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Copyright © 2017 by Trina Page
Interior design by Pronoun
Distribution by Pronoun
FOR THE LAST SEVERAL MONTHS the newspapers had been full of frightening headlines. Another Person Gone, read one. Park of Fear?, read another.
The reason behind all of those stories were the disappearances of several people by the main park in the city. There had been over five missing persons reported. All of them were random people, and the police still hadn’t come up with a motive, if indeed there was foul play involved.
Not a clue was found for why any of the people were missing. They simply seemed to disappear into thin air, leaving behind nothing. Their mode of transportation were always found, such as a car or bicycle, but that was it.
The only correlation with the time of their disappearances was a strong odor that seemed to pervade the air. The smell was described as noxious and extremely strong. Its strength was such that no one could find the source. People would become physically ill trying to do so.
But that was months ago. Since then no one had mysteriously vanished and a terrible odor hadn’t been smelled by anyone. Thus the normal goings on continued unabated. They couldn’t exactly close down such a large area so easily. Which was why Amy had no qualms about meeting with her friends there every now and then.
High school was over. After this summer fall would begin and so would her first semester of college. Amy was excited, but also nervous. This was a big step in her life, or so people told her. Essentially, she would be going from one educational institution to the next.
Just thinking about it made her run a hand anxiously through her styled, short brown hair. At least that meant she could enjoy a few months of relaxation with her friends from high school before they all went their separate ways.
On one particularly warm day she was scheduled to meet with a couple of them at the city park. The tall buildings were left behind as she walked across a crosswalk, her brown eyes darting to and fro, watching for traffic. Green grass and trees greeted her as she past underneath their shade. It was a Saturday afternoon and the surrounding area was filled with an assortment of families and couples enjoying the weather.
Dressed in low heels and a white dress sprinkled with sunflowers, Amy was ready for a day outside. Her purse was hung snugly over one shoulder. Her height was average as she made her way through the crowds. Her figure, while not skinny, was not overweight. Though she wouldn’t have minded losing a few pounds around her middle, she wasn’t overly anxious about it.
A light sprinkling of freckles dotted over the bridge of her nose. Skin lightly tanned from already being outside much this summer, she made for a healthy sight. With sure steps she kept going past the local food and ice cream stands. They were going to meet at the pond situated in the middle of the grounds and already she was almost late.
Ahead she finally glimpsed the sun reflecting off the water. Catching sight of a familiar pair of bodies, she waved her hand in greeting. Smiles lighting their faces, Samantha, Sam for short, and Tiffany waved back. With a chagrined smile on her face she came up to them.
“Always the last one,” Tiffany grinned.
Waving her hand, she dismissed the tease. “Being early is so overrated.”
All three of them laughed. This was a typical joke between the girls, one that they always took pleasure in. Then they were off, each abreast of the other as they discussed their summer plans.
The three of them hadn’t gone far before they saw a great many people walking by in the other direction. Most of them had their hands on their noses. Soon they were introduced to the reason why.
The smell was wonderful. It was like a combination of the most delicious food and the most beautiful flowers all wrapped in one. Eyes closed, Amy enjoyed the smell. Taking a deep breath full of air, she let the mixture fill her lungs to capacity.
Opening them again, she turned to her friends, expecting to see a similar look on their faces. Instead their noses were wrinkled in complete disgust.
She was confused. “What’s wrong?”
Sam answered for both of them. “Can’t you smell that? It’s horrible!”
Her mouth dropped open in shock. She couldn’t have been talking about the same thing she was scenting. “What are you talking about?”
“That smell. It’s rancid.”
“Like a sewage treatment plant has backed up,” Tiffany assisted.
Thinking for a moment that her senses had abandoned her, Amy took another tentative sniff. Still the same breath of wonderful air met her nose. She didn’t know what to say. Her mouth opened a few times, but nothing came out.
The other girls took that to mean she was agreeing with them. They immediately insisted upon leaving the area to escape the stench. Amy just nodded, though a large part of her was very reluctant to go. If anything else, the urge to stay and find the source was getting stronger by the minute.
Instead of staying in the park, the three of them instead went shopping at some nearby stores. Though she usually enjoyed trying on and admiring new clothes, Amy couldn’t seem to keep her mind off of the smell in the park.
Like a song you couldn’t get out of your head, the heady odor kept revolving around in her mind. Several times she swore that the sweet scent was still around, though her friends kept commenting that they were glad the rancid smell was gone.
It was so strange that she was the only one to enjoy the odor. She’d never heard of such a thing, at least not to this degree of difference. Even when the three friends bid each other goodbye she still felt distracted. Like a part of her was still back in the park.
Trying her best to ignore the urge to go back there, she made her way home to have some dinner.
LATER THAT NIGHT, AS SHE sat in her newly bought apartment, the young woman felt the pull become even more powerful. Her part-time job was sufficient enough to allow her to rent her own place, away from her parents as she continued her journey into being an adult. Luckily the college of her choice was nearby, so travel would be no problem.
The show on television did nothing to distract her. Every thirty seconds she would glance outside, in the direction of the park. Outside night had fallen and there wasn’t much to meet her gaze but street lights and the occasional car. Her fingers twitched nervously. She shuffled restlessly in her seat.
She should just call her friends and arrange for them all to go out, anything to distract her from this strange pull. But the idea had no temptation for her, none at all.
A ridiculous idea came to form in her mind. She could just pop over to the park really quick and be back in less than an hour. Another lung full of that glorious air and she would be calmed, or so she hoped.
While the area was relatively safe, to journey out for such a silly reason seemed ridiculous. Looking up, she saw the clock read a little past nine in the evening. Another ten minutes of fidgeting and she finally gave in to the urge.
In just a bit she was grabbing her purse, keys and was on her way. Her destination was only a few minutes away by car. With the light traffic of a Thursday night, she was soon jetting into the parking lot closest to the center.
There were lights along the the main walks so her route was well lit. In a very little amount of time she was standing in the same place she and her friends were this afternoon.
For a moment she didn’t indulge her lungs, teasing herself with the absence of the wonderful smell. Then the urge got the better of her and she took a huge breath. Her lungs were filled to the brim. Every bit of her was focused on her sense of smell.
That wonderful odor was still in the air. And while the few people walking around her were pinching their noses, she took as many gulps of air as she could. It soon came to her attention that the smell was strongest in one direction. Curious, she allowed her feet to turn and walk that way.
The more she moved, the better the smell became. Like the sweetest smelling flower in the world, she wonderful odor continued to grow even stronger. Eventually the smell led her off of the main path and into a smaller one that led through a thicket. Trees towered on either side. At their bases was a wide array of bushes that made going to either side impassible.
For a moment common sense had her stopping in her tracks. While the main walks were easy to go along on, going off the beaten path with no lights would be dangerous. In a city you never knew who might be lurking about, especially in the dark.