Bogleech.com's 2016 Horror Write-off:
The Smell of Rain
The TV was running in the background while Marcella painted. A painting based on a dream, lots of flowers and human bones and that weird thing she was curious to hear people describe. She herself had no words yet. Depression was hanging on her wrist, trying to get her to put down the brush but she really wanted to get this one done. Tomorrow, the vision would have shifted. This needed to be painted in the mindset she was in right then. It was great to be inspired again.
The crime show on the TV finished when she did. She stood back and was rather proud of herself. The creature from her dreams looked just as it did in her head. Its skin, burnt and leathery with patches that looked like mold on cheese. The pose alluding to a human being, skin only covering half of its head, the skull protruding from various openings, black like charred wood with strange glimmers in the deep scars carved into it. It had a human face too small to stretch over it's actual skull. The short blunt snout, like that of a bear, poking out of wide-stretched lips, dull black horns coming out of the face's eyeholes.
As Marcella cleaned the brushes, she tried to think of a good name for the being. The name Sundowner had been poking around in her mind since waking up but she wasn't sure if she liked it. The word had always been illustrated in her mind as some godlike being, tearing the sun out of the sky with its bare claws.
A perfume commercial came on. Usually they would show a woman spray it on and then some guy with a forgettable face pops out of nowhere, speaks no word and leans in close to sniff her like a severely sleep-deprived werewolf. Not this one. A woman stood in some empty realm. Not a supermodel in a flowing dress and cookie-dough skin, just some young woman in ripped jeans and a hoodie with hands in her pockets and scratchy hair on her shoulders. The camera zoomed in and when her face touched the edges of the screen she blinks and her eyes turn into those of a cat and she licked her lips. Cut to the perfume in the same empty black room. Dusk Til Dawn, the new fragrance from Charm. A voice barely managed to breathe those words off their tongue. Huh.
During her next shopping trip she saw it in the shelves, among the usual Hugo Boss and What's-their-names. She was curious what it would smell like, but it had no sample piece. She had to buy one to find out. That's how they get you. She dropped one into her shopping basket.
At home she opened it and sprayed it on her wrist. It smelled like... mossy stone, wet with fresh rain. Not the usual flowers and fruits but she could dig it. It was subtle enough to not be weird and as an artist she was obligated to be at least a little bit eccentric. She saw some more commercials of it over the course of the day. The commercials turned out to be the most interesting part of the thing. So far she has seen seven of them, each with a different person in them. The second one she saw featured a fat freckled boy who flashed a wide shark-tooth grin at the end, then this other boy who looked like someone from her high school whose face burned away to reveal the skull beneath. That one looked much realer than it had to, it honestly spooked her a little. All the others also featured people that looked like picked from the streets, sporting their individual monster face at the end. Maybe it was an early halloween commercial. She hoped someone would put them on YouTube later.
She didn't really care for the actual perfume anymore, but she decided to wear it for the weekend party at her friend Aliot's house. Aliot invited all her friends over about six times a year and it was fun because all her friends are great people. Her living room naturally had a lot of sitting opportunities so people didn't have to move any furniture around. Aliot liked to keep everything where it always was so she wouldn't bump into a misplaced chair or something the next morning. Marcella ended up on the couch, next to her and they all talked about what had been going on since the last meet-up. They burned through the drinks and Marcella got up to get another bottle of Sprite from the kitchen.
A guy she didn't recognize stood by the window there. He wore a suit. Everybody else had just come in street clothes. Maybe someone new from Aliot's DND group and maybe he misjudged the nature of this party? Marcella said hey and he moved his head to her. She pulled a Sprite out of the fridge and when she closed its door, he stood right next to her. She tumbled back to the kitchen table to get him out of her personal space but he simply followed and leaned into her face to sniff her neck.
His eyes met hers and he had that look in them, like a dog begging for a treat but not at all cute. She was wedged between him and the table and had to contort herself to get out. She said nothing and just left him in the kitchen to return to her spot on the sofa.
"Who's the guy in the suit?" she asked Aliot.
"There's this guy in the kitchen with a suit."
"Don't freak me out, I didn't invite anyone you don't know."
"Fuck..." Marcella got up again and returned to the kitchen. There was just the abandoned Sprite there. She looked out of the window but it was too dark outside to see. She took the bottle. The living room had become quieter.
"I think I saw him too when I went to the bathroom." Emily said. Nobody else had noticed him.
"Maybe we shouldn't go home alone tonight." Oliver mumbled.
They ended the party early because nobody could get in the mood anymore. Marcella was the one to stay at Aliot's place so she wouldn't be alone tonight. They locked all doors and windows and sat on the couch with a blanket. Marcella turned the TV on and the two ate the remaining snacks.
"I finished a new painting today." Marcella said.
"Oh, it's been a while. Have you posted it online yet?"
"No, not yet."
Aliot couldn't see her paintings themselves but all their mutual friends would write their personal descriptions of the piece in the comments and Aliot loved reading through those.
"It's based on a dream I had."
"Don't tell me yet, the artist's description comes last!"
"I wasn't gonna."
Marcella threw a cautionary glance towards the kitchen. Again, nothing.
"You smell odd today."
"It's this new perfume."
"That Dusk Til Dawn thing?"
"It's irritating that the commercial is almost completely silent."
"It's got monster people in them."
"Yeah. Speak of the devil." Marcella said as she saw that familiar empty black room on screen. This was the first time she recognized a face in the commercial. It was the guy in the kitchen. The camera kept zooming in and he just kept looking with those begging eyes. Nothing else happened, it just zoomed in until only his thin nose was on screen and then cut to the perfume bottle. Marcella felt a rock in her stomach.
"...Everything alright, Marcie?"
"That was the guy." she stuttered. "From the-" Marcella stood up and only afterwards noticed she did so by her own will. She staggered to the bathroom and threw up. Her throat kept trying to push itself out of her mouth when her stomach was long empty.
"I'll... get you a glass of water." She heard Aliot say behind the door.
Her mouth was too sore to tell her not to bother. She washed her mouth with water from the sink and flushed the toilet.
She heard glass shatter.
She whipped open the door and bolted into the kitchen. The blood was plain to see on the white tiles. So was the person leaning over Aliot, clad in black, dark hair and pupils peeking out, colored a light grey.
Marcie pushed them off her friend and found that she had picked up a knife on automatic.
"Get out!" she yelled while slashing the air. The intruder just stood like a scared stiff squirrel.
"Get! Out!" she slashed again. That time she got too close and blood splashed on the table. It ran down the blade and wetted her fingers. Marcie looked at her hand and dropped the knife. When she looked up the intruder was gone.
"I'm here. I'm here."
Pieces of glass stuck between Aliot's ribs.
"Are you feeling better?"
"No!" Marcella protested. "Wait, I'll call an--"
Again she stood up before finishing her sentence. The phone was in the living room. When she picked it up, the TV fell silent. I looked at the screen just in time to see the grey-eyed person stretch open their mouth with nothing but darkness inside.
"Dusk Til Dawn. The new fragrance from Charm."
She punched in 911.
Aliot was brought into the hospital. Marcella described the two intruders to the police and stayed with Aliot until she assured her she was fine. The cuts weren't as deep as they looked. Whoever those people were, Marcella didn't think they were after Aliot. She was safest far away from her. Marcella returned home and took a shower. But no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't get rid of the smell of rain. As subtle as it was, it swallowed up even the most obnoxious perfumes she still had in her home. Dusk Til Dawn was sent out the window of her apartment. Marcella had no idea how some shitty perfume was to blame for this but those intruders showed up in the commercials for fuck's sake. Something was going on.
She stuffed her pockets with x-acto knives, just in case, and went for a walk. She hadn't slept at all since last night but that wasn't the first time she lost sleep. Walking through the outskirts of town eased her mind as her brain finally had time to file away everything that's happened. Rationality set in and theorized that she was just imagining the intruders in the commercials. After all, they had kind of everyday faces... No those grey eyes were fairly distinct.
The clouds had stood in the sky as a warning sign but Marcella hadn't listened. As punishment the grey masses rained down on her. She had avoided to turn around but it was time to go home. She stopped and faced the way she came.
"Are you following me?" she finally confronted the girl.
"No!... Okay, yes, but it's not meant to be weird!"
"Just stay away." Marcella hissed as she passed her, hand on a knife in her pocket.
Marcella walked a hundred meters, then turned around again.
"What do you want?"
"I'm sorry is that- Is that you who smells so good?"
Marcella had it. She pulled out a knife and it click-click-clicked out of its sheath. The girl was occupied in figuring out what Marcella was holding and was pushed to the wet ground with ease. Marcella held the knife over her face where she could see it well and pinned down her arms with her knees.
Fear struck into her eyes.
"Okay, okay! I'll leave you alone!"
"What do you want from me?"
"I was just drawn in by your smell, I swear, I wasn't gonna mug you!" she started crying.
"I know who you are!" Marcella growled.
Panic set in and the girl flailed around every limb she had to try and push herself away from underneath Marcella.
Marcella had no idea how to proceed and her indecisiveness led to the girl pushing her off and running off the sidewalk and into the woods.
Shit, what if that was just some girl? Marcella should try not to attack people unless she knows she's not just losing it. Fuck, she's gonna call the cops on her won't she?
Marcella cupped her hands around her mouth and shouted, "I'm sorry!"
She waited. Then she walked home.
She dumped the knives back into the drawer they came from. She took off the soaked clothes and took another shower. Because she was dirty but also because she felt dirty on the inside. When she got out the phone rang. She expected it to be the cops or some scary voice calling to fuck with her some more. It was Oliver.
"Hey, just calling to check if you're alright. I heard about yesterday."
"I'm okay, I'm just... kind of a wreck. I just... Ever since I bought that fucking perfume, I don't know if it makes me hallucinate shit, I don't know what's going on and I attacked someone with a knife and I don't wanna be-- I don't want them to-"
"Hey, hey, I'll come over, alright? Just sit tight."
"I gotta- I gotta put on some clothes."
She didn't hang up, she just left the phone on the floor and went for the wardrobe. Oliver showed up a few minutes later. He hugged her and they sat on the paint-stained sofa and she told him everything and he listened.
Marcella didn't know how long he stayed but he was gone in the morning. Breakfast stood prepared in the kitchen with fresh bread from the bakery. The phone had been put back into its station. It was almost a normal morning. She finally took a picture of her painting and put it online. Named it The Sundowner. Once all her close friends posted their interpretation of the piece, she would add her own description.
She took a marmalade-covered bread to the couch and turned on the TV. More shitty crime shows with cheap actors. Then the break and that damned commercial came back on. It showed no one Marcella had seen before, so maybe she really had just been out of it. The back of her mind kept nagging that she in fact did see her before but couldn't back it up with any evidence. Just the paranoia talking. The girl wore a long skirt and a poncho, her eyes were closed and hair dyed white.Marcella expected her to have monstrous eyes but she never opened them, instead she grinned and pushed out a long flat tongue that curled into a spiral. Cute.
Marcella decided to stay home that day and maybe the following days until she's certain the paranoia had worn off. There was no sign of the girl she attacked the other day. No cops showed up at her door, but that didn't exactly ease her mind. The girl didn't learn her name so it could take a while for her to be identified. Or maybe she got hurt when she ran into the woods in a panic. That thought didn't let go of her mind. She decided to return to the crime scene and make sure she didn't lie in the woods caught in a bear trap. No pockets full of knives this time, but a raincoat would be good. The clouds hung over town just like yesterday.
She found the sidewalk where she sat on the girl. She found an x-acto knife that must've fallen out of her pocket then.She didn't want to take it with her so she just buried it in the valley between the street and the forest. Then she walked into the forest. Thick pine trees blocked out what little light made it through the clouds. The ground was spongy with moss but her own footsteps were the only ones still indented in it. It was dark but the trees were too thin to hide a body behind. If the girl was here, she would find her.
Further in there was still no sign of her. Marcella could be sure that she made it out alright. The only hazard she might have had run into was headfirst into a tree. She turned around and heard someone jump out of view. She scanned the trees to spot the sleeve of a jacket or something poke out behind one. Nothing. Her mind reminded her of the buried knife. No, no more knives until she was sure she was actually attacked. She made her way back but remained aware of any noises revealing her stalker. She heard a twig snap and what could have been a surprised gasp. There was someone here! There was, she was sure of it! Should she call them out? If they knew they were discovered they might go in for the attack and she had nothing to defend herself with. Maybe feign ignorance until she got the knife. Yes, let's just move on.
The downpour started within moments. Billions of little drops hitting the trees, the ground, the street ahead, it drowned out all the subtle noises of the pursuer. Marcella started running. Were there steps behind her or were that her own? She knew she'd trip if she looked back. She ran and her chest hurt from her erratic breathing. The fucking floor gave in to every step and it got wetter and soon it would slip away under her, she knew, she knew. She only heard her own footsteps but that growling panting were definitely not hers.
She reached the valley, she dove into the mud but she only found a wet hole in the ground where the knife had been. She flipped on her back and there was something in the darkness under the trees, wasn't there? Darker than she shadows but not dark enough to be distinct from them. Marcella crawled down to the sidewalk and tried so hard to recall when she learned to walk.
She found herself in her apartment. The memories of running here were in her head but they did not feel real. She dropped the soaked raincoat on the floor and the mud-caked pants in the laundry basket. Definitely not going outside anymore before this shit has blown over. She turned on the radio and tried to catch her breath. No TV. They played Maroon 5 but of course none of their songs actually halfway enjoyable. Marcella only heard about three songs of them but was sure Moves Like Jagger had to be the worst of them. Ranting about the radio program in her head helped. Everything slowed down, the things that didn't move in the first place in particular. As the adrenaline washed out of her body she no longer felt the speed of the planet hurtling through space and soon nothing in her apartment seemed to move an inch anymore.
There was a knock on the door. It might not have been the first. No cops barking to be let in. Marcella opened. Some girl stood there, one she never saw before... she was pretty sure.
"Oh, hello!" she said. "I'm sorry if I'm bothering but I- Uh, I just wanted to ask if I could warm up at your place."
The girl shuffled inside. She wore a soaked sweater and a big wool hat, she was trembling from the cold.
"I got a couch to the right." Marcella said and the girl found it with her cane.
"Should I get you some tea, coffee?"
When Marcella returned to the couch, she found the girl clicking her tongue. She gave her the mug of coffee and sat down.
"You're not doing echolocation, are you?"
"Actually, I am! I know it must look silly but I wanted to look around your house as best I could. It's very spacious, isn't it?"
"This room here kind of works as my living room and art studio. The other rooms are fairly small... Is that something you can learn by the way or do you have to be born with it?"
"I don't know if you can learn it. I've always been doing it as a kid."
"My best friend is blind too."
"I had a feeling. Maybe I know her? What's their name?"
"Aliot with an A?"
"Yeah, she's in this hangout group, right? I've joined for a while, thought I could bond over sharing a disability but I was still a shy mess. I don't think Aliot ever noticed me being there. She's nice though."
"... Oh, should I get you some dry clothes by the way? Sorry, my head's been... You know."
"Yeah, thank you."
While fetching a dry shirt for her, Marcella tried to recall if she had ever seen her on any of Aliot's parties. That must've been why she looked familiar. No. When she returned, the girl was in her t-shirt and more importantly, had taken off the hat to reveal her snow-white hair.
Marcella sat back down and gave her the sweater. She was a few sizes smaller than Marcella but it should keep her warm.
"What's your name?" she asked
"Marcella Barwald. What is yours then?"
"You can call me Cheal."
Cheal finished the coffee. "Alright, I'm feeling much better."
"Why are you here by the way?"
"I wanted to visit a friend but she's not here yet and I didn't want to sit in the stairwell, so..."
"Misty, do you know her?"
"Not really, apartment 39?"
"I... guess so, she didn't say the number, just gave me directions."
Marcella knew of no Misty but she had a feeling Cheal was hiding something so she tried to catch her in a lie.
"Apartment 39 is the one across the hall. Is that the one she sent you to?"
"Yeah. I haven't seen her in ages and we wanted to catch because we used to be good friends in school."
She's making all this up. Apartment 39 was a floor below and neither that one or 49 had a girl named Misty living in it.
"Hey, Cheal, could you stick your tongue out for me?"
"I don't mean it to be weird, I'm just curious how far it can go."
"Sorry, but no."
"Come on, I won't bite it off."
Cheal got up to get away from her. "Okay, okay, you caught me, alright, I was taking shelter from the rain and then you came in and I really liked the way you smelled so I... wanted to hang out. I'm sorry I lied, okay, I just thought the truth would sound weird. I can go if you want."
"No, no, sorry, I just thought, you planned to rob me and- Sorry, new start?"
Cheal sighed and sat back down. Then did that grin she did on TV. "How did you figure me out?"
"You think I couldn't easily tell if your story about your friend was true?"
"Heh... you freaked me out good though. Was that a reference to that song, Gods Gonna Cut You Down? You know, long tongue liar? Or is that an actual phrase, I don't know." she laughed.
"Aren't you supposed to grow a long nose though?"
"A long tongue would make more sense though, wouldn't it? That's the thing you're actually lying with."
"Wouldn't stop me from lying though. Long tongues are cute."
"I'm glad you think so."
"Because so many people are either like 'ew' or 'imagine the possibilities, winky face' and I kinda hate both."
"Why do you care?"
"...I have a sun bear fursona."
Marcella burst out laughing and felt all the tension and terror from the past days fly away. That was just hilarious.
"Stop laughing you jerk!" Cheal pushed her over but couldn't stop herself either.
"I'm sorry!" Marcella brought out between bursts of laughter. "It's just- I've been suspecting everyone of secretly wanting to murder me lately and this being your big secret is just-"
Marcella pushed herself back up and looked into Cheal's closed eyes. There was a moment of silence. Then it was like invisible hands gently pushed their lips together. When they parted again Marcella felt like she hadn't breathed in thirty years and Cheal bent her mouth into an adorable smile.
"Do you wanna stay overnight?"
Cheal kissed her again.
Once they both had their fill, Marcella brought some more coffee from the kitchen. Cheal looked a little concerned and asked: "What was it that upset you the past days though? Is everything alright?"
"I was on one of Aliot's parties last weekend... There were... strange people came in the house and she ended up getting hurt. And somehow I keep feeling this perfume is to blame. I saw the two intruders in the commercials. I saw you as well before I met you."
"You said you followed me because of the way I smelled."
"Yes... I don't understand, are you saying it hypnotizes people to approach you."
"I hope it's just that. That the people in Aliot's home, that they just came in- that they had no intent to hurt anyone, that... I hurt two of them though."
"Why do you think it never seemed to work on any of your friends?"
Marcella didn't know.
"I think I know why."
Cheal stood up. "Do you still want to see my tongue?"
"Are you serious?"
Cheal stretched out her tongue down to her knees. Marcella had no idea how to react.
"I hope I'm not freaking you out." Cheal said clearly despite her tongue getting nervous and curling up.
"It's adorable." Marcella hoped her shaky voice did not make it sound insincere.
"Do you want to see the rest of me?"
Marcella gave her a nod and hummed in approval so Cheal could tell.
Cheal's fingers elongated and turned hard and cuspidal. Her spine extended as well, her body stretched out and her face contorted. Her eyelids opened and revealed just the blood red skull behind them. As her transformation progressed, Marcella remembered when she first saw Cheal. Not when she stuck out her tongue on TV but in that dream she had last week and was so proud to put on a canvas.
The Sundowner stood tall like a moose. She was on all fours but could balance on her legs for a period of time. Her tongue retreated back into her skeletal maw poking out of her mouth.It was audibly harder for her to speak in this form, so guttural and louder than her human voice.
"Aam. I. Scaa-ring. Youu?"
"...I'm just scared you'd say no if I asked you on a date."
Cheal nuzzled her warm maw against her cheek and licked her face. Marcella couldn't wait to describe the painting of her new girlfriend to Aliot.