Stranger Scents | Flash Fiction

Candle illustration - "Stranger Scents" flash fiction

Gina could never resist a scented candle, so when she saw a new shop open on her high street which was dedicated to the things, she had to stop by.

As she walked through the door, she was revolted by the odour that assaulted her nostrils.

The shop owner laughed at her. “Pretty common reaction, that,” he said.

She winced. “Sorry. I guess one of your candles just isn’t my cup of tea.”

“Oh, very few of them will be your cup of tea, my dear. We specialise in niche scents. The smells that are less popular but are always a favourite of someone, somewhere, y’see? Here, let me show you.”

She followed him to one of the shelves, concentrating hard on breathing through her mouth.

“Here, we’ve got your unpleasant food smells. Boiled cabbage. Fried mushrooms. Cooked fish – you know the kind that lingers in your kitchen for days? We’ve got blue cheese, sauerkraut, durian. Oh, and boiled eggs which have been kept in a Tupperware for three days before the lid is removed. It was tricky getting that description on the little labels.

“On that shelf there we have your outdoor scents. Your dog poop, your algae-laden standing water, your overflowing drain. There’s rotting vegetation and there’s compost bin – it’s a subtle difference between the two, but it’s there.

“We’ve got mechanical scents – petrol, diesel, oil, burnt rubber, that sort of thing. Human smells: sweaty skin, BO, greasy hair, burnt hair, unwashed socks, smelly shoes. Once again, the differences between those last two are small but significant to the bad smell connoisseur.”

“Interesting,” Gina mutters, as she gazes at the vast array of candles around her. “I can’t say any of those appeal to me.”

“Oh, there must be something,” the shop owner says knowingly. “Have a think. Everybody has that one smell that they know they shouldn’t like, but they can’t get enough of. Often, it’s the smell of a memory that’s appealing, rather than the smell itself.”

Gina bites her lip. “Maybe there is something. I’m not sure you’ll have it, though. It’s a bit weird.”

“Go on. Nothing much surprises me these days, trust me.”

She leans towards him conspiratorially and quietly utters her deepest secret aloud for the very first time. “My favourite smell is pig muck.”

The shop owner raises his brows. Gina turns bright red.

“It reminds me of my Dad!” she says indignantly. “He worked on a pig farm.”

The shop owner merely laughs. “You call that weird? My dear, that is one of our most popular scents! So popular in fact, that it’s sold out. I’m expecting more next week if you’d like to pop back in?”

She smiles at him, relieved. “I will do. Thanks.”

“Anything else I could interest you in before you go?”

“Actually, there is one more weird smell I like. Human blood.”

The shop owner frowns at her. “Really?”

She nods.

“And what kind of memories does the aroma of human blood evoke in you?”

She shrugs. “That would be telling.”

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Author: Ellie Scott

Ellie Scott is a freelance copywriter and fiction writer from Sheffield, UK. She writes speculative and silly short stories and flash fiction. In 2018 she was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize Short Story Competition and published her first book, 'Merry Bloody Christmas: A Short Story Collection'. You can often find her hanging out on Twitter (@itsemscott), Instagram (@tinysillystories) and Medium (@elliemaryscott), or hibernating on her sofa with a book and a very large glass of gin.

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