He stood, eyes transfixed as if in a trance, staring at the row of books. This was the 2nd trip he had made to the “Lords on the Border” book store this week and still... the newest edition to the “Troyus Curse Trilogy” had not yet made it to the shelves. The Author, Elan Awards, had captivated millions with his Fantasy series and he was one.
Grayson considered himself above mainstream fantasy, a bit of a elitest when it came to his reading, but he had made a exception for the “TC” Trilogy. Detractors would say “Its nothing but Gnome Necromancy trash”, just like the countless other Gnome necromancy garbage that filled the fantasy sections of the large bookstores, but Grayson knew it to be so much more.
The Novels were a eloquent statement on the condition of man, the hoards of Flowerfoot the Merciless, consuming all in their path, represented the human species, devouring the earth and its precious resources. While the books depiction of Tuckmucker and his friends represented hope for a new world. To him, the sophisticated reader that he was, it was sublime storytelling at its best.
“ I spoke with my supervisor...” came the voice from behind him, dripping with so much sarcastic annoyance that Grayson was sure he would need a shower to wash off the smell of it. He turned to see the employee he had asked to question management as to the arrival of the latest balm to his boredom, glaring at him with a smile on her lips and Hate filling her eyes. “and he says that the shelf date has been pushed back to next Tuesday, the printer... or something... is having issues making enough copies”. He exhaled disappointment and tried not to breath in the gaseous cloud of contempt that the sales clerk seemed to be expelling as if it was some bizarre natural ability of her race.
“Thank you” he muttered as he turned and began to make his way to the elevator. He thought he had heard the words “Dork” float out of the girls mouth as she walked away but wasn’t sure because of the music that was playing over the speakers and the dull hum of the holiday crowd as they tried to pretend sophistication by purchasing books by the armful for friends and relatives, having never even so much as read the back jacket but merrily excepting the Sales clerks “Its on the Best Sellers list” as a glowing recommendation. He had only contempt for these people.
The silver doors of the Elevator slid open as he approached as a old man in a wheelchair rolled slowly out. “Great, I don’t have to wait for it” he thought as he hurried to climb aboard before the doors closed, nearly running into the Old man. The store was only two stories but still... “why walk when you can ride?”. he turned to push the button for the first floor, it lit under the pressure of his finger and the doors began to close, as they slid shut he caught the eyes of the old man looking at him with a “You Lazy SOB” kind of glare... Grayson looked away quickly.
Silence at last...sort of... as the speaker overhead played a sweet melodic instrumental version of a 80’s punk hit that he could not recall the name of but did recall the chorus had the word “Sedation” in it somewhere, popular music was never his “thing”. He remembered that his mother had wanted him to pick up Soy milk on the way home and this memory immediately set off, in rapid succession, a string of thoughts that brought him to his “ One day I am going to move out of my parents house” line of thinking.
Suddenly, and very briefly, the power seemed to flicker a bit, the overhead florescent bulb seemed to glow whiter and brighter... but again, only ever so briefly. He noticed it, but paid it no mind as the Elevator finished its descent.
Grayson stepped towards the door in anticipation of its opening, his mind once more drifted back to the sheer and utter disappointment of his trip as a nagging voice in the back of his head, his own truthful self- narrator, uttered “par for the course”. Then the doors slowly slid open.
Immediately, he felt as if his feet had been nailed to the floor and that his lungs had been commanded to stop their involuntary activity. a cold sickly feeling crept over him as his eyes darted around the store before him, or more exactly, the empty store before him.
30 seconds before, when the doors to his Transport box had closed, the store had been a hive of activity, crowded with holiday shoppers. Children ran about placing books on the wrong shelves as their parents ignored them while they sucked down the latest coffee treat from the “Cafe”, Teens with headphones stood listening to unheard tunes in the music section and the curt, insincere “Next Customer Please” came from the employee’s behind the registers... now only music played.
Slowly, using every ounce of will he could muster, he stepped from the elevator as his eyes caught a sales flyer drifting down from the 2nd floor balcony. A Strange, almost electric oder filled the air. He took a few steps out into the store, no one moved, through the huge glass windows no cars drove, he began to feel the first pangs of panic... that is until he felt “it”.
It was a growing burning sensation, not on his skin but as if from the core of his being, his very bones. It grew in intensity, like embers being blown into a full blown fire. He glanced down at his hands and cried out... it looked as if he was boiling under the cover of his skin. The Pain increased it was as if he were liquifying and burning at the same time then suddenly ... all went black.