Of Storms and Crumpets
Jordan was woken suddenly by a loud crash of thunder. His room was illuminated for a split-second by a violent flash of lightning, followed soon by another rumble that seemed to shake the very foundations of his home.
Someone- most probably his father- yelled a warning, and his door was thrown open. A stressed-looking white Wocky flicked on his light and ran into his room.
“Jordan! Get up!”
“Wha-what?” the red Kougra spluttered, rubbing sleep out of his eyes. “What’s wrong, mum?”
The Wocky grabbed his paw and pulled him out of his bed. “Get some clothes on. Don’t bother changing, put them over your pyjamas.”
Jordan wrenched his paw out of his mother’s. “Why? What’s happening?”
Slamming open his wardrobe door, the Wocky pulled out a jacket and some thick slacks. “Put these on. There’s a storm. We may need to leave.”
Now that he listened, Jordan could indeed hear the sound of a fierce wind rattling the windowpanes as it ripped around the house. Rain fell in torrents across his window and another lightning flash illuminated his room. The light flickered for a second before coming back on. Feeling panic rising in his chest, Jordan grabbed the slacks and pulled them on over his pyjamas. “Where’s Jade?”
“Your father’s getting her. Hurry.” The Wocky pulled his boots out of his cupboard and helped him into them while he struggled with the jacket. “Get some spare clothes, too.”
The Kougra obeyed, grabbing a handful of whatever happened to be in his closet. The wind picked up in intensity, howling around their home. Outside there was a loud crack followed by a crash as a large branch broke off from a tree. The Wocky grasped Jordan’s paw and pulled him from his room and into the corridor.
“Here!” Another door was pushed open to admit Jordan’s father and his twin sister, Jade. Both were wearing clothes that had obviously been thrown on hastily. “Emmeline, take the kids. I’ll get a torch.”
Emmeline grabbed the small pink Wocky’s paw and pulled her close while Jordan’s father ran towards the storage room. Lightning flashed again, along with an almost instantaneous thunder clap that shook the house like it was a cardboard box. The lights flickered and went out with a dull moan. Jade screamed, and over the ruckus of the wind and rain Jordan could hear his mother ordering them to stay calm.
There was a flash of yellow light, and a tall brown Kougra appeared in a doorway, holding a torch. “Alright. To the front door. Stick together.”
The family ran through the house, Stefan leading the way. Their normally cosy home was transformed into a ghastly nightmare by the howling winds and dancing yellow light of the torch. The furniture took on a sinister, other-worldly aspect, and the family portraits seemed to glare at them from the mantelpieces.
They reached the front door and Stefan pushed it open. Instantly they were buffeted back by the ferocious wind and icy rain. Lightning lit up the sky, showing for a second the trees that surrounded their house. The branches were being whipped around like they were nothing more than paper, and the trunks were bent at an impossible angle.
Even as they stood in the doorway, drenched with rain and ruffled by the wind, one of the larger trees that stood by the front of the house creaked, groaned, gave a long shudder, and was uprooted and hurled, crashing, to the ground.
Jade screamed and Stefan pushed his family behind him. If it had fallen over the house, the giant tree could have easily crushed them.
“No good!” Stefan called out over the howling wind. “We can’t go out! Too dangerous!”
With an effort the brown Kougra pushed the front door closed again, and hustled his family into the kitchen as thunder rumbled through the air.
That night was the longest Jordan had ever known. Their family huddled together in the corner of the kitchen, where the structure of the house would be the strongest. The wind rose to a furious, howling, unstoppable gale, stripping branches from the trees and tossing the rain about in sheets. Lightning and thunder came frequently, and rain fell against the window in waves, blurring their vision of outside. Jade was crying from fear, and even Jordan felt tears prick his eyes as he clung to his parents.
Stefan was silent, staring out the window gravely. It was cold. Jordan was thankful that his mother had insisted on his putting his boots on; if she hadn’t, his feet would have gone numb by now on the cold tiles. The hours dragged by excruciatingly slowly. Jordan might have dozed off; he wasn’t sure. Whether he was awake or asleep, all he heard was the screaming wind, the drumming of the rain and the crash of falling trees. Stefan had turned off the torch to save power, and the room was doused in thick, suffocating darkness.
Some time in the early morning, while it was still dark, the wind abated and the rain thickened. At last the lightning and thunder stopped, and soon all that could be heard was the incessant drumming of rain on the roof. Jordan, exhausted by fear, finally fell into a deep sleep, and didn’t wake up until after morning.
It was actually very hard to tell it was morning. The rain hadn’t stopped and thick, dark clouds shrouded the sun, blocking out light. It looked more like dusk than sunrise.
Stefan stood up, shaking awake Jade as he did so. “Everyone’s okay? Good. That was a night and a half, at any rate.” The tall brown Kougra looked tired, like he hadn’t slept at all, and his dark eyes were strained with worry. “We’re all safe, and that’s the main thing.”
Jade, as usual, went strait to the most important issue. “What’re we having for breakfast?”
Stefan, with difficulty, restricted his laugh to an amused snort. “Food. Just be grateful we weren’t all squashed last night.”
Jordan discovered that he was hungry. Instantly, unbidden images of warm crumpets lathered in honey crossed his mind. Impatient to have some proper light, he crossed the room and flicked the light switch.
The red Kougra gave an annoyed grunt, and flicked the switch a few more times. Still no response.
“The power’s out,” Stefan noted as he gathered up the bundles of spare clothes they’d brought.
“What?” Jordan asked as he thumped the light switch in annoyance. “Stupid Virtupets. Why did they have to cut power just when we needed it?”
Emmeline shook her head. “It isn’t Virtupets’ fault, Jord. The storm must have knocked down a Virtuline. It looks like we’ll be having cold cereal and fruit for breakfast.”
Jordan felt a horrible sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach as his dreams of warm crumpets faded. “Can’t we just wait until they fix it?”
“You might be waiting a while,” Stefan said.
“Surely not more than an hour?”
“That was a fierce storm last night. Our house won’t be the only one without power. It might be a few days until they’re able to fix us.”
Jordan’s face fell as the full implications of his situation dawned on him. “But what about Neovision?” he wailed.
Jade frowned at him in what she obviously assumed was a mature way. “Don’t be such a brat, Jord! I can go without Neovision for a few days.”
“But... but...” Jordan’s mouth vainly tried to convey his anguish. “But, what about Neovision?!”
“Talk about a one-track mind,” the pink Wocky grumbled as shoved her paws into her jacket.
“That’s enough, you two,” Stefan said firmly. “Emmeline, would you mind getting us some breakfast? I’ll have a look over the property and see what the damage is.”
It was almost an hour before the brown Kougra returned, drenched from the rain that was still falling in a heavy stream. Emmeline had sliced some fruit and added it to bowls of cereal, and Jordan was still bemoaning his lost crumpets.
Shaking the water out of his fur, Stefan sat next to his wife. “Well, the house is still in one piece. Two trees are down: the big one by the front of the house, and one a little way behind us. All in all, we didn’t fair too badly. The yard’s a bit of a mess, though.”
“That’s to be expected,” Emmeline said gently as she pushed a bowl of crumpet-free fruit and cereal in front of Stefan. “Did you see where the power was down?”
“No, but I went to have a look down the street, and there were some Defenders, checking that no one was seriously hurt. They said that, because of the extent of the damage, it might be late into next week until they get all of the power up again. So, everyone,” Stefan said somberly, “if you want a hot shower, have it now. The water will have gone cold by tomorrow.”
Jordan was snapped out of his crumpet reverie instantly. “WHAT? No hot water? Neovision was one thing, but this...!”
“Calm down, Jordan,” his mother said. “We can’t do anything about it at the moment. If we go too long without power, we might boil some water over the fire.”
The lack-of-showers announcement seemed to hit home to Jade more than anyone else. She stroked her glossy pink fur anxiously. “But I can’t do that! My beautiful coat would be ruined!”
“Well then, get used to dreadlocks,” Stefan said dryly. Obviously thinking her father was serious, Jade let out a small sob.
“We need to prepare ourselves,” Emmeline said, taking her children’s empty (and still crumpet-devoid) bowls to the sink. “It gets dark early this time of year, so unless we plan to go to bed at six, we’ll need candles.”
“And we’ll have to wash our dishes by hand, too,” Stefan said. “And that’s not even going into the clothes.”
Jordan felt his face drop even further as he realized just how dependant on VirtuTechnology he’d become. No Neovision, No VirtuWasher, no games... combine that and a lack of crumpets, and he was seriously considering suing someone for traumatic damage.
Stefan finished his breakfast and stood up to help Emmeline with the washing up. “I’m afraid you two are going to have to stay in the house for the next few days. It’s too dangerous out there. The weewoos won’t be able to fly in this weather either, so neomail’s out as well.”
“WHAT?” Jade shrieked. “You mean I can’t talk to my friends?!”
“That’s right,” Stefan said steadily. “You can’t.”
“But what am I going to DO? This place is, like, so totally boring!”
“Oh, I’m sure we’ll find plenty for you to do,” Stefan replied crisply. “The whole yard needs cleaning, for a start.”
Jade whimpered but didn’t bother retorting. Jordan just moaned.
- - -
Emmeline straightened up, holding two half-burnt candles in her paws. “This is all we have,” she sighed. “We’ll have to get some more at the shops when it stops raining.”
Stefan nodded somberly. “Though, with this much of Neopia Central out, everyone else will undoubtedly have the same idea.”
Jade perked up suddenly. “I’ve got an idea. Wait a minute.” The pink Wocky jumped up and ran down the hallway. Stefan and Emmeline exchanged looks and shrugged.
“Do we have matches?” Stefen asked, not to be deterred from the checking of the stores.
Jordan raised an eyebrow. “Enough to make a fire out of?”
“Shush, Jord,” his mother chided. “We have enough wood to last us for a few days.”
Stefan was frowning. “The main problem, though, is food. We can survive on fruit and bread for a few days, but what about the food we have in the fridge and freezer?”
Emmeline’s smile disappeared faster than a symol down its hole. “I didn’t think of that.”
Jordan flinched. With no power to keep the food cool, and no way to cook it, it would undoubtedly go off. He was distracted from his depressing thoughts by his twin sister, who returned suddenly and explosively, by throwing a fistful of brightly coloured, scented objects onto the table.
“I found them!”
Jordan wrinkled his nose. “What... what are those things?”
“Candles, Brainiac. Aren’t you glad I hoard items, now?”
“But they’re pink!”
Stefan laughed. “A candle by any other colour will still burn as well. Now we have our lighting issue resolved.”
“I don’t suppose you can power Neovision by candles?”
Jade punched her brother’s arm. “One of us must be adopted, I’m sure.”
“I thought you looked a lot like an alien.”
“Ha, ha. Very funny.”
Eager to break up the spat before it matured into an all-out war, Stefan stood up. “It’s still raining, so how about we relax a bit?”
“Great, we can watch some Neovision,” Jordan quipped sarcastically. “And maybe we can cook some crumpets to eat, as well.”
“Despite your best efforts to prove it, life does not revolve around Neovision,” Stefan said sternly. “There are other ways to have fun; most of them more mentally stimulating than veging out on the sofa.”
“Like what? None of the games work without power.”
“Don’t be so sure about that,” Stefan said mysteriously as he walked to an old cupboard that was home to countless years worth of unwanted Christmas presents. Pulling it open he rummaged around for a few seconds before pulling out an old rectangular box, which he dropped onto the table.
“Hungry Skeith Board Game,” Jordan read. “Aw, come on, Dad. You don’t honestly expect us to play THAT?”
Stefan smiled at the box fondly. “When I was a boy, we used to play this all the time.”
“I’m sure you spoke in grunts and caught your food with wooden clubs, too.”
Stefan cocked an eyebrow. “Well, it’s either we play this game, or we spend the next two hours cleaning your bedrooms. Fyora knows they need it.”
Jordan and Jade glanced at each other and shuddered. “Okay. We’ll play the prehistoric game.”
It didn’t take too long to set up, and soon the family was sitting around the table, engrossed in moving their pieces around the board. Stefan won the first game, but after that Jade and Jordan ganged up against their parents and won the next two. At noon, they stopped playing and Emmeline pressured her children into helping her prepare a lunch of sandwiches.
The rain lessened a little after lunch, and Stefan went out again to get a more complete picture of the damage while Emmeline and the twins washed up and started a fire.
Stefan came back mid afternoon with little new information. Thousands of neohomes were without electricity, and the emergency services were working as fast as they could, but if the weather continued to be unfavourable, in could take almost a week to get everyone up again. The brown Kougra dropped a newspaper on the table. Neopian Times, Issue 300, was scrawled over the front in golden script.
“The newspaper’s having a field day, of course,” Stefan said. “The worst storm Neopia Central’s seen in over a hundred years, they say.”
Emmeline flipped through it briefly, stopping to read an article on being prepared. “They have some good advice here. Clear up debris in case there’s another storm tonight, check on your neighbours, and be careful not to eat food that’s gone off.”
Stefan nodded. “We’d better get started on the cleaning bit, then.”
The afternoon was accordingly spent outside, securing everything in case the bad weather returned. The ground was soggy but at least the sun had come out, and by the end of the hour they’d cleaned all of the broken branches around the front of the house, gathered them into a pile beside the garage, and tied down anything that could be blown away. Tired, wet and dirty, they trooped back into the house.
The fire was still burning in the fireplace, and Emmeline put a pot of water on top to heat up. In a surprisingly short space of time the water was boiling, and they were able to make some cups of tea. The fierce clouds of the night before had returned, and they were forced to light two of the candles to be able to see.
With no Neovision, no games and none of their other Virtutechnology to keep them amused, they played three more games of Hungry Skeith before it was time for dinner.
Dinner itself presented a new dilemma; fruit and sandwiches were fine for breakfast and lunch, but you couldn’t feed a family on it indefinitely. Not only that, but they were running low on cooking-free food, too.
It was Emmeline who came up with the bright idea of frying some meat over the fireplace, like they had done with the water. Jordan and Jade were both too tired to object, and so some meat was gotten out of the now not-so-cold fridge, and put into a frying pan. It took longer than it normally would have, and the meat turned out quite chewy, but it was food nonetheless, and the family ate it gratefully.
Stefan sighed as he looked at his watch. “Well, it’s six thirty. Any ideas what to do now?”
Jordan looked out the window incredulously. It was pitch black. “What? Surely it’s later than that!”
“Nope,” Stefan said. “You’d be surprised how quickly it gets dark when you don’t have lights. If we want to conserve our candles, we’d better go to bed now.”
Thunder rumbled outside, and with a rushing sound, it started to rain. Jade whimpered and Stefan sighed. “Alright. Who wants to camp out in the living room tonight?”
The physical exercise of cleaning the lawn had left Jordan exhausted, and he soon fell asleep on a sofa, wrapped in blankets and listening to the gentle breathing of his family and the pattering of rain on the roof.
- - -
They woke up the next morning to find that very little had changed. It was still raining, and the power was still out. Jordan found himself craving crumpets again.
Emmeline boiled some eggs over the fireplace, and they had them for an early lunch. By the time they’d finished it was still raining. The lighting was so poor that they were forced to light one of their precious candles to see, and in the deficiency of anything better to do, sat down to play some more games of Hungry Skeith.
The day moved slowly. More than once Jordan found himself walking towards the Neovision, only to look at it sadly, sigh and turn away.
Stefan, tired of the aimless feeling, left to search the bookcase, and returned with an ancient copy of Gelert on Desert Island. The candle was snuffed out and they gathered around the fireplace to listen as Stefan read to them.
By the time he’d finished, it was getting towards dinnertime again. Jordan sighed contentedly. “You know, I’m actually starting to enjoy this.”
Stefan smirked. “You mean the whole family bonding thing?”
The small red Kougra shrugged. “Yeah. I can’t remember the last time you read us a story, Dad.”
“I can’t remember the last time we spent a whole day together without trying to kill each other,” Emmeline said gratefully. “We should do this more often.”
“I’ll second that,” Stefan said. “Though it’ll be nice to have a hot shower again, the lack of entertainment’s really brought us together as a family.”
It was just as he said that that there was a faint buzzing moan, and the lights suddenly fluttered on, dousing the room in a warm golden glow. Throughout the house there were beeps, whirrs and humming noises as all of the Virtutechnology received power and turned on.
Stefan’s face broke into a smile. “Well, looks like a hot shower isn’t that far away. Now, we should-- Jordan! What in Neopia do you think you’re doing?!”
Stefan’s exclamation fell on deaf ears. The small red Kougra was sitting in front of the Neovision, tears of joy streaming down his face as he stared hungrily at the images flashing before his eyes. Stefan moaned and dropped his head into his paws as Jade gave a delighted squeal and raced to join her brother. “Well, so much for bonding as a family.”
Emmeline smirked at her husband. “Don’t worry,” she said, holding up the Neopian Times. “According to the paper, it’s going to storm again tomorrow. With any luck, we’ll lose power again.”
Stefan smiled. “Though I hope it holds off long enough for a hot shower.” The Kougra and Wocky grinned at each other, and joined their children in front of the Neovision.