Last episode on IMPERMANENT RECORD: Something happened at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Patrick’s Vale, South Dakota. Four hundred and eighty-five students have lost all memory of their identities… as have all the adults around them. Teachers are having the high schoolers choose interim names to keep track of them during the immediate crisis.
2 (of 9)
It would be an understatement to say that things were chaotic at TRHS the first day of the Blackout. For the first hour or so, students terrified of their sudden amnesia ran around the school while the faculty tried to come to terms with the nature of the event and respond quickly. Trying to account for four hundred and eighty-five students that no one could identify was like trying to hold jelly with tweezers.
The movement to self-identify started in Mrs. Keene’s class, so Dar was there when Jackson Cage put his name tag on and proudly announced who he was. It must be nice to be that confident, she thought, watching him.
Dar didn’t remember who she was any more than anyone else in her class. However, as kids all around her looked into empty wallets and flipped through notebooks full of unattributed homework and tests with no names written on the top line, she found her identity crisis a little different.
From her back jeans pocket, she pulled out a platinum Visa card. The name on it read “Rourke Marie S.”
If someone had tried to take away everything that could identify its owner during the Blackout, they had apparently missed one.
Dar was still as panicked as everyone else, but there was a certain comfort in at least having a clue to her identity. She watched the girl in the chair next to her hugging her legs, chin on her knees, weeping lugubriously as she tried in vain to simply remember who she was. Despite not knowing the answer to that herself, a stabbing empathy tore through Dar’s heart.
Dar quickly replaced the credit card in her pocket. She needed to find some way of confirming her identity. Maybe the school records were still there… weren’t they kept locked up in the office? Could whoever had done this have gotten to those as well as the students’ possessions?
The classroom phone on the wall near the door rang. Mrs. Keene went over and answered it. Instinctively, Dar positioned herself close enough that she could hear the teacher’s end of the conversation.
“Mr. Raines,” Mrs. Keene said, “thank goodness you called. I assume from the brouhaha out in the halls that the other students have had a similar… yes, exactly. None whatsoever. We can’t even find any identfying documentation.”
There was a pause as the principal talked. Mrs. Keene nodded once, then twice, before responding.
“We’ve been assigning interim names,” Mrs. Keene said into the receiver. “I advise that you get the other teachers to do the same before the kids get out of class. That way we can at least use the student records to cross-reference by seventh period… what? You’ve got the records out and they’re not…”
Dar watched as Mrs. Keene’s confidence faded. The obvious conclusion from listening in was that something was wrong with the student records. The conclusion that Dar drew, though, was that the student records she wanted to look at were being reviewed right now in the office.
Something told her that there wouldn’t be another opportunity like this. The chaos in the school wouldn’t last forever and who knew what they would do with the school records after this?
Before she knew what she was doing, Dar had slipped out the classroom door and into the hallway.
Students were running back and forth with no idea where they were going. That, Dar thought, was probably because in their panic they were trying to find a way home… and it’s hard to go someplace when you don’t know what that place is. Dar, on the other hand, knew exactly where she was going.
The school office, if it was possible, was even more chaotic than the hallways. Mrs. Hope, the office secretary, was trying to keep things calm, but all the students with a belief in authority had apparently converged upon the principal’s office hoping to get answers. She felt bad for them; the adults they expected to take care of them were obviously as lost as they were, and that must be difficult to face.
Dar looked around for something to differentiate herself. Hanging by the office door was a clipboard with aquarium field trip sign-ups. Dar took it off the hook and pressed it to her tan sweater, sign-up side down.
“Mrs. Hope,” Dar said, approaching the beleaguered secretary-cum-lion tamer. “I’m from Mrs. Keene’s class? She sent me with her class list to compare to the records?” Dar waggled the clipboard. Everyone believed a person with a clipboard.
“Mr. Raines is in his office,” Mrs. Hope nodded to the door. Dar was through the pricipal’s door and closing it behind her before any of the less sneaky students could protest.
Principal Michael Raines was the rare exception to the usual rule. He was an uncompromising and gruff disciplinarian while it was his assistant Ms. Borlo who tried to empathize with the student body. Fortunately for Dar, he was occupied yelling on the phone instead of at her.
A large stack of student records were spread across a conference table on the other side of his office from the desk he occupied. She waggled the clipboard in her hand and pointed at them. He dismissed her with a wave of his hand and continued barking into the telephone. Dar took that as assent and started flipping through the still-alphabetized stacks. It only took moments to find the one file labeled with the surname from the credit card.
“Rourke, Dorothy Alison,” was the name on the flap. Dar opened the file and skimmed it quickly, all too aware of the administrator on the other side of the room.
What she read was not at all what she expected.
Fifteen minutes later, it was a much more subdued Dorothy Alison Rourke who slipped back into Mrs. Keene’s classroom. The interim name sticker she had left on her desk was still blank. She sat back down at the desk and in plain block letters simply wrote “DAR.”
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.