The winds were picking up outside and the rain was tapping harder when the power went out. The storm though, had started weeks before. We flickered candles to life about the house and made jokes about the old days and how they always lived like this, and how the TV was overused. All the streetlights were out and I wondered whether a car had ran into an electricity pole. Looking through the window, the night blurry, rain on the glass, my wife sat at my side, holding an unopened newspaper and trying to find the best place to put the melting candle.
Steven had remembered he had a torch in his room and, without any provocation, had gone searching for it, giving us updates on where he was looking. His girlfriend, Sarah, was asking herself whether she’d wound her car windows up as the rain fell louder on the roof, drowned out Steven in the other room. After he had burned his fingers and found his torch he was standing in front of me, flashing it on my chest and pretending it was a light sabre, making humming noises and swinging it around his head. Sarah searched for batteries for her old forgotten walkman, just to have something, and Steven asked if I wanted to go and find out what caused the blackout. The two of us gathered into big raincoats and jumpers and went out into the increasing noise on the roof, like an expectant crowd tapping on their seats. Louder. Louder.
The windscreen wipers on full, and still water gathered quicker than the arms could return. The road shined in our headlights, and we searched, slowly, for a tyre marks off the road. Me shining the torch out the side. Steve flicked to high beam, and we saw more rain falling like heavy bubbles, everywhere in front of us. I waited for the panic of hazard lights, shining through. Steve talked about accidents he’d seen before.
It was coming round a corner that we saw red tail lights for the first time that night. A car that was not moving, and suddenly our search, that we had taken to entertain ourselves, felt different. Felt wrong. Steve said Jesus and pulled over nearby. The rain hammering the roof, and us sitting inside. The torchlight searching.
At home I imagined my wife and Sarah were talking now, talking about the things that me and Steve had done. Talking about how stupid it was to go searching for a car accident on one of the worst nights they could remember. Maybe my wife would talk about how in her childhood she used to make houses out of blankets during storms. How she used to lick her fingers and put a candle out. How she’s worried because she might have cancer. Maybe my wife would talk to Sarah about doctors and white rooms and the smell of clean hospital beds. My wife might make jokes about the whole thing, and she’d laugh, but not really. They would share secrets and cry, while Steve and I are out here in the water, feeling it run its fingers down our jackets, and stepping over guard rails to motionless cars.
Steve takes the torch from me and slides, slightly, down the grass, leaning his hand on the car we’ve found. He searches the light through the windows, peering in, giving me updates on his progress, maybe to mask his fear. The electricity pole is one of the old wooden ones, the ones that are being replaced to stop this sort of thing happening. Better someone crashes into concrete, than thousands of people lose their favourite show for the night. It’s lying beside the car, the front bent up like a Coke can. Steve has gone quiet, tapping quietly at the window.
I wrench the door, hard, on the passenger side, the water sticking my hair to my head, and running down my spine, giving me a feeling like I’ve been swimming. We’re up on a hill, and below the city lights are shining like reflection of the stars that are not there. With the dashboard pushed up against me, I try to reach the driver, who is bleeding and broken. Trying not to cut myself on the jagged metal, I take her arm and drag her in my direction, her long hair flicking at my face. Steve is still talking, but he rain is drowning him out again. Or I don’t want to hear him. I slide the driver across the passenger seat, her clothes quickly drenched in the rain, and I lie her onto the grass, check her vital signs. Steve is saying where is the driver? I touch her neck and put a hand in front of her lips, her blood on my fingers, mixing with the wet. But I feel nothing. Nothing but rain.
Back home, my wife is wondering where I am. Wondering what is taking so long.
The skies close up slowly, and the water stops falling, and I wonder if she is drowning, the driver. Drowning being the best way to go, apparently. Just at peace. Taking in a deep breath, having water fill your lungs, because you have to breathe something. Then you’re gone. I wonder if she’s gone. Wipe the hair from her face. Steve is yelling, where is the driver? Shining his torch across the grass and distance. I tell him she’s over here and stand so he can see me. Steve flashes the torch over quick, onto my waving hand. He says, ‘where?’ and slips down the hill towards me. On the ground, I see my wife, lying in wet, smiling up at me, her eyes closing slowly. The torch light flashes onto her face, and she is gone. Nothing. Steve says, ‘where?’ and I smile, her face in my mind when I close my eyes. I tell him ‘nowhere.’
Water drops onto my hand and wind blows cold onto my neck. The rain, and maybe tears, feel the breeze. Another drop touches, though it is not rain. It is not water. Snow. Steve is standing beside me, and I look up at him, see the snow falling around his body, an outline in the night. Like the stars are falling towards me.
At home my wife is crying. At home my wife is waiting. Always waiting.
I tell Steve that they must’ve already left, and he nods, looks up at the snow. He shines his torch up at the falling stars, highlights them on their clumsy flight. The wind whispers through the nearby trees, blows them into different directions around us. I tell Steve thanks for being around, tap his leg. He pats my soaked head, helps me up the hill again. We sit in the car for a moment, look at the car and the electricity pole. And the stars on the ground, lighting up the towns below.
The white is taking over, and we roll along back to the house. I don’t try to explain to Steve what I saw. I don’t try to explain it to myself. At home I put my arms around my wife and kiss her neck and she says, ‘no, go take a shower and get some dry clothes on’ and holds herself tight, trying to avoid getting wet. I tell her I love her, and she smiles back, knowing exactly what I mean. I tell her don’t worry, and her head fits under my chin perfectly. She closes her eyes in the flickering light.