The Center: Smells - Part 1

The Center: Smells
Chapter 1

by Jennifer Sue

Copyright  © 2010 Jennifer Sue
All Rights Reserved.


“Children should be seen and not heard,” was the too often used phrase that was physically hammered into his budding consciousness before he even realized he could think. It became the toddler’s mantra.

“Children should be seen and not heard,” was the too often used phrase that was physically hammered into his budding consciousness before he even realized he could think. It became the toddler’s mantra.

The teasing and taunting started in kindergarten, which also happened to be his first exposure to life without the puritanical hand of his aunt. Dave Fink was tagged as Stinky Finky that very first day. No one could stand to be near him. By the day’s end his seat was segregated from the rest of his classmates by at least six feet, and even then, the students sitting closest to him only did so because the teacher assigned them there.

As the years progressed, it had become an unofficial policy for all his teachers to move misbehaving students to the seats nearest him as punishment. In the cafeteria, he was not only the last in line, he had to wait until the cafeteria ladies filled a tray for him and left it by the checkout as they stepped back. The school even provided a small table well away from everyone else for his exclusive use.

Since he never experienced friendship, Dave simply accepted the fact he never had any friends. Sure he saw his classmates become friends, but no one ever approached him and if he ever approached them, they held their noses and shooed him away. To occupy himself during recess, he ran laps around the outer perimeter of the playground. No one ever objected and he quickly developed superior speed and stamina as well as a stoic unemotional persona. In class, he had no distractions so put everything he had into learning, quickly discovering reading opened a whole new world.

In fourth grade, already strong for his age and size, he’d seen a gang of sixth graders in a blind corner of the playground working over one of his classmates who had been deemed a faggot. Even though he’d had virtually no interaction with the boy, he understood the pain of being different. To see the boy being beaten was simply too much for Dave to ignore and anger cracked his stoic facade. Using his speed he charged toward the five bigger boys as the victim sank to the ground by the wall. Forming a semi-circle the bullies proceeded to kick and jeer as the pitiful crying boy curled into a fetal position. Going full tilt, Dave stuck his arms straight up and leapt, twisting his body so he was parallel to the ground about three and half feet in the air. Dave hurtled into the delinquents, slamming all five face first into the brick wall of the school. The center three took the full brunt of Dave’s aerial assault and were knocked cold. The other two were knocked silly. Dave was barely bruised as the five cushioned him. Without saying a word he climbed to his feet and silently resumed running laps.

The school suspended Dave for three days, the bullies for two weeks. They needed the time to recover from their myriad injuries. Everyone realized Stinky Finky was not someone you ever wanted to piss off. The taunts and teasing faded, but didn’t disappear completely. The mumbled epithets and pinched noses made clear what others thought. Upon his return to school Dave found a brief thank you note from the boy he’d saved. It was the first time any of his classmates
had ever been polite towards him. Dave treasured the note and kept it in his bible.

When Dave moved into the junior-senior high school there were many who didn’t know it was not smart to piss of Stinky Finky. A few weeks after starting seventh grade Dave entered a restroom to find three eleventh grade boy trying to stuff a stereo-typical geek classmate into the trash can. For the second time in his life anger cracked the facade of his stoic persona. Dave’s ever-present odor made the bullies aware of his entrance a split second before he slammed into them taking all three down at once. The guy closest to the wall, boy one, had his face mangled as it slammed into the aluminum frame of the big mirror above the sinks. His cheek bone, nose and several teeth shattered as the edge of the frame gouged his face open from hairline to eyebrow, thankfully skipped the eye proper, but resumed from cheek to chin. The guy in the center, boy two, hit the first sink, shattering it. Water instantly began spraying from the broken pipes. The boy followed the sharp edged porcelain remnants of the sink to the floor. Boy one toppled on top of boy two jamming the razor like porcelain edges into boy two. One piece completely pierced his right biceps as others jammed into his shoulder and back causing major damage. The guy on the outside, boy three, went down to the floor with his left arm twisted behind him. Dave ricocheted off boys one and two as they slammed into the mirror and sink and landed atop boy three with all his weight and force. Boy three’s left forearm snapped audibly as both bones punctured his skin. The agonized screams of the three injured boys brought teachers and staff running into the restroom in time to see Dave helping the geek out of the trash can. Upon seeing his mutilated attackers, the boy promptly fainted. A true geek, he was too afraid of Dave to even thank him.

Dave was suspended for a week for what was labeled unnecessary use of force. The three bullies were suspended for two weeks, but their injuries would have kept them out that long anyway. What really pissed most people off was that Dave had taken out the center offensive line of their up to then unbeaten football team. Any hope Dave might have harbored for acquiring a friend during high school was destroyed. On the positive side, Dave was so physically imposing no one ever tried to trifle with him.

By sixteen, Dave was strong, tough as nails, and muscular. Standing six feet two inches tall and weighing one hundred ninety five pounds, he could easily squat by the pallet full of hundred pound feed bags and heft a bag onto each shoulder, stand, and effortlessly carry them the thirty feet to the feed blender where he shrugged them onto the lip of the four feet high, five feet across mixing bowl. The constant daily work he did on the farm had made him physically imposing.

Each day Dave stoically ignored the taunts and sneers of his fellow passengers on the school bus just as he did in the halls and classrooms at school. Being the first student picked up had it’s advantages as he was always able to take the rear seat. He always sat by the window on the passenger side of the bus. No one ever sat beside him or in the seats in front of him on both sides of the bus. They’d sit three to a seat before getting near him.

There were two positive things about his situation. First was that he never endured the pushing, shoving, and normal hubbub in the school halls as he moved from class to class. Everyone made sure to stay at least five feet away from him. The same applied to the rest rooms. When he entered, everyone quickly left. Anyone who entered while he was inside turned and left. The second thing was that other than a few verbal taunts, no one ever bullied him.

Dave was the only person in phys-ed to have an alcove of the locker room to himself and was always excused from any activity that might involve physical contact with his classmates. If their activity involved that, he was assigned to run laps. In the weight room, he was able to bench press a phenomenal four hundred pounds. Over the years he’d developed a lot of stamina from all the running, not to mention doing more than his share of the farm work.

Each night in bed, the stoic unemotional facade crumbled as suppressed emotions demanded release. Then he’d find himself unable to fall asleep as he silently cried while rehashing his hard life. His mother had died giving birth to him. His father, heartbroken, literally drank himself to death the next day, ODing on Old Crow Whiskey. His maternal aunt and uncle took him in... after all it was their Christian Duty... and they never let him forget that. His aunt was bitter that he had caused the death of her beloved baby sister. His cousins were all adults and already out on their own when he came into the picture. Once they’d escaped the self righteous piety of their parents, none of them ever returned to the farm. This only served to make his aunt and uncle strive to make sure he was brought up as a proper Christian. There was no love in Dave’s life, only duty God, family and mankind, in that order. It was because his aunt and uncle thought Dave was serving mankind when he’d been twice suspended that they never punished him, only admonished him to continue to use his strength to help the weak.

Aunt Rachel and Uncle Adam only went to church on Easter and Christmas as they didn’t cotton to the modern interpretations their church now proclaimed. They much preferred the hell and brimstone preaching of the early twentieth century. They began each day with a bible reading after breakfast, and another after lunch, and yet another after supper. They weren’t short readings, either. A chapter each at breakfast and lunch, and five chapters after supper. They read from one end of the bible to the other, then began the cycle again. There was no television... it brought the devil into the home. The only thing they listened to was gospel radio, and then only the old standards, never the new stuff.

Dave hated his life, having become convinced that, as his aunt constantly reminded him, he was a bastard. In the eyes of his guardians he was a child of sin and his parents had died because they had premarital sex and when the pregnancy was discovered they didn’t marry. Now it was his duty to pay for the sins of his parents. He’d never experienced love from his aunt and uncle, only their sense of Christian duty in saving him from a life fore-ordained sin.

In his heart he felt oppressed. In school he saw others smiling and having fun, hanging with friends. His strict upbringing would have meant he’d be ostracized, but that never became an issue. Dave quite literally stank... at least that’s what everyone told him... or more accurately jeered at him. The jeering and name calling had grown worse since the seventh grade. “Soooeee... Sooeee” really irked him, but “Here piggy piggy” was a close second. The “OINKs” and the guttural nasal snorts were merely irritating. It was the “PHEWs” and “GAHs” that hurt the most.

When he’d come home in tears after his first day in kindergarten, Aunt Rachel told him they all smelled of the pig farm but since they lived with it 24/7, they simply didn’t notice it. She’d said the odor was a sign of their Christian work ethic which kept the heathens from contaminating their righteous lives. Since he didn’t know any other life, the five year old accepted what he was told. But in the years since then he realized the hog farm smell was locked into their clothes since they were always hung out on the wash line to dry. They were too frugal to buy a dryer and waste electricity when the sun did the same thing for free. The smell was also locked into their hair and on their skin despite their weekly Saturday night baths. Each night sleep eventually claimed him before he could begin to fathom a solution to his unhappy life.

Quite naturally, Dave grew into a silent, contemplative guy with no friends and virtually no social skills. This didn’t mean he wasn’t a total dweeb. If nothing else, his aunt and uncle had ingrained politeness and manners into his being. Saying ‘thank you’ and ‘you’re welcome’ were second nature. Waiting his turn to speak was another, with a guilty ‘excuse me’ if what he had to say was pertinent enough to interrupt someone. In school his homework was always done and handed in on time. In every class he was at the top of the class academically, being a straight ‘A’ student and on the top honor roll every marking period. His main pastime in the little free time he had was reading. In elementary school since he was so ostracized and so far ahead of his classmates he was allowed to spend class-time in the library where he read Time, Newsweek, People, and any other popular magazine as well as the newspaper since at home only non fiction was allowed. There he read science and how-to books and articles as well as environmental material to help preserve God’s earth.

Uncle Adam was constantly complaining that the increasingly strict environmental restrictions on farming had been making heavy inroads into profitability. By age ten Dave had been able to explain to his aunt and uncle how the methane from the hog manure could be harnessed to generate electricity as well as heat their home and barns. The sales people and engineers who came to the farm to sell their methane collector products were more than a bit shocked to be answering penetrating questions about their proposals by a ten year old but quickly realized Uncle Adam deferred to the boy. Of course it was Uncle Adam who bargained the price once Dave had selected the best system. The huge capped manure storage tanks were easily modified to capture the methane.

Dave also selected the methane collection equipment which compressed the gas for storage in large strong tanks. This allowed gas lines to be run to the house and barns for heat and cooking. It also allowed a powerful electrical generator to burn the methane, producing more electricity than the farm could use, the excess being sold to the local electric utility. They were even able to use the compressed gas to fill thirty three pound industrial propane cylinders like those used on forklifts. All the farm equipment was converted to dual fuel capability, even the big F350 king cab pickup. Dave’s Aunt and Uncle were delighted to have the electric company pay them and to virtually never buy gas or diesel fuel since they never drove far enough to empty one of the methane filled tanks. The money they saved and earned paid for the system in two years.

After that, Dave’s aunt and uncle pressured him to find other ways to save or make money. Although skeptical at first, Uncle Adam quickly adapted no-till farming after a small trial proved successful. The sludge from the pig manure, when dried in a large methane fueled tumbler oven, became the only fertilizer the farm used. The oven burned off all noxious odors, sterilized and granulated the remains. They were able to build up a solid side business selling organic dried manure in fifty pound bags. Of course this meant Uncle Adam had to hire several workers, but at Dave’s suggestion, did so through a temp agency so he wouldn’t be responsible for the pay roll or benefits. Dave’s reward for all this were subscriptions to every conservation, back to earth, and how-to magazine on the market with the expectation he’d find more ways help the farm’s bottom line.

Dave’s normally wretched life went totally bonkers one afternoon as he got off the school bus. Sampson, the gregarious (to the family) but fierce (to all outsiders) German Shepard was not waiting for him by the mail box. This meant there had to be trouble at the farm. As was his routine, Dave pulled the mail from the box and stuffed it in his backpack before slipping it onto his back. From the road he could see two black vans and a black SUV parked in the turn around between the house and main barn. Everything was strangely quiet. Something was definitely wrong! Sucking up the budding anxiety he stoically started down the three hundred yard long rutted gravel farm lane.

About fifty yards from the road a stream ran through two large pipes under the lane. As Dave approached the dual three feet in diameter pipes he noted three people dressed in combat fatigues lying on the far bank of the stream. It was obvious they were cautiously watching him while keeping their heads below the top of the bank to avoid being seen from the farm. This only added to his growing unease but he kept it suppressed. Were they some sort of SWAT team? Had some criminals taken over the farm?

Dave slowed his pace and gave the trio a once over as he willed his heart not to speed up. They appeared to be about his age which was a bit disconcerting. All wore a headset for communication so there must be others near by. The guy in the middle seemed to be in charge. Bizarrely the Asian teen had blue hair showing from under his beret. Dave cooly met the boy’s serious and stern gaze as they measured each other’s mettle. On the outside of the trio was a pretty Native American girl with a serene look of peace on her face but her blue eyes were definitely out of place. The third member of the group was also a girl, cute even in fatigues. As he locked eyes with the blue eyed blonde he thought he could feel a subtle tickling in his brain as if she was somehow reaching out to him, soothing his suppressed anxiety while reassuring him that everything would be okay.

The girl raised one hand flat, palm up, and used the first two fingers of the other hand on the open palm to indicate walking, then pointed at Dave. She repeated the walking motion then pointed to the farm.

Dave understood she wanted him to continue towards the farm. Instantly she smiled and nodded her head as if she was able to sense his understanding. As he came closer she pointed to herself and the guy, then back to him before reaching around to touch her back. Dave took that to mean they had his back covered. Again she smiled to show she knew he understood. Then she pointed to her eyes, then to him, then to the farm. Somehow he understood she wanted him to keep his eyes on the farm instead of looking at them.

Dave understood something bad was going done. Summoning his unemotional stoicism he realized he was walking into a trap, why that might be he had no idea, but he seemed to understand the lives of his aunt and uncle hung on his actions and that the three teens hiding in the creek bed were on his side. Crossing the stream he steadily made his way down the lane. As he moved away from the girl, he felt the tickling in his brain dwindle until it stopped. About fifty yards later he noticed the birds that normally flocked about the retention lagoon were no where to be seen. The faint but ever present squeals from the three thousand hogs could be heard, as could the constant thrumming of the motor for the electric generator.

The anxiety producing situation, instead of inducing panic in Dave simply made his resolve and determination solidify. As he drew closer to the farmstead he could almost feel his senses becoming sharper. Even though he couldn’t see them, he sensed there were at least nine people watching him from various positions about the farmstead. Their gaze was cold and calculating and he instinctively knew he was their quarry. Unconsciously his heightened senses followed those gazes back to their sources and pinpointed each man. At the same time he could also feel nine associates of the three he’d passed at the stream stealthily hiding just outside the farmstead out of the line of site of those watching him.

Stepping between the first of the out-buildings, Dave stopped and turned his head. Behind each of the buildings he’d passed stood a man in a black commando uniform aiming an assault rifle at him. The men he’d spotted hiding showed themselves. Five were armed with assault rifles, the one atop the silo and the one atop the manure tank held sniper rifles with scopes. All were aimed at him. Another black clad man stepped out onto the porch of the house to glare at him.

Dave instantly understood this was the man in charge.

With a nod of the man’s head, two other black clad men emerged from the house with mean looking pistols jammed against the heads of his gagged terrified aunt and uncle. The man guarding his aunt limped and had a blood soaked bandage wrapped around one leg that could only mean one thing. Looking between the SUVs Dave saw the body of Sampson. Obviously he’d attempted to protect the farm when these bad guys arrived. Sampson... the only being that ever shown him unconditional affection. Dave’s anger began to knock down the facade of unemotional stoicism.

Dave felt no fear. Although he had no idea why these people were after him, he knew they were bad and no matter what he did they’d coldly kill his aunt and uncle as they had Sampson. A tear trickled down his cheek as he looked at Sampson’s short still fur.

“We mean no harm,” the man on the porch stated in what on the surface sounded like a gentle voice.

Dave saw right through the deception but remained still.

“Move to the center of the parking area and no one will be hurt,” the man stated.

Appearing calm but barely controlling his anger, Dave slowly walked to the center and stopped. Suddenly a black clad girl about his age stepped from behind the SUVs and stared at him. Dave felt a sharp ping in his mind where he felt the tickle from the SWAT girl. There was no doubt this girl was rapidly and ruthlessly probing his mind!

“The others are here, twelve of them, and closing in,” she shouted as he felt her abruptly leave his brain. “He hasn’t had first emergence yet but he’s pissed at us for killing the dog.”

The pain of the intrusion and exit felt as if someone had hit him over the head with a manure shovel. Dave dropped to his knees clutching his head in pain.

“Positions,” the man on the porch barked as the black clad men dove for cover. “We finally have the advantage on those bastards from the Center. We’ll take them as they close in. Karen, get piggy boy inside the SUV. Miller, Davis, cut their throats then take up positions.”

Without looking up Dave felt the men holding his aunt and uncle holster their weapons and pull nasty looking knives from sheathes as the leader began to jog to the barn. The girl who had probed him hurriedly left the protection of the SUV to grab him. Upon once more feeling her ping his mind he angrily fought back, pushing her back out. This obviously shocked her and he felt her sudden fear. Anger at the rude mental intrusion flooded Dave. As the adrenalin pumped into his system, time seemed to slow. Suddenly the ever present odoriferous smell of the hog farm multiplied a hundred times.

“First emergence,” the now clearly terrified girl gasped before she staggered back a few steps, dropped to her knees and began to puke. The men ready to cut his aunt and uncle’s throats began to hack and gag. In the process they released their hostages as they too dropped to their knees desperately trying to regain control of their sudden violent nausea. The other black garbed men hiding around the farm were doing the same thing. The sniper on top of the manure tank lost his footing atop the rounded dome in the slime of his vomit and slid down and off the edge to fatally thud onto the concrete pad surrounding the tank. The sniper atop the silo followed suit but dropped a hundred feet to land on the ground with a sickening thud. The man hiding by the open second floor loading window of the barn followed the contents of his stomach out of the opening to take a header on the hard packed ground. The others were on their knees in desperation as they dry heaved until they were spitting up blood. Even his aunt and uncle were on their knees getting sick. The only man still on his feet, although barely, was the leader. He staggered around the SUV with his pistol in his shaking hand. Dribbles of vomit dripped from his lips and chin. Raising the weapon, he took aim at Dave.

Dave could sense the overpowering stench that had suddenly surrounded them but it didn’t phase him in the least. As he rose to his feet he instinctively realized he’d somehow created it. He also saw the crazed leader taking aim at him. Without really thinking he concentrated on the man’s mid-section. Almost instantly the man’s stomach began to swell as sheer agony etched his face. The gun dropped from his fingers as loud popping noises came from his still swelling gut. Blood and entrails gushed from his mouth and the black commando outfit he was wearing exploded throwing pieces of his entrails up to thirty feet in all directions. The dying man’s eyes showed his disbelief as his nearly severed disemboweled body fell lifelessly to the ground.

Time sped back up to normal as Dave saw the bloody entrails covering his body and the vehicles. The intense stench he’d somehow created quickly dissipated in the air. Seeing what he’d done Dave looked about in awe and self loathing. Except for their leader and the three who fell from the high spots, all the bad guys including the girl had literally puked out their guts. They’d suffocated in their own blood and vomit. Besides himself, the only ones left alive were his unconscious aunt and uncle. Thankfully they’d managed to remove their gags before they too had puked. Their long exposure to the hog farm stench had saved their lives.

Two groups of three people dressed in SWAT camouflage like the pair he’d passed came running into the compound from different directions with weapons at the ready. Two of each team were his age while the third was a normal soldier All winced at the still intense but now barely bearable stench. They were clearly stunned by the carnage. As the would be rescuers began checking the bodies, the trio he’d passed on the way in jogged up the lane to survey the scene. They too recoiled at the smell but continued to approach Dave.

“Beta squad, report,” the blue haired Asian guy spoke into his mike as he sought out his missing squad.

Dave couldn’t hear the missing team’s response. “Liz, the porch,” the Asian guy ordered as he headed off to the quadrant from which the missing team was to have entered the farmstead. Obviously Dave’s assumption he was the leader of this crew was dead on.

The Indian girl instantly headed for Dave’s aunt and uncle. The other girl, with a smile of friendship, approached Dave.

Although nearly exhausted, Dave braced himself for another mental intrusion.

“It’s okay, we’re here to help you,” she stated softly. “My name is Lise. I won’t enter your mind like she brutally did.” She nodded her head towards the black clad girl. “But if you let me, I can soothe your anxiety and explain what’s going on.”

Wary but sensing he could trust these people, Dave saw the leader return helping the missing squad stagger into the farmstead from the down wind side. They’d been down wind of the stench and had obviously been violently sick.

Dave wearily nodded his head. Almost instantly he felt a sense of safety and caring envelop him. Ignoring the gore covering him the girl quickly moved to his side and helped him sink safely to the ground. Looking into her caring eyes as she cradled his head on her lap, Dave began to cry. For the first time in his life, another person truly cared about him! The long suppressed lonely agony of a life time of denied affection was suddenly released. Sobs of pent up denied emotion engulfed his body. Worn out by this sudden emotional release Dave gave into his exhaustion and closed his eyes.

> pew!
Image Credit: Short Red Hair

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