Three years ago, I began having random phantom smells of cigarette smoke. Over the course of several months, the smell-spells became more and more frequent to the point that I was being regularly transported back in time to my childhood. If you grew up around cigarette smoke, then you know it's a sensation that you can never forget. In my case, I actually thought I was being haunted by my mom. At first it was a little peculiar. After a week, it became startling. And then after two months, it did a Willy-Wonka elevator-crash through the ceiling to peak at disconcertingly nerve-racking.

Come to find out, phantom smells are no joke and can often be a sign of serious neurological issues. Hasn't Google and WebMD done wonders for self-diagnosis? I wonder how many people have the shit scared out of them on an hourly basis from articles after performing a search on their symptoms. 

In my case, I thought for sure I had a tumor or that I was really being haunted. As a horror writer, I definitely hoped for the latter...I mean hasn't the scary tumor thing already been done? Anyway, my smelly condition got to the tipping point of driving me absolutely insane, and so I finally broke down and had it checked out. Luckily in my case, it was just my olfactory gland getting back at me for the time I slammed my head into a steering wheel while traveling 80 MPH many, many moons ago (back when I was an idiotic twenty-something versus the idiotic forty-something I now am).

As my mom used to say, "Well, hell." Speaking of...who the heck knew olfactory glands could be so passive aggressive?

All said and done and as a result of the smoke screen, I wrote this little stanzaic, true accounting of that very strange (and still persisting) experience.



by R.K. Howard

With no visual proof until I close my eyes,
Only then can I see the ghostly halos rise.
Drawn from the memory of a constricting smell,
A secondhand choke that I used to know so well.
It's a recollection from which my senses now cringe,
Of a time when my mom would blindingly binge
To produce relentless wafts of menthol Kools—
Three packs a day fed a habit so cruel.
Yet I smell no sulphur of striking match,
Nor hear a click from lighter's latch,
But aft another breath I'm again taken aback
By the sting in my eyes from this phantom attack.
And I wonder, after resolving that there is no escape,
Could it be torment dealt by some presence formless in shape,
Or perhaps karma for things I've taken in vain,
Or far far worse, my mind going insane.
If only it was of the woman by whom my childhood was securely kept,
For to be haunted by her, I would gladly accept.