The Stench. Short Story.

Hope everyone had a good weekend, mine was pretty relaxing.

I got to play some video games (recently got Red Dead Redemption, awesome game.) and read some.

I’m looking forward to New Years, I’m spending it at a friends house, and I’m hoping it’ll be a fun night. I always find that New Years Eve is usually a bit of a let down. In my experience, going into town is ridiculous as either you’re rushing to somewhere before midnight (a time constraint that was never a problem at all before this night.) Or you get to a place, but it’s absolutely packed so you spend the night either jammed against people while trying to talk to friends, jammed against people while dancing, or jammed against people while waiting at the bar.

House parties are generally more relaxed, with a lot more space and are generally more relaxing that going out.

Hope everyone enjoys their night, regardless of what they do!

On with the show!


Henry tried not to gag as the scent became thicker. He had thought, well, hoped, that it would become tolerable as time went on, but it just became worse and worse He breathed shallowly, hoping that it wasn’t noticeable. He didn’t want to offend. The room was filled with bowls of scented water and perfumes, so it wasn’t like they weren’t aware of the smell, but it wouldn’t be polite to draw attention to it. The priest reclined on his chair, skin oily and greasy. Behind him, scented candles burned and two small windows were open to allow fresh air to circulate through the room. It still wasn’t enough. Henry watched as the priest jotted something down on paper and inwardly shuddered at the grease marks the hand left on the paper. He had received a letter, hand written by a priest, and the house had stunk of it for days. There was of course, an upside to the stench, one could rarely be caught unawares by a priest,  you could smell them coming.


The priest put the pen down,  then stood, “Thank you for coming, you have been most helpful. Don’t worry, we’ll get to the bottom of this shortly.”
The priest stuck out his hand and, against every screaming protest in his mind, Henry did the same. The priests hand was warm and slick, they shook once firmly, and Henry left the room, fleeing to the fresh air.

Outside he paused and breathed deeply, trying to clear the air from his lungs. He could still smell it on his hand, but after being in such an enclosed space, it was tolerable. He’d have to wash himself vigorously if there was any hope of getting rid of that smell. He paused at a bowl of scented water and, seeing no one else around, Henry stuck his hand into the bowl. He scrubbed at it quickly, then removed his hand. The surface of the water became slick with oil. Henry left quickly.


He didn’t like visiting the priests, no one did, which was why they made it mandatory to attend if requested to do so. Henry never really understood how people like that could come to power, but they managed it somehow. He walked quickly, his hand held slightly from his body. It wasn’t clear if the priests always smelled like that, if they were born with some affliction, or if it was something that occurred when they were ordained, some kind of holy curse to keep them humble or to mark them for what they were. Henry didn’t care too much about their origins, after all that wouldn’t make a difference. There were rumours that the priests were impossible to kill, that they never became ill, that they could tell your sins by simply looking at you. Henry knew one of these was definitely untrue. After all, he had seen a priest killed with his own eyes. The entire town had. As he scurried through the streets, he wondered who was suspected. The person had been masked and never spoke. There were no announcements afterwards, no leaflets. No one knew why the masked person had attacked the priest. They had been padded heavily, so there were rumours that it had been a woman and counter-rumours it was a man, trying to make people think he was a woman. Henry didn’t know who to suspect, after all he knew most people in the town, and he hadn’t thought anyone would be capable of that. They were all religious, all devout. No, it had to have been an outsider, and he had told the priest as much.



It had been a dull day when the attack occurred, but that didn’t stop people attending the services. They had been moved outside of the church, as they were occasionally on hot days and sometimes at random, so they could glory in all that God had created. The service had continued on as normal until halfway through when the masked madman had ran up behind the priest and, using a black dagger, had quickly and deftly severed the priests head. In the shocked silence that followed, the priests body crumpled and the assailant had disappeared. Henry had learned two things that day, that priests could be killed and their blood was a bright, vibrant blue.



People thought that the killer would be caught quickly, after all, they had been so close to a priest, they had touched her skin and held her against themselves for a brief second. That would be enough to transfer the oil and mark them for the murderer they were. The clothes were found a few streets over, burning merrily. It seemed they had absorbed most of the oil. So far, there had been no obvious leads on who had done it, or why.



Henry opened the door of the house and quickly went to the sink, there he scrubbed his hands beneath the water. It helped, but not much. Henry sighed. Sometimes it was easy to get off the smell, other times it lingered. He thought it depended on what priest actually touched you. The worst was when they brushed against you in a crowd. You had to stand there and stink of it while you finished your business. He knew it wasn’t the priests fault and they were to be pitied. After all, they were stuck with the smell, he could wash it off eventually.



The priests themselves had no names, at least not to the general populace, Henry suspected they had someway of referring to one another amongst themselves. They had to, how else would they discuss matters. They had names once, Henry was sure of that. But they had to give them up in service to the lord. They were no longer people, they were representatives of something much higher and grander than they. 

Henry sniffed at his hand, trying to gauge how bad the smell was, at least his clothes hadn’t absorbed too much of the stink. It was barely noticeable and a good washing would clear it completely. He’d have to warn Martha that this was the clothing he had worn to visit the priest. She herself had her visit yesterday. Now she was off in the markets, or perhaps doing an odd job. He hadn’t had a chance to talk to her properly this morning, he had been too worried about his meeting. He saw a lump of cloth on the table and moving it, he spotted his lunch, a simple sandwich. He covered it again, he wasn’t hungry, at least not yet. He was pleased that he knew one thing for certain though, it hadn’t been him or Martha that was the killer. She had stood next to him for the entire ceremony. They couldn’t be falsely accused either. He remembered there were people either side of them, he knew some and others vaguely, but he could point them out as they had stared at each other in horror.  The priests would capture the assailant. Henry knew it and he didn’t want to see what they would do to them. He heard stories of the priests methods. He had even seen the remains of one of those who needed to be punished. It wasn’t something he would wish on anyone. He pushed the thought from his mind and went back to the process of cleaning his hand.



Perhaps hot water would do the trick? He set the kettle on the stove and waited.


About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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