It “Happened” to Me: I Went to the World of Coca-Cola and Barely Made It Out Alive

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Bubble Trouble // Header by Viv Le

The following events are as true as you want them to be.

I.

It started like any other day.

I was up too late doomscrolling on Musk’s Twitter, so I canceled a hot yoga class that the more optimistic version of myself had booked earlier in the week. To celebrate the fact that the sun miraculously came out again (I suppose that is its one job, isn’t it), I popped into a nearby bodega for a soda.

As I perused the soda offerings, I noticed one bottle of Coca-Cola slightly different than the rest. I didn’t know what exactly was different about it, but something was off. I decided to buy that one, because different doesn’t mean bad, and maybe it was a secret new flavor or from a more recent delivery than the other bottles in the store.

As the cashier rang me up, his eyes widened. He informed me that I had in my possession one of the Special Bottles, bottles Mr. Cola himself had wrapped (Mr. Cola is a bit of a legend in these parts). The cashier told me if I scratched off a portion of the label, and I saw a bubble underneath, I won a behind-the-scenes tour of Mr. Cola’s house and the attached World of Coca-Cola. He then showed me six bottles he had tried his luck at, to no avail.

He held out a penny, inviting me to do the same — but just then, a virtual therapy reminder showed up on my phone. I was late. I bid my cashier goodbye and promised to let him know how my scratch-off went (realistically, this was an empty promise). The bottle and I went home, and trudged through a fairly routine therapy session (work was fine, my partner and I were doing well, I did not have anxious spiral thoughts in the past week, it’s okay to charge me for this week’s co-pay thank you for asking).

I had sipped my way slowly through the 16-oz bottle of Coca-Cola during the session, and was about to recycle it when I remembered what the cashier had told me. I found a butter knife (pennies are surprisingly hard to come by when you need them) and began to scratch.

A bubble appeared.

II.

Mr. Cola met us outside of his eyesore of a house. By us, I mean the lucky four winners of Special Bottles. Through some miracle, we were all queer.

Veruca, a tall femme with mini hot sauce bottles for earrings, was the most talkative. She and her partner had just read Polysecure, and had anyone else read it? What was everyone’s attachment style? Aug was her opposite, a quiet masc who (it seemed) didn’t really want to be there. Mic, an investigative journalist, had bribed a stranger for his Special Bottle. He said the truth was more important than his 401k — which he had emptied to gain access to the World of Coca Cola. The stranger did not think it a wise decision, but also now had a retirement fund of his own, so he didn’t press too hard.

Mr. Cola gave us a quick tour of the house. It was a little too heavy on the Coca-Cola decor for me, but I kept that opinion to myself. Well, until now, anyway. It just felt a little too on the nose for a man whose name is Mr. Cola!!

He then took us to the basement and locked the door behind us, which I thought was a little odd but I hate confrontation, so I went with it. Our phones were taken from us, presumably to prevent us from recording (Mic was visibly unhappy when this happened), and once we were deemed sufficiently “safe”, we were permitted entrance to the real World of Coca-Cola.

Not the one in Atlanta — that one is a decoy, as I learned during my backstage tour. This one exists in the subterranean depths of Mr. Cola’s home, safe from prying eyes and screaming children. This one is both a factory and a workshop, but not operated or run by humans at all — save for Mr. Cola. The workers in The World of Coca-Cola are all ethereal bubble-like creatures, unlike any that I’ve encountered before, floating along the red brick paths that line a suspiciously sunny windowless environment.

Nic asked if the workers were paid a living wage. Mr. Cola evaded the question.

Instead, he led us down the brick path to a grassy plain, where a screen and four chairs were set up. He instructed us to sit down and then pressed play on a remote I didn’t realize he had on him.

The short film was an overview of how The World of Coca-Cola (the real one) came to be. Mr. Cola’s ancestors found the world, which was then passed through the Cola generations until it landed in Mr. Cola’s hands. Mr. Cola paused the video, then let us in on a little secret. He was queer.

This was not a secret to any of us, because as fellow queer people, we knew the whole time. Mr. Cola’s presence at circuit parties was well known among the New York queer scene. Nic had matched with him on Grindr.

Mr. Cola then shared another secret, this time one we didn’t already know. The four of us were meant to make our way through increasingly risky challenges to inherit the Cola fortune. He wanted the fortune to go to another queer person, he said. We asked if we could share the fortune, but he said that’s not how billionaires were made, and that if we asked more stupid questions, he’d find four new gay people to do this.

At this point, Aug asked to leave, and Mr. Cola let him go. The rest of us stayed.

III.

Mr. Cola’s tour continued. Nic peppered him with questions, some of which Mr. Cola answered (yes, the sunlight was artificial, no, it was not hard being a billionaire, yes, Nic could take home a Coca-Cola for the road). Veruca and I walked together, taking in the vast world with wide eyes.

We came upon a large body of what I thought was water, but upon closer inspection, revealed itself to be brown and bubbly. Mr. Cola remarked we had found the River of Coca-Cola, and that we could taste it if we wanted.

Veruca and I knelt and dipped our fingers in. Somehow, this wasn’t a health code violation or at least not one that the bubbles felt like warning us about. Mic knelt as well, but where Veruca and I were using our fingers, he cupped his hands and drank his fill from the river. He was thirsty. He turned around to ask Mr. Cola another question, but it seemed Mr. Cola was done with Mic. He made the slightest, almost imperceptible movement with his head towards Mic, and three bubbles charged towards Mic, and plunged him into the river. They then floated upwards, lazily, while Mic was pulled away from us by soda currents.

We never saw Mic again.

IV.

Neither Veruca nor I were offered much in the way of condolences. Mic was our friend, our ally in this weird world, and it didn’t seem like Mr. Cola cared. Instead, he continued the tour.

We walked further along the road, away from the river, and began to trek up a hill. We found ourselves on the edge of a waterfall (a soda-fall?) and Mr. Cola invited Veruca and I to pose for a picture. It was important that the tour be commemorated on social media.

Veruca asked Mr. Cola if he thought it was weird to have us smile immediately after one of our party had been lost to the river. Mr. Cola didn’t like that. He made a small, imperceptible nod (once again) to a nearby bubble, and that bubble pushed Veruca off of the cliff and into the waterfall.

Veruca was gone.

V.

It was just me and Mr. Cola in this weird, bad World of Coca-Cola and I needed to get out.

Mr. Cola held out his hand. I suppose he thought I wanted to assume the throne, to be his successor. I grasped his hand, and he pulled me up from the side of the cliff where Veruca and I had once dangled together.

I was shaken, but otherwise unhurt. He congratulated me on my victory, and asked one of his bubbles to bring over the contract that would seal the deal. I saw my opportunity.

I pushed Mr. Cola off of the same cliff that he used to kill Veruca.


Bubble Trouble is a series helmed by Autostraddle Managing Editor Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya about the nostalgia, effervescence, and never-ending appeal of carbonated beverages.

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ashni

Ashni is a writer, comedian, and farmer's market enthusiast. When they're not writing, they can be found soaking up the sun, trying to make a container garden happen, or reading queer YA.

ashni has written 47 articles for us.

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