A first draft of an opening chapter. All electricity is out. What happens Now?
|Where were you when the lights went out?|
3 April, 10:15 Am, Guild Tn.
Laura Jeffries was on her way to Atlanta. She had not filled up her tank before leaving Nashville and now the low fuel light was blinking at her. The next exit was just the other side of the bridge. The Tennessee River glided under her. She edged the car over into the exit lane. At the end of the ramp she turned left and half a mile down she pulled into the Riverside Bait and Tackle shop. She got out and went into the store.
Laura was dressed in what she thought of as driving clothes. Comfortable jeans, a loose blouse, and her favorite sneakers. She wondered why they had not upgraded to the “pay-at-the-pump” system that everybody else had. She walked to the cooler and got out a cold drink. As she was heading to the register the lights went out. She got up to the counter and asked about the gas.
“This happen often?”
“More than I like”
“Is there another station around here?
“Nearest ones would be down in Wildwood or maybe back up in Jasper. It’s about seven miles back up to Jasper and about ten down Wildwood.”
“I don’t think I can make it that far.”
“Why don’t you have a seat out on the porch? If it comes back on, I’ll come get you.”
“Any idea how long they will be out?”
“No way to tell. It could be just a few minutes or it could be hours.
Riverside was owned by Fred and Linda Johnson. They were both born and raised in the wide spot in the road known as Hale town. The store was not one mile from his childhood home.
Out side she heard two men trying to start their truck. They did not have any luck. She pulled out her cell phone to call her Dad. It was warm. The phone was dead and it was getting warmer. She set it in the car.
A boat out on the river was coasting to a stop. The traffic out on I 24 had all stopped. Laura sat down in the driver’s seat turned the key and tried to tune in the radio. Nothing happened. The car was dead. Something was happening. Something big.
Throughout the day people began to drift in from the highway. Most moved on some stayed. By evening Laura had given up trying to get to Atlanta. She made arrangements with the Johnsons to stay with them overnight or until the lights came back on.
3 April, 10:18 Am
A massive sunspot created an electromagnetic wave. The main power grids are destroyed. All alternating current has ceases to work. The EMP lasts for 3 days. Any electrical devise turned on during this time is fried. Only military grade vehicles and devices that are hardened will work and not all of them. That night the sky was lit up with something very much like the aurora borealis. The lights were there for the next three nights.
4 April, 8:30 Am, Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville Al.
I walked into the communications shop office. Joe Johnson was sitting at his desk. He looked rough. No one had been home for days.
“I’m going out to Pete’s. He has a couple of horses he is willing to loan out. I’ll be back later today or tomorrow”.
“Be careful. Take a couple of MRE’s with you. You want a canteen or something?”
“No. I have one. I am going to stop by the geek shop on the way back. Maybe they know something.”
Pete Davis and I walked out of the base and over to his place down near the river. What was a fifteen minute drive took us all day. His wife was mighty relieved to see us coming up the drive.
Pete was a sixty seven year old vet. He was tall and thin with bushy white hair. Martha met us coming up the driveway to their home. She was a plump little woman with bright eyes. They had an antique wood burning stove in his kitchen. She cooked our supper on it and our breakfast the next morning. He told me that when they bought this old farm house it came with it. They had talked about getting rid of it off and on for years. Now they were glad to have it. I thought a lot about that stove over the next few days. We talked late into the night about what was happening and what the strange lights meant.
5 April, 2013 7:30 am. The Davis Ranch, Huntsville, Al.
Pete decided to stay home. I rode away from them on a beautiful mare named Brandy. I headed back to the base. I had worked for the Space and Rocket Center for the last three years. After I got out of the Marines there had been few Jobs available for a communications technician. When I found out about an opening at Redstone for a civilian technician. I jumped at it. In all that time I had never given much thought to how far it was from my apartment to the shop. Or for that matter the distances I traveled every day. Yesterday it had taken us six hours to travel the roughly twelve miles out to his place. Today, on horseback, I would make it in just less than three hours.
I swung by the main research facility. I knew a couple of the scientists that worked there. The building was all but empty. In one of the second floor offices I found Marty Givens. He was an astronomer involved in one of the many programs that we just didn’t talk about. Marty always managed to look disheveled. At six foot 3 his clothes just seemed to hang on him.
“Hey Marty. How are things?”
“Pretty much shot to hell!”
“What do you mean, shot to hell? It’s just a power outage right?”
“No it’s not just another power failure! We got hit by the mother of all Sunspots. You see those lights in the sky at night? Well those are cause by, not just an E M P, but an electromagnetic wave. The power grids are all fried. Even if it stopped right now, there are not enough replacement parts to restore power to much of anywhere. Without power we can’t produce the parts that will be needed to get everything back up and running.”
“What do you mean “if it stopped “? Is it still going on?”
“You bet it is. Not only has it killed the power grids but as you know all the electronics turned on since it started are shot. Anything turned on until it does stop is going to fry.”
“How will you know when it’s over? When the lights stop?”
“When the alarm goes off and we all wake up from this nightmare.”
“I would say that when the lights are gone from the night sky it might be safe to try and start to rebuild. I don’t think we are coming back from this one anytime soon. Welcome to the dark ages.”
“Aren’t you just full of good news? What are you planning on doing?”
“There is a fallout shelter here on base that nobody is supposed to know about. I think I will try to get into it and then ride out the fall as softly as I can. What about you?”
“I don’t know. I think I need to go by the shop and let the guys know what’s going on. After that I just don’t know.”
I rode over to the Com. Shop. Joe was nowhere to be seen. I left him a note telling him what Marty had said. I warned him not to power up anything else until the sky was clear. I was thinking at ninety miles an hour. I just could not get my mind around the situation. Could it all really be gone? Could life as we know it be over?
There was just so much to think about.
I made up a kind of pack out of three cases of MRE’s .I tied it behind Brandy’s saddle .Then I cut across the golf course to shorten the trip back to Pete’s. As I came up to the base PX I saw something that brought it all home. A police officer lay dead in the street. He had been shot from behind. Whatever had happened here had happened quickly. I got down and looked around. His weapons had not even touched. As near as I could tell people were looting the base commissary and he had tried to stop it. What was weird was that there was nobody around. The place was deserted. I took his pistol and spare mags. I rode out to Pete’s without stopping.
“What are you planning on doing Bill?”Martha asked me.
Boy isn’t that a loaded question. The truth is I had no Idea what I should do. I knew that if I stayed there like they wanted I would be putting a drain on their limited resources. I also kept thinking about that wood stove and how lucky they were to have it. Bobby, my brother, would know how to use one. He is not just a history buff but a recreator of history. As a history professor, he helps to recreate the colonial era life style for his students . They not only read about it but on his farm they live it.