Collision Course III

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Ella looked out the window, sick of the same scene, the same commentary over and over on the television.  The sky, which just half a hour ago had begun to grow light around the edges, was darkening again.  She looked over to Tanner, who was being distracted by Sam rubbing against his legs, and for a moment she smiled.

“It must be nice to be a cat.”

He nodded.  “Especially one as spoiled as yours are.”  They were silent again for a moment, then Tanner added, “Hey, how about I make us some…” he trailed off as the lights flickered twice, then went out entirely.

It was then that Ella heard it.  Or rather, realized she didn’t hear it.  The sounds of the living city, banished to an eerie silence; no traffic, no horns, not even the distant sound of sirens.   Tanner put his hand on her shoulder.

“Okay, we knew this was coming, right?”  But his own voice carried an uncertain edge as well.

Ella got up and walked to the window, watching as the last of the light was blotted from view, like a curtain being drawn across the horizon.   With the whole apartment plunged into darkness, Tanner used his cell phone to find his way to the kitchen and started rummaging in her drawers.

“You still keep those matches in here, right?”  When she didn’t answer, he looked up, but couldn’t even see her silhouette now.  “Ella?  Ella!”

“I’m okay,” she finally answered.   Turning, she saw his face barely etched out of the dark by the blue-green glow. “Matches… right, yes.  In the drawer to your left.  I mean my left.”

“Okay.”  He took a deep breath and pulled out the box.  It seemed pretty light, and opening it revealed only about 10 matches left inside.  “Candles?”

“Candles.  Yeah, somewhere.  Hold on.”  She got her own phone out and dug into the hall closet, finding the box of Christmas decorations where some pillar candles got stored the other eleven months of the year.  Tanner put three plates on the counter, one for each candle, and they lit them all.  One had three wicks, and each was likely to burn for at least eight hours, and soon they had a warm glow in the apartment.

“That’s not bad.  Almost feels romantic.”  He smiled, but she only looked away.  “Sorry.”

Awkward silence, this time broken by the sound of a thump from the apartment next door.

Tanner tried again.  “So, what’s in the fridge?  I never got breakfast.”

Ella gave a little groan, remembering she had decided not to stop and get groceries last night.  She silently vowed never to procrastinate on getting food ever again.  “Not much.  Take a look, I guess.  Help yourself.”

“Well, I have stuff upstairs, too.  If it comes to that.”  He opened the fridge and poked around.  She hadn’t been kidding.  Cream cheese, half a bag of bagels, some wilted lettuce, various condiments, jam, and half of a chicken breast.

Her bagel, long forgotten in the toaster, was now retrieved and smeared with cream cheese and jam.  Another was impaled on a bamboo skewer to be held over the three-wick candle.

“Just like camping!” he proclaimed proudly as she nibbled at hers, though she wasn’t really hungry.  She pushed the other half over to him.

“We’ll split that one when it’s ready,” she said when he made to protest.   He gratefully took a bite, then, and stared at the flame.

“So, how long do you think it’d take to boil water this way?”

An hour later he abandoned that idea.

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