Photo by Jackson Simmer

How to Survive Walking Home from School

by Julia LaFond

Did a UFO crash into the interstate? Is a nanite swarm consuming and assimilating all electronics, including batteries, alternators, and starters? Did a rampaging Ultra Rex carve up the asphalt? Doesn’t matter! Well it does, actually, but the carpool isn’t coming either way. So lace up your sneakers and dust off your baseball cap, because it’s time to hit the streets.

  1. Double-check your backpack inventory. Do you have your:
    1. First aid kit?
    2. Flashlight?
    3. Granola bars?
    4. Garlic?
    5. Walkie-talkies?
    6. Spare clothes?
    7. Umbrella?
    8. Inflatable life vest?
  2. Once you’ve stuffed all that back in, it’s time for a crowd check.
    1. If everyone’s gone, run.
    2. If there’s still a crowd, give it a few more minutes. It’s less risky to be the middle of the pack.
  3. Track down your friends and walk home with them: safety in numbers!
  4. Except they’re gone, because of course they’re gone: they cut class and ran off to fight the Ultra Rex.
  5. A supervillain sketchy classmate might offer to walk you home. Do not accept.
    1. If a teacher offers to walk you home, NO.
    2. Don’t say no, though. Ditch them by climbing out the bathroom window.
  6. Walk home alone. It’s fine. This is fine. Keep a steady pace, watch for signs of movement ahead of you, and check your reflective sunglasses periodically.
  7. If the ground starts vibrating, it’s time for a detour.
  8. If the ground starts rumbling, it’s time to start running.
  9. If the ground starts fracturing, it’s too OH GOD OH GOD OH–
  10. If you wake up in a pile of rubble, you might have internal injuries. Getting up could make them worse. Work through your emergency contacts –
    1. Phone’s dead.
    2. Make a note to buy new walkie-talkies.
  11. OK, so something is hissing and clicking. Try to walk. If your ankle gives out, crawl until you can find a piece of rubble sturdy enough to be a makeshift cane.
  12. If you’re seeing movement at the edge of your vision, it’s the rats. Don’t run. Never run before they attack. If your timing is even a little off, one will bite you and it’s over.
    1. Except you can’t go faster than a hobble.
    2. But you do have a metal pipe…
  13. Change of plans: get to higher ground.
    1. Even if it’s a dumpster.
    2. Just keep swinging, just keep swinging, just keep swinging, swinging, swinging…
  14. If, hypothetically, a burst of purple energy obliterates the rats out of nowhere, but I – but you thought it was gonna hit you, there’s no shame in screaming.
  15. Also, it never happened.
  16. If the superhero sticks around to see if you’re alright, thank them and politely accept their offer to drop you off at the health clinic.
    1. Even if it’s hilarious that they think you won’t recognize them just because they’re wearing a domino mask.
    2. Even if he’s the second-most obnoxious guy in Spanish class.
    3. Especially if he’s the second-most obnoxious guy in Spanish class.
    4. Do NOT “obliviously” snark at him for spilling soda all over your desk.
    5. KEVIN
  17. Motion sickness is a common side effect of being carried at super-speed. Lean against the wall, stare at the horizon, and slowly drink some water.
    1. There’s no shame in throwing up.
    2. Also, it never happened.
  18. If you’re nice to the nurses, they’ll let you borrow their phone to call your parents. If you’re lucky, you can get a ride after all.
  19. If you need this list, you’re not lucky.
  20. Since they finished off the Ultra Rex, some superheroes will unmask and start showing up at the clinic. Repeat step #3.
  21. OK, walk home with a friend. While you’re chatting, keep a steady pace, watch for signs of movement ahead of you, and check your reflective sunglasses periodically.
    1. If they ask what’s wrong, pretend you need a second to catch your breath.
    2. If you actually need a second, there’s no shame in that. Which is why that’s your cover story.
  22. How come I never get attacked when my friends are with me? Does everyone actually know each other’s secret identities and just pretend they don’t???
    1. OK, so there was that time with the Kaiju Defense Force.
    2. And the time with the candy ghost.
    3. And the time with the zombies.
    4. And the time with the – Wait, nevermind –
  23. In case of emergency sleepovers, spare clothes can be used as pajamas.
  24. Call your parents again unless you want to be grounded for life.
    1. Then again…
    2. Nope, not worth it.
  25. In the morning, if the coast is clear, go home.
  26. If you have not already established an excuse for your injuries, the following are acceptable cover stories:
    1. VR Rhythm mishap.
    2. Fell down the steps (again).
    3. Got run over by a cyclist.
      1. It was Kevin
      2. Wait, no, he DID save my life…
    4. Fell down an open manhole (again).
    5. Minor, quickly contained chemistry lab explosion.
    6. Fell off the balance beam during gym (again).
    7. The truth.
      1. In case it wasn’t clear, this is sarcasm. Don’t do it.
      2. Seriously, don’t even bother. They’re way too deep in denial for that.
      3. No, really, this is the only option they’ll actually punish me you for.
      4. Look, you’d be better off saying all your friends jumped off a bridge while snorting marijuana, so you did, too.
      5. Is it really worth losing your wi-fi privileges and having to browse Extraterrestrials Among Us at the public library? No. No, it’s not.
    1. Nod along while your parents rant about how tripping hazards, and why haven’t the stairwells been renovated?
    2. Congratulations, you made it home. Just in time for another day of school!
    3. Frantically finish your English worksheets while wolfing down breakfast.
    4. Find out that all the parents in the carpool had a “falling tree” total their car, including yours, and now you have to survive walking to school.*

*Screaming into a pillow is optional but highly recommended.