Connection Lost (xviii)

A few hours later and the announcer-car came by once more. Its message hadn’t changed. Stay safe. Stay inside.

It wasn’t saying anything Alan didn’t know. In point of fact, Alan still expected he knew more than the vast majority of the people in… in wherever the affected area was. Okay, so maybe he didn’t know that much.

The car made another pass just after dark. Alan had never before thought of After Dark as a period where light was not to be had. With the power gone, the only illumination was that of the full moon – not quite enough to read by, unless you wanted your eyes to start a Marxist guerrilla revolt.

It was too dark to read. It was too dark to do much anything else. Outside of reading, there wasn’t much else to do. The prospect of sitting alone in the dark, twiddling his thumbs, in a silent room, made Alan start to look around his apartment for the easiest way to end his life.

But perhaps he could find a somewhat less teleological solution to the problem. Sitting in the dark is an excellent stimulator of creative problem-solving. Like most people who participate in some sort of holiday tradition, Alan had been gifted at least three booklights that he’d never used. After much blind burrowing he managed to find them under his bed. They were LED jobbies that ran on AA batteries. In the Drawer Of All The Batteries, Alan found eleven AAs. As long as they held out, life would not end at sundown. Or at least, he wouldn’t want it to.

Apparently he wasn’t the only one to break out the flashlights. Even through his closed blinds he would see flashes of light like the quips of a stuttering semaphore. Peering outside, he saw MagLight beams movig about behind many an apartment window. Alan felt like an athlete on the field watching the flashes fire. It made him want to have a seizure. Another reason he wasn’t into sports.

Some time later there were brighter lights. Alan went to the window to see cars moving down the street. Some were just passing through, crawling like housecats through a jungle primeval. Some were cars parked on the street, his street. People were coming out of their buildings and getting into their cars. Some got in and drove away. Some sat there for a time before going. Some sat there for a time and then came inside. Some of the passing cars stopped and disgorged a passenger or two. Like as not they were returned to by passengers three or four who all then crept off into the night. Like as not their human cargo came from his apartment building.

Eating trail mix and reading Terry Pratchett by the cold current light of LED, Alan realized he was watching an evacuation.

Three times in the night he was awoken by the sound of squealing rubber and breaking masonry. Apparently driving in a world without street-lamps or traffic-lights was a bit of an extreme****** sport. But he never heard any sirens. Were the hospitals shut down? Were all emergency services suspended? Perhaps, he thought, the accidents just weren’t that bad. Right. Because car accidents in a pitch-black metropolitan area were known to be the perfect guardians of health.

On an average night, sirens in Cambridge were like rain in Seattle, like sun in LA, like buck teeth in London. A night without sirens wasn’t likely. On a night when people didn’t have power, didn’t have gas – people with children, the disabled, the old – it was plain impossible. All Alan could think was that the

Or perhaps, with the roads so clear and quiet, they didn’t need to.

In the morning, half the cars on the street were gone.

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~ by davekov on 13 December 2011.

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