“…so my creature now has a power level that is, in fact…”
Chris Fallor took some pride in the brutal effectiveness of his tactics. He shifted some of his long hair out of his face, examining the game more closely. The advantage was his at the moment, but he wouldn’t discount the possibility of a reversal.
“Please don’t say it.”
Thomas Wisel fidgeted with his cards, waiting for Chris to end his turn. The game was almost over, he just had to finish it.
“…well it is.”
Before Tom could respond to his opponent’s play, the room went black. Moments later, the building seemed to shake – if anyone cried out at this, nobody could tell, as a loud crash drowned out all sound. Everyone hit the floor. Then, as suddenly as it had happened, the shaking stopped and light returned.
Nick picked himself up off the ground and looked around. The club room looked significantly more destroyed than it had seconds ago. “Is everyone alright?” he called. The others got to their feet one by one. “What happened…?” Chris asked, dazed.
“I dunno, someone should check it out,” Thomas said.
Ezekiel, closest to the door, turned and walked out into the hall. “I’ll go see,” he called back, turning to the left.
“…I didn’t know we even had earthquakes around here,” Tom said.
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, there was a shout from outside. The occupants of the club room all hurried to see what was going on at once.
In the hall, to the left, there was a visible trace of devastation. The wall, mostly window, had been shattered, and a large, vaguely V-shaped gap opened to the floor below. Ezekiel was barely recovering his balance from having nearly fallen into this hole. As the others assisted him, Alexander O’Connor, the youngest member of the club – still in high school – examined the break in the wall. “Uh, guys… was that always there?” he asked.
Outside, a biting wind swirled something like sea spray. The air seemed to shimmer unnaturally, in a way that called to mind a great cloud of soap bubbles. Across the parking lot, at the edge of campus, the terrain normally visible from this hallway was missing. In its place was a cliff, the ground below not even visible at this angle.
At the end of the hallway, Lee rounded the corner. He looked down at the hole in front of him, then moved over to the intact wall, edging across the gap on the little available floor surface.
“I guess you noticed this by now, then,” he said as he stepped onto solid ground, reaching into his pocket. Before he retrieved whatever he was reaching for, though, they were interrupted by a banging sound behind them.
“Hey, what’s going on out there?”
Tom turned and approached the cafeteria’s side door. “Peepers?” he called. “You okay?”
“The door’s stuck,” the guy on the other side replied. “And the other doors are blocked by vending machines. Can you help me out here?”
Tom nodded to the others, and they moved back to the main cafeteria entrance. The main doors were always wide open, but there were now two vending machines lying across it. With a bit of effort, the group was able to remove the top one, and the person who had been trapped climbed over the remaining machine. He had a proper name, but everyone called him by his nickname, Peepers.
“Easy, there,” Zac cautioned, gesturing to the destruction. Chunks of ceiling had dislodged themselves and hung precariously. Some had already fallen; the floor was littered with assorted debris, including shards of glass.
“This place could use some work,” Peepers joked halfheartedly.
A crowd, mostly students from the classes upstairs, had gathered in the carpeted dining room. It was a large, somewhat-luxurious room adjacent to the cafeteria, used for various meetings. The room looked a bit less luxurious, however, with a carpet of glass and brick shards.
Zeke took off his glasses to clean them. They weren’t that dirty yet – he could see through them, at any rate, and that was what mattered – but it distracted him. Lee was still fidgeting with whatever was in his pocket. Nick, seated at a table in the middle of the room with the club officers, stood to address the concerned students.
Nick Huth was president of the Dungeons & Dragons club, the largest and most active club on campus, though since he was also the most physically fit member, it most likely wouldn’t be immediately obvious to someone who didn’t already know. He was also active in student government affairs. Everyone recognized him when he stood up, and instantly all attention was fixed on him, with the expectation of answers.
“I don’t have any answers,” he began. “I know about as much about what’s happened as you do. I know that we’re here, but I don’t know where ‘here’ is. Nobody has gone to check the other buildings yet, or come from them. When we learn more, I’ll make sure to update everyone, but until then, we’ve all got to stay in one place for our own safety.”
The people were not satisfied with this, but that was all there was to be said at the moment. Thomas, who had been sitting beside Nick, stood now.
Tom was the club’s vice president. Unlike the president, he looked like a typical Dungeons & Dragons player, minus the acne. He was a sort of round person with glasses. He always seemed to wear bright colors, giving him an odd contrast to the rest of the club, as most preferred darker clothing.
“Soon, we’re going to need to know the status of the other buildings,” he added. “Does anyone want to volunteer to go check on them?” A few hands went up, and Tom nodded acknowledgement. “Right, okay.” He turned to the table behind him, where a few of the more active members were. “You know what to do if something goes wrong,” he told them. Then, to everyone else, he called, “I’ll be going to the Pickel Field House. Anyone else who’s going there as well, follow me.”