Ted sat in his old armchair, staring out the window as the sun fell beyond the horizon. The sky was painted a wonderful redish-purple gradient, causing him to forget, just for a moment, the ongoing chaos. Taking a sip of his beer, Ted’s mind wandered back three weeks prior — to when the lights went out.
Three Weeks Earlier
Going to work for someone else wasn’t something Ted wanted to do with his life. He would dream often of a time when he could retire to a cabin in the woods and do the things he wanted; when he wanted. But for now, he was forced to play the game and continue the rat race.
The power went out while he was on a call with a high-value customer. Ted was just about to close the sale when the line went dead. Hanging up the phone he stood up from his cubicle and looked around. There were other people beginning to stand and look around as well.
“Take your seats,” came a voice from somewhere among the sea of fabric and steel walls. “The power should come back on momentarily.”
The voice was probably right. But, Ted had a funny feeling deep down in his gut. Something was different about this power failure.
After a few hours of waiting around, they were allowed to leave. Ted made the thirty-kilometer drive back toward his house. The whole way, he couldn’t help but notice there was not a single block with power. The whole city was dark. Clearly, this was more serious than a little power outage.
Ted stopped at the convenient store near his house. Walking inside he noticed there were a few more people gathered at the front cash register bickering over something with the store clerk. Keeping his head down, Ted walked to the back of the store and grabbed two cases of beer. On his way back to the cash he noticed there were a few cans of beans on sale. Fumbling with the cans and the beer, he managed to get them to the cash register. Ted noticed the people arguing were gone, as was the man working the register.
Ringing the small service bell next to a rack of candy bars, Ted looked around the store for the attendant. It was eerily quiet. He waited another ten minutes, poking around the store before deciding to give up. He left two twenty-dollar bills on the cash, took his beer and canned beans and headed back to his car.
Just as he was pulling out of the parking lot, Ted caught someone moving around the side of the store out of the corner of his eye. Whoever it was, they were lying on the ground next to a big green dumpster. Putting his car in park, Ted got out and went to see what the problem was.
“Oh fuck!” Cried Ted.
It was the store attendant who was quarreling with the other group of people. He was holding his neck, blood flowing out from between his fingers. The look of fear in the man’s eyes told Ted that he didn’t have much time. Ted bolted back into the store and looked around. He grabbed a few t-shirts from a rack by the door and darted back around the side of the building.
“Here, use this!” Ted moved the man’s hand away from his neck long enough to get the shirt against the wound. “I’m going to call an ambulance!”
Ted took his cell phone out of his pocket and swore under his breath. There was no service. The power must be out for the cell phone towers too.
“Hey, is there a landline inside?” Ted looked down at the man, hoping he would nod his response. Instead, the man’s hand fell away from holding the shirt and slumped to the ground. His eyes glazed over and Ted knew there was no saving him.
“What the fuck is happening?”
The next few nights had been horrible. Ted would wake every few hours in a puddle of his own sweat. He couldn’t get the look of the man’s eyes out of his head. Just the horrified look of that man, knowing it was the end as he choked on his last few breaths.
Now that three weeks had passed, it wasn’t as bad. Ted was sleeping a little better, but things were starting to worry him. He was running out of food. The only thing left was a few of the can beans he had picked up from the store on that dreadful day. What was he going to do when they were gone? He didn’t want to go outside into the madness. If people started going crazy like that after only a few hours, what were the streets like now after three weeks? How many people were out there without food, water, or shelter?
Finishing his beer, Ted stood from his chair and stretched. He figured he would have no choice but to venture out tomorrow and try and find some food. There were some things; toilet paper, water, lighters, and some other odds and ends he could trade. People might find that stuff valuable now that there wasn’t any more shipped in to restock the shelves. He would gather some stuff in the morning and head out.
Before heading up to his bedroom, Ted went down in the basement. He grabbed his twelve-gauge shotgun off the rack. He picked up a few boxes of shells and headed back upstairs.
Loading the shotgun on the kitchen table, he moved the rest of the ammunition over to the counter and took the gun with him upstairs. He had started this routine a few nights back. He didn’t want any desperate people thinking they could come in and have a look around while he had his guard down. It was actually helping him sleep a little better.
“Maybe the beer has something to do with it too,” he chuckled to himself, climbing in bed.
A crash from downstairs caused Ted to open his eyes.
Ted could hear the mumbling of low voices emanating up the stairs into his room. He quickly rose out of bed and crept to the landing at the top of the stairs.
“Sweet, I got three cans of beans. Let’s get out of here,” mumbled a voice in the kitchen.
“I couldn’t agree more. This B&E stuff really sucks,” said another.
“Oh no you don’t,” whispered Ted. He walked back into his room and grabbed the shotgun. “Not a chance you’re taking the last of my food!”
He quickly threw on his shoes and headed down the stairs and out the door after the unsuspecting thieves.
“STOP RIGHT THERE!”
Ted moved towards three younger looking men with the shotgun to his shoulder, pointing at the head of the closest guy as he moved in.