The other night the lights went out as though someone had flipped a switch which it turned out someone had. The power company had to do some maintenance so a crew had parked themselves up the road at the breaker box and just shut us off without warning. This type of thing happened all of the time ten years ago and we were hardened to it, we had our routine. The camping box was handy; the lanterns were charged and waiting; the fuel for the camping stove was full and we always had an extra canister. But the power company has virtually solved the power outage problems over the last decade and we’ve gotten soft so it was lights out; we didn’t know where to start. The darkness was total. We’d had a full moon the week before so the moon was waning and was only a sliver; not putting out enough light to cast anything in through the windows. It was so dark the air felt thicker than usual so that I could feel it like a film on my bare arms and the silence filled my ears until they felt stuffed. We made our way to the living room and laid on the floor to watch the stars through the living room windows. Without any ambient light they seemed to multiply the longer we looked. When the air began to chill from the lack of heat, we turned on our lanterns and made our way to our rooms. We brushed our teeth without water as our well pump doesn’t run without electricity. I picked up my pajamas from the chair where I’d left them that morning. However I didn’t shake them out as you are always to shake out clothes you’ve left sit out- a rule of life in the country, where there are a lot of things that might crawl into them. We took our lanterns to bed and set them on our nightstands, turned them off and crawled under the covers to warm up and go to sleep until the lights woke us up when they came blaring on in the middle of the night when the power would come back on. I was just about asleep, drifting lazily toward the deep sleep that is only possible when there is no light around the edges of things to disturb me, when I felt something crawling against my bare leg under the covers. I immediately began to thrash about beating whatever it was against the mattress with the flat of my hand until there was no movement then I scrambled to grab the lantern and pulled the covers back to reveal a spider, its legs shriveled in death, lying beside me. I flicked it onto the floor, turned off my lantern and let the total darkness envelop me again. I slept immediately and deeply until the lights came on a few hours later and we got up to go around the house turning everything off. It took awhile to get back to sleep then. Maybe it was the eerie green glow the clock radio cast onto the ceiling or the sound of the furnace kicking on every few minutes to heat the cold house. Whatever it was I didn’t sleep as I had during the outage.
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