When I lived in my first apartment, one of my few possessions was a small television. This was before forced digitalization by the government, and the television only received a few channels.
One channel simply marked “Component 1” caught my attention immediately. I don’t know how or why, but this channel displayed security camera feed from some high school. In silent grayscale, the feed would cycle through different cameras around the building.
At first I thought the school might be the high school near my apartment, though having private televisions accidentally pick up the security feed seemed like something that should have been easily prevented by using a closed circuit, and it was especially confusing why it would show up on my TV’s “component” channel. But certain camera feeds, especially from the parking lots and outside of the building, made it clear that the school was not local.
I never did figure out where the school was, but I developed a voyeuristic fascination for the feed. I understood the phenomenon of “people watching." There is something strangely gripping about being a fly on the wall as people go about their daily lives, like you’re stalking NPCs in a video game. Like I said, my television didn’t get many channels, so I often had Component 1 running in the background while doing other things.
One time, while I was watching the feed, an earthquake happened at the school. I didn’t feel it, confirming that the school was not near me. The cameras shook, objects fell, and I saw students and staff running for shelter. The shaking stopped after a few moments and, after a couple minutes, the evacuation began.
While everyone was filing into the hallways and leaving the building, there was an aftershock. The aftershock was worse. People were knocked down, and ceilings in some rooms collapsed. Some cameras went dark.
The aftershock ended, and the evacuation continued, but sometimes I would catch a glimpse of someone who was injured and unable to move or unconscious. Some cameras I was familiar with were now only recording a small corner of the room, having been knocked off-center by the quake.
Smoke began filling several rooms and corridors, especially the cafeteria. Gas line rupture. One shot of the front parking lot showed smoke billowing out of the building. I could also see that cars had drifted and power lines had been knocked down.
Horrified, I flipped through the other channels to find coverage of the event. But there was none. No breaking news, and even scheduled news programs said nothing about an earthquake or a school fire.
I switched back to Component 1. By now most cameras were completely filled with smoke. I saw first responders begin to enter the building and start pulling out people.
I thought maybe I could help by showing someone the feed on my TV. I called the police, hoping they could contact emergency services wherever the school was in case their security feed was inaccessible and they could use the information. The dispatcher was confused about what I was trying to convey, but two officers did come to visit me.
While I was waiting for them to arrive, there was another tremor. I saw debris fall on top of first responders, and after a few seconds the feed went entirely dark.
The police thought I was playing a prank. They told me there were no reports of a major earthquake anywhere in North America, let alone a school disaster. I asked them to find out about the rest of the world. They checked, and told me there were no reports from anywhere else either. I never got back the Component 1 feed, and to this day I have been unable to find any reports of a school earthquake disaster from that date.
Written by HopelessNightOwl