Flash Fiction Friday – The Power Outage

Two days. Two days without power was all it took to destroy their perfect relationship. Looking back, of course, they could see it was perfection based on a lie, as perfection often is. But the two days without power brought every lie to the forefront, and when they could no longer turn away, distract themselves from the truth, the only thing left was the bare bones of their relationship. And even the most stubborn connection—formed between two people who were determined to make it work—could not have survived the onslaught of stress and grief brought about by darkness.

The whole city suffered, really. The power went out, and the people were left in the dark. At first, some made fun with it. Rooftop barbecues, radios with batteries and the good company of friends and neighbors could be heard on many streets. But by day two the looting started. Before something like this happens, people like to take the high road. They say they would never stoop that low. But when opportunity presents itself, a new TV is only a stone’s throw away. And since everybody is doing it…

They sat in their living room, listening to the sounds of the city. They heard a party on a nearby rooftop day one, and they heard glass breaking and shouting from the street outside their apartment on day two. Neither said a word. Neither had anything left to say. They had said it all—loudly—on day one, when they realized they couldn’t stand each other, when they realized the separate beds they bought two months ago didn’t happen because he snored, or because she liked to sleep sprawled out, but because touching skin on skin was repulsive to them, had become repulsive a long time ago.

In the corner of the room, the TV sat dark, their distraction, the thing they had used to convince themselves their relationship was worth fighting for. After all, they liked the same shows, she sometimes enjoyed watching him play video games, wouldn’t that be enough? It wasn’t. When the power went out, it wasn’t.

It hadn’t always been like that. When they first married, it was wonderful, but new marriages usually are. It’s the feeling of freshness, really; it’s the sense that you’re creating something new, and wonderful, and great, and something that will never, ever, ever die. After all, the love you share is perfect in every way, isn’t it? Isn’t that what you said in your vows? Isn’t that what you told each other your wedding night?

Things deteriorated, as age is likely to do. It isn’t that they chose to fall out of love, or even that they saw it happening. They just grew into a sense of complacency, and they saw the truth about each other, the things they had always known, but never truly saw. He ate too loudly; she spent too much time on the phone. When he wanted to go out to eat, she didn’t feel like it; when she wanted to go to the movies, he was too tired. They always had their shows, though, and curled up on the couch, a glow emanating from the plastic box on the far side of the room, it was just enough to convince them they could stay together, they could make it work.

On day two, as the last lit candle in their room burned down, neither of them made a move to relight it, or grab another one from the box. In their depression, the darkness seemed fitting, almost desired. He couldn’t remember what caused the fight the previous day; she wouldn’t remind him. It wasn’t really important, looking back. It was the inevitable conclusion to the years of numbness that had polluted their complacent existence.

“I’m tired,” she said at last, cutting the silence that had settled over them for nearly 20 hours.

“Go ahead,” he replied. “I’ll sleep out here. Maybe when we wake up, the power will be back.”

“That’s not what I meant,” she whispered.

“I know,” he answered.

Outside the window, a light flared up as someone threw a couch onto a bonfire someone started in the middle of the street.

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