I and the rest of the columnists stood in a loose semi-circle around the fridge, looking at it suspiciously.
"As the funniest person here, I don't think I should have to do this," Swaim said.
"You're not the funniest person here, Swaim," I replied.
"I call second funniest," Gladstone said.
"Third," parroted Brockway.
Seanbaby looked at me, not blinking. I sighed. "Sixth," I finally said.
I took a breath and manned up momentarily. Reaching out I opened the fridge door and regretted it immediately. Waves of evil swept over me. This was going to be hell.
Suddenly a thought occurred to me. "This doesn't have to be a chore," I replied. "What if we use our imaginations to make it into an adventure?"
"You're not thinking..." Gladstone said.
"That's right. We straight-up Muppet Baby this!"
Everyone's eyes lit up. Together we bent down and peered into the fridge.
We were in a damp, blueish-gray cave. Splashes of white plastic on the floor here or there indicated it was a mold covered fridge of cavernous proportions. Above us, light from a single incandescent bulb trickled down.
"This is gross. It's like some kind of alien vagina," said Swaim.
"This is nothing like an alien vagina," said Seanbaby, eyes scanning the blueish-gray mass. No one wanted to argue the point, so we moved on into the fridge.
We soon came upon some leftovers from a party, including a half-eaten cake and an enormous plate of moldy appetizers, the remnants of some happy occasion marked by management purchasing cocktail wieners for us. Gladstone walked over to the plate and pulled a little cocktail sword out of one of the wieners. Following his lead, we armed ourselves similarly, then spent the next five minutes pretending we were pirates.
Brockway frowned, looking at his blade. "These things aren't very sharp. I don't know if these will work for cutting mold away." He tested it out by poking at a lump of growth clinging to the ground. In a flash, the fungus snapped forward, latching on to Brockway's arm. "Help!" he cried unimaginatively.
Our eyes boggled as we struggled to understand what we were seeing. Brockway repeated his earlier request.
"I guess we should help him?" I thought aloud, looking for feedback.
"It's too late! Kill him!" DOB shrieked, setting upon Brockway with his cocktail sword.
"Stop! Stop it!" Brockway cried. "Stop stabbing my ass!" he screamed, thrashing wildly at Swaim who indeed, had crossed the floor and was furiously stabbing his ass.
Gladstone looked at me and shrugged, before walking cautiously over to the trio. He gingerly poked his sword into Brockway's thigh, eliciting a shrill response. I stroked my chin, thinking. Stabbing Brockway felt like the right thing to do. It felt so right. But I was missing something.
Behind me Seanbaby crossed over to the remains of the birthday cake. I watched curiously, as he plucked a candle from its decayed form. Reaching into his pocket he produced a Zippo lighter, and with a practiced flick set the candle ablaze. Wielding it like a girthy, blazing penis, he charged at the mass of mold and bleeding columnists, where he repeatedly jabbed it into the grayish-green mold that had seized Brockway by the arm.
A blood curdling shriek filled the air, as the mold smoked and burnt. It released Brockway's arm, who collapsed back in a heap with his assailants. A limb of the mold hissed and snapped at Seanbaby, who ducked it, continuing his fiery-dong assault. Another shriek, this time from deeper in the fridge. The moldy mass slumped to the ground, and began to shrink back into the depths with a horrifying slurping sound. All around us the mold on the floor and walls began to retreat.
Unaware of our complete and unexpected victory, DOB, Swaim and Gladstone continued their tussle with Brockway. "Get off me," Brockway growled, planting a foot in DOB's crotch and kicking him back. A hilarious noise escaped DOB's lips as he tumbled backwards.
"Guys, cool it. It's over," I said, reaching in and yanking Swaim back by his collar before he could stab Brockway in the ass again.
"Are you licking my ear?" Brockway yelled at Gladstone, who had dropped his sword in the melee, and was in fact licking Brockway's ear. Brockway rolled to the side and regained his feet. Gladstone looked up at us, blinking his eyes several times.
"That was weird," he said. "It's like the mold spores took hold of my mind or something."
We all stared at Gladstone for 12 seconds. Finally, I sighed as heavily as I could, and said, "Yes. I have read that mold spores can do that." I stared each one of them in the eye, daring them to make a thing of this. "Let's all forget what just happened, but also be on the watch for mold spores."
Another lengthy pause while everyone considered that. Finally DOB walked over to Brockway and punched him on the shoulder. "Sorry buddy. It was you or us. Glad you pulled through though." He thought for a moment before adding, "Tiger."
"I don't think it was actually me or you," Brockway said, wincing as he examined his bleeding ass.
"You'll never understand what it's like being in that situation," Swaim said cheerfully. He wiped his sword blade against his pants. "How the human body reacts when it's put in danger like that. I'm glad to say that I reacted flawlessly."
Brockway glared at him, his head conjuring up ways to remove Swaim from his genitals. I paused for a second to make sure they weren't going to start up again, then turned to look towards the back of the fridge.
Behind us, the mold's retreat had uncovered a variety of detritus. Bottle caps, twist ties, a fork. I looked it over curiously before my eyes settled upon something horrific. Against the side wall, slumped against a Tupperware container full of evil, sat a skeleton, its bones bleached white.
"Is that?" I whispered under my breath, cautiously approaching it.
"Ross?" Swaim said, finishing my thought.
We all gathered around the skeleton. The mold had picked it clean. "How can you guys be sure?" asked Brockway, bleeding.
"His medallion," I said, pointing at his neck, where a bronze medallion lay, the light catching it. The mold hadn't touched it at all. "It's the Wolinksy family crest. He never took that off."
Our hearts heavy, we continued towards the back of the fridge. When we arrived we saw the most horrible thing imaginable.
A mass of mold the size of an ass had formed in the far corner of the fridge. Huge writhing tentacles sprouted out from it. A malevolent energy pulsed around it. It was alive. It was aware. It was watching us.
"The Mold Queen," Gladstone said.
Swaim began arguing about whether mold could even have a queen, and suggested we try and find a name with a pun in there somewhere. We argued about that for awhile, but couldn't come up with anything better. Curiously, we did all decide that it was definitely a woman. After that we argued about how we were going to kill it, Gladstone repeatedly chiming in to remind us about the "unknowable effects of mold spores."
"Salad!" Brockway shouted after a while. "That's the answer." He ran over to a brown paper bag with the word "Salad," scribbled over it in black marker. "I forgot I left this here!"
"I don't think that's going to be good any more," Swaim said. Brockway ignored him and slashed a hole in the side of the bag with his sword. We peered in after him.
Brockway's "salad" was a flat glass bottle, a mickey of some variety or other, its label long since peeled off. "Brockway family gin!" Brockway said, excitedly. "The key ingredient in a Brockway salad," he continued. "The other one's ice," he added, unnecessarily.
"Your family makes its own gin?" I asked.
"Legally we can't call it gin," Brockway said. "Also it's less a family and more a religion. And, for legal purposes, we don't make it, our creator makes it through us." He smiled. "But to answer your question, yes."
Brockway's plan was straightforward. As the mold seemed to react poorly to fire, we would cover the Queen with the Brockway family's darkest secret and set her ablaze. We wrestled the "gin" out of the paper bag, and carried it towards the back of the fridge. We stopped just out of range of the Queen's tentacles and caught our breath.
"We're not going to be able to get close enough to douse her like this," I said. "She'll destroy us before we can get within a cock's-length of her." A small argument broke out about how long that was exactly, followed by a separate argument about whether the metric system made penises sound more or less impressive.
Midway through this DOB excused himself and walked a distance towards the front of the fridge. When he returned he had stripped to the waist and tied the sleeve of his shirt around his head like a bandanna. He also had picked up a fork, and proceeded to thrust it about crazily. "Look at me! I'm Poseidon!" he yelled, no less crazily.
"I think he's saying that he's going to be a distraction," Gladstone said, rubbing his temples, "while we light the Queen on fire."
DOB nodded, and then began tearing at his pants, to appear "more Poseidonny." We shifted around uncomfortably.
Damnit Dan, now you've wrecked your best yellow pants. Those were your going out pants.
Finally ready, DOB took up his fork and yelled "For Ross!"
"For Ross!" we echoed his cry, and took up our stations on the bottle.
Squatting for a moment, DOB closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He sat motionless, collecting himself. Nodding, he stood up clear eyed, raise his fork and yelled, "Fork freeeeeeeeeeedooooom!" He charged at the beast.
Tentacles of the mold snapped and thrust at him, DOB stabbing back crazily. We shouldered the bottle and ran at the side of the mass, a gap having formed in its tentacles.
"I'll fork you up! I'll fork you up so bad!" The cries of battle echoed up from the other side of the beast.
We reached the fuzzy mass of the mold. Gladstone and Brockway began twisting off the cap. A tentacle swooped in at them and was batted aside momentarily by Seanbaby. The tentacle recoiled, then snatched him up by the leg and began thrashing him about.
"Ooooooh yeah girl. I'll fork you right on down to the break of dawn."
The cap of the bottle rattled off, and the gin began to pour out onto the hideous mold. We tipped the bottle higher and began spreading the gin around. More tentacles swooped in, picking off Swaim and Brockway.
A clash of metal from the other side of the beast, followed by DOB's voice, "Ooh big American moldier. Me fork you long time!"
A tentacle came crashing into Gladstone, knocking him and the bottle down over me. It scooped him up and began whipping him around. Above me, I watched Seanbaby struggling with his tentacle, finally managing to land a kick on it. He evidently hit it right in the tentacle-balls, because with a groan it dropped him to the ground. He rolled back out of range before it could come crashing down on top of him.
"Light it!" I yelled at him, still trapped under the bottle. "Don't worry about me! Just light it and go!"
"I wasn't worried about you!" Seanbaby yelled back, flicking on the Zippo.
My mouth gaped. Above me, Swaim shouted "Well save me then, fucker!" He was still clutched firmly in the grasp of the moldy tentacle that was shaking him around.
"No, don't!" said DOB, who had backed away from the Queen to join Seanbaby. He was somehow even less clothed than before. "We can get more columnists. But a used fridge is 50 bucks, easy."
Without saying a word, Seanbaby tossed the lighter into the puddle of alcohol pooling at the base of the mold. Light flared up around me and I was deafened by a rushing noise.
"What's all this commotion?" Jack's voice, rousing me to consciousness.
Cracked Editor Jack O'Brien
I opened my eyes. I was lying on the floor, pinned underneath the water cooler, cold water splashing around me. Above me, Gladstone, Brockway and Swaim were tangled in the venetian blinds of the kitchen window. The window coverings screamed in protest before they came crashing down upon them.
Across the room the refrigerator was on fire, its door hanging by a single hinge. Seanbaby was sitting on the floor, stunned, his eyebrows missing. DOB was lying unconscious on the kitchen table, now completely naked. A push broom was still clasped in his right hand.
After helping me to my feet, I explained to Jack what had happened. He nodded, with a bemused look in his eye. "I'm afraid your imaginations have gotten the better of you again," he said in a matronly voice. "There's no such thing as a mold Queen," he added. Retrieving a fire extinguisher from the corner, he put out the blaze. "I don't know what I'm going to do with you boys sometimes," he sighed as the smoke cleared. He turned and looked into the fridge.
"Is that Ross?"