Lights Out by David Henson

Around dusk, two men and two women in yellow jumpsuits force their way into my house. They claim to have guns and warn me not try to stop them. One ties me to a kitchen chair. 

The four spread out on a ransacking binge. One comes back and puts my phone, tablet and laptop on the table. She yanks the lone landline out of the kitchen wall.

I hear them going through drawers in the bedroom. I expect them to come back with Lucy’s jewelry, but they don’t. 

One of the men returns with the four or five flashlights and a few candles we have scattered around the house. He also has a bunch of spare batteries.

He pulls out a knife. A big knife. OK, this is it. Thank God Lucy’s visiting her sister. I close my eyes. 

“Potatoes?” he says. 

I open my eyes. “What? You … There are some frozen fries, I think.” 

“Don’t be funny,” he says. “Real potatoes … spuds.”

I tell him to check the pantry. 

He finds the few russets we have and cuts them into chunks he grinds in the garbage disposal. I have no idea what he’s up to, but at least it’s not pieces of me going down the drain. 

Then the fellow takes the flashlights apart, unscrews the little bulbs and crunches them underfoot. Memories of a fourth grade science experiment flash through my mind. 

The woman with the wire cutters comes in from the garage. “That’s done,” she says to the guy then waves the clippers at me. “Circuit breaker panel.”

I nod toward the basement door. 

She goes downstairs. After a few moments, the refrigerator stops running, the digits on the microwave disappear and every light in the house goes out. The woman comes back upstairs. “We’re done here.”

One guy arm-scoops the stuff from the table into a burlap sack. Another unties me. And off they go.

I don’t move, partly out of fear, partly because I’m trying to understand what’s just happened. When my nerves unjangle some, and I realize comprehension is beyond my grasp, I go to a front window. It’s almost night, but every house and streetlight is dark. There’s no city-glow tainting the horizon. I make out crews of yellow jumpsuits getting into panel trucks and driving off. 

When I see people congregating in the street, I join them.

“Shouldn’t there be sirens?” someone says. I imagine battery cables being cut in every vehicle in the city.

“Look.” A woman points at the sky. It’s a new-moon, star-flooded night. I haven’t seen such a sight since I was a kid spending the summer with my grandparents on their farm. 

We all stare at the Milky Way and are in awe. At least I am. 

After a few moments, a voice whispers “Wasn’t there a full moon last night?” No one seems to know. 

David Henson and his wife have lived in Belgium and Hong Kong over the years and now reside in Illinois. His work has been nominated for Best Small Fictions and Best of the Net and has appeared in various journals including Gone Lawn, Fictive Dream, Pithead Chapel, Moonpark Review, Fiction on the Web and Literally Stories. His website is His Twitter is @annalou8.