Photo Credit: sparktography @ Flickr It was 11:30 in the morning, and Dante (as we'll call him) was more than ready for lunch. His stomach let out a low growl to remind him that he'd skipped breakfast and had a light dinner the previous night. Embarrassed, he leaned forward to stifle the growl. Just 30 more minutes. Dante wished he could go to lunch right then, but his colleague that he was going with was in a meeting until noon. He tried to keep his thoughts on other things, but couldn't stay focused. His pencil cup looked like it was full of pretzels, his wall clock looked like a cake, and the nearby receptionist looked like ham. His hallucinations were interrupted by the phone.

"Yeah, Dante, this is *SNORT* Earl. Gonna need you to *HACK* come down by my office for a bit." His caller then spit what could only be described as a phlegmy disaster. The kind of horror that defies otomotopeia.

Dante knew about Earl. Everyone did. Other people make their presence known by politely knocking on the cubicle wall, Earl made his presence known by his stench, which you'd smell well before you actually saw him. Some referred to his smell as "The Blight." It was a combination of cigarette smoke and B.O. that Earl must have worked at to perfect the balance to cause the most discomfort possible. Nearly forgetting that he had been on the phone, Dante asked if it would take long. "Nah, *COUGH* five minutes, tops."

Dante wasn't far from Earl's office, but was thankfully outside of its smell radius. As soon as he passed that threshold, however, all desire for lunch immediately left. The walk to Earl's office always reminded Dante of the scene from The Shining with blood pouring out of the elevator, only in this case it was sweat and cigarette smoke pouring out of a modest 8'x10' office. Dante's eyes were almost tearing up in response to the godawful smell. He did his best to persevere, and rapped on the door twice.

"Dante! How's *SNORT* it hangin'?" He extended a sweaty hand, paused, wiped it on his pants near his yellowed pockets, extended his hand again, with Dante all the while trying to figure out a polite way to avoid shaking his hand. It wasn't that Dante was disrespectful, it's just that the guy was filthy. He'd transferred yellow cigarette stains from his fingers to his pockets, and Dante had never seen Earl wear a different pair of pants. His office smelled bad enough on its own, but while Earl was in the room, it was almost unbearable.

"So what's the problem?" Dante's face wrinkled — he could practically taste the stench. The humidity was turning the place into a giant Ikea-decorated petri dish. Dante wouldn't have been surprised if one of the folders in a messy pile on the floor started crawling away. Somehow Earl had the only humid office in the building.

"Computer's on the fritz. I tried my 'home remedy' for the past few weeks, but she's not always turning on. She starts up maybe 25% of the time." Dante had to stay focused so he could escape the stinky torture chamber quickly. Why didn't he tell us about this weeks ago, when his system stopped working consistently, he thought.

During their conversation, Earl was doing something peculiar — he was hanging a white towel on a makeshift assembly of twisted coat hangers, tape, paperclips, and pens that was hanging over a boiling kettle on a hot plate. Apparently he just liked hot towels. Hard to blame him, getting a hot, damp towel is the best part of any long flight. Earl leaned over and removed a towel from under his desk, and hung that on his homemade towel rack. In the same motion, he grabbed a moist, hot towel from off the rack and placed it in the same area behind his desk that he'd just taken one from. Dante kept one suspicious eye on the towel rack, expecting it to collapse onto the hot plate and catch fire.

Dante's eyes widened, and it must have been obvious because Earl snorted an inquisitive "What?!" Dante said nothing, instead taking a few steps forward to see behind his desk. It took all of his willpower to brave the stench even more by stepping further into the stench. He could taste the bile rising up in the back of his throat.

Dante gasped at the sight. Earl had been covering his PC's vents with hot towels. And the areas of the PC that would've been visible if not for the towels were obscured by discarded fast food wrappers. The time for politeness had passed, and Dante was going to pass out if he didn't get out of there soon. The humidity, the trash, and Earl himself were in the perfect incubator for the unbearable smell. "What the hell are you doing?!"

Earl recoiled a bit, startled by Dante's yelling. "It's just... I figured... It was so dry in here- I figured all the static was gettin' to 'er." Earl mistook Dante's furrowed brow as a request for clarification of his theory. "I figured if I upped the humiderty a bit, she might stop pitchin' a fit."

Dante looked down at his watch. 11:38. The past eight minutes had felt like eighty. He'd entered the humid, slimy belly of the beast and had to make his escape. "Look, I've got an appointment for lunch. I'll call when I get back." Dante spent the next twenty or so minutes walking around, drinking water from the drinking fountain, and remaining near a bathroom in case the need to vomit arose.

Dante's lunch was uneventful — his body was hungry, but he really didn't feel like eating after braving The Blight for nearly ten minutes. Upon returning to the office, he asked Earl to disconnect his computer and bring it to his desk.

Dante discovered the original problem- a bad NIC. Though that issue was upstaged by the new problem — rusted, corroded components from the damp towels.

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