It’s like an impossibly large machine has just switched on, far enough away that the actual noise of it is gone, but the low rumble of its vibrations carry through the ground and into your body.
When it happens, you’re not sure whether you’re feeling it or hearing it. Somehow, it’s both, and it's building.
This doesn’t last very long—only a second or two—and then the shaking begins.
The building's wooden frame groans and chatters as it shifts abruptly. The drinking glasses on the shelf clink together rhythmically, and the water in the cat’s dish sloshes gently against the sides. The light above the table swings pendulously, its cord squeaking in the socket. Below it, the cup full of chopsticks rattles.
When the movement subsides, the apartment resumes its former hush, and the soundscape returns to ordinary patterns with the neighbor's water heater cycling on and the cat begging for food, unimpressed by the quake.