Friday, July 12, 2013

The Blackout by Stephanie Erickson


After he hung up the phone with Molly, Gary went about getting a shower.  The hotel he was in was not as nice as some, but better than others.  The bathroom was small, the kind you could just about shit, shower and shave in while standing in the same spot.  That took its rating down a notch or two.  But it was just for a night, and it seemed fairly clean. 

He got out his UV wand and sanitized the bed before climbing in.  He’d watched one of those specials about how dirty hotels were and was horrified.  Molly had warned him not to watch it.  She said what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him, but it was like a train wreck, and once he’d started watching it he couldn’t stop.  After that Gary had invested in a UV wand, and so had several of his friends when they were told about the horrors of the “organic substances” that could be found on a hotel comforter.

It took him forever to fall asleep, as it usually did when he was away from home.  He missed his own bed.  He missed feeling Dug at his feet.  Most of all, though, he missed having Molly by his side.  Even though Gary spent a lot of nights alone, he’d never gotten used to it.

He glanced at the clock and realized he only had a few hours left to get some sleep, and a long duty day ahead.  So he redoubled his efforts and was soon dreaming about Molly.

He was back at home, standing at the front gate, looking at their house.  It was a very cute little house.  That is, cute as defined by Molly.  She’d always wanted a house like this, and it suited the neighborhood they lived in.  So, Gary had compromised with her.  It wasn’t something he would’ve picked out, but the inside of it was immaculate, just like he wanted.  It was the perfect blend of the two of them. 

The outside was a sunny yellow color with white trim.  It had a porch in the front with a white banister, and white shutters surrounded the windows.  It also had a white picket fence that circled the entire yard.  Molly wanted Dug to have as much space as possible to run around in, and that yard did the trick. 

Gary approached the house and went inside.  He scanned the living room for Molly or Dug, but didn’t find them.  Dug always greeted Gary with such excitement when he came through the door – whether he’d been gone ten minutes or ten days.  Where were they?

He crossed the dark hardwood floors to the kitchen and searched there.  He found it just how he’d left it – dark granite countertops, cherry cabinetry, light stone floors, stainless steel appliances.  But it seemed cold to him without Molly. 

Gary went upstairs and rounded the corner, searching for his family.  He padded softly to the master bedroom.  Molly never closed the door when he was gone.  She wanted the animals to be able to come and go as they pleased.

He found Molly curled up with Dug and Sally, indulging in an afternoon nap – one of his favorite things to do.  It surprised him, because Molly didn’t nap.  She said she always woke up more tired than when she lay down.  But he didn’t question it in his dream.  He simply slipped out of his pants and shirt and sidled up next to her.   

She didn’t wake all the way up, but she stirred and snuggled into Gary’s chest as he spooned her.  Dug didn’t even raise his head, and of course Sally didn’t acknowledge Gary at all. 

He buried his face in Molly’s hair and breathed in her glorious scent.  His life was perfect.  He had his dream job, flying to exotic locations, he had a dream wife, who was always there when he got home, and he had a dream house.  What more could a guy want? 

Gary dreamed about Molly all night long.  He dreamed about taking her to The Pizza Garden.  He dreamed about dropping in on her classes one day.  He dreamed about cleaning up the fish tank. 

When he woke up in the morning, he realized he’d spent the entire night with her, and smiled.  Gary often wondered how normal couples felt, getting to spend every night together.  He was gone six months of the year, so their nights together were precious. 

He glanced at the clock and saw that it was only six-thirty.  He opted not to text Molly yet, because he knew she wouldn’t be up.  She liked to sleep as long as possible, and was occasionally grouchy if woken up. 

He got dressed and went downstairs to see what the hotel had to offer in the way of breakfast.  It wasn’t much:  a bowl of apples and a variety of cereals – variety being a choice between Honey Nut Cheerios and Frosted Flakes – along with some hot coffee and run-of-the-mill creamers.  It was enough, though.  It was early, and Gary didn’t often like to eat breakfast.  He knew it might be awhile before he had the opportunity to eat lunch, so he swiped an extra apple for the road. 

While he ate, CNN played on the closest TV. 

“Scientists warn of an apocalyptic solar flare that could destroy life on Earth as we know it.” 

Gary choked on his cereal, laughing at the sensationalism coming from the television so early in the morning.  The media was really getting out of control.  They’d lived through Y2K, and even survived the end of the Mayan calendar.  Much to the dismay of some of the more radical Christians, the end wasn’t in fact as near as the reporter would have them believe. 

“Scientists say the flare could cause a catastrophic electromagnetic pulse that would shut down all electronics and electricity for anywhere between a few months and several years,” the anchorwoman proclaimed.

Gary spied the remote on the next table and retrieved it.  He changed the channel while the anchorwoman was speculating about the outright chaos that would follow such an event.  It was too early for that kind of propaganda, if you asked him.  Gary switched the TV to something a little more palatable at seven in the morning.  SpongeBob SquarePants fit the bill.  Gary chuckled at the cartoon as he finished off his cereal and prepared to face the day.

The Captain came in just as Gary was finishing up.  “Oh, hey Clint,” Gary said.

“Morning.”  Clint was a big man, tall and broad.  He wasn’t dressed for work yet, and wore sweatpants and a t-shirt down to breakfast.  His brown hair was pointing in several directions, characteristic of him at that early hour.

They’d only had a handful of flights together, and in fact they would be parting ways again in Orlando.  Clint was just finishing his seven-day stint, but Gary still had four days to go. 

Clint didn’t strike Gary as the friendliest fellow, and took a very minimalistic approach to conversation – limiting his responses to as few words as possible to get his point across, and only asking questions or initiating conversation when it was absolutely necessary. 

They parted ways after breakfast to get cleaned up, and met in the lobby less than twenty minutes later.  The walk out to the crew car was silent, and in fact, the entire ride over to the airport was quiet, save for the classical stylings of Philly’s 101.7 FM.  Luckily the airport was only a few miles away.

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Genre – Adult Fiction / Contemporary

Rating – PG13 (some strong language)

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