I neared an alley between the shell of an old slaughterhouse—no amount of sand or sawdust could blanket its stench—and an abandoned brewery, its only remaining door propped open with refuse, its yard choked with weeds and unidentifiable debris. Panic seized me. Something malevolent was seeping out of that alley. I couldn’t tell whether it was a sound or a smell, but some sentient life form was hovering in the squalor of that alley, on edge, poised for action.
Was I hearing only the cold? Perhaps a breaker battering the rocks, fanning its spray into the sky. Or the whine of the wind whipping the treetops or rustling the underbrush. Or the echo of clattering hooves. Or the growl of a feral dog. Perhaps only the chatter of locusts, the yawn of a soldier, the squawk of a gull, or the groan of the earth itself.
Was I smelling only the darkness? Perhaps the odor of the bricks, the tang of the sea, or the putrefaction of a carcass. Perhaps the vapor of my own stale sweat, the piss of a cat, the hair of an old dog, or the droppings of a sick mule. Perhaps the breath of a stable yard, the reek of rotting wood, the fetor of dying weeds, a derelict’s curdling vomit, a spill of posca, or an accumulation of the night’s panic and neglect. Or perhaps something more, like the odor of damp wool and the stink of male tension.
My fear blossomed.
As Miriam is ambushed, Charon waits, poised to beat her with his ferryman's pole and drag her soul into his skiff. Pick up a copy of THE DEADLIEST LIE, open it to Chapter 21, and save her from Charon’s reach.