of cedar and sulfur

I’m hanging my head in shame. You can’t see it, but I am. Once again, I’m late on my flash fiction post. This post is actually last week’s flash fiction. I am, however, determined to get back on schedule this week, so tomorrow you can expect a post on writing and then another flash fiction piece on Friday.

The kids from the 500 Club returned this week with a couple of really nice prompts. I chose the following:

“Finish this opening: Bill had no problem showing his home. The rooms were clean, the appliances new, and the walls completely repaired. He doubted seriously anyone would notice the…”

I was working to squeeze the idea into 500 words, so this one may grow into something a little longer some day. I hope you enjoy what I came up with.

of cedar and sulfur

Bill had no problem showing his home. The rooms were clean, the appliances new, and the walls completely repaired. He doubted seriously anyone would notice the faint odor of magic.

Most people don’t know that magic leaves a smell. It’s mild, something only someone looking for it would pick up on. Nothing more than an undercurrent of ozone mixed with rain mixed with cedar. At least, that’s how earth magic smells. There are other, darker forms of magic that leave traces of far less comforting smells. Smells of sulfur and rotting things and blood. But Bill’s house didn’t smell of those things. It smelled of earth magic.

Which is why, as he showed the woman who called herself Lisa from room to room, he was surprised that she commented, of all things, on the smell.

“Is that a scented candle?” she asked.

“Excuse me?”

“That smell. It smells like a storm rolling in near the woods. It’s very pleasant. I was just wondering if it’s a candle or an air spray.”

Bill made a conscious effort to maintain a calm demeanor. “A candle, I think.”

Lisa smiled. It was a warm smile, if perhaps a bit condescending. “You think?”

“Yes. I mean, my wife had all kinds of candles and stuff. It was something of hers.”

Lisa’s smile faded into a look of sympathy. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring up something touchy.”

“No, no,” Bill said. “It’s okay. I would…um…I’d try to find the name of it for you, but her mom cleared out all her stuff when she died. I’m sorry.”

Lisa was standing within two feet of Bill. It was the closest he’d been to a woman in months. She reached out and cupped his hand in hers. “I’m so sorry. I thought, well, the way you said it at first, I thought maybe you were divorced. I didn’t know she had passed away. I am so sorry to have brought it up.”

Forgetting the smell and the magic and the paranoia he felt, the drive to move on, to move away from this place, he dared to looking into her eyes. She was strong. He could sense it. “Really, it’s okay.”

“It was special, I gather. The scent, I mean.”

“Yes,” Bill said. “Something of hers.”

Lisa nodded and slid her hand gently over the top of his until her finger tips traced his knuckles and then her touch was gone. “I think I understand,” she said. “I am so sorry for your pain. She had wonderful taste, your wife. The smell is…enchanting.”

Bill’s eyes shot up. He looking directly into hers. She was smiling again, that same kind smile with a hint of superiority. She stepped past him, continuing on through the house. As she moved by, he caught a faint odor. At first he thought it was her shampoo, but it turned his stomach in her wake. It smelled sickly sweet. Like flowers arranged over dead things.

When he came round the corner, she waited, smiling. That same smile.

“I’ll take it,” she said.

And then she walked purposefully toward Bill, her hand already outstretched. “All of it.”

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About Ash Martin
Ash Martin writes dark fantasy and horror, has a thing for classic monster legends, Nordic mythology, coffee, and sarcasm, and is currently working on multiple books.

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