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Natalie Lin, City Building Inspector
Report: Inspection of two-story office building on Fourth Avenue and Ivy Street. Condemned for health risks of former business occupants.
Transcript of phone call with Craig Trevors, Human Resources:
Natalie: Hi, Mr. Trevors, this is Natalie from the City Health and Human Services Department, Building Division. I’m calling in regards to our 4:00 PM appointment.
Craig: Oh yes, Natalie. Hi.
Natalie: Is this is a good time to go over what happened?
Craig: Sure, just let me sit down and gather my notes… Okay go ahead.
Natalie: So tell me what business you were running at the location?
Craig: Well I was just in HR, but we all worked for a real estate firm. There were about 150 employees, most of them staff and realtors.
Natalie: So you didn’t deal with any chemicals, food, or hazardous substances?
Craig: No, ma’am. Just your typical paperwork and computers.
Natalie: You mentioned in our last call that people came to you to report their ailments?
Craig: That’s true, all sick days and illnesses have to go through me per company policy.
Natalie: Tell me about that. Tell me when it started, what was reported, the frequency, everything you can remember.
Craig: Whoo boy. Alright, I’ll start from the beginning. We had moved the company into this larger building about four months back. The first incident occurred two weeks in. Cathy came to me and said she was having a pretty bad migraine for no apparent reason. I asked her about allergies, what she had eaten for lunch, the standard questions. She looked to be in quite a lot of pain, so I doubt she was faking, but between the two of us we couldn’t figure out the cause.
Natalie: Did she have a history of migraines?
Craig: No. In fact, none of the cases I’m going to tell you about had much of a history.
Natalie: Interesting, please continue.
Craig: Well, I sent Cathy home and made a note in her file. A couple days later, three other employees, including Cathy, started complaining of migraines. Like Cathy, none of them had a history and I couldn’t pin down the cause. It was at that point we had a professional come in and check the vents and air quality.
Natalie: But nothing was found?
Craig: Correct. The entire building except for my office and the management doesn't have windows that open and uses recycled air from the vents, so we figured maybe that had something to do with it. It was quite strange as management and myself were fine. But even more strange was that the migraines stopped shortly afterward.
Natalie: So everything went back to normal?
Craig: Not at all. A couple days later, Jeff and Lauren came to me, separately, and reported dizziness and blurred vision. I asked if they had been staring at their computer screens for too long, but that didn’t make sense because everyone worked on a computer there.
Natalie: Why is it important that both of them came to you?
Craig: Well… shit. I’m not supposed to tell people this, company policy and all that, but Jeff and Lauren were… intimately involved. Something we warn against, but technically isn’t a cause for termination or concern. But… if they were together and had the same symptoms….
Natalie: You think it might have been an STD?
Craig: To my embarrassment, yes. But they both assured me that they were clean.
Natalie: So what does this have to do with the eventual condemnation?
Craig: You see, both Jeff and Lauren were sent home that day. The next day they were still having dizzy spells. And… they both fell down different flights of stairs. Jeff was bruised, but Lauren broke a number of ribs and an arm. After that, a dozen employees starting reporting dizziness. And umm….
Craig: Nausea, a lot of people began getting very nauseous at work. It got pretty dire, with all the vomiting. Management was frustrated at losing tons of workers to sick days each week, and no one knew what the cause was.
Natalie: And that’s when everyone cleared out for the condemnation?
Craig: Unfortunately, no. I wish we had left sooner. Management moved almost everyone to part time, which helped a little, but not much. The entire staff was reporting headaches, nausea, dizziness, and… other symptoms.
Natalie: Craig, I need you to fully disclose anything you have that is pertinent to this inspection.
Craig: I know, I’m sorry. It’s just that… people started hearing things.
Natalie: That’s not so strange, people hallucinate when undergoing extreme illness.
Craig: You’re right, but do entire groups of people hallucinate the same thing?
Natalie:... Please elaborate.
Craig: Everyone kept telling me they heard sounds coming from the walls. Weeping, cries of pain. Then, they reported voices talking to them. Asking them, “Why?”
Natalie: “Why?” What?
Craig: I haven’t a clue, ma’am. They just heard, ”Why?” repeatedly for a week. Then, Celeste saw something on the ground floor by the vending machines. She never told anyone what it was, as far as I know, but it sent her screaming out of the building. At that point everyone had had enough and stormed out. Management couldn’t do much and got temporary office space a few blocks over.
Natalie: And have there been any problems?
Craig: Everyone is shaken up, but the symptoms are gone.
Natalie: Mr. Trevors, are you aware of this building’s former history?
Craig: It used to be a boarding house, right?
Natalie: The main floors, yes. But the bottom floor was a funeral parlor with a small crematorium. This was back in the 50’s, you see, when health and safety codes were in their infancy, and it’s very possible old cremains were being circulated through the vents. I believe that to be the cause of your problems.
Craig: But ma’am, I told you, the vents were checked and nothing bad was found in the air. Also, we’ve all been on the bottom floor, anything left over from the funeral parlor was cleared out long ago. It’s just vending machines now.
Natalie: Really? I see the old furnace here right now. Plain as… plain as... day.
Craig: Wait, you’re in the building?! That place isn’t safe!
Natalie: Where… the stairs… Craig?
Craig: Natalie! Either get out or at least get to an office with a window!
Natalie: No… please… *sounds of vomiting*.
Craig: Natalie? Natalie!
[phone call terminated]
Natalie Lin was found dead from a mixture of extreme dehydration and a fatal fall down a flight of stairs. Her superior ruled that her cause of death and the related symptoms of the previous inhabitants was an extreme case of Sick Building Syndrome. A phenomenon that occurs when humans spend too much time in buildings with recycled air. The case was closed without further explanation. To date, only one person has died from Sick Building Syndrome.
Written by Abysmii