Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Fragrance (10/24/05)
TITLE: Abaddon’s Market (Based on 1 Peter 5:8)
By Benjamin Stephens
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I was twenty-one when I stumbled into Natasburg. I say stumbled because it was not my planned destination. I shudder to recall the events, but I must never go back.
The year was 1948 and I was heading south with my best girl, Becky, to attend the wedding of a friend. We stopped for fuel at The Move-Along Filling Station when my life changed in multiple ways.
The attendant was spraying my window and wiping the grime away when I smelled a memory. It was an incredibly powerful fragrant banquet. In my mind I was suddenly at my grandmothers eating roast beef, potatoes, carrots and sweet corn. The fragrance even held the hint of the lavender soap Grandma always used.
â€śDo you smell that?â€ť I asked Becky.
She dutifully sniffed the air before replying, â€śIt smells like Aunt Lorraineâ€™s homemade fudge.â€ť This caused me no end of confusion. â€śCan we go get some?â€ť she asked.
â€śSir,â€ť I called to the attendant, â€śwhere is that wonderful smell coming from?â€ť
â€śOh sir, you really should just get back on the road and keep going,â€ť the attendant advised.
â€śBut that wonderful fragrance,â€ť Becky called, â€śI am working up an appetite just smelling it.â€ť
â€śPlease, sir, if you could just point us in the right direction,â€ť I pleaded, my stomach knotting at the wonderful aroma.
The attendant was sad as he pointed south, â€śYouâ€™ll find the market at the end of Impious Street, but I promise you will not be satisfied. Please, sir, just drive away and try to forget you ever came to this city.â€ť
â€śNonsense! What could it hurt?â€ť I asked as I drove away. In retrospect I believe the young man wept as we left.
When we found the market I couldnâ€™t believe my eyes, the parking lot was full but the store itself was in a horrible state of disrepair. The roof sagged, the doors drooped on well used hinges and flaking paint caused the outside of the building to look garish. Yet, people kept coming, they literally ran from their vehicles to get inside.
Becky and I noticed the heavy clouds above and thought to escape the coming rain by making our way to the market. Once inside, the deluge began and we were grateful to be out of the squall. At once our senses were assaulted with such powerful memories of our past - all pleasant and comforting.
I found the roast beef while Becky sought out the fudge. Strangely, I am as certain today as I was then that I saw Grandma at the end of an aisle for just a brief moment. She had passed on seven years before. There was something unnatural about this place.
I wanted to leave when Becky gasped, â€śDo you smell that? Itâ€™s a scented candle from Germany that mother brought out only at Christmas. I havenâ€™t breathed that fragrance since I left home. I need that candle.â€ť
I noticed the racing of those within the store. They all smiled, some wept, each finding a memory in Abbadonâ€™s Market.
Yet, there were others that appeared haggard and weary, a hallow gaze indicated a fatigue, yet they stayed.
The manager gazed my direction and locked eyes with me. It felt as if he were branding my very soul with his piercing gaze. â€śTake a deep breath friend,â€ť he said, â€ścanâ€™t you smell it?â€ť
Almost involuntarily I breathed and smelled the barbershop back home where dad would get his hair cut. I could hear Carl slapping the oil on his hands and rubbing the fragrant mixture on dadâ€™s head.
The manager was laughing as I left to find the barber chair, although I was certain it, too, would vanish.
Time passed and I wanted to leave but a new fragrance would assail me and I would rush in search of a mirage. I knew something was amiss, but it was becoming more and more difficult to stop running even though I knew that what I would find would be an empty promise.
When I finally purposed to leave, Becky refused to come with me. She had traces of fudge around her lips and she held tightly to a candle, inhaling the remembered fragrance as I forced myself to leave.
If only I had taken the advice of a young man to just keep driving. Yet, all these years have passed and the memory is as fresh and frightening today as it was when I gazed into the eyes of Abbadonâ€™s slaves.
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