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Novelist and Podcaster J.C.

Hutchins has launched a ground breaking creative project with his "7th Son: Obsidian" series. He has offered to extend the fictional world he created in the popular "7th Son" trilogy, and open the floodgates to other authors, podcasters and fans to create content based on a particular event in "7th Son" - A nationwide blackout. Here is J.C.'s challenge: "On November 19, 2007, the U.S. suffered a coordinated terrorist attack, and was plunged into a nationwide blackout. The country devolved into chaos. Power and order were restored two weeks later. You are invited to be a participant in that November 2007 blackout. I’m opening the gates and empowering you to create content that will appear in the OBSIDIAN podcast and YouTube experience. You can record video of yourself suffering through this mayhem. You can call a voice mail number and leave a panicked message, or a news report from the field. The blackout is real, and it’s happening now." Here is my contribution:

7th Son Obsidian: Love Thy Neighbor by Jeffrey W. Sass

Eight years. Eight years of living across the street from him. Eight years of staring out the window and seeing him. Eight years of watching him getting in and out of cars...watching him walking that mangy mutt of his and never once bending over to scoop the damn shit up. Never once!

Eight years of watching his carefree walks to the curb, dragging out the cans of garbage and bins of recyclables or picking up the morning Herald. Eight years. Eight fucking years and we've never had a conversation or exchanged anything more than a passing bullshit nod. Of course there was the time he called the cops on me because the dogs got out and were roaming the neighborhood. Ass. They were loose less than five minutes before I got them back in the house... but that was long enough for him to claim that my sweet Nellie attacked his mangy mutt. Bullshit. It never happened.

Sure, the dogs got out, but I was right there the whole time. He was out on his lawn walking the mutt and Nellie bolted across the street (luckily no cars were coming by.) He scooped up his pup so fast you would have thought a river of molten lava was charging toward his feet. I got to Nellie and grabbed her collar, huffing from the sprint across the road and exclaiming my apologies. He muttered some profanity and hugged his mutt closer. That was the extent of our one conversation. Until today, that is. Today we exchanged a few more words...

We are used to blackouts in Florida. Thanks to Hurricane season, a few days or even a few weeks without power is not so foreign to us Floridians. We get by. Lots of folks, including my dog hugging neighbor, have gas powered generators. They are the houses with a light on at night and the steady drone of the engine chugging along, along with the seeping smell of gasoline. It's always pleasant when your neighborhood starts to smell like the local Rookman Oil station thanks to the rows of spilling red gas cans lined up in the driveway to keep the gennie growling. Back when hurricane Wilma hit we didn't have power for eleven days. Eleven days I watched my neighbor like old faithful, schlepping gas cans back and forth from the corner Rookman, full then empty, full then empty, full then empty to keep his personal power station running 24/7 . God forbid he'd let me, his friendly neighbor, run an extension cord across the street to keep a few appliances running or charge my cellphone or maybe keep the food in the fridge from spoiling. Not him. Not a chance. So I chilled out in post hurricane darkness while my not so friendly neighbor sipped a chilled one from his

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generator powered refrigerator. What a selfish prick!

Of course, this blackout is different. This time there were no ninety mile an hour winds and fallen trees. This time there were nuclear warheads and explosions. No mother nature... just motherfuckers.

At first I thought it was going to be just like the others. An inconvenience. Okay, a pain in the ass, but not the end of the world. I was wrong. This time it really does seem like the end of the world. This time it really is different. After the Hurricanes, only certain areas were affected. If you had to, it wasn't so hard to skip town and find a nearby friend or relative whose neighborhood had power and maintained the normal and expected creature comforts. This time there was no comfort... anywhere. This time it was like a National hurricane. Everyone everywhere was hit. Everyone everywhere was dark.... It didn't take too long for things to get scary.

I could see it in the eyes of my neighbor, when, on day four, he came back from from the Rookman without his gas cans. It was a few hours later that the corner Rookman Oil Gas Station caught fire. The pumps had stopped pumping and a group of disgruntled "customers" started ramming their fume riding Fords into the idle islands, and trashing the no longer convenient convenience store. I was expecting an explosion. You know, the gas tanks and all. But it was really more of a big "pop," followed by the flames and thick black smoke. The trails of smoke are still decorating

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the horizon. Later that night I awoke with a start. Not because of a noise, but rather because of the lack of a noise. Somewhere around 12:30 am, my neighbor's generator stopped. I had grown so accustomed to the steady drone of his gas guzzling gennie that the silence after it died was deafening and woke me from my dreams of sugarplums and electricity. Ha. Welcome to the club, neighbor. Welcome to reality. Welcome to the darkness.

That was four days ago. Two days ago I stopped leaving my house. It was getting a little too crazy out there. I could hear the occasional screams. The breaking glass. The car alarms had ceased their irritating songs, but the distant sirens continued. I didn't want to leave my house, because I felt I needed to protect it. Protect my stuff. Protect me. But this morning I ate the last of my food. Well, the last of the stuff that was edible. I still have plenty of rotten shit. That last bit of cheese was probably rotten too, but the growling deep in my belly spoke to me and convinced me it was okay to eat it. The blue shit in bleu cheese is just mold anyway, right, so how bad could rotten cheese be? Later on, I was contemplating how I was going to survive

this mess, when I heard the steady banging of nails into wood. I looked outside. It was him, my neighbor. He was nailing plywood over his windows. I guess he was getting accustomed to the darkness since he was cutting off his only source of daytime light. Had the looting gotten that bad? Was a window more a liability than a light source? Shit. Then it hit me. My neighbor had had the generator. His food should still be okay. It was time for us to have another conversation. My dogs were

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long gone, and so was his for that matter. We could talk man to man, neighbor to neighbor. Let bygones be bygones and all that jazz. So I went across the street.

And so here I am, in my neighbor's house, for the first time in eight years. I didn't know what to expect. In truth, I hadn't ever given it much thought, but his house is plainly decorated and reasonably clean, especially considering the power outage and all. He must have used his generator to power his vacuum cleaner. It's dark, but he hasn't finished covering all the windows and the moonlight throws in enough illumination for me to make out a few odds and ends. We are sitting quietly in the living room. I raise my bottle in mock ceremony and thank him again for the luke warm beer, then put my feet up on the coffee table and look around. There is a picture in a cheap frame on the end table. It is him and a woman. He is much younger, so I am not surprised that I never saw her around here. It could be an old girlfriend or an ex-wife. Now that I think about it, in eight years I never saw a

woman with him or at his place. It was always just him and that mangy mutt. When did the mutt go away? I don't really know. I don't really know anything about him. Some neighbor I am, huh. For all I know, he is a lonely widower. I guess I should ask, but it is too late now to start getting all personal. I finish the beer and ask if he minds if I have another. I get up and go to the kitchen without waiting for him to answer. In the kitchen I poke around the drawers and cabinets a bit. He still has a decent supply of canned goods. A couple of bottles of supermarket wine, and at least another 6-pak of warm Bud. I find a couple of grocery bags under the sink, and I load

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them up. Tuna, baked beans, lentil soup, sweet corn and stewed tomatoes. Mustard, saltines, black beans, and even two cans of Chef Boy Ar Dee ravioli. Sweet. On the counter are his knives, protruding from a worn wooden block... just like in the movies. I think about it, but quickly realize it isn't necessary and would just complicate things. "You don't mind if I borrow a few things, do you?" I call out.

I walk back into the living room carrying the two loaded grocery bags and sucking on a fresh long neck beer. "Thanks, man. I really appreciate it. You're a good neighbor after all!" Walking over to him, I shift the bags and beer to one hand and reach out with my other. I pick up my baseball bat and wipe it against the edge of the couch, scraping off a clump of my neighbor's bloodied, matted hair, still clinging to a bit of raw-looking flesh. I head out into the darkness and quickly cross the street back to my house. ###

(c) 2008 Jeffrey W. Sass. All Rights Reserved.

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