The Tale of Fred: Part 1- Finding Fred
Fred was never loved- never loved the way a place should be loved. You could tell by looking at him; by the scratches on his bricks and the cracks in his foundation. Fred was built to be feared.
I worked downtown, in a perfectly kept red brick building filled with perfectly painted walls and perfectly decorated tiny rooms. After awhile, I was lucky enough to be moved to one of the rooms with a window. It was easier, sitting at a computer inputting numbers, when I could look out at the world. I watched the tiny people walk along the streets from the fourth floor, all the while tap, tap, tapping at my keyboard.
From my window, I could see Fred. The thing was though, for a long time I never saw Fred. He was always there, I'm sure, but amidst the parking garages, banks, and office buildings he was eclipsed. He must have been. It's possible that my attention was just too focused on the funeral home right outside my window- on the top story window that always seemed to be open. How was it that the curtain in the room always seemed to move though no one was there? But that's a different tale . . .
On my lunch breaks, I'd escape to the world outside my tiny room. I'd walk along crooked sidewalks full of cracks and dandelions toward the older parts of town where I'd be transported to another time. The buildings there were loved- old and worn and warm. They'd been loving restored, turned into cafes or kept as tiny homes. Gothic wrought iron fences lined the sidewalks. It was like walking into a storybook. It was here that Fred lived- loud and broken and rotting. I walked through the storybook neighborhood again and again, stopping to sip coffee or take pictures of the flowering 100-year-old trees. It was months until I noticed Fred.
Near the end of the old neighborhood was a huge historic school. It stretched over 3 city blocks. Centered perfectly on its plot, the building was surrounded by a sea of pavement and parking spots. It was an elegant three story building with a wrap around porch. It must have taken a million bricks to build. I'd been told it was built by the Catholic church and was used as a hospital, and then an orphanage before being converted into office space. There was an eerie vibe to the whole thing. It was so old it seemed to be sinking. The few times I went inside, the floors screamed and buckled. It's like the building was warning me; telling me I wasn't welcome- no one was welcome. I loved it. It was strange and I loved strange.
I don't know why, but one day I was drawn to walk further than I'd gone before- to walk all the way around the building toward the NE corner of the parking lot. It was a stupid idea. That part of the parking lot led toward a busy freeway, but I gave into the pull. I padded along the sidewalk and then crossed to crunchy pot-hole littered blacktop. My flats landed hard in a pot hole and I swore, pulling my foot from the hole. I was wearing cloth flats that day and I was pissed. I was covered in dirt. It was mid-curse that I heard something- a violent snap.
My head whipped up and I fell back into the pothole, almost falling onto my ass. I looked up and saw him for the first time . . . Fred. I stood, jaw dropping like an idiot. Before me stood a terrifying behemoth comprised of smashed windows, crumbling bricks, and warped doors. I found myself creeping forward, edging closer to the angry looking building. I needed to see it up close, though I knew I shouldn't go exploring. It was obvious that I wasn't welcome. I was close enough now to see the DO NOT ENTER signs but I couldn't help it. I needed a closer look, just a little closer . . .
A smashing sound stopped me in my tracks. There was something upstairs. Something moving. I looked up through a partially boarded window, frozen with fear. A flash of black flew past the window, and I ran- back to the cracked cement and the old school, back along the storybook streets to the perfect brick building with the perfect walls.
I flew up 4 stories, running to my office and shutting the door behind me. I went to the window, and looked out past the funeral home and the banks. There stood the building, looming in the distance. For a second, I thought I'd imagined the whole thing. But no, there really was an old creepy building in the middle of a parking lot. My chest tightened. Had that always been there? I stared, longer than I should have. What was I expecting to see? A vanishing act?
I tried not to think about the building the rest of the day. It was creepy and I should just leave it alone. I went to bed, the building out of my mind.
That night I awoke with a jolt, covered in sweat from a nightmare I couldn't remember. All I knew was that I needed to know more. I had to know more . . .