Ysenda Maxtone Graham    

Big School




     ‘Welcome to Schola Magna,’ said a deep voice from the loudspeaker in the corner of the carriage, ‘and a big welcome to our 11,000 new boys and girls.  This train is for Grand Central.  Please change on to the Shakespeare Line at Grand Central and make your way to Assembly Stadium, where our start-of-term assembly will begin at 9.15.’
     The train sped on through the tunnel.  It was so dark out there that the train windows became mirrors, reflecting carriage after carriage of pupils in red blazers.  Danny tried to guess what places they were underneath: now, perhaps, the leafy suburbs with their semi-detached houses like his own, now the more built-up bit towards the centre of the city, with terraced houses and estate agents, now the river, now the area near the cathedral, now…
     ‘Grand Central.  Grand Central.  All change, please.’
     Following the crowd, he walked on to a long up-escalator, and emerged into a glorious railway station with a domed glass ceiling.  After the darkness of the underground tunnel, the light was dazzling.  The huge dome was at ground-floor level:  if you looked out, you could see business men in the ordinary world walking across the park to their offices.  They could see the people inside the dome, but there was no way for them to get in.
     From all four corners of the city, pupils in their hundreds, in their thousands, came up the escalators into the great central domed forum of the station.  How many escalators were there?  Four, eight, twelve, sixteen… Danny lost count.