What Came Before

Story day is here again! OK, this time I have a different story. It’s an apocalyptic tale (about 11,800 words long), which in and of itself is not strange. Except, this one is written in the style of being found footage. It was kind of difficult to write, but it’s something I’ve been wanting to do for about 18 months. Finally, came up with an idea of how to. So, without further ado here is, What Came Before.

A mixture of just about still pre-teens and barely teen boys and girls file into the oblong shaped room. Some bicker in small groups of threes and four while others saunter over the threshold of the bland classroom that has a chalk board bolted to the wall at the end closest to the door, while the rest of the room is lined with desks and chairs.

The teacher, a woman in her early forties with dark red hair tied in a bun and green eyes stands to the side of her old battered wooden desk. Her arms are folded across the chest of her navy blue coloured suit as she watches the children finish filing into the room and take their seats.

The desks are organised into three columns of eleven rows. All of the seats quickly fill. There are just enough spaces for the students who, like always, are not eager to learn. They would much rather chat to their friends or play games like tennis or football. But that isn’t how the world works. Children have to learn. They need an education and whether they like it or not they are here now for their fourth period of the day. The teacher, Miss Hannigan, understands completely but that doesn’t mean she is going to be lenient with them. They are here to learn and she will teach them. However, she is sure they will not expect the lesson she has planned for them today.

The bright overhead strip lights that run from left to right blaze brilliantly, illuminating the chipped grey and blue tiles that the floor in this room is comprised of. Those same lights also reflect painfully off the cream coloured walls creating an uncomfortable glare. Miss Hannigan is relieved the walls aren’t white. She knows the Principle had considered such a thing. That would have been unbearable. Thankfully, he had listened to his staff. It isn’t the norm for him to do so. Usually if he gets a bee in his bonnet he follows through with the idea without proper consideration or consultation.

By the time these thoughts have ran through Miss Hannigan’s mind the students have all settled down. She can’t say the looks on their faces are all attentive, but it’ll have to do. She really wishes her periods could be conducted at an earlier time, but alas, thus far her pleas have gone unanswered. That is why she sees no further cause for delay and exclaims loud enough so even those in the back, who are probably back there in hopes of taking it easy, can hear. “Today children, we are going to watch a history vid.”

Miss Hannigan braces herself for the inevitable groans which begin a few short moments later. However, they are harsher than even she had anticipated them to be as countless members of her class protest and whine relentlessly. It’s like the boys and girls have conspired together to create a symphony of dissatisfaction. That however, is not the case. They are simply expecting the worst. Miss Hannigan wonders if they will feel the same once the vid begins. Something tells her not. Yet, she will first have to get that far. Doing so will require stern looks and heavy navigation of the minefield that is human refusal. Refusal that comes even when people, children especially, do not know what is coming and as a result are inclined, when in a group, to follow the general consensus. That alone can be exhausting, but Miss Hannigan is a veteran of the education system.

Still, one student, Zianne, raises his hand to ask a question. Miss Hannigan wonders whether it will be positive or negative. She considers both avenues and fashions in her head the sort of questions that might be about to come her way as she says, “Yes, Zianne.”

“Do we have to miss? History vids are SO boring.” The barely teen boy says with his head leaning lazily to the right, barely supported by his neck. His dark brown eyes blink slowly while looking in her general direction. Miss Hannigan can’t say that the boy is actually looking at her, but she’s used to it. However, his question is followed by a number of outbursts that display clear agreement with the outspoken youth’s words.

This is precisely what Miss Hannigan had been expecting. She hadn’t admitted such a thing to herself, but she would be lying if she did not admit it now. And while she did consider both possibilities, somewhere in the back of her mind she knew the questions asked by Zianne would be the question. Not word for word, just the gist. That is why she replies, “Yes, we have to Zianne.” She addresses the young boy first out of politeness and then raises her head to stare over the heads of the children in the moments before she declares, “It will be beneficial for all of you. And you never know you might enjoy it.” Miss Hannigan lets a smile briefly flash across her face. She knows what is coming, they do not.

Many still groan however as she turns and takes the two steps to her seat, which she quickly takes. The groaning has for the most part died down by this point; however she still feels the need to silence what is left of it by proclaiming, “Quiet now. The vid is about to start.”

Sighs ring out from several isolated spots dotted about the room. The loudest of the sighs seems to have come from the very back of the room. It’s no surprise. In fact, it is what Miss Hannigan expects. Those at the back always sigh the loudest and kick against the grain the strongest. It’s why they’ve taken those seats. Still, their refusal, as pointless as it is, will not change the events that she has planned. That is why she has to stifle a smirk as she depresses the button mounted to the far right side of her battered desk. It’s the edge closest to the cream wall dotted with educational posters and quotes. They don’t really work, at least for children of this age, but they help brighten up the otherwise dreary box that this room would be without their presence.

Suddenly, Miss Hannigan feels a need to check the classroom door. She didn’t close it once the students had finished filing in. She quickly glances in its direction to find it already closed. The deep green paint of the surface is speckled across many of its edges with gouges that reveal an off-colour blue and below that a dark red. They are just some of the colours that the now old remnant has been painted during it’s time.

Miss Hannigan hasn’t a clue what the wooden structures first coat of paint might have been. That particular fact has been lost to the sands of time and the perhaps dozen subsequent choices that have been plastered, liberally, over it. She can’t even be sure that under all that paint that there is even a wooden door left. It could quite easily be splinters held in shape by the layers of paint. Still, it does its job and one of her students did the decent thing and made sure to close it behind them when they entered. It’s a rare occurrence, but to Miss Hannigan it’s welcome whenever it does transpire.

Then the vid player fires into life and begins to whir. Miss Hannigan settles into her seat proper, leaning into the backrest to get comfortable for what will follow. She keeps one eye on the class and one on the vid screen that she pulled down as the last of the children shuffled, begrudgingly, into the room to take their seats.

In theory she should do a register and check that everyone is here, but to be honest there are thirty three seats in her class and with them all filled she sees little reason. Perhaps she’ll do it at the end. Perhaps she won’t. The register matters little. It is a relic of a bygone era and something Mr Marshall, of the arts faculty, wanted brought back. His reasoning for it being reintroduced was so that it could be ensured that the students were where they were supposed to be at the correct time. But the truth of the matter is that his classes are mayhem. That would be the best description of them anyway and because of that he hasn’t a clue of who is and is not present. It’s not an issue that many other teachers and faculties suffer, save for perhaps Physical Education. Not that they seemed to be bothered either way about whether it was re-introduced or not. But Mr Marshall, Barin as his first name is, had managed to talk the Principal, Doctor Yu, round to his way of thinking. In fact, he’d managed to talk him round so successfully that the Principal had convinced himself that it was essential and should never have been abandoned in the first place. Yet, it was Doctor Yu who had called and facilitated its removal some years earlier because of its pointlessness.

The black screen, having been pulled down from the cylinder near the ceiling of grey concrete that is snaked with water pipes and the cables from which the strip lights are suspended, suddenly blinks into life. At first it displays a darker box over the already dark mass that is the screen until suddenly a box of colour appears along with a man and woman.

The man is to the left of the image, has dark hair, blue eyes and is clad in a plaid shirt and grey jeans. Meanwhile, the woman is dead centre of the frame. She has long straight brown hair and is looking off to the side. There is no way of knowing what the diminutive woman dressed in blue jeans and a loose white t-shirt is looking at, but the background behind them both is a sea of green. Some of the green is differing shades and colours but it is all green nonetheless.

Suddenly a disembodied voice exclaims, “Come on guys, introduce yourselves, you’re on camera.”

The male voice chuckles after making the statement. His voice is happy, chirpy and upbeat.

The woman shakes her head barely perceptibly while the guy to the left of the frame smiles. Neither make an attempt to speak or acknowledge the presence of the camera pointed at them.

“Really? You going to make me beg?” The chirpy, happy voice questions before a mock sigh can be heard over the camera’s microphone.

“Ok. OK. We’ll play along.” The guy on the left says in the end and before looking up and right into the lens.

“I’m Drew. Nice to meet you, whoever you are that is forced to watch this in the future.” The man says before a smirk tears across his face and he looks up from the lens is to what must be the face of the man holding the camera and filming whatever this is.

The children in the classroom are confused. This is unlike any history vid they have ever seen before. They find it intriguing, well most of them, and so lean forward to intently watch and listen. Their hopes aren’t high. In fact, they are unanimously pretty sure this is some trick to lure them in. Yet, they’re giving it the benefit of the doubt, at least for the moment.

“What do you mean by that?” The guy behind the camera says sounding hurt but still somehow upbeat.

“You know I’m only joking. Lighten up, T.” Drew replies still smirking as a gentle breeze rustles the green mass behind Drew and the woman in the centre of the frame who is yet to speak or even acknowledge the presence of the camera. The green mass are leaves of varying sizes that create something akin to a living wall that provides a perfect backdrop to the shot.

It appears that the woman isn’t looking at anything off camera but is instead simply trying to ignore the cameras presence. Right now, the cameraman isn’t focused on her though as he replies, “Come on, you only call me T when you’re humouring me. Try and be a little less obvious Drew.”

“Haha. OK. You got me. Sorry. I’ll stop now.” Drew admits while holding his hands as part of his apologise. Though, a wide smile is plastered across his face as he delivers his reply.

“I’m Drew. And this…” Drew begins giving a proper formal and serious introduction now before turning to indicate the woman who is also in the frame, “…this is, I don’t like being on camera so stop filming me after I said I don’t wanna.”

Drew and the cameraman burst into raucous laughter. But the joke only further inflames the woman who spins on her heels, still ignoring the camera, to glare angrily at Drew. But the glare does not have the desired affect she had believed it would, as Drew is not at all perturbed by the venom dripping, figuratively, from her eyes.

“That isn’t funny Drew. And you can stop laughing too.” The woman says having now turned her gaze toward the cameraman who quickly clears his throat before returning to a whisper chuckle barely audible enough for the built-in microphone to pickup.

“Come on. Just follow along. You look great. Stop worrying will you.” Drew says attempting to placate the woman who has her arms defiantly folded across her chest as she gives Drew the evil eye. The look doesn’t last long and it soon slips and then ultimately fades completely.

Drew shows a quick flash of relief. By the looks of things he actually thought that he might be in real serious trouble. Thankfully, it looks like he isn’t. Still, his eyes flash upward in what can only be concluded is a silent prayer and then back to the woman who is no longer looking at him as she is staring at the camera dead-on instead now.

“And what do you want me to say?” She asks with her arms still folded across her chest and her lips in a pout while her head is very slightly cocked to the side.

“Just introduce yourself. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy.” The happy voice from behind the camera replies.

“Ok. Hi, I’m Brenna. And I have to put up with these two knuckleheads.” The woman says with a brief wave of her right hand and smile followed by a quick roll of her eyes not long after.

“Ouch. Not cool.” The voice behind the camera replies as Drew chuckles silently in the background over Brenna’s only exposed shoulder.

“Hey everyone, I’m the faceless voice and my name’s Travis.” The man behind the camera says not long after and before erupting into a playfully cackle.

“Oh brother.” Brenna says raising her head skyward and then shaking her head twice.

“Come on. You knew what you were getting into when you met us.” Drew replies as he sidles up beside Brenna to put an arm over her shoulder.

“No I did not. But if I did then I would have run a million miles from you like everyone else does.” Brenna replies with a sassy expression on her face, her eyes pointed toward Drew who is at her side.

“No you wouldn’t. You’re as bad as us.” Travis says from behind the camera as he pans up slightly to get a better view now that Drew is closer to the lens.

Drew had been further back when he’d been stood off to the left on his own. It had been easier to fit him in the frame then. That’s the problem when you have a diminutive person like Brenna alongside someone like Drew who is a little over two metres tall.

“Excuse you! Not only did I not say you could drape your arm over my shoulder, but you dare to compare yourselves to me.” Brenna says continuing her sass.

But she can’t keep it up and a few seconds later her expression cracks and she begins to howl with laughter. Drew joins in while Travis replies impressed, “Wow, you are quite the actress Brenna.”

“I know. I had you both fooled there. You actually thought I was serious.” The woman remarks as she continues to cry with laughter.

Her long brown hair stretches almost all the way down to her waist, while her left hand wraps loosely around Drew’s right arm. Her four centimetre long orange false nails in full view. They look more like talons, except that they aren’t sharp. Well, at least they aren’t purposely sharp. There is a chance that if she wanted to, Brenna could gouge at someone if they angered her.

“OK. OK. We’ve screwed around enough.” Travis says still chuckling.

His laughter is causing the camera lens to shake, but it’s only a smidge and causes little distraction or discomfort for anyone that is watching. In fact, the children barely even notice it. It seems natural. If it didn’t then it would be obvious, but it is. All the technology in the world can’t stop anything held in a human hand from moving as the person does, especially laughter. You use a lot of muscles when you laugh, about thirty in all.

“What we up to today then peeps?” Travis questions. He already knows the answer. Those watching don’t and that is why he’s asking.

“Peeps! Who are you?” Drew mocks while Brenna answers, “We’re going to the big parade.”

As she gives the answer she slaps Drew in the chest with the back of her open hand. It’s playful and results in a smirk from the much taller man.

“So when can we get going?” Travis asks eager to get underway. He’s been waiting all year for this and while it may not hold the joy and wonder it had when he’d been young, he still enjoys it.

It’s a day he and his friends can let their hair down, relax and have fun. There isn’t enough of that anymore and he misses not seeing Drew and Brenna as much as he used to just eight months ago. It’s been a hard year, for everyone. But this, the parade, should help take all their minds off the realities of life even if it is just for one day. Well, half a day really, at best. But still, it’s better than nothing.

“When you put down you’re stupid camera. You’re the driver on this little excursion after all.” Drew replies jokingly before adding with a more serious tone, “And there is no way we’re letting you drive with that thing in your hand.”

“Aw, why not?” Travis replies with mock disappointment.

“Cause we don’t wanna die today. And we’ve seen your driving. It’s possible even without that camera in your hand.” Brenna says into the lens before winking playfully to prove that everything she is saying is in jest.

“Wow! And I call you guys’ friends. Maybe I should find some people who will actually value my presence.” Travis retorts as he begins to turn the lens away from Drew and Brenna.

“Good luck! You won’t find them!” Drew calls from out of shot before bursting into a cruel but joking cackle.

“You guys are the worst.” Travis replies as he turns the camera. He’s looking for the stop button to end the recording and manages to find it just as Brenna exclaims, “But you love us even if we don’t love you.”

Travis bursts into laughter as the recording ends and the screen goes black.

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