There are those who say that Fred will appear if you look into a mirror and recite your credit card number three times. But then the mirror indicates you need those three security numbers too, so you have to start all over again because the mirror has timed out.
And after you do recite your credit card number three times, and the security code, and don’t forget the expiration date, you can sense him nearby. You know Fred has appeared. He’s in the house! Because this is a pretty safe neighbourhood and you rarely lock the door. You slowly turn… And he is there! Brushing his teeth in the kitchen sink! Then just as quickly he is gone, the only evidence a glob of minty spit. Your stomach churns, for you have no choice but to wipe it up yourself…
Others say that Fred only comes to life on Halloween and after a couple of Coors Lights but almost right away starts to get sleepy and wants to go home. Then he wanders the streets looking for the souls of the damned and wherever he parked the stupid car. If you listen in the night, sometimes you can hear him moan and sigh and call for an Uber.
Some tell of how Fred appears unbidden when it’s a full moon and you have, like, five pages left in a really good book. Suddenly Fred is there at the foot of your bed! His dead eyes are those of a creature without a soul or even the slightest sense of self-awareness. You gasp! He gurgles, “Wgglglrughmm bllbregghh!” then coughs. “Sorry, bit of toothpaste phlegm. Watcha readin’?” But before you can answer, Fred launches into a monologue about how he’s not much for books and then complains that he is eternally cursed, which is really just a list of things that have been cancelled because of COVID. He goes on to discuss in detail his cat allergies as well as a business idea for something called “bikini dentists”…? It’s chilling; how can someone—or something—not see that all you want to do is finish your damn book!
No one knows where Fred comes from. Possibly a phantom dimension between the living and the dead, possibly Laval. Stories are told of how he is doomed to walk between these two worlds and always bring the conversation around to how many steps he’s registering on his Fitbit. Is he a spectral figure or merely a Seven-Eleven manager with a low-ranking fantasy football team? No one knows for sure, for Fred is ethereal, unknowable, not much fun to hang with.
I heard about a friend of a friend who was terrorized by Fred in the most awful way imaginable: by email! One pitch-black night, she opened her inbox, and there it was, an email from Fred, written in blood-red ink! And all caps!
“URGENT! I AM GOING TO OPEN YOUR BRAIN SPACE WITH A RUSTY CAN OPENER! THANKS! 😊” the email said. More ghastly still, there was a read-receipt request! (“Fred requested a receipt be sent when message ‘AVAILABILITY FOR SKULL OPENING?’ is read. Do you want to send a receipt? Yes/No/BLARRRGH!”)
“What?” she replied. “When is this going to happen?”
Fred: “I’M AVAILABLE ANY DAY!”
Her: “I can do Tuesday or Thursday.”
Fred: “HMMM, THOSE DON’T WORK FOR ME. LOL!”
Her: “Wednesday then?”
Her: “What time?”
Fred: “I’M EASY!!!”
Her: “Would 9:00 am or 2:30 pm work?”
Fred: “SOUNDS GOOD! 😊 👍”
And she never heard from him again…
Sometimes, when he is summoned from the netherworld and he’s not already in his PJs, Fred comes to you in the night and, as you sleep, enters your dreams. He whispers to you, “I know Trump’s a loathsome human being but he gets my vote because he’s not a politician and he tells it like it is.” Trapped in this nightmare, you cry out, “ARE YOU STUPID? AS SOON AS YOU ENTER POLITICS, YOU’RE A POLITICIAN! PLUS, YOU DON’T GET TO VOTE! YOU’RE CANADIAN! AND A GHOST!” To which Fred smirks, “Agree to disagree.”
Then you wake up screaming. Thank God it was only a dream.
Or was it…?