These are short stories put up each Friday that you can read for free. By the next Friday the post will be taken down and a new one will go up.
“Watch out – that spaceship’s coming right for it!”
“Alright you two…it’s time for bed.”
Timmy’s eyes went up to his mother and Tony was sure his son would break out in tears.
“Ten minutes!” Timmy said, a pleading look in his eyes.
“I said ‘ten minutes’ ten minutes ago!” Summer said.
“Alright,” Tony said loudly, looking up at his wife as she blew up a sigh, one that caused a forlorn strand of her blond bangs to blow upward. It was clear she was flustered and just wanted the day to end. “Let’s just get some of this picked up here and–”
The lights flickered. The sound of Lego’s shifting under Tony’s hand stopped suddenly as he and Summer and Timmy looked up at the three-bulb overhead fan and light combo on the ceiling. It flickered again, as did the light in the kitchen and the light further down the hallway.
“What’s going on?” Summer asked, alarm in her voice.
“I don’t know, maybe a–”
Tony didn’t know how to describe it. It sounded like some distant thrumming or humming sound far off, like a converter had failed. The lights went out immediately when it happened and the fridge made the exasperated sigh that it does when it’s unplugged suddenly. The clock on the entertainment center blinked 12:00.
“What happened?” Timmy said, his voice quavering faintly as he skittered over the Lego pile to get to where his mom had been. The room was pitch black.
“Power went out,” Tony said loudly, happily, like he was putting on his adventurer’s voice and heading out for yet another romp in the world. It was easy to sound that way when the candles were just above him. He rose and grabbed the lighter form atop the entertainment center and grabbed one. Flicking the flame to light told him it was the ‘Fresh Linen’ variety, and they soon had a small globe for illumination.
“When do you think it’ll come back on?” Summer asked.
Tony saw that Timmy was clinging to her leg as she looked on at him expectantly. He shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know, maybe in fifteen minutes, maybe in a couple of hours. Let me see if it’s anywhere else.” He headed to the door, leaving the candle atop the entertainment center. Sticking his head out he saw that the other apartments across the way were dark, as were the houses across the street. He pulled himself back inside. “Looks like the whole neighborhood’s down.”
Summer frowned. “Well, that’s just great.” She pulled out her iPhone to check the time. It was just past 9:30.
“That’s strange,” she said, rapidly hitting the buttons of her phone.
“What’s that,” Tony said. He was growing a bit impatient – it was nearing 10 o’clock and he wanted to listen to his favorite AM radio show. He also wanted to get the kid to bed.
“I’m not getting any service on my phone,” Summer replied.
“No internet or no calling?”
Tony looked up at Summer and their eyes met. He shrugged. “Well, let’s just get Timmy off to bed and see if it comes on later, huh?”
She nodded, then reached down to the frightened 3-year-old at her leg. “Ready for bed, mister?”
“No!” Timmy shouted as his mother dragged him off down the hall. Tony frowned and sat down in his chair. Hopefully the power would come back on before 10.
Tony awoke with a start and nearly came up out of the chair as it sprung forward. He’d been dreaming, about…
The clock on the entertainment center caught Tony’s eye, or rather didn’t. The digital time reading that should have been there wasn’t. Obviously the power was still out. Tony had dozed off before in the chair, but usually when it was past midnight. He reached down to his pocket and took out his cheap Verizon phone. It was 3:32 AM, and just like his wife’s phone, there was no service.
He sighed and got up and headed to the bathroom. He used the light of his phone to brush his teeth and then headed to the bedroom to get a few more hours in before morning.
The phone stopped on the fourth buzz and Summer got up. She looked at the clock. 7:50 it read, the usual time. But there was no service, just like the night before. Looking at the bed stand she saw there was no reading on the clock, either – it wasn’t even flashing a wrong time. She took in a deep breath and let out a sight, then got up.
“Any service?” Tony asked as she rose.
“Nothing,” she replied, and he got up and headed out of the room. Usually he’d turn on his computer to check the news before heading out the door, but the power was still off, that much was clear from all the dead electronic devices that should have had glowing lights shooting back at them. There was the red for the power cord and blue for the modem. The wireless router was yellow and green and the entertainment center clock was a kind of spearmint green. None of those things were exuding their warmth this day, however, and it troubled Tony greatly.
“Power’s still out,” he said to Summer when he came back into the bedroom.
She nodded stoically. “Alright, let’s just get dressed and get out the door – maybe it’ll be on at work.”
Tony nodded and went out to start the car.
“I’ll call you if I hear anything,” Summer said as Tony dropped her and Timmy off at the daycare where she worked.
“How are you going to call me?” Tony laughed.
“You know what I mean,” Summer laughed back. It was the first time they’d felt comfortable since the night before. On the drive up none of the car’s radio station’s had been working, and it seemed that there’d been a lot less traffic than normal for a Tuesday morning. But parents were still dropping their kid off at the daycare, even if it looked like the place had no power.
“What are you going to do?” Summer asked.
Tony shrugged. “What I do everyday – go home and hope I’m called about a job.”
“Well don’t give your hopes up today,” Summer said as she got Timmy out of the back seat.
“How about I come back and pick you up today,” Tony said before she closed the door, “I have a feeling the buses won’t be running.”
Summer smiled. “I think that’s a good idea.”
Tony pulled back up to the daycare, and was glad to see Summer and Timmy standing there waiting. That’d never happened before, and it meant he wouldn’t have to wait for five minutes. Since there was still no radio, that was especially good. He’d been at home reading all day and hadn’t a clue as to what was up with the power.
“Did you hear?” Summer said as soon as she go the back door of the car open and started to put Timmy inside.
“Hear what?” Tony asked.
“Just a minute and I’ll tell you,” Summer replied, and Tony groaned and sat forward as she got their young son secured. Finally she was finished and sat down in the passenger seat and Tony started to go.
“Something’s happened and the power’s out,” she said excitedly, her voice animated. Usually when Summer talked about news it was in a droll and irritated tone, like she was talking about a subject that bothered her. That’s because it did.
“No one’s really sure if it’s in Washington or if it’s in Europe or maybe the Middle East.”
“What do you mean, ‘something’s happened’?” Tony said. He was becoming irritated, both at the lack of traffic around them and at the not knowing.
Summer shook her head, as if it was all obvious. “No one at school knows anything. But around 4 today a dad came and he had talked with someone that had a satellite phone or something like that and–”
“A satellite phone, are you serious?”
“Yeah, it was something where he got in touch with a friend in New York that I guess is way up there or something. Anyways, supposedly this guy says that the entire power grid in the U.S. has been taken down, but it’s not by any terrorist group like ISIS or anything and it’s not by the Russians.”
“So who did it then?” Tony scoffed. Obviously if the Russians or ISIS hadn’t done it then it must have been the CIA.
“I dunno,” Summer said while chewing her gum, “but I do know that there’s no power or cell coverage or anything in the country right now, and I think maybe even in the whole world.”
“Well how is that possible? I mean, how did that guy call that guy in New York then? Doesn’t that take a satellite?”
“Tony, I don’t know.”
Tony fumed and gripped his hands more tightly on the steering wheel.
“So what are we gonna eat?” Tony asked as they headed inside.
“I dunno, can we cook anything?”
Tony shook his head. “I’ve been eating potato chips and candy bars all day. What’d they do at work?”
“We had cheese and crackers.”
“Well, I went over to Albertson’s,” he said as they got into the kitchen. Tony had a lot more candles going at this point, something that was good considering it was early February. What wasn’t good was how cold the apartment had gotten since just a few hours ago.
“Was there any power there?”
“No, and nothing but cash is used. That was a real bummer for most people, because I heard the ATM machines aren’t working anywhere.”
“So what did you do?”
Tony smiled. “I’ve always got cash around here, right?”
“Yeah, thank God for that,” Summer said sarcastically. It was no surprise that Tony kept most of his money in twenty-dollar bills, and those stashed about the apartment in strange places. He didn’t trust banks, but then he always needed cash on hand so he could buy his cannabis. Thankfully the VA kept those veteran’s disability checks coming in each month to cover it all. They had to – Tony had done three tours and been written about in the New York Times.
“The place was a mess,” Tony went on, “all the cooler’s are down and all the power’s out, so they’re really just trying to get rid of all that meat and frozen food for anyone that’ll take it.”
“And who’ll take it?” Summer asked with a laugh.
“Anyone with a fair amount of gas and a good generator,” Tony said, and summer looked over to see a forlorn look in his eyes. It was clear he was regretting their decision not to live the prepper lifestyle like he’d wanted to, and now Summer was wondering if she’d been wrong to insist upon a normal life in town.
“But anyways,” Tony said, pushing forward to the fridge. He opened it up to show all kinds of cheese and rolled meats and other semi-perishables, “I figure we could last awhile on this, and this,” he finished, pointing up at the half-dozen loaves of bread atop the fridge.
“I guess we’ll have to, huh?” Summer said with a look that was close to tears.
“I guess we’ll have to,” Tony agreed as he hugged her.