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  • Writer's pictureScott Bryant

It's Hot, Lights Out

Updated: 2 days ago

Felt Hot, Lights Out by Scott Bryant
Background photo by George Becker via

The hottest day of July had arrived, and engineers Talia Langston and Grace Williams, who lived together in a small studio apartment, were busy with a new project. Well-regarded and brilliant in their respective fields, Talia and Grace complemented each other perfectly. Talia was a software engineer with a rapid wit known for solving the most complex problems. Grace was a mechanical engineer but was quiet and focused, with a systematic approach to problem-solving that Talia found endlessly fascinating. But today was going to be the biggest test in their personal lives, one that both Talia and Grace were ready for but were still cautious about. For a day and a half, a hot heatwave had been gripping the city and surrounding suburbs. Of course, nature is always unpredictable, but this heatwave was different this time.

As Talia and Grace worked on their latest project, an intricate contraption designed to optimize the apartment's AC unit, they bantered back and forth, outdoing each other with their technical prowess. "Have you considered the power output of the fans?" Talia asked, her eyes fixed on the schematic in front of her. "Of course I have," Grace replied, rolling her eyes. "But first, I'll explain in layman's terms. First, we need to ensure the fans are powerful enough to circulate the air in the room effectively. These fans need to be able to move a certain volume of air per minute," Talia nodded, a thoughtful expression on her face. "Got it. And what about the air currents? How do we make sure they're hitting all the right spots?" Grace grinned. "Well, we need to think about the direction and velocity of the airflow. Next, we want to create a gentle, steady breeze that will cool the room without causing any uncomfortable drafts. So we must position the fans strategically and adjust their settings accordingly." Talia nodded again, impressed. "You know your stuff, Grace. You're like the MacGyver of air conditioning." Maya laughed. "Thanks, Talia. But we're in this together. We're the dynamic duo of apartment engineering."

"Speaking of which, I've been thinking about using some software to optimize the efficiency of our contraption," Talia said, pulling out her laptop. "Software? What do you mean?" Grace asked, looking intrigued. "Well, I can create a program to adjust the fans' settings based on the room's temperature and humidity. That way, we can ensure that the gadget is always running at peak performance," Talia explained. Grace nodded, impressed. "That's a great idea, Talia. You always bring a fresh perspective to our projects," Grace remarked. "Fresh as freshly squeezed orange juice, Grace," Talia commented.

It wasn't long after that Talia took notice of something unusual happening. "By the way, Grace, does it seem like it's gotten hotter in the last fifteen minutes?" Talia asked, wiping sweat from her brow. "Definitely," Grace replied, fanning herself with a notepad. "Something's going on with this heat; it's not the same heatwave we've had. But we're engineers. We know how to handle the heat. So we may have a formidable, unseen foe on our hands," Talia nodded in agreement. "It's like the heat is one step ahead of us. We keep trying to come up with solutions, but it's laughing in our faces." Grace chuckled. "Yeah, similar to a kind of Rube Goldberg engineering comedy of errors." They both laughed, trying to find some humor in the situation. Tweaking their contraption and running further tests to ensure it was working correctly, Talia and Grace could feel the temperature in the apartment slowly dropping. "Success! Take that, oppressive heat!" Talia said with excitement. "The real test will be to see how long this contraption can sustain through the day and into the night," Grace observed. "But if your software and my calculations are solid - as they always are - we should be good."

As they wrapped up their work for the day, Talia stretched her arms above her head, letting out a contented sigh. "I don't know about you, Grace, but we've earned ourselves a little break. What do you say we kick back and relax?" Grace grinned, happy to be done with the stress of their latest project. "I'm with you on that, Talia. I think we could both use a little downtime." They retreated to the living room, each grabbing a cold drink from the fridge and plopping onto the couch. For the first time in hours, they weren't talking shop. Instead, they chatted about their hobbies and their favorite TV shows and even swapped a few embarrassing stories from their past.

"I remember the time I spilled coffee all over myself right before a big engineering exam," Grace said, shaking her head. "I had to take the test with a huge coffee stain on my shirt. It was mortifying." Talia laughed. "I once accidentally sent a text meant for my mom to my entire contact list. It was a very personal text, too. I wanted to crawl under a rock and die." They both laughed, happy to be letting loose and reminiscing about the good old days. It was a welcome break from their usual engineering mode. "Oof, that's rough," Grace said, wincing. "But hey, we all have those cringe-worthy moments." Talia nodded in agreement. "Yeah, I try to forget about them, but they always seem to come back to haunt me at the most inconvenient times." They chuckled and took another sip of their drinks, enjoying the light-hearted moment. "You know, it's nice to take a break from all the engineering stuff and just relax," Grace said, leaning back in her chair. "It is," Talia agreed. "Sometimes I feel like we're always in engineer mode, even when we're not working on a project." It was a welcome break from their usual engineer mode, and both women felt the weight of the day slowly lifting off their shoulders. But, little did they know they were about to face their biggest challenge yet.

Susdenly, a loud thump occurred outside. "What the bleep was that?" Talia asked, looking up from her work. Grace shrugged. "I don't know, but that's not a good sign. Let's go check it out." They walked over to the window and peered outside, only to see a plume of smoke rising from a nearby alleyway. "Uh oh," Talia said, her eyes widening. "I've heard of situations becoming a "dumpster fire," but I didn't expect this in real-time - literally!" Grace's instincts kicked in. "It's always buckets with people. We need to help. Let's go." As they rushed out of the apartment, Grace grabbed a fire extinguisher while Talia grabbed a water bottle. "Talia, I don't think that water bottle will serve much use in this situation." Grace quipped, eyeing Talia's choice of "weapon." "Hey, you never know," Talia replied with a grin. "Besides, hydration is important in a crisis." Grace shook her head, amused, as they jogged toward the source of the smoke. "I'm pretty sure that fire extinguisher will be more helpful, Grace." Talia nodded, a determined look on her face. "I'm ready for action."

They rushed outside and saw a small dumpster engulfed in flames. Some people gathered around, trying to extinguish the fire with buckets of water, but it spread rapidly. Grace muttered as they approached the flaming dumpster, "We're going to need more than just mere buckets." Talia raised an eyebrow. "What's the plan, Grace?" Grace nodded, scanning the area. "A makeshift fire extinguisher is what we need. But we need to act fast. Talia, grab the hose. I'll find something we can use to control the water flow." Talia darted off, scanning the area for any materials that could be of use. She returned a moment later with a roll of duct tape, grinning triumphantly. "This should do the trick." Grace had attached the hose to a nearby fixture and struggled to control the powerful water spray.

"Help me out here!" Grace shouted over the rush of water. Talia took charge, quickly wrapping the duct tape around the end of the hose to create a more focused stream. "Okay, Grace, let it rip!" Grace turned the water on full blast, and the two of them - with the help of two other people, worked together to direct the stream of water toward the flames. It took a few attempts, but soon the fire was smothered, and the group breathed a sigh of relief. Talia held up the roll of duct tape triumphantly. "Duct tape truly can fix anything!" Talia and Grace exchanged a look, grinning. "I think we just found our new slogan," Talia said, chuckling. "Good work, Talia," Grace said as approaching sirens filled the air. "Now, let's get back inside before we become a crispy critter."

As they walked back inside, panting and covered in soot, they could feel the oppressive heat bearing down on them even more heavily. "This heat isn't backing down today," said Talia. "It isn't, but we need to figure out what's going on," Grace said, eyes scanning the apartment. Then, before they could take any further action, the lights flickered and went out. "Oh no," Talia said, her voice tinged with concern. "The power's gone out. This heat is messing with us tonight." Grace was already moving, her instincts honed by years of working in high-pressure situations. "Maybe, but we need to find a way to cool down the apartment. And fast." As they stumbled around in the darkness, they could hear the sounds of chaos outside. The city was plunging into brownouts, and there were reports of small fires everywhere. Talia and Grace knew they had their work cut out for them. But as they worked to solve one problem after another, putting out literal and figurative fires, they never lost their cool. Call it another day at the office for these two brilliant engineers.

Grace pulled out her trusty flashlight and shone it around the room. 'Well, at least we won't have to worry about getting a tan here,' she joked. Talia rolled her eyes but couldn't help but chuckle. 'Come on, let's get this generator up and running before we all freeze to death,' she said, getting to work. Grace followed suit, brandishing her fire extinguisher like a medieval knight with a sword. 'I never thought I'd be fighting fires and fixing generators the same day,' she quipped. 'Just call us the ultimate multitaskers,' Talia replied with a grin.

They started by checking the AC unit, but it was clear that it would not work anytime soon. "It's too hot for the AC to handle," Grace said, wiping sweat from her forehead. "We need to think outside the box." Talia nodded in agreement. "What about opening the windows and using some fans to create a cross-breeze?" Grace smiled. "That's a great idea. Let's give it a try." They quickly opened all the windows and set up fans strategically around the apartment, trying to create the perfect airflow. After a few minutes, they started to feel a slight breeze, and the temperature seemed to drop. "It's working!" Talia exclaimed, a huge grin spreading across her face. "We did it!" Grace high-fived her. "Good job, partner. But we can't let our guard down. We need to be ready for anything." Then, as if on cue, they heard a loud pop and the sound of something electrical frying. "What was that?" Talia asked, her eyes widening. Grace ran to the noise source and found a short-circuited power strip. "We need to fix this before it causes a fire," she said, grabbing some tools from her toolbox. Talia stood by her side, ready to assist however she could.

Grace rolled up her sleeves and started to work on the power strip. "I feel like a surgeon doing a life-saving operation," she joked, trying to lighten the tense situation. "Well, I hope you don't have a shaky hand like a certain famous surgeon," Talia teased back, winking at Grace. "Hey, I'm no Grey's Anatomy character," Grace retorted, pretending to be offended. "I'm a highly skilled engineer, thank you very much." Talia couldn't help but chuckle at Grace's playful banter. "You're right. My bad," she said, holding back a grin. "You're more like MacGyver, using your tools to fix everything." Grace grinned back. "I'll take that as a compliment. Now pass me the wire strippers, would you?" They both laughed as they continued to work on the power strip, grateful for the moment of fun amidst the chaos.

As the evening set in, Talia and Grace could finally relax. They sipped cold drinks and enjoyed the gentle breeze flowing through the apartment. "Ah, this is the life," Grace said with a contented sigh. "I could get used to this." Talia nodded in agreement. "Yeah, it's almost like being on vacation."

Just then, they heard a loud explosion from outside. "I think this heat has a serious vendetta against us," Talia said while Grace groaned, getting up from her chair. They rushed to the window to see that the local power station had blown a transformer. "Uh oh," Talia said, her eyes widening. "Looks like we're in for a long night." Grace rubbed her temples, trying to think of a solution. "We need to conserve our energy and resources," she said. "Let's turn off all the unnecessary electronics and try to get some rest." "Fine," Talia said, conceding defeat. "But I'm not going to be able to sleep in this heat." Grace nodded. "I know. Neither am I. But we can't do anything about the temperature right now. So we have to make do with what we have." They turned off all the electronics except for a small fan that they were using to keep cool. It was tough to sacrifice their beloved fan, but staying cool under pressure was more important than staying cool under the sweltering heat.

As they settled into their sleeping bags, they could feel the heat pressing on them from all sides. As the night wore on, Talia and Grace struggled to get comfortable in the sweltering heat. They tried all sorts of tricks, like wetting their clothes and lying still, but nothing seemed to work. They even tried to sleep outside on the balcony, but the air was just as hot and humid. "I can't take this anymore," Talia groaned, tossing and turning. "I need some air." Grace nodded in agreement. "Me too. Let's go for a walk or something." They stumbled outside, blinded by the bright moonlight. It was still hot, but at least there was a slight breeze. "This is nice," Grace said, taking a deep breath. "Yeah," Talia agreed, "if only we could bottle this breeze and bring it back inside."

Walking around the block, they noticed their neighbors struggled with the heat. People were sitting outside on their porches, fanning themselves with anything they could find. "We should start a club," Talia said, half-joking. "The Hot Nights Society." Grace grinned. "I like it. We could have meetings where we complain about the heat and exchange tips for staying cool." They both laughed, feeling a sense of camaraderie with their fellow sufferers.

But as they walked back to their apartment, they could feel the oppressive heat closing in on them again. They knew that the night was far from over and still had a long battle ahead. But for now, they were just happy to have a moment of respite from the unrelenting heat. Settled back into bed, they could hear the sound of their neighbors outside.

"Grace? I'm hearing voices or someone poking around the building outside." "In this heat? Alright, let's go see who it is." Talia made her way to the window, "False alarm, Grace. It looks like it's just the neighbors outside. Grilling? In this heat?! "How are they so calm?" Talia asked, watching as a family across the street sat outside with a grill, laughing and enjoying the evening. Grace shook her head. "Maybe they're used to the heat. Or maybe they have a better sense of humor than we do." Talia chuckled. "We should take a cue from them."

They both lay there, sweating and uncomfortable, trying to find some way to sleep. As they lay there, sweating and uncomfortable, Talia suddenly sat up with a start. "What the heck was that?" she exclaimed, swatting at her arm. Grace sat up, too, rubbing her eyes. "What's going on?" she asked groggily. Talia looked around and noticed a small moth flying around the room. "Oh no, I think we have company," she said, pointing to the moth. Grace laughed. "It's just a moth, Talia. Don't worry; it's not going to hurt us." But just as she spoke, they heard the sound of wings flapping and a low buzzing. "Um, Grace, I don't think that's just a moth," Talia said, her eyes widening. They looked up and saw a group of bees flying around the room, followed by a few smaller flies. "Oh great, just what we need," Grace said sarcastically. "A wildlife sanctuary in our apartment." Talia sighed. "Looks like we're not the only ones struggling with this heat." They both lay back down, ignoring the buzzing and flapping sounds. "This is worst than finding annoying bugs in software code," Talia said while trying to stay covered in her sleeping bag. "At least they're not mosquitoes," Grace joked. "We'd be in trouble then."

As they started drifting off, they heard a thump on the floor. Talia sat up and turned on her flashlight, only to see a bird flapping around on the ground. "Oh no, it must have flown in through the balcony," she said. Suddenly, they heard more thumps and flapping sounds from the living room. "What the heck is going on?" Grace said, sitting up as well. They rushed to the living room, only to find several birds swooping and diving around it. "They must be desperate for some cool air," Talia said, dodging a dive-bombing bird. "We need to get these birds outside." Suddenly, one of the birds swooped down and landed in the bucket of water on the balcony. Talia and Grace watched in amazement as it splashed around, seemingly enjoying the cool water. "Hey, maybe we should try that," Grace said, half-joking. Talia laughed. "I don't think we'd fit in that bucket, Grace." They both watched as the bird flew off, only to be replaced by another one. "Looks like we're running a bird spa now," Talia quipped. Finally, the birds, bees, and other wildlife left the apartment. "Thank god. I've heard of the Birds and the Bees Talk, but this is a new level of insanity," Talia said, laughing. "Right? We almost had a Jewel Akens moment; we had the birds, bees, and moon above. The only thing missing are the flowers and the trees." "Unless you count the flower shop across the street, Grace," Talia added. "Good thinking,

The rest of the night was rough for Talia and Grace. "I can't wait until we get a functioning AC," Talia said, fanning herself with a magazine. "I don't think I can handle another night like this." Grace nodded in agreement. "We need to make some improvements to our cooling system. We can't keep relying on fans and open windows." "I agree. The longer our windows stay open, the more likely those birds and bees may return with a vengeance," Talia noted. "Right, we should start brainstorming some new ideas tomorrow," Grace said, her voice starting to fade as she drifted off to sleep. "Agreed," Talia said, also feeling herself beginning to doze off. "But for now, let's try to get some rest. Who knows what challenges tomorrow will bring." And with that, Talia and Grace closed their eyes, hoping for a cooler, more restful night's sleep.

But just as they started to doze off, they heard a loud crash from the kitchen. "The heat is definitely out to get us tonight. What was that?" Talia asked, sitting up in bed. Grace was already on her feet, heading towards the kitchen. When she arrived, she found that the fridge had stopped working and all their food had spoiled. "Great," she muttered, looking at the mess. "Just what we needed." Talia came to join her, surveying the damage. "Now the real question is: what to do with all of this food?" she asked, wrinkling her nose at the smell. Grace shrugged. "I guess we'll have to throw it out." Talia nodded, but then a mischievous glint appeared in her eye. "Or...we could cook it all before it goes bad." Grace raised an eyebrow. "You want to cook in this heat?" Talia grinned. "Why not? We have nothing else to do, and it might be fun." Grace laughed. "You're crazy. But I like it." And so they spent the rest of the night cooking, laughing, and making the best of a bad situation.

The following day, Talia and Grace woke up to a pleasant surprise. They could feel the cool air rushing in from the vents and hear the hum of the air conditioning unit. "Did you turn the AC back on?" Talia asked, still groggy from sleep. Grace shook her head. "Nope, I didn't touch it." They both got up to investigate and found that the power had returned at night, and the AC had turned itself on. "Thank goodness," Talia said, breathing a sigh of relief. "I thought we were going to roast alive in here." Grace chuckled. "Yeah, me too. But at least we made the most of it, right?" Talia grinned. "Definitely. And we still have all this food to eat." The rest of the day for Talia and Grace was spent in the cool air, enjoying their makeshift feast and reminiscing about their wild night of heat-induced antics. Grace and Talia also reflected on the events of the previous night.

"I can't believe we made it through that heatwave," Grace said, sipping her iced coffee. "I know. It was like a battle we had to fight and win," Talia grinned. "And we did it together." The news came on the TV, reporting that the heatwave had finally broken and temperatures were returning to normal. They both cheered, relieved the ordeal was over. "Looks like we finally defeated the heat," Grace said triumphantly. "Until next time," Talia joked. They both laughed, knowing that no matter what challenges they faced in the future, they would face them together.

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