Power Failure

-by Brian McCurdy

[GREG.G]: Is anybody listening to me?

[TECHY]: I DON’T KNOW WHAT LIFE IS. I DON’T CARE EITHER.

[STAR]: great attitude, techy

[GREG.G]: What’s everyone talking about?

[MISSY]: hey Techy…How can U live your life if you don’t understand it?

[TECHY]: I DON’T KNOW

[MNS]: Greg G? You still their?

[CYBERBOY]: anybody get that new DEATHMASTER game?  It’s soooo cool!!!

[GREG.G]: I’m right here baby

[MISSY]: No, by I want it—BAD!

[MNS: good. I haven’t heard from you in forever. I was starting to get worried.

[GREG.G]: Just been busy with work. I’m still here.

[TECHY]: DEATHMASTER, BIG DEAL!

[GREG G.]: In fact, I’ve got something to ask you.

[STAR]: u haven’t been here for awhile, have you?

[MISSY]: Whatever, Techy. Your just jealus cause you don’t have a life.

[MNS]: What is it, hon. Sounds important.

[CYBERBOY]: Your all stupid!

[GREG.G]: You know how much I care about you MNS. So I just want to ask you…will U marry me?

The screen and all the lights around him went dark. Greg stared at it for a moment and seemed not to be thinking. His eyes moved from the dormant computer screen and he saw nothing but darkness around him. All the power in his room seem to have failed.

“Damn!” shouted Greg. He was just about to propose to MNS after weeks of debate. Everything was almost perfect, and a power failure had to ruin it all. He has no way of knowing her answer now.

He stared out his window at the twilight. The houses lining the city street seemed dead. They’re usually alive with the flickering of computer screens and the chatter of televisions, he thought. It must just be a local power failure.

“Hey Greg.” His roommate said, entering the darkness of the apartment. “Guess you know by now. The power’s out all over Philly. Guess I’d better find a flashlight.”

“Well that’s just fabulous. I was just about to do it, Mark.”

“Do what?”

“Propose to MNS,” Greg whined. “ I finally found her on the Internet, and the power went out just after I asked her. Now I won’t know her answer. Damn!”

“That sucks,” Mark said.  “Well, you could just call her.”

“I could if I had her phone number. I only have her E-mail number and that isn’t working. I can’t fax her or voice mail her either, “ Greg said.

“Why didn’t you ever get her phone number?”

“Never needed it. The Internet was always just easier,” said Greg.

“I know what you mean,”  Mark said. “Well, where does she live? You could go see her.”

“MNS lives in the Northeast. But I have her address on disk. That’s where they all are. I think I remember the street, but there’s no way to check.”

“MNS…what’s her real name, anyway?” Mark asked.

“Ummm…I don’t know. I never needed to know. But now I need to find her.”

“Yeah, you do,” Mark said. “Tell you what: we’ll go up to her neighborhood and look around till we find her.”

“We?” Greg asked.

“Yes, we. Someone has to keep you out of trouble.”

Ten minutes after searching their darkened apartment for coats, wallets and keys, Greg and Mark were waiting at the nearest bus-stop.

“I really wish one of us had a car at times like these,” Greg said.

“Sure, but they aren’t very practical in our area. Here comes the bus now.”

Greg got on the bus and gave the driver two dollars. The driver seemed to scowl at Greg. His electronic register was broken and he’d had to make change in his head all day.

“That’s 35 cents change, right?” the driver asked.

“Let’s see. It’s $1.25, so…” Greg’s lips half moved, signifying his strenuous thinking. “I think I should get 27 cents back.”

The driver and Greg both sighed. Mark checked his watch and the other passengers grumbled as the driver added the amount up, using the change as an abacus. Greg sat down in his seat with 25 pennies jingling in his pocket.

“I really hope they fix this power failure soon,” Mark said as the bus stumbled along the streets. “I don’t know what I’ll do without the computer.”

“How did anyone ever live before they were invented?” Greg said, with his eyes glazed over. “I mean, how did we amuse ourselves before?”

“I don’t know. Probably reading.”

The bus driver honked the horn as the bus drove through an intersection with blacked-out traffic lights. The bus nearly hit a van, and the van’s driver gestured at the bus driver. In city street, after city street, no one could be seen. Everyone was staying inside, staring at their sleeping computers and TVs. Silent Philadelphians stared at deserted streets as the bus crept sporadically through the darkness. Greg and Mark got off at Montague Street.

“This is her street,” Greg said. “Now, we’ve just got to find her house.”

“Let’s see,” Mark mumbled. He stared at the addresses on the row homes. “What short addresses. No dots or slashes in them. Just numbers.”

“Mark, this isn’t E-mail.”

“Oh, I keep forgetting. Well, I guess we’ll just start knocking on doors.”

An elderly woman answered the first door the two knocked on. “Yes, she asked apprehensively.

“Um…this may sound weird, but is there anyone there who goes by the code name MNS on the Internet?” asked Greg.

“Internet?” the woman asked. “No, there’s no such person here.”

“Thank you ma’am,” said Mark as the woman quickly closed the door.

“Doesn’t know what the Internet is?” Greg asked incredulously. “What rock does she live under?”

“Oh, she’s just old. She probably still uses paper.”

No one answered the doors of the next two darkened homes the men knocked on.

“Can I help you?” asked a woman who answered the third door.

“Yes, hi,” Greg said and smiled. “We’re looking for a woman who goes by the code name MNSon the Internet. Would you by chance know her?”

“Actually, I do. I’m good friends with her. Talk to her all the time. She lives at 319, up the street. Do you know her, too?"

“You might say that.” Greg smiled. “I proposed to her. I need to get her answer and what with the power failure, this is the only way I can.”

“Oh my God!” said the woman, whose eyes lit up. “This is wonderful! She’s been waiting for this.”

“She…she has?” Greg asked.

“Yes. She’ll be so happy!”

“Well, we’d better get going,” Mark said to her. “Thanks for all you time!”

Greg and Mark almost ran down Montague Street, looking for 319. They found it, and saw it was lit from inside by a faint glow of candles. She was home. Greg knocked on the door. “Honey, it’s me. MNS, are you home? I need your answer.”No one answered.

“She must be home.” Mark said.

Greg knocked again. “MNS? I know you’re home. It’s me, baby. I need to talk to you!”

“Still no answer. Maybe you should just go in. She might be asleep.”

“Alright. It’ll be a nice surprise for her, “Greg said.

Greg and Mark entered the house through the unlocked door. Several candles scattered around the living room barely made a dent in the unnatural darkness. Things were scattered around as if someone had just been in the room.

“She must have been here,” Mark said. “No one would just leave all these candles burning.

“MNS?” Greg called out. “I know you’re home, hon. I need to talk to you. I need your answer.”

They started upstairs, taking one of the candles with them. The second floor was much darker than the first. It was less obvious someone had been upstairs, but the two men heard the distinct sound of restrained breathing behind one of the doors.

“MNS?” Greg asked again, with no response. He knocked on the door and got no answer, and then went in.

They had only gotten a few steps into the bedroom when they heard a gunshot. The bullet just grazed Greg’s shoulder and he cried out.

“Greg!” Mark yelled in the alarm. He saw by the light of his candle that Greg wasn’t seriously hurt, but was bleeding and slumped over the bed.

“Greg? Greg G?” Oh my God! I didn’t know!” screamed a woman  who emerged into the light holding a shotgun. She bent over Greg, nearly crying.

“MNS?” said the wounded man, weakly.

“Yes, Greg,” she said. “Oh, I’m sorry! I thought you were a burglar, honey.”

“You are MNS?” Mark said, aghast.

“Yes. Oh, I feel terrible. If I’d known it was you, I never would have…”

“Oh, it’s alright, MNS” said Greg. “I’ll be fine. Just a flesh wound. By the way…what’s your real name, anyway?”

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