Smells are usually repugnant if they come out as bad. I’d be all wound up around or steal gazes at one who smells good but a bad smell – odour, tears you apart. It’s got a repelling thrust which tugs on you and causes you to slither away from the noxious source. It serves its menace well if it’s there but what’d you say when it’s absent yet its effect is overblown and lethal?

Johnson, do I smell? Japhet asked. Smell, you? What kinda question’s that? You don’t smell, I replied. You mean, you can’t perceive stench, like the smell of H2S emanating from my body? Japheth wearing a displeased look enquired. No, there’s no such thing, I affirmed. Looking quizzed and dissatisfied, Japhet mumbled some words and bade me goodbye. His leave was sudden and unlike him. I could see he hasn’t been his usual self lately, he has emaciated and looks tawny. Much like the lace of the old soldier’s boots which witnessed the civil war in the sixties, he was disoriented.

It would have taken him ample courage to drop such a bombshell raging like a wildfire within him. What on earth would make him stink? according to him. Body odour? No ! Japh is a stickler for neatness, I squeaked in retortion. His cleanliness would earn him, ‘ Holy Japhet ‘, had he been a biblical character.


Japhet, a handsome young man in his early thirties, one whose elegance and carriage ornate his nuances. He boasts of much confidence which transcends his intelligence but much more, his looks. His neatly shaved moustache sits on the corridor of his upper lip like Luggard’s. And his well-cornered beards combined so well with his moustache to fence his small mouth with bricks made of hair. Would you call him beautiful? English sages would argue beautiful is only used for my mom but Japhet’s good looks only justification is beautiful. He was a brilliant young man with a knack for excellence and fastidiosity.

We ambled into each other in the quarters of the school where we both work, he was newly employed and was being shown around. That was our first meeting. We’d later fraternize and become work friends whose shoe soles identified the path to mama Chidera’ s canteen. With the mission to quench the conflagration that besieges our stomach at noon. The beginning of a sad end.


Japhet would get to work one fateful morning to reel out his dream to me. He recounted how in his sleep, someone, whose face he couldn’t place well, threw an egg at him. You’d imagine what that means,” an egg in the dream”; it’s a hallucination – I presumed.

He nursed and brooded on this so-called dream cum thought till he lost his identity. He began to misinterpret people’s gestures, an innocuous brushing of the finger against one’s nose. Even an oblivious nose shield or flick to whisk a perching fly; would mean, you sniffed because you think he smells. Japhet would isolate himself to avoid bumping into people who think he smells, he was enshrouded in great delusion.

I became his right-hand, the lasting friend who stayed true to him even in the mire of his misapprehension. He would throw his breath into the air to confirm he’s without bad breath. He became obsessed with spraying a cocktail of deodorants, in the quest to remove the dent of his illusional miasma. Sadly, He was frantically doing all he could to conceal a non-existent smell with an extra-psychological approach. My good friend was vanishing like the ball of camphor without obvious means but a crystal clear minuteness over time.

INTERVENTION – The Catalyst To A Spontaneous Reaction

Being alien to this condition, I could only offer an ounce of reassurance and a mass of reaffirmation with words. His insistence and perpetual visits to the local clinic only got him an halitotic drug, an aimed placebo to ease this psychic burden. He got depressed and could be seen retracting into a niche of self-comfort. He lost his sociability and became hostile, a defensive mechanism to enjoy solitude. Japhet was taken to a local church where he was cleansed to avert the looming succedence of his dream. He underwent some spiritual rituals to flush the effect of the unreal material in the dream. So, he was told by the spiritualist yet he was neck-deep in his perpetual disappearance.

THE AFTERMATH – A Blind Tunnel That Lacks Light At The End

Japhet’s plight didn’t ameliorate after the intervention as he rummaged the tides of his misfortune without a headway. His relapse into a dark tunnel of self hate severed our relationship. He avoided all contact with me, he stopped work and wasn’t granting a visit. He dissociated from the social space.

Not long after our truncated relationship, Japhet committed suicide. He was said to have taken some pills which snuffed life out of him. He died of thinking he smells though no smell emanated from him. Yes, He died of self-inflicted shame and non-existent embarrassment. He died in his small world of delusion.

SPIRITUAL INTERPRETATION – Olfactory Reference Syndrome

It was believed that the dream Japh had was a strong indicator of his plight. Rotten egg smell metaphorizes unpleasant smell which births mennish resentment. Which to them could have led to the smell he claimed to perceive. The spiritual stance gave an interpretation that failed to cater for the ambient perception of the smell. As persons other than the sufferer seem not to catch a breeze of the odour at any time.
Japh wasn’t spiritually inflicted, he suffered from Olfactory Reference Syndrome (ORS).


ORS is a neuropsychological disorder that’s characterized by a persistent false belief/delusion that the patient emits abnormal body odour. Which is thought to be foul and offensive to other people.
Olfactory- related to the sense of smell,
Reference – the belief that the behaviour of others is referential to an odour,
Syndrome – it’s a recognizable set of characteristics that coexist.

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The use of psychotherapy and antidepressants like selective serotonin reabsorption/reuptake inhibitors has proven effective. Serotonin is a mood-inducing hormone that is used in treating depression. Untreated Olfactory Reference Syndrome leads to depression and culminates in suicide.


Writer: Afolabi Oluwatobiloba

Afolabi Oluwatobiloba is a medical student at Usmanu Dan Fodiyo University, Sokoto, Nigeria. He is a voracious reader, he enjoys writing poems and articles. He’s passionate about the human race and seeks to unite all through the smear of his ink. He fraternizes so well too because networking builds a humane empire.

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