
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The teacher walked into the classroom. It was the first period, and it was going to be a long day. In fact, this will be an exceptionally long day when you barely slept the previous night. I guess, having a DOTA marathon wasn't one of our best decisions in life. Although, it's not like your parents would entrust the whole house to you every day; no one to answer to, no rules for the whole day. Boon Wei's parents were away due to some problems over his aunt's place, leaving just him and his grandfather at home. As his Ye Ye usually goes to bed at 9.30 p.m., Boon Wei had the whole house all to himself that night. He promised his parents that he will go to bed after watching an episode of 12 Monkeys on Netflix, but it's not like they're there to make sure that he keeps his words like every other night. So he propped himself in front of the PC, logged in to the online site, and called the first person that comes to mind: me.

I was reluctant at first, but he said it was only for a short while. It was 11.15 p.m., and I was planning to hit the sack early that night as band practice was really tiring that evening. I swear the drum-major was aiming to get at least one of us to faint before he's satisfied enough to end the day's training. 

"C'mon la, just one match, okay? I swear. I'm gonna go off by midnight anyway," said he, desperately.

So I agreed. One match. 

I turned on my PC and logged in to the site, and the next thing I know it's 5.30 a.m. and we had to drag our bums away from the computer and get ready for school. So here I am, with my blood-shot eyes being held open by my limp fingers, trying my hardest to stay awake through En. Bakar's lecture on Differentiation, while Boon Wei completely lost his consciousness beside me, his head resting on his opened textbook and drooling all over its pages. Well, at least he's not snoring. And Arif's back is big enough to shield him from En. Bakar's view. Lucky bastard.

I've always thought that hanging a clock right in front of the class was a bad idea, as it tends to make us long for the end of every period, especially during boring classes like Sejarah. Today, time seems to tick away ever so slowly compared to the past, and the more I can't focus on En. Bakar's scribbling on the board, the more my eyes are drawn to the needles on the clock. Tick...tick...tick...tick... 

It gets harder and harder for me to keep my eyes open. My head suddenly weighed a ton and I have to support it with my hands, but it isn't long before my elbows start slipping slowly along the smooth surface of my desk and eventually I felt my chin touching the center-parting of my textbook. You gotta stay awake Jun Kit, you gotta stay awake, I keep thinking in my head as I feel myself floating and drifting off to some dreamland, when suddenly someone knocked on our classroom door and snaps me back into reality.

A junior entered and and told En. Bakar something and left, probably returning to her classroom. En. Bakar continued teaching, as he always does whenever someone came in asking for one of his students. He dislikes being interrupted, and hated his students missing out on his lessons when they're supposed to be learning, and not using his time to meet other teachers for other tasks. 

His lecture went on for 15 more minutes, then he decided to stop when he saw our hopeless faces staring at him and his symbols on the blackboard. There isn't much time left till the end of he period anyway, so he gave us some exercises to complete while he returns to his seat at the teacher's table to read the newspaper.

"By the way, Jing Yi, Puan Preeta wants to meet you at the staff room," he announced as he flips through the paper to the Economy section. 

I turned to my far left and watch as the petite girl with a high ponytail slips through the back of her friend's chair and glided through the classroom, took the Tag Keluar and went outside. 

I raised my hand and asked for permission to the restroom; I really need to splash my face with some water and freshen myself. And maybe I'll bump into Jing Yi on the way back and finally muster enough courage and say something to her, or at least, say hi.

"There's only 10 more minutes and my period will be over, I'm sure you can wait till then," rejected En. Bakar.

10 minutes of peace before the next teacher comes in, I might use the time to rest my eyes a bit. As I close myself and prepare myself for a power nap, Sarah turned to me and said, "When are you ever going to talk to her?"

"I don't know what are you talking about," I answered.

"Oh please, you just had to go out to the toilet right when she went out, huh? Planning to 'bump' into her on the way back to class?"

She knew me so well. I can't believe that we only knew each other since the beginning of this year and already she can see right through my thoughts. Never let a girl come too close to your personal space; they're walking spywares. All they need is to get their target into their proximity and they'll suck every piece of information they needed right out of them. Or, maybe I'm just too dumb to come up with a more sophisticated plan to talk to a girl. Correction: not A girl, THE girl. I have no problem talking to anyone when needed, I just can't talk to HER.

Arif, who's sitting beside Sarah, came to my rescue.

"Aiya, you don't so kaypo lah. Give the guy a break, not everyone is like me, okay? Not everyone is brave and thick-skinned enough to force himself to sit beside the girl he likes."

That's right, Sarah and Arif are dating. 

I ignored the couple's banter and waited for the bell to ring, occasionally picking on Boon Wei just so he wouldn't be so comfortable sleeping in class while I suffered through the lesson.

The school bell rang, signifying the beginning of the third period, and I took off to the restroom as fast as I could. Maybe a jog is better than walking, at least it gets the blood pumping a bit, then I might make it to the toilet sink in one piece, considering how weak and zombie-like I am feeling right now. All I need is one person to touch me with the tip of their finger, and I will crumble to the ground and stay there for the rest of the day, sleeping. The drum-major would love to see me now, I bet he lives to see people suffer.

So I ran to the toilet and stuck my head under the running tap water and let the cool water wash the fatigue away. Best.

When I return to class, there was a teacher already sitting at the teacher's table. Apparently our Biology teacher took an emergency leave for the day and there would be two free periods, instead of learning about Respiration. Ms. Wong did leave us with some exercises to complete while she's away, of course, but who does homework during school hours anyway.

I glance over to my left, and see Jing Yi's ponytail poking out behind her friend's profile. There goes my chance to talk to her. Dejected, I decided to carry on with what I really wanted to do before going off to the toilet earlier. So I stack my textbooks on my desk, throw my arms around them and laid my head on the stack of books. A nap, finally. Boon Wei is still fast asleep on my right, his position unchanged since the beginning of Add Maths earlier.

I was having the time of my life dreaming of pizzas and double-chocolate milkshake when a slight tremor woke me up from my gourmet heaven. 

"Sarah, did you call me just now?"

"No, I didn't. But did you feel that? The ground shook a bit," answered Sarah, looking worried.

All of a sudden the floor began to shake vigorously and bottles began to fall from desks in our classroom. People begin to scream and panic all through our three-storey building. Our substitute teacher tries to calm everybody down and get us to leave in an orderly manner, but everyone could see that he isn't sure of what he's doing. Nobody is. We were briefed on what we should do when there's a fire, but we were taught nothing on how to react when there's an earthquake.

Some started running, while some froze at their places, not knowing what to do. Boon Wei was woken by the intense shaking and staggered out the door after trying to drag me along with him. I wouldn't go with him. I couldn't. Where is she? 

I stood on my shaky chair and scanned through the crown of panic students and saw her trapped by a few tables that got pushed together from the shaking. She was pushing tables aside to make enough space for her to slide out from the desks. The ceiling began to crack and pieces of glass slid off from their steel brackets and shattered on the floor. The cracks seemed to grow like a fast-motion video of a growing tree, extending to the walls around us. Jing Yi is still struggling to free herself when a piece of the ceiling suddenly fell just a meter away from her, landing on one of our desks and cracked the wooden surface.

National Geographic! I recalled watching a short clip on what we should do during an earthquake once, when I was channel surfing at home one weekend afternoon.

"Drop and cover!" I screamed at Jing Yi, but she doesn't seem to hear me.

So I leap off from my chair and dashed towards her, pushing desks aside trying to reach her as fast as I can. When I finally got to her the first thing I did was to push her head-first under one of the desks surrounding us and I follow suit under the table right next to hers.

"Hold the legs! Don't let go of your table! Keep it over your head, make sure your whole body is under it!" I screamed, making sure that she hears me. Tears were welling up in her brown eyes as she nodded obediently, with her hands each holding tight to a metal desk leg, her knuckles touching mine.

It feels like the ground would never stop shaking as things fall, crash and shatter around us. Other students who were around us have all hid themselves under desks too; it's the best option we had. Running out in this condition risks getting hurt by fallen debris. For the longest period of time, Jing Yi and I just stared at each other, her seeking comfort from me and me providing every ounce of assurance that I could find for her. It was the most dangerous time of our lives, yet, I don't feel as afraid as I should be. Maybe because I felt that I couldn't give in to the fear, knowing that there's someone that I need to protect in this tragedy.

I looked at my watch: 9.35 a.m., fourth period. The shaking subsided into a tremor, similar to what we experienced right before the earthquake hits earlier. Everything quieted down and an eerie silence filling up our ears. We waited.

Then comes the aftershock and everything starts to shake once more. More pieces of concrete, big and small, continued to fall from the ceiling, occasionally hitting the surfaces of our tables. Good thing they're made of steel, the desks' frames. At least they won't be crushed so easily like those wooden ones. We hold on to our tables and stayed on our spots as best as we can, but I felt myself gradually sliding away from her as floor underneath us began to tilt to one side. The building was falling.

Before I slid away from Jing Yi, I extended my hands and pulled her desk to me, her along with it. I told her to let go of her desk, and hold on to me instead. She grab my waist without any hesitation, burying her head right under my right arm, while I crouch over her bent body and hook on to the four desks legs with my arms, interlocking them so there's no way her desk can escape from me. 

We hit a wall, and heard a loud crash above us. I can feel that the building is still falling, with more pieces of the ceiling raining down on us and blocking more and more of daylight from our view. Eventually the motion slowed to a halt as the aftershock ended. Then it just her, me, a glimpse of sunlight from a hole between the overlapping concrete pieces above us, and the silence. Before, my ears were saturated with sounds of chaos and voices of fear. Now, nothing. I wonder if everyone is alright. Boon Wei, Sarah, Arif, did they get out safely? 

I loosen my hold on the desks; they're not going anywhere. As I try to sit back, I realized that she is still holding on tightly to me. I rested my left hand on her back, and patted slowly and lightly as she sobbed. She must've been terrified from all this.

"It's okay, I got you," I tried to comfort her.

We stayed like this for a little while. I waited for her to recollect herself and sit back so we can see each other's faces again. It was then that I realized that I am alone with her, without the panic, without the chaos. Just her and me. 

Talk about the most awkward first date.


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Word count: 2,373