She was vibrating so much it seemed as if she must explode.
She exploded. Everyone in the room got hit by some part of her. I had a neat length of wet cardigan sleeve (still with a crisp fold over at the wrist where the top was too big for her) and a swathe of hair with a clod of flesh hanging on the end. I got the rest of the day off, so I went to the park and sketched trees. There was a bird that kept hopping about, but it didn’t stay still long enough to get a good look at.
She was studying Mesopotamian history. I don’t recall her name, but I do remember that she wore glasses. They didn’t suit her, and I don’t think that she ever spoke to me.
They cancelled the history classes; even the nineteenth and twentieth century courses. Everyone worried what would be next. Except for the physical education department.
A boy in the Applied Maths class went next, which came as little surprise to most. It was either maths or science. He stood up to answer a question and started to slow and then slur his speech. He went rigid, the level of vibration too high for human sight. A girl in the front row swore that she saw the tiniest drops of blood standing out on the pores of his skin. She says that she could view the room around and behind her in the liquid, like a bank of supermarket security mirrors in scarlet. He was vaporised into a mist, so completely did he go. No one knows what happened to his clothing, although the physics department claimed to be working on it for weeks afterward.
It didn’t continue exponentially (as the biology students posited), nor did it slow. We lost one every three days. It was more precise than that, but I don’t remember the details. Everyone started to wear their raincoats indoors. All of the course work was handed out in clear plastic folders. The patina of the whole school become darker.
Inevitably, people started to stay away. None of the teachers ever died. Just the pupils. The ones who knew that they were never going to be bright enough to explode continued attending. The ones that were too dim to realise that simply stayed at home and played video games. Those that wanted to be the best that they could be raced each other to oblivion.
A crowd of us used to stand outside the fence and wait for them to come out of their classes, count them as they walked into the open air. I suppose that they were the only hope for the future, the only ones clever enough to find a cause, or a cure.
If only they would stop exploding.
Janet, her name was, I now recall. She once asked me if she could borrow my maths books over lunchtime so that she could revise before that afternoon’s lesson. We were outside the main library doors and she had taken her glasses off. Her face looked thinner then, the sunlight slanted across her features, and I remember that I was almost tempted to parlay the brief exchange into something more, but she turned and walked into the library and I don’t even think I spoke to her when she gave my books back later that same day.
I may have done, but I don’t think that I did.