Title: Group Therapy
Rating: PG-13 (language)
Characters: Craig, Ashley, Emma, Paige, and Spinner.
Author's Notes: As always: not affilated with Degrassi or anyone involved with the production of The Day After Tomorrow. If I was in any way, I probably would've been seen making out with Jake Epstein or Jake Gyllenhaal, because, well, I'm a bit of a ho. And this is the last chapter I wrote for the story, even though I've thought about another one from time to time. But anyway.
When she really thought about it, Paige knew that if she and the remaining four hadn't been at school early that day for whatever reason, they probably wouldn't be alive right now. And when she took this into consideration, she felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. She felt that she didn't deserve to live any more than anyone else, than her brother, Marco, her parents... She was just a pretty, popular, prissy girl. Survival of the fittest didn't apply to her. It was better suited for Emma, who was resourceful; or for Spinner, her lovable yet clueless boyfriend, who was excellent at finding food and had exhibited great strength in rationing. She was supposed to live for a short time, then die tragically and guarantee that everyone remembered her because of it.
She could still remember the day it happened a bit too vividly for her liking. She had gotten Dylan to drop her off at school early—7:15 early—so she could make up a quiz for Ms. Hatzilakos's science class. Spinner had gotten there early too, and he was waiting for her by Ms. H's room. "She's not here yet, you know," he said, casually glancing at her from his position leaning on the wall.
"I'll give her fifteen more minutes," Paige groaned, leaning against the wall. Only a few other students were actually in the building, and even fewer teachers. The bulk of the student populace didn't start flooding into the school until 7:30 and 7:40. On a typical day, Paige didn't arrive until ten minutes before the first bell rang at 8:10.
But, as they would later learn, this would be no typical day.
It was 7:19, and Emma Nelson was taping posters for S.I.T.E. up on the second floor. Ashley Kerwin was doing the same thing downstairs, and she barely noticed when Craig Manning walked in a side door. Their long-held hostility had managed to simmer down within the past few months, but he was still slightly awkward around her, and vice versa. "Howdy partner," Ashley said, feeling a little silly. "Why are you here so early?"
"I've got to pick up a bunch of prints I developed yesterday," he said. Even though he had become increasingly more interested in his band lately, Craig was still very much a photographer at heart. His camera case was as ubiquitous as his black leather jacket. "I've got a bunch of other prints in here..." he jiggled the camera case—"and I'm thinking of doing some kind of mixed media thing for my final project in the class."
She smiled at him. "Cool. I'm... taping posters to the walls."
He returned the smile. "I see."
"I'll see you around, though," she said, pulling the roll of tape around her wrist. "Got to go towards Media Immersions. I haven't put a poster up over there."
"'Bye," he called after her.
It was 7:22.
7:31, and people were slowly beginning to pour into the school. 7:31, and Manny Santos was wandering the halls, looking for Emma. 7:31, and Paige and Spinner were still waiting.
"I swear, she could've just asked me to come in at lunch or something," Paige snapped. "I could've had at least an hour more of sleep."
"Maybe she's caught in traffic, or she couldn't find any clean underwear or something," Spinner replied.
Paige rolled her eyes. "You would think about Hatzilakos not being able to find clean underwear." She closed her eyes, and tried to recall the things she needed to remember for the quiz. So many facts... covalent bonds, how could she possibly remember those kinds of things? And it wasn't helping that she could hear what sounded like gushing water...
"Spin, do you hear that?" She didn't like thinking that she was the only one hearing things. She wasn't fond of seeming insane.
"What, besides people talking?"
"It sounded like water."
"Paige, sweetie, I think that you're still just a little tired, and—" Spinner stopped talking. "I hear it too."
In a side hall, Craig was sitting in a slightly empty stairwell, flipping through his new prints. They were only landscape and nature shots, but he was proud of them because of the fact that they were the first set of prints he'd done in color that hadn't turned out bad. The first time he tried to process color film on his own, he ended up "burning" the film. The second time, the film had processed fine, but the color quality in his prints was abysmal. This time, everything had worked out pretty well. Satisfied, he stacked them back together and slid them into his camera case. He would drop them off in his locker before class. Just as he was getting up to head to his first floor locker, he paused. Did I just hear a wave? he wondered. That's impossible. There's no beach near here. Laughing, he readjusted his camera case on his shoulder. "You're crazy, Manning," he mumbled to himself.
7:36. Ashley was taping her last poster in the shop hall when she heard it.
At first, it was a dull roar; kind of like that of an audience in an arena before a concert starts. Ashley twirled the roll of tape around her finger anxiously, wondering what on Earth could be inside—or outside—that would make that kind of noise. She opened her messenger bag, promising to shove the tape inside shortly, and was walking down the hall as the noise began to crescendo, growing louder and closer and closer... She stopped in the main hall, looking around to see what it was, and happened to look out the front door in enough time to see it: a huge wall of water, headed directly for the school.
Paralyzed with fear, the roll of tape dropped from her hand. What now? What now? Oh God, what do I do? Her breaths were quick and she felt a large lump forming in the back of her throat.
Outside, the water was coming closer by the second.
Finally, one thought came to her mind. Run.
For once, Ashley fought her instinct to question every one of her thoughts. For probably the first time in her life, she didn't second-guess herself. And as the water crashed through the front part of the school, she turned and ran.
Paige and Spinner were walking down the hall that led to Paige's locker when they heard the screams. "What is going on now?" Paige asked, exasperated.
Spinner audibly gasped at the sight. "Paige, RUN!" he shouted, grabbing her by the arm, breaking into a sprint.
"SPINNER!" Paige shouted. "Let GO!" She tried to break free of his grasp, but couldn't. Instead, she tried to look back to see what exactly had made Spinner freak out.
Behind her, water was pouring down the hall at a steady rate.
"Oh my GOD!" she screamed. "What—how—we need to get to the second floor!"
The two teenagers sprinted to a side hall, and quickly dashed up a side staircase. "I don't think we should stop," Spinner said. "We should go to the third floor, just in case."
"Why?" Paige asked. "I mean, we should be just fine here..." She stopped when she realized that water was starting to spill into the hall. "Third floor is fine," she responded quickly.
Emma couldn't stop shaking.
She had spotted the wave about four minutes earlier. At first, she thought she was just seeing things, until she realized it covered buildings. A wave of panic engulfed her. What would happen to her mother? Jack? Her friends?
She needed to do something.
Dropping the remaining S.I.T.E. posters to the floor, she ran to the hall that allowed her to look down on the first floor of the school building. She had to tell them. She had to let them know. Just as she stopped and was getting ready to yell, "There's a wave headed right for the school!" water gushed through the front doors.
She was too late. The only thing she had to do now was to save her own self.
Her legs were trembling as she ran up the stairs that led to the third floor of the school. She was certain that she would collapse on the stairs, fall, and possibly be engulfed by the water. I can't do that! I have to make it up there! Driven by her desire not to drown, she pushed herself to scale the last set of stairs. Once she was midway down the hall, she collapsed in front of a vacant classroom.
She couldn't believe it. It was almost like that movie, the one with Elijah Wood in it about the comet that hit Earth and made a huge, tsunami-sized wave sweep over the coast. But that was a movie. That was impossible. Maybe the ice caps had finished melting, and the wave was the result of the sudden rise of the oceans.
For once, Emma hated that she was such an environmentalist.
"Hello?" she called out to no one in particular. "Anyone up here?" She couldn't be the only student left. She just couldn't—or, at least she hoped she wasn't. "Is anyone here?"
Who knew that I'd ever get excited about hearing Spinner Mason's voice? Emma thought. "Spinner! Is anyone else with you?"
"Yes! It's just me and Paige, though." Spinner and Paige appeared from the end of the hall. Both were obviously winded, and Paige looked shell-shocked. "This... is... unreal. Un-fucking-real," Spinner rasped. "I mean... I... what...?"
"My thoughts exactly," Emma responded.
Bleary-eyed and exhausted, Ashley wandered aimlessly down the hall. She was on the third floor, and she was beginning to get worried. She hadn't seen anyone since the wave had hit and she'd started running for the upper levels of the school. She had never been so terrified in her life, and she want to begin to fathom what she would feel like if she was the only one who had gotten up there...
Voices. She heard voices. Voices talking. She wasn't the only one who'd made it.
She turned two more corners, and when she saw the four people sitting together, leaning on the wall, she abruptly burst into tears. Paige, Spinner, Emma, and Craig had all gotten to the third floor in enough time.
"Ash," Paige breathed. "Oh, Ash." She stood up and walked to her friend, wrapping a comforting shoulder around her. "Come on, sit down."
Still sobbing, Ashley dropped to the floor. She couldn't think of anything to say. It was as if the wave, the screaming, swimming around bodies, and everything else had rendered her mute. She leaned her head on Paige's shoulder, her tears flowing freely.
Paige softly patted her friend's back. "It's okay, hon, it's okay," she whispered, knowing she was lying just to reassure Ashley. She didn't notice when Spinner wrapped his own arms around her waist, as her eyes were starting to fill with tears. "We're together. We're going to be okay."
To her right, Ashley felt another pair of arms around her. Emma was crying, too. "I don't know what happened," she sobbed. "I should've told people sooner. I should've..."
Craig found himself stuck in the middle of a hugging, sobbing mess. Under ordinary conditions, he would've been annoyed by this, but he couldn't find it in himself to be. He looked at Spinner, wondering how he was holding up, only to see that Spinner was teary-eyed too. Leaning his head back against the wall, he closed his eyes to keep back the tears of his own. He had no idea how to comfort his friends. He didn't know what exactly had caused the wave to hit the school. He didn't know what would happen to him next. He didn't know if they were the only survivors, even. All he knew was that, for the first time in a while, he didn't feel alone in the world. That, he thought, is probably the only good thing about this disaster.