"30 Days of ghouls" -- Day 1: "Afterlife Shopping" by Henry Corrigan
Growing up, I used to believe that ghosts were things which stuck to once sacred churches, abandoned graveyards and murderous houses. The idea of grocery stores never really entered into it, but that’s exactly where I encountered my first.
When I was 18, I was taking part in what many would say is an unofficial rite of passage; propping up a cash register at my local King Kullen.
The store, like most grocery stores, was large, well lit, and constantly chilly. Even people who do regular grocery shopping seem to forget how cold these places are.
But I’d bet if you closed your eyes, you could picture the features.
Fifteen registers set up in a line right by the door, customer service desk across from them, racks full of gossip mags, celebrity tell alls and candies. There were those little red hand baskets underneath each register, the kind that always dug into your palm when your “quick trip” turned into more than you’d planned.
That night, I’d been working the express register, number fifteen with a fifteen item limit.
I always hated express for a number of reasons. One being that in an already cold place, express left me frigid as the register was right by the front door, so anytime a customer left, I got chills. Another reason I hated express was there would always be someone who couldn’t understand why they had to wait for the regular registers when I had no customers and they only had 300 items.
So for as much as those little red baskets might have caused physical pain, they were also a good way for me to keep my sanity. Because on slow nights, I could waste a couple of minutes collecting them and still pretend I was being productive.
The night I saw my first ghost, we were well-staffed, but as far as customers went, the place was dead (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Including me, there was my then girlfriend, two managers, and a half dozen others ranging from teenagers to middle-aged folks in need of a second job.
I don’t remember seeing the man come in, but I do remember when he walked past me.
I was out in front, collecting baskets, our managers were handling something at customer service, and my girlfriend was talking with other worker bees at the opposite end. But while there might have been a fair few people around, that doesn’t always mean anything.
The man was tall, between 6’2” and 6’4,” with shoulder length black hair, a black t-shirt, black pants and boots. He walked by me and the moment I saw him, I started to follow. I can’t even honestly tell you why. It was just that something was off about him and I needed to know what it was.
I followed him past the other workers but lost him as he rounded an end-cap. I couldn’t have been more than 5 seconds behind him but when I came around the corner, he was gone.
I checked every aisle from one end to the other. I even poked my head into receiving, which was all the way in the back and easily the coldest place in the store.
There was no place else he could’ve gone, and no way he could’ve disappeared that fast. I checked with everyone the moment I got back. No one, including my girlfriend, remembered seeing him.
I worked express until closing that night. You couldn’t get out of the store without walking right by me. I never saw him again.
Now, I can’t fully explain that night but I can tell you that man changed my fascination with horror forever.
Since then I’ve fallen in love with stories which include a bit of the bizarre in them, because I will never know if there was a “rational explanation,” or if the man just needed some orange juice on his way to the afterlife. But either way, I will always thank him for the weirdness he injected into my life, and for the good story he left me.