Eleven Days Later…
The smell of bacon and grilled cheese wafts through the air, making my mouth water and stomach growl.
I’m so hungry.
I’ve eaten twice already and it’s not even noon yet; something that seems to be happening more and more lately.
Stress, I think to myself. It must be stress.
The ding of the order bell rings loudly in my ears, making me wince against the piercing sound, wishing to God I had ear buds. I don’t remember it being so loud. It’s getting really annoying.
Then again, pretty much everything seems louder now. And brighter. And almost everything smells a little bit stronger, too.
“Order for table seven,” a familiar voice blazes over the blended ruckus of clattering dishes, sizzling pans, and rustling bodies. Blake, the assistant chef, calls out over the collective noise in the back per usual.
I make my way over to him with more effort than I’m sure is necessary to walk across a room, bypassing Marcie, the other waitress who works the morning shift as she swipes away at her phone, focused on nothing but beating her own Angry Birds highest score.
The kitchen at The Five Leaf Clover—or just Clover, as it’s better known—is always in a state of some kind of commotion; constantly busy and rowdy any and every hour the small diner is open.
The commotion inside my body, however, feels ten times worse.
My heartbeat in particular is a complete mess.
In just over a week, it feels like my body has become one giant, obnoxious pulse; as if it’s working overtime and doing everything in its power to make sure I know it’s there and isn’t going anywhere. It’s completely overtaken my body; I can hear it pumping in my ears, feel it hammering away in my neck, throbbing in my wrists…everywhere.
Including down there.
Especially down there.
It’s the strangest, most bizarre thing, and it’s becoming almost unbearable at this point. I swear, sometimes I can actually see my skin vibrating from the constant tingling and contractions of my veins and arteries.
I feel like a jittery, jumpy, cranky mess. And it’s only gotten worse with each passing day since that insane night at Rubies.
I picked up as many extra shifts at the diner as I could since Rubies has been shut down and I still haven’t heard back from Jeromy. It’s already the end of the month and rent is due any day now.
My landlord, Roger, won’t miss an opportunity to remind me—scratch that, harass me—of that fact no matter what else is going on in the world, which, from the constant stream of breaking news reports, is way too much:
Abrupt economic depression for several countries across North and South America, Africa, and Europe from a severed Trans-Atlantic trade system.
Bounty hunters and mercenaries going after mermaids under the impression that their tears will produce pure, high value pearls; essentially poaching them under the canopy of a myth.
Marine biologists and geologists are scrambling all over to study newfound species and fighting against corporate and government exploitation for the conservation of what little nature that remains in the ocean.
Physicists and astronomers, despite their many theories about some sort of planetary misalignment, are at a loss for any viable explanation of what could have caused the Atlantic’s disappearance.
Several conspiracy theorists claim that what happened is a large-scale incident of American biowarfare technology gone horribly wrong.
Religious leaders all over the world are convinced that this is either some sort of bad omen or an ancient prophecy that has come true; a major sign of the “final days” and that the “end” is near, urging people to repent from their sinful ways before it’s too late.
Private oil and natural gas companies and various federal governments are fighting over land leases, spending fortunes on securing large portions of the Atlantic and all its potential crude oil for themselves. North American national governments are especially zealous in their attempts for acquisition of the Atlantic.
It’s like they’re discovering a brand new continent all over again; a new “Free World”—with all the chaos and ugliness that comes with such a “discovery”.
And then some.
I’ve been nothing but confused by all of it…swamped in disbelief at every last bit of this insanity. For a minute, I honestly believed I’d gone crazy; that my brain somehow lost all its marbles and I was just imagining it all.
I didn’t leave my apartment for four days straight after Rubies, unable to do anything but sit on my bed with my knees up against my chest, rocking back and forth as I willed myself to remain calm—to no avail.
I seriously felt like I belonged on the set of The Walking Dead. My mind wouldn’t stop racing, my thoughts spinning totally out of control as time seemed to stand still. I hadn’t felt so scared and alone in a long time; not an emotional combination I want to revisit any time soon.
I completely avoided watching any more TV after being constantly bombarded with wave after wave of bad, bizarre news. And that was day two. I just desperately wanted to not have to think about any of the craziness for a while.
So after being cooped up in my apartment for half the week, I forced myself out and kept myself and my wandering mind preoccupied by working relentlessly.
But staying busy only helped so much. Once I got home, my mind reverted back to obsessing over the chaos of the Atlantic. The worst part is, I haven’t slept at all since that night.
I haven’t been able to.
I still can’t even process it; eleven days with zero sleep.
In theory, I should be manic with stress.
Or in a nut house awaiting a nervous breakdown.
But I’m not.
I’m just really, really hungry.
All the time.
I should see a doctor…
I still can’t wrap my mind around what’s happened; can’t bring myself to reconcile with the fact that the Atlantic Ocean is now a gigantic bathtub full of wine. That none of it is just “all in my head”—that I’m not going crazy or imagining things—is ironically depressing. Every day brings with it a growing conviction and certainty that this is indeed reality; that other people all over the world see and know about all the, crazy, mind-boggling things that are happening.
I just truly don’t know what to think.
A frustrated sigh makes its way out of my mouth, the disgruntled sound foreign even to my own ears.
God, I even sound different now.
I guess constant lack of sleep would do that to anyone.
I keep reliving it in my head, recounting everything that happened from the moment I stepped foot into the building until the very last second of the evacuation:
The bottle breaking.
The globe glowing.
The glass and wine floating into the globe…
God, no matter how many times I think of it, it’s just too damn surreal to comprehend.
How…how the hell does something like that even happen?
And then there’s that stranger who came up out of nowhere, practically dragging me out of the club like he was my frickin’ grandpa.
It was dark and everything was happening so fast. I didn’t even get a good look at him.
I wonder who he is…
A blaring, guttural laugh rips through the diner, interrupting my troubled thoughts and forcing me back to the present.
Instantly, my shoulders slump in exhaustion at the irritating sound, and I can’t stop the involuntary roll of my eyes. Even before the owner of the loud, obnoxious laugh comes into view, I already know who it is.