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The Outage Effect

by Irene Maschke

Angie woke up with a sinking feeling. Deep down she knew something was wrong. She tried to remember what it was. She’d fallen asleep slumped on her desk, her back was hurting and her right arm had gone to sleep.

She’d made many, many phone calls almost all through the night until she fell into an exhausted sleep, but to no avail. Nothing but answering machines, phone voice menus that led to nothing but other phone voice menus. She tried the light switch. The power was still off.

Her growling stomach reminded her that she hadn’t eaten anything since the previous afternoon. Angie checked her fridge. Still enough to eat from this week’s food delivery. She popped a breakfast package into the microwave, put a coffee pad into the integrated coffee maker and pushed the button. Nothing.

“Oh, no!” All her food was thawing and all she had left now was a fridge full of half-thawed meals that would go bad very soon. And with no power for her computer, how was she supposed to get any new food delivered?

Without electricity she couldn’t use her computer, and without her computer she couldn’t order from one of the many online food stores that would deliver her ready-to-eat meals.

She remembered many years ago, as a child, her mother used to take her to big buildings with long rows of shelves that held various kinds of food... Supermarkets, yes, she remembered that word now. She wondered if there were still any of them around. But if they were, how would she get there?

Angie felt a surge of panic. She realized that she hadn’t been outside her apartment for many years. The thought of leaving the safety of her own four walls made her sweat.

Maybe she could call the meal service on the phone? She got up and went to look for the phone number. Then she realized she couldn’t use the computer, because the electricity was off. “Damn! Damn! Damn...” Angie’s scream trailed off to a sob. She picked up the phone and threw it at the wall.

She had to do something. Last night she was hoping that the electricity would come back on, that she could go back to her normal life, eat her microwaved meals, chat with her friends on Facebook, log on to her work account, watch some movies...

Work, she thought. They have to do something when they notice I haven’t logged on... Oh, no... Another sob shook her when she realized this was Saturday and work wouldn’t notice that she was off-line until Monday morning at best.

Angie reached for the phone. She had to get help. Luckily, she had programmed her mother’s number into her phone. She noticed the battery was getting low, but it should be enough for just one call. After only two rings, she heard her mother’s voice: “I am currently on a 3-D total immersion of Hawaii. Please leave a message and I will return your call as soon as I am back. Thank you and have a great day.”

Angie dropped the phone. Enough was enough. She had to do something. She had to get out of here. She remembered reading an online newspaper article about a walk-in pizza place close to her house. “Yes, that’s it. I’m going to check that out,” Angie said to herself.

Angie decided to take a look out the window first and see what it was like. Sure, her eyes had wandered to the window every now and then and noticed the sky, but she hadn’t really paid any attention and she’d never bothered to look all the way down to the street from her third floor window.

She stepped close to the window and looked down through the glass. There was some kind of big machine digging a hole not far from her building. So that’s what had caused the power outage, she thought. There were some thick torn cables in the hole. She figured that her whole building was without electricity, but it seemed that nobody had done anything about it yet.

Angie went to her apartment door, opened it and stepped outside. She found the elevator without any problems, pushed the call button and then realized that the elevator would not work without electricity.

Angie took a deep breath to avoid a panic attack, and then remembered the stairs. They were just around the corner, and she walked all the way down to the ground floor. She stepped outside.

Wind hit her in her face, and she realized that she should have put on some more clothes. She was so used to room climate-control that the colder outside temperatures took her by surprise. There was nobody else in the street.

Naturally. It was Saturday, and everybody would be busy chatting or watching movies or shows on the internet. Angie took a few steps. This was something totally new, she took step after step and still no wall to stop her.

She crossed a deserted street, and then she saw it: The pizza place. A big window, an open door and a flashing sign above that said “Pizzeria di Claudio.” Angie felt worn out from walking over a hundred meters without stopping, but she pushed on.

She went through the door and jumped when a friendly voice said “Hello, come on in.” Facing her was a stout, middle-aged man with an apron tied around his waist.

“Hello,” Angie answered automatically. She felt she was in a dream; she couldn’t believe that she could be talking to a real person.

And there were a few more people sitting around the tables. Angie looked around herself in wonder and ordered a pizza. As she turned to sit down, she caught her foot on a table leg and stumbled into one of the other guests, who disappeared as she interrupted the 3-D image flow.

Copyright © 2013 by Irene Maschke

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