Campus Fall

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
A power outage on my campus inspired the following story.

Submitted: November 17, 2011

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Submitted: November 17, 2011

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It was cold. But it was a good kind of cold. At least that’s how Alexander felt. He held the jacket tighter to himself, but the warmth the jacket gave was canceled out by the fact that he was wearing shorts. The sky was blanketed with gray clouds, and a light drizzle fell. Alex smiled to himself. It felt so much like Halloween, even though it was only early September. This was Alex’s favorite type of weather. The moon was completely obscured, so it was very dark. It was the perfect night for deep, contemplative thoughts. Alexander got to his dorm, and waved his electronic key over the scanner. The door clicked to unlock, and Alexander walked inside. He walked up the two flights of stairs to his floor, then down the hall to his room. Alexander started to slide his key into the lock, but his door suddenly opened. Jeff stood in the open doorway.

“Hey Alex. What’s up?” Alexander ground his teeth. He hated the informality of being called Alex. Jeff called Alexander “Alex”, despite the fact that Alexander had told him many times to not call him Alex.

“I’m good, Jeff,” he responded, “but I’d be even better if you called me Alexander like I asked you to.” Alexander felt bad at being this harsh, but it seemed necessary.

Jeff was taken aback. He put his hands up in defense. “Whoa, man. I had forgotten. Chill. Anyway, I was just wondering where you’ve been.”

“Dude, you know I had a lab at eight tonight.”

“Oh yeah. Again, I forgot.” Jeff was shrinking slightly. Alexander could be intimidating when he wanted to be. Jeff quickly tried to regain his composure. “So, you wanna watch some TV?”

Alexander thought for a moment. “What’s on?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Some sports games, maybe some of the comedies. I think that Fight Club is on a channel.”

Alexander continued to think. “Um…. Yeah, sure. That works. Fight Club it is.”

They both walked back into the room. Jeff turned on the TV and flipped to the channel. They had a few minutes until the movie started at 9, and they spent it talking and just generally feigning interest in the other’s life. Jeff was a good guy, but Alexander would have preferred a different roommate. They were just too different. Movies were about the only thing that they had in common. Jeff liked country music, Alexander liked techno and rock. Jeff liked to watch sports games; Alexander was a complete and utter nerd, which he happily embraced.

The movie began, and then it shut off. The power went out completely. Jeff and Alexander looked up dumbly. They heard doors being opened and people filing out into the hall. For some reason, people’s first instinct was to go out into the hall. Finally, one person asked the all too obvious question of, “What’s going on?”

The RA, Francis, came out into the floor and gathered everyone into a group. He told them to keep quiet until they could figure out what was going on. Then he left to meet with the other RAs. Jeff decided to take a walk around campus to see what was going on. Alexander stayed behind to relax and let things take its course. That’s when he heard about the riots.

On the other side of campus were the “not so nice” dorms, or Freedman Dorms. They were older and a little shoddier. Alexander had only been over there a few times. The rooms seemed nice, but overall the dorms lacked the overall polish that came with Alexander’s dorms, which were called Minute Lake. Apparently, riots had erupted over at Freedman Dorms, all because of a power outage. He texted friends over at Freedman, who told him about cars being engulfed by crowds and fireworks being set off. Just as he received a text about fireworks, he heard a huge boom in the distance. The building shook. More people filed out of their rooms. Half the floor had gone for various walks; the other half had stayed behind to weather out the storm. A blonde girl named Heather, whom Alexander had a slight crush on, walked out. She had pajama pants on, and her hair was up in a bun. Her glasses were on. She looked around, and spotted Alexander. Heather walked over to him.

“Hey Alex, do you have any idea what that was?” she asked. Alexander didn’t mind when Heather called him Alex.

Alexander shook his head slowly. “No idea.”

Heather looked outside. A disconcerted look crossed her face. “What’s that?”

Alexander turned around, and could immediately see why she was concerned. The sky to their south was tinted orange. He got up and walked to the window. “What the fuck is going on?” Black smoke curled into the air. Then Alexander understood.

“Something blew up.”

“What?” Heather said incredulously.

“That boom. The shaking. Something blew up on the other side of campus.” He looked towards Heather. “Isn’t the automotive center over there? Like where the mechanics learn stuff?”

“I think so. Why?..... Oh god.” Heather came to the same sudden realization that Alexander had. They both looked towards the southern sky as it brightened. There was no mistaking it anymore. A huge fire, fueled by gasoline, raged on the other side of campus. Alexander cracked a window open, and he heard the crowd faintly in the distance. Heather looked at him worriedly.

“Do you… Do you think they’re coming this way?” Her voice wavered. She was genuinely nervous, and all Alexander wanted to do was protect her. Alexander leaned out the door and listened closely. The cheers and jeers of the mob did seem to be getting slightly closer. He stood up from the window.

“Unfortunately, I think they are.  Are you ok?” Looking over at Heather, he realized that she was close to tears.

“I’m scared, Alexander. I’m scared of what these people could do. I really am.” She put her head into her hands. Alexander looked around. What he wanted to see, however, even he didn’t know. The hallway was dark, except for a few safety lights on overhead. He needed to make a decision. So he did.

“You wanna maybe go to our room? We’ll probably be a bit safer there.” Was his voice shaky? It sounded shaky. Why was he so nervous about asking to protect her? Heather looked up slowly.

“Yes, please,” was all she said.

For some reason, power outages tend to bring out a new side in people, as seen here. Humanity seems to have become so connected to technology, and then when it leaves us, we automatically revert to our hunter-gatherer way of life. It is an ugly, ugly thing when witnessed. Especially when you are one of the ones who can rise above it, and deal with it. But to some people, the lack of technology marks an end to security, or security in the sense of they are being watched. They feel free. It’s like technology is a prison, but people are so happy to be in this prison. And when it leaves us, people feel free, but in a bad way. How can freedom be a bad thing though? Freedom creates feelings in people, both good and bad. People do things they’ve never done before, because they feel immortal. Immortality can lead to good and bad things. Almost like a superhero/supervillain situation. If you had the powers of Superman, would you use them for good or for ill? Everyone seems to face this decision once in their life, and this is where their true self shines out.

Alexander led Heather into the room. He knew it was a mess, mostly because of Jeff. But he didn’t care. He just wanted to make Heather feel safe. The room was pitch black. Alexander got a flashlight from his drawer and clicked it on. The light hurt his eyes for a few moments, and then it subsided. He put it in the middle of the room, facing straight up. The room was at least lit now, if only dimly. Heather shivered slightly. From the cold or from fear, Alexander could not tell.

“Do you want a blanket?” he asked gently. Heather looked up at him.

“Yes, please.” This was the second time in a row that she had said this, Alexander noted silently as he got her the blanket. He put it around her shoulders. She thanked him, and sat still on the floor. Alexander cracked a window. Heather looked up at him with fear and alarm, but he reassured her it was ok.

“It’s just to listen for people approaching.” This explanation seemed to soothe her slightly, and she calmed down. Alexander breathed out, a long slow sigh. He was bored, but every cell in him was supercharged at the same time, mostly because Heather was in here. He was lost in his own thoughts so much, he almost didn’t hear Heather say, “Will you sit next to me? I’d feel a lot better.”

He almost fainted. Heather? Asking him to sit next to her? Alexander tried to steady himself.

“Sure. No problem.” He hoped this didn’t seem to enthusiastic. Or uncaring. Alexander was trying to do everything just right. He sat down next to her. Alexander could see Heather coming apart, mostly because the voices of a mob were growing louder. More fireworks could be heard going off. As if to accent this, this coming apart of a college, Heather let down her blonde hair. It fell on her shoulders in waves. Alexander’s heart beat fast. She was so beautiful. Heather sighed a deep sigh, and leaned her head against Alexander’s shoulder. He tried to catch his breath, but it was difficult. How was all this happening? He was nothing. She was everything. But at that precise moment, when they were closest, Alexander heard something that scared him. A lot.

Outside, in that cold, in that light drizzle, on that Halloween type night, he heard voices, shouts, yells emerge from the crowd, shouts that included “Fire” and “Molotov cocktail” and “burn it down”. As much as he did not want to, Alexander got up. He went to the window. He looked outside. And there, and there, and there, tiny flickers of light popped up. Lighters and matches. Fire. He heard a sound, something like a “Ssssssss”. It took him a few seconds, but Alexander finally got it. He dove down, just in time for a bottle rocket to whistle into his building. In the next room over, actually. Heather heard this. She saw him dive down. Tears started streaming down her cheeks. When Alexander dove down, he knocked over the flashlight, which turned it off. He heard Heather sob loudly in the dark.

“Alexander! Are you there?” She knew he was there. But she needed the reassurance. Alexander didn’t want to try and find the flashlight in this darkness. He crawled on his hands on knees, looking for Heather. He felt around, and he found her hand. Alexander tried to pull it away, but Heather reached up and grabbed it. Alexander heard himself catch his breath. Did his heart stop? It felt like it. Heather pulled him in close. Alexander breathed in slowly.

“Alex?”

“Yes, Heather?”

“I’m very scared.”

“I’m trying not to be.” Alex tried to say this as sincerely as possible.

“Why not?” she asked.

“Because you’re here. I want to protect you.”

Alex could feel Heather’s hand tighten. He almost winced. But he kept his composure.

“You’re doing a good job. Really,” Heather said in reply. “I feel…. Safe, almost.” Her hand relaxed slightly. Alex smiled, even when the Molotov cocktail crashed into the room. He tried not to be scared as he threw his body over Heather. He tried to be the brave person he was, just for her.

Imagine his embarrassment when the Molotov cocktail didn’t explode, and there he was, lying on top of Heather for no apparent reason. With nothing else to do, he laughed.

Imagine his surprise when Heather kissed him. She kissed him and he kissed her back and that was it. Alex got off of her with no fuss. Heather acted like it was no big deal. They sat next to each other in silence. Finally, Heather said,

“Not everyone would do that for a person like me. That was very brave, even if it didn’t go off. It showed you were ready to sacrifice yourself for me.”

“Not everyone cares about people the way I do.” Alex said this to cover up the real reason, which was that he loved her immensely, even if she would never know.

Heather turned towards him, and Alex could almost feel her smile. She grabbed his hand and squeezed it gently. Then she put her head on his shoulder again.

Alex smiled again to himself. This time, an explosive didn’t crash through their room. Alex wouldn’t have cared anyway. It would have been just another challenge to him. And with Heather by his side, even though they weren’t together, Alex felt like he could do anything. Even with a mob raging outside, Alex was exactly where he wanted to be. 


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