by Rik Hunik
Published by Rik Hunik at Shakespir
Copyright 2017 by R.A. Hunik
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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The dying woman reached out, clutching weakly at her daughter’s arm. “I smelled your grandpa’s pipe smoke again last night,” she said, her voice muffled by the oxygen mask over her nose and mouth.
Joan patted her mother’s hand, held it in place with her own. “That’s impossible mom, they don’t allow smoking anywhere in the hospital.”
“Yes, you’re right.” She sank into the pillow. “I’m so tired.” Her head rolled back and she fell asleep almost before she finished the sentence, her breathing fast and shallow.
Outside in the hall, as Joan hurried past the nurse’s station she was intercepted just shy of the elevators by the short nurse with the graying blonde hair, the same nurse whose children Joan’s mother had babysat for years. “Did she tell you about the pipe smoke?”
“I didn’t want to scare her so I didn’t tell her, and I don’t want you to think I’m crazy, but I smelled it too, and I’m sure it was pipe smoke, because nothing else smells quite like it, and we both know that nobody could get this far into any hospital with a lit pipe.”
Joan nodded. “Thank you, I understand, and I believe you, because I smelled it too, in her bedroom at home, early in the morning, before I brought her in here the day before yesterday. It smelled exactly like the smoke I smelled every day as a kid, when Grandpa was living with us.”
“It must mean that the end is near.” The nurse came a little closer and lowered her voice. “I haven’t seen her in church for quite a while but her faith remains strong, doesn’t it? She said to me that her faith gives her courage.”
Joan snorted. “And her fear gives her faith. Hers is death-bed faith; she’s scared now.” She shook her head slowly while she paused to suck in a deep breath, a breath tinged with the fragrance of pipe smoke, so faint it might have come from another room. Her nostrils flared, trying to get more. “My mother quit going to church as soon as it became an inconvenience, about the time her declining health started limiting her mobility, and I haven’t seen the inside of a church since I was a teenager.”
The nurse leaned toward her, eyes bright with religious fervor. “But smelling the smoke is a sign. I’ve witnessed such things before, when a loved one reaches from the other side to ease the crossing.” Her bright eyes darted back and forth and her head snapped around to make sure no one else was listening. “In fact, I can smell it now.”
Joan couldn’t restrain her bitter laugh when she saw that the nurse was smiling. “You just don’t get it, do you? The grandpa who smoked the pipe was my grandfather, her father-in-law, a full-blooded Apache who believed in the Great Spirit, not your god. When we heard him do his death chant in the basement it gave me the willies, and my little brother was freaked out for weeks.”
The nurse’s smile slipped away and she stepped back from Joan. “What are you getting at?”
“I really loved the old guy, and he taught me a lot of things, but my mother couldn’t stand him. She was always convinced he would end up in hell. She always put up a good front, but she knows she’s so far from being a saint herself, that if she crosses over to join him, you’re going to need to pray really hard for her soul.”
A chime sounded. When the elevator doors slid open nobody was there, but the strong odor of pipe smoke wafted out. Joan stepped in and pushed the button to take her down to the lobby. The smell was already fading, but she smiled at the pleasant memories the fragrance brought back.
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About the Author: Rik Hunik was born in Nelson, British Columbia, Canada, in 1957, and has lived his entire life in BC, except for a few summers in Alberta, and a few days in Washington State climbing rocks. He has lived in Ymir, Wells, Quesnel, Prince George, Quesnel, North Vancouver, Quesnel, Burnaby, North Delta, and Quesnel, where he currently lives with his wife Jo. Although he mostly constructs buildings to earn a living, he is a also a writer, poet, photographer, artist, independent e-book publisher, and role playing game designer. He’s written dozens of stories, including fantasy, horror, sword & sorcery, mystery, humor, erotica, and science fiction, frequently combining genres. More than forty have been published in small press magazines and e-zines. He has also published dozens of ebooks at Shakespir, many available to the public for the first time.
Other titles by Rik Hunik: available at
Down Among The Hoodoos (atmospheric ghost story)
The Hole Story (science fiction, space opera)
Widdershins (modern fantasy retelling of old English folk tale)
The Gold Watch (western ghost story)
Defiance (horror poem)
Easy Money (alternate history, fantasy, paranormal detective novel)
Key Service (humorous contemporary fantasy)
On Full Moon Night (horror poem)
Incident In A Tomb (fantasy, horror, humor)
The Ghost In The Kettle (contemporary ghost story)
The Sitting (horror)
Worse Than An Orphan’s Curse (dark fantasy)
Joyride (fantasy, horror)
Green Eyes (horror)
Defiance 2 (poem)
Witch’s Skin (horror)
The Dark Gate (fantasy novel, sword & sorcery)
Forces Of Evil: The Board Game (horror, humor, zombies)
Night Lures (science fiction)
The Hole (horror, joke)
Under The Shade Tree (ghost story)
Wake-Up Call ( flash fiction)
Time To Time (A collection of time travel stories)
Swords & Knives & Sorcery& Magic (An eclectic collection of sword and sorcery stories)
Witches’ Skins: The Witch Skin Quartet ( 4 horror stories)
The Black Book and Other Poems
The Thing In The Shack (horror)
Alien Abduction: The Story (sf/horror)