Story Title: Disappear
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The staff vanished during the evening. It was speedy, and no one saw – or even heard – a thing, however each and every member of staff was gone before any of the recruits knew it.
Tom woke Rick with a fast shake of the shoulders. There were the individuals who later got to discover, however.
“They’ve gone!” he murmured, not wishing to wake any other young man in the dorm.
“What?” There was very little light, yet Rick could pretty much notice Tom’s outline against the sparkle from the passageway that got through the half-open dorm entryway. He knew immediately it was Tom from the half-pessimistic, half-wicked voice he’d grown up with in the course of recent years at the Academy.
“Who’s gone?” Rick asked, wiping the sleep out of his eyes.
“The matron’s gone, the officer on the watch is gone – all of the staff have gone!” Tom clarified.
“Yeah – vanished.”
“They can’t’ve,” Rick said, but the unrefined excitement in his friend’s voice was highly contagious. He could feel a little mischief coming – he always seemed to be dragged along when Tom got itchy feet. And usually it led to trouble.
“They have,” Tom’s voice pierced the silent darkness, and almost in anticipation of his next suggestion, Rick’s heartbeat had already quickened. “Come on,” Tom said, “let’s go take a look!”
Tip-toeing out of the room, they slipped through the door, closing it behind them to keep their discovery to themselves. Out in the corridor, there was no matron. Usually, there was a matron on duty, all through the night. Either The Witch or the Wolf or the Hyena. Sometimes Rick felt sorry for them – after all, every three nights they had to work when everyone else slept. But out here it wasn’t such a hardship for them, the night shift. What was the difference between night and day, after all? Most of the lights in the school were on in the day and most of the children were around. There could be no ‘unsociable’ hours out here – matrons had no social lives anyway. Besides, when they roared orders at the young recruits, they lost all possible sympathy, at least that was what Rick thought.
But there was no one here now. The matrons were gone.
The dull lights were also a signal that all wasn’t right. Looking ahead, he could make out Tom’s silhouette – his characteristic sprawl of curly hair that flouted all the regulations unlike Rick’s own close-cut hair – but all details were cut out by the lack of light. Tom gestured for him to follow him out. The air conditioning was slightly chilling against Rick’ bare top as he tiptoed after his curly-haired friend to the next ‘safe’ vantage point at the end of their dormitory’s corridor.
“I was just up to get a drink of water,” Tom whispered, a little louder here now that they were away from prying ears. “And there was no matron.”
“That doesn’t mean there’s no one around,” Rick said, his heart beating like a bass drum at a rock concert as he felt suddenly very vulnerable out there dressed in nothing but a pair of PJ bottoms.
Tom smiled an all-knowing smile, the edges of his face just picking up the dull grey light. He was a brainy one, Tom; and over the years they’d been to the Academy together, Rick had quickly learned to trust both his word and his judgement. Just that smile set him at ease considerably. “I had a quick explore on my own,” he told Rick. “A bit of research to test my hypothesis, you might say.”
“And I didn’t see any matrons outside the other dorms, either. And no officers wandering between.”
“No one at all?”
“Nope. And the lights around our wing are all turned down like this.”
Rick felt a shiver shoot down his spine, a mixture of excitement, nerves and the cold air. “What do we do?” he asked, making himself feel like the stupid one, but he wasn’t. You couldn’t help feeling a little unintelligent around Tom. That was why he wasn’t very popular.
“Don’t you want to find out what’s happened?” Tom’s face was alive, his eyes full of the thrill of the unauthorised. “Don’t you want to know?”
“Well… kinda…” the taller, more athletic Rick replied nervously, his muscles trembling slightly from the adrenaline flooding through his system.
“I thought you wanted to be a colonist some day?”
“I never said I was certain… it’s my parents who said I should…”
“Come on, it’ll be an adventure,” the curly-haired boy said, poking his head around the corner into the larger hallway outside. “We can explore, see how far we get – just like being a colonist.”
“What if you’re wrong? What if we get caught?”
“Come on, Rick! Where’s your sense of adventure? If we get caught then so be it – we’ll just have to be careful. But I tell you, there’s nobody to catch us.”
“They could be trying out some new kind of surveillance system…”
“When have they ever tried any ‘new system’? Everything’s been the same for five years! We haven’t even seen the outside world – it’s time for a little exploring. It’s like a prison in here, not a damn military school.”
“Look,” he put his hands on Rick’ shoulders, “trust me, okay? Have I ever got you in trouble before?”
“Plenty of times,” the taller boy smiled back, his white teeth visible in the low light.
“Great,” Tom grinned back and patted his companion on the arms briefly. “Never know, we might get as far as the girls’ end.”