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The Blackout

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Narromine, NSW Australia, 1983.

One summer night when I was twelve years old, our cousins came to stay at our home. The adults went out for the evening, leaving me in charge of the other four kids. There were five of us: our two cousins, my sister and me, and my brother (nicknamed Mog) was the youngest at about seven years of age.

We mostly watched TV and played Monopoly as the night passed, and later, a storm rolled in. It was not a particularly violent storm, but the youngest two were frightened by the thunder, wind, and the sound of the house groaning. A little frightened myself, I went through the house turning on every light in every room.

The entire time, I was picturing something black following and watching me, hovering just above and behind me as I walked from room to room. With my neck hairs bristling, I ran back to the others in the warmly lit living room, and as I sat on the floor the power went off. At that very moment, there was a bright flash of lightning by which we all saw each other, wide-eyed and pale-faced. It was a scene from a nightmare, and one of our cousins let out a soft high-pitched cry.

More lightning flashed and thunder cracked louder and louder. Occasionally the room was lit as if the morning sun streamed in, and we all saw each other in our fear. A real fear it was. Not just a childish fear of the storm and the dark, but the awful feeling I had earlier was on us all. We sat talking softly for a long time. The storm eventually calmed and the wind died down, but the house stayed dark.

Although there was still some lightning and distant rumbling, Mog decided that the break in the storm was the perfect opportunity to go to the toilet. None of us would go with him. He was terrified but bravely left the room alone. Within a few minutes we heard the toilet flush and seconds later, his bare feet slapping quickly across the kitchen floor and into the living room. He sat quietly on the carpet with us and I could hear him breathing heavily.

Another hour or so passed and the living room was suddenly lit from outside by the headlights of the family car arriving home. The grownups opened the door and came down the hall and into the kitchen where dad opened a cupboard and took matches and some candles. Soon the house was lit with dim, flickering light that threw dancing shadows up the walls and across the ceilings.

Our cousins left with their parents, my sister went to her own room, and my brother and I went to our room. As we lay in our beds falling asleep, he told me that on his way back from the toilet, there was a flash of lightning that lit up the hallway.

He described to me in great detail what he saw in that flash. The body of a little boy; dead and propped in a sitting position against the wall.

It was gone when another flash lit up the hall.

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