“It’s cold!” whispered Yeukai, shivering a bit and squeezing her jersey closer to her body.
“Don’t you think we should do this on a Friday or Saturday, when the students are not going to school the following day?” she added.
“Emergencies wait for nothing!” whispered Milton, displaying courage outwardly but inside burning with uneasiness.
“We have to do it,” he said, putting the whistle on his lips.
The sharp noise of the whistle rang through the neighborhood, startling owls and rats enjoying their ‘late’ dinners. Most neighbors probably woke up, wondering who would play football at 3am while everyone else was taking a stroll in dreamland. Others probably didn’t stir, enjoying their deep sleep and oblivious to any external noise posing a threat to their beautiful dreams. But to those who were in the Boarding House there is no doubt that in their minds doomsday had come.
“Yohweeee. Aaaahhhhhh. Amai vangu kani!” Screams from the housemother broke the silence that had settled after the intermittent shrills of the whistle had subsided. She bolted from her room carrying nothing but her fleece. Had it been a race I’m sure she’d have won a gold medal. Upon arriving at the turn of the passage, one of her sandals slipped. Still screaming, she swiftly picked it up and headed towards the main door, wearing only one sandal. Just then Melisah opened the Lower Six bedroom door, sleep and confusion written all over her face. She stood there for a good ten seconds, petrified, like a deer frozen in headlights.
“Get out! Hurry!” shouted Yeukai as she banged loudly on the Upper Six bedroom door. The girls poured out of their rooms, some screaming and others asking what was happening.
“Woof woof! Woof!” Afraid of being left out, Rocket and Skylar joined the choir. The girls followed mother to the assembly point, the dogs running back and forth in excitement. Meanwhile, Milton headed to the ‘Stables’, the boys’ rooms.
The annoying, deafening sound of the whistle returned. Surprisingly, no reaction came from inside the rooms. The boys probably thought some crazy referee had lost his way in the middle of the night and was seeking someone to ask for directions. After about a minute of whistle noise, mixed with banging, they finally started coming out of their rooms, their sleepy, unhappy faces demanding explanations. Some had an idea of what was happening and led others to the fire assembly point.
It took about ten minutes for everyone to gather at the assembly point. Some of the students’ faces were trodden with worry. Most were shivering in the chilly morning air, their knees buckling inside their pajamas and night dresses. When everyone was together, it was then revealed that this had been a mere fire drill, not some kind of robbery, some students later admitted, their wild minds had imagined. Relief replaced worry and you could finally see smiles breaking onto everyone’s faces and some who had been too shaken to talk broke into whispers. The staff then went through what was supposed to be done had there been an actual fire and everyone returned to sleep, happy that doomsday was still to come.
6 May 2021 was indeed a day to remember. Mrs. Banga’s (the house mother) acting was Oscar-worthy – no-one could have guessed she knew the whole thing in the first place. Had it been a real fire I have no doubt the boys would have been burnt to ashes. I’m glad it wasn’t! But if it does happen, I’m sure everyone will be more prepared and know what to do.
By Milton Vento
Milton Vento is a 2021 Gap Year Student for Makomborero Zimbabwe.