Form, Smell, and Function

by Jonah Howell

Artwork by Emily Yue

The Sniffer Strikes Again, Kills Two: Giddy Couple Calls 9-1-1, Reports Loud Sniffles, Found Dead Of Frontal Lobotomy Only Hours Later

I hear it. Sniffff. Running out of time, I fling the shitterstall door wide open and hold a circular necklace pendant aloft as shield. The pendant, it’s a hoop. I smell my green soul’s near-reluctant exit. Irony. Yes. Indubitably so.

[Exeunt all SOULS, for disambiguation. Redirected from “Common spirits of the American Southeast.]

    I smell it. Sniffff. Running into time, I fling my switchblade plastic comb wide

open, carve a sweet pompadour. [Exeunt all COMBS, dancing a Scottish jig if

performed in western Mississippi.] I fling a scalpel through the eye of a real

fighter just jumped out the shitterstall. Instant lobotomy, right through that

ridiculous unlensed monocle. [Camera angle from above, 15 deg. clockwise

shows flying SCALPEL and its reflection in tile. Slow motion before entry, reposition: camera swoops in to parallel with tile. Blurry. Slow to a stop at entry. Focus moves down scalpelschaft and into pupil, switch to EEG, continue focus down optic nerve, back to occipital V1 and forward to a sparkleburst of surprise: CGI amygdala explosion, mushroom cloud shows gyri and sulci in their proper ripplywaved beauteousness. Draw focus back out to pupils: See the light leave as SCALPEL enters. Curtain, as SOUL enters air vent above shitter.] Sniffff. The iron never lies, yet the monocled do, does, have done and ever shall in yea context.

The Sniffer Strikes, Leaves Nary a Whiff: Camera Shows No Prints. Police ask all owners of Canon 5D to report to station for questioning, examination of film. Owners of Canon 5D do so with trepidation, armed with cameras.

    “This your camera here?”

    “No, this is.” [FILMMAKER gestures to identical CAMERA, which winks, returns

to previous aperture. Cheeky fucker.]

“Two identical members of a set are for all operational purposes the same

member.” [POLIZIA dramatically slams shut finite mathematics textbook. DUST erupts from pages in mushroom cloud, shows gyri and sulci

in their proper beauteous dynamic action.] “Cuff ‘em.”

Sighing Relief: Polizia Smell Trouble As Sniffler v. State Returns “Not Guilty.” Olfsborough court delivers landmark ruling that identical members of a set retain operational propriety: “One camera is not another camera.” “They take different pictures and as such act into different selves,” says metaphysician H. H., expert witness for the defense. “Falsch!” whispers taciturn mathematician Mat E. Matician, self-proclaimed experter witness for the prosecution. Continues he, “pssssps, spssspss. wspppsssspspwssp, tspsptsp, stpssssspts.” Judge remains nonplussed, stamps verdict with scratch-‘n’-sniff.


[Exterior Courthouse, Night. PROSECUTOR sulks on windworn sandy steps as

JUDGE steps sniffffing from a wing. Scalpel shining in his hand he strides the

sandy steps to flank the mourning PROSECUTOR.]

“’Sup?” Sniffff.

“I smell the death of promise, budding skill had I, gone tumbling under and

around my flinching frontal lobe to end in olfactory lowness. How, your

Honor, should I go? Think I by subtle resignation may perchance prove best,

with not the pomp I would expect were I to see one such as me take early


“Falsch.” [Enter SCALPEL, grinning with no hint of malice.]

The judge, mid-Sniffff, drops grinning SCALPEL at the tearstrung wingtips on

the feet of his now baffled supplicant. “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole

of the law.”

“But…but love is the law?”

“Love under will.”

[The grinning JUDGE makes then his wobbly leave and ne’er again shall snifff. Clean scalpel passed to worthy hands, JUDGE sees some long-drawn work complete yet dearth of blood upon the sandy steps. Some choose life. That’s cool, too. Curtain.]

[Projected upon CLOSED CURTAIN] The Sniffer’s Final Whiff: Prosecutor Found With Scalpel Matching Frontal Lobe Incisions, Sentenced To Live Out His Days In Hermitous Infamy, Olfact’ry Bulbs Cut Out By His Own Scalpel.


Judge offers death. Prosecutor coolly chooses life and snifffles out into the scentless mists’ great bulging gyri, sulking grey but justified, or satisfied, not both.


Two nights later I masturbated to the orange light flicking up from the tile of a schmutty public doubleyousee. I either came or seized, or both, or neither. In either case a little tiny bit of me died and sent its soul up through the square-grate vent conveniently located right next to the light. This vent, it burped at me, I remember through the seizing refractory haze, in indigestible oversatiation, and at once I knew I was not magnificent. Seized with the beauty of such a realization and suddenly small, I came again, really died this time, and rather than overburden the vent I flushed myself. Dust to dust, and shit.

Without A Whiff: Local Man Disappears Without Trace From Schmutty Bathroom, Leaves Only Cum And Mint Gum Wrappers. Questioned about the untimely disappearance, gas station-casino proprietor Marc Quebedeaux laments, “Boy just came and went. Like a ghost, same really, but differnt.” Fellow doubleyousee yankee Rich Malcolm, visibly flustered by the incident, remarks, “I guess God’s real, you know?” We know, Malc. We know.

[Enter YANKEE #2, large stylized cock in hand and in all ways incredibly cordial.] Two nights later I, too, masturbated to the orange light flicking up from the crusty tile of a schmutty public doubleyousee. I either came or seized, or both, or neither. In either case in rapture beheld I a vision: From out the vent beside the orange light did waft a cumsoaked spirit, and dripping unborn children on my shaven head as I looked up to see it rightly, spirited spake it to me:

[Pan camera up to divinely dripping YANKEE #1, who drifting from the vent does bow in stately cordial ease.] “Dear man compatriot to me, do hearken now to which I shall ejaculate.” [Play forced and stuttering laugh track, where clearly no laugh would be welcome or warranted.] “I once did live as you, a freely solitary youth, bearing those stigmata genius wants upon my palms. Yet for what values did I live, and do you now? Hedonic freedom, while fulfilling, leaves but bitterness, that freedom satisfies one best when in clear opposition to here-inextant inhibition. And so before thou tak’st my death as thine and drift, not unjust, to smallness in the face of All, thyself do shackle so that when thy soul does loose itself upon the nothing which has always been its base, it shall know perfect mania as mine could not, refracting in homogeneity and self-contained as yours can help but be.” [YANKEE #1 smiles archally and floating back up through the vent does set his symbol on the shaven head of YANKEE #2. Said head grows hair in flowing locks, strong locks to seal the novel covenant, that in restraint he’ll strive to live until he comes again for final power’d Death to yank him off to higher fleets of life.]

New Asceticism Comes To Town: Local Man Claims Contact With Local Spirit Led Him To A Cocked Nirvana, Advocates Restraint Then Death By Pleasure. Asked to explain his novel ideology, Local Man waxes philosophical, “Contrast can but make intenser that which once was thought insuperable. Limits then can but erase themselves by stricter observation, you know?” We know, Local Man. We know.


[Camera swings wide around a horde of serious-looking EMACIATES. A series of close-ups: All the men sport raging rigids. As do the women, less conspicuously. One strides out from the throng and, perched regal atop deep blue Mt. Cyanide, tosses back a burlap hood to address the gathered mob.]

YANKEE #2: “Do, and thou wilt.” [Drops glimmering silver scalpel, symbol to his throng of superior nonviolent death.]

EMACIATES: [In beautiful choral unison, to the tune of Johnson + Tagore’s “Gitanjali Chants”]  “No pain surpasses death by pleasure, nor does any death or any pleasure.”

[The EMACIATES fling far their burlap robes and masturbate with lushly rhythmic moans. Half go blind, and, seeing it as a sign from the GRATE YANKEE (#1), increase in fervor, finish first, and hit the dirt, their SOULS grinning slyly wafting between cacti on a beige mountain pass and out of sight. Inspired, those remaining finish, die alike, and in ascent the verdant horde of SOULS sings “O Vos Omnes,” replacing of course “dolor” with “voluptas,” or “voluptatem,” as some the ANGELS alongside instructed, and some they left to guess for humorous effect. Meanwhile, back on Mt. Cyanide, a joyous YANKEE #2 surveys the field of happy lovedrunk corpses.]

YANKEE #2: “I see that it is good.” [Turning to the passing choir of SOULS and golden ANGEL guides] “Ain’t it?”

    SOULS + ANGELS: “Damn skippy.”

YANKEE #2: “Alas, no savior would I be were I to show restraint and ralf on my own teaching. Wherefore dost thou tempt me so, Hypocrisy? for I would soon as yank myself forgo that act and wander elsewhere, preaching that good which has seen such mountainous successes here below. Yet doing so I’d rob it of all ethos, showing undesirable what should be seen as Godly. How then to spread divinity without transgressing it myself?” [Pan camera to overview of nearby metropolis.] “Ah, yes, example set by action, spurning word…to Elysian fields may I go with my herd, and I shall also die this day. Farewell, beauty, and all the sublime visions of Earth, the sounds of music made of earthly waves, the taste of apples plucked from wisened earthly trees. Farewell to thee, but not thy progeny, as I by pow’r of spirit shall inseminate the air ere I do go, and henceforth shall the enlighten’d Earth my footsteps follow to the steps of shining hellish paradise.”

[Close up on the angel’s face of YANKEE #2. A look of righteous and serenest calm.]

AN ETHEREAL AND SOMEWHAT FAMILIAR VOICE: “I have not forsaken you, and true to that good confidence which in you I did happily endow you’ve reached your end. A Godly and a happy ending shall it be, dear Protegé, to witness your own proper seed aloft and carrying on good winds unto the ends of Earth. Then down to beauteous hell’s Elysium, with I myself as guide lest you see more good to do and overhelp this well-help’d place. For such a thing there is as altruistic excess, and you do edge upon it in your spirit. Now, though, I leave you to your duty, but to reappear at this best story’s climax.”

[A brief glint of wispy SOUL at the corner of the shot, gone by the time the camera properly pans. Flickering light, a coarser burlap tossed away upon the naked happy dead, an empty vision, then slowly into focus: A glowing vitalized city and vital expansion of the glow across surrounding land in all directions. His role fulfilled as he saw it, YANKEE #2, clothed in robes of light, new stigmata adorning not one but two raw palms, descends to shimmering fields and welcoming open arms of those he led to perfect enlightenment. Fade to black, or white, or some solid fuzzy color.]


[Click. Tick. Static. Silence.]


Found: Scalpel. Dirty. Unused. Sharp.

    “This your knife?”

    Sniffff.” [Giggles.]

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