Connection Lost (xvii)

Alan woke on Monday stiff and sore. A lazy day had given him a restless night. He was used to going right from work to sleep, right from laptop’s glow to pillow’s sweet suffocation. What had been a distinction as sharp as a moment was now blurred across many hours, drawn and dull. He didn’t like it.

He checked the internet, the lightswitch, the phone. Nothing. There was water and there was gas. There was still heat, thank God. But no electricity, no world wide web. No way to connect to the rest of the world. At least, not without leaving the safety of his apartment.

He looked out his window. The streets were empty. But they usually were. He waited a minute and then, yes, there was a person. A man in a camel-hair coat, black glasses, a scarf that only a girlfriend could have knit. He looked like a fellow on his way to work. He did not look like the harbinger of the infocalypse, nor its victim.

Alan gave serious consideration to going into work. He only had a study session, and then not until the afternoon, but for the first time since his first week of teaching he found himself half looking forward to riding herd over some grad-students-to-be. Or if not work, somewhere else. He could go to the library. He could go to Harvard Square or Davis. He could go and see if there was any information to be had about what had happened or was happening or was yet to happen. He could just take a walk. He had nothing else to do.

But he didn’t really have anything to do outside either. He didn’t have any good reason to be out and about. Whatever was going on, it was well beyond any lowly grad student. It was beyond any lowly anybody. He couldn’t affect the course of events. All he could do was wait things through, as easily and comfortably as he could.

Until then he did his best to keep busy. He lay in bed and read. That was pretty much all he had. When that proved too soporific he sat on the floor, his back to the wall. That was a little better. He went back and forth between delightfully bad fantasy novels and powerfully dense technical books. That kept the hours from grinding too slowly by.

The sun was starting to go out for a long pass when Alan thought he heard something on the street. He couldn’t quite place the sound. It has the insistent volume of a sound that wants very much to be heard. Happy for any opportunity to break the monotony of quiet study, Alan dragged open the window and listened close.

It grew slowly louder, a sort of distant blare. Suddenly it resolved itself into words. A few seconds later Alan saw a car with meaphones on its roof drive in front of his building. It was the same car that came by every third Thursday to tell people to move their cars for street-sweeping. But it wasn’t the third Thursday, and its message had nothing to do with alternate sides of the street.

“-iculties have been resolved. Until then please remain in your homes. Avoid car travel unless absolutely necessary. In case of emergency, aid stations are being set up at the following nearby locations: Harvard Square, Porter Square, Davis Square, Alewife Station, Inman…”

Then it faded back into gibberish, and soon was gone.

Alan leaned back, his hands gripping the window-sill. It was just a little message. A few words. Neighborly. Reassuring. He had thought that such Confirmation would strike him like an andiron or would rest on his shoulders like sacks of rocks. Somehow it made him feel better. It made it real; he didn’t have to worry about whether or not it was. It was. It was there for all to hear. The powers-that-be knew what was going on. It wasn’t His Problem anymore.

Remain in your homes, it said. Alan was well prepared to do just that. He smiled, then, at his timely preparations. Ate a spoonful of peanut butter, and went back to his books.

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~ by davekov on 12 December 2011.

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