by Lauren Becker, from the recently published collection, If I Would Leave Myself Behind (originally appeared in Matchbox)
No one knew what to do when the lights went out. Some went to sleep because the lights were out anyways. Some went to bed but didn’t go to sleep. The time would go more quickly. Some ate the ice cream. The ones who were alone were mostly scared. Some ate the ice cream, but were scared anyways.
Some cleaned their toilets and swept their floors. Some could not go to sleep. Phones were dying, alarms didn’t work. Everyone had to get up and go to work. It was 12:13. Then12:22. Then it was 1:00 exactly. Everyone had candles. Everyone watched the battery-operated clocks. There wasn’t much to do after the toilets were cleaned and the floors were swept.
Some watched the sky. The full moon had passed the week before. The sky looked orange far away. Where lights were on and cars crossed the bridge.
Some talked to people who were there. Husbands, wives, children, girlfriends, boyfriends. Some learned things. Some talked about television shows.
Some missed the microwave. Some missed the air conditioner. Some missed their mothers. Mostly the ones who were alone. Some missed people from a long time ago. Some missed people from now. Some missed the sounds of neighbors and radios and cars. Some became very sleepy and told their husbands or wives or children or boyfriends or girlfriends to wake them when the lights came on. Even at 2:35, or 3:02, or 4:57. Some could not remember how the night felt with lights.
Some were hungry, but not for ice cream. No one wanted to go outside. Anyone could be there in the dark that was always there. Some had not forgotten. There were cars outside. No one left.
It was summer. Just after solstice. Some thought morning might not come. Some forgot what morning felt like.
Some slept a little. Some slept none. And then it was morning. And everyone remembered what morning was. Some complained they could not use electric toothbrushes and hair dryers and phones and televisions. Some wanted breakfast heated in microwaves or on electric stoves. Some ate the rest of the ice cream. Some went to bed and slept. Some went to bed and did not sleep. No one knew that some had been in the dark alone. No one knew they had forgotten what light felt like. No one knew they had not felt light for a long time.
Lauren Becker lives in Northern California, where she works in health care policy and advocacy. She is editor of Corium Magazine. Her collection, If I Could Leave Myself Behind, is now available from Curbside Splendor.