An extended siren for fifteen seconds meant fire. A continuous siren meant evacuation. Three short sirens meant a lock down, and two short sirens followed by an extended siren was a bomb threat. Beyond that, things started getting complicated.
All in all, Jackson Sloth Memorial High School had sixty-seven unique siren codes for different types of emergencies, ranging from a low-pitched four second siren for a rain of live fish, to a medium-pitched three-and-a-half second siren for a rain of dead fish. The first nine days of each semester were dedicated entirely to emergency drills, and a siren-worthy event occurred an average of three times every two weeks. Their rival school, Sloth's Pit Senior High School, had a lower emergency rate, but a higher ratio of students with an Omega-3 deficiency.
Today, no sirens were ringing. For sixteen year old Adam Snerling, this was the greatest emergency of all. Adam blinked sweat from his eyes and stared hopelessly at a calculus exam he couldn't begin to comprehend. Indexes and coefficients rode squiggly lines up and down the page, threatening to spill out onto the desk and dance around the room. Adam looked up from the paper. Most of the class seemed to be trapped in the same state of horrified incapability as him. Three tables over, Adam's friend Utkarsh was scribbling frantically. Fifteen minutes into the test, it didn't seem so funny anymore. Adam eyed the teacher at the front of the room warily, gauging his chances for a successful peek at the paper in front of him. No dice. Tenure at JSMH had honed Ms Burton's reflexes to an almost precognitive level. She was staring directly at Adam, with the intensity of an electric vulture. Adam swallowed and looked back to the clock. Somehow another five desperate, silent minutes had gone by already. Twenty minutes spent on the first question, and his only thought was that x was probably in there somewhere. Resigned to failure, his eyes flickered listlessly around the room. The open door with its view of a beautiful not-flooded hallway; the open windows with their view of a beautiful fishless sky; other things that were neither the test or a means of escape; and the frustratingly silent sirens, which had begun to sprout hair.
Ten minutes and a brief trumpet solo later, Jackson Sloth Memorial High had devised its sixty-eighth unique emergency siren code, and Ms Burton's test had been postponed for the seventh week in a row. Ms Burton sat on a picnic table out on the school lawn and stared blearily at the test paper in her hands. Slowly, she began to rip it into little pieces. Adam stood at the top of the steps outside the school's main entrance and watched his teacher's mental breakdown with a purely non-malicious satisfaction. Utkarsh was sitting a few steps down, with his head in his hands. Adam sat down beside him and watched the road. White vans began to pull up at the front of the school. The signs on the side read "School Cosmetology Provision". The paint didn't seem to have dried yet. A representative from the company exited the lead van and approached the principal to ask what, exactly, had happened.
"Same as last time," said the principal, "Except with hair."
Adam and Utkarsh shifted a half-inch to the side as a squad of black-suited school cosmetologists marched past them into the school building. Adam grinned at the stern-faced military efficiency of the team.
"Elite Mobile Hair-Disposal Unit Bravo Sixty-Niner!" he said, "Codename: Occam's Leg Razor!"
Utkarsh didn't respond. Adam frowned, and nudged him.
"How 'bout that hair, huh?" said Adam. Utkarsh nodded without looking up. "Pretty crazy. Wonder where that came from."
Utkarsh shrugged noncommittally.
"Probably your mom's pubes, right?" said Adam desperately.
"I was gonna ace that test," muttered Utkarsh.
"Alright," sighed Adam. This again.
"I was!" said Utkarsh. He turned his head and glared at Adam, "I was. I studied for it. I studied for it when it was announced, two months ago, and I studied for it every week it was delayed since then, and now I could find a integral with both hands behind my back and my dick on fire. I was going to ace it."
Adam smiled nervously. Utkarsh snorted and turned away, hunched over on the step, arms folded. He didn't look back at Adam. Adam fidgeted nervously.
"I was going to ace it," Utkarsh growled.
"Dude, you're still gonna get a good mark—"
"I'm gonna get the same mark everybody else is gonna get. The same mark everybody always gets, and no-one ever, ever earns," Utkarsh barked. Adam shuffled the half-inch back. "You know, I want to do shit, okay? I just want to do shit, and when I do shit, I want it to make shit happen, okay? Cause and effect. Just once, just for once, when I throw a ball I want it to come back down, instead of getting snatched out of the air by a fucking owl."
"It's usually an eagle," Adam mumbled.
"My dad's gonna ask me how the test went today, Adam, and I gotta tell him I'm getting a B because the PA system decided to grow a beard. That is bullshit. That is a literal hailstorm of bullshit."
(Two second low pitch, three short.)
"I'm sorry, man," mumbled Adam, "But shit happens, right? Everyone goes through this. It's just the way the world works. Maybe you needa talk to someone about this. Not me. Someone who's not me."
"Nah," said Utkarsh. He blinked, and shook his head, "No-one would ever believe me. Let's not talk about it anymore."
"Cool," said Adam, who was feeling particularly compliant. The doors opened behind them. A member of the elite trimming unit stuck his head out and yelled at them to clear out of the way. They gathered up their bags and sauntered slowly down the steps. The rest of the squad followed shortly after, dragging a tangled mass of hair the size of a small car. Adam and Utkarsh watched the team move it slowly across the lawn.
"So, what do you think was the deal with that hair?" asked Adam.
"I dunno," Utkarsh shrugged, "Probably rats in the walls."
"Or swamp gas," said Adam.
"Or a weather balloon."
The team of combat stylists began the complicated process of preparing the hair for transport. One of them started up a chainsaw and began to try and cut into the side of the twisted knot. The chainsaw's desperate shrieks and pealing black smoke were such a fascinating distraction that Adam and Utkarsh almost didn't notice the darkening skies, or the pitter-patter growing louder behind them. The worker with the chainsaw certainly didn't, until something wet and wriggling dropped down onto his head. The man lowered his chainsaw, looked up to the sky, and groaned. Adam laughed. Utkarsh just shook his head in disbelief. As the downpour increased, low-pitched sirens rang out for exactly four seconds and the students of Jackson Sloth's Memorial High began to gather their bags and head home.