We knew this one wasn't a drill because it was 9pm. They usually test the fire alarm weekly during the day. We pause, waiting to see if it stops. After about 30 seconds it usually does. Last night the alarm went off and we knew it wasn't just being tested. We got our coats and shoes on quickly, thinking that someone probably just triggered the alarm with their burnt toast or something, though still thinking if we should bring anything with us: passports? cash? computer? No, I just grab my purse and make sure I'll be warm outside.
When we stepped into the hall there was a strong smell of cigarette smoke. Oh, brother! Is that what this is from? We are on the 8th floor. The smell gets stronger as we head down (slowly, because it is probably nothing). Just before we get to the lowest level it gets very smokey. I raise my glove to my nose and offer the other to Josh. I take it away for a second to see what the smoke smells like. I instantly begin coughing. I couldn't breath without my glove. My heart started to pound because I think this is the real thing. I think of all of our possessions (which isn't much) and our passports (which would be a hassle to replace). I also get angry at the people standing RIGHT in front of the door, preventing us to make a quick escape (I am still having a hard time breathing). And I step outside and it's drizzling.
We find a familiar face and make contact. He is from another building in our complex and seems annoyed at this drill. He is shocked when we tell him there really is smoke. He says he noticed from his windows that there was a party going on in one of the lower level flats. Another friend says, "If this is a real fire, I'm going back in there to get my computer. My dissertation is on there!"
The fire brigade comes and goes to the other building (Hey, wait! It's this one!). They shut the alarm off and head into our building. They are in there a few minutes and students start heading back in. After a while the firemen come out and they are not stopping people from going in. So, we say good night to our friends and start to head back in. I had to bring my glove back up to my nose when we entered the building. There were people holding drinks standing in the hall which must have set off the alarm. The smoke is pretty thick. I hear someone say, "It was just an accident. It's not like a big deal or anything!" I feel a little growl come from my throat.
We get back to our flat. After a few minutes we notice the smell of the smoke drifting in through the vent in our loo. How annoying! At least no one was hurt.