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BHS — a fiction by ollie francis
A ghost story to mark the passing of British Home Stores
There is a corner of the store forever occupied by the Lost Child. He does not realise that all retail operations have ceased. Still, he waits to be found in the woods, weeping beneath the clothes rail.
I wonder if his mother will stop looking for him now. The store is closed. Everybody home now. Honey, we need to try for another kid; I lost the last one when the store shut down.
It is dark in here. The fluorescent strips are horizontal icicles. There is a layer of frost on the remaining stock, scattered over the floor where it fell during the economic evacuation. It is laid in piles, although I do not think it would burn now. The Child crawls beneath one for warmth; an immaterial body buried beneath the material, as forgotten as each other.
This is not death. Death is kinder.
The snowfall stops. The ground thaws. New bodies fill the space, clear the space, fill the space. Spring begins, new born, but harder, harsher, more austere, lower paid. Spotlights grow from ceiling recesses. Offers litter the glade like wildflowers. The boy wakes among shoppers. He runs between them, calls for mother. A soft-spoken man takes him to the counter where the tannoy announces his name, but his mother has shopping to do. She leaves him there to talk to the self-service machines. They welcome him, but they do not care.
Originally published on Tumblr