For Cal. Thank you for the great starter!
“Dude, that smells funky.”
Jake turned his head away from the scratch and sniff I was holding up toward him. His hands came up in a mock defensive posture. “What the fuck is that?”
“I know, right? And I didn’t even scratch at it.” I returned the scratch and sniff sticker on its yellowing waxy paper backing to the plastic baggie I had put it in when I found it.
Jake looked at me, “Dude, if you knew, why’d you make me smell it then?” The sound of the game as someone scored, and the pounding of feet on the bleachers above drowned out our voices for a moment.
“Just cause. It’s so nasty. Smells like maggots or something.”
Jake thought for a second, “Something between rotted old wine and meat… like a bad dumpster. Where’d you get it?”
Lynnette piped in. “Let me smell.” I handed her the baggie. She cracked it open slightly and then turned away, gagging slightly.
“Gross, right?” Jake smiled at her.
From where we were all sitting under the bleachers, Lynette’s hair caught a little ray of evening sunlight and glowed. A puff of Jake’s vapor cloud behind her whirled through the sunlight. She was so damn pretty. She thought deeply for a second, “Yeah, I smell the rotting smell. But I also smell something like when my folks took me to Hawaii, and we climbed a volcano… What’s that called?”
“Brimstone.” Saying the word reminded me of dozens of video games about hell. I think that’s where I’d learned the word.
“That’s it, brimstone! I smell brimstone. Maybe your scratch and sniff is about Hawaii… What’s the picture on it?”
We all peered at it through the baggie.
“The picture on it is so small.” I looked at it, “Looks like a goat?”
“Standing up like a person? Weird.” Lynette peered at it, too.
“So, where’d you get it?” Jake repeated his question, while he handed me the vape.
“That’s the weird part. My dad went to a police auction yesterday. Got himself a new desk. I was told to clean it up. He keeps trying to give me chores,” I paused to puff, “make a man out of me.”
Jake sniggered, and Lynette leaned over and put her head down on my shoulder for a moment. I passed her the vape we were all sharing, and reveled in watching her lips form an “o” around the device as she drew in a breath of pot. She stretched back and lay down for a second.
“So? What’s that have to do with the stinky-ass antique sticker?” Jake asked, pulling me from fascinatedly watching Lynette’s chest breathe in and out.
“The sticker was in the bottom drawer, tucked into an envelope under some kind of contractual legal papers and shit,” I finished. “I threw away everything else, but kept the sticker.”
Lynette snorted, “I mean, have they even made scratch and sniffs since our parents were kids?”
“What else was in the envelope?” Jake frowned.
“Nothing, man. Just this stupid sticker. You’d think there’d be guns and shit in those drawers, since the dude they belonged to was some kind of big wig dealer, but nah.”
“Weird. Man, that sticker is so schnasty, dude.”
“Let’s scratch it up good so it’s really stinky and leave it in Julie’s bag.” Julie, who Lynette had been frenemies with since grade school.
Jake chuckled. “Awesome! I’m in. How ‘bout you, man? It’s your sticker?”
“Whatever Lynette wants, man, she gets,” I said and was rewarded with a little smile and a peck on the cheek as Lynette sat back up. She stood, long legs stretching for a second, then started searching the bleachers above for where Julie was sitting.
We got up and followed her. Lynette eventually spotted Julie’s feet, almost out of reach, and her bag was on the row of bleacher right above that; we could see a little of the strap. Julie was so fond of that purse. It was some kind of ridiculously fancy one that came with a certificate of authenticity. Her mother had gotten it for her in Italy on business, as she would tell anyone who would listen.
Lynette took the sticker from me, pulled it out of the baggie, which fell to the ground, and the smell of rotting flesh and decadence and hellfire or whatever grew strong around us.
“Dude, it smells so nasty. This is gonna be great!” Lynette laughed. Another scoring play out on the field and then the cheerleaders must have come out because everyone started chanting. Lynette chose that moment, with feet pounding and everyone yelling along, to climb the bleacher supports, and I watched her from below. I could do that all day. She deftly climbed and giggled down at us. I puffed on the vape, breathed in deep. Life was good. The world was starting to really blur at the edges.
She was reaching out toward Julie’s bag now, other elbow hooked through the support beams, sticker in fingertips. Then she remembered, and pulled her hand back and scratched at the sticker hard for a second, and started reaching back out toward Julie’s bag.
That’s when a fireball erupted in the air between myself and Lynette, and vanished as fast as it appeared. Mid-air between us, a horned demon with cloven feet and a bright red tail appeared. He thudded to the ground, and Lynette swung down to the ground beside him, having let go of the bleacher in shock.
Seeing her so close to the creature scared the crap out of me, so I snatched out toward Lynette, pulling her behind me out of some kind of instinct. My arm brushed against the demon for a split-second, and I felt my skin burn away in that spot. Hurt like a mother-fucker. Worse than the time my step-dad put out a cigarette on me when I was four. But then it stopped hurting completely and disappeared as Lynette handed me back the sticker.
“Woah,” Jake said.
“Dude!” I said, as my blood grew cold. I started to shake.
The smell of the scratch and sniff was suddenly incredibly stronger. I could hear someone up on the bleachers above ask who farted. The demon rolled his shoulders and stretched. “Ahhh. Room to breathe.” His voice sounded like a few voices at once heard through shifting gravel and sand. It sounded bad. Like, really bad. Like death come for you. I couldn’t take my eyes off him.
“Which of you holds my token?”
“What?” Lynette blurted out.
Jake dropped to the ground in a sudden case of uncontrollable giggles. “He means your scratch and sniff, assholes.” He started cackling, couldn’t seem to stop himself. The demon flicked a finger at Jake, and the laughter turned to quiet as Jake instantly fell asleep.
“Who holds my token?” the demon repeated. I held out the sticker toward him.
“What possessed you to summon me by daylight so close to a place of worship?” He pointed in the direction of the church steeple, barely visible in the fading evening light.
“We didn’t know, man, we didn’t know what the sticker could do. Look, take it, we didn’t know.”
The demon shuffled his cloven feet, and whipped his tail around a touch, as he approached me, ungainly, unbeautiful, and deadly. He placed his horned, black-eyed red and bony face within an inch of mine and said, “Do you mean it? I can have it?” The stink of him was overpowering. My eyes hurt from it.
“Sure, dude. It’s yours.” He snatched the sticker from my hands and whirled away from me. Out of nowhere, a fire conjured from the ground in front of us, and he danced around it in a swirl of cloven legs, whipping tail, and bowed horns. He threw the sticker into the fire, and immediately, the scent of brimstone and rotting anything disappeared with the sticker. The fire swallowed itself into the ground.
“Thank you, child. I treasure the freedom you have granted me. I shall use it wisely, pillaging and purging and destroying whatsoever I choose!” He spread his chest out, beat upon it briefly, and took a deep breath. Then his gaze returned to us, and Lynette hugged me from behind, scared. “I shall grant you the same power of my previous token holders, in granting your earthly desires, but summon me more wisely next time. No churches!” He pointed. “No crowds!” He pointed above. “And no daylight!”
He disappeared in a puff of smoke. Literally. Not like the wispy stuff you see on stage, but a cloud of black smoke that burned the nostrils when it hit and made the eyes water. As it wafted through the bleachers above, voices sounded upset. A few heads peeked through the holes in the bleachers and Julie’s voice shrilled out at them, “What the hell are you guys up to down there? Knock it off!”
Jake woke up, and Lynette spoke first. “Dude. What the hell?”
I looked at Lynette, “I get whatever wishes I want?”
Jake looked at me, “Where’s the sticker?”
Lynette came around in front of me and hugged me tightly, trying to comfort the fear out of me. I figured I still looked like I was about to crap my pants. I honestly don’t know why I didn’t.
“Yeah, you get whatever wishes you desire, sounded like he said.” Lynette looked at me sweetly, “That’s something, right?”
“Dude, how am I supposed to summon him without the sticker, though?”
Lynette and I sat back down next to Jake on the ground, and he pulled his vape back out of his pocket. “Damned if I know,” Jake said, through a cloud of white vapor.
“Whatever,” Lynette said.
“Yeah, whatever,” I repeated.