Thrill to this extract from the upcoming vanity project bestselling SF novel SMelL by Bruce Berls & Jim Rowson


Lara closed the door behind her and sagged against the building. Her pulse was racing. She was either furious with Spiro for getting her involved in a hairbrained adventure . . . or thrilled at the most exciting thing she had ever done. Or both. Likely both.

She looked down. It was odd not to see her body. She hoped Spiro’s programming would remove the AR effect soon so other people could see her. It was hard to move on a city street if no one saw you coming.

She peered around the trash bins and looked down the alley. No one was in sight. There weren’t supposed to be any cameras – she would show up normally on video, which would have been hard to explain. 

Lara fumbled to tuck the envelope in her backpack purse – difficult to figure out how to do simple things when the envelope and purse were invisible. She pulled off the latex gloves by feel and dropped them on the ground beside her, where they instantly appeared out of nowhere as they left the AR screen that was keeping her out of sight. Out of habit she felt around in the purse for her hand lotion and squeezed a dollop out into her palm – damn, it’s hard to do simple things when you can’t see your hands or anything you’re holding! Rubbing her hands together helped her calm her nerves.

She could hear sirens in the distance coming closer. Time to move.

Something wasn’t right. She shook her head, engrossed in thought, trying to work out why she had a nagging feeling that something was missing as she walked down the alley past the trash bin behind the diaper delivery service, past the plastic bag full of fish heads that had split open behind the Chinese restaurant, past the skunk that had been hit by a car earlier that morning.

It finally came to her: she couldn’t smell her lotion, the distinctive odor of blown-out candle that was her latest passion. She raised her hands and sniffed and smelled nothing.

Strange, she thought. Maybe the smell of natural gas a few minutes before had stunned her nose in some way. Oh well, nothing to be done about it. 

She straightened up, looked out on the main street to be sure no one would run into her by accident, and then walked down the sidewalk briskly. She didn’t want to be late for the meeting with the New York Times informant.