They could hear the moaning as they reached the false door. Even from within the storeroom, the sound of fear and desperation filled the air.
“Be as quiet as you can. We don’t want anyone to hear us.”
Chris wanted to say, “Yes, Graham,” but didn’t.
Suddenly all the mischief had gone out of him. Beyond this partition was the beginning of the end.
If the others had guns, that would be that. This plan of theirs was bound to fail. Mr Hunter, newly reborn as Graham, truly believed that they could not succeed. Teaching had smashed his half-full glass some years earlier. He had become a realist, but a realist would never try. He had to.
Was it him or had the world changed? So, he was being asked to believe that this was not mere kids who were playing a game that had gotten out of control. He was being asked to believe that this was all part of something that didn’t belong in the real world. He stil pinched himself to confirm that he wasn’t dreaming. He wasn’t. Was he mad? Had the rest of existence danced into a collective illusion?
The police would come, he believed in that.
“You’re wrong Graham. The police won’t come. It’s us and that’s it.”
He was sure that he had heard Christopher speak. The words had run through his mind like cash through a register. He turned to Chris and spoke.
“What did you say?”
Chris looked back at him blankly.
“What, Mr Hunter?”
“You just said something about the police not coming.”
“No I didn’t. I didn’t say anything.”
Michael fixed his gaze upon the pair.
“I thought we said we’d be silent. Are you wanting to get us killed?”
“Sorry. I just thought I heard Chris say something.”
“Well he didn’t. How do we get this thing open?”
Their teacher stepped forward and shone his torch upon a groove. He slipped his finger into it and found a catch. He pulled hard and had to exert more strength for it to give. Eventually, it moved. He pulled again and it moved a little more. Perspiration was standing out on his brow.
“Just one more go and I think it will open.”
The brothers watched him and Michael pushed hard with his mind the way he had discovered when he had been trapped in the school. The rusted metal finally shifted with a reluctant creak thta wished to announce itself to all the world. Mr Hunter pulled open the door of the storeroom where Chris had spent the night.
“I’ve got a key for the next bit,” the teacher whispered before placing it into the workings and turning it with as much care as he could muster.
With the mechanism turned, he pulled the door open a fraction of an inch more and the full wave of despair hit him.
Crowded together in the pitch black were all the remnants of St Agnes. There was the sound of crying and whimpering from both young and old. The teacher shone his torch on the frightened congregation and was greeted by the faces of those caught in death’s headlights.
“Mr Hunter, is that you?” asked the Deputy Head.
“Yes, Martin, it is. Now keep your voice down and get everyone ready to follow us. We have only a little time.”
“Surely you can’t expect us to all fit in there?”
The teacher laughed.
“No. There’s a set of underground passageways. We’ll get out that way. Michael, will you make sure that the ones at the back don’t get lost?”
“Graham, it’s Graham.”
“Chris, will you lead with me? We’ll take the younger ones first. Mrs Sanderson, can you bring your children forward? Remember that once we are in the passages, we are completely silent. Not a sound. And that includes crying.”
He knelt down to face a small girl who was still full of sobs and said quietly, “Could we make the next one our last cry until we get out in the open again? Could you do that for us?”
The girl breathed in deeply, swallowing her sob as she did so and nodded.
“You are allowed to breathe though.”
Her breath shot out in a short guffaw and the laughter raised the spirits of those around her. All at once, the atmosphere in that desperate place was changed.
“Remember, no talking. We’ll get out of this if we follow directions. Let’s go.”
Graham, as he was to be known from hereon, led the way into the storeroom and down into the passages. Michael took up his post at the rear and watched the column of students disappearing into the dimly lit space.
Outside of the basement, the guard, who had been charged with absolute watchfulness, had wandered along the corridor anxious to know what was going on in the assembly hall. He had witnessed the killing of the head teacher and had felt a spark of excitement. He didn’t want to miss out on anything else. Anyway, he was sick of waiting for the others to return. Through the door he had been able to hear them all blubbering. If Flowers was true to his word, they wouldn’t be blubbering for long. But for now, his attention was elsewhere.
He reached for his mobile phone in his trouser pocket and pulled it out. It was still switched on and he quickly navigated his way to the video he had managed to make of the recent demise. It was a bit shaky, but he thought that added to it. It was like the Blair Witch. When this was over, Flowers said that they would post all of their efforts on NuNation. This was his first attempt and he was pleased with the footage he had got. Looking at it a second time, he was able to see the trail of blood as it exploded out of the back of Bayliss. He watched as it splattered on Adams, his deputy. With a smile on his face borne of satisfaction, he made his way back to his post. There would be other chances, he was sure of it.
He was standing at the door, relieved that the moaning had stopped, when it dawned on him that perhaps the silence was not such a good sign.
He felt for the keys in his pocket and unlocked the door. Taking care not to be rushed, he pushed the door open with his foot. It swung back slowly and the light from outside showed that the basement was empty.
He entered and urgently scanned the room. They must be hiding, he thought. The impossibility was just striking him when he saw a block of light disappearing with the closing of a storeroom door. He ran over to it just as it was about to be closed completely. Using his gun as a lever, he pushed the muzzle into the disappearing opening. The hand at the other side felt the force and reacted. The hand was Michael’s.
As the last teacher, Mr Adams, was disappearing into the passage. Something was wrong. He turned to face the the eldest Andrews boy.
“You go. You go and lock the door behind you,” Michael ordered.
The teacher looked at Michael with a mixture of shock and admiration.
“But you won’t be able to get through will you? You’ll be trapped.”
“Go! Tell Chris he’ll see me again. I promise. Go and save the rest.”
“It’s been a privilege son.” He was stumbling around trying to find some other words. None came so he settled for, “Take care.”
After that, he disappeared into the passage and the door closed behind him.
Michael could now see the gun pushing throug the gap. All it would take was a burts of fire and an inescapable ricochet for the story to end. Instead of pushing, he now pulled hard and fast.
The boy on the other side fell forward, his balance gone. As he fell into the room, Michael aided his momentum with a well placed kick to the boy’s ankle. The floundering guard hit the floor hard. Michael’s speed of attack would have surprised anybody who had known him before; it was swift and savage. His arms wrapped themselves around his opponent’s neck and his momentum created a counter-movement. A sickening crack halted the brief conflict.
The noise was the fatal sound of a neck being broken.