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The Last Blackout

by Xauri’EL Zwaan ​ Phil was at home when the power went out for good. At first he just stayed home and did the things one did to ride out a blackout. He read his hoard of sci-fi novels one more time. He ran his generator a bit and connected to the fitful network of others who did the same, keeping the internet on life support by hook or by crook. He ate the perishables in his refrigerator first and saved the canned food and dry goods for later. He cooked over a propane stove using bottled water from the multiple flats in the garage. Everyone who still lived around here was well prepared for an extended blackout. Eventually, the power always came back on and things got back to what might be called normal. He didn’t go anywhere; it was a good idea to conserve gas in these situations and few places were worth the several hours’ walk from the suburbs. It was a bit shy of a month before Phil, and other people, began to think this time the power might not be coming back on. It started with huddled conversations on the sidewalk between people stirring from their scattered houses a bit more than usual. They gathered in knots of three or five, in their tracksuits, whispering. The people who had stayed in the city had started to develop a routine and weeks-long blackouts were just part of that routine now. But this was different. Someone had been to the power company offices downtown and found them cleared out, people were saying. It was starting to get really scary. One day, everyone who still had gas drove to the nearest grocery store and started looting it. That hadn’t been the intention; people were just running out of food, and they didn’t know when there might be more. So they took what they could and fought with anyone who looked like they were taking too much, and nobody even thought of paying (not that there was anyone there to take their money anyway). The produce and meat was rotting on the shelves, and all of the milk had long since gone bad. People got trampled; one old geezer went down right in front of Phil, and the others just ran over him with their creaky carts. Phil filled up a cart with flats of canned beans and soup, pasta and bottled water. He also took handfuls of packets of seeds from the gardening section, as other people who had taken the time to stop and think were doing. Here’s hoping he would survive long enough to see spring and a chance to plant them in the backyard. As he loaded the food and water into the trunk of his Honda Civic, he saw two soccer moms get into a knife fight on the other end of the parking lot. Someone had tried to take someone else’s Alphagetti. When Phil got home, he spun up his generator and logged on to the febrile internet again. There were at least a hundred posts with crazy theories as to why the power hadn’t come back on yet; nobody seemed to want to state the obvious. Neither did Phil. He did a quick search on survival manuals and started printing every one he could find.

Xauri’EL Zwaan is a mendicant artist in search of meaning, fame and fortune, or pie (where available); a Genderqueer Bisexual, a Socialist Solarpunk, and a Satanist Goth. Zie has published short fiction, among other places, in Spectra Magazine, Polar Borealis, Cossmass Infinities, and the anthologies Strange Economics and Crunchy With Ketchup. Zie lives and writes in a little hobbit hole in Saskatoon, Canada on Treaty 6 territory with zir life partner and two very lazy cats.

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