It started about when I got to the pasta aisle.
I mean, I started really noticing things about then. I was holding a box of farfalles and looking at the rotinis, trying to make up my mind. There was a couple down at the other end of the aisle. The woman was taking a jar off of the shelf and reaching to put it into the cart. The man was leaning on his elbows on the cart handle, looking at her, his head cocked slightly. As she turned to put the jar into the basket, he suddenly shoved the cart into her legs, hard enough to knock her back into the shelf.
His facial expression never changed. It was just… Normal Life, and then Wham. She cried out as her back hit the shelves. The jars all clinked a bit. She moaned a little as the pain set in.
Despite my long training at MYOB in life, I heard my voice loudly saying, “WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?”
Now his face changed.
There had been a hint of amusement on it as he watched the woman react to the pain and surprise. An entertained sort of satisfaction.
But when he heard my exclamation, somehow the lighting seemed to change. The twisted little smile and narrowed eyes were chased away by a shadow, one that darkened the hollows of his eye sockets and made his jawline sharper.
His gaze fixed on me in the way that a cat’s locks onto a bird it intends to jump.
“Mind yer bizness!” he snarled. The shadows in the contours of his face seemed to get darker. There was something like a black haze surrounding him, looking like a layer of dust just over his skin.
“I AM minding my business, you lowlife bastard. You just assaulted her! You hurt her! What the HELL is wrong with you?”
“Prove it,” he smiled. “Go ahead, prove it. You can’t. You don’t got no phone on you. You can’t prove a damn thing. Yer word against mine.”
Something in me boiled. I was about ready to sprint down that aisle and punch him in the face. Let him prove THAT.
But right at that moment, the woman- who’d been shocked and still crying a moment before- danced.
I mean, not really. But it was a moment of aetherial movement, like seeing a ballerina suddenly go en pointe and dance in a crowded subway.
One moment she was hunched over and weeping, holding her hands on her knees, and the next she was pulling jar after jar off of the shelf and throwing them, full force, into his head.
She moved with deadly accuracy and with the speed of a ball launcher set on high. Before I was quite sure what was happening, the guy had been hit in the head with at least five large sauce jars, which landed with audible thuds and then smashed themselves on the tile floor, to which he was sinking, slow motion. The cart tipped over as he went down.
She stopped then, and woodenly reached out to get her purse from the cart before stepping over his prone body and walking slowly out of the store.
I wasn’t really sure what to do, this was all so surreal. I started looking around trying to summon my voice to call for help when I realized that under the cover of the Billy Joel song currently playing on the store speakers, there were shrieks and shouts and noises of fighting happening all over the store. The battle I’d just witnessed had been quick and somewhat quiet. The ones I was hearing were long and drawn out, and there was wailing and growling and terrible sounds coming from everywhere in the place.
A large man rounded the corner down by the sauce, close to the prone guy, and seemed bemused by the sight of all of the red stuff on the floor and the figure in its midst. He slowly extended his gaze further up the aisle and fixed it on my feet, and then raised his eyes to my face. He looked me in the eyes, smiled a beautiful smile, and then fell forward onto his face, right next to the sauce-man, a knife in his back.
I just walked away from my cart, then, heading for the doors. I don’t remember exactly thinking that I should do that, I just remember being in the pasta aisle and then being close to the doors out, the box of farfalle still in my hand.
I remember trying to decide where to set it down, because I didn’t want to be arrested for shoplifting, while dazedly watching an old man repeatedly ram his motorized cart into the body of a young man who was laying there pinned against the ice cream case. I threw the pasta box on the floor and began heading out the doors.
That’s when the lion walked in.