Eight celebrities have appeared in a mansion.
No one – including the eight – knows where they are, how they got there or why they’re there.
John Turner, the Prime Minister’s security advisor, has just ten hours to answer these questions before the first celebrity is killed.
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Twenty-two of us cautiously filtered back into the classroom after recess covered in sand and sweat. We quickly noticed cups of strange liquid sitting on our desks. Mrs. Spelling stood somberly at the head of the classroom. She was in her sixties and wasn’t a person who smiled a lot but still showed lots of compassion. She was strict: unafraid to call parents, utilize the silent corner, or take away a star. In our second grade world, she was our all-powerful matriarch we obeyed with both fear and love. Her sharp features reminded me of the lizards I owned. Her wrinkles almost looked like scales. She was dressed in mom jeans and a bright purple polo shirt. With her loud voice she said, “Sit down,” and we complied, feeling like we were in trouble for something, although we didn’t know what.
The whole second-grade was wide-eyed with fear and stomachs turned in disgust. The smiling jungle animals hanging on our classroom’s wall looked back at us mockingly. Despite all of the colors on the walls of our classrooms: alphabet posters, colored in pictures of bunnies, and bright star borders decorating all of the white boards, the room still held a tension.
In front of us, there were clear plastic cups. The contents were a yellow liquid with strange, brown objects floating in it. It looked like pee and bunny poop to me. My classmates and I exchanged looks of horror then quivered as we looked to Mrs. Spelling for further instruction.
“I want you to understand how lucky you are,” She paused for dramatic effect, “Children in Cambodia drink this every day." She held up the pitcher then set it back down. Slowly, she began to pace back and forth.
“I went to the sewers with the Mr. Luke” (he was the janitor) “to get this for you.”
“Ew,¨ the whole class said in unison.
“In Cambodia, they have to take showers, drink, and pee in the same water,” she said, which I know now isn’t true. “So they get sick with diseases. Most countries you can’t just drink water from the water fountain. You’ll get sick.” And that was true. “You’ll puke and poop all day,” she said as we recoiled in our desks. “In America, we take our clear water and good health care for granted. You are spoiled and you don't even know it. So I want you to drink it.¨ Each inflection elicited a shudder. Our eyes darted to exits knowing that we were too scared to ever attempt a leap of faith out the door. My chest felt heavy when my eyes finally met the cup filled with pee and God knows what else. I knew I didn’t want to drink this. I was yearning for the multiplication table or spelling lesson over this.
“No!” The class cried in unison.
“If you don't drink it I will tell your parents,¨ she glared at the class. In retrospect, my parents probably would have forced me to drink it, but as an 8-year-old, the promise of a grounding was more than enough to make me reconsider. I didn’t want my $5 allowance to be taken away from me or lose TV privileges.
She took a sip. All of us screamed.
¨It´s pee,” “Icky, icky,” and “that’s gross” we shouted.
Then another teacher, Ms. Holguin came in.
“Hello”? she said.
Ms. Holguin was a beautiful young teacher with dark Italian features and long curly dark brown hair. She must have felt the tension thick in the air as she entered. She was our first-grade teacher so we saw here as a beacon of hope.
“Make her stop,” “Save us,” and “I don’t wanna drink it!!!” were all shouted to her. She looked at a sea of our little-frightened faces looking to her for hope. Her eyes returned a look of confusion and curiosity.
“What do you need?” Mrs. Spelling said kindly and approached the perplexed Ms. Holguin.
“The schedule,” she said they exchanged chit chat as we chanted, "Make her stop."
Then the janitor, Mr. Luke came in. Someone shouted, “Why would you do this to us!”
“Enjoy your little surprise?” he smiled. His teeth gleamed under the light. I remember Mr. Luke looked like Dwayne Johnson, standing tall and tan. He was so muscular students would hold onto his arm and he´d lift us up. Often we’d cheer when he came into the room. But today, we were mad at him.
“No!” we yelled and we broke into a frenzy. “We don't want to.” We chattered amongst ourselves. Ms. Spelling and Ms. Holguin spoke in hushed tones until finally Ms. Spelling must have been coerced by Ms. Holguin to make a reveal.
“Okay guys it's just Mountain Dew and raisins.” Mrs. Spelling said as Ms. Holguin left the classroom, glad to escape the tension. What was this? It was a trick all along or was this the trick now? Could we trust her? Was she crazy? Did kids in Cambodia drink Mountain Dew and raisins?
“It´s a joke,” she said. “I just want you to realize you are lucky.” She paused as we let the notion settle in our mind. Then she said, “I brought cookies!” going behind her desk and taking out two large trays of sugar cookies.
There was a long pause then all twenty-two sets of eyes landed on Jacob. I’d seen him eat an ant, tree bark, and glue. If any of us were going to try this drink, it would be him. Jacob stared at the cup for a moment then boldly took the first sip, shaking. The tension hung in the air. Then his cry of ¨MMMM!” rang through the classroom followed by our collective sigh of relief.
We all drank Mountain Dew and ate cookies. Then she even put on “The Land Before Time,” a kids movie about dinosaurs, as our reward for going along with yet another on of her life lessons.
Mrs. Spelling is a teacher I’ll never forget. This was just one of many lessons she imparted on us. She’d show us pictures of starving children all the time, for world day we studied Papua New Guinea, and one day she tricked us into eating cricket cookies (cookies made from crickets, yes, the insects). In retrospect, she truly influenced me to be compassionate and grateful for my charmed life in America. In her wisdom, she saw that children needed perspective. It’s hard to imagine worlds and lives beyond your own at that age. I never thought about what life was like for other people. I just knew the world through my eyes. Her lessons might have been unconventional but they’ve stuck with me into adulthood.