Written by Haisam Elkewidy
Because of how unusually frequent the outages occurred, we’ve accustomed ourselves to not be dependent on any light for guidance. At first, we wanted to cut off our addiction to electrical power, but, in trying to do so, we feared we might become immune to influence from any higher powers.
It had been two years since the Arab Spring. In the earlier months of 2013, power outages occurred anywhere from three to four times a day. It dramatically impeded operations for all Egyptians; from students to taxi drivers to employees. Even the state-of-the-art Uber vehicles, which recently switched from oil to electric power source, couldn’t have arrived at a worse time. There were reports, by word of mouth, on how the traffic came to a complete halt on the Ring Road, the Autostrade, and the Misr-Alexandria Road, because the electric cars no longer had charging stations that could continuously charge their contraptions.
Our own Leaf automobile got stuck in a narrow alley in Imbaba, where all the streets were rugged and the gridlock neighborhoods too clustered for many people to navigate at the same time. We left the car in its place and walked out to the corniche, watching the entire city of Cairo get cloaked in a shroud of inexorable darkness. We couldn’t see any light posts illuminating…well anything. Not a single human soul showed itself in this lonely night, and not even the moon dared to grace us with any sense of direction. This phenomenon had been ongoing for almost a week and, rather than trying to resist it, we chose to embrace it. There was a good reason why nobody else could see the other and the darkness wasn’t going to change that any time soon.
In resistance to the sheer incompetence of our electrical companies in bringing power back to the country, and to its people, we decided to wear black and camouflage ourselves in the void. We became one with darkness, and the entirety of Egypt hibernated into one of the most paranormal blackouts in recorded history. Word quickly got around of our purported ‘disappearance’, after nearly everyone else abandoned us. The airports were removed from the grid; nobody knew how to get there anymore. Crime ran rampant on the streets, as if The Purge became a reality. The authorities responded in frustration, trying to instill a ‘light’ of their own in order to ensure people lived a comfortable life. They did not realize that by adapting to our circumstances, we learned to create a new life for ourselves
In the distance, we heard the sound of engines churning near the houses. They started for a few seconds, then sputtered out from overexertion. We immediately concluded that there were power generators being installed somewhere. The sound alone horrified us; we squatted and scrutinized all corners in an attempt to detect their sources once more. Hearing their mechanical gears turning and the remaining fossil fuels trying to get them running again, we followed the closest power generator and tried to stop it.
Fortunately, someone else screamed out loud and started running towards it. We heard his voice, frantically rushing through the narrow alleyways to it. We chased him relentlessly, monitoring the technician’s footsteps and watching him swerve between buildings to get there. He eventually lost us at a four-way intersection, and while we stood there perplexed and trying to find him, we heard the generator churning much louder than before.
Upon hearing the source, we tried to get to the generator before it was too late. If the technician successfully powered it up, the entire city grid would burst alight one more time. Being photophobic, we would try to shield our eyes from these artificial lights only to succumb to their very whim. The vampires of the modern world would disintegrate with ease, and our Dracula would be no more at this point.
The technician pulled the chords quickly on the generator, spurring the gears and getting the oil running as efficiently as possible. Before we could pounce on him and try to push him away from the generator, the machine ran into full force and started to churn the energy needed to power up the grid. I diverted from the human target and leaped like a goalkeeper to the generator power button.
I raced against time to keep the sector in total darkness, and it felt like the city would bright up much quicker than I could get the generator to turn off. But even when I lowered the button, the lights continued to bright up the city. I discovered the generator was on a cooldown timer, triggered to shut down in about ten seconds.
If I couldn’t find refuge from the light then I’d get consumed by it, though I couldn’t say the same for the rest of Egypt…