|The events described in this story are fictional. The author makes no assertion about the lives or characters of the real people whose names and identities she has used in the writing of this story, and makes no money from it.|
It's not a bad cold, and it doesn't last long, but when it goes, it leaves a lingering presence behind. It's not just that it's taken away his sense of smell, it's that it's replaced it with something else. Now, everything smells of cold to Dom: a stuffy, yellow scent that follows him wherever he goes.
Orlando seems bent on taking Dom on some kind of sightseeing tour round London. "I'm, like, reintroducing you to your heritage," he explains. "You've been corrupted by those Californians."
"Oh, okay." Like Orlando can talk. His flat looks about as lived in as a Holiday Inn.
"Don't you miss it here, though?" Orlando smiles at Dom in that lazy way of his, a curling strand of hair flopping over one eye. Dom wonders whether Orlando has engineered a way of doing that on purpose, whether the curl-flopping is all part of his plan for world domination.
"Not much. It's a bit mad over there, but the weather makes up for it."
They are currently ascending an escalator at the Science Museum. The escalator goes up past electric versions of all the constellations in the night sky -- you can see them: Orion, The Plough, Cassiopeia. You could learn them if you had time, but you don't, because you're going up, right up into the centre of the Earth. It's a model of the Earth, all done in bronze or something, and you can see the lights of the fake stars shining through the gaps between continents. Some twiddly, atmospheric music plays, and there's information to read, all about the Earth, its layers, its core and its crust.
"Bless you," says Orlando automatically. "I thought you'd got rid of that cold."
"Yeah, it's just hanging on, you know? I'm fed up with it. Everything smells the same. Everything smells the same and everything tastes the same. It's annoying."
"Right." Orlando considers, as they rise up through the Earth. "You need like ... a guide dog, but one that smells for you."
"Sniffer dog," says Dom, and laughs.
"Yeah! You need a sniffer dog!"
The escalator has reached the top of the planet now, and they're in an exhibition about earthquakes and volcanoes. There's a recreation of an earthquake in Japan, where you can go in this little shop and experience what it might have been like. The floor moves and the stuff on the shelves jiggles about.
"This is quite fun, actually," says Orlando, and then catches sight of a board that tells you how many people died in this earthquake. "And yet, not..."
"Look out," says Dom. "Girlies at three o' clock." He ducks behind a model of a volcano, but it's too late for Orlando. He's buried under an avalanche of white ankle socks and little grey skirts worn far shorter than regulations allow. School trip. Pens are waved above the melee, teachers hurry fluttering to the rescue.
After they've escaped, Dom says, "Would you mind if we gave the V&A a miss, Orli? I'm not really in the mood."
Orlando looks at him, and his hair's in his eyes again. He smiles as though nothing in the world has ever mattered that much, and nothing ever will.
So now they're back at Orli's too tidy flat, on Orli's too tidy sofa. There's a bottle of wine, and Orli says:
"You know, I could be your sniffer dog."
"Yeah, your ... not your seeing eye, your -- oh yeah, your smelling nose!" He laughs.
"Okay." Dom is amused. "Go on then. What can you smell?"
Orlando sniffs. "Wine. Food. Er..."
"You're crap, I'm not having you for my sniffer dog."
Orlando leans forward, and buries his face in Dom's neck. "I can smell you. You smell like..."
"Um... wait a minute, I need to think of some good descriptive words. There's a hint of ... erm..."
"Shut up, will
you?" Dom's germ-filled head is remarkably clear as he breathes in
and out. He shifts subtly on the sofa and Orlando falls on top of him.
Orlando is warm, his hair flops onto Dom's forehead. Dom still can't smell
much of anything, but he doesn't really mind.