11:29, 12 March. Creative non-fiction by SM Colgan

“Like a war,” they said.
The still quiet of the staffroom, breathless pause. “Is it—” “Shhh—” Refresh refresh refresh each news site. “I thought he said—”
Stutter of your heart, fingers clenching the loose fabric of your trousers. Quick mental check: I got those books, and I have that, and I have that, and I can get that…
Impression of sunlight filtering through the window. Dark wooden table, acrid sharpness of coffee on your lips, was that only yesterday?
The world hung suspended. Was this how they waited? Between one instant and the next, the thing that slipped and changed. One second shaking open the newspaper, brushing down the table. The click and shift that followed.
Could they have known what would happen? These nameless others you create, who lived through a nightmare, came out a part of themselves altered, lost.
Like a war, which war? The King’s announcement of war with Germany, or—
—or going over the top in birdsong to a hail of sniper fire, and choked-off groans?
The sky is oddly blue today.
Your breathing is steady. As if your hands are not sweating, your heart not pounding. As if the next tick will not dictate your future.
Should you be shaking?
(If you could look forward, could look forward and see how this ends— Do you want to know?)
A nervous laugh beside you. You catch her gaze and force a smile, glance away.
A beep, muffled curse, clatter of a pen hitting a table.
Your phone vibrates on your thigh.
If you don’t look at it, can you pretend it does not exist?

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