A cold day and a hot fire

Image from author.

On October 27th, the last day before a long weekend, the clock ticked down, the air was still, and the students were getting restless. It was a fifth period like any other, until the sound of a fire alarm cut through the noise like a knife through butter. Once the initial shock of the alarm had died, the students began their routine march towards the Tak Fudenna stadium; this wasn’t their first fire alarm, and they were confident in another false alarm getting called before they even reached the track. Confidence quickly eroded into confusion as the minutes ticked by: five, then ten, then 20, all with no official word. Rumors spread like a disease, worming their way through the clusters of students. Someone smoking in the bathrooms, a real fire, a deranged teacher, an explosion? No one knew, but they dutifully spread what they heard nonetheless. After an eternity, the all clear was called and students began to make their way back to their scheduled classes, but they didn’t fail to notice fire trucks and the smell of smoke outside the H building. What happened that day, and who was responsible? For the reporters at the Hatchet, these questions couldn’t be left unanswered.

The best place to start was the H building itself, but the teachers couldn’t, or wouldn’t, give me any useful information. I spent close to two weeks tracking down leads in that building, but its teachers eluded me every chance they could. The best I could get for an “interview” was a quick, foot in the door style talk that didn’t tell me anything more about the incident other than the fact that the teacher conveniently wasn’t present, and didn’t know anything. I didn’t leave entirely empty handed though: one teacher I questioned let slip that whatever happened was intentional, but told me they didn’t know anything else. I hit a bit of a roadblock here. Teachers either genuinely knew nothing, or needed to keep a hot secret in check. I was suspicious, but either way I wasn’t getting anything out of them, and it’s unlikely the students know what really happened, as opposed to whatever rumor they heard. So, with nowhere else to turn, I went straight to the top.

I decided to try and talk to the one person who knows every little incident in the school, the Principal, Mr. Moran. Getting an interview with someone like him wouldn’t be easy though; it had to be set up officially, through his secretary. The secretary was missing the first day I tried to get in contact with them. Time was precious, but it wasn’t a major setback, and I managed to catch them the next day. I had a brief conversation and set up an interview, but after that, radio silence. I never heard back from their office, and even got my boss to call, but he just got the machine. This many roadblocks couldn’t be a coincidence; it started to really feel like they wanted me in the dark.

Being ghosted by the office was the nail in the coffin: the clock ticked down as consistently and uncaringly as before. They had done it, they ran out the clock long enough to let my deadline catch up with me, but their scheming had only made me more curious. The investigation doesn’t end here: you can’t keep the reporters at the Hatchet from the truth.

Clayton (Mae) Paxton is a 17 year old first year journalist born and raised right here in Fremont. They’ll gladly write an article about whatever catches their attention, but mainly they want to write about popular game releases and the history of gaming media. Predictably, their main hobby is playing video games but they also spend their free time ranting to their friends about how good whatever song that got stuck in their head is. Their plans for the future are just to make it to the next day and enjoy themselves doing it, ideally getting a job in the gaming industry but never worrying too much about any of that.

1 thought on “A cold day and a hot fire

  1. Clayton! I love this piece, especially how you channeled the hard boiled detective literature author’s voice. ALSO, did you do the illustration?

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