Stink Nick is real. Real stinky.
By Alicia Bruzzone
“They were sold out of skunks.” Melanie’s chest heaves with panting breath while she quavers in the kitchen doorway, eyes wide with fright. “Bettina won’t survive the night!”
Yeah right. Stink Nick is just a dumb fairy tale. Personally I’m happy that I won’t wake up on Christmas morning smelling worse than an alley full of homeless men. Not that Mother won’t come up with something else for The Seasoning, but it’s got to reek less than being sprayed in musk from an animal’s butt.
“We’ll make do,” Mother announces, the creases beside her eyes intensifying. It’s probably in anticipation of the stench.
The Seasoning is always a solemn event; Stink Nick’s imminent arrival means business. We all sit around the laminate kitchen table. Melanie acts assistant; she’s grown too tall to be mistaken for an elf.
An old nightgown covers the table’s surface, flowing fabric that would catch in machinery. Stink Nick wouldn’t want that. He’s got enough problems, what with the scarcity of fresh water and bathing opportunities in his frozen homeland. According to legend, he’s already got a factory floor full of filthy, stench-infested overworked slaves. Now he sniffs around for pleasant smelling replacements on the annual present delivery.
Being female I need to be extra repellent: that’s what being made of sugar and spice and all things nice gets you. Melanie looks smug as my mother selects our first item for The Seasoning. A rotten potato only the way it makes my eyes water means something more. Gross, they marinated it in cat piss.
I take a deep breath as I reach for the soggy mess with a pinch of fingers, not wanting the vile substance to touch my skin. Mother won’t let me wear gloves; says without a skunk I’ll need everything I can get.
The Seasoning only gets worse from here. “A decapitated rat? Really?” I fume while scrubbing decomposing rodent flesh onto the fabric. Maggots tumble through a distended stomach. “Does being headless make it smell worse?”
Melanie tries a smarmy look, but it’s hard when she’s plugging her nose with one hand. “The cat ate the head to get the garlic taste out of her mouth.”
“The garlic” I start to question, before the next instrument of torture is revealed. Soggy faeces collected from a litter tray. That’s why you’d feed a cat garlic.
I gag while slathering the still warm mess on, the resultant diarrhoea juices soaking through to the tablecloth.
Ugh, too revolting. A steady stream of colostomy-brown vomit heaves its way from my stomach. Mother holds me down as she catches the bile on the gown with a triumphant look.
It’s disgusting, and I’m expected to wear it.
I don’t think so. Not this year.
The bedroom curtains flutter as a shadow drifts past. My eyes jolt completely open. There are no trees outside my window.
Alert, I sit up and take in the surrounds, my fast thumping pulse providing terrifying background music. My room still smells like alpine forest, thanks to the can of air freshener I unloaded before bed. But there are wafts of something else. Sweat and burned motor oil, spoiled food overlaid with something metallic.
I turn my head in the direction of the stink. Someone is in my room. Someone obese; dressed in dirty maroon rags that cling to sweaty armpits.
Stink Nick is real.
And I didn’t wear my gown.
He leans over my hair, inhaling deeply to sniff the lavender shampoo I wasn’t meant to use. The room resonates with his hum of approval.
I scream and scramble to escape.
My frantic mother tumbles through the door soon after.
“Ah, the current slave owner.” Stink Nick pulls a scythe from his sack, slicing the air in an arc until the weapon reaches my mother’s throat. Her cries dissipate into a gurgled choke that pulses wet blood from her neck in a squirting staccato. “That’s the transfer of ownership completed.” Stink Nick’s beady eyes turn to me. “You smell positively delightful. Let’s see how you go at making toys.” Stubby fingers encircle my wrist, dragging me towards the window where his hovering transport awaits.
“My fingers” I call in a desperate bid. “Smell my fingers.” My hand shakes as I raise it to Stink Nick’s nose, but surely he can’t miss the offense from smearing my nightgown during The Seasoning. I’ve never before been grateful for the lingering scent of rotting rat flesh.
Stink Nick screws his face up for a moment, before rummaging around in his dirty coat with his free hand. He pulls out a menacing rusty knife; blade crusted and dull. His coal black eyes gleam as he soaks in my fear. “I’m sure that affliction is only skin deep. Let’s peel off your flesh and find out.”