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I look away from the whispering tide of water rushing up the hill towards the terrace. I return my attention to Ellen behind me, who holds a bottle of wine and smiles. She refills my wine glass.

“What do you think of this Prosecco?”

“Very nice,” I reply.

“Perfect for an afternoon like this.”

I nod and take another sip of the wine, watching the water’s foamy edge kiss the legs of a lawn chair down on the lower half of the property below. A crow wails as it passes overhead in the vivid autumn blue sky.

Another party guest joins us on the terrace. Gerald, with his mouth full. “This goat cheese. It’s amazing.”

He holds a plate laden with cheese, fruit, glazed walnuts and toasted bread.

Ellen nods. “Isn’t it though? Locally made. On the same farm those figs came from.”

I gaze out from the terrace again. The water, strangely quiet in its approach, has risen another inch or two.

The entire submerged valley below is already transformed from fruitful vineyards to a shimmering seascape.

Gerald and Ellen continue their conversation behind me. Laughter and music drift out from inside the house where the twenty or twenty-five guests mingle and raise glasses.

A shriek rises up from below, followed by splashing, then a gurgle. I look over to see a flailing hand, a woman going under as the water billows out her hair on its rippling surface. Her hair swirls like dark sea fronds before she disappears. I turn to study the other guests’ faces. No one else reacts. Ellen is passing around a tray of crostini. Her high-heeled feet slosh through the water that has started bubbling out from the large potted palms in the living room, splashing down on the floor covered in Italian tiles.

“Is it usually this hot here in October?” A man I’d never met before asks me. He wears tortoise shell glasses on a somber, bearded face and holds a beer. His shirt sleeves are rolled up and the sweat glistens on his nose.

“It’s generally pleasant, but yes, this is unusually warm,” I reply.

“So how do you know Ellen?”

“We were high school classmates. How about yourself?”

“We met at one of her readings. Are you in her circle of writer friends?”

“In a way. I was her first writing partner, actually. Senior year. That was a long time ago, of course.”

“Really? Have you published something, too?”

“No, not yet. Always thought I’d have a book by now, but you know how that goes. I’ve been working on a novel on and off for a few years but it’s slow going. I’ve been rather stuck for some time.”

“Oh?” The man’s attention is already elsewhere. Not on the three or four people screaming for help in the swelling waves below, or the squelch of guest’s footsteps on the sodden terrace. His attention is on something in his head, empty eyes looking at me as he nods. I recognize the vacant look. It happens when I start talking. I start to disappear.

I raise my glass to my lips. Water foams up and rises in my glass. Like ethereal sparkles bubbling upward, the source of something vast and uncontainable. I try to suppress a laugh of delight, but a giggle escapes my lips as the water from my glass flows over my arm and onto the floor. The man gives me a guarded look and murmurs an excuse, then turns away. He strides slowly through the churning, knee-deep water.

Looking down, I see water spurting up from my pocket now. How is this the first time I’ve noticed this? It’s all coming from my pocket. The sea in my pocket. Within its saline glimmer, this stream pours forth a universe of secrets. Lost treasures inside sunken ships, the bones of creatures long extinct. Mermaids and sirens, giant whales and underwater cities.

As if just noticing the rising sea, guests begin to look around in a startled panic. Gerald loses his footing and goes under with a yelp, leaving a wake of crackers floating on the surface. Ellen swims with loud, splashing strokes towards the bar, then clings on to a stair banister, thin hair plastered to her skull.

I release my glass, then float away from the house and dive beneath the water’s cool blue surface. An entire world brought to a watery slow-motion whirl, vineyards at the bottom, floating horses, tablecloths, furniture, people, books, bottles, laundry.

Bursting back to the surface with a gasp, I see a few survivors riding waves on makeshift rafts. A little girl waves to me from her sofa cushion float. I wave back. Then something pulls me under.

I go down, way down, panic bursting through my blood. It’s dark in a thousand shifting shades of cool blue-green. The light is way up there, high above me. I can’t make it. But something compels me to relax. I take a breath.

I breathe and propel myself deeper down. A new laugh bubbles from my mouth. I can breathe. As if breathing for the first time, I take in huge lungfuls, swimming out of my clothes, feeling the burden of flesh ease away as I drift onwards through the depths of my new aquatic world.

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