We Didn't Ask for This - Adi Alsaid
The lock-in was going fairly well until Marisa unleashed her cronies and chained herself to the main entrance.
No one really noticed right away, busy as they were taking part in a number of lock-in-related activities: laser tag in the parking garage, a sanctioned food fight in the cafeteria, a photo shoot tutorial with a renowned YouTube influencer.
Once a year, in April, the doors at Central International School’s K-12 campus closed—though they didn’t literally lock—to allow the high school students to roam free for the whole night. Having the next day off school was nowhere near the best part. Nor, strictly speaking, were the activities themselves, though they were extravagant and wonderful and distracted everyone from what Marisa was doing.
People fell in love on lock-in night. They stumbled upon new passions that would shape the rest of their lives, discovered friendships they could not imagine living without, before or after. Traumas were resolved on lock-in night, anxieties disappeared, never to return, not even after the buses arrived in the morning to take the students back home.
This was well known to the few students who had been lucky enough to have attended before, or who had siblings who had attended in years prior. At Central International School, the student body ebbed and flowed, changing drastically from year to year, and often even more frequently. It was common to have different classmates every semester, and sometimes students would find the person who sat next to them in class—the alluring redhead who scribbled song lyrics on the margins of their textbooks, who one time turned and asked to borrow a pen they never returned, though they had offered a smile that carried with it joy beyond a simple gesture; the redhead who might have one day soon become more than just a classmate—was simply gone from one day to the next.
Even by international school standards, the turnover rate of both students and faculty had always been high, though it had a great academic reputation, and the city in which it sat was a diverse and world-class cosmopolis. Yet people never seemed to stick around for long, as if families were carried in by the seaside breeze, and carried away by the same. Most students had multiple passports, and their parents were multinational, or transient because they were diplomats, or titans of industry, or missionaries, or digital nomads, or teachers within the international school world. They had roots in many places, thought of no one place as home—or rather, thought of everywhere they’d been as home.
So it was rare for a student to be around for several lock-in nights. Even the locals, who made up a mere fifteen percent of the school’s population, often temporarily relocated during their high school years—a boarding school exchange in Switzerland, a South American road trip in a van with their family, a missionary excursion in Central America.
Despite all this, the lore surrounding lock-in night was always momentous, starting as an excited murmur the first day of school and building to a frenzy by the night before the event itself a month or so before the end of the year. Students wondered how, exactly, their life would be improved by the evening. There was no question it would—they could feel it on their skin, their heartbeats thudded with the knowledge that things were about to change, they had absorbed the gossip, not just a rumor or two, but dozens and dozens of firsthand accounts or verifiable secondhand stories, so many of them that it did not feel like hearsay but like fact—it was the how that was exciting. Would the redheaded classmate return to slip a hand into theirs during the movie marathon on the roof garden? Would their fear of heights be cured by the trapeze the school had set up on the football field? Or would it simply be a night of such fun that the joy would sink into their bones and change them into happier people?
Lock-in night, simply put, was magic. Even all those who had never experienced it knew it to be true.
Which, of course, was why Marisa planned her protest for that well-loved night. To make people pay attention, disrupt what brings them joy.
* * *
The mad desire to act had existed long before her plan did.
Marisa loved the water as a baby. Her parents told the stories to anyone who would listen. She always feigned embarrassment at their anecdotes about her hour-long baths and surprising performance in toddler swimming classes, her dark,