Laura gasped, and sweat stood out against her skin. She knew she wasn't feverish; she was only warm from being cooped up in the same room, without an open window or a fan or air-conditioning to comfort her. She feared the warmth and the stuffiness, and what they represented.
A woman approached, her grey hair tied back in a severe bun and an equally severe frown on her face. This woman had haunted Laura's nightmares, for the girl knew that at the end of each month, girls Ike herself always fell sick. Always pretty girls, and quiet ones who wouldn't be missed. The mysterious monthly sickness never struck those who were outspoken, like Laura's best friend Andrea.
Andrea had known that, too, and she'd urged her friend to be more out-going, more attention-seeking, and thus more protected. When the shy Laura had found herself in a classroom, however, with the thought of the eyes of all of her classmates fixed upon her, she'd frozen and been unable to rebel as Andrea did. Laura had remained quietly in her seat, maintaining propriety in a way that would make her parents proud, and in a way that had doomed her.
Miss Ferris, Head Mistress of Saint Mary's School for Girls, stared down at Laura, and was even more frightening in person than she'd ever been in the girl's nightmares. Although Laura knew her pleas were useless, she sputtered, "Please. Let me out."
"Laura, you're ill," Miss Ferris lied, pretending to care as she ran her hands through Laura's hair. "You can't go out. You'll get sicker, or spread it to the other children. That's why you have to be separated from them."
"I'm not sick," Laura protested. "My friends are waiting for me. Let me out."
For the first time in her life, Laura staged a serious protest and rebellion in sitting up and trying to push past the Head Mistress. Miss Ferris held her down, protesting, "Don't fight it, Laura! You're hallucinating. You don't realize how sick you are."
Laura didn't see the syringe or have the opportunity to react. Instead, a needle pricked her in the neck, and against her will, she fell back to her bed. Her eyelids had grown heavy, and everything that had been important about escaping a few seconds ago now seemed very distant.
Laura fought to stay awake, but the battle was a loosing one. Miss Ferris stood over her, looking victorious and particularly stern. Laura blinked, fighting to stay awake, but was unsuccessful. The world faded to black.