The students are not in their assigned seats. You look at the seating chart. You blink. The seating chart rearranges itself. The seating chart keeps rearranging itself, every time you blink. You try not to blink. The seating chart stares you down. You cannot win this. The seating chart knows.
The walls are all cinderblock, painted white. It is everywhere, sometimes hidden under layers of multicolored butcher paper and fire safety posters, but lurking underneath. Wall after wall after wall of cinderblock, painted white. It matches the whites of tired eyes, the heaviness of shoes dragging against tile. It is outside and inside. Your head is full of cement. Your heart is a cinderblock, painted white.
You try to write a student up but you suddenly can’t remember their name. You ask the student sitting behind them. They can’t remember either. No one in the classroom can remember the student’s name. From the back row, a low voice intones, “Snitches…get…stitches…”
You try to deviate from the lesson plan. You try to say “Today we are going to play a game,” but what comes out is, “Today you will do these worksheets.” Your tongue feels alien inside your mouth. You stick to the lesson plan.
The outer stairwell smells of marijuana. Noxious wisps of smoke drift over the graffitied steps and rusting iron railings. The cameras show that no one has walked near there in months. The smoke doesn’t dissipate, and the smell doesn’t fade. People tell you to avoid the outer stairwell.
That student asks to go to the bathroom, and you let them leave. You pray they don’t come back.
A drawn-out, painful groan resounds through the hallways at exactly two-forty five. The students are unperturbed. They tell you it happens every day at precisely the same time: two forty-five. No one knows where the sound comes from. You think maybe it is the walls themselves, those witnesses to the inner pleas hundreds of tortured souls, crying out for mercy.
The clock says five minutes till three-thirty. The first minute lasts half an hour. The fifth minute lasts three days. The clock says twelve minutes till three-thirty. Time is an illusion and you are all going to die in this room.