I coughed, anxious, as I approached the door at the back of the alley, featureless gray and unmarked by any sign. In my hand, I held the gold-embossed card that had summoned me here. But even though I held an invitation, I couldn’t stop myself from trembling.
We all knew him, of course – his name was famous. Carson Stone, the man who didn’t smell! He had appeared on Letterman, once. I had watched that episode, and still remembered vividly the contrast between Carson and the joking host.
Carson had strode confidently onto the stage. That confidence wasn’t unusual, but his appearance was. Somehow, his skin was free of grime, as though he’d spent hours running a rubber scraper over his skin. His clothes appeared similarly clean, free of the stains of sweat – they must have been brand new.
Even more than that, the audience responded to him instantly, leaning forward with their nostrils dilating. Most times, people maintained their own personal space to avoid too much stench, and indeed, the audience members were well dispersed. But Carson was different. There was no bubble around him, and the host and audience seemed almost eager to draw close.
We all knew the secret to attraction, of course. Smell good. Hence the booming business of rubber scrapers, “guaranteed to wipe away all dirt and grime from the skin, taking off those pesky odor particles!”. But they never worked as well as the commercials and ads promised – and after just a day, sometimes even only a few hours, a new layer of dirt would take its place on my skin.
Of course, there was always the wild tale of an untainted spring. Someone was always claiming that they’d found the “pure source”, water that hadn’t been contaminated, water that didn’t make skin burst into painful boils and weeping sores. But it was always a hoax. Most of the time, the braggers were scammers, looking for an easy bit of money before they’d inevitably vanish.
Reaching the door, I lifted my hand and gave a tentative knock. I had to admit, if pressed, that I had some value as well. Ever since I was young, I’d been good at fiddling, tinkering, and I’d help get many machines from the olden ages working again. I ran quite a successful business as a mechanic, fixing televisions, screens, cooking appliances, and vehicles. I was one of the few people who could get a motorcycle working again, and I didn’t know of anyone else who had successfully converted one to run on alcohol. I had even managed to make a small improvement to the solar stills that pulled water out of the air, a few meager drops at a time.
But still, receiving this invitation from Carson had been unexpected.
I lifted my hand to knock again, but the door sprang open before my fist could land. And there, larger than life before my eyes, stood Carson.
He was clean, immaculate, his teeth gleaming. But that wasn’t what nearly knocked me off my feet.
He smelled . . . amazing.
To be continued!