Now and Then

The teacher walked across the front of the classroom, her voice filled with a childish enthusiasm. Her voice had a passion that rivalled fire, a voice with almost enough strength to stir the sleepy students from their slumber. The plain clock that sat on the teacher's cluttered desk told me that there were four long minutes until the bell. I sighed, and rubbed my tired eyes, feeling the thick, dusty air rush into my lungs. A tight knot was forming in my shoulders and I shrugged, trying to loosen it or even make it disappear completely, but it was impossible. As I slumped forward across my desk, I felt a sly, mischievous summer breeze flow through the open window next to me. The light air played with the ends of my hair, twirling them, making them dance around my face. I looked out of the open window and across the school which stretched out below me.

The mass of colours almost blinded me for an instant and I was forced to close my eyes in a vain attempt to shut out the vibrant world below. As the colours faded behind my closed lids, I breathed in and the summer air rushed into my lungs. Light, fresh air, full of the sweet smell of freshly cut grass, it held the promises of the beautiful summer ahead. I slowly opened my eyes and the colours of the world flooded back in. The blood red tiles that covered the roofs of the lower buildings next to us, the brilliant blue skies that seemed to stretch forever. The greens of the trees and the grass seem to be bright patches of light compared to the dull, faded greys of the walkways that lead from one end to the other end of the school. The world was alight with colour and beauty.

In the distance, the sound of a tired lawn mower could be heard, like the distant roar of an angry ocean. The sweet harmony of the bird calls that drifted from the neighbouring trees made a strange counterpart, a sweet melody that was unique to the days of summer. The light glass that separated the world outside was tinted golden and was bright enough that I could see my faint reflection. I smiled, making my light grey eyes light up, bright and full of energy, burning with desire for the summer ahead.

Suddenly the harsh, cruel bell rang out, breaking the peace that had surrounded the school. I was frozen and, in that instant, it was if the entire world held still. Not a breath could be heard as the whole world was silent. And then it all burst into life.

Books were dumped into bags or slammed closed, pencil cases were zipped, and chairs were shoved roughly back as the students around me began the mad scramble for the door. I yanked my red folder closed and pulled it to my chest as I too joined the mad dash for escape. Out of the crowded door and into the even more crowded hallway, the mass of people moved, laughter floating through the air. The doors of the classrooms that lined the hall also burst open and the smaller crowds slowly trickled into the bigger one, like streams that rushed to join the big river. There was madness, people pushing and shoving, all in the mad rush to be the first into the summer light. Down the end of the hall, the huge double doors stood closed, and you could see the faint golden light that crept in around the edges, giving the doors an unearthly aura.

As one, the people at the front burst through the doors and into the sunlight, making the people further back in the hall blink against the bright light that suddenly filled the world around us. I immerged into the sunlight and quickly moved to the side, waiting beside the flowing masses for my friend to join me. I saw her and reached forwards, pulling her out of the madness. She smiled, her light blue eyes lighting up in the sunlight, making them shine and glitter like a lake in mid-afternoon sun. I smiled and we turned our backs on the crowd that was flowing out of the building like water that had just broken through the damn. I turned my face upwards and felt the same mischievous summer breeze dance across my face. It was the 24th of the 5th, 2009. And it was going to be a beautiful summer.

The cold morning air is nipping at my ankles as I make my way towards the dark towering buildings. The shadows that are cast on the smaller buildings around me make the air seem even cooler and the pale blue early morning sky seems to be a reflection of ice itself. As I hurry along, my bag bouncing against my back, the wild winds are warping around my figure, trying to drag me off course as I quickly approach the huge double doors that block the entrance to the dark building above me.

As I arrive, I reach out with my pale hand and grasp the handle, pulling it back but it doesn't budge. I swear softly, fumbling with the handles of my bag as I reach inside, searching for the cold keys. My hand closes around them and I pull them out, my hand shaking as I try to insert them into the lock. After a few shaky seconds, they are in and I hear the lock click open. I breath in, feeling the cold air flooding into my lungs and push against the doors. They swing open, admitting me to the dark hall. I hurry inside, the doors slamming shut behind me, and in the early morning silence it sounds as loud as a gunshot. I jump slightly and quickly move on, passing all the empty classes. As I glance inside one, my eyes catch on the airy silence. Not a sound can be heard as I freeze, my breath coming out in small puffs of heat. The classroom is bare and there is a gloomy aura that seems to radiate sadness. I can feel the empty longing that surrounds the room. This is the right classroom.

I once again fumble with the keys, and the door burst open, making me stumble against it. I look up, moving forwards, the strong sense of remembrance flooding my mind. I walk across to the desk at the front, dropping my bag onto it. My keys fall out and clutter onto the desk, closely followed by the many other objects that fill my bag. I sweep them all up and dump them back in, my eyes roaming over the classroom as I do so. Every desk sits empty and silent, all facing the front of the room, tall and silent as soldiers waiting for battle in the early morning light. Their shadows stretch back out, lapping over each other to create a huge, dark tangle of shade, like a monstrous beast just waiting for the unsuspecting victim. The walls are bare, all the posters and projects that used to line them are long gone, leaving a bare stretch of wall that seems as empty as the wind. The windows stand tightly closed against the harsh wind outside. The wind sweeps up, hurling itself against the building, howling like an animal. The noise is deafening and the strength behind the enraged beast is enough to shake me to the foundations of my bones. But slowly it fades away, leaving me with only a faint memory of the ferocious howling. I walk forwards, towards the window, and upon reaching it, I press my pale hands up to the cold glass. It shakes slightly under my firm grip, and I catch a glimpse of my pale refection. I smile, my light grey eyes reflecting back at me. There is a childish excitement lurking beneath the surface, an excitement that seems to light up my whole face.

Down below, outside the pale glass, I see movement, the first sign that the students have started to arrive. Before long there is a constant flow of excited and clattering students flooding in through the front gates. The mass of people swirl through the school and everywhere excited laughter can be heard as the sun began the slowly and treacherous journey across the skies. Light floods the earth, crawling into places were light was not. Darkness and shadow are transformed into light.

Eventually the bell rings out, starting the mad rush towards classes. It is the first day of a new year and even the students who hate school do not want to be late. I turn as the door to my class slams open, the first few students slowly trickling in, banging into each other and laughing. A few glance over at me and I quickly rearranged my features to something that resembles a teacher stern gaze. I can already see them forming a picture of me in their mind. Eventually everyone student has a desk and silence begins to fall across the class. I walk up to the front of the board and as I turn, I feel the cool, sly, mischievous breeze blow gently through the open door. It twirls and plays with the ends of my hair. I smile and the world around me suddenly seems clearer, brighter and more vibrant. I close my eyes for a second but that time seems like and eternity. The world's bright colours seem to push at my eyelids, trying to creep in around the edges and bring light to the dark world behind my closed eyes. I blink, my eyes being forced open and I realize that now is not the time for dreaming. This is my life. Now, at this very second, I'm here. This is it. This is my life.

It's the 4th of the 2, 2029. Twenty years have passed since I have last been in this classroom. And it already feels like coming home.