He was in the supermarket when it happened. It was early in the morning, and the market had just opened its doors. He only needed bread and eggs, which he could store in the fridge at work until the end of his shift. He wanted to get home right away after work and make things right. He waved to Mrs Smithers, his neighbour, who was cheerfully pushing a trolley filled with toilet tissue. Only yesterday she had brought him a jar of her apricot jelly. It was usually just a little too sweet, he thought, but it was such a kind gesture.
First, he noticed a rumbling, as if a subway train was running underground directly beneath him; but there was no train, no subway. The structure– the floors and walls– then actually quivered, violently, and Damien lost his footing. Someone screamed. It sounded like the young cashier, Denise.
The floor was liquid beneath his feet. Cereals, cans of fruit, cases of soft drinks flew off the shelves: they flew as if there was no gravity, careening across aisles and thudding into the store manager, who was trying to run outside. Lights and generators shut off.
He frantically reached for his phone. There was a loud crash and then Mrs Smithers smashed into him, knocking the phone out of his hand. She had blood running out of her nose.
In slow motion he crawled on his hands and knees, as plaster and chunks of wallboard rained upon his shoulders. Something sharp lodged in the back of his neck. He felt the wetness on his back, but no pain.
Somehow he reached the phone and punched in the number.
He smelled smoke, heard someone praying, and the roof over the produce section collapsed, trapping a man and his teenage son, who only a few minutes ago had been arguing; something to do with a car.
He couldn’t see anything any more, and felt suddenly, terribly, weak, but he got through! He heard the voice on the other end of the line. “I love you,” he said, as loudly as he could, and then collapsed into the broken glass and rubble.