A man stood in the middle of the street, unmoving, frozen in place. As people hurried past without looking, it almost felt as if he wasn’t even there, had there not been a small dent in the crowd where they steered around him.
This was the heart of the city, at the busiest hour of the day. The shops to the left and right were bustling with visitors, dozens flowing in and out of wide open glass doors. Traffic was blocked off, except for the occasional delivery vehicle squeezing through at minimum speed, parting the masses of pedestrians who barely acknowledged the distraction, stepping aside unhurriedly. It was the kind of congested zone which enrages only a small number of people, those who actually have purpose and want to get through, but leaves everyone else in a state of pleasant exhaustion after a period of time filled with doing nothing. With luck, that period might stretch from noon to early evening, and perhaps longer if nights were pleasantly balmy, warm enough for shoppers to keep wandering around until the businesses shut their doors and regrettably only the late bars and restaurants remained open. No matter, for then it would repeat, day after day, until the summer season passed and colder weather took over. It just had that quality of timeless absurdity about it. Nobody would notice, for none of them ever stopped to reflect. Almost none.
There was one, and he had been hit hard by the realization. It had struck him motionless, right there, in the middle of it all. He was stopped in his step, just standing there. His eyes, which earlier had taken in the lines of shopping windows on either side, the constant stream of people floating by, were glazed over and almost shut; his ears, which had caught the occasional phrase or sentence from conversations left and right, the distant sound of a heavy machine’s hum, and the ever-transforming soundtrack from all the indoor speakers playing music designed to distract shoppers from the price tags and their small print … his ears had fixated on the most unlikely of all sounds, barely noticeable: the faint singsong of the breeze wafting over them. This was all the man could hear, until it faded off, leaving him to seeing, but not looking at, the blur of forms and colors streaming across his field of vision, and completely lost to any feeling at all in his body. He just stood there in a cloud of sense perceptions that made no impact at all on his mind. Time had stopped. The perpetuity, the repetitiveness of it all had shown itself to him, and it had grabbed his attention, his entire consciousness, and arrested it just as it was, right there and then.
And then — which is to point to, not a subsequent moment, but really something else, a wholly fitting, but not quite consequential thing — the whole world faded away, just disappeared. There was no longer any smell or sound, nor any shapes or colors. A nothingness swept over him, and he leapt right through it with the speed of a thought. And then he was there: he found himself on the other side of consciousness.
In their mindlessness, dozens of shoppers never lost a second thought when a man, who had just stood there, motionless, in the middle of the street, suddenly disappeared. Those passers-by who were closest, who just a blink of an eye ago were about to unconsciously correct their walking direction to avoid and go around him, re-adjusted and went straight on, right across that spot where, incredibly enough, but unnoticed in retrospect by any of them, a man had been up until now — and which now was empty.