Flash fiction – Power, Gone (1)

Monday 21st November

The first moments are so vivid in my mind. I’ll write them as if they were happening right now.

“That’ll be £5.99 please.” The customer hands over the money, and I put it in the till. “Thank you, have a good d-“ Before I can finish, all the lights go off. Suddenly we’re in darkness. I can just make out the silhouettes of people around me. The customer picks up the coffee they’ve just paid for and walks uncertainly away.

“Sorry about this. Probably just a power cut…” I say through nervous laughter. I look to my left. The shop assistant Jake is frantically tapping the till screen next to me, but is left with nothing but a black screen. He slams his till drawer shut, the jingle of coins barely audible over a commotion coming from outside. I look at my phone, but no internet, no service.

“Jake, check your phone. You got any signal?”

“Nothing. Reckon it’s all over the city?”

“Maybe. I’m gonna go and check outside. Not much we can do without any power.” Suddenly alarms start blaring. Clearly the loss of electricity has affected the security systems.

The orchestra of alarms batters my ears as I head to the door. It’s clear we’re not the only ones confused. Customers’ faces frowning and glancing uncertainly around as they file out of the centre. A few security guards are moving through the crowds, explaining to them what’s happening: I hear someone say that the power’s out everywhere, that traffic lights are out, and the roads are chaotic. The alarms are still blaring so I head back into the café.

“What’s happening? Did you find anything out?”

“The whole of the shopping centre is definitely out. All the other shops are dark and their alarms are going off, just like ours. I heard someone say it’s the whole city. Everyone out there is panicking, all the security are trying to calm people down.”

“Ah man that’s not good. What should we do? Maybe we should tell customers to go outside and close up?”

“That’s a good idea. Let’s do it.”

It’s been 5 hours. Still no power. We closed the café and ever since we’ve been stocking up in the little light we have available, with the vain hope that the power would come back soon. The shopping centre is closed now, having no electricity in any of the restaurants or shops turns out to be pretty bad for business. It’s time for me to leave, so I exit the café and walk down the now-still escalators. It’s dark but security guards are still wandering around which puts me at ease.

I get outside and the roads are empty. Cars are hastily parked all over the roads; there’s no street lights on, no traffic lights either. I can see faint flickering glows at various windows; people are resorting to candles already. I live just 5 minutes from the shopping centre so it isn’t much of an issue to get myself home, get to bed and hope that everything will be back to normal tomorrow.

Tuesday 22nd November

I woke up and turned on my TV as I do every morning, but nothing happened. I checked my phone, plugged into the charger in the wall. It’s dead; it hadn’t charged at all. Had the power really not returned overnight? I looked outside my window and saw a lot of people running past, and I could hear a lot of shouting and arguing, there’s even a fight across the street from me. I quickly pulled on some clothes and went outside. I asked a passer-by running past my house what all the fuss was about.

“The power’s gone, man. We had official government leaflets put through our doors this morning.” He said. “Go have a look, and stop bothering me.”

I heeded his advice and stepped back into my house, picking up the leaflet I hadn’t noticed moments earlier. It’s handwritten, just some black writing on the white piece of paper. It read:

Government announcement.

All electricity sources have inexplicably stopped working. All generators, mains systems, and power grids have lost power. It is understood currently that this is not an occurrence isolated to Southampton, but to the whole of the UK, if not the world. It is unlikely that power will be restored in the foreseeable future. Please remain calm as we continue to try and find out the cause for this electrical failure.

“Hey! The shopping centre is being looted!” A random voice shouted from outside. I darted out of my door, being sure to lock it behind me, and joined the group of people running towards the shopping centre, where I was due to work in an hour. It certainly didn’t look like that was going to be happening. As soon as I stepped into the centre it was chaos; shop windows smashed, the alarms still going off from the night before, several security guards completely failing to hold back the crowds of people that were running around. I couldn’t believe what was happening just 24 hours after the electricity went out.

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