For Anthony and Miranda
The building on Route 252 in Newtown Square is soulless and old today but in the 1980s it was soulless and new and the site of a suite of offices for a software company full of buzz and hope. Dawn was cracking on the PC era, and this small company was going to make millions on the database they were designing as businesses throughout nation replaced their expensive minis and mainframes and downsized to the desktop.
At least that’s what the owners claimed. And they managed to convince some moneymen to cough up enough capital for them to rent their suite and hire some staff, one of whom was a tragically overweight coder named Fred.
Fred did know his code. He was also a generation older than the young owners, had poor personal hygiene and a strong tendency to flatulence especially under pressure, a circumstance in which he often found himself at this company.
One of the owners, whom we will call Brett, liked to think of himself as an expert coder but it was his gift of gab and his aggressiveness as a salesman that provided his value to the enterprise. He was slim with slick backed hair and wore suspenders.
Fred’s existence offended Brett’s sense of aesthetics.
Brett would mock Fred’s physique and dress, often in front of the young and pretty receptionist. He’d make artificial deadlines and start screaming at Fred as they approached. He’d find flaws in Fred’s work that did not exist.
This would often bring on a gas attack much to the dismay of the rest of the staff.
One day the bullying became too much for Fred’s heart and it gave out. Paramedics pronounced Fred dead at his desk.
With deadlines approaching, the loss of Fred increased the load on the other programmers. Late nights became common. One young coder found himself working past midnight. He quit the next day not even bothering to come to the office but calling in his resignation over the phone.
Another coder also quit after a late night never explaining why.
Brett declared he would show them how it’s done. In his cool self-confidence, or perhaps obnoxious arrogance, he said he’d finish the project in a couple of all-nighters. Brett’s body was found by the pretty, young receptionist after the first one. His face was twisted in torment. A wastebasket filled with his vomit was next to him, as if some horrific smell caused him to gag and wouldn’t let him stop.
To this day, it is not uncommon for the unexplainable whiff of something the smells like a cross between rotten eggs and angry skunk to ruin the workday at this particular suite. It has also been scented by the vending machines where Fred liked to graze during his late nights.
Flatulent Fred, Ghost Story 2011
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