Sunday, 10 August 2014

[Glory Brats] today is not a Drill Day

The corridors were empty. Sparrow liked them like that. She dawdled along, hearing her shoes squeak on the polished floor. She had as long as she liked. Well, until the start of Fifth Hour anyway. Nurse wasn’t expecting anyone else from Class Four, and Teacher wouldn’t know how long the testing was going to take. Sometimes it was very quick and sometimes it took all of a class hour. Sparrow looked down at the shiny green badge that Nurse had given her. ‘Here you go dear,’ she’d said.  ‘Won’t your mum be pleased!’

It felt heavy on her shoulder strap next to her blue and red badges. Now Fin couldn’t tease her and Esk would have to stop calling her names. Not that she cared what Esk said anyway. Boys were stupid.

The alarm went off, echoing through the empty corridors. Sparrow checked the clock. It wasn’t nearly time for the end of Fourth Hour. Not for ages yet. The door across from her opened, and Class Three filed out, followed by their teacher. Down the corridor, Class One and Class Two were doing the same. Some of the kids in Class One were crying, but they were only babies really. She looked around for Tekla, but the Entry Class door stayed shut.

‘You. You’re not supposed to be here.’ The teacher from Class Three was cross. She wasn’t the one Sparrow remembered, but had come new from Central just this term. ‘Why aren’t you with your Class? Go there immediately.’

Sparrow pointed to her badge. ‘I had to go to Medical for my Testing. I got Green, look.’

‘Sparrow, Sparrow Jones!’ Teacher was calling from the head of the Class Five line. She could see Fin making urgent hand signs to her from behind Teacher’s back. She joined the end of the line, behind Lark. ‘Look, Nurse gave me my Green,’ she said.

Fin wriggled out of line and put her head close to Sparrow’s ear. ‘It can’t be a drill, we’re not supposed to have a drill today. It isn’t a Drill Day.’

‘Fiony Carr! Sparrow Jones!’ Teacher called out, without turning around and without stopping like she normally did. ‘You are not contributing to an orderly line. AN ORDERLY LINE…’

IS A SAFE LINE, the rest of Class Four finished for her. Sparrow didn’t know how Teacher always knew it was them without turning round. Drills took place at least twice a term. The alarm would go off and Teacher would say, ‘Children, this is a Drill. Please line up at the door.’ And then they would file out of the classroom and down the corridor to the stairs. They’d go right down the stairs to the basement. The bunker was in the basement, off bounds unless it was a Drill Day. That didn’t stop anyone though. Sparrow had touched the bunker door three and a half times already. Fin said the last time didn’t properly count because she got caught on the way back.

The bunker door was made of metal, and thicker than the span of Sparrow’s hand, even when she splayed her fingers out and stretched them as far as they’d go. Inside they had more stairs to go down, thirty six steps that she counted every time. Counted into herself, because a noisy line was not an orderly line, and an orderly line was a safe line – and you had to be extra ‘specially safe on Drill Days. Sparrow didn’t know what you had to be on days when you had a drill and it wasn’t a Drill Day, but she counted all the steps just to be sure.

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