first chapter of my new (untitled) book

Photo courtesy of CleanTechnologies.ca

It was a Friday morning. I was hung-over and still in bed. I looked over at my alarm clock, which was flickering from, bright to dim. It said 11:01AM. My room seemed eerie and quiet. I sat on the edge of my bed staring at my flickering clock. I hit it a few times with my hand and then unplugged it. I thought perhaps it might be a fire hazard.  My iPhone beeped telling me I had a text message. I ignored it and sauntered into the kitchen to make myself a much-needed cup of tea.  When I opened the fridge door it hit me like a ton of bricks; the calendar on the fridge. Today was Friday December 21st 2012”.  Suddenly I felt a knot form in my stomach. Today was supposed to be “the day”, the end of the Mayan Long Count calendar. I looked up at the clock on the wall, which now said 11:09. I looked in the mirror and whispered, “calm down, it’s all hype. It’ll be fine. It’s just a day.”

A few months ago I had talked to some friends about this and we had all agreed to get together and be together during this time “just in case”. It was half joking, half serious. But here I was alone, completely oblivious to the days date. I started singing the Star Spangled Banner for some reason. I think it made me feel better. The kettle whistled and I heard the second hand on the clock move into position, which seemed louder and more pronounced than ever. I turned around slowly to see the time: 11:11AM.

And it was at that moment that my lights went out.

“Oh shit” I shouted.

My cat came into the kitchen and stared at me in a way that I have never quite seen him look before. He began yowling ferociously at me, staring at me in desperation – expecting something from me. I poured some food into his dish and gave him some water. He didn’t go near it and continued on yowling at me. “Oh gawd I wish I understood kitty language” I thought to myself. I picked him up and cuddled him into my chest as he continued on. I also noticed the birds outside. They were chirping fiercely and loudly and seemed to all be gathered in the tree in my front yard. I opened the front door and looked up at the trees. There were mobs of birds in every tree as far as the eye could see. I have never heard so many birds chirping at one time. I looked up at the sky and noticed it was a beautiful magenta colour with flecks of pink and the clouds were moving at an astonishing pace. Perhaps this was what the birds were chirping about and my cat was yowling about. It did seem strange.  I went back inside to make my tea, unsure of how to process these occurrences, but not wanting to let my imagination run wild with apocalyptic wonder.

My cat was sitting rigidly on the windowsill staring up at the sky intently. He was agitated and on alert. His tail was all fat and spikey, like the way it looks when he is threatened by another animal. I stood and stared at him for a minute wondering what must have been going through his mind. This was all a little too close for coincidence. Conspiracy theories and mean tricks starting running through my mind as possible “triggers” for the power outage… But that didn’t explain the sky or the birds.

I looked at the clock again to do a time check. It was now 11:35AM. So the big 11:11 time had come and gone, and I was still standing here in my kitchen alive looking at my cat. But on the other hand, the lights did go out at 11:11. I played tug of war with my mind going back and forth between coincidence and reality.  I decided that the best thing for me to do was sit down and enjoy a cup of tea and just be in the moment with my tea before resorting to complete and utter panic mode. As a writer, my mind tends to wander into the depths of extremity at times and this was one time when I desperately wanted to avoid that type of thinking.

When I finished my tea I reached for my phone. I was surprised that no one had called to tell me about their power going out, which made me wonder. Maybe it was just my power. Maybe everyone else was fine and the outage was restricted to my block. I pulled my phone out of my purse and hopped to my feet to look out the window one more time. The birds were still congregating in all of the treetops and the sky still looked purple and pink. I noticed that I had no bars on my iPhone, which was weird because I always had stellar reception in my neighbourhood. In fact, people always commented on it. My stomach twisted and turned and I suddenly felt that there might be something bigger at work here.

I am not sure why the iPhone was the trigger for this and not the power outage, the birds, or the pink sky. I guess I was trying to keep my thoughts from destroying me. I got a bit panicky and ran to the back room to get the house phone (which I never used).

The line was dead.

No dial tone.

A couple of tears escaped from my eyes as I worried about getting in touch with my family. I opened my MacBook to check my internet connection knowing that there wouldn’t be one. But I still had to be sure. It was at this moment that I felt the magnitude of whatever this “thing” was hit me like a wrecking ball to the chest. In my 34 years on this planet I have never known a time without a working phone line and in my later years – a working internet connection. I was a GenXer – a wired entrepreneur who thrived on Facebook, Twitter, texting and WiFi. Sure I remember what it was like before these things existed, but I got used to them, and I liked them. This outage was huge, whatever it was. It brought back memories of the big Black Out of 2003; the second largest electrical blackout in history. But this one was different… The sky looked weird and the animals knew something that the humans didn’t.

Accepting that this was way bigger than I had initially thought, I decided to grab my keys and go for a walk in my neighbourhood. Some of my neighbours were outside on the sidewalk talking. I could tell by the looks on their faces that they were as scared as I was. I walked over and introduced myself:

“Hi, I’m Jane. I live at #117.”

“Hi Jane” said one woman as she hugged me and sobbed into my shoulder “I’m Mary.”

“This is pretty strange huh? What do you make of all this?”

The other woman (who’s name I didn’t know) jumped in and said “I think it’s some sort of solar storm. I think it will pass. We knew something was going to happen, and here it is. We have to be careful not to panic.”

Mary glared at the woman through soggy eyes and said “My son is in Africa and I have no way to get a hold of him.”

We all stood there in silence for a moment as some strange noises came from the sky above. It kind of sounded like what you hear when you lasso a rubber skipping rope around in the air quickly.

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