Part I: Radishes
When she opened the tiny door the flood of noise that had been heretofore muted sprang into lively eddies of echo throughout the small shaft. Her way seemed blocked once again, this time by several large, dusty barrels which had been pushed up against the opening. Through the barrels she could just see little flashes of color as people milled about outside. A marketplace!
She could hear a multitude of strange, rasping voices like thatch on burlap, hawking their wares. Birds this way! Here, some fish! Five! said a woman, Not a penny less!
What a relief to be in a marketplace! No more sneaking about, a real crowd of people out in the sunlight, friendly people, going about their business like nothing at all had happened! She pushed at the barrels with her hands. They were very heavy. Smoothing the bottom of her jumper under her legs and sitting back on her hips, she braced her arms against the frame of the door and pushed heavily with her legs. The barrel slid a little way out. She gave another push, and it gave another inch, turning slightly along its rim. She slipped down from the door and into the space behind the barrels.
From here she could see the marketplace. There were a great variety of tiny carts and shops, each shadowed by its own awning and obscured by its own mass of customers. The were carts selling great heaps of vegetables, including a cart selling only radishes. There were so many radishes they overflowed onto the ground and the shopkeeper was angrily defending the edge of his domain with a broomstick from a group of little urchins who squatted in the dust nearby.
But this is not what she noticed about the marketplace.
The people... if they could be called people... were not people at all, but only the clothes of people, animately moving about the scene as if filled by flesh. But they were glarely empty of anything like living bodies. Why, but they must be invisible people, she thought, a wave of fresh sweat breaking suddenly across her brow.
The shopkeeper at the radish stand was nothing more than a study brown work apron, a pair of coarse brown trousers and a stiff white shirt. He wore a key round his upper arm on an elastic band. His cuffs were wrapped around the broom, which he continued to wave erratically at the young... rags... that's all they were, a pile of dirty rags and faded t-shirts, darting out and fetching radishes, which disappeared into the folds of their clothing. That's all they seemed to be, her mind said, checking itself. Invisible people!