The day felt endless and I was tired, but exhaustion brought a well earned gift, experience. I wasn't lost anymore; I had uncovered the secrets of the labyrinth. I turned the last corner and saw my destination. It was the last class of the day, the last stop on my journey to freedom. The classroom door was ajar and the next wave of students flowed in.
As I approached the doorway, I heard a strange humming sound. It was a familiar sound, yet unrecognizable. My ears began to tune in intently as a harmony of gurgling sounds began to crescendo. The aroma of the salt water filled the air, the ocean was near; I could feel it. I entered the doorway and found...an amusement park.
Welcome to Marine World, I thought. White octagon tables littered the classroom and a sea of saltwater and glass lined the walls. The ambiance of the classroom was unlike any other in the school. It felt alive. One wall had a blackboard, but a platoon of fish tanks guarded the remaining walls. A snapshot of the ocean roamed within each tank. A variety of sea life flourished in captivity; fish, sea urchins, corals and crustaceans were easily viewed by all.
With a clear view of the aquarium, I spotted a table with an empty pair of seats. It was towards the right side and in the middle of the classroom. It seemed like a good place to test my luck. Two students were already seated at the table as I approached. As I arrived I interjected, "Hi is this seat taken?"
"Nope, feel free. Are you new here?" said one boy.
"Yes." I replied and sat down. "Hi I'm Mike."
"Hi I'm Bernard", said the boy.
He was larger than me, with brown hair and blue eyes. He seemed like an upperclassman, but I couldn't tell which grade he was in.
"Are you to new Okinawa or did you come from Kubasaki?" he asked.
"I just came to Kadena over the winter break, but I used to live in Okinawa 7 years ago", I replied.
"This classroom is different from the rest. It looks strange."
"It's a science classroom, that's why there are tables in here and not desks", added Bernard. "There a lot of dangerous animals in here, so be careful."
"Thanks.", I said, as I started to drift into the colorful world of Ichthyology.
Moments later a familiar voice broke my gaze. She said, "I'm new to this class, is this seat taken?"
"Nnnn...nope", replied Bernard. But his voice seemed unnatural, it sounded a bit nervous.
I turned and saw...her.
"Hi, I'm Alison. What are your names?" she said.
The other boys introduced themselves and then it was my turn.
Still shocked, I couldn't believe my eyes. Joining the fungus family in public didn't seem like a good idea. Luckily, I was tired and had no energy to chase butterflies.
"Hi, I'm Mike", I replied, "and I'm new to Kadena."
"Me too. This is my first day here and this place is very different from my last school", she said as she sat down.
You don't have to tell me, I thought.
"You look familiar; do we have another class together?"
My knuckles grew white as my fists began to tighten; I think she remembered how we first met. The ice bucket, no not the ice bucket!
"Did you stay at the temporary housing a month ago?"
Reacting without thinking I said "Nope, you must have me confused with someone else." with a smile.
We continued to talk about lives before Kadena and other things. And for the first time, she didn't make me nervous. We continued our idle chat until the porcupine appeared.
It was a brown highlighted haired porcupine and it spoke with a low toned but somehow whiney European accent.
"Good afternoon class.", she said as she walked to her desk.
She looked towards our table and said "You must be the new students. My name is Ms. Walker, welcome to Biology".
"I know you have been on break for a while, but remember class, don't play with the tanks. Some of the animals in there can kill you." she said intently.
She then continued to remind the class of the dangers that lurked in the classroom and that she would punish those that misbehaved.
Was she serious? Were the animals in the tank that dangerous? Who would put dangerous animals in a classroom? The concept seemed slightly insane.
I whispered to Bernard, "Is she serious, are there dangerous animals in the tanks?"
He nodded, "I'm not sure if you would die, but there are a few that could take off a finger or make you real sick." replied Bernard.
My eyebrow arched as I pondered the situation. This class is going to be fun. Dangerous animals, nice table mates, and Alison sat next to me. Yeah, this was going to be a great class!
Without hesitation, Ms. Walker began her discussion about flatworms. And I listened; science always interested me.
The class proceeded as normal until a unknown object flew through the air and landed near a student in the front of the class. Ms. Walker didn't notice as her back was turned to the class. She was too busy enlightening us on the internals of the flatworm on the blackboard.
Then came a second projectile flying through the air and I recognized it this time; it was a paper ball. This one hit its mark. The victim returned a cold stare towards the back of the classroom. He seemed annoyed, but no response taken.
I heard several snickers and looked towards the table at the back of the classroom. A silent high five was shared between the culprits, a black haired boy and his freckled dark red haired co-conspirator. I looked again, and it was Joe. Two classes with this joker; what bad luck. His accomplice was different from the last time, but I was sure both Joe and his accomplices were bad news.
For the remainder of the class a few more paper balls took flight. However, no one got in trouble and no projectiles came our way.
Finally, the bell rang. I collected my things, gave my salutations to Alison and went off to look for my brother.
I didn’t know at the time, but the most dangerous animals in the classroom lurked outside the fish tanks. I didn’t realize the fact until years later, but by then it was too late.