It was karaoke night in Wonderland Club. The pulsing lights and buzzing beat from the too-loud sound system struggling—and failing—to overwhelm the voice of the current horrible singer hammered away at her head and the last vestiges of her self-control. Plus the smell in there was simply awful.
“Enjoying yourself, Risa?”
Even when K.G. leaned over the table and screamed in her ear she barely head him. She inhaled his cinnamon voice, hoping it would calm her. It didn’t. Not when other smells crowded in her nose, merging disgustingly.
“Can we go home now?” She screamed back. He smiled as he bounced his head to the beat of the music, red hair fanning around his face, and patted her back. She stifled a sigh and hoped her grimace passed as a smile. She pulled the hood of her jacket even lower over her face and sunk into the chair.
K.G. honestly thought he was helping her deal with the scars left by her accident. As she looked at the remaining three fingers on her right hand and remembered the jagged scar from right cheek to collarbone, she struggled with familiar relief and horror at not remembering what happened that day a few months ago. According to police reports, a pest exterminator’s truck slid and rolled into the sidewalk, hitting and tossing Risa aside to be mauled by an angry bobcat that escaped the wreck. The driver had died instantly and he had not been drunk; the cause behind the accident was still a mystery. Risa closed her eyes and shook her head. It had actually happened to her and she still thought it was too ridiculous to be true. If only she would wake up and learn that this had all been a dream.
Missing fingers and scars were not the only marks left behind. Feeling too much like a freak already, she never told doctors or her family of the weird side effect she suffered. Not even K.G. knew. And no one needs to know I can smell sound, she thought. She shook her head at the strangeness of that statement.
The music finally died down and the DJ took the microphone. Risa inhaled deeply as he spoke. His voice smelled of lemons that had been left out in the sun. Not too unpleasant, but something she didn’t necessarily want to get close to. She indulged in a bit of self-satisfaction. She was getting better at separating the voice-smells. It was surprising how many adult voices smelled so strongly of just one scent, while kid’s voices constantly changed smells. Her own little sister’s voice smelled like mustard when she was angry; strawberries when she was being pleasant; and oranges when she was hiding something. Risa wondered which smell she would keep when she grew up.
Lost in her thoughts she almost missed a smell she had not encountered before. If her stomach had not instinctively clenched in revulsion, she might have missed it. Risa swiveled her head, following the scent, her nostrils flaring.
“Risa?” She fanned away K.G.’s cinnamon voice, intent on finding the source of that repulsive smell. She identified it at the same time her eyes fell on a young man bending over a girl about 19 years old. They were standing next to the entrance a few feet away from their table. The door opened and the draft carried his voice more clearly to her, buffeting her with the smell of blood and decay. Her body began to shake and she instinctively reached for her cell phone.
“Risa!” K.G. grasped her chin gently but firmly. Her eyes widened and she gulped convulsively in the absolute knowledge that the girl was going to die at that man’s hands.
“What? Are you ill? Is it the scar?”
She wrenched her face away from his hand. The scent was gone. They were gone.
Her fingers flew over the numbers and she tossed the phone to K.G. as she pressed “send”.
“A girl is getting attacked!” she screamed at him as she ran out the door, searching the stretching shadows under the lampposts. She breathed deeply, searching for the voice-smell. A very faint echo remained of him to the right. It figures, she thought, it’s the darkest path. She hesitated for a moment, wondering if the accident had also taken away her sanity. Her feet raced down to the back of the building. The music had started again; no one would hear anything.
She slowed her pace before rounding the corner. Risa peeked around the corner and saw the girl trying to gasp for air, fists weakly pounding on the man’s chest. He was laughing as his hands tightened around her neck.
Snarling, Risa bared her teeth and ran straight at the man, screaming at the top of her lungs as her hood fell from her face. She arranged her three fingers into a knife-like shape and jabbed it with all her strength at the man’s windpipe when he turned to her, frozen in surprise. He fell like a sack of potatoes. Rotten potatoes.
The girl fell to her knees, gulping huge gasps of air.
Risa bodily took her by the arm and dragged her back towards the club entrance, where a crowd of onlookers slowly gathered. She toyed with the hood of her jacket as the girl was taken from her and police sirens sounded in the distance. K.G. looked at her with wonder.
“Risa…have you come out of hiding?”
His cinnamon voice filled her head and she smiled. Perhaps this curse could become a blessing.