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Jason Toews and fifi (the band)

School 01, January 2012


We came in before dawn, crawling through miles of thorny underbrush, navigating by the stars, our clothing torn by barbed wire. Through a gap in the 12-foot security fence, across the exposed basketball court, into a basement window. The air in the basement was cool, damp, and heavy with the taste of decades-old asbestos. Communicating only with hand gestures, faces obscured by military-grade respirators, Maglites in red-lensed stealth mode, we climbed the stairs to the front door. To get to the heart of the campus, we would have to exit the building and dart across a parking lot. The man on point raised his fist to signal halt, the message was passed back through the ranks, and we hugged the walls, preparing for the sprint. With two fingers, he pointed at his own eyes, and then the hole in the door where the knob used to be. He knelt on the landing so that his face was level with the doorknob-hole, slowly exhaled, and leaned close to peer out through the small opening and survey the area. Almost immediately, he stood back up.

“FUCK!” he hissed. “There’s a security dude standing RIGHT OUTSIDE!”

This was unexpected, and the rest of us weren’t sure what to do. Some froze in place, some tried to run down the stairs in reverse but were blocked by the ones who were paralyzed with fear, and some glanced around nervously, praying that someone would give a clear order about what to do next.

“GO!” sputtered our exasperated leader, and we didn’t need to be told twice.

Long story short, we ended up jumping back out the basement window and scampering away through the woods like scared little baby rabbits. Also, I cut my hand.

Just so the day wouldn’t feel like a complete washout, we hiked several miles through the woods to a completely different location, and that turned out pretty well. Security guards kept parking right outside the buildings we were exploring, but they never came in, and, just like the airplane pilots say, any landing you can walk away from is a good landing, and everyone went home happy.

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