Grocery 2

Avoiding the seventh step, which she had put her foot through on her last visit, she padded cautiously out onto the creaking balcony. The floorboards gave a groan of protest as she added her weight to the stacked boxes and crates, and she grimaced. “ONE PATRON AT A TIME ON THE BALCONY” read a hastily scribbled sign, tacked up over the boarded-up window.

 

Smiling triumphantly over her shoulder at a customer who had ascended the stairs a fraction too late, and had to descend with a scowl, Leafsong crouched down and began to rummage through the trays of jumbled tins. The best bargains were always in the most obscure places, she knew from experience, her fingers expertly sorting the diamonds from the dross. With a triumphant cackle, she pulled out a slightly dented tin of Stranglethorn white peaches (a delicacy, normally a gold per tin), for only fifteen silver. She would be able to serve it up with the murloc fin soup from yesterday for dinner, and the peaches could be mashed and fed to the babies. Mirae, who had a sweet tooth (six of them), would be especially pleased. Humming to herself happily, crossing DESSART off her list, she turned around to inspect rows of slightly bruised fruit.

 

She was just holding an apple in each hand, inspecting them for worm-holes; when the building gave an eerie groan from its foundations, a sound of protest that seemed to come from the walls themselves. Almost immediately afterwards, there came a menacing rumble from somewhere deep below, rolling up through the layers of earth like an ocean swell. Discount Groceries, one of the oldest buildings in Stormwind, gave a protesting lurch. A moment later, there was a crack, hollow and piercing as a gunshot.

 

The apples fell from from her hand, along with her basket , as she stumbled. The floorboards beneath her pitched, like the deck of a ship caught in the throes of a storm. Barely registering the cries and shouts from the floor below, she lost her balance and pitched forward into the tray of fruit, sending the contents tumbling to the no-longer horizontal floor. The balcony structure gave an anguished creak, the fastenings beginning to tear away from the wall. Leafsong clutched at the wooden railings, hanging on for dear life, peering down between the slats to the floor below. The shopfront, so familiar to her, had been transformed into something unrecognisable. With horror, she realised that she could see straight into the basement below. Broken floorboards edged the cavernous opening, the counter had vanished completely. The thunderous sound of the earth shifting drowned out most of the cries, only the hysterical shrieks of the priestess were audible over the cacophony.

 

Stupidly, Leafsong spotted her discarded bruised bananas sliding towards her on the angled floor, and grabbed for them. There was a sickening crack as one side of the balcony broke away from the wall, and the floor beneath her dropped away. She felt herself drop and flung out her arms, her fingers locking around a broken beam, nails gripping in. She hung there for a moment, desperately trying to channel strength into her scrawny limbs, her body like the dead weight of an anchor. She was too absorbed in clinging to her splintered lifeline to realise that the shuddering of the earth had stopped. A warm trickle down her cheek left a salty taste in her mouth, plaster coating her hair.

 

Now the true destruction began, as weakened foundations subsided and broken joints failed, several dozen city structures entering their death throes. The deafening rumble had died away, to be replaced with a far more terrifying sound; the pathetic cries of the trapped and the moans of the injured. Leafsong gritted her teeth, clinging on to her beam, unable to muster the strength to pull herself up. Below her, the old paladin was crumpled in the door frame, his golden sword still sheathed. The knight was slowly coming back to his senses, his first thought clearly for his priestess companion as he looked about him in bewilderment. Absurdly, Leafsong watched him, distracted from her own precarious situation. To his credit, he seemed to compose himself in moments, hauling himself to his feet. She called out to him in Common, her voice hoarse from the dust that coated her throat.

 

“Hallo, hallo..”

 

He looked upwards, as if in a daze, not seeming surprised to see her hanging there.

 

“Where’s everyone gone?” he asked, his voice slurred, as if awakened from deep sleep. She shook her head helplessly, gritting her teeth as she hung there.

 

“Gone, gone.. please, ‘elp.”

 

Discarding his sword, which had proven to be useless, he avoided the gaping chasm in the floor and attempted to reach her. She was about to release her grip on the beam to drop into his arms, when the house gave one more sickening lurch, caught up in the throes of an aftershock. The paladin lost his balance and fell between the broken floorboards, arms flailing, a curse on his lips. Leafsong let out a wail of horror as the beam tore itself away from her fingers, her stomach lurched and she felt herself fall away into space. The broken shop front spun around her in a whirl and she felt something metallic strike her forehead. The chaos instantly muted itself and she felt herself sinking into a quiet peace, her vision shrinking to a black dot.

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1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Aphel said,

    Wow! Amazing ending. I didn’t expect that at all. Definitely one of your best pieces of writing ever.


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