Author: David Henson
I wake up sweating, check the alarm clock. Three fifty-nine? Too light. I fumble for my watch. Almost 10.
“What’s wrong with the a/c, Daniel?” Jean says sleepily.
I come back from Kyle and Lisa’s across the street. “They don’t have power either. And there’s no Sunday paper. Must be out across town.”
“I tried to call Lorraine, but there’s no service,” Jean says.
“I guess everything’s gone down.”
I find an old transistor radio and change batteries. It hisses across the dial. How widespread is this?
“Let’s drive around and see what’s going on,” Jean says.
I shove up the garage door, get in the car and turn the key. Nothing. Jean tries her car. More nothing. We go outside and stare into the sky.
“Our cars won’t start,” Kyle yells.
Jean holds her phone in one hand, the hissing radio in the other. “I’m so worried about Lorraine. Why would this happen now when she’s due any day?”
“Randolph will look after her. They probably don’t even have an outage in Ridgefield,” I say, trying to ignore the radio.
“Maybe we could ride our bikes there.”
“A hundred miles? We’d never make it in this heat.”
Her face glistening, Jean goes to the kitchen sink, holds a dishcloth under the faucet and lets the water run. The flow quickly trickles to a stop.
“Guess the water company’s lost power, too,” I say, wondering why its standby generators aren’t working.
We sweat out the day, constantly trying the phone, the cars, and the radio. We finally give up around midnight.
Around 3:30 a.m., I slip out of bed, towel off sweat, and go to the picture window in the living room. There’s an eerie red glow in the sky. I notice movement across the street. Kyle and Lisa? Someone —something — else? I need to keep my imagination in check. I lean closer to the window, hear a noise behind me, and whirl around.
“Too hot to sleep.” Jean goes to the window. “I see Kyle and Lisa can’t either. Daniel … this couldn’t be some sort of … invasion? That’s crazy, right?”
I hear shouting outside. Sounds like Kyle and Lisa arguing. “More likely the heat wave caused it. Or hackers. Probably hackers.”
“But the cars. How could hackers do that?”
“Well, most are connected to the internet nowadays. Not older models though.” I realize that’s a clue. “When it’s light, I’ll bike to the overpass. Bet I see a few cars.” I take my wife’s hand. “Let’s try to get a couple hours sleep.”
I lie awake in pools of sweat. At 3:59, the alarm clock glows red. “Jean,” I whisper with relief. She doesn’t respond so I slip quietly out of the bedroom and turn on a 24-hour news channel. A woman talks only, and cheerfully, about the heat wave. Not a word about the outage. I tune a local station on the radio. More happy talk about the heat. Drenched with sweat, I go outside hoping for a breeze, but it’s dead calm and already a scorcher. I make out Lisa in the predawn glow. She seems to be digging. “Beautiful day,” she says.
I stagger back inside. Warm air pours from the vents.
Jean’s at the thermostat. “Won’t this go any higher?”
“Why in the world would you … Have you checked on Lorraine?”
“You should forget about your daughter,” Jean says. She looks at her watch. “And Randolph, too.” She comes toward me. There’s not a drop of sweat on her.