Halloween Tale 2020


Full moon shining through a greenish cloud

Before the smell the most remarkable thing in the room was the Lincrusta wallpaper. A hundred years had passed since it was new and the colours had only deepened. It outshone the chandelier and the gleam of the baby grand. It was richer than the teak of the table, than the velvet chair backs, than the brass candelabra, and far more interesting than the guests who were ponderously working their way through the third course.

That night the regular chef had called in sick. No one was sure who the replacement was but this stand-in was burly and the room fully booked so nothing was said, not even when the menu was subject to some unauthorised alterations.
Out went the... amuse-bouche egg.
Out went the... tripe terrine with the onion bread.
Out went the... oily fish curry.
Strong flavours, soft textures, dull colours- perked with pea shoots and grated roots, all served up in the quiet room. Conversation was muted at best, barely more than the odd grunt between bouts of puckery chewing, but when the smell dropped all the action stopped.
No grinding teeth, no cutlery clinking on dentures.
The candle flames stopped flickering.
The Lincrusta clagged, reflecting no light.
For a moment, a birthing moment, the olfactory thing was the only movement in the room:
then the chairs were scraping back and the guests’ ungainly feet were leaving as fast as they could.

Beneath the tables, as the clientele lumbered to the exits, there hovered an emission of bodily gases so consummately pungent, so exuberant, it had become vaguely self aware.
Beyond scent it had no physical solidity. The life it gained was spectral but it was life nevertheless, so it was not just a malodour now but a thing.
This thing that had come into being was called a Stinkghost, and it burbled sadly around the table legs unsure how to deal with existence.

In the kitchen the mysterious chef waited for the grumbling to cease. He covered his nose with a cloth as he strode to the dining room. He opened the window, jumped out into the shrubbery (leaving the window agape) and was never seen again, at least not in this story.

Stinkghost was aware of the light and the garden odours: leaf mulch, turned earth, moss on a brick wall, fox scat under a rosemary bush. It was drawn to the outdoors: it seemed good to be in the greyness of early evening, to slither over slugs that balled up and rolled away, to sense the hedgehog under the splay of privet leaves make a tiny vomit.
What other wonders were there, out in the free air?
Stinkghost shimmered over the wall to the street.

Cats hissed, dogs barked, people flinched.
Streetlights hummed.
A winter jasmine that grew along a fence spat off its petals.
Stinkghost stopped by a puddle where the pale blooms floated in a reflected night sky: how big the universe was!
The flowers floated, noticeably, to the furthest edge of the water, prompting hurtful awareness.
The slugs, the hedgehog, the cats, the dogs, the people, and now this plant: in all of the vast universe Stinkghost had no company. No appreciation. No one to share with.
The sadness of this was like a weight. Stinkghost lay on the ground.
What- what now? One exists and then-
A strange compulsion came upon the beast, something like a gut instinct. There was no reason not to follow it… All through that night the repulsive thing wandered, following the urge into the sunrise, still unsure of all this existence malarky.

Down street after street the Stinkghost slunk, till it was gut-tugged in through a window to a corner sofa where Cheruby Blumerangue was about to swallow a too-big hunk of muffin that was hankering to stick in her throat.
Stinkghost wafted over her nose, and bleugh-behold! She was violently and life savingly sick instead.
Encouraged by this the shoal of stench went happier with the instinctual flow, this time to the dressing room of a modest theatre.

Before Tart Abercrombits could lick the emerald icing that was laced with botulism (love rivalry, and quite unfounded at that) Stinkghost rendered the treat inedible. Tart dropped the cupcake and went for a beautiful walk instead, with their true love which was misty air and natural waterways, with a medium sized dog shaking mud at their heels.
Stinkghost watched the walkers for a pleasant while before the next calling.

Baby AutumnLeaf with the adorable curls did not know not to test the properties of whatever was found in the shadows of Grandmother’s reclining chair by licking it, but even a baby recoiled from what Stinkghost was reeking. The child crawled woozily onto the lap of an uncle, while everyone looked uncertainly from Grandmother to the baby to the elderly cat asleep in a basket.
(What was that smell?!)

The writer who was having a day skewed by self pity and a dearth of adventure, who was at that very moment thinking how everything just seemed so dogturd-tainted, found that the sour fecality of her despair paled as Stinkghost flittered by, causing her to loll at the edge of the garden path in a fit of laughter, absolutely cured and for some reason thinking of the ocean.

Guided to these selfless deeds Stinkghost found itself building a cache of kindly memories and happy thoughts which began to muffle the piercing solitude, and erode the regret of being created out of bowel particles. It was good to do good!

And so, my dears, I can happily bring this tale to a conclusion, which is this: try the mackerel curry, it’s actually pretty good.
Grey slug slithering away
(Slug curry is not recommended)


Unexpected - and delightful.
Many thanks.
Lisa Southard said…
One can go wrong with a fart, but rarely with a fart story :-) xx
Himawan Sant said…
From strange smells strung together into one interesting story ..., you write well and entertain the reader. Greetings from Indonesia.
Lisa Southard said…
Thank you Himawan :-)
"it had become vaguely self aware"

I like that bit.
Lisa Southard said…
I liked writing it. Finding yourself pondering the sentience of a fart is a fun day :-)

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