There is a strange smell lingering about the place. It smells warmly of yesterday’s evening meal. I am vaguely suspicious it may be coming from me. It’s not necessarily a bad smell; in fact my noticing it has coincided with an emergent feeling of hunger. I recently stood beside someone and to put it delicately they didn’t smell pleasant. A sweaty unwashed aura of fug with a foot and a half radius. And then, as well as the disgusting stench, I was also suffused with a paranoid feeling: What if I was experiencing a previously unobserved phenomenon? When one is stood next to a tall building one’s voice takes on a slightly different timbre due to the almost imperceptible effect of reverberated sound. You hear your voice as it first emanates and again a tiny fraction of a second later as it returns as an echo. You probably don’t even notice it unless you are actively looking for it.
What if, the thought struck me, smells can produce a similar effect? Say for argument’s sake you stink like rotten fish eggs crushed under the heel of a diarrhetic tramp’s fungal infected foot. However many people actually enjoy their own smells, and it is also hard to notice smells that you live with all the time (such as when dog owners claim their vile filthy homes don’t smell at all). So what if you don’t notice your own smell until you stand close to another person and your odour is ‘reflected’ back at you. You suddenly view your own comfortable emissions as though they are produced by another disgusting, seeping, shitting living being and hey-presto! Instant stench. I’m pretty sure smell being chemically based (travelling randomly on a molecule by molecule basis and not at all like the movement of a sound wave) cannot actually reverberate, so the hypothesised effect must be caused by a shift in consciousness rather than by a physically predictable external event. Also there is no speed of smell as far as I am aware.
I fear that if I were to spend too much time picking this idea apart no good could come of it. There are a few possible outcomes. Either I could delude myself, despite evidence to the contrary, that my hypothesis was actually a verified theory and find imaginary confirmation wherever I look, spiralling into paranoid madness at every faint whiff. Or after rigorous and impartial study, I could discover it is a robust scientific theory that is falsifiable, has well defined error margins, makes accurate predictions about future events, and explains nature in the simplest way possible. This would have the same outcome psychologically as the first scenario. The third result could be that after many years of strict scientific enquiry I was to discover that not only was my initial hypothesis entirely imaginary, it was obviously so, and I had wasted many years on an entirely pointless venture. And not for the first time.