Scent of Life

The smells are his strongest memory. He isn't surprised by this, because he read once that human memories are triggered best by smell. He isn't human, of course, and he doesn't really remember best when he smells something that reminds him. But it seems logical to him that he his memories are most sharply defined by smell.

There are certain smells he is never surprised to remember. The wood of his father's home, and the filth of the stables and the people that no one knew was unusual until several centuries later and mankind re-discovered cleanliness. He remembers the smell of perfume on Darla's pale dead skin, even though she rarely bothered to wear a fragrance. She was wearing it the second time he made love to her, and the first time she took him across the ocean to France and so he associates that smell with her smile.

He remembers the smell of fear, the first time he delivered a feast to her. Seven men he'd gathered up, tied together with rough twine and the barring of his fangs, and they'd sat huddled together, crying and crossing themselves in the darkness. The smell had intoxicated him and he'd eaten one before Darla had returned to find her gift. She'd laughed at him and shared, and told him about places they could go where the feasts could be in the hundreds.

The spice of his first child is easy to remember. Her terror and courage, wrapped together in linen that had been so easy to tear -- he'd been the first to have her, and there was a time when he thought that meant everything. The scent of his other get were just as strong, and when he closes his eyes he can call up the feel of each one by scent alone. The heady, warm, honey scent of Penn, writhing and fighting his Sire's hands. The sharp, metallic bite of William's scent as he lay quietly and whispered.

Other smells he is surprised he still retains. He remembers the scent of the decades he spent hiding, alleyways and graveyards and railcars all blending into one permeating smell. He has to strain to pick the scents apart, no matter how well he remembers. The nights flash before him until it seems to him there was only one, lasting from the time Darla cast him aside for the final time and the night Whistler found him and showed him a face he could believe in.

He remembers her scent. Slayer, human, girl, woman. There were mysteries in the way she smelled that he knows now he could never have unraveled no mater how freely she gave to him. But the scent and promise of more, had enticed him and chained him close until he forgot that he existed for reasons other than hers.

Assuming he ever had. He still doesn't know, and the memories of smells don't make his purpose any clearer. He tries to trace his life and make it explain why he is here, what good he has served. Why he has been chosen for things he doesn't want any part of, and why he has been bent farther each time and told he shouldn't mind.

He gets that he has sins to pay for. He doesn't argue with the pain he feels and loses he suffers, because he knows that ficve hundred years in Hell only put a dent in the suffering he has caused. But he doesn't understand why the universe keeps telling him to keep going, as if each time he takes a step it's supposed to be progress and supposed to mark the end of his pain when clearly -- it isn't.

Sometimes he keeps trying anyway. Sometimes he doesn't. Sometimes he hides himself in a room and thinks about his life and remembers how it smelled, and waits for something to become clear.

He can smell some things, now. Scents on his clothes that he could have been rid of, except he thinks those scents are in his skin as well. The smell of people he reached out to and called friends, believing them his reward for trying. The smell of people who put up with him because he's useful to them. Both mixed together, sometimes in the same person, confusing him and making him wish he could tear them off and put everything back in the holes they used to live in. Mine, my family, versus everything else.

Except sometimes his family were his playthings, and his food, and as meaningless to him as the humans they slaughtered.

He wonders if that's why he has more sins to wash away. Because he was given love, or adoration, and he spent it like water and so now he is cursed with more than a soul, but also to be served and adored and loved by people who ought to know better but do it anyway. Perhaps his curse is to start to love them back, and start to reach out, and accept his opportunity to try again only to suffer loss and betrayal as though everyone were simply waiting for the chance to cut him.

He doesn't know, and he knows there is no way to ever find out. So he sits in his room and broods into the darkness, thinking about all the pains he feels and wonders what will ever cap his life and his suffering.

And he pretends that the final scent on his hands and in his mouth isn't that of someone who still, unfathomably, loves him anyway, and he tries not to think that maybe the fault is still his.