Monday, April 22, 2024

Falco Riot and Octyl Fora Go Missing

Falco Riot, creator of Octyl Fora perfume, described the effect of his fragrant creation with a stale, twentieth century trope, “with Octyl Fora you're transformed into a living philter.” 

When questioned about the ingredients used in the AI-generated fragrance, Riot exhaled an aloof sigh, detaching himself from the question with another query in an attempt to appear avant-garde.

 “We're all made of memory and metaphor, wouldn't you say?” 

Eight months later, everyone who attended the Octyl Fora fragrance launch went missing, including Riot. Ten drums containing Octyl Fora concentrate, stored in an obscure warehouse district in the city, also disappeared. 

The team responsible for collecting evidence cracked the numeric code on the warehouse door. The numbers spelled “it smells" using an A1Z26 cipher. 9*20*19*13*5*12*12*19.

They should have known better. The code wasn’t a barrier; it was an invitation. 

Investigators examined surfaces in the empty, temperature-controlled room where drums of fragrance concentrate were stored. Handheld sensors analyzed walls, floors, cabinets and doors. 

Each device lost power after four attempts to read a surface. None of them detected an unusual compound before they stopped working. 

Clary Otafo, who'd worked with the team for 10 years, looked at his colleagues and rolled his eyes. 

“Emperor's new clothes, eh?” 

His eyes kept rolling. A low hiss escaped between his teeth. He fell to the floor and stopped breathing. A translucent vapor rose up from the floor and outlined his body like a chalk mark.

Ray Focolt, the youngest member of the team, closed the warehouse door as his colleagues fled ahead of him. The knob was ice-cold and stuck to his palm before the latch bolt released, and he could relax his grip. 

By the time he got into his car, Focolt barely remembered moving one foot in front of the other to get there. That’s when he noticed a strange feeling in his right hand, the same hand that closed the warehouse door. 

The skin of his palm was slightly raised in a quarter-shaped circle at the center. In the middle of the circle there was a line drawing of a nose. An angled slash ran through it. 

Focolt blinked a few times and looked at his palm in disbelief. 

The car seat next to him sank in the center. The impression was punctuated by a decompressing squeak of leather. Focolt was too busy looking at his hand to notice.

The image on his palm faded into itself and shimmered as it disappeared. He was about to start the car when he sensed someone breathing next to him.

“I know you can’t smell, Ray.” 

“What the hell?!” 

The radio turned on. Digital numbers veered left of the dial and stopped at the sound of John Lennon’s voice: 

We're playing those mind games together,
Pushing the barrier, planting seed. 
Playing the mind guerrilla,
Catching the mantra "peace on earth".
We all been playing those mind games forever, 
Some kind of Druid dude, lifting the veil. 
Doing the mind guerrilla, 
Some call it magic, the search for the grail. 
The radio went silent at “grail” as the passenger side door opened with a slow deliberate creak.

“Until we meet again, Ray. I have a little something to tell you.” 

Focolt shut the door, turned on the ignition, and sped off. He never got ticketed for running four red lights in a row on his way home. He didn’t get much sleep that night either.

Notes & Curiosities:

Artificial intelligence and perfumery were explored in a 2014 post titled "The Unstoppered Bottle of Perfume". "Falco Riot and Octyl Fora Go Missing" is infused with a 2024 ethos and hints of science fiction. The story is an intentional fragment. I'm formulating a scent to go along with it for a future Smell & Tell program at the Ann Arbor District Library. 

There are non-fictive elements in "Falco Riot and Octyl Fora Go Missing," one of which is the use of handheld sensors. They exist in real life and are rapidly improving. Portable spectroscopy allows samples to be taken in the field versus the lab. Curious? Get all the nerdy details here.