“Forty-Five: Fifteen”


Rain slit through the air. It stole the breath from the children, and wood burned to fight its wicked sting. Boots scurried, doors slammed. Everyone holed up inside to wait out the Forty-Five.

Natalie Wilson, Co-Editor

The generators above whirred into silence. Dark settled around the city, enveloping every life in a shivering cold. Rain slit through the air. It stole the breath from the children, and wood burned to fight its wicked sting. Clatters of windows being pulled shut filled the street, and the street after that, and the next. Boots scurried, doors slammed. Everyone holed up inside to wait out the Forty-Five.
It had been 400 years since the sun died. Luckily, scientists has planned its simmering death to a tee nearly 100 years in advance. There was prep work for what felt like generations. First was the bubble. Everyone pitched in, spraying the distributed serum into the air where it floated about until it clustered with its own kind and soon, evened out to a state similar to a bubble, a gentle, liquid barrier hugging the earth. No one really knew how it worked, but the Pack told them to do it, so they did.
Then came the heat stations: Factories popped up at every block, smokestacks jutting from every angle. Their sole purpose was to burn coal and fossil fuels for the sake of warmth. They crackled fires and moaned when the bubble shook, another phenomenon still unexplained.
All of the remaining electricity was divided amongst generators mounted to every tenth rooftop for street lights and water mills that filtered recycled water into barely-drinkability. But it was better than nothing. Most everyone understood the intent of the sacrifice was that they got to keep living. Of course, they missed the comforts of in-home electricity, but the generators ran pretty well, so there wasn’t too much to complain about.
Things ran smoothly for almost 300 years. Everything had been planned to maximize utility of the remaining resources, but the Pack couldn’t convince families to stop breeding. Children born in the Pack Era went on to have grandchildren of their own. The population grew, with no technological means to support it. Water was the first to go. Fortunately, the Pack had the sense to distribute the supply evenly amongst households, so everyone knew what they could and could not waste for the sake of keeping their family alive. That closed down many hospital labor wings.
About 20 years after the water came the heat stations. Resources were running dry, and the smokestacks sputtered instead of spewed. Heat no longer radiated from their metal exteriors, but rather trickled into the air in the occasional warm breeze. Oil rigs were drilled, coal was mined, everything possible was put into action, but people had been wasting limited fuels for thousands of years before and left modern life with nothing but the scraps. Heat was running out, and people clouded the stations, desperate to catch a passing warmth.
Worst of all though was the generators. About ten years ago, the generators that were expected to last a good while longer began to spark and short-circuit, some even completely exploded and took the lives of the building beneath them. They were a flaming mess, and soon, the Pack had to control the threat. Rather than running electricity to them 24/7, there would an hour of light followed by ten minutes of darkness. People revolted, screaming in the streets that they couldn’t be expected to carry on life as usual stumbling around in a haunting pitch black state. What they didn’t know was that life had been as usual in hundreds of years, and ten minutes was just the start. Because the plan worked and generators started failing at a much slower rate, the Pack cut it down to half an hour of light, half of dark. People began to train themselves to seek shelter when the generators began to moan, and no one’s privacy was sacred. It was an understood mannerism for strangers to bust through your door at the sound of the dark settling in. People grew closer as a whole, and everyone did what they could to stay alive and help those around them.
It wasn’t until last year that the Pack implemented the Forty-Five: Fifteen ratio: forty-five minutes of dark, fifteen of light. They promised this method was the only way to keep the remaining generators intact for a few more generations, knowing that everyone understood an end had to come at some point. People were desperate to keep the old ways, but they didn’t really have a choice. The Pack had been thinking for them since the sun began to flicker, and they couldn’t stop it now. So they suffered. Everyone shivered for what was now the majority of their lives in the hope of fifteen minutes of dim light, if their street’s generators even worked at all. The unfortunate just bumped around in the blind. But it was better than nothing. It was better than death.
Death didn’t have fifteen minutes of light. Death didn’t have anything. People hung on to what little they could, praying that science would reveal a new energy source, but knowing all the same that it would not last forever. No more children were conceived on purpose, and accidental pregnancies were terminated. No new cries were heard, no new minds given the chance to save humanity. And so, when the last generator finally cut, only a few were left in the dark.