by Becky Bain
(Originally published in the 'zine Within the Crystal Rose, Vol. 5, under the title "Star Light, Star Bright," using the pseudonym of Anna Gerard.)
Using the tiny beam from the penlight she carried in her purse, Catherine managed to get her door unlocked and stepped into the dark apartment. Dropping her things on a chair, she found her battery-powered radio and turned it on. The still air in the apartment was heavy and oppressive, so she moved to open the balcony doors while she listened to the announcer describing the blackout.
All five boroughs, plus neighboring portions of Connecticut, New Jersey, and Long Island were affected by the power outage brought on by peak demand on this scorching July evening. A major malfunction at one of the power plants compounded the problem. But, the announcer promised, they hoped to have electricity restored within the hour.
"Good," Catherine muttered, stepping outside in the hope of finding a breeze. She stood at the railing and looked down.There was no moon. The pervasive blackness was pierced only by headlights of the cars below, and even those were few; most people were staying indoors.
She glanced up and gasped, staring at the sky for a full minute before turning abruptly and hurrying to her front door. A sudden thought made her go back to the kitchen; she returned seconds later with a flashlight in her hand.
Moving at breakneck speed, she clattered down eighteen flights of stairs with only the flashlight's bobbing beam to guide her. In the basement, she made her way quickly to the far side, pushing boxes aside to clear the doorway to the tunnels. Scrambling down the ladder as quickly as she dared, she began to run.
Vincent had sensed her urgency and met her halfway.
"I'm glad you're here," she gasped, seizing his hand and tugging impatiently. "Hurry, there's not much time!"
Puzzled but indulgent, he let her pull him along to one of the Park entrances. They emerged into the sultry night and Catherine pointed upward.
Vincent raised his head dutifully and caught his breath. He had never seen so many stars. Head tipped back, he moved in a slow circle, overwhelmed by the splendid sight.
"It's beautiful," he whispered in wonder.
Somewhere, far away, someone threw a switch. The city's lights came on, and all but the brightest stars disappeared.