Miranda rubbed her eyes. Just the day before, the linoleum in school was a sort of pinky-grey vomit color. It was the same linoleum in every hallway, every classroom. Just like every day since the school had been built.
Today it was a light blue.
Honestly, the new color looked nicer. Now it matched the grey walls.
Miranda tried to convince herself that the school had changed the floors over night, maybe Mr. Brown had worked all night with a team of floor layers. But it obviously wasn’t new linoleum; it looked just as worn as the old pink stuff. She walked to her lockers through milling kids. The cracks around her locker were in the same pattern as every day. She’d studied them.
Except now the floor was blue.
She closed one eye, then the other, trying to see if her color perception had changed. Maybe some sort of oxygen loss was changing her perceptions? She wished she had a color vision deficiency test.
As far as she could tell, all the colors in the school looked exactly the same as yesterday, except for the floor.
Also the lockers were half an inch deeper.
Her books weren’t as close to the locker door as yesterday. She examined her math textbook. It could have shrunk, but it was still about an inch longer than the span of her hand. Maybe her hand had shrank too?
Madness was at the end of this line of thinking. She shook her head.
People stared at her. She was obviously being weird again, spending too much time staring at her locker and the floor. She couldn’t fathom why no one else noticed the changes, but she was sick of being stared at, even more than usual, so she closed her locker and walked on.
Cindy stood looking aimless outside Mr. Walter’s history class–even though she needed to be at first period English soon, way on the other side of school.
Cindy continued to stare at the lockers as Miranda walked up to her.
Without looking away from the lockers, Cindy said, “Something’s changed.”
Miranda wanted to hug her. “I didn’t think anyone noticed!” She wanted to hug Cindy. She looked around furtively and lowered her voice. “The floor’s different too.”
Cindy’s dress was subdued, muted blue. Definitely less frilly than usual. Her clothes made Miranda feel self-conscious about her jeans and red tee-shirt. “Your dress looks nice.”
Cindy blushed and looked back at the lockers.
Miranda waited for Cindy to look back. They should be talking about how to test for other changes, but maybe Cindy’s eyes would glaze over like everyone else’s. If Miranda couldn’t keep this conversation going with Cindy, she had no chance of keeping anyone interested. Was the conversation already flagging?
So she said, “About your …” She brought her voice down to a whisper, “problem.” More of a stage whisper. Sometimes it was hard to tell the difference between the two.
Cindy looked left and right. Honestly, kids were passing constantly, but no one seemed to care what they were talking about. “I asked Dad this morning when he drove me to school.”
So, probably Bill-Dad.
“I asked where my birth certificate was.” Cindy twisted the hair above her ear. “He just looked confused. I told him I needed it for school.”
Miranda frowned. “Didn’t you need it to get into school in the first place?”
“I don’t know.” Cindy shrugged. “I’ve been trying to remember back when I was younger.” She looked a little lost and scared.
Miranda wanted to put a hand on her shoulder, but she felt shy. She didn’t know what to say, so she said, “I sort of remember everything, all the way back to being born, but I’m weird like that.”
Cindy frowned again. “I don’t remember moving to town. I hadn’t thought about that till now.”
The first period bell rang. Miranda shifted back and forth and then finally settled on squeezing Cindy’s shoulder again. “It’s going to be okay.” She hoped that sounded confident.
The second bell rang and she ran into history class to keep herself from squeezing Cindy’s shoulder again.
It had been two days since she’d made herself available for tutoring in the office and she felt guilty. Honestly not a lot of people asked her for help, but she wanted to be responsible. After history she used her forty-five minute break to ask Mr. Hanson if anyone had asked. He’d definitely be in the teachers’ lounge till next period.
The first thing that made her stop was the door. The wood was darker, Walnut or Cherry. The translucent window had been replaced with stained glass, dark blue panes surrounded by light blue and orange stars. Under the window had been an old laminated pink sign that read Students please knock before entering. Now there was a brass plaque that read Teachers Only. She stood there unable to decide how to react.
The school was changing. She wished she had Cindy here to confirm that she wasn’t going crazy.
She wanted to touch the door, to make sure it was real. She might as well knock. Mr. Hanson had once said that she could come and go. He’d grinned. “Since you’re almost a teacher anyway.” A senior passed, looked at her and the door and moved on. Miranda took the last step and knocked.
There was a long pause before someone came. The stained window darkened and Mr. Hanson’s face appeared in the crack.
Surprise crossed his face and then anger. “What is it? You may speak.”
She shifted. His face looked set, almost like he didn’t recognize her. “I …” Were people changing too? “It’s me, Miranda.”
His face set. “I know who you are, Ms. McGee.”
This new attitude was unsettling. Miranda knew she should just apologize, turn and leave, but a part of her refused to believe Mr. Hanson was so different.
She said, “Can I just come in for a minute?”
Mr. Hanson froze. The shock on his face wiped away the anger.
She plowed on, “I just need to look at the tutoring records.”
He said, “What did you say?”
“I just need to see if anyone’s come in … for tutoring.” She leaned back.
Mr. Hanson twisted around to the teachers behind him. They were looking, seeing a student at their door, frowning.
His face was red with anger. “You presume?” He was nearly shouting.
“What?” Miranda felt like she should just run away. She thought of the changed lockers and the floor. Maybe she should just go home and hide in her bed and wait for everything to go back to normal.
Mr. Hanson looked back down at her. “You’ve already broken the speaking rule. I could have let you off with a mark on your record, but you’re suggesting you be allowed to enter teacher space?”
Miranda couldn’t help herself, “What’s the ‘speaking rule?'”
“You presume!” Mr. Hanson roared.
He took her by shoulder and violently turned her around. “Ms. McGee, when the receptionist acknowledges you, you will tell her you’ve committed infraction twelve.” He pushed her and she stumbled forward.
Her arm slowly went from numb to aching from where he’d grabbed her. Still the belligerent part of her brain wanted to ask Mr. Hanson for details. What was infraction twelve?
She turned to ask, but the door slammed behind her.