The gang lounged around the house, some playing videogames, others sleeping on the floor next to the mattresses. The halls, both of them, were thick with pungent smoke, condemning smokers and non-smokers alike to the bliss of nicotine. Rum flowed freely, depleting at rates that would alarm most geologists.
This would seem, to most, a story about a group of friends in their mid-twenties. A group that had not yet transitioned into the mundane, humdrum existence of middle age, but had grown up sufficiently to have gained some semblance of control over their life. It would seem so, and yet, it wasn’t. The characters in the story we are about to read were not in their mid twenties, but in their late teens. A fortuitous twist of Fate had brought them everything a teenage mind could possibly dream of in abundance, and much too soon for their frail, impressionable minds to have come to terms with it appropriately.
It had all begun with Miso. Miso, 17, had spent his entire early teen years wasting away his creativity without releasing so much as an EP. And despite harsh remonstrations from his friends, and even a rooftop intervention session, he had always put it off in favour of finishing the next best videogame to come out on the market. But on one fateful day, the prodigal son decided to be prodigal no more.
The inspiration came to him in a flash, and he quickly jotted down a paragraph, badly edited, onto his notepad.
Ecstatic at his sudden outburst of creativity, Miso sent the paragraph to Mimi, expecting a gracious, but honest review from his friend. Mimi, also 17, misconstrued Miso’s intentions, and thought he was being asked to collaborate on the construction of the story. Pretty soon, the entire crew of teenage would-be writers were in on it and a fantastic fondue of frivolity ensued, resulting in a tale that catapulted the gang into the annals of history.
The book, written mostly tongue-in cheek, unexpectedly rose to cult status and gained a readership worldwide that was previously only reserved for masochistic-romantic novels. The money flowed in and the gang were celebrities before they had a chance to get their bearings.
And so we find them, a year later, whiling away the days in idle leisure, surrounded by empty bottles of rum, overflowing ash trays and empty pizza boxes. The creative frenzy of the year just past had long since died, and they lived amongst the squalor of teenage luxury.
On this particular day, the gang had, incredibly, tired of eating pizza and decided that they would cook up a meal that day. Uzi, the chef par excellence, compiled a list of ingredients and immediately dispatched his butler, Rammsey, to the grocery story.
On his return, Uzi took control of the kitchen, stirring, sprinkling, coddling the ingredients until they melded into a blissful concoction.
“Dinner is served,” he called, over his shoulder.
The gang slowly trudged into the kitchen and, heaping large portions onto their plates, made their way back into the two halls. Uzi himself joined them, his neatly combed beard quivering in anticipation.
“It’s too salty,” complained Chims, squinting her eyes at Uzi.
Uzi frowned. He was sure he had got the proportions right.
“Yeah, something’s off, bro,” Mimi concurred.
This got Uzi off his seat. That Chims griped about food was understandable, expected even. But two out of three was not just happenstance. Something was wrong.
“Guys, hold on, I think something is–” began Uzi, worry flooding into his tone.
“Calm down, man, it’s not inedible, just not up to your usual standards,” said Mimi.
“No, I really thin—“
“Dude, Uzi, like, ya, just sit and eat off,” Godse interjected.
“Leh,” concurred Ashley.
Thus outnumbered, Uzi returned to his seat, eyeing his plate suspiciously. His friends seemed unconcerned, but he could not fight the feeling of impending doom that was growing inside him.
Even as his mind painted picture after stark picture of despair, Uzi’s morbid reverie was interrupted by the sound of violent retching to his right.
Nixon had collapsed to the floor, right next to the mattress, and was vomiting his guts out.
“Nixon!! What’s wrong?” Miso asked, frantically, “Did someone give him whiskey?”
“No, dude, he hasn’t had a drink all day,” said Mimi.
The gang crowded around, trying their best to get Nixon to stop vomiting, but it only got worse. And then, when with the latest heave, Nixon threw up blood, then panic took complete hold of them.
Uzi stood between the two halls, looking first one way, then another, unable to fathom how things had come to this.
His friends were collapsing all around him, as if being stricken by the plague, but with exaggeratedly accelerated effects. Helpless, he watched as, one by one, they were struck down by bouts of vomiting, finally collapsing lifeless in puddles of puke.
Suddenly, Uzi connected the dots. He rushed into the kitchen, rummaging through the ingredients Rammsey had gotten for him. And soon enough, the blood draining from his face, Uzi held up a bottle in horror, becoming the very personification of mortification.
“Yes, sir?” asked Ramsey, calmly.
“This is beetroot jam.”
“Did you do this on purpose? Betroot-hful.
“But wh…” The last question died on his lips as all strength left Uzi and he too fell to the floor, dead.
Six months later, the double halled apartment stood empty, bereft of all evidence of the vulgar Hedonism indulged in by its previous inhabitants. And yet, it remained unsold.
Some say the reason for this was that, if one stood in any one of its two halls, one could feel a presence. They could feel the souls of the stricken teenagers still trapped within the eight walls of the two halls.
And then, one would get a faint scent. The scent of rum and cigarettes, the scent of pizzas and chicken. The scent of teenage life at its best and worst.
Some said the house was unsold because it…
Smells like teen spirits.