Monday, 20 August 2012

Someone's in the fishtank

Aquarium, fineliner ©jb
Sometimes the strangest things happen and no one blinks an eye. We just get on with things. Or we stop, stand still and wait for something to happen, taking cues from each other before we decide to react.

A siren went off in the shopping centre. Sharp, sickening, the sound filled the air leaving no room for anything else but fear. We all looked to each other for clues. A white haired woman read my face just as I searched hers for answers. What the hell is going on? Is it a fire, a gunman? What should we do, what should we do?

The noise went on and on. I had stopped still near a doorway, pram handles tightly gripped with my little boy looking around apparently unaffected. A female voice spoke through the loudspeakers. This is an emergency, please stand by for further instructions. What? Stupid loudspeaker lady. Give us the instructions now! 

I looked around. Some people were still shopping, walking around like they were in a nightclub, used to the oppressive noise. A woman and her young daughter wandered backwards and forwards nearby and asked me what was happening. I told her that it was best that we stay near the doorway, just in case. But to myself, I wondered if the threat was inside or outside the doors.

So I stood frozen to the spot and waited, prepared to run with my boy if I needed to. The loudspeaker lady spoke again. Attention, the emergency has been resolved, repeat, the emergency has been resolved.

Immediately, as if we'd melted, my fellow frozen shoppers and I moved off our spots, joining the flow of carefree shoppers once again. With no explanation for what had happened, some looked slightly embarrassed, as though they read the situation too seriously. Others, like myself who had children with us gave each other a practical smile as if to say, 'Just doing our job, paying attention and keeping our little ones safe'.

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