Saturday, June 23, 2012

Crab Mentality (Part 33)

June 30, 2010 (5pm)
Grey clouds were starting to cover the blue sky, and only a little bit of sunshine could manage to get through to the streets as Chalano and Kim ran along Lincoln Street. They turned left to 10th Street. The arsonist had an irregular schedule, but there was a time when he struck 24 hours after another arson. Chalano just had to make sure that Cole wouldn’t do it again.
Emma was buying from a store along 10th Street when she saw the two friends running by. “Hey,” she called them to ask what was going on, but they were already too far away to hear her.
Kim suddenly stopped, saying, “You can go there to warn them, I’ll stay here to call the police.”
“No,” Chalano said as he also stopped running, remembering his nightmare about Kim calling for help. "The police can't help."
    “What do you think you know?”
“The arsonist is too powerful.”
“And what are you going to do? Sweet-talk that psychopath into enrolling into 4th Project Town High instead? All that you have to do to help is warn the principal.”
“But the arsonist knows me,” Chalano was forced to admit it. “His name is Cole. We used to study together here. I think that I can stop him. In the same way that I allowed you to hack a while ago, why don’t you allow me to just find him and try to stop him?”
Kim stared at Chalano in disbelief for a while, and said, “Whatever we’re thinking, the right thing to do is to call the police. This is dangerous, but, as a friend, okay.”
They continued running to the school. There was no time to stop. They finally reached the entrance of 4th Project Town High. They slowed down to a walk to keep from standing out. A police car was parked nearby. “They’re already here,” Kim told Chalano as they walked into the campus.
Callon saw the two boys, and went out of the car to follow them.
The boys managed to slip past the guards at the gate, and they hurried to the principal’s office. “Ma’am,” Chalano gasped as he stepped into the office. “Tell everyone to get out of the campus immediately. Someone’s planning to burn the whole school, and everyone in it.”
“My,” the fat, elderly principal exclaimed in shock. “What did you say?! Guard! Take this boy outside!”
She kept calling as she stood up, reaching for the door. Instead of a security guard, a policeman came to the office. The principal froze in surprise. It was Callon; he asked, “What the hell are you kids doing here?”
“He’s planning to burn this, sir,” Chalano replied. “He’s going to burn this next!”
Callon thought for a while, and then he ordered the principal, “Order everyone to evacuate the campus A.S.A.P.!”
Even though she was already trembling with fear, the principal hurried back to her desk, and reached for her microphone. Her voice could be heard from loudspeakers all over the school, telling both the students and faculty members to make an emergency evacuation. Callon reached for the walkie-talkie, and ordered the other policemen to search the whole school. The principal hurried out of her office to help the younger students get out.
As the three of them stood inside the office, Callon began scolding Kim, “You shouldn’t have hacked into his server! Have you got an idea of how many lives you’ve put in danger by doing what you did? Your family, your neighbors, and even this whole school!”
Chalano asked, “How did you know about what we did?”
“My teammates tracked the arsonist's computer right after you gave us his real name, but our servers can’t be tracked back. We were alerted about what Kim was doing on 4:50. It wouldn’t have been like this if not for Kim. If you kids think that you’ve helped anyone with what you did, I have to inform you that you just made him more dangerous because he now thinks that he’s caught. Now, leave this campus!”
Chalano and Kim walked out of the office, leaving Callon inside. They joined the huge group of students who were hurrying toward the gate, but, instead of going out of the gate with the other people, Chalano pulled Kim to the cafeteria. They walked at the other side of the crowd, going to the opposite direction. 4th Project Town High looked exactly like Citrus Town High, except that the campus was bigger. It had more stairs. A flight of stairs led from the auditorium, and to the second floor.
They reached the back of the school. It was like a long backyard. There were grasses, a few trees, and flowers. There were no people, and it was very quiet. There was a water well to the left. Its metal cover was open. As they passed by the well, Kim could see that the underside of the cover had a chain that was attached to the inner part of the well. They kept walking.
“The faculty room during my time was somewhere over here,” Chalano said in a very quiet voice.
“Oh, I forgot! You know this place because you used to study here,” Kim happily exclaimed out loud.
“Shut up,” Chalano hissed. But it was too late.
A man stepped out of one of the rooms far ahead of them. He seemed frightened by their presence. Too frightened, that he abruptly lit a match and threw it into one of the rooms.
It happened so fast. Huge flames shot upward from the room. The fire spread quickly, eating up the smaller buildings like they were just thin paper.
“Take cover,” Chalano screamed.
They ran as fast as they could, with Chalano almost dragging the shocked Kim with him. Chalano threw both of them into the well.
At the gate, the last group of evacuating students and faculty members heard cracking sounds behind them. They looked back to the school. Gigantic flames were charging at them with unbelievable speed. Completely taken over by fear, they ran as fast as they could like mad.
Inside the well, Kim got to his senses when they fell on dry ground. The well wasn’t very deep. “This is an underground tunnel whose passages have been disguised as a couple of wells,” Chalano told him. “The other well is under a group of bushes in the cafeteria. Let’s go there.”
Chalano led Kim to a small hole. The tunnel was very dark, but it became darker as thick, black smoke came into the passage. The smoke was painful to the eyes, the nose, and the throat. It made them cough. It smelled of gasoline and smoke … Too much smoke. They tried to keep crawling as they gasped for air. There was just no more air. Kim stopped moving. In his struggle for air, Chalano felt the sudden need to leave the narrow tunnel. He turned back, and pushed the unresponsive Kim back to where they had come from. As he stared up at the blackness from the bottom of the well, he noticed that the smoke was beginning to thin. Daylight was coming in. Desperate for air, he clung to the old bricks of the wall, and climbed. He crawled out of the well. He’d never appreciated being able to breathe like that before. After getting enough air, he turned, and leaned back into the well to get Kim. He felt Kim’s shoulders in the smoky well. He pulled with all his might, and managed to drag his unconscious friend out.
“Hey,” he said as he tried to wake him up.
Kim suddenly opened his eyes, and gasped for air. As he began to calm down, he was rapidly blinking his reddening eyes. He had black ashes around his nose.
“The arson is over,” Chalano told him.
“The arson is never over while the arsonist is free,” Kim retorted.
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