No one ever talks about the smells. Not the smell of death – everyone knows that one and the human olfactory sense isn’t sensitive enough to pick it up until decomposition is well underway.
No, I’m talking about the smell of fresh death. Sweat. Lots of it, if they knew it was coming. Just buckets. Piss. Most people die with a full bladder, isn’t that awful? It doesn’t stay that way. Sometimes you defecate when death is sudden enough. Or, you know, if you’re really unlucky.
What you don’t know about death could fill volumes. But what do you care? You won’t be around to see your own.
In most cases.
My case, well, it wasn’t one of those cases.
The grease on the ball bearings coated the pads of my fingers, the little loop of bearings almost empty. All but a couple had escaped the wheels of my skateboard and rolled across the sidewalk. I heard them – tink, tink, tink – and they were gone. My wheel screeched across the pavement, sending chills through my teeth.
I hate changing those stupid things.
After five minutes of struggling with them, sweat coating my brow, I took a break to stare at the deep red roses growing in the planter next to me. I inhaled their sweet scent deep into my nostrils, ran a finger over the silky petals. At least that calmed me.
But I’d disturbed a little worker bee, buzz buzz buzzing inside the velvety innards of the rose. Before I even had time to react, he stung me right on the fingertip.
Like being impaled by a teeny little dagger, the pain shot under my nail. It hurt, sure, but it was just one tiny little sting.
When you’re allergic, the size of the sting doesn’t matter.
I stuck my finger in my mouth, the spot of blood coppery on my tongue, mingling with slick, tasteless bearing grease. My throat started closing almost right away. I tried, I tried to pull a breath in, but I couldn’t. And I’d left my epi pen at home because I hate skating with stuff in my pockets, all clanging against my leg every time I do a kickflip.
The heat of the sidewalk baked into my face as I lay there, wheezing. My head swam. I just needed a breath. Just one breath.
Please, god, let me breathe.
The smell of piss hit me, acrid in my nostrils. I pulled in just enough breath for that to be the last thing I smelled.
Before I woke up here. It’s cold.
I can’t feel my nose. But I can breathe, and the air tastes stale and putrid, like death. Little crystals of ice line the silver box I’m trapped in.
In the eighteen hundreds, they used to jam sticks under the toenails of the presumed dead so they’d wake if they weren’t really dead. Or they put bells on their toes.