Cade leaned against the wall just inside the doorway, eyeing us silently and intently. The warring emotions that blurred in his eyes were like the chaotic flashing of lights. I tried to pin down a few of them, but I wasn’t sure if I actually succeeded.
“What’s up, Cade,” Holden said, tossing out a calloused greeting.
He shook his dirty blond head. “Just waiting for my lab table to open up.”
His emerald eyes locked onto mine, slowing me, maybe slowing time itself, until I was barely creeping on my way to the door. I so desperately craved for him to talk to me, and jaw taut, lips pursed, he looked like he was fighting the urge to do just that.
But he didn’t. He just watched with a frustrated expression as I tiptoed out of the room.
My lime green sandals had barely touched the old checkered tiles of the hallway when I felt it. The whole school began to shake. It sent palpable vibrations up my legs and dust falling from the ceiling like mini waterfalls. Balance and gravity completely eluded me and I dropped to the floor like a dizzy drunk. A siren screamed at the top of its lungs as the already dim lights flickered off and on under the strain of the trembling.
“This is not a drill!” Principal Bauer bellowed quickly over the intercom. “Use earthquake protocol; drop and take cover immediately! I repeat, this is not a drill! Drop and take cover immediately!”
All fifty states were at some risk for earthquakes, I knew, but Pennsylvania virtually never had them. It was completely uncharacteristic and absolutely terrifying.
The lights took their last breath then, plummeting the school into a thicket of shadows.
I crawled haphazardly on the tiled floor, the ground rumbling violently beneath me, until I reached the classroom across the hall. Most of the desks were unoccupied, so I slid under one in the front and waited. The quaking was subsiding, but the hammering in my chest was as jarring as ever. Each rapid breath I took only prolonged the anxiety as I waited for the aftershock.
Other students crouched under desks, too, silent with fear, eyes wide and disoriented. Dust hovered like a chalky fog and had a number of kids sneezing, coughing, and gagging. I coughed, then glanced at my hands. My palms were scuffed and stinging, but luckily that was all.
Lightning flashed blindingly through the windows and across our faces as a violent downpour suddenly unleashed from the sky.
And holy shit, global warming might have been happening after all. I wasn’t sure how else to describe the phenomena erupting all around me, but pinning a name to the destruction was the least of my worries right then; I just wanted to get the hell out of there in one piece.