This Week’s Prompt: 37. Peculiar odour of a book of childhood induces repetition of childhood fancy.
The Resulting Story: In The Closet
This week’s prompt is an interesting trip into the notions of childhood, fancy, and nostalgia. Sense information stimulating memory is a fact so certain it is almost common sense. That a certain sight or sound might bring recollections long forgotten to the fore, but smell strangely enough seems particularly adept. Among writers, it is probably the most neglected sense, far from the favorites of sight and sound. Personally, I blame language, which is read and heard more than it is inhaled through the nostrils.
The place then is what sort of memory is conjured by the childhood book. It is an odd memory, a fancy that is ‘repeated’ not recalled. This indicates a sort of delusion perhaps. Or maybe the fancy is being told to someone?
It’s also of acute intreast that it isn’t the contents of the book, but the smell of the book that recalls the fancy. Again, as a book lover will tell you, there is an old book smell. But what sort of fancy is so tied to the smell of a childhood favorite, rather than the words or pictures? It seems logical to suppose that the book itself must be key, or something in the book. A stain, a flower pressed between the pages, a leave that has in a way become one with the paper.
The childhood fancy is thus more likely an incident that touches on the book as a physical object rather than as a container of ideas and feelings.
Next is the examining of fancy. What is a fancy? I will brush aside a perfect dictionary definition. A fancy seems, colloquially, to be a notion. Or rather, a brief thought about the world that is not necessarily true. A recurring bit of imaginative practice. I might say that a childhood fancy of mine was that a chicken was lurking in my closet at night, despite our house being miles away from such foul fowl. Another might be that a teacher is a vampire, that an old lady down the street is a witch, and other similar concerns. Concerns that, in retrospect, are probably a tad silly.
What I would consider childhood fancies, then, are sort of in that place we discussed briefly before of magical realism. They are extensions of the child’s mind and conclusions to create a dream like reality the child operates in. They aren’t questioned or even in the realm of questionable things, being unstated and assumed facts of the child’s existence.
One that, presumably, is inaccurate. An adult may find his childhood fancies therefore silly, or he might find himself longing for those more innocent years, where he could believe in such things. Certainly, there is a running theme of longing for the innocence of children by adults, wanting the comfort and presumed simplicity of yesteryear. It is tied deeply with other nostalgia, longing for what memory has obscured into simpler, kindlier days.
Without tipping my own hand on the matter too much, I think such presumptions were made to be overturned. Memory has a tendency to abandon half of what occurred, either the good or the ill. And given that we have been without, well, straight forward horror for a time, I believe the ill be what is missing.
In this case, perhaps the smell restores a fancy that was clear as a child, but the adult dismissed until recollecting it. Fairy stories have provided us endless terrible creatures that prey on children, from ogres to beasts of the woods. Perhaps he or she recalls a nasty encounter with one of these nightly terrors?
But then, how did they survive?
Leaving that question be, a return home to confront a monster that one believed since childhood to be a mere fable seems a fairly good start for a story. Apart from the ultimate question we mentioned above, there are a few others that will need answering. Why is the person in question back in town? Presumably they left long enough not to encounter the book again. What do they remember the monster as? An imaginary friend? A nightmare? A more mundane horror?
Of course, there is also the question of ‘what the thing is?’ but that is a question to save for later in the cycle. I think, if we are to create a childhood nightmare, it should be something tailored. Folklore creatures are wonderful, but for now simply inventing a new beast might be better. I’ve yet to engage in that for sometime. I might fall back on folklore for inspiration, of course, but the field of frightening children is a…broad one indeed. If you have a favorite, post it below!
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