Story: When The Lights Go Out
When The Lights Go Out is a new series of stories I will be sharing, all revolving around the small town of Minwack Falls and a power outage that occurs during a storm. Today's story is the introduction of the series; after this, the stories can be read in any order as they are all standalone stories within the same universe.
The morning of April 19th was the kind of hot that made bodies stick together.
Humidity weighed heavily on the residents of Minwack Falls. The smallest of aggravations clouded together, tensions only increased by the inescapable curtain of air so thick that a calming breath was anything but. Transgressions that would usually go unnoticed were suddenly the cause of fights between families, neighbours, and friends: a pair of sneakers lying haphazardly by the door was nearly the cause of divorce for one couple.
It was uncharacteristic, that sick, sweaty air. April was supposed to be for light rain showers and the gentle ombre of greens and pinks that accompanied gardens blossoming. This kind of weather was meant for July or August when the people from that small town could escape to any number of nearby lakes for relief. On a Friday in April, though, the children of the town were still in school and the adults still had work. There was no escape from Minwack Falls or the soggy air that enveloped it.
Every conversation revolved around the weather. The refrain of “Hot enough for ya?” stopped echoing around noon, when Derrick Anderson jokingly said it to Loni Perks at the neighbourhood coffee shop and Loni threatened to pour coffee grounds down his boxers.
“And they’ll be freshly used ones, too,” she added. “So they’ll be just as hot and sticky as this fucking day is, Derrick.”
Yes, everyone in Minwack Falls had quite enough of the hot, sticky weather that fateful April day.
It’s a well-known fact that there’s just no pleasing people, though, and by four o’clock, most of the residents were reminiscing longingly about the bright sun and stagnant air that had accompanied the rest of the day. That was due to the clouds that had begun rolling in around three-thirty—dark, strange, oddly shaped grey clouds—and the wind that had started to pick up.
By three forty-five, the town was shrouded in flat grey light as the sun disappeared behind the clouds. The wind picked up so suddenly and so quickly that Alice McGrady’s garbage can ended up in Liz Roth’s yard, but the sky had gotten so dark that Liz hadn’t noticed. That was really saying something since Liz was the head of the Homeowner’s Association and had come down on old Alice three times before about her bins being left out after garbage day.
Just after four o’clock, the rain started.
It didn’t start slowly. One moment the world was dry; the next, sheets of rain were blowing sideways across the small town. Lightning flashes filled the dark sky and thunder rattled the houses, a deep bassline of angry resonance against the whipping sound of wind in the new leaves. People who had moments earlier been fighting about whose turn it was to load the dishwasher and grumbling about Frank DeBlanco’s obsession with maintaining a perfectly coiffed lawn moved to the windows, eyes wide as they watched the storm rage.
The timing was terrible, of course: most of the people in Minwack Falls were just leaving work, driving through the drenching downpour with headlights on and wipers running full blast. When the streets began to flood, hazard lights began to blink, and people tried to push through the unexpected channels that now filled the town. Eileen Booth found herself caught in the storm, helplessly holding her purse over her head; not to keep her hair dry, but to try to keep her glasses clear. She purposely pretended not to hear Derrick Anderson calling to her from his front porch but did jump into James Koury’s car when he pulled up alongside her on the sidewalk.
No one was quite certain what happened at five twenty-three. Some said it was lightning; some said it was a fallen tree; some said it was aliens, although that was mostly just the children and that one strange gentleman who lived next to the elevator in the only apartment building in town. What everyone knew, though, is that there was a sudden bang that echoed through the town. It wasn’t thunder, it wasn’t the wind, and it was accompanied by a sudden and all-encompassing town-wide blackout.
There was enough light left outside that people weren’t left blinking in the dark, but dinners were suddenly half-cooked in non-working ovens, post-work showers were now in the dark, and more than one child started crying at the sudden interruption of Paw Patrol or Spongebob Square-Pants. Drew Burns’s garage door was only half-shut when the power kicked out, leading to him trying to tug the door the rest of the way down as the wind blew rain past him, soaking his dress pants and nicest leather shoes.
“It’ll be fine,” he said to his wife, Sierra, after rushing from the garage to the door. The rest of his clothing had gotten drenched, and she was standing in the foyer with her arms crossed as he peeled his dress shirt and pants off to avoid dripping on the freshly cleaned floors. In the background, his youngest son, Jack, was crying because he didn’t get to see the ending of the Dora the Explorer episode he’d watched eighteen times that day, and Sierra looked tense.
“The power’ll be back on before you know it,” Austin L’Arbour said to his roommate, Shay Brady. Her arms were folded across her chest as she frowned out the door of the apartment balcony, nervously watching the lightning crackle across the sky.
“Just wait and see how long it lasts,” Owen Jervis instructed his employee Lyla Northway by cell phone. “I’m sure it’ll be back on soon.”
“And if it isn’t?” Lyla asked grumpily as she sat in the darkened flower shop.
“If it’s not back on by seven, go ahead and lock up for the night,” Owen said. “But I’m sure it will be. The storm’ll likely be over by then.”
He was half-right; the storm began to fade at six-thirty, and by seven, the rain had stopped. The power was still off, though, and approximately a third of the town was on hold with the power company waiting to find out why.
When Liz Roth posted on the town Facebook page just after seven o’clock that the power company was estimating an outage until at least eight o’clock the following morning, the groans of frustration, anger, and helplessness were almost as loud as the fading thunder.
She posted again at two in the morning, shortly after the second storm hit; at that point, the power company had given up on its eight o'clock timeline.
"Something about a second lightning strike," Preston Donner said to Kayla Voychka when she stopped by to plead for his help the next day.
"They have to bring in another part from... oh, who the hell knows," explained Jordan Cooper to Eileen Booth. "Are you sure Kayla's not available? Not that you're not great, but the kids just love her."
"Sorry," mumbled Eileen shyly. "She's helping Mr. Donner with something and hasn't been back for ages."
"Dude, the fridge is broken," Aaron Mulch said to his roommate, Ben. "Light won't go on."
"You're gonna run out of weed if you don't slow down," Ben said boredly, flicking peanut shells across their apartment at him. "The power's been out since last night."
They say that communities come together in emergencies, and that was very true of Minwack Falls. Neighbours came together multiple times, and frequently in unexpected ways. The wind knocked down branches and barriers of all kinds; the rain flooded streets and hearts; the darkness shrouded inhibitions and exposed feelings. Comfort was sought and given, sometimes in ways that were lasting and sometimes in ways that reflected the heat of the day. When the power was restored hours later, the lives of so many in Minwack Falls had been altered.
Secrets in a small town spread faster than panic in a power outage. Some of the neighbours embraced their changed relationships while others wanted to forget the night forever, but small towns have a way of remembering. If it weren't for the town gossip, Alice McGrady, why, who knows what secrets may have remained hidden forever?
About The Author:
Cheryl Terra writes romance stories for people who hate romance stories, as well as for people who love romance stories. Writing is one of her greatest passions and she can often be found sitting in front of her laptop, ignoring the world around her as she finds elaborate ways for her characters to hook up with each other. When she’s not doing that, Cheryl enjoys knitting, spending time with her pets, annoying her fiancé, and trying to convince people civilization exists in the vast stretch of Canada between Vancouver and Toronto.