avatarKaren Schwartz


The Lights Go Out Around the World

A night of reflection

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I stared blankly at my husband, but I’m sure he didn’t know because neither of us could see. Tonight, the lights went out. Just like that, poof! Each lightbulb popped, and suddenly, we found ourselves in complete darkness. I wish someone had warned me; I’d have brewed a pot of coffee.

That was the first thought that came to mind. Not what’s the cause, or how are my adult children? Faced with this tantamount issue, coffee is what I thought about because what better way to solve problems than with a caffeinated mind?

What I do in a crisis always surprises me. How I determine what matters to me most is eye-opening and changes each time. I used to be someone who left their apartment every time there was a fire alarm, and they sounded often. Sometimes, I’d grab my purse and computer; other times, it was my wallet and personal files. My priorities were never the same, except for my pets. Whatever animals I had accompanied me out the door. I always found it fascinating that no trip out the fire escape or front door was ever the same.

A month ago, I was having a procedure under anesthetic. Only ever having been put under three times in my life, I was understandably worried. What if I didn’t wake up? In preparation, I called my daughter and asked, “Madelaine. You have a copy of my manuscript for my children’s picture book, don’t you? In case I don’t make it.” My daughter snickered at the end of the phone. She was used to my anxiety and took my phobia in stride.

“What are you asking me?” she pressed.

“The pictures and story are on Canva, and I invited you to share it with me. Don’t you remember? Anyway, I’ll send it to you in an email.”

Madelaine laughed. Then she said, “Mom, that’s what you’re worried about?” Her question gave me room for pause. It was an interesting focus for someone who might have been living her last night. Still, the book was to be my legacy, and I didn’t want it dying in its tracks if I met my demise.

Typically, I spend my days worrying about everyone else. Are my children and grandchildren comfortable, and are they safe? But when faced with my mortality, my priorities go askew. But tonight, I have time to think as I sit in the darkness. If for no other reason than to take stock of my life, I’m taxed without power or light.

It’s unreasonably quiet. How far-reaching is the blackout, and how long will this stillness last?

Ed takes my hand and leads me to the bedroom, and before we know it, we’re enjoying skin against skin as we put our worries aside and welcome an evening of intimacy long overdue.

Shortly thereafter, there’s a knock. It’s my family. They’re here to celebrate with us. I’m in seventh heaven. Without technology, what better way to pass the time than to spend it together, laughing and reminiscing?

We muse, what if tonight, the entire world sits in darkness?

Snapping back to reality, I wait for our eyes to adjust. I’d like to offer my children coffee, but I can’t. If only I had thought to make that pot.”

This is Part-reality/Part-fiction: Can you tell which is which?

This response is to the prompt: The lights go out around the world.

If you’re looking for this and the rest of this month’s prompts, The Challenged’s got you covered.

Here are the participants and supporters of the pub’s challenges. Please show their stories some love. (Please let me know if you want your name removed from or added to the list. Either is easy to do, per your request. All you need to do is ask in the comments or a note.)

Adrienne Beaumont, NancyO, Randy Pulley, The Sturg, Harry Hogg, Susie Winfield, Vidya Sury, Collecting Smiles, Trisha Faye, Bernie Pullen, Michelle Jimerson Morris, Paula Shablo, Brandon Ellrich, Ravyne Hawke, Pat Romito LaPointe, Karen Hoffman, Vincent Pisano, Michael Rhodes, Bruce Coulter, Rachella Angel Page, Pluto Wolnosci 🟣, Lisa Guard, Dixie Dodd, Adrian CDTPPW, Leigh-Anne Dennison, barry robinson, Jerry Dwyer, Jennifer Dunne, Lynn L. Alexander, Keeley Schroder, Julia A. Keirns, Ruby Noir 😈, Emma Vincent, Frances A. Chiu, John Welford, Deborah Joyce Goodwin (Red:The-Lady In Blue), Misty Rae, Jessica Morgan, Tooth Truth Roopa Vikesh, Patricia Timmermans, Maria Rattray, John Hua Technology ☕️, John Hansen, Linda Fode, Zaq Cass, Eva MacInnes, Monica — Will Write for Mangoes, Sharon Meyers, EdD

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