Chapter Two

Harold Rector’s nine students were sitting in their seats, silently and patiently waiting for him to begin. A creature of habit, he was not in the habit of working off the clock. There were still three minutes left before the bell would call him to his duties. For now, he was savoring the silence. It was strange, how little the alien invasion had affected him.

His classes were smaller. That was one thing that was different. The school’s enrollment had plummeted from almost a thousand to about a hundred by his last count, though he wasn’t entirely clear where it was they thought they’d be safe. Some had undoubtedly fled to Washington D.C., where the army was rumored to be gathered. Harold could see the logic of that, but common sense also told him that battles happen where armies are and he’d probably be best to stay away. He knew for a fact that some had fled to Los Angeles, where Dan MacHennessey of all people was said to be building an army to fight the Coatracks off. Even if it were true, Harold didn’t think there was any human invention that could stop them. He was sure most of his students were still around Vermont somewhere, spending the uncertain time in their hometowns, with their families. If Harold had had a family, he’d probably have been in this last camp.

Instead he was teaching history to nine high school students whose parents had, for some reason, not yet run. He didn’t know their parents. He barely even knew the kids. Seven of them were from the class of a fellow teacher who’d disappeared one day, and the two he did know, Mike and Aaron, were hands-down his worst, most troublesome students of the year. But like everyone else, the obnoxious duo had sunk into a state of apathy and depression. Harold, on the other hand, had had no further to sink, and found himself indifferent to the most significant event in human history. Which, speaking of, he was still expected to teach in a minute and a half.

Sure, human history was over now, but what else was he supposed to do? He’d been teaching history since he graduated college. Besides, he was good at it, in the sense that he knew all the lectures by heart. If he was actually asked, he would probably have said that he was proud to do his work, but he knew it was not actually true. He just did it. It paid the bills, and since his wife left him before their second anniversary – 25 years ago – he’d never really felt the need to pursue anything else. Now pushing 50, there was nothing else he could do.

Today was the start of the Cold War section. It wasn’t one of his favorite sections, probably because he was around to watch it morph from current events to history. These kids today couldn’t possibly understand what it was like living with the knowledge that you could be evaporated at any time. Though, now that he actually thought about it…

The bell rang, and Harold did his best to assume an authoritative figure. He knew this too was futile – between his potatoesque torso and ridiculously spindly legs, one barely even need comment on his face, which seemed to be that of a toad with severe ear hair. He had ceased to care long ago about his appearance as there was nothing he could do about it, though he was still a bit touchy about his baldness – it just seemed like a bit much. Taking roll, he noticed that another student was gone, a small red-headed girl who was too young for the class, honestly. He crossed out her name, and began.

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