This time from Birmingham
Adolescents with streaming eyes, stumbling over one another as they stampeded through the classroom door towards the corridor, yelping and whining as they got away. Tugging at the sleeves at those in front, they nudged the ribs of those that were too slow, who fell to the floor sobbing. But then some went back to help up the fallen. And then all together they re-started the flight.
Someone had sprayed mace into a classroom full of students waiting to start a lesson, about which none were too bothered. Before the attack, boisterous clusters of teenagers had milled around near locked classroom doors and the lifts and the usual high-decibel mock-scuffle between one, two or three of the lads had aarted. Girls had broken out into fits of giggles and lecturers had arrived to grumpily open doors and with heads determinedly down, strode to the front of the classroom and flit through notes and the like, while those others obliged to be there took their seats with more jostling, but at decreasing levels of volume and enthusiasm. They were waiting for attempted pearls of wisdom, which would soon have them turning to the antics they’d tried to leave at the door. All of this routine and stressful enough for that. For the lecturer, a weekly humiliation, for the students a needless demand on time they always longed could be spent elsewhere.
And then, whilst both sets of the estranged were settling down to their usual breakdown in communication, someone else had burst in at random. He’d stood there for that vital second and everyone had turned to hear the excuses of the regular latecomer, then looked back to the lecturer to give the well-worn exasperated wave to an empty seat. But some had frowned and were just about to stand and point at the interloper, when he reached for his inside jacket pocket and withdrew an aerosol which he sprayed in a slapdash manner, before hurtling away. Steve stood there helpless, as if everything he’d both wanted to happen and at the same time dreaded, had come to pass. And then, as if in answer to a prayer, they all poured out of the classroom with tears in their eyes: but tears of dread, not inspiration. Not what Steve had had in mind all this time. What he had envisaged, futile though it was, was an ultimate acquiescence to his greater wisdom, which he had cultivated through various conflicts with his class. But he’d lost them before he’d even started, and now, with all this gas vaporizing everyone’s noses, and ultimately brains: forever. His own nostrils itching him to distraction, Steve stood there and let them go.
Ultimately, however, it was time for him to go as well. Sweatshirt against his nose, as he’d always dreamt would happen when fleeing the CRS on the streets of Paris, that time he was there, he dashed into the corridor to see and hear choking and fuming. And there they all were: his healthy teenage students reduced to hacking their guts up, when they could have been taxing their minds in his company, if they hadn’t been boasting about being thick.