What would happen if the United State's power grid goes down permanently. Follow the lives of individuals who live in the aftermath. This is a weekly story line so there will be more to follow. The first two weeks are below.
Shelly leaned out her bedroom window. The sky was devoid of stars, hidden by the light of the city. Her heart felt heavy as she thought back on the events of the day.
It started out as any other day, not unlike every other morning. The urge to throw the alarm across the room as the screamed out from her nightstand. The coffee maker, which should have long since been replaced, was again on the fritz. Her roommate had used the last of the hot water but she had grown accustom to the cold.
The gas gauge was on the wrong side of empty but the station was out of petroleum again. It would have to wait for tomorrow. Besides, she was late to work. She repeated her routine, each morning though she didn’t see the point. The shelves at the grocer, where she worked, were all but empty and they just received word that the militant commandeered the next delivery. It had been weeks since they had received fresh supplies. As some point, she was sure they will stop all together. The look of desperation on the faces of strangers and friends alike, were the same. She felt their pain but she knew they were the lucky ones. They had electricity. Most of the cities and towns across the nation were not as fortunate.
Not long ago, her small corner of the world decided to show their neighboring cities what a progressive city they had become. The next Redmond, Washington in the making. Solar power, the wave of the future, had been installed on every rooftop, complimentary of the mayor himself. Well, if you can call free access to the treasury office complimentary. Rich Bastard! It was a bit of an overkill at the time, but the idea had been to have the city at 100% renewable energy for every man, woman, or child. Free energy. His naysayer insisted that he had been wasteful with the city’s money. As she looked at the people below, shivering in the bitter cold, she was happy he had ignored them all. The warmth surrounding her reminded her, she had more than most.
Travelers were drawn to their city, beaconed by the electric light. The danger in the streets grew with each passing day as winter closed its grasp upon them.
How? How did they get to this point?
“Tabitha, sweetie, I need you to get ready for school,” Emily called out from the kitchen as she set about the morning’s routine. She was able to find a loaf of bread yesterday. It had been several months since they had such a luxury and she was excited to see the look on her daughter’s face when she saw it. The bread cost a fortune but Emily was hoping that a little normalcy might bring Tabitha back from the dishearten slump she was in.
Emily looked about the kitchen. She could have sworn she hid the last of the peanut butter for a special occasion but it wasn’t where she had left it or anywhere else for that matter. Sighing, she took the remaining can of Spam from the cupboard and opened it.
“Come on, sweetie! You are going to be late,” she yelled out again.
They were lucky to have a teacher close to them that was still willing to help educate the students. Most of the schools had closed their doors completely after the blackout. It was only one day a week but it was better than nothing. This was just part of the ‘new’ normal.
Emily opened the fridge to retrieve the milk for Tabitha’s breakfast. She was grateful for the electricity. However, their small city learned quickly that the solar energy they had come to rely on did not product enough power to heat everyone’s residence. The mayor had put forth a decree that anyone caught heating their homes would be cut off the grid. A few of her friends had not heeded the warning and were now without electricity for the winter.
Emily thought about the school as she prepared Tabitha’s lunch. Books had become the primary source of fuel to ward of winter’s bitter cold. The forest of brick buildings and cement streets made other sources of heat unobtainable. Mrs. Johnson, her daughter’s teacher, made sure to keep the school books under lock and key. She kept the key around her neck at all times in hope that the books would remain safe. The steel cabinet was only opened on Mondays when school was in session. She knew their time was limited, the steel cabinet would not deter people for long. It wasn’t yet December and the library was all but empty. Hoarders to be sure! It saddened her to think of all the words that would be lost forever.
To make matters worse, the local book stores had placed all their inventory under lock and key. The owners guarded their livelihood at gunpoint. More than one soul lost their lives trying to secure heat for their families. The proprietors had become greedy as the cold of winter approached and the cost of fuel was tremendous. Emily had never been so glad to be an avid reader.
The electronic age had made reading as easy as hitting a button on a computer screen but it couldn’t replace the smell and feel of having a story come alive in your hand. Emily’s collection of books was extensive and she hoped that they would have enough fuel to last them through the winter. A piece of her soul died every evening as she placed her least favorite into the fire. She hoped she would be able to find the time to read her treasures once more before they fed the flame.
Taking a couple of slices of bread out of the bag, she set about cutting off the mold from the corners. God, how she missed the smell of fresh baked bread. She could almost smell the aroma fill the room as she closed her eyes and remembered.
Her heart felt heavy as she placed a thin sliver of Spam on the slice before. It was thin enough that she could almost see the bread beneath it. Before the blackout, she would have never eaten the salty meat-like substance but now... Emily shook her head, she just hoped there was enough to last them through the week. Hopefully another food shipment would come before then. Their cupboards were all but bare and ketchup was not a vegetable no matter what she told her daughter.
Turing her attention back to the present she called out to Tabitha again. “Tabitha! Quit ignoring me and get out of bed!” No response.
Emily placed the sandwich into Tabitha’s lunch pail and walked down the short hall to her daughter’s room. As she opened the door she saw the lump of blankets on the bed. Her daughter had taken to hiding under the covers at night. At five years old, the sound of the nightly screams terrified her. Most nights, Tabitha would sneak into her bed when it got loud enough to wake her but not last night.
A cold gust of wind hit Emily as she walked into the bedroom. Strange, Emily thought to herself as she looked across the small room. Tabitha’s window was open. They lived on the second story of the apartment complex but Emily still looked about the room to see if anything was missing. She could have sworn she had locked it as she did every night.
No…everything was exactly where she had left it. Closing the window, she turned her attention back to her daughter still sleeping on the bed. Sitting on the edge of the mattress, she shook Tabitha gently to wake her from her slumber. Nothing.
“Tabitha, sweetheart, it is time to wake up,” Emily whispered in her ear. Again, nothing.
Emily pulled the covers back from where they rested over Tabitha’s head. Her curly, blonde hair lay in ringlets across her face. She looked so peaceful sleeping there, a perfect angel. It was a shame she had to wake her and thought for just a moment, that she should let her sleep. Bending over, she gave her daughter a kiss on the forehead. Being a tomboy, her kiss usually woke the sleeping angel. I am too old for that mom! Stop it! She would always say.
Emily started. Tabitha was cold, too cold. She was going to need to nail her daughter’s window closed so she wouldn’t open it again. Whatever caught her attention last night was not worth her catching pneumonia or worse.
She shook her daughter gentling. “Tabitha…enough is enough, sweetie. You need to wake up!”
Emily turned her daughter over, seeing her face for the first time. The skin around her lips were blue. Her eyes open, her mouth forming a scream that would never be heard. Death had come for her.