William’s ride from the industrial complex dropped him off at the guest-house of the Braxton estate. They promised to pick him up again on Monday before they drove off to let him get settled in. He’d been in meetings for three days as they’d learned what he had to teach them.
He’d intended to fly out after the first evening but they had needed him for longer. Then, there was an airline strike that forced him to stay where he was. He had a change of underwear and socks, which he always carried with him when he went more than a hundred miles from home, and here he was, more than five hundred and stuck out in the country.
His one day became three, as they had thrashed out what to do. He was dog-tired and needed his sleep. So did his exhausted hostess, Mrs. Braxton, who had organized the entire thing. She had offered to put him up with her grown family, having had him stay much longer than either of them had intended. He thanked her for her offer, and explained that he needed quiet and rest, as well as time to work on the plan they had settled upon.
She sympathized with his need for peace and quiet and had given him the guesthouse they owned by the shore, some five miles away from their home. Her house would be too noisy with teenagers in and out at all hours. He would be the only one where he was all weekend. It had all the facilities he needed to look after himself; washer, dryer, and a kitchen; well stocked for those who intended to raid it to go sailing, or out in the powerboat. He could sleep as late as he liked and spend the entire weekend recovering. He looked forward to some rest. They would meet again on Monday. He would have two complete days to himself, and intended to get a lot done.
When he was dropped off it was after nine in the evening and still just light enough to see things with the help of a moon, which might not be there for much longer from what he could see of the gathering clouds moving in, but at least it was warm.
The local scenery was of a sloping meadow leading from the house down to the grey, foreboding sea, a hundred yards away. The open grassy slope was dotted with scattered clumps of trees growing in small rock-pile accumulations cleared from the open area.
He let himself in with the key that he had been told about and replaced it outside and under the plant pot before he closed the door behind himself.
He put all of the lights on and explored. The lower part of the house consisted of a large open living room with fireplace, a large kitchen, adjacent bathroom, and a garage area, also used for storage. A stable, empty of any animals, adjoined the house with a connecting door, which was locked. The upper floor was set up for at least one guest, with a large and modern open bedroom whose windows over-looked the sea, and with an adjoining large bathroom and a shower.
He made himself a snack from the store of canned and dried food. He would explore the freezer in the garage later. He settled in, deciding that he would have an early night. He couldn’t find the bedding that he’d been told about. That, must be in the boat-house down on the shore as he’d been warned might be the case. He would get it later. The family had planned a boating trip that weekend, but it had been cancelled with that storm, so he could recover what he needed from the boat later.
He decided to go for a walk around the point before retiring, even though the wind was blustery, and the waves were beginning to pick up in height and intensity. He could see well enough, and the path was well marked with white cobbles at the edges, and chips of white quartzite for the surface. A storm was coming. He’d heard something of it during breaks in their discussions, but they had been too busy with everything else to worry about that. He would risk it. He didn’t bother locking the house up.
His walk was much longer than he expected, with his mind going over many things. He’d needed the exercise and to clear his head. If he’d brought his running clothes, he’d have been out doing that instead. When he got to the furthest point, and it began to become too dark for comfort, though his eyes had grown used to the dark, he turned back. It had gone much colder in the short time he had been out; the wind had strengthened too, and he could hear the waves smashing into the pebble beach somewhere below him, grinding the edges off, to make those rounded cobbles and pebbles that children of any age from six to sixty, loved to collect. He could hear the undertow sucking some of those rocks out into deeper water, before throwing them back at the shore, as though the gods were playing ninepins. They would be well-rounded by the grinding action of that marine gizzard.
He was surprised how far he had gone with his mind involved with other things, and he got caught out in a downpour the like of which he had never seen before. There had been something like two inches of rain in less than fifteen minutes and then steady, heavy rain after that, driven in off the sea by a strengthening wind. He wished he’d paid more attention to the weather forecast. The lights from the house, seen in the occasional breaks in the weather, guided him back. He was soaked through to the skin and weighed twenty pounds heavier. He was cold too, but that was because he was wet. He could soon solve that.
He walked through to the garage, squelching with every step, stripped off, squeezed the excess water from his jacket and trousers into the sink, putting his outer clothing in the dryer, and got it started. There was nothing that would shrink. He’d better wash all of his other things too.
After he had dried himself, he retrieved his other socks and underwear from his overnight case and threw those into the washer along with the rest of his clothes, getting it started. He knew he was the only one who would be there for the weekend with the weather turning as it had. He walked into the living room intending to review some of his notes. It was fortunate that there was no one else to see him wandering the house as naked as he was.
That was when the lights went out. He had planned on drying out his wet clothing and at least donning his underwear, which would dry first, and sleeping in those, but now he couldn’t. Everything was still wet and the power was off. It didn’t matter. He was the only one there so no one would be shocked at his lack of clothing. He would retire, rather than light a fire in the grate. It was late and he needed his sleep. Tomorrow would bring its own problems, though the storm should have moved through by then and the power restored.
He made his way through the dark house to the kitchen and found the milk in the lifeless fridge. It would do tonight, and he still wasn’t hungry. He had been snacking all day. He drank some of the milk from the small carton and then replaced it. He did everything by touch and, fortunately, he had seen the layout of the house earlier. He was shocked where the time had gone. Just before the power had gone out he noticed that it was midnight.
There was nothing else to do but turn in. He couldn’t go looking for blankets now, not in that downpour, but he’d seen that the double bed had a sheet and lots of pillows, and that would do. It would be warm enough even though there would be no heat. It would have to be. He could double the sheet if it became too cold. He’d slept in worse conditions, and at least he was protected from the rain and wind, which he could hear around the house, beating at the windows and rattling everything that might move.