M. E. Lerman ~ Blackout

When a power line is downed in your neighborhood, one of the worst things to be doing is shaving in the shower with a straight razor.

Granted, it’s not as bad as standing barefoot in a puddle directly beneath the aforementioned power line, but it’s got to be in the top-forty list of bad options.

Sure, there’s being stabbed over and over with one of those right-triangle-shaped Ginsu knives, but since that’s nothing specifically to do with the power line being downed, I’m disqualifying it from the list.

I’ll start again.

While shaving in the shower with a straight razor, the lights went out. First I cursed my luck. Second, I contemplated where my predicament would rank in a list of the worst things to be doing when a power line is downed in the neighborhood. Third, I wondered whether I’d nicked myself when the lights went off. Fourth, I wondered when the lights would come back on, seeing as I was standing on a slick surface, surrounded by glass, in the pitch black.

I could’ve called out to my girlfriend to bring a flashlight, if I’d had a flashlight or a girlfriend. The old familiar sting of a shaving cut nibbled at my cheek. So, a flashlight and a Band-Aid.

After a few tries at reaching for the handle hiding in the all-encompassing shadow, I turned off the shower. I startled at the sudden humidity of my breath ricocheting off the glass door, and fumbled dumbly to open it.

“What a way to die, Robert,” I thought to myself nervously, “trying to escape a shower during a blackout.” Were there any statistics on this type of thing? Or is it like auto=erotic asphyxiation, the victim’s family always has the coroner list some euphemism to save face?

My mind blabber-mouthed on and on, the most irritating of backseat passengers to my body’s impaired driver. “The corner of the sink, watch out!” my mind screeched as I gingerly set my right foot on the bathmat, quick as molasses. “The edge of the bathroom door!”


That last one wasn’t my mind, it was way too calm.

Nearly forgot, and not to weird anybody out by drawing attention to it, but I was still naked. That’s half the problem right there. That’s why it’s “Naked and Afraid,” not “Semi=clothed and Afraid” or “Wearing Only a Bathing Suit Which Is Really No Different from Boxer Shorts So Why Do People Accept One in Public but Not the Other? and Afraid.”

“Robert,” the voice whispered again. Snakelike, no other form or timbre to it. Just a hiss in the dark.

No one hisses like that trying to be friendly. Certainly not any of my friends, probably not my hypothetical girlfriend.

Instinctively, I hurled myself forward to tackle the intruder. Part of me hoped it wasn’t real, that it was my neighbor’s TV or something, although then I’d have been leaping headfirst at the wall for no reason. My hope—that particular hope, anyway—was unfounded. I tackled—someone.

I flailed and clambered over the intruder like a turtle struggling with its shell stuck on a rock. I ran full-tilt, and with a loud crack, the lights turned back on. No, not the lights: I’d run full-tilt into the pantry door and was seeing stars. I fell back, propped up by the comforting cool of the granite kitchen counter. My hands searched and found the bamboo knife block. “Robert!” the voice hissed louder, gurgling, more phlegmatic. “Robert!” and it was getting closer.

My hands, fighting to stave off shock, settled on the thickest handle they could find. With a glint as it skidded out of the block, I could see it was one of those right-triangle-shaped Ginsu knives.

“Robert!” the voice whistled and bristled against my neck. “Face your fears!” So I started stabbing. And screaming. Not one of those masculine screams, either. And not just one scream. Imagine Adam Lambert hitting the high notes during one of his showier songs, while being attacked in the dark.

Speaking of which, each plunge seemed to be hitting pay-dirt: the first stab took some effort for me to withdraw the knife, but each successive time it got easier. So I was doing something right.

Incidentally—and again, not to weird anyone out—this part of the affair I found… no, my body found arousing. Should I not have said this? My hair was standing on end, too, and my heart was pounding. For my body, it was like a bench-clearing brawl, and not a member of the team was left out. That’s all I meant. But I was slightly jarred by that… materialization while stabbing.

Yet the voice didn’t shake or falter. “Robert,” it repeated. “You can’t kill me.” Most of my friends would call me a pathological cynic. I imagine my theoretical girlfriend would find my cynicism tiresome, but maybe that’s why I don’t have a girlfriend. Anyway, normally I’d take a little time to poke some holes in such a statement before replying. Without time, light, or clothes, I used my Ginsu to poke some more holes in the intruder. Leaning forward and forcing an awkward football scrimmage, I pushed him toward the window.

“Kill this!” I hissed back, wishing I’d have thought of something snappier, but still impressed I was holding my own in this situation. Better that than coming up with a trenchant one-liner but being killed in my own home. One more heave and I sent him crashing through the window. My shaving cut was joined by a few nicks from the glass shards, but you should have seen the other guy.

The other guy, incidentally, was now standing on the street in the rain, staring back up at me. What the hell? “Robert!” his voice reached up the ten stories to my apartment and gripped my throat, still as shapeless but ten times as loud. “Face your fears!”

Something distracted me, or rather, nothing did. My mind, never willing to miss a shot, mocked me, “The power lines are fine. Must’ve just been a short or something.” Then it noticed the ex-intruder’s bare feet, standing in a rain puddle.

First I was a tackle on the offensive line, now I was a quarterback. Doing some simple geometric calculations, I lined it up and chucked the Ginsu knife at the power line.


Kentucky-fried intruder. Aside from the occasional twitch, he was lying motionless in the street.

I quietly cheered my survival, although who was I trying to keep it down for? I let out a cackle, then noticed Linda walking down the block with her groceries.

Once I get some clothes on, maybe I’ll ask her out. A pang of fear prodded my ribs, but hey, there’s worse things to do on a night like this.


M. E. Lerman has been featured in the British Fantasy Society Journal and has also published in venues as diverse as HelloHorror, Blunderbuss Magazine, DM, and the Jewish Literary Journal. With a love for the arcane and archaic, he has a noted fondness for vinyl records, obscure musical instruments, Proust, and kitsch of all colors. He can be found in Rockville, MD, where he lives with his partner, Donovan, and their cat, Sa$ha, or at his site, thenewgodofhellfire.wordpress.com, or Twitter account, @NuGodOfHellFire.

Thornton Flora 3


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