The Ikea in Ashton can be seen from space


For the next few days Ray ventured further into this new world. He found its vastness comforting. He could happily sit for a few hours nursing a cup of tea, and he wouldn’t be bothered. He realised there were times when he had best make himself scarce – the lunch rush, for instance, or when the shift changed. He would slowly make his way out of the restaurant and into the brightly lit cornucopia of the store itself.

There were a dozen bathrooms, two dozen kitchens, as many living rooms and bedrooms. Ray would walk slowly through the store, finding the quiet areas, not wanting to draw attention to himself. He watched the other customers to learn how he should behave. It didn’t seem to matter that he bought nothing. Nobody bought anything. To buy anything you had to make your way to the other end of the store. It was only when you reached here, having passed through the marketplace, that the real business took place. Some days he would just squeeze past the tills, as unobtrusively as he could, but he preferred to retrace his steps and leave the way he’d come in.
He became one of the regulars. A few people noticed him. Not the managers or the suits, but the cleaners, the security guards, the young girl who always served his cup of tea with a smile and a few words. Maybe twice a year there were state visits, where some big manager from London or Sweden would visit, and a few days before he’d get a little pat on the shoulder from the security guard. The following week he’d be back and nothing would be said, just a nod of recognition.

He was more worried the one time a lady from Personnel thrust an application form into his hand with the words ‘we do encourage applications from local people’. They were looking for loading crew round the back of the store. Next time she saw him, he pulled out his disability card. ‘Well, if anything more appropriate comes up’, she said, without a second thought.

The Christmas and New Year period had been particularly busy and Ray had restricted his visits to mid-afternoon, sitting for an hour with a cup of tea, overwhelmed by the amount of people. His health had been deteriorating for a while. After leaving the store he’d stop off at the pub near where he lived, and drink steadily until their evening shift started. He was rarely home later than seven.

One icy February day he woke up late, feeling more sickly than ever. He stayed in bed until the middle of the afternoon. He left the house and went straight to the pub. He stayed longer than he usually did. It was a quiet night at a quiet time of year and nobody minded. He looked at his hands in front of him on the bar. They were practically translucent. No wonder nobody noticed him – he was literally fading away.

By eight he was ready to go home and stepped out onto the pavement. There was a bright full moon in the sky, and for once it was a clear night. He looked up at the sky and could almost make out the stars. He fixed his eyes on one point, a small dot of light that appeared to be moving, coming closer. Maybe he’d had one too many.

He followed the light. If he was not mistaken it was heading towards Ashton, and, more specifically, the Ikea. Ray forgot about going home and headed for the furniture store.

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2 Responses to “The Ikea in Ashton can be seen from space”

  1. April 12, 2010 at 9:44 pm, Joel said:

    I thought Ray was well-realised and thought the 2310 ‘epilogue’ felt plausible, but I was disappointed Ray did not reappear.

  2. April 26, 2010 at 2:51 pm, Adrian Slatcher said:

    Thanks for reading, and for the comment. Good point – I wonder what happened to him after his visitation?


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