Bright splashes of neon light singe your eyes despite the surrounding darkness in the club, making you squint as your head continues to throb.
Fluorescent hues of pink, green, yellow, purple and every other color you can think of shine brightly as they dance over the furniture, upholstery, and patrons—several of whom are completely intoxicated now.
The multicolored confetti of light emanates from glow sticks, pseudo flames, lava lamps, and disco balls; all spilling, intersecting, and meshing into each other over the club’s refined interior.
The vivid, diverse lighting beautifully illuminates the mega-mansion that is Rubies, bringing the extreme expanse of architecture to life. It’s almost as if the place is a living thing itself; a moving, breathing, organism, an interconnected web of magical building blocks held together by some sort of indescribable and vivacious force.
Like an unlisted wonder of the world.
But despite its beautiful infrastructure, the flashing lights, and the amped up House music, something is terribly off. The ambience isn’t the way it normally is. The usually lively club seems anything but alive tonight.
And, strangely enough, that’s precisely how you feel.
The smell of vodka is particularly strong, scalding your nostrils as you inhale its dry scent in the air. The smell of sweat hangs equally heavy in the atmosphere—a testimony of how packed the place is—and the funky blend of perspiration, smoke, and distilled spirits makes you want to throw up.
It’s so damn hot and stuffy, and the masses of people and their collective bodily scents, both natural and purchased, do not make for easy breathing.
As if you don’t currently have enough trouble with that on your own.
You know you’ve only been here a few months but it’s never like this at Rubies.
Who the hell turned off the air conditioning?
You walk behind Bartram, following the small path he’s making among the massive crowd of people, trying desperately to keep up after him even as your feet fall against the floor like huge blocks of cement.
Your mind keeps replaying everything that just happened down in the basement; images of broken glass and wine floating, flowing, and moving into that golden globe.
The images keep repeating themselves, and you keep seeing them again and again, vividly recalling each shard of glass and drop of wine with every step you take.
Swedish House Mafia blazes all around you, streaming loudly from the DJ booth and rippling effortlessly through the night with its unapologetic beats and rhythm. House music is usually a treat for you, but now all it’s doing is making your ears sore as the bass pulses ferociously through the hot air.
The collection of sounds and rhythms ebb and flow through the entire expanse of the club with clarity, pulsating rapidly in the late night.
And it feels like your heart is doing everything in its power to catch up to the rapid beats, seemingly matching their speed as it pounds relentlessly in your chest, pumping with astonishing harshness and ferocity, as if it’s fighting with all its might just to remind you that it’s there.
Music continues to play as usual—as it always does in Rubies.
As it always does in “Club Paradise”.
And yet, no one is dancing.
No one is drinking or fraternizing or trying to hook up. No one is popping champagne bottles, throwing back consecutive shots, or happily downing martinis and cocktails.
The only cocktail on your radar right now is the one of fear, confusion, anxiety, and utter disbelief surging within you, making your skin break out in goosebumps.
And it would appear you’re not alone in your sentiments.
Everyone is at a standstill, their attention focused upward to multiple mounted flat screens on the walls, wide and sleek and all displaying similar images.
Collective gasps and other sounds of shock and disbelief fill the main lounge, competing with the loud, blaring music.
Your own gasp only adds to the rowdy blend of voices when you actually see what everyone else is looking at:
The utterly impossible.
“Oh, my God,” you whisper, your eyes going impossibly wide in absolute, absolute disbelief and denial as they continue to dart over the myriad of screens.
“I can’t fucking believe this,” Bartram mutters next to you. You’d almost forgotten he was there. He turns to face you. “I mean…what in the hell? This…this can’t be real, right?” he says, as if he’s trying to convince himself of his words. “This must be some kind of hoax…”
He continues speaking, but you can only vaguely hear his voice now. Your mind automatically zones out everyone and everything else to focus on the screens ahead; on what you can’t believe you’re seeing.
“We’re reporting live from Charlotte, North Carolina. This is a satellite image captured just twenty-five minutes ago. It clearly shows that the Atlantic Ocean, ladies and gentlemen, has somehow, turned red…”
“Breaking news from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In a wildly unprecedented occurrence, there appears to be some sort of red liquid in the Atlantic Ocean, with what seems to be several glass fragments now floating on its surface…”
“It seems that the Atlantic Ocean has mysteriously taken on the appearance…of wine. In just moments after this unparalleled turn of events, many speculate that this is some sort of optical illusion stemming from a possible planetary alignment, while others are convinced that it is the manifestation of some sort of biblical prophecy or omen…”
“The Atlantic Ocean has disappeared…”
“Reporting live from Cairo, Egypt. We have gathered imagery showing that the Atlantic Ocean is now a large body of wine…”
“…following the extraordinary, sudden change in one of the Earth’s major oceans, multitudes of people around the world, including several government officials and political leaders, have begun to flock into churches, mosques, temples, and other religious sanctuaries upon seeing and hearing this mind-boggling news…”
And it’s the same story from reporters in Mauritania, Brazil, Senegal, Nepal, Nigeria, Peru, Cameroon, England, Japan, Morocco, Spain, China, Ethiopia, France…
Your unruly heart instantly sinks to your feet and remains there, and your lungs suddenly feel like they’re made of steel. Your eyelids peel themselves back as far as they can as you stand completely still, surrounded in a subdued crowd and stuck between a cluster of people, barely able to breathe as you all watch several news anchors and reporters from various news stations all over the world on identical screens.
As you watch them tell you, despite their own expressions of obvious disbelief and confusion, that the Atlantic Ocean is gone.
That it is no more.
That, somehow, it has…vanished.
Mysteriously disappeared without a trace.
And that, now, a deep red, burgundy liquid and a mass of broken glass pieces are in its place, floating exactly where it used to be.
Just like the globe and wine bottle downstairs.
Your entire body feels like someone just poured a truckload of cement into it, heavy and bloated, like you could sink into the floor any second now.
And, in this moment, that’s precisely what you want to do.