They found it, separately. Sometimes one at a time, sometimes in small groups. They all instinctively shied away from each other, accepted without argument that certain hallways would remain locked to them. What did they want to see each other for, anyway? They didn’t. They didn’t, and they wouldn’t.
Once they had all arrived and found their own shadowy corners, the teenage boy appeared. He went to a courtyard in the middle, surrounded on all sides by brick walls with windows that opened from the inside. On a white sheet spread out over the concrete ground he began placing red plastic drinking straws. No one watched him and he paid no one else any attention.
Over time the straws began to form a pattern. Those hiding in the brick building did not want to look at it, and when they did, they pretended not to understand. It must be a formula, they said to each other. The kind that only made sense to a math genius. They were not math geniuses, so they would never understand it. Satisfied, they slid away from the windows.
But the group of pirate boys living in the trees overhead did not leave. They watched from the tree house they had built high in the branches. They knew what the red straws on the white sheet meant. They knew it was a key. A key to a map that would lead everyone in the building to the one place no one wanted to go.