Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Fire Alarm Fiasco

In last week's post, I mentioned writing a short story about evacuating my dorm room in the early morning hours, and I thought I'd share it this week! Some names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Without further ado... The Fire Alarm Fiasco:

Saturday, April 22, 2017, 3:40 AM.
A high-pitched screaming.
Cowering under the covers, hoping that it will stop.
My roommate shouting, “Guys! It’s the fire alarm! There’s a fire!”
This whole year has been leading up to this moment.
August 2016, Orientation week.
Rrrttt says my keycard as I swish it in and out of the lock on my dorm room door. I enter to find my two roommates talking excitedly by the window.
“Guess what happened?” Sarah exclaims.
“What?” I ask, setting my backpack on the floor.
“The fire alarm went off and we had to evacuate to the parking lot!”
“Wow! Was there a fire?”
“No, but three firetrucks came,” says Annie.
“What happened?”
“Someone on the boy’s floor boiled the water out of a pan of eggs.” Sarah’s posture and tone of voice say that she thinks boys should know better.
“I can’t believe I missed the excitement!” I say.
“Oh, I’m sure there will be another fire drill, Abbey,” reassures Annie.
She hasn’t a clue how prophetic her words are.
November 2016
We were going to watch a movie, but I can’t get the DVD player on my computer to work.
And then the loudest, the annoyingest, the shrillest noise attacks our eardrums. Silver flashing lights drive away any thought I had about my DVD player.
My heart starts beating quicker.
“The fire alarm,” says Sarah.
“Hnnnngg!” says Joseph.
“Should we go?” says Rebekah.
We gather our shoes and coats and Joseph’s keys and join the throng of students exiting the building.
“Let’s go to my car,” suggests Joseph.
So, we do.
The four of us huddle in Joseph’s car. Some of us are slightly annoyed. Others of us are slightly scared.
We hear the firetrucks before we see them, and we see their lights before we see the actual machines. The night is tinged blue and red. Three fire trucks arrive. Members of our bro-sis hall keep letting out the cozy bubble of warm air in Joseph’s car. They get in to talk with us. They get out to take pictures. Finally, Joseph—one of the annoyed ones—locks the doors and seals our bubble. We huddle under his backseat blanket.
Someone sounds the all clear and people walk back to the building. Had it been a drill? Had another boy made a gregarious cooking mistake? The mystery remains unsolved.
February 2017
“All I want to do is curl up on my bed with oreos and peanut butter and watch New Girl,” says Sarah from inside her black coat. She wears its faux fur hood over her hair.
“That sounds perfect. I’m going to join you,” I reply.
We trudge up the stairs, key ourselves into room 332, and lackadaisically drop our bags on the ugly, looks-like-the-80s-what-were-they-thinking-when-they-made-this-a-color carpet. We hurry to tear our coats off in our sauna-like room. Next, one boot off. Two boot off. Sweater off. Let the pit stains dry.
“NO!” yells Sarah.
The dreaded fire alarm.
One boot on. Two boot on. One arm back in the coat. Two arm back in the coat. We don’t zip ourselves up as we hurry out of the room and down the stairs. I had grabbed my backpack because homework is important, even in a fire.
But, it’s not a fire. It’s just a drill.
Saturday, April 22, 2017, 3:40 AM.
A high-pitched screaming.
I awake, thinking that it’s my alarm. I hit my clock a few times and figure that it must be one of my roommate’s alarms. I plug my ears, hoping the sound will go away. I’m in the process of sticking my head under my pillow to hide from the noise when Sarah says,
“Guys! It’s a fire!”
Immediately, I’m awake.
Of course it’s the fire alarm!
I don’t remember climbing down from my bunk. Somehow, I’m on the ground, shoving those sweat pants that my mom told me never to wear out of the house onto my legs. Shoving shoes on my feet. Shoving a jacket on over my oversized Walk MS sleeping shirt. Shoving my laptop in my backpack. My novel is on that laptop.
“Come on! We have to go!” Sarah urges. She has turned the light on so that we can see.
I grab my Star Trek blanket, and we leave the room.
Sleepy students rush to the stairwell and out of the building. Everyone is in their pajamas. Once outside, I drop my backpack in a patch of grass and go to Annie. She’s shivering. I am, too. I share my blanket with her. We look at our home, scouring the building for flames. I don’t see any smoke… Maybe the building is not on fire? The longer we stand in the freezing air, the more it seems like that is the case. I still shake. Partly because of the cold. Partly because of fear. My heart has not returned to a normal pace yet, but that could be because crush-worthy Peter is standing near to where I abandoned my backpack on the grass. My novel is on that laptop. I try to think of a way to get it back without having to interact with the boy from room 232.
“Where’s Joseph?” Sarah says suddenly.
He has not come out of the building.
She tries calling him. I realize that I left my phone in the building.
I see John, our RD, come outside with his newborn wrapped in a blanket. He deposits the baby in his car. His wife and young son join him. Groups of shivering, pajama-ed dorm-dwellers stand discussing the alarm and telling nervous jokes as firefighters (they only sent two firetrucks this time) examine the building.
The all clear is called. False alarm.

The next day, we learn the truth.
Someone on the boy’s floor burned orange chicken. At 3:30 in the morning. Orange chicken. ORANGE CHICKEN!
So, the year ends as it began: with boys trying and failing to cook.
The circle of life, indeed.



  1. Ooh, really feel immersed in the story! I'm totally there with you and your roommates! :D

    That ending though... XD

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I thought I'd practice first person present tense to make it seem more urgent and immersive... I'm happy that it worked!