“What is that smell?”
“God, is that you? Take a wash!”
“Am I going mad, or is there a whiff around here, somewhere?”
It was driving the parents in the playground crazy. The smell wasn’t strong at first, but within hours the first questions were appearing on the news feeds. Surrey Stinks! Strange odour seeps into Sussex, Surrey and Hants. Can you track it down? Call our press office with more info.
It was a smell that started innocuously enough, but had a sting in the tail, an acrid burning whiff, like singed hair that caught in the throat. Over the next few days it worsened, reminding people of bad drains and eggy farts, booze breath and horse manure. It conjured up a taste that was like the dregs of an old-man pub drip tray, mixed with the splodgy fatty jollop that snags in the u-bend of the kitchen sink.
No one knew where it was coming from. As days stretched into weeks people started wearing those white Michael Jackson masks over their noses and mouths. Personnel in hazchem suits appeared in various locations with interesting looking equipment, investigating drains for blockages and poking around in sewage plants. Chemical factories and local businesses were subjected to spot inspections.
As weeks slid into months, people started to forget what life had smelt like before. Fresh bread, red roses, apple pie, baby hair, oily sheds, frying bacon, cold mornings and hot coffee took on mythical proportions. The only smell that remained was The Stink. As no stone remained unturned in the search for the source, finally all eyes turned towards the ocean. If it wasn’t on land, perhaps the culprit was under the ocean.
Naval carriers rallied, the divers on board kitted out in their full frog suits, miniature submarines waited to carry them down. The ocean seemed strangely choppy, eddies jerking the ship up and down. At first the ocean seemed dark, sand churning through the water, the particles making everything blurred. As they neared the bottom of the sea, several hundred metres below, the divers glanced at one another in horror. They were not prepared for what they saw when they went beneath the waves.
A mass of maggoty, clear worms, invisible from above, swirled and writhed, combining and separating. The movement of their bodies disturbed the sediment of the sea bed: the years of dirt and sewage and waste that had sunk to the bottom, dropped by careless humans. These worms, at first smaller than a fingernail had fed and bred on the corpses of animals and birds that had sunk to the bottom, killed by the relentless pumping of filth by successive generations of careless human beings.
The poisonous bin-juice of overflowing landfills had leached into the rivers and run down to the sea, as daytrippers chucked their chip wrappers and unwanted coffee cups down on the sand. The goo from millions of dishwashers and washing machines combined with microbeads from facewashes and formed filthy clumped patties, food for these bottom-feeders, these squirming, metre-long sightless beings which were now churning, growing feeding and working their way towards the land in search of more food.