Flickering Lights and Late Night Sleights

Submitted into Contest #58 in response to: Write about someone who purposefully causes a power outage.... view prompt



August crept down the sidewalk, trying his best to avoid lampposts and widely stepping around the multitude of puddles. He had never been one to follow rules, but his normal chaos involved being an everyday nuisance – setting off fire alarms, running his hands over every button in an elevator, cutting people off while driving, all accompanied by a biting wit if anyone worked up the nerve to talk to him – not shutting down the power in an entire sector of the city.

He doubted anyone would be surprised at this stunt, but it still gave him a thrill to step out of his comfort zone and try something new. New experiences are what make life worth living, at least in his humble opinion.

This plan hadn’t been in development for long, only about a week. Somehow, he had figured out how to pull it off. He had studied the city’s power grid, determining the best place to cause a malfunction that would lead to a power outage. He had closely monitored the weather, not believing the his good fortune to be pulling off a power outage when the sidewalks steamed in the day and the air choked its inhabitants with humidity. Sweat dripped down his torso as he trailed power lines, even in the middle of the night.

It was perfect. All he needed was the right trigger to set off a chain of events.

Thus, the walking, drenched in rain and sweat, in the middle of the night.

The local power plant was powered by a steam generator. He had a friend who worked in the plant who would let him in but assist him no further in his scheme. August had already hacked the plant’s security system and set a timer to remotely disable security footage. Years of wreaking havoc upon the world had taught him some useful skills. Once inside the plant, he would jam the generator, preventing it from spinning and creating power, and then make his escape.

Easy enough in theory, but this was his biggest plan yet and he knew the chances of him succeeding were slim. The immense risk would be more than worth it if he could manage to pull it off.

Scaling the fence around the power plant was easy enough and shimmying over the barbed wire at the top was only slightly nerve wracking. He jumped off the top and landed softly on the grass inside the perimeter. The mud was washed off of him before it could even stain his clothes.

His friend met him at one of the back doors and they shuffled inside. At this point all he could do was trust that his hacking had worked, and the cameras were disabled. August had done lots of research on power generation in preparation for this. Maintenance workers often plugged pipes in the plants’ steam generators to work on them, so he figured if he posed as a worker he could set his trap undetected. If everything went according to plan, he would plug up enough tubes to cause the generator to temporarily shut down. He would also, ideally, be far away before the rest of the workers realized.

A quick change of clothing and some sneaking around, and he was in the generator room. A large cylindrical tube rested at its center, its humming resonating through the entirety of the room. He made quick work of the tubes and sneaked out. There were few other people, and none of them stopped to question him.

August’s blood was thrumming with adrenaline as he left the plant. The rain was falling heavier than before. His feet splashed through the deepening water on the pavement. About a block away from his apartment, the streetlights flickered and went out. He dug around in his pocket and pulled out a small flashlight, flicking it on.

He smiled in relief.

Maybe he had hope after all.

He turned down a side street, heading away from his home. His feet picked up their pace, the steady lapping pf his shoes in shallow water becoming a frantic splashing. Before he knew it, he was running.

Sightless windows gazed down at him as he ran, thoughtless lamp posts lined the empty streets. The beam of his flashlight bobbed with his every step, but his burning muscles didn’t need it to know where they were going.

The driveway was empty when he splashed up to the house.

“Damn,” he cursed, mind racing. He had hoped he would make it in time. But the airport was only a few blocks away, and he could run fast.

And he had just shut off the power in the entire city on the off chance that he might be too late to the house. Hopefully the airport’s backup generators wouldn’t kick in too soon. He ran.

There were no cars out so he didn’t have to stop once on his way to the airport. He launched himself over the security checkpoint outside of the entrance, barged through the front doors of the pitch-black building. A few bleary-eyed people wandered about the tiled floors aimlessly, most too groggy to care that the entire flight schedule was delayed due to the power being out.

August scanned the room, looking for a familiar sleepy squint and stubbled cheeks and lips that always curved up ever so slightly, even when August wouldn’t explain why he was so distant, even when August stopped initiating dates, even when August slipped further and further into his insecurity. Those lips that always curved pleasantly, even when August came home reeking so much of alcohol he caught fire on a candle.

August always knew he wasn’t worthy of Ignacio’s love. He was a pest, a rebel, and painfully insecure. He never understood why such a radiant man would ever approach him, much less marry him. He did know that he ought to have worked to deserve that unconditional love, rather than slip into depression and alcoholism over the years.

It had been two years since Ignacio had lived under the same roof as August – two years August had been working to get sober, get a job, get better. When Ignacio had called earlier that week to tell August he was leaving, he had vowed to keep trying, and even though it might not be enough he would let Ignacio know he was changing.

Across the airport, a pair of eyes widened in surprise. Did you do this? The lightly curved lips parted in disbelief as Ignacio signed, then gestured to the lightless room. August nodded, rooted to the spot.

I miss you. August’s hands flapped in reply. He hadn’t pulled off something as big as this since he started drinking. He hoped the message was conveyed.

Ignacio stared at him from across the airport for what felt like an eternity. Slowly, he shifted, grabbed his suitcase, and began to walk towards August. 

September 11, 2020 20:43

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