About 9 o’clock last night the world went dark. Click. Total darkness except for the blue, tubercular glow of my notebook. The house went silent. No furnace, no television, no radio, no refrigerator — all the little motors and fans that fill a house with background noise went dead. A blackout — most likely some unfortunate soul drove into a utility pole — the kind that can last an hour or eight hours.
Outside, complete darkness. Street lights, neighborhood windows — all black.
So I threw some more logs in the woodstove, found my flashlight, lit a few candles and went outside to see how far down Main Street the darkness extended. The center of the village was lit up, so the power was out on the northern half of town.
Back inside, by the light of the candles and wood stove I mused about life in the same house 150 years ago, before electricity, when one room in the house was designated the “warming room” where people would dress and seek refuge from the winter. The rest of the place was basically unheated, so I imagine people slept in frigid rooms under a lot of blankets, used the chamber pots that are still in some of the rooms to spare themselves a trip to outhouse, and had a pretty miserable existence.
In the silence of the living room, huddled around the fire and wondering how long it would be before power was restored, I thought of opening a book and reading by candlelight, but the candles seemed too dim to make a difference.
So we sat, around the fire, in the silence, waiting for the lights to come back on. I began to think about Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which I finished two weeks ago and which still has a sad affect on me, with its post-apocalypse view of a dead world, a world without lights, a horrible tale of survival, and wondered what if the lights never came back?
Across the street, in the other half of the former Chatfield Compound, Cousin Pete had fired up his Honda Generator and was thumbing his nose at the darkness, filling the silence with internal combustion, and I wondered, what happens when the gas is gone? What do you do when it is 15 degrees and February and the gas runs out? Where will the warm room be?
Then, click, the house lit up again, filled with the sound of boilers and fans, radios and televisions, and we all said “Yay” and that was that.