He awoke, slowly, the sounds of the world beginning to invade his consciousness. And then the smell hit him.
At first it smelt like freshly cut grass, and he stretched under the covers, letting out a little purr of contentment. Then he took another sniff, and this time it was the odour of cooking bacon. Another sniff, and now it was freshly brewed coffee.
It would have made sense that these were three distinct smells, but somewhere in his half-awake mind he knew, without doubt, that it was the same smell, and that the smell was evolving.
And not in the way that the smell of freshly baked bread slowly over time becomes the smell of mouldy bread. No, this was a smell that was …
With this knowledge, maybe imparted on his mind by the smell itself, he sat up and tested a new theory.
He wanted to smell bubblegum.
And sure enough, he could smell bubblegum.
He wanted to smell cheese and onion crisps. He could smell cheese and onion crisps.
He wanted to smell kiwi fruit. He could smell kiwi fruit.
For the next hour he sat up in his bed and explored a world of odours, from the fragrant to the noxious. Everything he thought of, he could smell. He even got creative. He wanted to smell the dew gathered on the hump of a camel in the early morning at Chester Zoo. And he did. He wanted to smell chocolate coated caviar. And he did. He wanted to smell the Turin Shroud after it had accidentally been put in the washing machine and left there for two weeks. And he did.
But it came at a price.
The smell was living inside him now, he knew that. A benevolent parasite, with a symbiotic relationship. It needed something from the way he used his nose, and it would happily help him use it.
Now though, he also knew, he could never smell the real world again.
He could only ever smell the thoughts in his head.
And that’s when he remembered that most of the thoughts in his head stank.