Pandemonium wasn’t the best word for describing the mayhem in the front lobby at school. One of the hipsters sat in one corner playing some lame song that he wrote on his guitar, but no one, not even I, could hear him. The rest of the lobby looked as if a hundred students were packed into one closet that was this lobby, or really a lobby made of eight tiny closets. All the hipsters, except for the guy playing the free love green planet song, the Goths, preps, cheerleaders, jocks, geeks, skateboarders, and every lower and upper class kid clamored around the television set to the local news station. The camera showed a street corner of the closest city, Metrocosma, and the smoke and debris from the building that just collapsed. The newscaster right in front of the shambles could hardly make her voice clear over everyone’s voices, but the headline at the bottom of the screen read, ‘Dennison Tower collapses, dozen missing.’
For a moment, I figured dad was probably out there saving lives. But the longer we waited for something to happen, the longer the news bulletin continued to drone and the more hope I lost. Maybe dad was punishing me by disregarding the public today, or maybe this time he didn’t make it out of the wreckage saving those lives.
But just as we all started to lose hope, a few figures emerged from the billowing smoke. The newscaster turned and came back to the camera, saying some of the survivors had made it out. Over the cheering clamor of the audience and the coughing rescued construction workers, out of the cloud came my dad in that stretchy dark green armor jumpsuit that appeared a little too tight for his ever growing muscles. Though he could almost pull off the whole Green Lantern costume there and I thought he put very little effort in saving all of those people, he stopped suddenly and bent over, panting in exhaustion.
“Excuse me, Giga Man,” began Tina Fenton the newsgirl. “Could you tell us how you saved all of those people trapped in that elevator from that accidental detonation?”
The bell rang and everyone started moving to their classes, but I stayed behind for a second, listening for dad. “Well (cough), it was all in a day’s work for the good of the city Metrocosma and (cough) I’m sure that next time we can all learn to (cough) not press any buttons without asking questions.”
That statement rang clear in my head reminding me how dad didn’t want to cope with my news of being just a normal kid. I felt something punch me in the throat when it came to mind.
But what also came to mind was someone talking in my ear. ‘She is so lucky to have a dad like that. I wonder if she knows she’s kind of amazing to us. Of course I wouldn’t tell that to her face, but I think she should figure it out.’
“Hey, Jen!” someone called. I turned and there was Alice, Steve tagging along with her. “Need the entourage today?”
“Might as well,” I said. As we walked along, I thought to ask, “Hey, Al, did you overhear some girl talking about some girl’s dad?”
“I don’t think so,” she replied. “I normally don’t hear anything when the audience level is this loud.”
“You sure? I could have sworn…”
I heard the voice again, the same voice, but I could now hear it as Al’s. ‘What is she talking about? Is she going schizo? Come on, Jen, don’t make me freak out on you.’
“I’m not going schizo!” I heard myself rebuttal.
“Who told you that?” Alice said in her normal voice.
I stammered. “You did!”
“I didn’t say anything.”
Panicked, I turned to Steve.
“Don’t look at me, I don’t know a thing,” Steve deflected before shoving another piece of gum into his mouth.
I felt like a baby deer walking across the Interstate. I turned my attention back to the hallway in front of me when I felt a sudden prang of the headache hit the back of my head. I yelped and clutched the back in pain. “Gah! Jesus!”
Alice patted my arm with her free hand to soothe me, calling, “What is it?”
“Headache,” I moaned, grimacing. “Been plaguing me since last night when I went to bed. I thought it would just go away by next morning, but I guess it came back to squish me to the floor.”
“You sweating?” she asked.
My hands had become cold and clammy and something wet rolled down my lower back. “Yes,” I agreed.
“Come here a second,” Steve said. Knowing Steve and Alice were taking an EMT class and learning about medical stuff, I let Steve touch my forehead for a temperature. “You’re warm to the touch. Did you take any aspirin?”
“No, just a Midol last night,” I replied. “I thought it would be a bad idea to take aspirin that had caffeine in it before bed ‘cause it would keep me up all night.”
“That stuff doesn’t work,” Alice said. “Blood thinners work better as fever reducers, not the same with NSAIDs.”
The terminology made my headache even worse, mixing it with a sour stomach I had from missing breakfast. “English, Alice,” I said.
“You need something like Tylenol to kick out the fever because it does a better job at moving your blood circulation. Midol doesn’t work because headaches happen outside the brain, which is not made of muscle; and Midol is a muscle relaxant like Aleve and Advil.”
“Still, I don’t think something like Tylenol or a visit from Doctor Hank Lawson from Royal Pains would do me any good,” I groaned, gripping my forehead that was now in much more massive pain. The strangest thing, however, was when I put my hand to my head and my forehead sizzled. I mean really, sizzled. My hand was so cold like an ice pack that it made steam exude from my head. I stopped myself from touching my head before my only friends could see, or anyone else for that matter, and climbed the stairway to class.
“Could you just do me a favor and ask to see the nurse when you get to class?” Alice pleaded.
“I wish you wouldn’t worry about me. I’ve got Excedrin in my bag,” I told her. “Besides, I can’t take it on an empty stomach; I feel nauseous already.”
“Look, you can’t hide something like that for long,” Alice continued. “I know I hate sounding like my parents who are both licensed paramedics, but now that you told your parents you don’t have superpowers, you have to take charge of your life.”
“Yeah, just see it as a good thing!” said Steve, bringing up the rear from the bustle of other kids in the stairwell. “You can call the shots on what you do in your life. You can go to college or dance school or engineer school. You can do whatever you want after high school and no one gets to tell you what to do with your future! Think about it.”
“Yeah, well, tell that to my ten year old self who always dreamed of saving the world and learning to fly,” I reminded them.
When we reached the second floor, I told them I’d see them again at lunch soon before trudging up to the fourth floor. By that time, I had grown dizzy and sweat had formed on my brow. I heaved from climbing all those stairs when I made it, like poor Penelope the cat when she was about to faint from being chased by the dreaded skunk Pepe Le Pew. The crowd had funneled out, all of those people dispersing to get to class. My classroom in the corner at the end of the hallway felt the farthest room away, but I still made it inside and got to my seat.
I could not get away from the noise after the bell rang again, signaling homeroom. As the history professor droned on through his roll call, I heard nothing but noise.
‘A kiss doesn’t make me a lesbian, does it?’
‘Bob is such a funny name. Bob bah-bob-bob-bob-bob-bob-bob-bob…’
‘Where the hell is my colored pencil case? My art teacher’s going to kill me!’
‘Tangent is the two sides divided by each other. Sine is the side next to the diagonal line divided by the diagonal. Cosine is the adjacent side divided by the diagonal. So solving for theta…’
‘When is he ever going to quit smoking and go to the prom with me?’
‘Oh shit, is the assignment due today?’
‘I hate my math teacher. I hate my math teacher. I hate my math teacher.’
‘If I’m pregnant, I’ll have to drop out of school. Oh god, I hope my parents don’t find out my cheating asshole boyfriend took my virginity and left me with an unborn baby.’
The scariest thing was, no one was talking. They were all thinking these things. I knew every secret, every tick, and every problem these people had and it drove me to do the next thing I would regret for as long as I lived. I tried shutting my ears with my hands and fingers, I tried thinking of a song I had on my phone, and still nothing worked.
So as soon as Mr. Kent, my history teacher, shut the door to start the class, I bolted straight up out of my chair, stretched out my arms and screamed, “Enough!”
I heard dead silence from the entire room. Everyone stared at me like I had done something evil. I looked around the room to see if I could hear anyone’s thoughts then, but then I turned to my right. Ice on the wall. Nothing but ice crystals covered the blackboard by the side door. But that wasn’t the worst of it.
Completely encased in ice was Mr. Kent, history teacher.