Power Failure

By on Sep 12, 2011 in Fiction

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Power Failure graphic

He found himself in an old-fashioned parlor, Hazel by his side, and the same couple he’d seen in the coffee shop sitting in front of him on a shabby old loveseat.  The tall, skinny man grinned lopsidedly at him, while the young blonde woman — Gloria? — stared straight ahead, eyes dull and vacant.  Dan could not determine the source of the sudden and bright illumination in the room.

“What the hell’s going on?” Dan asked, astonished.  “Who are you people?”

“Surprise,” Hazel repeated.

The man stood up suddenly and guffawed.  “Rafer Riley,” he said, shooting a long arm out toward Dan, sinewy fingers wiggling like little snakes.  “Pleased to make your acquaintance.”  He wrapped his hand around Dan’s and shook it mercilessly, while squeezing so hard Dan winced.

“It’s an alien abduction,” Hazel said, giggling.

“What?” Dan asked, yanking his hand away from Riley’s tenacious grip.  “What are you talking about?”

“All in good time,” Hazel replied.  “Right now I’m going to fetch the instruments.  Riley, we’re going to need some restraints, of course.”  Hazel then about-faced and waddled off toward the dark foyer.  A moment later Dan heard her clumping upstairs, grunting, talking to herself.

Rafer Riley grinned at Dan.  “Now just hold on, there, feller, and sit down.”  He gestured wildly with his long arms, accidentally striking Dan across the face, until Dan sat down next to Gloria (?) on the loveseat.  He looked at her, but she continued to stare ahead, expressionless.  Traumatized, Dan thought.  In a state of shock.  Who could blame her?

“Wait here,” Riley instructed, “whilst I retrieve the restraints.”  He limped awkwardly into the foyer and then disappeared into the bowels of the house.

“What the hell?” Dan said again.  “Gloria?” he asked tentatively, turning toward the blonde woman.

“Yes?” she responded, softly, timidly.

“We need to get out of here.  Come on, while there’s time.  They seem to have left us alone.”  He jumped up and grasped her hands, then pulled her to her feet.

Gloria seemed to snap out of her trance.  “Yes, yes,” she said.

“Let’s go!” Dan said.  He tugged her swiftly through the parlor into the darkened foyer and then out the front door.  He had to wait a few precious seconds for his eyes to adjust before he could pick out his car parked out front.

“Is that your car in front of mine?” he asked.

“No,” Gloria said.

“Then come with me.”  But then she must have come here with Riley.  Why?

He opened the passenger-side door and fairly pushed Gloria in.  Then he rushed around to the driver’s side, took a fast look for his crazy abductors, and hopped onto his seat, pulling his keys out of his pocket and inserting them into the ignition.  He laughed nervously as the engine caught.  He backed up and turned onto the dirt driveway that led out to the rural road.  “We made it!” he exalted, and he laughed with relief, but Gloria didn’t join in.

“What the hell was that all about?” he cried.  But once he reached the country lane, he realized he was in trouble.  He didn’t even remember whether he should turn right or left.  “God, I don’t know how to get back,” he said.  “We have to get away from here before they come after us, but we could wind up driving in circles.  I don’t know where the hell we are.”

“Back to the mall, you mean?” Gloria asked.

“Yes, yes of course,” Dan responded.  Where the hell else would they be going?

“I know the way.  Turn left here.”

Dan obeyed, but he wondered how she could remember all the twists and turns.  He’d given up trying, and she had been scared witless.  Perhaps it had been some kind of autonomic response, a part of her brain that still functioned while her conscious mind froze in fear?  Whatever it was, she guided him as he drove along in the pitch dark, calling out directions authoritatively at each intersection and fork.  It certainly seemed that she knew where they were going.  But how would she know?

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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.