The sales assistant will walk to the aisle where the man was seen on the CCTV footage. Nothing will be missing, quite the contrary. Something has been put on the shelf, something that does not belong. A book, a toy, an item of clothing. Not similar to anything sold by the store, and it’s just sitting there, out of place, put there by the strange man. This is why the staff of Dellafollarra call him The Stockist.
Some say The Stockist is mad, maybe “like a kleptomanic in reverse”. Others write the whole thing off as a viral marketing stunt. Still others say it’s spies passing secret information to each other. Or it’s an angel. Or a ghost. Or a time-traveller.
But none of these theories account for one critical fact of the tale. The item that The Stockist leaves upon the shelves is very familiar to the sales assistant. Very familiar. It’s their teddy bear, or the book their father used to teach them how to read, or the blanket they took to kindergarten. Not the actual items, you understand, these are usually safe in the sales assistant’s houses, or their parents’ houses. What The Stockist leaves upon the shelf is a copy, apparently designed to elicit the maximum emotional pull upon the person who finds the item. It’s spooky. How does he know what their childhood involved?
I’ll tell you my theory. He’s not a spy, or an angel. None of the above. I think The Stockist is Dellafollarra itself. The shopping centre in personified form. All that complexity, all that activity, all the thoughts and dreams and memories of the staff and the millions of shoppers… it’s woken up. It’s the little spark in all of the people, rebelling against the mass production and the endless repetition, it’s small pieces of individuality coalesced into physical form.
Next time you go shopping, keep an eye out. The Stockist is there, somewhere, created in part by a dusty corner of your own mind.