Once I decided to move, I moved fast. I was half way to the door before someone tried to grab me. I didn’t notice if it was another student or a member of staff. The result was the same. I didn’t bother retaliating beyond dodging the crude attempt and to keeping going for the door.
Within seconds I burst out into the corridor in a full on sprint and a feeling of relief. It was empty but for a handful of kids. They looked up as I slammed the doors of the cafeteria open – but they were looks of annoyance at the surprise.
Not of horror at a brutal display of violence.
I didn’t have long to enjoy the calm. I had to choose a direction. The closest exit was a fire-door, but they were alarmed. They’d know I took that door, or could make a good guess after the alarm went off.
No, it didn’t make sense to go for the closest exit. I should go for an unexpected one, one that would at least bring me out on the right side of school to get back to the Island. That meant I’d have to cut through history department…
I set off towards the closest most obvious exit. Once out of sight cut into a stairwell to bring me on to the second floor. The student’s I’d passed coming out of the cafeteria would support the hypothesis that I was bolting for the door.
Sure enough, a distorted echo of shouts followed me, cut off as the door swung to a sealed close. They’d never think I went up a floor.
I could feel my heart beating as I took the steps three at a time. A strong, slow rhythm that thumped in my ears.
Fuck my fingers hurt. Hurry up and god damn heal!
Wasn’t far now. All I had to do was cut down through the gym changing rooms and out of the back doors there. They were never locked, something I’d used to my advantage many times to avoid Haley’s fist.
Wouldn’t have to worry about that anymore.
Taking the corridor at a sprint, ignoring the need for inconspicuous, I cut across most of the school in seconds.
I jumped each flight of stairs down in one leap, landing in a crouch pressed against the opposing wall. I passed the corridor with changing rooms branching off.
The door. There it was, freedom…
I pushed, putting all my weight against it.
Fucking piece of shit! When had they started locking random fucking doors in the middle of the fucking corridor at lunch times?
I pushed harder, as if my meagre weight could wrench the strips of metal off the electromagnets pulling them closed but it wouldn’t budge.
With a half shout of frustration I kicked it. All I got in response was noise. Loud, fucking obvious noise.
“Can’t anything FUCKING GO RIGHT?” I didn’t care if anyone heard me. I could have gone around. I could have backtracked, found another way out. But I was pissed at the world. At this door.
I kicked it again, and slammed my fist against the glass window. The blow left an imprint of blood and a spider web of hairline cracks. It gave me no relief to my frustration, just a harsh sunburst of pain.
I twitched to keep kicking at the hulk of wood until I either ripped it from the hinges or disintegrated it into a pile of splinters. But I took a deep breath I resisted, I didn’t have the time to indulge in my anger. With an growl I turned.
“Alex what the hell is going on?” Mz Gregor stood in front of me, cup of coffee in hand. My route had taken me between the computer lab and the small staff kitchen…
This was the exact same corridor she’d met me all that time ago.
“Nothing.” I said, my attempt at a calm and normal tone coming out cold and dead. I kept my eyes on her knees, trying to cool my frayed temper.
“Is that blood?” There was a pause as I didn’t answer. Her voice switched from one of concern to severe authority. “Alex, what did you do?”
I brought my eyes to meet hers then.
Was there a hint of fear?
She had seen me for what I really was. She knew now… Her first reaction was no longer concern over how I might have been hurt by someone like Haley.
Blood? Around me?
Who did I kill?
It’s a logical reaction for her now. She’s seen it.
“I think you should come with me,” she said, as if I had not handed in my homework. I don’t think she understood. I’d broken Felicity’s arm.
She took a step forward. I took a step backwards.
But I had nowhere to go. My back hit the door. I brought my arm up, bent my knees and turned to as much of an angle as I could manage. Protect my core, present my arm and side as a target. I couldn’t help it. I was cornered, literally. Threat. Respond. Be ready.
But this was her.
She moved calmly, but with purpose. Another step. Closer. I could feel it again. Coiled springs.
But she kept speaking, oblivious. “Alex, I’m sure we can sort this out. Was it Haley or someone else? Just come back with me and we can explain what’s been going on. People will be reasonable.”
“I’m not sure that’s going to work.” My mind was running through ways to escape. How to incapacitate… but I didn’t want to. Could I just get past her?
“It will. Come on. You can trust me.” She reached forward. I knew what she was going to do. I tried to relax because I didn’t want to hurt her.
Her cold fingers surrounded my wrist. The contact sent an electric shock through my nerves and my body responded. I lashed out, but managed to turn my instinctive strike into a hard shove. I twisted my arm around and opened my palm, breaking her grip.
She staggered backwards and looked at me with shock. Or betrayal? I just half crouched, panting with the effort to restrain my urge to jump forwards at her.
I wasn’t going to. I was in control. I was calm.
I forced myself to consciously regulate the frequency of my breathing, slowing it. It was just like before, like a panic attack. I just had to breathe slowly…
“I just want… I just want to go, to get out of here.” I managed to whisper. “Please?”
I could hear footsteps, irritable muttering. Someone heard the racket, coming to chase off the annoying students causing it most likely.
Mz Gregory’s face moved a fraction, listening.
Then she looked back to me, and her expression softened.
In one fluid movement she pulled the keyfob from around her neck and brushed it against the contact pad near the door. A wonderful click of the electromagnetic bolts retracting met my ears.
“You can trust me Alexis,” she said and I pushed through the door. It closed just in time to see a sliver of an aged and grumbling gym science teacher round the corner.
I hit the streets without further incident. As soon as I was beyond site of the school I tore my jacket off and pulled the arms inside out before slipping it back on.
The cold cheap plastic itched like hell, but even with the warm fleece lining facing outwards it was better than no jacket.
Crucially, it now appeared to be black instead of red. Provided you didn’t look too close. I couldn’t be too careful. With something like that, they were going to call the police and they’d drive around looking for a girl in a red jacket…
The adrenaline of the fight and flight was already waning, and I needed it. Strength left my legs, they started to go liquid. My hands shook.
I resisted the urge to vault over a few walls and cut through people’s land. This wasn’t the Island, people would notice. Much more inconspicuous to walk calmly along the pavement, I did stick to the narrower alleys and less-trodden roads.
Only after ten minutes did I realise I wasn’t going home, not to my cold garage under a block of flats in the Island. I’d begun to curve east. To the hospital.
This might be the last chance I’d get to see Beth…