On Friday, people gathered at one another’s apartment complexes and hosted potlucks with leftovers that couldn’t stay in the fridge any longer. They sat on wooden chairs around a table lit by scented vanilla candles, dusty from lack of use, and laughed while reminiscing about their childhoods. While listening to each other’s words, no one dared to anticipate the next follow on Twitter, the next Instagram post, the next email followed by an RSVP.
On Saturday, people began to panic. Now their batteries were running low. Those with electric stoves already doomed, those with gas stoves were burdened with the responsibility to house more than their immediate families. The temperature dropped and heated showers quickly became a luxury. Kids wondered if school would still be open on Monday–if the precalculus quiz that morning was still happening, if the short amount of daylight could save them from an all-nighter or better yet, with their rooms angled against the kitchen and windows facing the direction of shadow, from studying at all.
That night, the stars fell through the sky without any competition from coruscating LED lights and the skyglow of gas flares. The stellar electromagnetic radiation shined unfettered without billboards stealing the attention of passengers sitting shotgun, without curtainless windows speckling sleepless skyscrapers whose eyes once beamed outward–not a blink. But no one noticed because they were all asleep hours ago, back when the sun set, leaving nothing left to do, nothing left to see, and it was too cold to step outside anyway.
On Sunday, someone broke into Walgreens and raided the grocery section–the room temperature, ready-made sandwiches, the cups of pineapple and cantaloupe and honeydew, the Crunchy Oats ‘n Honey Nature Valley bars that disintegrate under touch, a few energy drinks and a family-sized bag of Doritos–all gone. An hour later, another raid left behind shards of glass from shattered windows and empty bags of Cheetos on the ground.
On Monday, the poets ran out of tragedies to weave into lyrics, to draw onto paper, to hum from a traveled soul until spaces and misplaced indents created meaning. The poets instead stumbled over their feet, half daydreaming as they walked to the restroom, wondering if there was enough water collected from yesterday’s shower to flush today’s toilet. They wondered if tomorrow, the moon could romance a poem from their tiny hearts as good moons do, and if they could scratch out legible words without their ninety degree swivelable lamp heads illuminating where their college-ruled paper’s horizontal lines met the edges of letters.
On Tuesday, the people camping out at airports abandoned hope of a delayed flight and stood in line for a Taxi still full on fuel–except all of the Taxi drivers had returned home to wait out the outage since it wasn’t safe to drive at night without streetlights. All of the Taxi drivers except one: a driver who also happened to be a movie director ate at the queue one passenger at a time, thinking she could steal three hundred more miles’ worth of her passengers’ stories for her own.
On Wednesday, a backpacker who had started his journey ten days ago reached the peak of a mountain where clouds blanketed all but the tops of adjacent mountains. During the hours he dug his trekking poles into the earth, distributing some of the weight from his shoulders onto the ground, focusing on where he’d next place his feet with blistered heels stuck to once-bloodied-now-crusted nylon socks, he stepped into a sunrise. He looked outward instead of downward and marvelled at how the sun cast the clouds in yellow, how the clouds partitioned earth into the underworld and shrouded colour itself, how he considered not returning to a world where his voice faded under the rumble of car engines, the thunder of footsteps when pedestrian lights turned green, the buzz of his brain against skull–always throbbing. But he knew he would descend because more than he valued escape, he valued a place to return.
On Thursday, a week since the world lost power, the people secretly appreciated how the world stood still.
Lucy Zhang is a writer masquerading around as a software engineer. She watches anime and sleeps in on weekends like a normal human being. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications including MoonPark Review, Elephants Never, and Bending Genres. She can be found at https://kowaretasekai.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter (@Dango_Ramen).