Today's Story by Erin Cole

We might as well learn to live without the flashlights.

The Dead Quiet

Electricity crackled and sizzled through the streets before it zapped into a ringing bell silence.

Portia looked out the window, at the unexpected stop of cars and the blackened streetlights. She bit the inside of her lip when the transformers popped bright with thundering shock waves. The sharp taste of metal wet her mouth. “Father, it is here. The end of the world.”

Reginald looked up from his crossword puzzle. A layer of dust had already coated the brim of his hat. “Then why aren’t we dead?”

“It doesn’t work like that.” She recollected the nightly news. “First, there will be famine. Then disease.”

“What’s a four letter word for cut?”

Portia searched through the blinds of the kitchen. “There will be fires and violence. Darkness will spread from streets to minds, instilling the people with fear and paranoia.”

“Chop? No, no. It has to end with a ‘k.’”

Portia paced an invisible figure eight across the linoleum. “We might as well learn to live without the flashlights. We don’t want to be dependent on them when the batteries go out.”

“Whack? No. That’s five letters.”

“Father? Do you hear that?”

“Hack!” His wobbly hand scribbled the letters into the box. He stretched out of his chair and grabbed his cane. “All I can hear is you babbling about our doom.” He skidded old, incompetent feet to her spot at the window. “Hear what?”

“The silence.” A fly crashed into Portia’s cheek, and she batted it away.

Reginald adjusted the hearing aid at his lobe. “All I hear are houseflies.”


But over a week’s time, the silence turned to dead houseflies. It was so quiet, that the empty stillness permeated the mind with riotous voices. Portia picked at her raw cuticle, keeping a watchful eye on the neighborhood. “Where are all the gangs?”

Reginald circled ‘disseminate’ diagonally in a word search puzzle. “Too bad the phones don’t work. You could call them up. Invite them over.”

“I thought there were supposed to be fires.”

“I think lighters still work. Go out back and start one.” His shaky hand traced slowly around the word ‘congregate.’

“You do not take this seriously, father. This isn’t how it was supposed to be. They said madness would ensue.”

“Oh, I think a bit of it has.”

A bright streak shot across the sky and lit up the living room as if a long-winded bolt of lightning cracked overhead. “Look!” Portia shouted. “It’s another storm.”

Reginald sat up in his recliner. Portia bounded from her chair and went to the window. Past the front yard maples, radiant beams of electricity wrapped tentacles of light above their cul-de-sac.

Electronics and machines, once ghostly dead, powered up abruptly and with a brightness that burned Portia’s eyes and stung her skin. The television clamored. The fan turned back on, along with the microwave, the washing machine, the air-conditioner, and the lights. As if possessed, appliances whirred with life again.

“What do we do?” Portia asked.

“Hell, just turn it all off!”

“That is a brilliant idea, father. That way, the gangs won’t know that we have power back.”

Reginald scratched his head. “O-kayy …,”

Without the motorized lift of his recliner, he had difficultly getting out of his chair, so Portia helped him up. Together, they sent the house back into a silent dimness, unplugging the cords, hitting the power buttons, and pulling the switches. When finished, they went back into the living room and listened. But the dead quiet wasn’t the same.


Erin Cole is a dark fiction writer from Portland, Oregon with recent acceptances and publications in the Boston Literary Magazine, MicroHorror, Aiofe’s Kiss, and Bards & Sages Quarterly. Last year, her paranormal short story, “The Wall of Never Doubt,” placed 10th in the Writer’s Digest 80th Annual Writing Competition, Genre Short Story Category.


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