I heard white noise, unbearably loud against ears so used to silence. I turned around, my heart racing, but it was just Cyrus messing with the radio.
"There won't be anything," I said, approaching him. "Just static…"
He switched to AM and spun the little tuning dial very slowly towards the left end. No flickers of human voices or music, just the hiss of white noise. It hurt to listen to. At the very left end, he stopped, and there was sound, an unidentifiable one—I had never heard anything like it before. The pulsating of an alien's thoughts, the sound of the very farthest reaches of space. I felt Rob the snake suddenly wind tighter around my shoulders.
"What is that?"
Cyrus yanked the radio's electrical cord out of the wall socket; Rob immediately relaxed. "Unholy."
I guess I should have pegged him for weirdly religious, he carried a Bible around all the time, but I never really noticed until now. It was probably the only thing keeping him from completely losing it like the others. I wondered for a second why I hadn't gone insane, but I tried not to think about it too much.
We left the classroom at the sound of hundreds of running footsteps, fleeing down the stairs to the ground floor. I was about to throw open the door to the office to hide, but Cyrus dragged me into a janitors' closet instead.
"Don't go in there," he said, almost inaudible over the footsteps and screaming. "Don't ever go in there."
I almost asked why, but I stopped myself, not wanting to know. I opened the closet door just a crack and looked through into the hall.
They weren't after us, I quickly realized, they were running towards the edge. They jumped. All of them, too many for me to get a count. None of them were afraid. Their running steps were utterly drowned out by a great roar like the sound the ocean makes during a storm, but much larger, more terrible than any ocean or any storm or any tangible thing on Earth. They all tumbled into the whiteness. I had known some of them. I had known all of them. I heard their monstrous sound tear out of their throats, it came from the fog and the air. The roar grew to a deafening volume. I felt like perhaps I should jump too, but when I stood to do it, Cyrus pulled me back.
"Wednesday," he said, almost breathless with panic. "Wednesday."
I woke up.
Above me were a few people wearing gas masks and talking amongst themselves. I couldn't hear them, their voices were only a murmur, at least until my head cleared itself a little. I rubbed my eyes.
"She's coming around," said one of them.
I tried to speak to them. I knew I spoke their language but I didn't completely understand what they were saying.
"Hmmh," I mumbled, attempting to sit up. Everything felt heavy.
"What do you remember last?" said another gas mask, but one of his fellows swatted him.
"Don't ask her now, dipshit. Wait until she's at least lucid enough to speak properly."
One of them scooped me up and threw me over his shoulder. Another yelled in surprise.
"Well don't scream about it! Where?"
"On her shoulder…"
"Is it alive?"
"Yeah - "
"Don't worry about it - "
"Can we focus for two seconds and leave? Dunford, Barnes, stay here, we'll come back."
I felt like I was falling from a great height. Had I jumped? If I did jump, then the other kids who jumped must have been around there somewhere too…
Had I just dreamed the whole thing?
"Where…?" I said, my mouth not working right.
"Don't talk yet, you'll have plenty of time for that later."
They took me outside, and I heard many voices. They took my clothes and undid my hair and pushed me into a tent where I was soaped and hosed down by a cranky-looking woman in a white coat. I stumbled into a different tent, and the woman directed me to a metal chair. Cyrus was there too, looking far more alert than I felt.
One of the gas masks handed me Rob, who was pretty wet and maybe a little stunned from the shower. He promptly curled up in my lap.
All of the people in the tent were adults - none of my classmates in sight. The gas masks who had carried me out were not there either, but there were what looked like doctors and nurses and people who looked maybe they might be in the military, though something was off about them. Each had some sort of symbol on their shoulders or their chests, something I didn't recognize. They conducted their business with lowered voices just barely above a whisper.
A man wearing a white coat and small round glasses was speaking to Cyrus too quietly for me to hear. Cyrus seemed to listen, I guess, but wasn't responding.
The man grew frustrated with Cyrus's silence and approached me carrying a tape recorder.
"My name is Dr. Krell," he said in a cool voice. "We represent the SCP Foundation."