Working for Cracked has its perks, like free fake handicap stickers for all employee cars, and free knee-cappings for those who don't want to lie about it. But the biggest perk of them all comes each December when they throw the budget out the window and let loose their Christmas fury, flying in all of the staff for an office party that redefines the very heart of the Holidays.
Except they "forgot" to buy me a plane ticket, instead telling me that if I got Skype, they'd turn on a computer so I could "be with them in spirit." I'm not bitter. A little disappointed maybe, but hey, it's the holidays. This is no time to be angry or ... vengeful. It's a time to celebrate. And this is how they celebrated. Without me. While I sat watching from home in Illinois, 1,600 miles away.
"-know if it's working. John? Can you hear me?"
"Yeah, Dan, I can hear you just fine."
"Yeah, I can hear you. Can you hear me?"
"I don't think he can hear me. JOHN," he screamed in the same voice I'd imagine him using if his legs were blown off by a pipe bomb that I threw at him for not inviting me to their Christmas party.
He also said, "I am Dan, and I had sex with an animal!"
"I can hear you. Is your sound working yet?"
It wasn't. He continued talking.
"Whose stupidass idea was this? He's not even a real employee. JOHN, CAN YOU HEAR ME?!"
I didn't answer that time. Someone was moving around behind him, but the camera was exactly crotch level so I couldn't tell who it was. When he spoke, I realized it was Cody Johnston. I could tell by the complete lack of emotion or understanding in his voice. The same lack of human empathy he used when he told me I wouldn't be making it out there this year.
"You didn't turn on the speakers," he told Dan, cold -- unfeeling. Lifeless.
"I turned them on. Look, the green light is- JOHN! CAN YOU HEAR ME? JOHN!"
"You can see him right there on the monitor. He's obviously flinching every time you yell, so we know he can hear you. Turn up the speakers."
Daniel's stupid, hateful hand jabbed out through the air and made a sort of ... volume-turning-up motion.
"JOHN! CAN YOU HEAR ME?"
That time, it was Cody.
"Yes, holy shit, I can hear you. Please stop doing th-"
"THAT'S AWESOME! WELCOME TO THE PARTY!"
"Hey, you guys having a scream party over h- Ooooh, is that John," asked Micheal Swaim's piece of crap voice from off camera. Lowering himself to a whisper, he said, "I'm not here."
I could see his shadow edge backwards, his index finger resting on his lips in the universal "shhh" gesture. I rolled my eyes and sighed.
"Look, if you guys don't want me here, I can just turn this off. It's no big deal."
"OH, NO, WE WANT YOU HERE," Dan screamed hard enough to turn his face red. Little arteries bulging under the strain.
His lies were deafening.
"Dammit," I said, turning down my speakers. "You don't have to yell. The mic on that laptop picks up every little minute sound. I could even hear Michael telling you to tell me he isn't there."
"Oh, that's impossible," interjected Cody. "He couldn't have said that because he's not here."
He then turned towards Daniel, inches from his face, and gave an exaggerated wink, which sent Dan running and screaming in the opposite direction. It turns out DOB is terrified of winking.
"Cody, I know he's there because I-"
He walked away while I was still talking. For the next 40 minutes, I stared at a blank wall and listened to people making indecipherable conversation in the background. I was about to doze off when the Skype text message alert sound jarred my eyes open.
Robert Brockway was at the keyboard, using a switchblade knife to pry up one of the letters. I almost said something to him, but my fear and curiosity kept me silent. With a sharp pop, a key dislodged. And then he ate it.
And then said, "Man, I sure am glad you're not here. Also, I'm a racist!"
As calm and natural as working on a bag of popcorn, he pulled off letters and ate them one by one until half of the keyboard was gone. Swallowing the horror, I went against my better judgment and addressed him.
"Robert? Are ... are you OK?"
He stared at the monitor for a second, his drunken eyes barely functional.
"Oh, John! Hey! Enjoying the festivities?"
"Sure. Robert, why are you eating-"
Chris Bucholz stepped into frame and put a hand on Brockway's shoulder.
"Thirty minutes. If you don't do it in 30 minutes, you owe me 50 bucks."
Christina sat down beside Robert and looked up at Chris.
"Yo, is this shit happening, or is this busta gonna bitch out on us?"
"Is what happening?" I asked.
"I was telling these whack motherfuckers that it takes food 72 hours to make its way completely through the human body, for real, and Robert said he could do it in less than an hour. So homeboy here put up some paper that says otherwise, you know what I'm sayin'?"
Chris took over. "It's a little game I like to call Shit Scrabble. If he's mastered his digestive system the way he claims, then he should have no problem at all shitting us a triple word score. Isn't that right, Rober- HOLY CRAP, HE'S TURNING BLUE!"
He was. I leaned forward and stared in horror, realizing that there was nothing I could do to help. I called out to Christina to dial 911, but she was already gone. I thought I heard her say the phrase "no fuckin' cops" as a door closed. Chris drew back and punched Robert several times, directly in his mustache. When that didn't work (surprise), he shouted for help, his voice getting higher pitched each time he screamed, until he sounded like that black lady from the old Tom and Jerry cartoons.
A crowd of people rushed in. Leading the pack was Cracked's Editor in Chief, Jack O'Brien, yelling, "We're not paying for this! He did it to himself, we're not responsible!" Followed by David Wong, who insisted several times that they use his shirt to prop up his head.
"Also, is there a way we can put John further from the office? Like make him stay in Maine until the party is over?"
Luke McKinney explained over the chaos that Robert's head was already in the upright position, and that there was no need for propping. Wong seemed to accept this, waited a few seconds and then said, "Wow, it's so hot in here," and reached for his top button.
"Somebody disable him," ordered Jack with the enthusiasm and leadership that he didn't utilize to make sure everyone made it to the Christmas party.
On the heels of the command, a red and blue streak shot across the camera's field and slammed into Wong, sending both of them flipping into the background with a series of sickening thuds. It was Seanbaby. When they stopped rolling, he stood, now wearing all of David Wong's clothes. Wong, himself, was dressed from head to toe in a skin tight, red and blue, leather jumpsuit that I can only imagine had adorned Sean's body before the attack. Around the seams were tiny spots of blood, where Sean had stapled the outfit to the unconscious man.
I thought about asking him how he did that, but I opted for silence, for fear that after asking the question, I'd turn around to find him standing behind me, fully prepared to demonstrate. Without even so much as a nod of acknowledgment, Seanbaby turned and left.
Luke was now tending to the increasingly blue Brockway. Which is to say that he mostly slapped him in the face, demanding, "Stop turning blue! Robert, you stop turning blue right now! You hear me? You need to stop tur- it's not working. He needs a doctor."
"Step aside," said a voice from the back of the room. "I'm a doctor."
The people in frame began to part as strange, majestic music began playing over their intercom system. Like if John Tesh were to write a song about a road specifically made for the incoming royalty of the animal kingdom. Wait, now that I think about it, it actually was a John Tesh song called "Road Made for Animals."
As the bodies continued to part, a black-suited figure appeared and approached the quickly fading Brockway. It was Gladstone.
"For the last time," said Soren's voice from off-camera, "you are not a doctor."
Gladstone showed no sign he had heard this. Leaning in close, he examined Robert's face and then spoke, softly.
"After breathing out, you must remember to follow that up by breathing in. Perform this action, now."
Robert gasped, taking air into his lungs. Immediately, the blue began to fade -- his natural chalk white complexion returning with each breath.
Gladstone stood and slowly made his way back through the sea of humans as they applauded, the way people do at the end of movies when one guy starts it out, and more people join in. I know for a fact that every one of them have been waiting for years for an excuse to do the slow clap.
"Well, that was stupid," said Soren as people slowly dispersed back into the party. "But I think we've all learned something today. That Christmas isn't just a time for material expressions of our love and generosity. But a time of year when all of mankind, people of all races and creeds, can come together and-"
"Kristi's starting a dog fight!"
"Hell yes," he yelled, running out of frame.
"Later, John," said a solemn voice, almost inaudible.
"Brendan? Oh, shit, I didn't even notice you there. Have you been here the whole time?"
"Yeah," he smirked (I assume). "That's by design. I'd appreciate it if you didn't say anything to the others. I have ... plans for them." He held up a bottle of clear liquid, topped with a folded handkerchief. In his other hand was a tattoo gun. "I hope you're not mad, but I'm the reason you didn't get a ticket out here. Consider it a gift from me to you."
He started to walk away.
He smiled, I think. "Merry Christmas, John."
For more Cheese, check out 12 Things You'll Wish You'd Never Seen Under a Microscope and The 4 Most Important Things to Know as a Gamer Parent.