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City Smells

By Mehreen Ahmed

PROMPT — The way I see it ...

Dimly lit under the street lamps in an old alley at midnight, a nostalgia wells up. A perceptible city smell tickles the nostrils in humidity-fueled singed heat. Yeah, the lamps bestow light on the strays lying down on empty alleys—clean, and silent as the rains wash away any debris otherwise invisible to the naked eye, slants through the midnight street lamp—dark, heavy, and blue. To an ever-wakening and heightened sensory perception, a city sleeps, unhinged like exposed skeletons.

The city smells, however, another smell pushing through the winds and more pervasive, makes breathing hard; terrified barks and human squeals tear up the skies. The rains are now gone but smoke burn rises in the atmosphere, buckets drop cling-clang on the ground in haste; sirens of fire trucks, and a few explosions sounding off an alarm. The strays stop barking. Squeals are quiet too. The burning dissipates. Silence descends; the city smell crawls back, buried into the ground.


Mehreen Ahmed is an award-winning Australian novelist/short fiction born in Bangladesh. Her historical fiction novel is Drunken Druid's Editor's Choice. Midwest Book Review and DD Magazine have also acclaimed her other works. Her recent publications are in Litro, Icefloe, Popshot Quarterly, and more. In addition to her awards, she has also received botN, James Tait, and Pushcart nominations. Mehreen writes from West End, Brisbane.


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