Emily was in the back when the store went the power went out. The lights in the dairy section lingered for a brief moment before they died and the store fell into complete darkness.

She stared in confusion, momentarily unable to comprehend this sudden loss of sight. As she head the cries of panic and confusion from other shoppers, her mind clicked into place again.

“Just when I thought this day couldn’t get any better!

She stood there, half-gallon of milk in one hand, waiting to see if this was just a hiccup in the power grid. When the cold seeped through the plastic and started making her hand numb, she fumbled the milk back onto its shelf. She’d have to call Aaron and tell him she’d have to try another store.

She reached into her pocket and swore. She checked her other pockets to no avail. Her phone was in her purse, which she’d left behind when she stormed out.

Her eyes had adjusted to the dark by this point, but the simple truth was that hardly any light to see with. The rows of shelves were vaguely defined shadows. The aisles themselves impenetrable darkness.

Using the cereal shelf as a guide rail, she started moving. She knocked over a box or two on the way, but soon she made her way to the front of the store where a large crowd had formed.

Something seemed off as she looked out the large windows, but she couldn’t place her finger on it. The sky outside was a dark blue as the sun set behind the store. She could already see a few stars above. Headlights stood out sharply in the dimly lit parking lot as half the cars tried to leave at the same time.

“No, we don’t have any power here, either,” a woman said, half her face lit up by her cell phone. At least a dozen more people were also on phones.

Realization dawned on her and she looked out the windows again. The streetlights in the parking lot should have been on. The shops across the street were dark, too. The only light she could see was the endless line of headlights.

 

Aaron pulled her into a hug the moment she’d stepped out of her car.

“Your phone’s on the table,” he told her.

“Yeah. Sorry about that. What’s going on here?” At least a dozen people had gathered outside the apartment complex. Tables and chairs had been set up, with candles burning on cheerfully on them. A man stood over the communal grill while another held a lantern for him.

“Impromptu potluck. Maria even gave me the milk to finish the salmon.”

“Who’s Maria?”

“Our neighbor two doors over.”

“We have neighbors?”

He laughed. “Apparently for three years now. Funny how a massive power outage can shake things up a bit. Come on, let me introduce you.”

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