Smell of Souls by Kerry E.B. Black
Kerry E.B. Black writes from a little house along the bank of a foggy Pennsylvania river. Other published works can be found in “Postcard Poetry and Prose” and “Halloween Forevermore.” Please follow the author at www.Facebook.com/authorKerryE.B.Black and Twitter @BlackKerryblick
Smell of Souls
My stomach aches and I tremble, a weakened mess of nerves and hysteria, reduced to trembling knees, itching skin, and tears. I search for an escape but spy none. I wonder, “Where’s that famous window, since every door’s closed.” I suppose I could simply fail, but failure’s never been an option.
I give myself a pep-talk, hearing the mania even in my inner voice. “Just get it over with. You’ll survive. Really. You always do.”
She stands when I enter, her chair tipping to a clattering rest on the floor. “No, get out. I know who you are and why you’re here. I’m not going, not ready!” Her voice reaches a soprano crescendo as she backs away.
I stretch out a shaking hand toward her, a reassurance against her concern. “I’m not here to hurt you.”
She waves a pool stick in front of her. “Don’t lie. I smell the death on you.”
I smelled it too, a rot dripping from my pores. My quaking increases. No doors. No windows. Trapped in this booze-scented Hell, I know the only way out is through. I snatch the cue stick from her grasp and close. “I’m sorry about this.”
Her ineffectual fists pound against my chest, bruising my broken heart. Her shrill screams pierce my eardrums until tears coat my cheeks. Their pitch hurts. I cover her mouth and sink through her lips until the sound chokes, sputters, and falls silent.
Her shocked eyes accuse from disassembled stardust and clay until she hears the music. Lights glisten along a pathway only she can follow, leaving me to wait alone in the darkened pool hall. With her departure, a smell of orange blossoms lingers for just a minute. My job never grows easier. Instead of becoming numb to their protests, I concentrate on the deconstruction and the smell of their souls.
My fingers dance through where once she stood, trying to capture a bit of her freshness, but only decay perfumes my soul. My vomit splashes my feet and absorbs back into my essence, adding to the resultant stink. Her corpse’s sightless stare accuses.
My legs buoy up, and my breathing returns to normal. No more crying. No more weakness, at least not until next time.
Someone aglow with health enters, screams, and backs away. He dials the report with trembling voice. “I don’t know what happened, but dear God! I think she’s dead.” He stares, shocked, at the husk, never noticing the fading scent of oranges or my pervasive rot.
There are no windows for me, no streams of rescuing light nor even shadows transformed into hulking beasts. I know better than check for a door. Instead, I rack the balls in their triangle, unseen, and await my next assignment.