A modern ghost story

Hillary Huff enjoyed Ikea almost more than anything else. She put it above long walks on the beach, short walks in the city, and medium walks in the forest. In fact, Hillary didn’t even like walking that much unless it was through the furniture and home goods super store. She loved to sit for hours in the different showcase rooms, pretending to be someone who would own an orange couch, then quickly switching to the stainless steel kitchen cabinet type. 

So when she choked to death on a famous Ikea meatball, she fell with a smile on her increasingly purple face, and landed with arms outstretched as if to embrace the minimalist Swedish aesthetic to the very end. 

To Hillary, her transition from living to dead happened in an unfinished heartbeat. She didn’t smokily separate from her corporeal form only to see her body wheeled away. One second she was falling in the reasonably priced cafe, the next the place was empty and she was in reasonably priced living room, floating above a reasonably priced mid-century styled wingback. She looked down at the gap between her dangling legs and the chair and knew instantly: she had arrived in heaven.

Hillary was wrong. She was not a bad person, exactly, but she cheated at Scrabble and always under-tipped, so here she was: doomed to haunt the place she dropped dead in until God moved on to some other bit of entertainment.

Hillary’s time hovering around Ikea started out well enough: she no longer had to remain silent while she played out her fantasies. She hopped from chair to couch to leaning casually next to a giant photo of a weird flower, changing accents and body language like a true regular on Murder, She Wrote. 

She spent the night methodically going through the store, room to room, pretending to be metropolitan intellectuals, starving artists, naive college students, and a fashionable monkey. She snuck into the cafe, juggling meatballs and letting them fall, one by one, directly into her mouth. She was not one to hold a grudge.

Eventually she made her way to the largest, most reasonably comfortable bed and got cozy. Ghosts don’t need to sleep, but who doesn’t like a good lay down?

Within 25 minutes the overhead lights turned back on, and blue and yellow clad reasonably smiley twenty-somethings began shuffling in. Hillary’s idea of heaven didn’t actually include interacting with others, but having workers around might be kind of convenient, she thought. 

Hillary was wrong. The Ikea maze became clogged with not just employees but also the ambling customers who dragged their feet as they used tiny pencils to illegibly scribble down jumbles of numbers and letters. As Hillary watched, cute couples acted out the same scenarios she had always portrayed by herself; groups of friends sat around a couch, pretending to drink coffee like characters in their favorite TV shows; whole families joked around a kitchen table, testing it to see if it’d fit in their wholesome life. They all smiled, took notes, and went together, often hand-in-hand, to take their new furniture to their loving homes.

As a parade of shoppers loosely followed the arrows painted on the floor, Hillary realized that she was not in heaven after all. She was trapped in the reasonable shopping experience of these smiling fools. She was a spectator to these shuffling bulks of flesh and blood and credit cards, who enjoyed their time in Ikea because they knew that they would be taking something home with them. Hillary glided the aisles joylessly, passing living rooms filled with grinning strangers. She slid by impressively professional desks and bookshelves, bright and shiny kitchens and dining rooms, and briefly stopped at a child’s bed. She never gave it a second glance before, having even less need for it that the rest of Ikea’s inventory. Hillary felt ghost tears forming on her ghost eyes, and moved along.

And that’s when she started throwing meatballs.