It was midnight—12:21, to be exact—and Jill was sitting in the kitchen of her home, sipping a cup of coffee, while her neighbour, Jack, fiddled in the basement. Her electricity had been flickering a lot lately and Jack, being a great guy as well as a geek, had offered to take a look-see.

Half-asleep and gaining by the minute, Jill's boredom was interrupted by the sound of footsteps in the foyer, moving down the hallway and into the dining room. It wasn't Jack—unless, playing the monkey, he'd climbed through one of the basement windows and re-entered the house through the front door. No, it was someone else. An intruder.

Abandoning her coffee, Jill went to confront her uninvited guest, but as she stepped through the doorway, the lights went out. "Um... Hey there, home invader," she called into the dark room. "Er, I guess the power's out." Silence. "Anyway, I'm sure it will come as no surprise when I say you're not welcome here. And I was rather hoping to see you out. Unfortunately, well, I can't see you at all." Jill paused. "Hey, ever play Marco Polo? It's a fun game. If you'd prefer, you can whistle a catchy tune, or, better, state your full name and address so I can pass it along to the local authorities, whom I'll be calling just as soon as—"

A crash sounded from the basement, followed by Jack's distant shout: "I could use some f-ing help down here!"

"Oops," said Jill. "Pardon me, home invader. It appears my neighbour—who, by the way, had the decency to ring the doorbell and wait to be invited into my home—is in need of some assistance. I ask that you please wait here until I return to tackle you. In the meantime, you may wish to scavenge any items you may find in the vicinity which could serve to protect you from serious harm. I fully intend to come at you with all ferocity."

After retrieving a flashlight, Jill approached the basement door and shone the beam on the staircase. "What happened? Are you all right?"

"Yes, I'm fine," replied Jack, as he limped into the kitchen. "I fell down the stairs."

"I assume you shut the power off?"

"In a way," Jack shrugged. "The wiring in this house is in a rather advanced state of disrepair. And I think the breeze created by my movement shifted the cables enough to sever the connection."

"They snapped?"

"Long ago. As unbelievable as this may sound, none of the cables were actually attached to the service panel."

"Then how was the power on at all?" asked Jill.

"Ah... There was a lot of electricity jumping around down there. The whole area's scorched."

"Oh my. But the system's repairable?"

Jack shook his head. "I'd prefer to use the term 'replaceable'. You're probably going to want to rewire the entire house. Everything I could see was original. Experimental, even. Hippo tusks, poodle fur, spam tins and the like." He paused. "I'd suggest selling, but it might be difficult to find someone willing to purchase this house in its present condition."

"I did."

"Indeed. You're exceptionally ignorant."

"Mm. Thanks. I appreciate your candour," said Jill as she escorted Jack to the front door. "And thanks for your help. You may very well have saved my life."

"Well, I am a hero," said Jack. "Good night."

"Good night, Jack." Jill shut the door and started back to the kitchen. As she passed the dining room, she remembered the mysterious intruder. "Now, I hope—" she began as she entered the room just as the flashlight expired. "Oh. I'm out of battery." Silence. "If you'll excuse me for a moment, I'll fetch a candle."

After retrieving a candle, Jill returned to the dining room. "Okay, we've got an open flame in the room, so be mindful of that as you struggle, because if you cause my house to catch fire, I, er..." She trailed off as she saw the dining room was empty. "Strange," she mused. "I would swear the footfalls I heard sounded heavier than those of a chicken."