Susie never had any trouble getting to sleep. All it took was three glasses of bourbon and two sleeping pills and she would be out for at least eight hours. Sometimes more. On this particular night, however, something stirred. There was a slight ringing in her ears, and with the window open next to the bed, she heard the bustle of Friday night traffic. It wasn’t too late, was it? She rolled over and glared at the alarm clock on the nightstand. 11:04. Somewhere off in the soft grass of the Watertown night was the cry of a guitar. The only club that provided live music was Murphy’s, of course they were still open and she was in bed trying to sleep. She squeezed her eyes shut and thought of Michael. The image was black and white, slightly burnt at the edges with a deep vignette. The whites were almost washed out but the shadows were suspenseful, mysterious even. She licked her lips and brought her knees up to her chest.
Michael was the reason she was alone in bed on such a jubilant evening. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. She was tired, it’s true, but she had promised the man that she had just met that afternoon that she would meet him for breakfast.
“Breakfast?” Her friend Lucy gasped at dinner earlier that night. “Since when do you ever wake before noon?”
Lucy was right. Susie didn’t even know what 7 AM looked like and that’s the time she agreed to meet him. She sighs and picks up the folded piece of paper on the nightstand next to the half full glass of whiskey that sits next to the alarm clock and traces his phone number with her index finger. She thinks of the man that wrote those ten numbers. She imagines his dark hair caressing his face in the wind. She could draw his ice-blue eyes from memory.
She closed her eyes and let the slip of paper fall.
Sleep was on its way. She realized just then that she had forgotten to set the alarm. With a groan she reached for the alarm clock and froze; not out of freight or severe cold, yet she stopped moving altogether. At this very moment, unknown to Susie, the traffic out on River Road had stopped. The band at Murphy’s had stopped playing. The spinning sign in front of Peter’s Doughnuts stopped spinning. If Susie had been able to turn her head at that very moment she would’ve seen a single mosquito right outside her bedroom window, trapped; frozen, as was the rest of Watertown. Perhaps even the rest of the world.
And just like that, as if someone had accidently hit the pause button, Susie set the alarm for 6 AM, rolled her eyes and threw her head onto the pillow. She tried to close her eyes but it was no use. She was wide awake. She sat up and looked out the window. The night was muggy but cool for July. She heard what sounded like thunder off in the distance. She didn’t remember hearing anything about rain in the forecast.
She turned the lamp on that stood just next to the half empty glass of whiskey and stumbled into the bathroom. In the mirror was the reflection of a haggard woman. Thunder. Too much whiskey. Too much cocaine. Or maybe not enough. She peed, then ran a brush through her dirty blonde hair and felt the tiles of the bathroom floor rumble.
“What the fuck?” She ran back to the window and peered out. The thunder was getting closer. This was going to put a damper on her plans with Michael if it was going to storm all day. Why isn’t there any lightning? She thought. There wasn’t any rain either.
Susie jumped onto her bed, scared as the floor of her apartment began to shake. From the kitchen she could hear the sound of the dirty dishes rattling in the sink. It reminded her of just how lazy she was. She kept a clean house, but dishes? Nope. From outside her window she saw a flash, like lightning but not so much. It lasted only a second but it was brighter than any lightning she had ever seen. She wasn’t normally afraid of storms but this one was bad. She stepped down off the bed, trying to walk to the kitchen for a drink; not realizing that she already had one there on the nightstand. She fell onto her face before she had a chance to stand.
The explosion, if that’s what it was, was loud. Close to being the loudest thing she’d ever heard. That was no thunder. She told herself. The walls were shaking so badly that Susie believed that would come down on top of her. There was a crash from the kitchen as the microwave hit the floor. With her hands on the floor, she felt the earth trembling. She rolled onto her back and attempted to get ahold of herself. She saw her phone balancing on the edge of the bed and reached for it. Quickly, she swiped through her contacts and dialed Lucy’s number. No service. Of course.
Once it felt like the world had stopped vibrating, Susie got to her feet. What she saw out her window took her breathe away. She shook her head in complete, utter disbelief. Her eyes welled with tears as she reached for her hoodie and stepped through the carnage that was once her kitchen and opened her door. The stairway that once led to the ground-level was gone. Not broken or in pieces as if hit by lightning, but gone. Only a few rotted shards of wood remained. Using what was left of the stairwell’s frame, she climbed down onto what appeared to be, for lack of a better word, volcanic ash. But not just. There was heaps of garbage and waste. Human detritus.
The door to her building was hanging on its frame by a single hinge bolt. She pushed on it and it fell away, breaking into hundreds of pieces when it hit the ground. The ground. What she was standing on was ground, yes, but not the ground she once knew. In front of her was what used to be River Road. Across it was a gas station and an all night sushi bar. Gone! The word that crawled to her lips was abandon. All was gone. All was lost.
The shock of it all forced her to her knees. The dust that flew like a sandstorm tasted ancient. She turned to look at the outside of her apartment building. Gone. The breath caught in her throat. She couldn’t breathe, and she didn’t know if she even wanted to.