THE FIFTH COLUMN
It was horrendous, as you can imagine. A wave of red overalls — a veritable sea — came rushing down the aisles frothing, fuming, pushing every-thing out of their way. And I mean everything: perfume stations, men’s and women’s underwear stands, sunglasses displays.
The children’s section got the brunt of it. And it didn’t take much — they simply pushed the tiny mannequins over two at a time, brushing past with their arms stretched out. It was carnage.
Standing on stilettos, I could see their heads bobbing towards me. Towards us, my colleagues and I.
I feared for our demise. As they came closer, I could tell by the expression on their faces they meant business. They were furious.
Scrambling on to our platform, a big-bosomed woman grabbed my colleague by the shoulders and pushed her to the ground. She didn’t put up much of a fight, the frail creature. I suspect she dropped to the floor of her own volition.
The male mannequin to my left tried his utmost to ward off his attackers. I haven’t seen him exert himself like that in quite some time, but to no avail. A hip-high toddler — there were so many of them — seized him by the waist and wrestled him to the floor, where the toddler stepped on his head (yes, stepped right on his head) before gunning for the next victim. It was a total onslaught. All of us were white, no one was spared.
I kept my composure, looking straight ahead. Storefront training kicked in. I didn’t move a muscle. Then I grew hopeful as the mob marauded on, appearing to have mistaken me for a real person just minding my own business. But then a fighter stopped and looked me right in the eyes. My heart stopped. He approached me, tilted his head and waved his hand in front of my face. What was I to do?
My life flashed before my eyes, interspersed with my attacker’s face as it appeared momentarily between his palm moving from side to side. The factory, a mould, a truck; London, Paris, Milan and then, Africa. “You’ll enjoy it,” they said. “The pace is much slower,” they said.
The assailant stopped waving his hand and seemed to have come to the conclusion that I was inanimate.
His face hardened and he gripped me by the shoulders — clearly the preferred method of the day — and for a moment I thought for all money he was going to crash his forehead into my nose. Have mercy, I wanted to plead but, of course, couldn’t. Have mercy on a wretched soul. I did you no harm.
But he just stood there for quite some time seemingly weighing his options. Then he looked to his left and to his right, after which I felt him applying pressure to my left shoulder and watched as he stepped his right foot to the side and bent his knee. The pressure on my left shoulder increased and I started to tip sideways ever so slowly.
Halfway down, my attacker cradled the right side of my head, gently lowered my body to the floor, stepped over me and walked away.