The Incense Salesman
The Free Sample
There’s still no reply when Liam checks his messages first thing in the morning, but that’s okay. He tells himself over and over that it’s okay, that Smells didn’t get murdered by crooks breaking into his house, that Smells is still alive and not sick or dying, that he’ll get back to Liam really, really soon.
Liam checks his messages again after setting up his camera to stare at the pond all day, but there’s still no reply.
Liam checks his messages on his cell phone during study hall (even though he’s not supposed to use his phone in school, but everyone else uses their phones and the teacher doesn’t care so if nobody’s going to enforce the rules then why stress about it? No peeing the bed for Liam, not anymore, plus, it’s almost summer anyway, who cares?), but there’s still no reply.
Liam checks the messages on his way home from the bus stop, but there’s still no reply. There is, however, a package waiting for him on his front steps when he gets to his house at the end of the cul-de-sac. It’s addressed to Liam, Being Liam specifically, and there’s no return address. No label, either, but Liam doesn’t sweat the small stuff, he’s trying to stress less these days, no more peeing the bed for Liam, so he takes his package up to his room and opens it, not even thinking to check on his camera in the back yard.
Inside the package are two wooden disks, each with a piece of soapstone in the middle. The stones are hard to describe as far as the colors go – Liam is color deficient and they just look blueish to him – but one is definitely paler than the other. Both stones have flower petals carved into them, and four little holes equally spaced around a cylindrical depression in the middle of the petals where the seeds would be if they were sunflower petals. Liam takes out the disks and notices a little bundle packed beneath them.
Upon closer inspection, Liam sees that this bundle is actually two boxes of Egyptian Musk incense cones wrapped in a note. The boxes bear the busts of two pharaohs facing each other, one male with gold jewelry around his neck and a blue and golden ornament falling from his head, and the other a lady with a pale blue bird laying on top of her dark blue hair which ends in alternating strips of golden, light blue, and dark blue ornaments. The note reads, in writing that looks like the pen was gripped by a claw:
Surry I cudent answre, my cumpooter broked. Bet tzat’s ohkay, I hupe yew enjoi yeur fr33 djincense s4mpl3z!
“Awh,” Liam says as a sad but accepting smile spreads across his face. “I’m sorry your computer broke too, Smells. I’ll miss ya, buddy.” Then, as little tears fall down his cheek, “Thank you for the free sample.”
Liam runs downstairs and takes the box of matches out of the cabinet where his folks keep the coffee cups and filters and stuff, then runs right back up to his bedroom, excited to burn his free incense samples. When he opens the first box though, there’s only one cone inside.
“Huh, that’s weird.”
What’s weirder: there’s only one cone inside the other box as well. Liam chocks it up to being a free sample and decides not to stress himself out. He takes the paler of the two disks – ‘Incense burners,’ he corrects himself – and pops one of the cones into the depression. It doesn’t stand perfectly straight up – in fact, it almost resembles the Leaning Tower of Pisa – but Liam lights it anyway, and the smell is… all right. It’s not amazing, but he can learn to enjoy it like an acquired taste, he guesses… maybe he should open a window.
Liam opens the window facing the back yard, and that’s when he remembers his time-lapse video. He glides down the stairs like a flying squirrel through the air and runs outside, and thankfully his camera is still there. Liam decides he has plenty of footage for the time-lapse and takes the camera back inside.
And that’s when he meets the djinn.
Its lower body has no legs, it simply drifts into form from the smoke of the burning incense cone. Its torso is jacked and cut like a sculpture of granite. Its skin is a dead, pale gray, its hair is black, and it wears a thin gold crown from which falls a blue and gold ornament, just like the male pharaoh on the incense cone box.
“State your name, boy,” bellows the djinn in a voice deeper than a hole dug to China, and Liam almost drops to his knees, but his hold on his camera keeps him upright. If only there was a way to capture an image of this incredible metaphysical being, to share its existence with the world… but nothing comes to Liam’s mind, and so he merely states his name.
“Liam,” repeats the mighty djinn, folding his bulging arms. “Very well. In burning the cone, you have awoken me; in order to return to rest, I must grant you a wish. Choose your words care–”
There is zero hesitation. “I wish to keep Being Liam!”
The djinn pauses. “Ex… excuse me?”
“My YouTube channel, Being Liam! I want to keep posting my videos my whole life, I don’t want anything to stop me. That’s what I wish for, Mister Genie. To keep Being Liam all the way to the end.”
The djinn doesn’t even smile – it’s never been this easy. Then again, the human is never this young, nor is its voice ever this high in pitch. “Very well, Liam.” With a snap of his mighty fingers, the djinn disappears and the incense cone instantaneously burns down to the soapstone. The soapstone – and the rest of the burner – then ignites in a shower of sparks like someone lit the tip of a triple-dipped sparkler, forcing Liam to shield his eyes. The sparks land on Liam’s floor, his bed, his computer and keyboard, they even land on Liam himself, but he is not burned, not even tickled. There is simply a scorch mark on his desk where the burner once sat, a scorch mark that blows away without the need for a gust of wind, leaving not a single trace.
At least, that’s how it seems until Liam remembers he left his window open. Feeling no different at all, Liam closes his window and plugs his camera into the computer to start the brief editing process for his time-lapse video. It doesn’t take much, just a quick speed-up in Windows Movie Maker, and as the final product is being rendered and exported, he thinks of the second burner and box. Liam thinks of all the possibilities, all the different things he could wish for… and then locks the back half of his free sample into the lock box in his drawer. He’s got time to decide yet, and besides, he already wished for the one thing he could ever want: to keep Being Liam.
Hello Commons, this has been the fourth subchapter of the seventh story from Convenient Incidents, an anthology of fifteen interconnected short stories which revolve around a man by the name of Hilter Odolf Williamson.
Convenient Incidents is part of the Third Spiral, an anthology of sorts called The Here and Now which is comprised of stories told from the various planes of Existence.
Convenient Incidents is available to read for free in its entirety on my website. Click here to check it out.
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
If you like Convenient Incidents and would like to help support my work, click here and buy an autographed copy of the book (or anything else!) from my store. Alternatively, you can snag a cheaper (and unsigned) copy from Amazon by clicking here OR you can buy the ebook for even cheaper here.
If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. Be well Commons~