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