wormwood, pt. 33

The inside of the diner was dark, and so empty that Winston assumed at first that it had actually been deserted. But a girl who couldn't have been older than twenty greeted them cheerfully, and as his eyes adjusted to the gloom he noticed a handful of other patrons, lurking in dark corners, watching the newcomers with a detached suspicion.

For a moment it was possible to imagine that the world was not ending outside, that this was just a normal diner, that everything was going to be okay. Winston smiled at the waitress and said "three, please," and she showed them to a table and told them the day's specials like it was the most normal thing in the world.

"Of course," she said, "those have been the daily specials since the world started ending, but business has been slow so we aren't running out. You guys need a few minutes?"

They did, so she left them to reading over the menus. Winston tried not to look at his companions, afraid that one of them might comment on how strange this was. That would ruin the dream. Right now he wanted nothing more than some cheap coffee and some hideously greasy egg-based monstrosity. Worrying about safety or plausibility could come later.

As he eventually set the menu down, he noticed that the background was not music, but a news reporter talking about the situation in the world at large. Apart from the widespread rioting and natural disasters, things were bad abroad: militaries were arming and preparing to march, fueled by rumors that their neighbors had stockpiles of supplies that might help them through the worst of it.

The anchorman was starting to talk about water supplies when the waitress returned. "Have you guys decided what you want yet?"

The silence was shattered. Winston ordered his coffee and his greasy egg monstrosity and chatted with his companions and the waitress. News about the apocalypse would wait.

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