Electricity prices have risen by another 30% in the last 24 hours, the country is at risk of shortages but the government assures that the supply will be assured for the population…
Another power cut, it’s the third one this week.
Only now, it’s 7pm and it’s already dark in this month of November.
Elise takes her phone out of her pocket, looks at the battery level – 22% – and launches the “Lamp” application to see more clearly.
She tries to put the power back on the fuse board but nothing happens.
She looks out the window, the whole neighborhood is in the dark.
She throws herself on the couch and scrolls through the endless stream of social media posts to pass the time, waiting for it to come back on.
She almost forgets about the power outage, sitting on the couch, in the dark, her face lit up by her phone.
KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK.
Elise is startled.
Nobody ever knocks on her door.
She turns on the flashlight on her phone, checks the battery level – 11% – and heads for the door.
She sees a small silhouette and light through the window.
— Good evening Elise, I came to make sure you were okay and that you had everything you needed?
It was the young retiree next door, a woolen jacket over her shoulders, a candle in her hand.
Elise felt a little guilty for a brief moment, thinking that maybe she should have gone to the neighbor to see if she was okay…
— Yes, thank you very much, everything is fine, I think it will come back any moment.
— Good, good, the neighbor continues, but you know, I had my son on the phone, he works for the power company and he told me that the blackout will last until tomorrow morning at least, …
Elise is surprised and frustrated.
— They said on the news that there would be no prolonged blackout and that everything would be done to ensure the supply of the population, said Elise repeating the announcement of the presenter on television.
— Because you still believe what they tell you on TV? her neighbor cut her off gently.
Elise glanced at her phone and looked for more information on the official website, but there was no mention.
— I brought you a candle just in case, the neighbor continued, handing her a brand new candle.
In doubt, Elise takes it.
— Do you know if Mrs. Clément across the street has any candles? Maybe I’ll take some to her, the neighbor continued without waiting.
— No, I have no idea, answers Elise.
— Very well, I am going to see her, take care of you, good evening! finishes the neighbor by going towards the house across the street.
Elise closes the door and puts the candle on the table before throwing herself into the sofa.
For more than half an hour, Elise has been looking for information on her phone about the power cut but without success. She sent a few messages here and there to complain to her friends but no answer.
Suddenly, her phone displays a warning message: Phone battery level has reached critical, please charge your phone!
Elise pesters on her couch, helpless as her phone shuts down before her eyes.
She is now in the dark.
She becomes aware that she is hungry and thirsty.
She thinks about the candle on the table.
She gets up, and as best she can reaches the table, having knocked over half of her furniture in the process.
How can she not know the interior of her house?! she grumbles.
The candle in hand, a sudden doubt invades her.
Does she have something to light it with?
Elise feels like she is in a reality show where she has to survive on a deserted island.
In the dark and the cold, she had to leave her house, cross the garden, grope her way to her neighbor’s house, scrape her rosebushes, trip over her steps and knock over two garden gnomes.
Fortunately, the lights inside the house allowed him to find her way, more or less…
As she knocked on the door, she heard loud laughter.
It is the neighbor of earlier who opens to her.
— Elise! Is everything all right? she asks with a big smile on her face.
— I am sorry to disturb you but I have nothing to light …
— Come in, come in, the little granny interrupted, showing her the dining room where half a dozen people were seated. We are having a little aperitif, she says to her with a wink, I have a little homemade apple juice if you want, you’ll tell me about it!
Elise discovers a large wooden table with beautiful candlesticks and the glow of candles that illuminates smiling faces all around. Judging by the faces of some of the guests, the cocktail party has already started.
It is the husband of the neighbor who welcomes her at the table by showing her an empty chair.
— It is the young neighbor next door, he says to his guests while continuing with the presentations. You will take a small something? He asks her warmly.
This power cut will have lasted 3 days.
The following ones at least 2 consecutive days, at least once a week and so on all winter.
All the activity of the country was disrupted.
Trains were at a standstill, the city’s electric bus network was interrupted, internet outages were frequent.
The whole neighborhood was organized with the neighbor’s house as headquarters.
During the blackouts, meals were eaten together, and “sleepovers” – as her neighbor liked to call them – were organized, where neighbors would gather for the nights in the houses that had heat. Everyone contributed their resources and surprisingly no one felt the shortages.
Elise had had a hard time adjusting at first, so used to her digital life, but by necessity she had stopped watching TV and spending time on the internet on her phone and computer.
At first, she had a feeling of withdrawal, like a drug addict who didn’t get her daily fix. She was bored in this disconnected world. As soon as the power came back on, she tried to catch up, but her frustration grew with each new disconnection, not knowing how long it would last.
Then something inside her snapped. She no longer needed to “know”, to follow “the news”, to be “connected”.
The only connection to the world was through those who could and should continue to maintain essential, government-mandated services. They were the ones who reported the news.
Despite the circumstances, Elise felt less stressed, more relaxed, more connected to others in the real world.
She had rediscovered a taste for conversation, for “talking from the heart” as her neighbor said. During her long talks while preparing food with the neighbor, she had shared things that they had never told anyone, much to her surprise. Tears sometimes punctuated these conversations and hugs very often ended them.
Elise had started reading paper books again (!), she also read stories to the children at night instead of watching TV and even started drawing again.
Sometimes, during the famous sleepovers, she would sit in a corner and draw the scene.
For her neighbor’s birthday, she gave her a drawing of the Christmas party where the guests were playing cards by candlelight. Her neighbor was so touched that she framed it and put it over the fireplace.
Elise had felt such joy in seeing her neighbor’s reaction at that moment, such warmth in her heart, that she had cried, as if she were finally coming home after years of absence.
Elise had discovered a new family, just a stone’s throw from her home, but above all she had woken up to herself.