Xia Yi couldn’t sleep that night.
His memory was much better than the average person. Although he forgets things he isn’t interested in, such as numbers and stats, his recollection of films was exceptional. It doesn’t take long for him to recall the details and scripts.
As a result, he was unconsciously reminded of a horror movie called Deep Rising, which happens to take place right in the South China Sea. It’s a film that baits people in with its blood and gore, containing distressing scenes of bodies strewn all over the cruise ship, which may cause many to lose their appetite. But the Thalassa Goddess is so massive that a sea monster less than twenty meters long would only be a tenth of the ship’s size.
Moreover, that was just a ridiculous plot in a film. Even if horrifying monsters like that existed on earth, they’d live in the deep sea. The tremendous water pressure made it so that if monsters wanted to float to the surface, they’d be seeking their own death.
Xia Yi often felt anxious for no reason. Asperger’s Syndrome was very special amongst the disorders on the autism spectrum. The majority of autistic people were detached from the world around them. But Asperger’s was different; they still associate with the outside world and display hope in building relationships, but are unable to do so. They’re incapable of understanding others and voicing their thoughts in a comprehensive manner; such a cycle repeats continuously. In the end, because they cannot make friends nor integrate themselves into their environment, people with Asperger’s are inclined to self-deprecation to the extent of subconsciously avoiding any opportunities of socialization.
They’re likely to hold something that is of little importance to a great value.
If the same scene was presented to Li Shao, he would at most think about it for a moment before tossing it to the back of his mind. But Xia Yi’s memory and imagination forced him to repeatedly ponder everything that had happened today.
The old man who suddenly collapsed, the television broadcasting he saw before boarding the plane, the newspaper…
It doesn’t take long for someone who’s as sensitive to detail as Xia Yi to realize a spine-chilling connection: the same species of bird and fish, but why only people with heart conditions?
The old man that was sitting behind Li Shao in the restaurant just so happened to be within Xia Yi’s line of sight. It seemed that the man held his secretary and leaned his head back as he laughed. Xia Yi hadn’t really noticed what happened in between, except for the fact that he just fell backwards halfway through laughing. Then there was the man they saw later… bowling is hardly an extreme sport, all that’s required is bending down slightly and then raising— !!
A heart attack that results from suddenly lifting one’s head— could it be carotid sinus hypersensitivity?
People like Xia Yi have a completely different focus when considering the same problem. For example, if a relative was diagnosed with a cardiovascular disease, most people would ask how serious it was whereas Xia Yi would ask what type of disease it was; though both questions are meant to find out the severity of the condition, the process of mental reasoning is completely different.
This unique habit of Xia Yi’s determined that he’d remember many unrelatable terms and information. These are his building blocks to interpret the outside world with; a result of his inability to socialize. Once he understands all of the difficult words, there’d be no need for him to ask anyone.
Xia Yi didn’t fall into a dreaming sleep till dawn.
Since the Thalassa Goddess is gigantic, guests can barely feel the rocking of the wavy seas in their cabins, especially on their beds that are tightly secured onto the floor. So even Li Shao, who suffers from terrible seasickness, regained his energy within an hour.
Xia Yi’s cabin didn’t come with an ocean view, and that satisfied him because if he could see the black sea through the window, pulling down the blinds wouldn’t stop him from being paranoid the whole night.
So when he felt his body rocking slightly to the left, he didn’t think much of it in his half-asleep state. There’s always going to be exceptionally big waves occasionally, that’s what the majority of people thought. At 4am, even the wildest partiers are prepared to rest. Some of the people in one particular section of the cruise saw an elongated shadow from between their curtains. They instinctively rubbed their eyes and walked towards the window to take a better look— the lights from the cruise illuminated its surroundings, making the ship’s shadow seem even darker.
Xia Yi was awoken by a ruckus.
The watch on the headboard told him that it was already nine.
For those who loved to party, the morning didn’t begin until two in the afternoon. But this part of the cruise contained the cabins without a view, meaning that its guests were either obscure artists like Xia Yi himself, or employees of XXX companies’ middle management. Assistants like Li Shao lived on the much lower floors where it was two to a room.
Because of their working habits, the people here tended to wake up quite early. Even with a hangover, their biological clock functioned as usual.
“Ridiculous… yesterday it was $100, but I can’t even buy it for $1000 now?”
Xia Yi rubbed his head. He expected something to happen last night so he slept in his day clothes. His shirt now hung crumpled off him. Though he has no interest in observing the commotion, the tirade his neighbour was currently directing at the staff clearly disregarded all types of sound-proofing.
“Yeah, we know that you guys are at the top in Asia, but that doesn’t mean you can raise the prices ten fold the moment you leave the coast…”
A sharp woman’s voice cleared Xia Yi’s mind slightly. He then heard the steward apologizing repeatedly.
“Sir, Ma’am, I am very sorry, but there is no more milk on the ship…”
“You’re joking! Doesn’t the Thalassa say that it can fulfill all the needs of its guests? It’d make more sense if there were no more wine, but are you trying to tell us that last night’s party ended with everyone bathing in milk?”
“I am terribly sorry, we apologize for not being able to satisfy your needs.”
The argument continued out the door, its purpose being none other than to use this opportunity to secure a fancy lunch as compensation.
The day seemed to purposely go against Xia Yi’s premonition. 18 hours after setting sail, the sea was calm and the sun was shining. After lunch, more and more people gathered on the deck. Men and women chatted with each other, trying to judge whether the other’s identity could bring them benefits. At such a time, the clothing brand and style became very important; men seemed to raise their arm casually against the wind, revealing luxury watches of various designs. As long as it were truly expensive, the men would immediately attract a beautiful encounter.
Who would now care that sparkling water cost $81 per cup, and cocktails began at four zeros; everyone pulled out their room keys and generously called for the bills.
“Xia-Ge, Mr Han’s hosting a party tonight at the Jade Wave Ballroom on the tenth floor. Manager Zhao said that everyone from the company has to be there.”
As Li Shao spoke, his eyes drifted over to the chic ladies who could be either white-collar workers or mistresses of some wealthy businessmen. Perhaps it was the ocean breeze that made the weather feel like April when it’s not only January but also the ship was sailing at a low latitude. There were gorgeous women dressed in all sorts of styles: thin pencil skirts, fancy mini dresses, and pairs of elegant legs fitted in stockings; all of them caused the young man, who had barely been in this society for a year, to gawk.
Inevitably, women with no figure or looks exist, but contrary to popular beliefs, these types had a finer taste in much more extravagant jewellery; countless men pursued them.
“Bah! These people are a bunch of suckers!”
Liao Shao mumbled under his breath for a while until he realized that Xia Yi wasn’t listening to him at all.
What’s so interesting about the ocean? In the beginning, Li Shao could barely restrain himself from running to the head of the hull and standing in the iconic Titanic pose, but now, he was absolutely jaded. There’s nothing but water around and Li Shao feels that by the time this trip ends, he might want to throw up every time he sees a patch of blue.
A flock of white sea birds gathered above the ocean, following the cruise ship in a strange pattern.
They were now far from the coast with no islands around. Theoretically speaking, there shouldn’t be any birds here. Plus, these feathered animals were obviously tired and stiff, showing none of the spirit they’d have when flying against a storm.
“Ha! Do you see? The fact that these birds are gathered here means that there’s a lot of seafood near the surface!”
A man whose hair was all glossed up stood by the railing and boasted to his companion.
“I bet sardines are there— look— they’re about to begin their hunt!”
Before he even finished his sentence, several birds brought their wings together and dove into the sea like cannonballs.
Xia Yi didn’t have the best eyesight, so he couldn’t see the event clearly from a distance. Still, he felt that the birds’ actions were odd.
“Did you know that my company’s project is about the Haiyan swallow. Even though these birds are different, they too, are very tenacious. By diving down like this, they can reach up to five meters underwater and will immediately fly back up to the sky after they catch a fish…” The man continued his speech but the people around him were uninterested in his words. For example, Li Shao was still focused on staring at the ladies. Only Xia Yi’s hands began to shake as they grasped onto the railing.
No, something’s wrong. Not one of these birds ever flew back up again. The expenditure of physical strength varies even amongst the same species, so unless someone was staring intently, it’d be difficult to realize anything. They’d only think that these birds are circling and flying aimlessly; occasionally, a bird will dive – no – fall into the sea.
Xia Yi started to breath more and more rapidly. He really wanted to convince himself that this entire thing was his delusion. He took out his phone from his pocket and just as he expected, there was no service. It was normal for phones to not pick up signals out in the open sea, but if it was the same with those expensive satellite phones…
“Shit, I spent hundreds of thousands on this phone and it still has no reception in international waters! I shouldn’t have trusted those exaggerated ads claiming there’s going to be service anywhere on earth!”
Xia Yi froze for a moment then widened his eyes in fear and looked up at the sun. Then, he practically ran from where he was standing and didn’t stop until he reached the shadows where the sun no longer shined on him. Used to his eccentric personality, Li Shao only complained slightly before following him reluctantly.
“Xia-Ge, don’t forget about the party tonight! Urgh, why is the weather getting hotter and hotter?”
January 8th, South China Sea. Thin clouds gently breezed by as the Thalassa sailed peacefully.
A military satellite passing through the area captured an HD picture of a large shadow looming beneath the waves.
Meanwhile, in the control room of the main rudder.
“Yes Captain, the radio has been malfunctioning since yesterday and has just stopped functioning entirely. We now have to manually run our messages between the floors.”
The captain swore under his breath, “What’s the matter with this voyage? Does that Han guy have too much bad karma?” The Thalassa had never suffered from so many problems before. This morning, the gallons of milk in the 4°C (39.2°F) storage disappeared, yet the staff on duty insisted that no one had entered or exited the storeroom.
On the other side of the ship, Xia Yi’s face paled when he realized that his speculations may be correct. When he saw that Li Shao was about to go back to the outdoor cafe to ogle at girls, he quickly pulled him back.
“Don’t stand under the sun!”
Li Shao stared blankly. He’s been assisting Xia Yi for three months now and knows that his boss almost never talks outside of filming. Still, it’s difficult for him to understand a sentence like that when it comes out of nowhere.
“Don’t let the sun shine on you!” Xia Yi rephrased his sentence into a more comprehensive one and his face betrayed his anxiousness.
“Yeah, I know. These clothes are an embarrassment, I get it! The tragedies of the poor!” Li Shao shrugged and turned to walk back to his cabin. As for lunch? Forgive him for creating a plan that involves only one meal a day.
Xia Yi watched the number of birds dwindle in the distance as he hesitated on a difficult decision. In the end, he remained silent and turned to head back. He didn’t know how to explain and the bigger question was whether anyone would believe him.
Sea birds plunging, fish dying, old men possibly having a carotid syndrome causing heart attacks… this was due to the changing of the electromagnetic fields. In fact, it could be said that due to the gradual disappearance of the earth’s magnetic fields, animals that migrate seasonally can lose their ability to pinpoint directions, thus causing hunger and fatigue, which leads to death. At the same time, patients who use pacemakers would be the first to be affected…
Dammit, why was he reminded of the boring, second-rate horror movie Deep Rising last time? It should’ve been the apocalypse movie The Core that came out a few years ago instead! If that’s the case, then this unprecedented rising of temperature may be caused by the atmosphere thinning under the effects of a weaker electromagnetic field.
Xia Yi almost missed a step as he descended the stairs. If all of this is true, then the world is coming to an end! No matter how advanced technology is, there’s no way to stop the disastrous changes brought by the disappearing atmosphere. The only solution was to bring enough food and water and immediately hide in an underground shelter hundreds of meters deep.