The pen wobbled, floating mid-air in front of my face. It was a bad sign. I hadn't consciously willed the thing to rise, and it was dancing around like a drunk bridesmaid at a wedding reception.
I sat at my desk, my hands poised with indecision on the blotter. My boss, Carl, stood across the dingy basement office with his back to me as he rifled through file drawers and cussed under his breath. His middle-aged, fireplug frame vibrated with anger. I wondered, for the hundredth time, how his sweet little wife Margie had put up with him for twenty-five years.
"I'll show those executive idiots," he said. "Tell me I don't run my department right. Take it from me, Marlee Marie. No one has your back. Never forget that. You're your own best advocate, especially around here."
"More like my own worst enemy," I mumbled.
Carl half-turned toward me, making my pulse race and the pen spin like a gyroscope.
"What?" he said.
"Nothing," I said, praying he wouldn't turn all the way around.
I kept my eye on the pen and Carl at the same time, unsure of whether I should grab for it and risk drawing his attention or just keep sitting there and trying to will the thing to drop. The chaotic energy he threw off sizzled as it hit my skin, stinging like sparkler embers on the Fourth of July—except these embers melted into my skin and amped up the already dangerously high energy pulsing in my body.
Carl slammed a file drawer just as I reached out to grab the pen. I jumped. The Bic shot across the room and impaled itself in a file storage box two feet from Carl's head. He flinched and scanned the room.
"What was that?" he asked.
I shrugged and turned to my computer.
"Don't know," I said, hoping to sound nonchalant. "Maybe that rat's back in the walls again. Want me to call University Pest Control?”
He jerked open another drawer.
"No. That rat can eat the whole damn place. Hope it gives him the trots."
A chime from my computer announced an instant message. I didn't have to look to know the sender. Mike Williams from the Psychic Powers Chatroom was the only person who ever IM'd me. I’d joined the chatroom seven weeks ago when my telekinesis had come out of its twenty-one year dormancy. I hoped someone in the chatroom could help me find a way to get rid of my lifelong curse once and for all. So far, I’d met a lot of kooks and met Mike.
Mike was also the only person I could call a friend, in cyber-space or real life. That was pretty sad since I'd never met him face-to-face and never would, thanks to my parentally ingrained “don’t tell anyone you’re a freak” rule. Okay, I was bending the rule a little. I told him about the freak part, but he would never know who I really was thanks to the magic of the internet.
I pulled the keyboard toward me, made sure the monitor was turned so Carl couldn't see it, clicked "Frizz's IM," (Frizz because of my hair on a bad energy day) and started typing.
MikeWill: hey frizz whats up
Frizz: Carls on his monthly rant &
energy is way too high
MikeWill: Why too high
Frizz: dont know. been feeling like
somebodys watching me or
something bads going to happen
MikeWill: probably nothing. U b ok
Frizz: don't think so. things flying
everywhere. gets much higher
afraid what will happen
MikeWill: u still worried about the cat
I touched the picture taped to my monitor of BooBoo Kitty lying on the back of my sofa belly up, warming her fur with the sun. Sudden tears blurred my vision and I wiped at my eyes with the back of my hand before continuing to type.
Frizz: yeah still missing
MikeWill: maybe thats it
I didn't think so. BooBoo had been gone just a few days while the paranoia and crushing sense of foreboding had been building for weeks. My neck tingled just thinking about it. I cringed and darted a look at the wall behind me. There was nothing there but a large bright green moth. Dots on each of its lower wings looked like eyes, and when it fluttered, its pseudo-eyes blinked at me. Creepy. I shooed it away with a flick of my hand, and it flew toward the dark open maw of the storage room.
The computer screen on my desk snapped and flickered, another bad sign. I pushed my chair away from the desk and stood up before I shorted something out. The IT department was getting cranky about replacing electronic devices in my office. If I could just get out of the room long enough to un-charge a little, I'd be fine. My phone rang, and out of habit I answered it rather than making my escape.
"Marlee Burns, Orange County University Records, Assets, and Archive, how may I help you?"
"Are you the lady with the lost cat?" a raspy male voice asked.
"Yes, yes, I am. Have you found her?"
My heart beat double time. I tucked the phone on my shoulder and slammed my hands on several items rising off my desk. Carl glared over at me, and I smiled at him with what I hoped was an innocent "who me" look. It worked. He turned back around and continued banging drawers and abusing papers.
"I have the cat. Your home phone message said to call this number."
My shaking knees gave way and dumped me back into my chair.
"Right, oh my gosh. Thank you. She's been missing for two days. Who am I speaking to?"
My neck tingle increased vibrating the base of my skull. Hair rose on my nape, and I glanced behind me again. The empty wall still sat there mocking my paranoia.
"Smith. Bob Smith. Listen, I'm in a little bit of a rush here. I can bring the cat by your place after five today. Just give me the time and address."
The tingle intensified. I chalked it up to nerves.
"It's 2554 Alice Lane, but I won't be able to get home till about 6:15. I get off at six, but I only live about a mile away. I have a class at 7:00, but I can be late if I need to." I shut up long enough to roll my eyes. I was such a babbler when I was nervous.
I gave up holding things down on my desk and shoved them into a drawer to keep them from waving around in front of my face.
"Right," Mr. Smith said, "see you at six-thirty."
The line went dead. I looked at the receiver. He wasn't much of a talker. I hung up the phone. When I lifted my hand from the handset, the tingling in my neck stopped. When I put my fingertips back on the phone, the tingle resumed, but it was fainter. It gave me what grandma used to call "heebie-jeebies," but I didn't have time to analyze it.
I felt Carl glaring a hole into me and made the mistake of looking up. It seemed to give him the idea that I needed his input on the situation.
"You just gave your address to a complete stranger, didn't you, Marlee?" He shook his head causing a scraggly piece of graying hair to fall into his eyes.
"Yeah, but I'd do anything to get BooBoo back."
"That's asinine. What are you five-five and one-twenty?"
"Five-nine and one-thirty-ish, but—”
"You're defenseless alone in that house. Don't know why your grandma willed it to a single, twenty-six year-old girl. This guy could be a serial killer. You should’ve let the damn cat stay lost. The world would be better off without animals mucking up the works."
He waited for an answer. I couldn't think of a reply, so I stupidly said the first thing that came to mind, "Without animals, what would we eat for meat?"
Carl's eyes narrowed and his voice grated, "How about each other?"
I grabbed a rubber band off my desk and fastened my rising waist-length hair into a static-frizzed black ponytail. If he noticed my hair suddenly lifting and crackling, he didn't let it show before he stormed out of the office and slammed the door.
I turned back to my computer and was shocked to see my reflection in the monitor's glass. My normally medium green eyes shone bright green, almost glowing. Oh joy, a new side effect of my social-life mangling abilities. I wiggled my mouse to turn the screen saver off and block my reflection, then typed goodbye to Mike and got to work inputting scanning requests for the next batch of university records going to the document imaging company. Before I knew it, it was time to leave.
"Good," I said, "I can finally get out of here."
I talk to myself a lot. I answer myself, too. I've heard that may be something to worry about. Yeah right, I'd add it to the list.
I grabbed my things and rushed to my 1959 Chrysler Imperial in the parking lot. As soon as its long red body, huge chrome bumpers, fake tire on the trunk, and pointy tail fins came into view, my heart did a little happy dance and my shoulders ratcheted down a notch. My grandfather bought the mammoth car new off the showroom floor for my grandmother. During the years, it had broken down to the point where auto mechanics said it was hopeless, but my grandfather would always bring the old bucket of bolts back to the living. These many resurrections earned the car the family nickname, The Jesus Chrysler, JC for short.
The pastor at my grandmother's church had used the car in a sermon once, saying if a machine could have the perseverance and reliability of our savior then the rest of us should be able to follow suit. It hadn't broken down in the five years since my grandfather died, which was more than I could say for myself—especially today.
With a double-scoop of doom still consuming me, I backed out and sped as fast as the JC would go to meet Mr. Smith.
CATS, SPATS, AND GLASS
My neck tingled again when the JC and I were about a block from my house. The sensation intensified until by the time I pulled into my driveway it seemed like a hill of ants had taken up residence on my neck. I shut the car off and closed my eyes. My body tensed in a flight response, but where was the danger? I sighed and rubbed my neck. There was no danger. I was short-circuiting somehow, my energy more out of control than ever with every day bringing me closer and closer to self-destruction.
I yanked the handle and shoved my shoulder into the car door to pop it open. The Jesus Chrysler still ran, but it was a little creaky in the joints. As soon as I was in the house with the door closed and locked, I felt a little better.
This house had always been the one place I could be myself without fear or shame. It'd been my maternal grandparents’ home, and it was strange that I felt I could be myself here since they supposedly didn't know about my special abilities. I suspected grandmother had known though. Our family just hadn’t talked about it, like a crazy aunt locked in the attic that everyone ignored. An embarrassment pretended away even when the bumps and moans drowned out normal living.
Framed pictures of Grandma and Grandpa lined the fireplace mantle. I said hello to them as I flicked on the light.
My suspicions of Grandma's shared complicity came from dozens of conversations I'd walked in on between Grandma and my mother when they'd stop talking and look away from each other. Unspoken words would hang in the air clouding the light and loving feeling my grandmother tended to fill a room with just by being in it. And there were the sad looks she would give me after my mother sequestered me here when my telekinesis and I had finally pushed my father past his breaking point. I think she'd known and that's why she left me the house—a permanent sanctuary from my father. But, unfortunately, as it turned out—not from myself.
I tossed my backpack onto the couch and kicked off my shoes on the way to the kitchen for some Gatorade. Halfway through my third glass, someone knocked on the back kitchen door.
"Yoo-hoo, Marlee," my neighbor Mrs. Norris said, with her wrinkled face pressed against the kitchen door window.
I checked the impulse to roll my eyes and opened the door for her. This could prove to be a disaster. I was in a hurry to get my cat and get to school, and Mrs. Norris tended to hang around. And talk. And snoop.
"Hi, Mrs. Norris," I said.
"Hello, Sweetie." She gave me a kiss on the cheek and instant guilt for my impatience. Kay Norris and her husband Burt had been wonderful to me since my grandmother died six months ago. She checked on me frequently, saying that she'd promised my grandmother she'd look after me if anything ever happened to her.
"I noticed that you're home. You have class tonight, don't you? You're not ditching are you?" She smiled and eased herself onto a kitchen chair.
"No, not ditching. Someone found BooBoo Kitty. He's returning her to me here, and then I'll be on my way to class."
She tssk'ed me. "Marlee Marie Burns, tell me you did not give your address to a total stranger."
I finished my Gatorade and tried to suppress another power surge. "Sorry, Mrs. N, afraid so."
"I figured he returns lost cats, how bad could he be?"
She straightened my salt and pepper shakers on the table and brushed a few crumbs from grandma's gingham placemat.
"Still. A young girl like you should be more careful. I promised your grandmother, bless her soul, that I'd watch after you. You're not making it easy." Her eyes snapped to mine, and she smiled. "Did he say if he was single?"
Now I did roll my eyes. "Mrs. Norris, make up your mind. Is he a rapist or a potential husband? My standards are a little too high for him to be both."
"Oh, Marlee. You're so sassy." She chuckled and looked out the window. "Still, I think I'll hang around until he gets here. We've had a strange van lurking around the neighborhood. Mrs. Crenshaw, you know Mrs. Crenshaw don't you Sweetie? She's the president of the neighborhood watch. She reported the van in this morning’s community newsletter. Did you read it? "
I shook my head.
"Marlee, you need to pay attention to these things. You're part of the neighborhood now, and you're a young girl living alone. We're all concerned for you." She pointed to the kitchen door. "You need to get a solid door and put on some better locks, too. You know I can have my Burt come over and—”
A loud knock rattled the front door. I rubbed my suddenly tingling neck.
"Oops," I said. "That must be Mr. Smith now."
Remembering Mrs. Norris' "Is he single" crack, I checked myself in the magnetic mirror my grandmother had stuck on the fridge years ago during one of her diet phases. Mrs. Norris waved her hand at me.
"Oh, Marlee, you look like a dream. Just be yourself and you'll be fine. Everyone would love you just like Burt and I do if you'd just open up a little more."
I sighed and left the kitchen. It was hard to "be myself" when I had to hide who or at least what I was my whole life. With each hurried step toward the front door, my neck tingled more. By the time I snapped the deadbolt and turned the knob, the feeling intensified to a vibration like being on a massage-o-matic hotel bed. Pressing my palms to my temples didn’t alleviate the sensation, but it did get a strange look from my visitor.
The man at the door was square. That was the first word that popped into my mind when I saw him. About five feet ten, his wide, squared-off shoulders and ramrod posture gave the illusion that he took up more space than he actually did. His crewcut brown hair topped off his squareness. He could probably set a tray on his head and run a marathon without it falling off.
He nodded. His unblinking eyes sat dark and flat on his expressionless face. Odd. I'd never noticed someone whose eyes didn't reflect light. He held up a cage, and I jumped. A meow and perfect little kitty nose escaped the bars of the cage.
"Boo-boo Kitty!" I said.
Mr. Smith crossed the threshold and advanced a few steps into the living room. I closed the door so Boo-Boo wouldn't get out again.
"Mr. Smith. I can't tell you how much I appreciate…"
He turned back to me, and something in his eyes and thin-lipped smile sent a surge of fear through me. He put the cat cage down and took a step toward me. A ball of energy swirled and grew in my chest. I tried to suppress it. The last thing I needed was to overreact to a Good Samaritan and kill him. He was a Good Samaritan, I hoped. But he exuded some very strange feelings. In my mind I saw swirls of dark red and black around him. A small flare blossomed in my chest and escaped. Something crashed in the kitchen.
"Oh my gosh," Mrs. Norris shouted from the kitchen, "Marlee, your glass just flew off the counter."
Mr. Smith spun toward the kitchen, and I used the momentary distraction to slip around him and open the cat cage. BooBoo Kitty shot out and disappeared down the hall.
Mrs. Norris appeared in the doorway leading to the kitchen. She smiled at Mr. Smith. "You must be Mr. Smith. We can't thank you enough for bringing that cat back. Marlee's been worried sick about…" Her voice trailed off as she got a good look at his expression and those weird eyes.
"Yes, Mr. Smith. Please let me pay you a reward." I grabbed my backpack off the sofa and clutched it to my chest. Another surge pulsed from the general area of my sternum, and the front door popped open.
I rushed to the door and put my hand on it. "Darned old door," I said, "it's always just popping open."
"I never noticed it doing that before," Mrs. Norris said. "You know Burt's on his way over to look at that back door. He's bringing that big sledgehammer over to fix it. He can look at the front door, too. You know, with the big sledgehammer."
"Sledgehammer?" I said.
"Yes, dear, sledgehammer." Mrs. Norris twitched her eyes over toward Mr. Smith, and I finally got what she was doing. My unease must have been apparent and catchy.
"Oh, sledgehammer," I said, "that's right." I shrugged my shoulders and blinked at Mr. Smith a few times. "You know these old houses. Sometimes you just have to whack 'em with sledgehammers to unstick things."
Mr. Smith scowled. He grabbed the cat carrier and edged toward the door. "No reward. I'm leaving," he said.
If he was just a Good Samaritan, he now thought my neighbor and I were homicidal maniacs. If he was as evil as he felt, he was giving up. As soon as he was out the door, I shut it and locked it. I leaned over the couch and slivered the curtains open to watch him leave. His free hand opening and clenching over and over, he walked with thudding steps down the front walk and climbed into the passenger side of a gunmetal gray panel van with darkly tinted windows. The van lurched from the curb and sped away.
He hadn't come alone. Of course, coming with someone else to return a cat didn't make him a rapist or serial killer. Come to think of it, he had shown more caution than I had. How could I fault the man for being more sensible than me? I was being paranoid. Right?
"That man was surely strange," Mrs. Norris said right next to my ear.
I jumped. "Jeez, Mrs. N, you scared me to death." I let go of the curtains and put my hand over my heart to try to keep it in my chest.
"I'm sorry, dear." She reached for my shoulder. A spark jumped from my shoulder to her hand, and she jumped back. "Ouch," she said, "darn static. That really hurt." She stuck her fingers in her mouth.
I edged away from her. No need to almost kill two people in one day. BooBoo Kitty ran in and jumped on the couch. I started to reach out to her, but when her fur swayed toward me and crackled, I thought better of it.
"Mrs. Norris, I have a favor to ask. I still don't know how BooBoo got out, and I really need to run to class right now. Can you take her to your house until I get home?"
She wiped her hand on her cotton dress and picked up the cat. "Well, sure I will. I still have some of her food from last time I babysat her when you had that overnight seminar." She rubbed noses with the cat. "BooBoo loves her Autie Kay doesn't she?"
BooBoo just hung there in her hands and let her have her way. The irresistible lump of fur was so mellow, I just couldn't picture her running away. Whenever she did get out, she spent most of her time scratching at the door to be let back in. She was a huge coward when it came to the big outdoors. I hoped her lack of courage didn't have anything to do with the name I gave her.
Another small jolt of energy escaped me, and one of my shoes tipped over.
Mrs. Norris tucked BooBoo Kitty under her arm. "You know, I think we're having aftershocks or tremors or something. Things are just moving all over the place."
I popped my feet into my shoes before they had a chance to levitate or shoot across the room and peered back out the curtain. Good. No dark spooky vans. I opened the door and ushered Mrs. Norris out.
We said our goodbyes, and I got in the JC, cranked it to life, and backed out of the driveway. A dark van pulled away from the curb several blocks up and turned the corner. My heart leapt.
"Jeez, Marlee," I said, "you're really freaking yourself out."
I concentrated on being calm on the way back to the university. My hopes of dissipating power before I got back into a crowded environment were shot. If I wasn't too late to class, I could get my regular seat by the back door. I'd explained to the professor that I had claustrophobia, and he let me block the door open most of the time. The natural flow from the open door to the large bank of windows that lined one whole side of the classroom helped the energy of forty active college students shunt outside instead of lying stagnant in the room for me to absorb. That was one thing I didn't need. My level was the highest I'd ever experienced. I didn't know what would happen if it got any higher.
I didn't see any vans, dark or otherwise, on my way to the university. The parking lot was crammed as usual and being late didn't help my parking spot selection. After fifteen minutes of frenzied searching, I found a stall in last row of J lot. The lots were assigned letters of the alphabet according to proximity of the quad, A through K. K lot was closed for construction of a new parking structure. So I was as far as I could get away from the buildings without being off campus. I shouldn't have gotten upset over parking considering what had happened during the rest of my day, but I did, and my energy level soared even higher.
I pulled my backpack full of books out of my trunk, threaded my arms through the loops, locked the JC, and jogged to my class. I tightened the backpack straps so the pack wouldn't beat my lower back, and I ran. The minimal drain on my energy from the physical exertion took the edge off. At least I didn't feel so much like Grandma's pressure cooker at full steam any more.
The classroom door was closed when I arrived which made sneaking in late a lot harder. I pulled the door open just enough to squeeze through. My backpack strap caught on the outside knob just before the door clicked shut. I was stuck facing away from the door. My right hand was nearest the knob, but no matter how much I twisted I couldn't curve my arm enough to get hold of the knob. A trickle of sweat rolled down between my shoulder blades.
I glanced to the front of the class, hoping in vain that no one was looking. All eyes were on me. I yanked forward a few times. The strap didn't give, and it was too tight for me to extricate my arm from it. I thought of asking for help, but my mortified brain wouldn’t form the words. After a few more twists, I finally knelt down, lifted my arms, and managed to wiggle out of the pack. I stood, opened the door, and yanked my pack out.
A few snickers echoed behind me but stopped when I turned around. My axe-murderer expression turned everyone back to the front, even the instructor. In my regular chair in the back right corner of the classroom slouched a typical, twenty-something, stringy blond hair, surfer dude complete with tank top, board shorts, and flip flops. I mentally called him a dipstick, Grandma’s favorite insult, and turned away from him when static lifted his hair.
The only open computer terminal was in the center row at the far left end by the wall of windows. As energy spots were concerned, the open seat wasn't too bad, if the door wasn’t shut. I turned to open the door.
"Please leave the door closed, Ms. Burns," Professor Johnson said. "We're having a pop quiz today. No one is to leave the class until it's done."
A collective groan escaped the class. Everyone's stress levels spiked and the energy level in the room surged. I grabbed my ponytail to keep it down. I needed to leave, but I couldn't exit gracefully, especially now after the quiz announcement and my stellar entrance. I'd have to try to stick it out.
I slogged through the heavy, charged air to the available computer. When I pulled out the chair, the student at the terminal behind me caught my eye. He stared at me with the interested look of an entomologist with a new bug. I smiled, and he glanced away but after a few seconds resumed staring. He wore all black with ample amounts of chains and other metal adornments decorating his clothing. His dyed black hung to his shoulders in greased curls. Several piercings with gold hoops and studs adorned his nose, ears, and eyebrows.
I stowed my backpack under my desk and thudded down into the chair.
The professor cleared his throat. "You will find your quiz instructions and all necessary files to complete your quiz in a file on the computer desktop titled 'quiz.' You have one hour as of now."
I squinted my eyes and tried to block the emotional energy bombarding me. Professor Willis retreated behind his desk in the front of the class, put on his headset, pulled his keyboard toward him, and immediately dozed.
When I pressed the power button to turn on my computer screen, a spark arced from my finger to the monitor. The display folded in on itself and then flipped back up into focus with a pop. At this rate, I was going to fry the computer before I got the test started.
A buzz cut through the air, and I pushed away from my desk.
"Sorry," the girl next to me whispered. She pulled out her cellular phone and ducked her head behind her monitor so the professor wouldn't see her.
"Don't call me anymore,” she whispered into phone. "No, I told you, it's over."
She hung up the phone and put it back on her tabletop. I scooted my chair back to my desk, now that I knew it was her cell phone that had vibrated and not my computer about to blow up in my face.
Her phone buzzed again. She checked the caller ID, and stabbed at a button on the phone's side to disconnect. I pulled out my keyboard. The phone buzzed again. The girl's stress level spiked as she read the caller ID again, and I pinched the bridge of my nose and squinted again to try and block her.
"Sorry," she whispered to me. She grabbed the phone and mashed the power button to turn it off. "That ought to do it." She dropped it into her purse.
I opened the files to begin my test and took long slow breaths through my nose to calm myself. I'd just answered the first set of questions, and I was opening the sample database file to finish the rest of the test, when a tap hit the window beside me.
A man in his twenties crouched in the bushes on the other side of the window. He mouthed something to me and pointed to the girl beside me. I shook my head and turned back to my computer.
Another tap, this one louder. The girl next to me looked over and moaned. "Oh no," she whispered and shooed her hand at him. "Go away," she mouthed.
He shook his head and motioned for her to come out. She shook her head.
They were throwing emotion at each other at a frenzied rate, and I was right in the middle of it. I put my face in my hands and sighed. Fate hated me.
The young couple continued to mouth things at each other and my stress level soared. The girl finally looked away, so the guy outside threw a rock at the window. I jumped and several computer screens around me flickered. Students at the affected terminals looked around.
The professor still dozed, his fingers locked together on his stomach just under his man boobs. I could probably leave and he wouldn't notice, but because of my graceful entrance, he'd remember I had been there, and I'd fail the test and wouldn't be able to retake it. Half a semester of work down the educational tubes.
I smiled at the girl next to me. "Maybe you should go out there," I whispered.
"No, that's what he wants. Just ignore him. He'll go away."
She turned back to her computer. He folded his arms over his chest and stared at her. He wasn't saying anything, but the angst continued to flow between them.
A faint high-pitched squeal sounded from my monitor, and it snapped off with a pop. That was it. Grade or no grade, I had to leave before I shorted the whole room out. I twisted in my seat to grab my backpack, and the man behind me caught my attention again. Astonished, he held his hand out to me as if he felt something in the air.
My pulse jumped. Could he somehow feel my energy? One look at him, and I knew it was true. His eyes gleamed with excitement, and a sly smile curled his lips.
Without breaking our locked gaze, he pulled out a cellular phone, pushed a few buttons, and held it to his ear. I had to get out of there. I tried to turn away but realized that he held one of my backpack straps. I yanked at it, but his grip held fast.
Fear clenched my stomach. The monitor between the man and I snapped and went out. His wicked grin disappeared, and he pushed his chair back a few inches. His grip held steady. Panic built within me.
"Let go," I said, my voice a harsh whisper.
He spoke into the phone in a language that sounded Middle Eastern. He tucked the phone on his shoulder and held his hand again palm up to feel the air in front of him. Whatever he said next was excited. He was telling someone about me. I pushed my hands against the back of his desk trying to pull the pack from him.
"Let go," I said again, "or someone's going to get hurt."
The lovesick guy outside shouted something, and a loud bang rattled the window. Something inside me snapped. A pulse shot from my head and chest. The man behind me flew backward, and the bank of windows beside me exploded outward. I ducked away from the windows and wound up half lying on the girl next to me.
A few seconds of silence enveloped the room, then the screaming started. People cowered on the floor. Someone shouted that we were under fire from outside.
"Everyone stay down," the professor shouted from under his desk.