It was an unmistakable forcefulness to the lights blinking out which signified the occurrence of a powerful and violent event. The bulbs didn’t flicker for a time and then fade, or even blink out instantly. They flared harshly brilliant for a fleeting moment, and then they unceremoniously died. With this, the room was yielded to a smothering dimness. Still, alarming as this otherwise might have been, it wasn’t that which frightened the little girl into growing insensible. It was fast approaching dusk but the final deluge of murky daylight streaming through the windows nonetheless lit the room well enough to see.
No, it was the sharply thunderous boom preceding the lighting’s failure which stunned Beryl into fearful paralysis. For some reason, it instantly flipped a switch inside her. A switch responsible for executing her psyche’s preferred defense mechanism in times of extreme stress: the deactivation of everything inessential and the preemptive withdrawal into the inner sanctum of her mind. The actual strength of the sound had diminished somewhat by the time it reached them, but it was still loud enough to convey an impression of its daunting closeness. Even being near enough to hear the distinctive report of an explosion is a chilling experience though, and rapidly induces the body’s natural responses to peril. There is perhaps nothing that can affect such quivering awe and aversion in a person as the awfully noisy byproduct of otherwise enduring things being forcibly undone. People intrinsically value structure and permanency; explosive force is their adversary. To blow up is to rob something of meaningful form, to inflict nullity, which is an especially abhorrent doom to human beings, the animal kingdom’s preeminent existential narcissists.
Oddly enough, to Beryl the philosophy behind her horrified reaction was unimportant; all she knew was that she was wracked with visceral, if inarticulable, dread. The detonation’s penetrating rumble had just finished reverberating when a palpable wave of faint vibration rippled across the room, causing her hairs to stand on end even more rigidly. Beryl, still immobilized, experienced this encroaching shock wave as a tingling sensation passing through her; it was like the shuddersome exhalation of an approaching spectre of doom.