Emma goes to school

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This is an excerpt from a work in progress, one which is nowhere near finished, but I thought this piece fitted with this prompt – Write about you or one of your characters walking through a place that was once filled with activity and now is deserted. Be sure to describe the feelings that are there now compared to the ones felt when it was active. which I found at Yeah Write on Tumblr.

So, meet Emma…

Emma’s voice was jittery, her teeth clacking against each other and she was contemplating breaking into one of the houses when she spotted a school. It was small, just a single storey with a yard not much bigger than the one she’d left behind at the family home. She slipped around the wooden gate, loathe to crack it open further; somehow, the thought of a creaking hinge in the vast silence was too sad and Emma didn’t want that, not when hope had so lately returned. She tried the double doors and found they swung open easily, and silently. Stepping inside she found herself wondering if there had been a school bell or one of those annoying electronic buzzers to summon the kids from the yard. She remembered how that strident, repetitive buzz had brought silence to 150 kids at her school, stopping screams, laughter and ‘outdoor’ voices in an instant. Had it been the same here? Well, probably not so many kids, she thought, as her explorations revealed just three rooms; two classrooms and a cafeteria.

It was equally silent though, and felt horribly wrong. Schools were supposed to be loud. They were supposed to sound like suppressed giggles, eager answers, teasing, shouting, whispers, strict rebukes and gentle praise. They were supposed to smell of school dinners, chalk, paper, sweaty socks, break-time fruit, coffee from the teachers lounge, sawdust, overused toilets and illicit candy. Dripping her way through the empty rows of dining tables, the wrongness deepened. There were few smells, one Emma knew but wanted no part of. Someone had died close by, recently enough for the decay to pervade the cafeteria. Aside from that only the blessed scent of falling rain and the smell she had come to think of as emptiness, a dryness like blowing dust, stirred her senses.

She hurried back to the smaller class. It proved to be a preschool room. The walls were filled with slowly fading pictures. A painting entitled ‘My Mum’ depicting a purple blob with yellow whirls coming off the top. A chalk drawing of something that looked like a deformed cow but the teacher’s clear printing asserted was ‘Daniel’s Dog’. Chalk, paint, sand, glue, paper, coloured pencils and building bricks lay scattered across tables and a carpeted area as if the children were out in the yard, at play.

Emma slumped into one of the miniature chairs, folded her arms to form a pillow on the table, lay her head on them and cried. She cried for Daniel who was probably long dead before he could really be alive. She cried for the mum who probably watched her child die. She cried for the teacher who couldn’t educate survival. She cried for every person she knew was gone, for her friends and family. She cried for the loss of children’s laughter and school and play and even detention because she finally knew and accepted that it was all gone and might never be again. And finally she cried for herself, for all she would never be and for the person she might have to become to stay alive in this new world without schools and people and laws and the protection of family.

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