Here at the psych hospital we’re much better at creating problems than solving them—even more so we’re champions at feigning ignorance. Like the band of misogynists we allow to run wild or the fact we all know The Goat Man is eventually going to kill us. It’s easiest to act like these horrifying circumstances don’t exist, but every so often there is something you can’t ignore.
Like the smell of death.
It assaulted us in the early morning, just as Spring was beginning to fully take root with its blossoms and pollen. We were all at various stages of the early morning workday—preparing coffee, cruising Buzzfeed, catching up on gossip—when it crept into our nostrils.
“What unfresh hell is this?”
I tried to ignore it, telling myself it was only the usual crimes against humanity being committed in the bathroom. But it grew stronger. At first it was the faint stench of sulphur… then it smelled more like sewage… and then…. Something wholly unfamiliar.
I called the guy who oversees housekeeping.
“We’re working on it, don’t worry.”
Various professional solutions were employed—like pouring bleach down all the first floor drains where the smell was strongest. But it came back even stronger, waging war on our senses with a tenacity worthy of an Orson Scott Key composition.
We narrowed down the geographical source as coming from a large conference room on the West end of the building, but that was as far as we got. Over the course of the week, multiple theories developed and were debunked:
1. Rotten Food In The Conference Room Kitchenette? We thoroughly disinfected and eventually had a contractor remove the entire sink. He said he’d never smelled such a smell.
2. Plumbing or Sewer Line Issue? We had a commercial plumber take a look but he said everything was fine. He’d never smelled such a smell.
3. Animal Dead in The Walls? We brought in stench experts (apparently such a thing exists) who used dogs and whatever other tools to determine there was no vermin in the walls or duct work. They’d never smelled such a smell.
4. Killer Fungus/Alien Spores? – An air quality professional was contracted to conduct tests on whether we were all going to die. The tests were inconclusive and he said he’d never smelled such a smell.
We were at our wits end. Those with offices on that side of the building were wearing masks to work and dousing the area in all manner of chemical air fresheners. Weeks passed and winds changed but the smell wouldn’t let up. All meetings in that room were relocated and the A/C unit was shut off to prevent the spread of death scent. Utilizing the full extent of our professional resources, the risk management department quarantined the room off, using hospital bed sheets and a handwritten sign to drive the point home.
I had my own theories on the source of the smell:
1. A Poltergeist—we all know this place is haunted.
2. The Vanished Coworker—We thought he was lying about his phantom illnesses, but maybe he crawled up into the ventilation system and died a quiet death.
Always looking for an opportunity to experience new things, I used this as a way to justify exploring the tunnels below the hospital’s campus.
Unfortunately, there were no dead bodies or cave-like creatures to be found. I could have been disappointed, but instead I chose to express myself with art, authoring many fine haikus over the last few weeks.
Perhaps a coworker dead
Order more drywall
This week they began demolishing the interior walls, hoping to find the source of the odor, but to be perfectly honest I’m kind of rooting for it to continue it’s winning streak. Maybe some things in life are better left as mysteries.
What do YOU think the source of the smell might be? Have you ever battled your own mystery stench? What’s the most persistent problem you’ve seen go unresolved in your home or workplace?
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