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"It was the scent that woke them…"
a bit of flash fiction for your Wednesday
Hey hey good people,
Often, randomly, I’ll search online for writing prompts. Other times, I’ll be given prompts by clients or for ghostwriting gigs (love those). No matter how they come, I enjoy the enigmatic unfolding of a prompt-driven short story. It’s like a literary roller coaster for writers, you know?
I especially love first-line prompts. They bound you but liberated you at the same time. The sentence for today? It was the scent that woke them.
I gave myself a couple guidelines. Just thirty minutes to write it. No major edits beyond grammar once it’s written. So yeah, here we go on this little adventure. I do hope you enjoy it.
It was the scent that woke them. That musky sumac-like roasted citrus over cedar wood that most would think was lemon. But no. Aria knew better.
They blinked open tired eyes and rose from the side of that tree, one vertebra at a time.
Aria shoved Candace then, who’d slept just fine before this interruption.
“We should go that way,” Aria said while pointing north.
Though Aria knew nothing of cardinal directions. Only that the familiar scent, like their late auntie’s warm embrace, called to them.
“Aria.” The whites of Candace’s eyes showed bright behind crooked glasses as she rolled them all the way to the back of her head.
“For real!” Aria promised.
Not that Aria knew a damned thing for sure. Not at all. Just a nagging hunch, like an unscratchable itch.
The two had been walking since six that morning. Equipped with two 40-ounce hydroflasks, a couple protein bars, and themselves. It was now 5 p.m. They were tired, and hungry, and stank to the high heavens, and let’s not even get into how lost they were in this mess of a forest.
“I cannot believe I let you talk me into this shit.” Candace complained.
Let’s go on a hike, they’d said. Let’s be in nature, they said. Let’s do shrooms in the car so they kick in bout midway, they said.
Candace loved Aria like a sibling, and for their birthday, Candace admitted, she’d do just about anything, but this? She could have never predicted this.
Candace assumed a simple but fun trip, flying high for about 4 hours in this luscious New York forest and then rolling on out this bitch before dark. Catching the train back to the city, then the G back to their apartment and grabbing Korean takeout on the way home. Simple. Just a hint of wylin in nature then back to her sensible, chaotic Brooklyn life.
She wasn’t sure where it all went wrong. Or how long they slept on that oddly comfortable tree after that bright red light attacked them both and they seemed to fall down deep into some pit. There was no pit when they woke up, though. Just very normal forest surrounding them. And an odd lemony scent that made Candace’s stomach growl even louder than it already was.
“Look.” Aria pointed to something that should not exist in the depths of any forest.
The two stared, mouths agape, at the bright yellow door before them. A structure that seemed to stand alone all by itself.
“Aren’t we spose to be sober now? Like, what the fuck?” Candace shook her head.
Aria took Candace’s hand, not to comfort her but to try and pull her along. Candace pulled away, of course.
This was their relationship, you see. Aria was the doer. Candace was the thinker, and together they (usually) made a great team. But in this moment, well, doing seemed ridiculous. And thinking led them nowhere but deeper in this forest, of which Candace only agreed to enter in the first place due to its "easy to follow path.” So the two were deadlocked in confusion.
“I’m gonna touch it.” Aria said, sounding drunk as hell though entirely sober.
Candace knew this tone. She hated this tone. There was no changing Aria’s mind when they sounded like this.
And so Candace said, surely in vain, “Aria, don’t. What if that shit explodes? Anything could happen.”
Aria rushed forward, smiling, in a sort of daze and they reached out so close to the door, almost, almost, touching…
“Aria.” Candace pleaded for the last time.
“Look, I’m not even—” Aria started to say until that yellow door glowed. Glowed, child.
“Yooo…” Candace said like a warning but it was too late.
Aria didn’t need to touch the door anymore for the glow of it reached them anyway, and they glowed with it until they disappeared. Nothing left but that yellow door, as if Aria had never existed.
And Candace gasped. Unable to speak or move or think, the thing she did best. She would not be getting home before dark tonight. Not even close.
The end. Or the beginning? Who knows, but this was fun! Feel free to use this prompt yourself. Share it if you like, with me in an email, or below for everyone to see. I love reading all the different directions a prompt can go.
Thank you for reading and/or listening. I hope you enjoyed.