She sat alone in the restaurant, a glass of rose to her left, a concrete wall to her right. She scanned the wall as the waitress dawdled at the old wooden table across the way. False windows were set into crevices carved deeply into the wall. They were lined with what looked like logs and featured four panes of glass behind a criss-cross of wooden planks – presumably to offer a cottage-like feel to the place. Misleading, really, the way it implied there was something beyond the glass when, really, there was nothing more than a cold panel of stainless steel.
All at once, she was flooded with memories. The hum of the voices around her fell away as she was transported back through time to her childhood bedroom. The windows there were real, but what sat beyond them felt just as cold and hard. She may as well have been imprisoned in a concrete tomb, the way she holed up in there for days, all by herself. She could still hear the whir of the windmill blades outside her window. Woosh, woosh, woosh.
“What can get for you?”
She snapped back to her lonely booth with a start, nearly knocking over her wine glass.
“Sorry about that,” the dark-eyed waitress said, clutching her chest as though it was she who’d been startled.
Julie hardly glanced toward her. Instead, she quickly thumbed through the menu in front of her. “House salad please,” was all she said.
As the waitress meandered away, Julie closed her eyes and scanned the room with her ears – a skill she’d perfected during the Dark Years. Sounds of laughter comingled with clanging cutlery and she quickly pieced the scene together in her mind. The table across the row from her was occupied by two twenty-something girls, one planning her wedding, the other feigning interest. About twelve feet behind her, a young couple sat at the bar arguing about chores – the woman fiddling with her feet on the barstool rungs. Dishes rattled at the booth next to hers as two young children fought over the last complimentary crayon in the box.
She could see it all, with her ears – the group of teenage boys ogling their large-breasted waitress; the birthday party in the aisle next to hers; the young mother hurrying her daughter to finish her meal; the few waiters and waitresses who buzzed around at breakneck speed to keep it all afloat.
As she sat there, with her eyes closed, she could see it all. She could see the entire room, detail by detail. But as she drifted back into her mind and it fell away, she could see her past. And, for a moment, it felt almost like it did before. For a moment, her imagination allowed in the scent of fresh-cut grass blown through an open window. For a moment, she believed it.
But then the alarm rang – a loud buzzing that shot waves of shudders through the restaurant patrons. The buzzing stopped and the chatter fell to silence as the room awaited announcement.
Attention passengers of ship #168-Alpha-Beta-95. This is not a drill. Please make your way to your assigned emergency escape pod in an orderly fashion. I repeat: This is not a drill. Please make your way to your assigned emergency escape pod in an orderly fashion. Leave all belongings behind. Attention passengers…
PHOTO CREDIT – Aleesha Kubiak (thank you for the amazing shot of the moon)