‘Power cut’

Samira felt her way through the drawer in the fading half-light. Of course, as is always the case when you need to find anything fast, it was choked with useless objects that her babaanne had hoarded, in that resourceful way grandmothers do: ribbons, some kind of clock mechanism, thimbles, a bristly outdoor paintbrush. In there she could find only three candles, and she lit them all at once. Who knew how long it would last tonight.

All afternoon the thunder had grumbled here and there, like an upset stomach churning over the city. Like bombs too far away to make you scared. It was only when the pauses in between the vibrations shortened to nothing that she started to feel uneasy.

She pressed her face close to the cool glass of the window. The clouds were full with night, or rain, or both. Behind her the candles flickered in the dimness. Strange, she wondered to herself. There was never a draught in this stuffy house.

A grey shadow of a kitten skittered down the cobbled street. He should be curled up, she thought to herself, on a night like this. Suddenly there was a blue-white flash, then another, and then too many to count, and the rain began to come down, washing the cobblestones dark. People found shelter. Doors hastily slammed shut. In an instant, the city was quiet.

With nobody in the street to see her, she squeaked the stiff window open, just enough to press her nose to the wrought iron bars, and leant forward. Cool air rushed in, baptising her cheeks with a fine spray that bounced in from the leaking gutter just above. She welcomed the hesitant beginnings of the storm. Congratulated it for making an entrance, at last. Somewhere in a nearby alley, a pair of cats yowled and scrapped.

Not two minutes later, the rain came down in sheets, so thick it was rushing river-fast down the street, cascading thickly over steps, cornering like racecars on the track. It ran with the energy of blood from an artery, and it all came endlessly from above.

The night smelled of autumn, cold metal, stone in the shadows, birthdays. She realised it was the smell of candles, all blown out. Their smoke curled languidly towards her, escaping.