A to Z April Challenge

During the month of April I will be doing a different spin on my memoir posts. It starts with a song. Each song will be followed by a brief essay that is evoked or inspired by that song. You might want to click on the YouTube link to hear the song as you read the piece I've written. Or you can listen to the song lyrics first and then read. Whichever way you choose, I mostly hope you'll read and leave a comment with your thoughts about my post. Thank you for visiting and please follow the blog if you are not doing so already.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Wandering and Pondering In The Dark

LightsLights (Photo credit: cycloctopus)

           My wife and I were awakened by a most peculiar noise.  As I emerged into wakefulness I heard a sporadic clicking noise that I could not immediately identify. The first thing that came to my mind was that it was an animal of some sort, such as a bird, a frog, or an insect.  I had heard similar animal produced noises before, but never in this neighborhood where I live.  And if the noise was emanating from an animal somewhere outside, it was quite loud.

          Lying in my bed as clarity of mind increased my awareness, a series of thoughts passed through my mind.  Perhaps someone was using some sort of power tool or was merely tapping away on something.  No--no, there was some familiarity to this sound that I couldn't quite identify.

          Then it struck me.  It sounded as though someone were trying to start a car with a nearly dead battery. Repeatedly the series of clicks would start and then stop after a few seconds.  I got out of bed and crossed over to the open window to see the source of the noise.  Looking out the window I immediately realized that the noise was not coming from outside.  The noise seemed to be somewhere in our house.

          Keeping the lights off I went to the bedroom doorway and listened.  With a sense of dread I now knew the noise was coming from downstairs.  With stealth I slowly descended the stairs in the darkness fearful of what I might find.  If it were an intruder I hoped to catch him by surprise, but I had no idea what I would have done at that point.

           Once at the bottom of the stairs I could hear that the noise was coming from the kitchen.  My eyes scanned the darkness to see if anything was glowing or sparking.  Was it the dishwasher?  No.  Something in the sink?  No.  What then?

           It suddenly hit me that the noise was coming from the burglar alarm which we no longer used.  With that revelation I reached over to turn on the kitchen light, but no light came on.  The power was off.  It was now all clear to me.  After the power had gone off the now defunct alarm switched over to the long unused battery nearly drained of power, but with enough juice to try to start the siren.

          "Click, click, click." the feeble alarm tried.

           I listened for a moment and then tried to turn off the control panel.  I fiddled with the controls for a while and wondered how I could stop the obnoxious noise.  Then I reached up to the plastic housing that covered the siren speaker and pulled it off the wall, detaching the wires.  We would not be bothered with the noise anymore.   However the fact still remained that the power was off.

            I went back upstairs to reassure my wife that an intruder had not done me in and let her know about the power situation.  Looking out the windows I could see that the outage was wide spread.  Light from other areas filtered into the sky in the distance and allowed enough illumination through the windows to be able to see.  Other than that it was very dark and still in this urban area that had more than its share of light and sound pollution most of the time.  

            Checking my watch I could see that it was about 1:15.  I guessed that the power had probably gone out at about one o'clock when the clicking noise had woken us up.  Since my wife had to get up at 5:30 to go to work and we weren't sure what was going to happen with the power, I found my cell phone and set the alarm on it so she wouldn't oversleep.   My wife went back to a sporadic sleep, but now I was wide awake.

            I sat in the spare bedroom gazing out of the open window to the main street that runs behind our house and to the shopping center across that street.  Traffic was light, but steady.  The traffic signal up at the nearest major intersection had gone into flashing emergency mode.  In the distance I could see flashing yellow lights on what I thought--what I hoped--might be vehicles from the electric company trying to fix the power problem.

           My wife tried to sleep as I sat there pondering the situation.  If the power stayed off for too long the food in the refrigerator might go bad.  In my mind I began to tally the value of the refrigerator contents.  There was probably only a hundred dollars or so worth of food, but still a hundred dollars lost was a hundred dollars.  At least the gas and water still worked and I could cook a really big breakfast in the morning.  And the fridge contents would still last throughout the day for lunch and dinner.  We could try to minimize our losses, but still there would be loss.

         Post-apocalyptic visions of roving bands of marauders filled my mind.  I imagined the power never coming back on and chaos ensuing in a collapsing urban infrastructure.  Would the water and gas be far behind?  Briefly I considered going down to one of our cars to find out if any news about the outage was being broadcast.   I realized how dependent on electrical power we were.  Normally if I had problems sleeping I would get on the computer or turn on a light to read.  Maybe civilization as we had known it was coming to an end.

        Eventually after a couple of hours of this crazy thinking I realized that my efforts were going to have no contribution to bringing the power back on.  If I stayed awake all night I would be very tired the next day and get little accomplished.  Sleep was starting to be the only thing that made any sense.  Lying back in my bed in the darkness my mind clung to a few last apprehensive thoughts until I too lost power and fell asleep.

                                                #####

And now this:

       On September 8th my guest on Wrote By Rote will be blogger/author Denise Roessle.  Denise's memoir Second-Chance Mother is being offered for free download at Amazon this week-end August 25-26.   For more information visit http://amzn.to/MWalYG
 

      D.G. Hudson gave a delightful mention of my post "Using Less Traditional Archive Resources"   in her terrific post "Time for Retrospect".   If you missed this I encourage you to visit D.G.'s excellent blog and especially to read this particular post.   I hope to have D.G. visit as a guest before too long.



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25 comments:

Talli Roland said...

You're very brave to venture downstairs with a strange noise in evidence! I probably would have cowered in bed.

Sally said...

Strange noises in the middle of the night are the worst. I hope you and your wife weren't too tired the next day and power was restored quickly.

Teresa Coltrin@Journaling Woman said...

I've always been a light sleeper. the worst of it is when I awake feeling like I heard something and lay there trying to figure out what woke me.

Great writing.

T

Sheila Siler said...

Amazing where our mind goes when we are woken up during the night. I'm not sure I would have ventured downstairs, but I'm glad you could find out what was making the noise. We are indeed very dependent upon electricity, makes you wonder . . .

Joan said...

Better all that wee hours pondering than wrestling with an intruder.

D.G. Hudson said...

It's my pleasure, Lee, to mention your blog. I'll be emailing you this weekend and I do have something in mind for a blogpost, in outline form now.

I loved this story about unknown noises at night (or anytime for me). That's exactly what I do -- extrapolate to the worst possible scenario (so hubs says). It certainly makes life interesting to have a fertile imagination, doesn't it?

Arlee Bird said...

Talli -- I don't know if I'd call my action bravery, but I just feel like I'd rather confront my fears with a better option of escape than letting someone come find me in hiding where I had nowhere to run to.

Sally -- We were tired, but not so much because of that incident. It was my schoolteacher-wife's first day back to work with students and me--I'm always tired it seems. The power came back on at about 5 AM.

Teresa -- I often sleep through noises, but when they do wake me and my imagination will often go into high gear.

Sheila -- I know one thing: I'd prefer not to be without power for very long in the city. There's a weird sense of isolation and helplessness. At least in more rural settings no electricity seems more natural.

Joan -- Agreed. I would not have wanted to met up with someone who had broken into our home.

D.G. -- Ah, yes, the writer's mind is always working overtime and then some. I look forward to hearing from you.

Lee

Wendy said...

You have captured that confusing time between waking and sleeping that would cause someone to mistake a bird for a power tool.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

>>...until I too lost power and fell asleep.

Ha! Good line, Boidman!

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Dee said...

Dear Lee, those late-night thoughts of world-wide catastrophe can really plunge me into depressive thoughts. I so remember back in the '80s when President Reagan told us that if there were a nuclear attack, the mail would still be delivered. I thought then as I think now how unrealistic that is. Really pretty nutty! Peace.

Empty Nest Insider said...

Glad there was no intruder, but I'm sorry you were up worrying until the wee hours. Hope you ended up cooking that delicious breakfast! I also loved your great line about eventually losing power and falling asleep! Julie

Judy Harper said...

Lee-very good post. I was right there with you, actually, about six steps behind, you know, just in case you met a surprise! lol I agree with Stephen, great line,
"until I too lost power and fell asleep.

Shannon Lawrence said...

D.G. would be a great guest! Indeed, you were right, our minds work very similarly. A power outage can you really put you in a different mindset, and I can just imagine it being permanent. Well written!

Lynn Proctor said...

i am like that too--i even go so far as to immediately wake upon the power loss!

Cassmob (Pauleen) said...

Lee, like you I have to go find out what's happening even if my knees are knocking. one night last week I roamed the house looking for a strange noise. It turned out my husband's hearing aid battery hadn't fully disengaged & was beeping quietly and intermittently. Our power goes out regularly in the Wet season so we're geared up for it (torches, candles, corded phones).
I enjoyed this post especially your own power outage.

Ann Best said...

Riveting story, Lee. I think we've all been there with power outages, though my troubles with smoke detectors beeping and keeping me awake (I'm too short to reach one to fix it!) hasn't been from power outages. You were wise, though, to just keep moving, though it IS difficult not to worry about such things! (I'm just so grateful I don't live along the Gulf coast. Massive outages! I am so sorry for those people.)

Jay Noel said...

That's what I love about the old movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still. I think the scene where everything power-based stopped working was horrifying. Reminds us how insiginificant and dependent we really are.

Joy said...

I loved your story. I've had the same thoughts about losing the electricity--out for how long? What goes next? It is a frightening thought and has happened to many. I believe there are still many without power in Louisana from Hurricane Issac.

Joy said...

Your story also jogged my memory of many "dark" moments and how significant light is to us--lightness and darkness can have quite an emotional impact. (And things are spooky at night in the dark!) BTW... I think I remember you from posting on Geoff Maritz's blog?

Joy said...

Isn't it amazing all we cannot do without electricity?

Arlee Bird said...

I didn't realize I hadn't acknowledged all the wonderful comments of those who stopped in after my last response. Thanks for visiting and leaving your kind words and your own thoughts.

Joy -- Yes, I have often visited Geoff's blog. Your last comments were the ones that made me realize I hadn't responded to some of the earlier ones. Thanks!

Lee

Sunni said...

We have power outages all the time around here, however I have never had any apocalyptic thoughts about it. Usually the smoke alarms all over the house start going off and will not stop - that deafening noise and its always in the middle of the night, so you can imagine us getting a ladder out of the garage with the flashlight and fumbling with them while this noise is screeching.

My husband finally pulled them out of the ceiling one time and then of course we had to put them back later. Taking the batteries out didn't even work because they are all wired together.

When you have power outages though it does remind you of how spoiled we are with all our modern conveniences. We need to all prepare to live without them for a time, if we have to later.

I enjoyed your post.

Sunni


http://sunni-survivinglife.blogspot.com/

http://sunni-faeriebookloft.blogspot.com/

militaryzerowaste said...

When the power goes off at night like this, in my groggy state, I usually don't think much past, "Where's my cell phone? I need to set my alarm." But it's so true, we have become so dependent on electricity. Amazing, considering once upon a time we completely lived without it. Even without fridges. Amazing!

the cycling octopus said...

Glad you liked and used my photo for your story.
Feel free to use any other Creative Commons licensed foto from my stream!
Keep up the good work and have a good day!

Betty Alark said...

That was full of suspense, Lee! I was on the edge of my chair. Im glad it wasn't an intruder.

Great work!