What Will Life Look Like When The Lights Go Out?

June 9, 2014

Aftermath, Bug Out Bags

Aftermath Series, when the lights go out in the city, preppers warehouse


When it hit, it wasn’t like the movies, there were no zombies. It wasn’t World War III, and the attack itself was barely visible. The aftermath, however, was far worse than any Hollywood movie could ever portray. A weakened world economy paved the way for what would become known as worst rash of cyber terrorism in the history of the human race. With a crippling national deficit and costly military actions, coupled with a plummeting G.D.P. from the mass exodus of American jobs to foreign markets, the United States government couldn’t afford the best and brightest computer scientists anymore. Unfortunately for America, and the rest of the world, the ones who could afford the top minds in computer science were also the ones who wished to cause harm – to disrupt the free world, and use the power of technology to their own selfish ends.

Drug lords, terrorist groups, extremists – the people who made their money illegally had plenty of it. Shootings and bombings had suddenly become obsolete once the enemies of the free world acquired the power to attack and wreak havoc using computers. It started small enough; identity theft on a mass scale, attacks on credit card companies, border control databases, city surveillance, but then they crashed Wall Street. After that, things got worse and worse, government documents were stolen and sold on the black market, attacks were made on power grids and municipalities, the very infrastructure of America and major cities around the world were beginning to lose stability. By the time they began accessing military operational commands via the Pentagon mainframe, governments around the world had no choice but to take it all out and attempt to start over.

Without warning, the government detonated massive E.M.P. devices in every major city. America first, then most of Europe, Asia, and onward, each continent going dark, city by city, like falling dominoes. Within a week, there wasn’t a single inhabited area on the planet that hadn’t had its electronics fried by the devices. All of the technology, vehicles, and machines that relied on electricity had become nothing more than empty useless shells of a once prosperous and advanced society, and the world as it was known was completely and devastatingly changed.

Jason Jones was a man who paid attention. A veteran with twenty-two months of service in both Iraq and Afghanistan, he was no stranger to the chaos and violence that existed in his fellow man, no stranger to the atrocities men were capable of when the conditions were right. As each day’s news reports poured in, telling of the continuing cyber attacks and growing instability around the country in the months leading up to what had been dubbed “Dark Dawn”, Jason knew better than to trust the talking heads and politicians who assured everyone that everything was under control.

He loved his country, and his countrymen, he’d proven that by earning his decorations in combat, including two silver stars for bravery, and the purple heart for taking three shards of shrapnel in his right leg from an I.E.D.. But he also loved his family, and knew that there could come a time when the systems in place to keep them safe would fail. It was this love for his two sons Jim and Dale, his wife Patricia and his young daughter Cathy that pushed Jason to prepare, to become self-reliant, to ignore the mutterings from his neighbors about paranoia and overzealous behavior and to plan for what he hoped would never happen.

He was at work on that steamy morning in early July when the E.M.P. device was detonated in the heart of downtown Chicago. His warehouse supply company’s headquarters, which occupied the fourteenth floor of one of Chicago’s smaller skyscrapers, was in a frenzy.

They’d been trying to respond to a lost shipment of forklifts that had been shipped but never received. Jason had suspected cyber terrorists and had put in a formal complaint with the Pentagon’s new cyber terrorist prosecution department, which was needless to say, unimaginably backlogged with thousands of similar requests from all over the country. All of a sudden there was a great sucking thud from outside, like a blast from a tuba, low and resonant and loud enough to shake the windows of the building. The entire office fell silent. The usual cluttering noise of ringing phones, clicking computer keyboards and whining printers was replaced by a haunting stillness in the wake of the echoing thud outside. The lights, the screens, cell phones, emergency systems, everything had gone dark.

In an instant, Jason recognized the onset of something much larger than a power grid failure. He ran to the window and looked out over the city, the intersections below were jammed with smashed vehicles, not a single car or truck or motorcycle moved, all the other office windows of the adjacent buildings were dark, no planes, no choppers, nothing. Nothing moved outside, except for the people exiting their cars and wandering around in confusion. Around him, his co-workers were cursing the utilities company, and wondering aloud what had happened to their cell phones, and how long it would be until they had the power back on. There was only one word in Jason’s mind as he gazed out over the mounting chaos on the streets below, “Bug-out.”

He turned, and headed for his office, but stopped half way, remembering that as the boss, he was responsible for his employee’s safety.

“Listen up people!” he shouted over the rising din of complaints, “I don’t believe we’re dealing with an ordinary situation here.”

The office fell deadly silent again as the fourteen employees all turned to face their boss with looks of concern in their eyes.

“I can’t say exactly what’s happened, but if you look out the window, it seems to be effecting far more than just our building.”

A few employees close to the window, looked out and gasped at the stopped traffic and gathering crowds.

“What’s going on?” asked Brenda, Jason’s sales team manager.

“Like I said,” Jason continued to address the crowd, “I’m not exactly sure what’s happening, but I know it’s big, so I’m shutting down the office and advising you all to get home immediately.” “What about our families, my cell phone’s dead, and I can’t reach my wife!” Chris, from accounting called out over the commotion brewing amongst the employees.

“Don’t you have a bug-out plan?” asked Jason. “A what?”

“A bug-out plan!” Jason repeated, “A set of protocol to follow in case of emergencies!” Jason couldn’t believe that he had to explain it.

“No…” Chris said softly, with a look of worry on his face.

“Okay, look,” Jason said to the agitated workers, “The most important thing you can do is to get home, and gather food and water, and secure your house.” Jason looked around the room at the astonishment and fear on the faces of his employees and knew that none of them had made bug-out plans, or had any idea what one was until the moment he’d explained it. He felt sorry for them, but it was too late now, he thought. Time is of the essence, and each minute wasted, the window for getting home safely could be closing. “Remember,” he said once more to the crowd, “Get home, gather food, water, and lock your doors.” It was the best advice he could give to the unprepared group of employees, but he knew there was so much more to be done. Even getting out of the city was going to be difficult, he thought, and I’m sure none of them are prepared for what’s to come.

“Good luck!” he said, and walked into his office and closed the door. He reached into the bottom drawer of his desk, and retrieved a compact Kevlar pack, light and durable, and packed to the brim with supplies. Jason pulled the drawstrings and riffled through his “Get Home Bag.” He pulled out a pair of hiking boots and set them on the desk. Reaching in again, he retrieved his folded map of downtown Chicago, one of the three bottles of water, and the small Beretta 9mm pistol. He double checked the rest of the gear before closing the bag – pry bar, medical supplies, a day and a half worth of freeze dried food, window punch, whistle, compass, long sleeve shirt, extra socks and underwear, and a pair of black tactical pants and two red bandanas. The noise outside the office had grown into an uproar as the employees grabbed their things preparing to leave, some still trying the phones in desperation.

Jason decided to change his clothes and shoes, and stuffed his work trousers, and dress shoes in the bag. He kept his white polo shirt on, stuffed the pistol into the back of his pants, pocketed the map and the small flashlight, then closed the bag again and tossed it on his back. As he ran down the stairs using the small flashlight to light his way, he decided it would be useless to try his car. Even if it was working, which he doubted after seeing all the cars on the streets below, the traffic backup would be impossible to get through. Others in the office building had already gathered in the lobby by the time he reached it. They were watching in dazed helplessness as police officers, some on horseback, were attempting to get people to stay in their vehicles. Without working radios to coordinate their efforts, they were just as lost and a part of the chaos as everyone else. Jason noticed that no one else in the lobby seemed to be prepared with a Get Home Bag, and he shook his head softly in wonderment. He thought to himself, Am I the only one prepared for this?

The noise outside was almost deafening, even without motors and beeps and all the other missing mechanical sounds of the city. People had begun to panic and the streets were filled with shouting and yelling and masses of people running around without a clue as to where to go or what to do. Keep cool, Jason told himself, you’re prepared to handle this, you have a plan. He watched a family, a dad and mom and two young children, duck into a store entrance to escape the herd of people stampeding up and down the avenue. The girls were crying and the mother clung to the man’s arm, but he was as wide eyed and helpless looking as the people in the lobby. The sight of them made him think of Patricia, and his own children. Thank God we made a plan, he thought to himself. The boys would have been at school by this point, he thought, which, luckily, was towards the outskirts of the city. They each kept a GHB in their lockers, minus the pistol of course, and they knew to get home immediately, and begin preparing the house for lockdown. Patricia was at home that morning taking care of their 5- year-old daughter Cathy, who had been running a fever the night before.

Patricia, if she was aware of what was happening, would be preparing the bug-out-bags at that very moment. Jason smiled, proud of the peace of mind being prepared was bringing him, he jogged confidently around the corner in the direction of home, but what lay before him wiped the smile clean off his face.

They’ve already started looting? He thought, a little surprised, It seems a bit early. The street Jason stood on was lined with bodegas and restaurants, and a handful of convenient stores. All the windows were broken in and frenzied bodies were streaming in an out in a constant flow of madness, carrying bags and boxes and sometimes just handfuls of whatever they could grab. Jason was glad that their bug-out retreat, packs and house were well supplied with food, as he watched the carnivorous looting before him. He walked cautiously forward, aware that his pack made him a desirable target for the maniacal crowd who when whipped into such a fury, lost all sense of right and wrong. As he neared the first set of shops, he paused, there was a commotion flaring up in the middle of the street. Two men were shouting at each other, he couldn’t see them through all the people and stalled-out cars, but it didn’t sound pretty.

Jason stretched his head to try and catch a glimpse of what was going on, and as he did, three shots rang out. Pop! Pop! Pop! Screams erupted from the already terrified crowd and the people ducked and ran in every direction, some dropping the bags and boxes they had just stolen. Jason ducked out of view into an alley between two shops and kept his eyes trained on the streets, letting the chaos ensue, reaching back for his pistol. That’s when he felt a cold steel barrel press against the back of his neck.

“What’s in that fancy bag there buddy?” the gruff voice asked menacingly.

Jason Jones slowly raised his arms in the air at his sides as the barrel of the gun pressed harder against his skin.

Be sure to catch next week’s installment to see what happens to Jason Jones and the rest of the world gone mad in “The Aftermath”.



, ,

About M.A. Thompson

M.A. Thompson is a fiction writer and freelance journalist from Cincinnati, Ohio. He is currently traveling and teaching English in the Middle East.

View all posts by M.A. Thompson

35 Responses to “What Will Life Look Like When The Lights Go Out?”

    • Don Wright Says:

      I have a bugout bag I keep in my car plus have the house set up. Most sports stores and even Wal Mart have pre packaged bags that are perfect to keep in your vehicle. Of course, your home preparation should be “much” more involved and even with a plan B to evacuate your home if your neighborhood is lost. Food and water … especially survival food a must. Properly equipped, with weapons and ammunition for defense of home with an ability to move to a different location is essential. The account above when it occurs will be like “Ferguson” on mega steroids everywhere.


  1. FLAPrepper1 Says:

    Nicely written. Can’t wait to read more.


  2. Will Says:

    I am of a mind to be prepared as much as anyone, but come on…looting and shooting and a broad daylight robbery for supplies 10-15 minutes after the event?!

    Chicago has a lot of crime, but it’s not Beruit.


    • farmergranny Says:

      Having lived in Chicago for 15 years and taught in Chicago Public Schools, I can tell you that looting, etc. within 15 minutes is NOT going to be unusual in such an event. What will be a surprise to some is that – even with no power – TV’s, cell phones, other power-using items will be the first things taken.


    • TheSouthernNationalist Says:

      Probably is by now.


  3. Walt Says:

    Believable fiction! Fast paced and captivating. Just enough character development and a compelling story line that makes me want to read more. I didn’t even mind the subtle product placement. Keep them coming.


  4. Gail Says:

    Love it, and I usually go for the romance novel. Exquisite writing style, grabs you and pull you in-can’t wait to read the next installment. I could see this happening-make you think! Maybe I should prep a little!


  5. Jen Says:

    VERY well-written! It had my heart pumping and thinking about my own GHB and our plans for such an event. I can’t wait to read more!


  6. Kendra Lynne Says:

    Don’t leave us hanging, lol!!


  7. Lindy Says:

    Great start! Can’t wait to read more.


  8. pamela Says:

    I look forward to next week.


  9. CLAIRE Says:

    Such fun! I suggest you guys look into growing Moringa which will help sustain you during the crisis. And don’t wait until it happens, get ‘er done!!!


  10. Mark Says:

    Larry Burkett’s book “Solar Flare” is another good example of societal collapse. The reality is that any similar event in the United States will also trigger an economic collapse – thanks to trillions of dollars of debt and continued printing of fiat currency. Preparing is just SMART.


  11. Canyon Rider Says:

    Too early to decide if I like the story or not. So far I already have some issues. These are my opinions. You don’t have to agree. Neither does Mr. Ulanski.
    First, I have a problem with a premise. For the government to EMP itself is analogous to holding a gun to yourself to stop a mugging or lynching. (See Blazing Saddles) It would be much easier and safer and less loss of life (think falling planes for starters) to disconnect computers from the internet. Thus eliminating the hacking threat completely. Data would have to be transferred the old fashion way prior to the net until better security could be developed. The story would be more believable if our enemies EMP’d us and our allies. We retaliated. Not knowing who attacked us, we hit all our enemies at once.
    Second thing I noticed. I am not aware of any desk drawer that can hold a fully packed backpack. Even a desk’s file drawer would not hold a medium pack very well. That is some fancy desk a mere manager was assigned.
    Third, unless he takes his GHB with him each night, that pistol is unsecured while he is not in the office with the door unlocked.
    Fourth, The speech to the employees was almost worthless. I think he should have tried to educate, prepare and warn them more. (at the same time, the un-informed readers) They were now willing to learn and listen. (So is a reader) Lost opportunity.
    Fifth, I agree the looting started a bit early. Brown outs and black outs are fairly common. Also, This sounds like a business district filled with working people. Not the looter type. Especially in 10-15 minutes. Especially when no one seems to know what is going on and how long the power will be out. More background description of the surroundings and the locale would have been helpful to the reader. Since I am not familiar with Chicago, I don’t know how close this district is to neighborhoods. I may be over-estimating these people too. But to many people follow authorities, are afraid of getting caught and a mostly law abiding. There is a reason they are derogatorily referred to as “sheeple”.
    Sixth, Sad that he forgot situational awareness just one block away. But everyone is subject to tunnel vision. Another educational opportunity.
    Seventh, no holster? Hard to draw from the small of your back with a backpack pressing against it. No mention of spare mags. No gear in his vehicle?
    Eighth, I don’t know about Chicago, but in the last 2 or 3 years, the number of people walking around my city with backpacks of all sizes and colors, over-the-shoulder bags, courier type bags, sling bags, and everything else has exploded. It is no longer “out of place” to see them.
    I hope this is helpful and not come across to be overly critical.


    • Chet Says:

      Hey, any comment that gets people to think is helpful ‘Canyon Rider’. After all its just fiction here.


    • WVPatriot Says:

      Ninth: A study was conducted several years ago on 32 different late model vehicles and it found that all but one or two were operational after an EMP burst. Certainly the clogged traffic would impede progress but one should not assume his/her vehicle is disabled.


      • WVPatriot Says:

        Oops. That study involved 37 cars and 18 trucks. None of them were incapacitated. But it makes sense to plan for hoofing it out of trouble depending on the situation. Unless your vehicle has the ability to go through walls or over other vehicles, a crowded city street due to loss of traffic signals and the resulting accidents may not be passable.


  12. Richard Says:

    I don’t think canyon rider is being too critical. Thanks for the comment.


  13. redbear762 Says:

    You wrote the *government* detonated the EMP – was it our own government?


  14. David Ellis Says:

    Can’t wait for more. Bad thing is this is just what will happen. Be Prepared!


  15. Philoveritas Says:

    If this scenario is what the author considers plausible than I have some swamp-land in Florida for sale. Why does it never occur to the military to just unplug the important stuff from the internet. You can’t hack an offline server without physical access. You know modern military infrastructure existed before the dawn of the internet. Also there is no such thing as EMP devices they are nuclear weapons and worldwide nuclear detonations even in the atmosphere would still create a major nuclear winter effect. This type of ridiculous decision making by those is power is reminiscent of the implausible incompetence found in Atlas Shrugged. It simply would never happen. Don’t get me wrong I don’t think the leadership of America is all that competent but this is just silly.


  16. Darrell Says:

    There is an excellent novel about what life would be like after a massive EMP strike in the United States. It’s call “One Second After” and it’s written by William R. Forstchen. I bought mine at Amazon.
    There is also another book, not a fictional novel, but true-to-life information about EMP attacks. That one is called “A Nation Forsaken” and it’s written by F. Michael Maloof.

    Both are excellent reads and guaranteed to scare the bejabbers out of you.


  17. suvivormann Says:


    Worldwide atmospheric EMP detonations would not produce a nuclear winter. As with volcanic eruptions, only massive amounts if soil and other material blown high into the atmosphere will cause the climate to cool.


  18. anon Says:

    For anyone following the story, please note the following links to the various chapters so far (to my knowledge) posted to this site.

    Chapter 1 – http://theprepperproject.com/aftermath-part-bug/
    Chapter 2 – http://theprepperproject.com/bugging-emp-attack/
    Chapter 3 – http://theprepperproject.com/getting-retreat-threat-real/
    Chapter 4 – http://theprepperproject.com/aftermath-part-iv-losing-ground/
    Chapter 5 – http://theprepperproject.com/aftermath-v-loose-lips/
    Chapter 6 – http://theprepperproject.com/aftermath-light-darkness/

    To the webadmin, please create some semblence of logical structure to your site at least when it comes to a serialized story. You have been rather inconsistent with linking to the next chapter from the previous chapter, and it honestly would be best if you just created a folder to put all these chapters together in. That way people frequenting your site will stand a better chance of tracking down all the chapters without having to search constantly. Also of note, when I click on the View all posts by MA Thompson, it does not list Chapter 6 as one of his posts. Either something is broken there, or you’ve hired another writer to finish the story out. Either way a little logic in your website structure will go a long way.


  19. Cyrus Douglas Says:

    I am an old guy, 71 years of age. My wife is handicapped an cannot bug out. So I have made plans to bug in. I collect every bit of survival information an print it . We are ready, constantly preparing, an adding or subtracting Items that are not multi-function. I have approached my suburban neighbors to create a survival community, I have lots of info that I can use to barter with, Most could care less, an want to be left alone. These will be the same people that will be at my door looking for food, water,first aid I am looking forward to read more of your book.


  20. Jim Says:

    This is a hot subject. Notice how quickly people begin to criticize another’s efforts. The unimaginably huge value of the original post is that it calls attention to the almost universal lack of awareness of the
    importance of being prepared to protect yourself and your family from a SHTF scenario. Having had
    your awareness raised, will it result in your taking appropriate actions, or will you be the neighbor at my
    door demanding access to the resources I was smart enough to provide for myself and my family? The
    choice is yours, but you will have no ethical or moral problems with killing me, due solely to your lack of
    foresight. You will even feel justified in the correctness of these actions. Because the world around us is
    so unpredictable, why not do the “stitch in time” to keep me from having to protect my “nine”. Bottom line
    is: Take this seriously, get off your butt, and cover yourself and your family. Hope you never find yourself
    in that situation, but it may provide you with at least a chance to survive a SHTF event. FEMA is not
    prepared to help any of us in a timely manner, so it’s up to each of us to provide the stopgap resources
    for ourselves until they can. This isn’t rocket science, folkfs. What most people forget is to prepare for a
    catastrophic event which affects their family only. Lost your job? Did you stockpile enough food and water to see you through? How do you justify killing someone else over a sip of water, or a morsel of food? Foresight and simple preparation can save you from that. In America today, most families are only
    two pay necks away from eviction. With that knowledge, do whatever you have to do to be prepared for a
    family disaster. The alternative is ugly. Imagine your child saying, “Daddy (or Mommy) I’m hungry.” and
    you’ve got no answer other than your apology for not having prepared when you could have. Not sorry
    for what you may consider to have been a sermon. Not intended as such, but rather a “WAKE UP!!! call.


    • Jim Says:

      Have I not told the truth? My thoughts, and the terminology I used, are immediately understandable to
      anyone. No filthy words were used. My sole intention is to help motivate my brothers and sisters to be
      prepared to help themselves if things go seriously South by virtue of a disaster of family, local, or National origin. My intent is to “moderate” their pain through preparedness. That’s all.


  21. Armand Berube Says:

    No matter how much you’d like to help others by warning them about such possibilities, You can’t fix STUPID.!!!


  22. SRV-T Says:

    I really hate it when you get to the end of a story with “to be continued” and having to wait to continue the story…


  23. Tim Says:

    You should write a complete book of this. I got sucked in then it ended, if it were an actual book I would never put it down until I finished it.


  24. Ken Says:

    Even though this is a late entry, but someone might find it entertaining. Anon had some good comments and prefaced them with it just being his opinion, so don’t get too warped with he said. Same with what I’m about to write: Personally, I have two plans; BO and BI, each with it’s own set of considerations. Sure, an EMP hit is quite possible with the present Geo-political madness. But, “IMHO”, the possibility of having to BO or BI would be caused by natural disasters faster than a global war. One might have to abandon their house because of earthquake or other damage. That’s when the old faithful trailer or motor-home in the back yard might be the quick fix. Trying to BO to some remote location could be fraught with multiple travel problems. One comment above referenced a neighborhood group with a common cause and members who could perform various needful tasks. If preparing a BOB to get home from work, it’s probably safer locked in the trunk of your car, or in your carried backpack if you ride MC or bike or walk. If you pack, you have to deal with the restrictions of your workplace, or keep your mouth shut that in your pack is a loaded nine. I wouldn’t leave heat in the car, but that’s just me and my situation is more favorable than most.
    This series is good to get people thinking, but everyone’s situation is different so subtle or serious changes in the bag and the plan will be normal. One single plan will not fit all. “But” as for commo, a handheld CB radio works in the car or mobile if you have to hoof it. I wouldn’t bet ten cents on any cell phone being functional in a serious event. Either the EMP would fry it and the infrastructure, or the available bandwidth would be overwhelmed. During the Katrina event there was only one carrier with sufficient resources that you could get on to call home. Also, “I understand”, that texts use less bandwidth and can get out sometimes when voice cannot. And this is all “JMHO”; if you agree or if it helps, fine. If not, your time was wasted.


Leave a Reply