Last night I put Mom to bed, and went off to my office to watch the season finale of Torchwood, a sci-fi TV series I’ve been following. Essentially, Torchwood is about a pseudo-governmental agency dealing with an interstellar rift or wormhole, one end of which is in Cardiff Bay, Wales, while the other end floats freely through timespace and attracts all sorts of unsavory creatures and items. It’s rather like the Hellmouth idea in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
In this rather silly episode, the rift has been fully opened, and a gigantic demonic creature has emerged and is wreaking havoc on the populace, as gigantic demonic creatures are wont to do, so the series hero decides to sacrifice himself by zapping the monster with bioelectric energy. The energy is building and building, the hero is getting weaker and weaker, the monster is screaming and flailing, and just as the electricity reaches its peak—
BOOM! The house shakes, the windows rattle, the lights go out, the smoke detectors go off, the computer’s UPS starts beeping, and Mom’s oxygen concentrator starts sounding its high-pitched alarm to indicate a loss of power. Something has exploded outside, very close by.
Clearly all that electrical zapping on television had rather far-reaching effects.
I gather my wits and go looking for a candle and matches, and go in to tend to Mom. First priority is to hook up her portable oxygen tank. Second is to check on the neighborhood. The street lights are on outside, and houses across the street have power, but I don’t see any lights next door (then again, everyone could be asleep; it was after midnight, after all). I figure a utility pole transformer has exploded. I’ve heard it before a few times, usually during thunderstorms when one gets hit by lightning, but never quite so nearby, and never on an otherwise placid night.
So I phoned Florida Power and Light and went through their endless automated system for reporting outages, then chatted with Mom and bemoaned the fact that we now had no air conditioning or fans — despite it being autumn, it was warm and still outside, and the air was very close (though not quite stifling) inside. I went off to bed; there was really nothing else to do.
About fifty minutes later, blinding lights and air brakes heralded the arrival of a large utility truck, and soon two workers were tramping around in the darkness behind the house with the sort of flashlight that can be seen for six miles. I quickly dressed and padded out into the wet grass to talk with them, and found that they had already identified the transformer in question, the one on the utility pole behind my next-door neighbor’s house.
“I’m guessing some kind of critter got into it,” the man with the light said. “A raccoon, probably.”
“You think it fried him?”
I explained about Mom needing electricity for her oxygen machine, and they said it wouldn’t take too much longer. Our home backs onto a canal (much of the town has a network of canals to accommodate the rainwater runoff, and it has the added benefit of creating some distance between neighbors), so they asked about the access point to bring their truck onto the easement along the canal. I went back into the house, listened to the truck’s crane going up and down, chatted a bit more with Mom (neither of us could sleep at that point), wondered if they discovered any fried raccoon remains, and waited.
About an hour and a half after the Big Boom, the house suddenly exploded back into life, and I ran around blowing out candles and turning off lights, then rejiggered Mom’s oxygen, kissed her good night (or good morning), watched the end of the Torchwood episode, such as it was, and went off to bed under the restored a/c and fans.
Of course, the soundtrack to the new Sweeney Todd film was playing over and over in my head while I slept: my own personal earwig. Nothing like a murderous Johnny Depp singing in your ear all night to ensure particularly vivid dreams of critters getting zapped — some of them cute and furry, others gigantic and monstrously evil — and all going bump (or boom) in the night.