Power Failure

By on Sep 12, 2011 in Fiction

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Power Failure graphic

“So, where should we meet?” Dan Roberts asked over the telephone.  “It’s supposed to be a public place the first time, although that seems silly.  We’ve been e-mailing, talking on the phone, instant messaging and trading photos for a month now.”

Gloria Redmond laughed.  “So we’ll follow protocol.  How about the Dresden Mall?  Seems about midway between us.  Do you know Ye Olde Coffee Shoppe?”

“On the lower level?  North end?”

“That’s the one,” Gloria replied.

“Sure, how about seven this evening?  Gives us time to get ready.  I’ll get there a few minutes early, wait outside the coffee shop.”  Finally, they were going to meet.

“Fine.  See you in a while, then, okay, Dan?”

“You bet.  Bye now.”  He waited for Gloria to respond before hanging up.



“Are you excited?  I mean, my heart is doing flip-flops.  I can’t wait.”

“Me neither.  I feel like a kid at Christmas.”


Dan Roberts felt the butterflies in his stomach as he turned into the Dresden Mall parking lot and drove toward the north end.  Then all the lights went out, and the huge building went dark, projecting a massive, ominous silhouette against the nighttime sky.  “Damn,” Dan said.  “Of all the luck.  A power failure.”  He pulled into a vacant parking space and got out of his car.  Unrelenting darkness met his eyes from every direction.

Then a cluster of lights surrounding the mall blinked on.  Emergency lights, he thought.  Maybe it would work out after all.  He walked through the parking lot to the entrance, where a uniformed security guard accosted him.

“Power failure, sir.  Everyone has to leave by eight o’clock, when the emergency generators will be shut down.  No one can come inside now.”

“But I’m picking someone up,” Dan improvised.  “She’s waiting for me inside.”

The guard frowned.  “All right.  But out by eight.  No exceptions.  You don’t want to be locked in all night.”

“Yes, sir,” Dan said, stepping aside, then striding briskly through the glass doors into the main concourse.  He was surprised to see so many shoppers taking their time, browsing in the dimly lit stores, chatting and strolling through the atrium.  Eerie, he thought.  Like ghosts, parading through a cemetery under a full moon.

 He spotted the coffee shop and a woman standing outside of it, alone, evidently waiting for someone.  Gloria, he thought at first, but as he drew closer he realized it wasn’t she, but perhaps the most peculiar looking woman he’d ever seen.  Squat, not four feet tall, dressed in a gray sweat suit, short arms and legs, gray hair fixed in corn rows and a face with eyes too close together.  Her mouth was set at the very bottom of her chin.  Her face was squashed, as if pressed against a window.

He planted himself a dozen feet from the woman to wait for Gloria.  But would they let her in?  Should he wait outside?

“Stood up?” the woman asked in a squeaky voice.

Dan jumped.  He hadn’t noticed her sidling his way.  She stood right in front of him, peering at his belt, lower lip protruding beneath her chin.

“Uh, no, I’m, that is, I’m early,”  he stammered.  He checked his watch.  Seven-thirty?  How could that be?  He shook his head in confusion.  “I thought it was seven,” he told the woman.

“It’s the power failure,” she replied.  “The clocks stopped.  That’s why I’m late, too.  I’m supposed to meet someone here.”

What?  What sense did that make?  He didn’t answer her.

“Maybe they’re inside, waiting for us,” the woman suggested.  “Shall we go in?  My name is Hazel Finley.”

Somehow, he was late.  Then Gloria must already be here.  “Sure,” he said.  “Let’s go inside.  I’m Dan Roberts.” He shook hands loosely with Hazel, and felt her short, stubby fingers tickling his palm.

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Russell H. Krauss served as an actuary for a national life insurance company, the last thirteen years as senior vice president and chief actuary, and then established his own software and actuarial consulting practice. He is now retired and lives in Nampa, Idaho, and maintains a second home in the mountain resort town of McCall, Idaho. He keeps busy writing software, fiction, and commentary.