The TV babbled at the periphery of Simon's consciousness. The weatherman droned on about the heat and humidity. Simon lay spreadeagled across his easy chair, shirtless. He wore worn jeans. The cat shifted to lay on her stomach, her legs sprawled out, using the hardwood as a heat sink. Simon's wife Pauline stood in front of the open freezer door in the kitchen.
The TV hiccuped with static, and Simon came to consciousness. Lines zigzagged across the screen.
"Hun?" asked Simon.
"What?" asked Pauline in a loud voice.
"There aren't supposed to be any lines anymore on a TV, right?"
"Huh?" said Pauline. She closed the freezer door, wiped her neck of sweat, and walked into the living room.
"Look," said Simon. He pointed to the TV.
"We have digital signals now. It should be breaking up in squares."
"Well, I dunno. The TV is old, it still has scan lines. Maybe it's about to go."
"Yeah," said Simon, leaning back in his chair. "Weird though." He watched the lines run back and forth. Pauline sat down on the sofa. The cat tore out from under it, and ran down into the basement.
"It will be nice when this heat wave's over. I'm not sure I can take much more of it," said Pauline. "We should get an airconditioner.
"I think it would be worth it."
"For two months out of the year?"
A large thunderclap burst over the house, rattling books in their shelves and the dishes in the cupboards. The TV went dark.
"Oh my God," yelled Pauline. "Are we supposed to have--"
Another clap of thunder exploded above them.
"What the hell?!" yelled Simon. He jumped up and took Pauline by the hand. "Might be a tornado coming..."
They ran for the door to the basement, but another, much louder clap sounded and threw them to their feet in the hallway. They could see out the screen door to the front yard. The sunlight grass suddenly fell into shade. Simon got up, and slowly crept to the door, with Pauline close behind. A pattern of light and shadow played across the lawn. Simon opened the screen door and stepped onto the porch. The lights got brighter as they descended down the front steps.
"Simon...it's getting colder."
"Yeah, it is..." He looked up. Little balls of plasma descended like snow. They moved in erratic paths downward.
"Ball lightning?" asked Pauline.
"Dunno. There's a lot of it."
The first of the balls landed on the lawn and rolled around. Pauline and Simon backed up into the shelter of the porch.
"Don't touch it," said Pauline.
"It's not burning anything. I wonder if it's natural," said Simon.
A breeze picked up, and the plasma balls started to swirl in the air.
"Let's get inside," said Simon. They retreated into the house. The breeze quickly turned into a wind, and the temperature dropped twenty degrees in the space of a minute.
"I think we should close the door," said Pauline. They watched the balls through the front door window, but soon the light from them was too intense. Pauline got a sweater and put it on, and Simon took out the emergency radio from the cupboard in the kitchen. He turned it on, but got nothing but static. The temperature fell another thirty degrees, and they could see their breath.
"Let's get the quilts and sleeping bags," said Simon. They quickly ran through the house collecting them, then ran to the basement, closing the door to the stairway behind them. Frost started forming on the walls and they were shivering. The bright light streamed in under the door crack, lighting up the entire basement.
"You'd think the light would be warm," said Pauline.
The huddled together in the far corner, away from the stairway. The cat zipped out from between the Christmas boxes and leapt into their laps. Pauline bundled the cat up with them.
The wind shook the house fiercely--they heard the windows popping and shattering above. The light above penetrated carpet and floorboards, adding an orange glow. They could see the grain of the floor in three dimensions, as if the wood were translucent.
"What is it?" asked Pauline. She had already stopped shivering; her body temperature was rapidly falling.
"Dunno," said Simon, his throat burning from the cold. He ducked them both underneath their coverings. The light penetrated that too, showing each thread and the spaces between.
The carbon dioxide started to precipitate out of the air, and fell like dust to the floor. The howl of the wind died down, as all the ambient energy was consumed into the plasma and converted to photons. Simon and Pauline and the cat froze, embraced.