Wanda could feel the darkness riding her heels like a hungry dog. The lighting there made no sense; everyone she could see, including herself, was illuminated by some sourceless light despite the encroaching midnight around them. Her classmates kept in a loose group but even those furthest from her were fully lit, clear as day. Ahead, Ms. Frizzle stoically walked on, never altering her movements.
“Okay, let’s get the facts,” Keesha said, causing Wanda to jump from surprise. “Ms. Frizzle said that book Ralphie found was bogus, she said we were going to ‘visit an old acquaintance’ of hers, and now we’re walking through somewhere cold and dark. What are we even doing?”
“According to my research,” said Dorothy, leafing through her book, “the air is as humid as parts of Southeast Asia… but it’s far too cold here to be that close to the equator… and this space is much too large to be a commercial freezer. I don’t understand!”
“Southeast Asia? Feels more like Southeast Antarctica, if you ask me,” Carlos said quietly. The children exchanged worried looks.
“Quiet,” Ms. Frizzle hissed with a sneer that caused the whole class to stop in their tracks. Her expression softened. “We’re nearly there. Please,” a flash of something, a weariness, in her eyes, “no more talking.”
“Come on, guys” whispered Ralphie to the group. “She’s The Friz. She knows what she’s doing. We just need to trust her.” The other children’s eyes were drawn to something behind him, and he spun to find that Ms. Frizzle had come to a solitary door standing in the black expanse. Before any of the children could ask where the door had come from, Ms. Frizzle turned to address them.
“We’re here,” she said hoarsely, clearing her throat with no small effort. “Right this way to meet my friends.” She motioned towards the side of the door facing them.
“But Ms. Frizzle,” Phoebe asked, “I can walk right around it. This door couldn’t possibly lead anywhere.” She moved to the other side and turned the handle.
“No! Stop!” Ms. Frizzle threw her hand out to grab Phoebe but the crowd of children blocked her reach.
The knob turned and the door opened just a crack. Phoebe was able to say, “At my old school, we-” before a blinding light blew it open and ripped her through the veil, a dense plume of ash exploding outward and coating the floor as the door slammed shut. There was an imprint in the ash where Phoebe’s body had been. The children looked from the door to Ms. Frizzle and back again. Wanda and Dorothy Ann ran over to try to help, but the handle was frozen shut and far too cold to touch. Keesha began to hiccup.
“I don’t,” she said between hiccups, “think I want to do this fieldtrip.”
Emotionlessly, Ms. Frizzle opened the door from the proper side and put a foot through. “It’s too late for regrets, Keesha.” She turned to the whole class. “If any of you want to remain here, with the door, you’re welcome to stay– and stay quiet. As for the rest of you, please follow me.”