‘Heaven sent a hellish scent’

 “Is that lavender I smell?”; He pondered out loud.

“How would you know?”; His wife chortled. “You wouldn’t realize if a dead cat was in here! You have the worst sense of smell of anyone I know. I’ve worn this perfume for six months. Why would you just start noticing it now?”

   “I have no idea. When I woke up this morning my nose was filled with a plethora of odd fragrances. It was as if you had sprayed a potpourri air freshener in the room. I could smell dozens of different things lingering in the room. I noticed fabric softener on my pillowcase, your lavender-based perfume from the bathroom counter and also the horrible stench of my morning breath. Heck, I even got a whiff of the burnt toast from downstairs in the kitchen. I know that’s a pretty distinctive odor but I’ve never been able to smell it so far away before. I can’t explain the sudden sensory overload. It’s kinda overwhelming.”

   “I don’t know what you think you smell but I didn’t burn any toast.”; She replied with annoyance. Alice was a little defensive about her cooking.

   As if on queue, the smoke alarm downstairs began to incessantly beep. Mrs. Gowan opened the door and yelled to the kitchen. “What’s going on down there?”

  “Sorry Mom. My toast got a little overdone.”

   Stuart grinned at her. “See, I told ya.” She just rolled her eyes at the incredibly convenient confirmation.

   Later that evening and for several days later he was graced with an uncharacteristic sense of smell. He finally understood the reputation of the office ‘stinker’ and was grateful that it wasn’t him. The powerful scent of coffee filled his nostrils and even the flowers at the reception desk ‘called out to him’. He rapidly found himself eavesdropping on a secret olfactory world which he had no previous awareness of. It was both overwhelming and strangely addictive. He had to force himself to stop stealing whiffs of his attractive, twenty-something secretary’s hair. “That’s basically what got King David in trouble.”; He remembered from last Sunday’s church sermon. “David couldn’t stop thinking about the dazzling charms of Bathsheba.”

   No sooner than he walked into the door to his home, he scrunched his nose up. To no one in particular, he announced that the milk in the fridge had went bad. Only when his wife opened up the refrigerator door was she able to verify his proclamation. She looked at him with a suspicious look. 

  “How could you possibly know the milk had spoiled? It was still in the fridge with the door closed and the lid on. I couldn’t even tell until I stuck my nose over the spout. If you knew it was bad last night, why didn’t you just go ahead and pour it out? There’s no point in pretending you have some sort of ‘divine sniffer’ now. No one is going to believe that about your nose.”

   “I swear, something has happened. Its a modern day miracle. It’s been like this for a couple days now. Ever since I noticed Sean’s burnt toast in the kitchen, I’ve been bombarded with hundreds of olfactory queues that I couldn’t detect before. I can’t even identify most of them because I have no past field of comparison but it’s a real thing. For whatever reason, I’ve been blessed with a new gift from the Lord. I must be living right, eh?” He chuckled at the realization of his good fortune. 

  Alice glared at him with skepticism. She was deeply devout in her faith, and didn’t like to take the possibility of modern day miracles so lightly. It seemed blasphemous to assume that mundane things like that would be given by the almighty while far greater needs would not be granted. She didn’t take his true, divine gifts for granted. 

   “As a matter of fact, I can sense a cigarette burning around here.”; He added confidently. “Come with me. Let’s get to the bottom of it. Then you can decide for yourself if I’m really imagining the whole thing.”

   They darted out of the house with Mr. Gowan leading the way. In the storage shed, they discovered their teenage son covertly puffing on a cigarette, as he had predicted. “Lord help me! I can’t believe this! You’re grounded for a month!”; Alice commanded. “Where did you get that filthy thing?”

  He attempted to cover up his tracks but when he saw how it was making matters worse, Sean eventually confessed the truth. It had come from a classmate’s Mom’s purse. Despite his protests of it being ‘no big deal’, Mrs. Gowan sent him to his room to reflect on his unacceptable behavior. She was too miffed about his secretive activity to weigh in on her husband’s mysterious new ‘super power’.

   Meanwhile Stuart continued to experience a heightened sense of smell in unexplained circumstances. Everywhere he went, a whole new world of mysterious odors followed him around. It ran the gamut from intriguing to downright annoying. The unfamiliar sensations could be overwhelming at times. Most of the time he just wanted things to go back to normal for him. He noticed the pleasant fragrance of baked yeast rolls and the fresh linens on their bed. 

   There were also plenty of foul odors he encountered. He had to wait a half hour to use the men’s room at the office because of the lingering stall ‘funk’. Javier liked to heat up tuna for lunch in the break room and the office manager used far too much cheap cologne. All in all, it was a wash. The pleasant and unpleasant smells were about even. 

   That all changed the following Friday morning. No sooner than Stuart entered his office building, he was assaulted with a stench so powerful that if felt like a physical blow to his person. He recoiled in horror. The vile odor invading his nostrils was a compound of many, unpleasant things. The first of which was an unmistakable odor of decay and death. It lingered in the air as if the building was filled with corpses and rotting bodies. There was also an unmistakable smell of charred flesh and heavy gaseous fumes. He looked around in bewilderment. All of his coworkers were milling about as if nothing was wrong. It didn’t make any sense. He choked and gagged from the putrid stench while they looked at him in perplexed dismay. 

  “Don’t you all smell that horrible odor?”; He grasped. “It absolutely reeks in here!”; He leaned over and vomited. Several of his peers ran over to check on him. “No! No. Don’t worry about me. Have everyone evacuate the building, immediately.”

   The receptionist nervously picked up the intercom and asked for all personnel to exit the office building immediately. Like everyone else, she was oblivious to Stuart’s reasoning but took his word for the emergency request. Stuart stumbled over to the fire alarm and pulled it, to further punctuate the critical importance of the announcement. Slowly the staff and executives began to file out of their various offices and into the lobby. Evacuees from different floors dutifully used the stairs instead of the elevators according to posted safety regulations. 

   Dozens of confused employees questioned the receptionist about her evacuation announcement. She explained that it was Stuart who gave the cryptic order. He stood at the edge of the lobby door and frantically motioned for them to immediately follow him outside. From his well known honesty and character, the staff elected to obey his request without explanation. They assumed he would detail what all the hubbub was about, once they were outside. 

   As it turned out, that wasn’t necessary. No sooner than the last employee had joined the impromptu gathering on the other side of the parking lot, a massive explosion leveled the building! The incredible blast was heard more than twenty miles away. Shrapnel and flying debris caused a few minor injuries but overall, it was the best case scenario. Some of the survivors suffered temporary hearing loss but they were grateful for Stuart’s heroic actions. No one could explain how he was the only one who could smell the deadly gas leak. In the end, no one cared. He didn’t mention the hellish scent of death he witnessed before the explosion. It was clearly an olfactory premonition he was given to prevent a disaster. Alice fully accepted the miracle after that. It was as plain as the nose on his face.

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Posted in Controversial topics, Different Perspectives, Fiction Stories, Horror, Macabre, Mystery, Science Fiction, Supernatural, Thought provoking, Thriller, Twilight Zone Inspired, Uncategorized, Utopia & Armageddon, Whimsical | Leave a comment

‘Joy is the key’

Somewhere in the world,
a man that isn’t free;
finds solace in his success.
whatever it may be.
He builds up an empire,
in ways he can see.
What he doesn’t realize
is that joy is the key.

Posted in Children's Stories, Different Perspectives, Essays & Rants, Inspirational, Mantras, Poetry, Recollections, Thought provoking, True Stories, True Stories, Essays & Rants, Uncategorized, Whimsical | Leave a comment

‘Threadbare apocalypse’

 It wasn’t obvious at first. People shuffled about downtown in the crowded city. A million distracted souls were occupied with a million different missions. None of them payed much attention to the others. There were people from all creeds and walks of life. In the sea of souls, their faces blended together to form an urban tapestry of cultural diversity. 

   A businessman walked past with an expensive tailored suit but the garment had seen better days. It had frayed edges around the lapels and unraveled stitching on most of the seams. The whole thing might have gone unnoticed if he hadn’t carried such an air of esteemed dignity. Almost immediately, a hot dog seller passed him, walking the other way. His uniform was actually in tatters. It hung off of him like dry-rotted rags. 

  Anyone who saw the street vendor might have been tempted to make assumptions about the quality of his food, but that value judgment was quickly lost. Soon a menagerie of clothing misfits were everywhere. Ladies in threadbare rags, children dressed in heavily patched jeans. Wheelchair bound veterans adorned in faded cheesecloth and teenagers who looked as if they had just exited a collapsed coal mine. For as far as the eye could see, everyone in view was stricken with the depressing raiment of a threadbare apocalypse. 

   The sheer volume of individuals and the incredible range of their biological differences ruled out the possibility of a coordinated effort. Being a coincidence however was even more difficult to accept. It was as if a zombie-clothing plague had infested the city, one ruined garment at a time. The people themselves looked normal in every other way.  

   Barbara ducked down an alleyway and ran into a trendy third-avenue clothing boutique. There she hoped to be safe from the endless waves of disheveled drones wandering the city. To her horror, the whole store was filled with dilapidated, pre-worn yuppie garments and uneven fringe hanging off the stoic mannequins. They were every bit as hideous as the ‘clothing’ being adorned by the mindless ghouls outside! A pseudo-goth chic with pre-shredded clothes looked up from her cell phone and muttered a tired, insincere sales greeting. Her overwhelming level of disinterest was deeply apparent. 

   Just as Barbara was sure the end was near, a family of four entered the front door. With fanny packs and local attraction brochures in hand, they were clearly tourists. In a stroke of delicious irony, they were the first decently dressed individuals she had witnessed since the nightmare began! Outside ‘La chic boutique’, the hordes of poorly dressed slobs shuffled past, oblivious to their own fashion demise. The hapless tourists had stopped in to get directions but Barbara managed to sequester them from harm, just in the nick of time. 

   She drew them aside and warned them of the rising chaos outside. Just as most out-of-towners are clueless to the dangers of a large city, they too were unaware of the recent fall of civilization. Barb knew it was up to her to save all of them. They had to avoid the dreadful spate of material deterioration rampant everywhere until they could escape the fallen city. With luck they could locate a military command center for secure dress accommodations. Their chances were slim. 

  Barbara led the Puttermans out the back exit and down a series of side streets. The only other souls they encountered along the way were homeless vagrants. For once, their filthy jogging outfits and droopy socks fit right in with the rest of society. That led to another serious question. Where they infected with the plague too, or was it just another Tuesday for them? Barb didn’t want to take any chances. She instructed the naive family from Oshkosh Wisconsin to avoid all contact with them. It was then that she ripped off her back pants pocket, squeezing between two smelly dumpsters.

  “Damn it to hell!”; She exclaimed. The infection would soon spread to the rest of her meticulously matched ensemble. There was no saving herself but she could still save the wholesome Putterman clan. She didn’t set out to be a martyr but when duty called, she rose to the occasion. Barb warned the patriarch Ross that she would soon undergo an unrecognizable metamorphosis. He would have to lead his family to safety once her faculties were fully compromised. He nodded. There was nothing else left to say. Jane and the kids hugged her while it was still safe to do so. They all wept. It was a noble sacrifice. 

   A few minutes later, Barbara’s knit sweater began to unravel. It was just the first stage in the unrelenting fashion plague. Soon she would have massive holes and artificial tears in her clothes as if a hipster doofus paid someone to deliberately ‘pre-wear’ them. The tell-tale signs of ‘dry rot’ pinholes began to show on the creases of her faded pants. It wouldn’t be long before she would possess the vacant stare of a fashion zombie. 

   Once back out in the open, the five of them had to blend in with the frumpy, sidewalk-dwelling crowd. Barb warned Ross and his family of what to watch for and how to avoid detection. They had their shirts untucked and their shoestrings untied but there were still suspicious looks on occasion. As an additional precaution, the Putterman boy wore his pants half way down his backside and the girl turned her sport coat inside-out. With agonizing precision they bobbed and weaved through the affected, gaudy masses.

  “O.M.G! I just looooveee how your pocket is missing on the back of your pants!”; An angsty club kid complimented Barbara. “It looks sooooo cool how the material is a different color where the pocket used to be! Who did it for you?”

   The Puttermans observed the cringeworthy exchange, nervously. If Barbara was unable to withhold her contempt, it would give all of them away. If she accepted the ridiculous compliment too naturally, it might indicate she’d already turned. It was a conspiratorial balancing act and they had to maintain the facade until they were safely out of the city. Not only did Barbara appear enthusiastic about the clothing discussion, she continued to engage the angsty girl for several more minutes. It wasn’t a good sign. She didn’t come across as the type of person to be able to hide her true feelings. 

  Just as they had decided that Barb had completely turned, she turned and winked at Mrs. Putterman. They all breathed a collective sigh of relief. They were just four blocks from the train station when the boy made the mistake of complaining about the discomfort of his sagging pants. Immediately they were the focus of intense scrutiny by all the fashion zombies within earshot. Barbara quickly shot into action to create a diversion so they could escape. They came for her. It was the last time the Puttermans saw her before she faded into the mindless, unthinking horde. Her personal sacrifice saved their aesthetic dignity. They would never forget her for it. 

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‘Wishing well’

  The village wishing well accepted coins of all sizes and denominations. Any hopes and dreams fulfilled were completely unverifiable and mostly symbolic. Each offering filled up the water level a little more. Ironically, this left a little less space in the well chamber for future requests. Even in the whimsical realm of wish fantasy, there were physical limits to how many requests could be fulfilled based on the remaining volume of water. 

  Eventually the wishing well was overrun and brimming over with countless shiny coins. The metallic piles of minted money were taller than the water level and yet, eager optimists continued to toss them in, one-at-a-time. It would seem that with so many requested wishes over the years, there would be nothing left to hope for. That is, if all the earlier wishes had been granted. 

   That cold reality didn’t stop anyone from flipping another penny or nickel onto the pile. Either they didn’t stop to consider its true effectiveness, or they simply didn’t care. They were in love with the abstract concept of a fountain which granted wishes and made dreams come true. Whether or not it was real, was immaterial. The fountain of hope served to keep their fantasies and dreams alive. That alone was worth the pittance of a small coin from their pocket. 

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‘High pedestal’

 “Ok! Ok! I get it. You are excited but what exactly does your augmented reality thing do, Mr. Parker?”

   “Please, call me Walt. As I was saying, it’s only natural for small animals scurrying about to fear much larger carnivorous ones, right? It’s a universal trait that’s been observed in animal behavior for thousands of years. They are frightened of what could physically overpower them. Mice are afraid of house cats, and house cats are afraid of big canines. Meanwhile most humans are afraid of bears, lions, wolves, tigers, and all the great beasts of prey which roam in the wild. We may be smarter than they are but under a surprise attack, raw power can win out over brawn.”

  “Yes, of course Walter, but that doesn’t tell me what this ‘miracle device’ of yours does. Cut to the chase! How can it help mankind? You were pretty sure of this thing over the phone. I can only assume that you need financial backing since you asked me here to your laboratory. If you need investors, spell it out to me plainly. Otherwise I’ll have to be going. I’m a busy man and have a lot of other appointments today.”

   Walt Parker was a bit miffed at the attempt to speed up his detailed explanation. He had planned it out ahead of time and felt the build up was absolutely necessary. “Have you ever noticed how ordinary cats and dogs respect our superior size? They will defend themselves against unfair treatment but generally speaking, accept humans as the dominant creatures. They place us on a ‘high pedestal’. This obviously isn’t the case for wild bears, alligators, rhinos, sharks, hippos, and the great cats of the wild. They do not fear us because we are much smaller than they are. My breakthrough technology sends out targeted gamma radio waves which confuses the brain’s normal ability to determine the size of an adversary. It can convince a dangerous wild animal that we are three times our normal size.”

   The potential investor struggled to recognize the real-world applications for such a curious, limited use of animal control device. He inquired how technology like that would make for a financially successful partnership. Mr. Parker had several bullet points ready.

   “It would allow an ordinary person to pet a grizzly or polar bear just like a cute little puppy! Just as certain small animals ruffle up their feathers or fur to appear formidable against larger enemies, any creature under the influence of this technology would view any other as being much larger than it is. Essentially it’s an ‘artificial respect device’ that could be used in many tactical and safety situations. Hunting, ocean diving, zoo-keeping. Even police and military uses.”

  “Even if your augmented reality device works, I’m not seeing the mass commercial appeal of being able to pet polar bears or to hug rhinoceroses. Rhinoceri; however you’d describe a single one.”; He struggled with the confusing tense of the word. “It’s not like the average person would encounter a grizzly bear or hippo in their daily activities, right? Even if you took these exotic animals to the people in traveling fairs, it seems like a novelty idea at best. How would I see a financial return on my investment? Zoos and Menageries are going out of fashion these days. It’s  certainly never going to work on people.”

   Walt felt the enthusiasm of his captive audience fading fast. He had to focus more on the potential for commercial appeal. He needed a ‘wow factor’ to stun the venture capitalist into being impressed from a monetary standpoint. The investor reached down to stroke the orange tabby that had waltzed into his office during the meeting.

   “Don’t let Simba jump into your lap, Mr. Balaban.”; Water warned sternly. 

  “Why not?”; He asked in mild concern. “Will she claw my pants or get fur on me?”

“Ummm, its more serious than that I’m afraid. She’s actually a full grown Bengal tiger and weighs close to four hundred pounds. She’ll break your legs and flatten the chair.”
   The investor looked downward in confusion at the diminutive-looking feline eagerly rubbing against his leg for attention. Walt pointed at a pair of goggles on the coffee table. “Put those on to be shielded from the gamma waves I’m filling my office with but please don’t panic. Tigers can sense fear and will react accordingly. Simba believes she’s only a house cat too.”

Posted in Children's Stories, Different Perspectives, Fiction Stories, Future technology, Humor, Mystery, Science Fiction, Thought provoking, Twilight Zone Inspired, Uncategorized, Whimsical | Leave a comment

‘The lesson’

We all walk an uncertain path.
From our first step, to the last.
The ground has uneven stones
and forks to be traveled alone.

Low limbs can obscure the way.
If we make bad choices we pay.
The destination can be vague.
Every mistake leads to a cage.

Along the path we’ll learn to be.
Accepting what our fate decrees.
In the end this journey is done.
The lesson was walk, never run.

Posted in Different Perspectives, Essays & Rants, Inspirational, Mantras, Poetry, Recollections, Thought provoking, True Stories, True Stories, Essays & Rants, Uncategorized, Whimsical | Leave a comment

‘A longer leash’ (is still a leash)

I’ve been accused of being ‘human’
in the most negative sense. 

To this I’d state: “Aren’t we all?” 
(That would be my defense.)

Be responsible for your behavior.
Anything less is pretense.

No matter what others may say, 
being ‘you’ isn’t an offense.

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