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It was a Sunday much like any other Sunday. I was kicking back, relaxing from a long week of work, knowing that I had to head back in in about 10 or 12 hours for another rough night at the factory.
I guess I could add in a bunch of other details about my otherwise mundane life, but I know you couldn't care less, so... I'm gonna cut to the chase here, and just keep things simple. Despite being a factory worker and a High School dropout, I was a ginormous fan of Frasier. Yeah, I know, all the upscale, intellectual, dry, aristocratic jokes... whatever, for some reason, it tickled my funny bone. I totally watched the shit up in the 90s, and a few years later, I owned all the DVDs that were out. Maybe if the show had more explosions, I'd have looked for some blu-rays, too.
But hey, all kidding aside... as I said before, I WAS a pretty big fan of Frasier. That was before I... uh... well, back around Summer 2007, I found a 3-episode Frasier DVD on the shelf of my local Blockbuster, kinda hidden behind some other TV Show DVD case, I don't remember which one it was. The text on the side of the box was faded, and the 'er' at the end of where it says Blockbuster on the front was all scratched and faded out. Blockbust? The hell is that even supposed to mean? Anyway, the side text clearly said "Frasier: The Harvard Vaults." I assumed it was a bootleg or some other kinda fanmade shit that somehow made its way into inventory, but I checked it out anyway, no problem. The cashier said something about the label looking old, and, really, that was all she had to say. The DVD was mine... for a 5 day rental, anyway.
So, when I came home to my crappy ol' bug infested apartment, I popped in the DVD, hoping for another ten or twenty laughs before it was time to hit the ol' sack and go back to the ol' grind. Nothing was out of the ordinary: the DVD menu was just Dr. Crane with a quirky smile on his face and his arms outstretched. Hey, whatever, it worked for me. Then I clicked my way to the episode listing. The titles were "Frasier's Finest Christmas", "Mr. All-American", and "The Truth About Eddie." I was immediately curious about the first episode, given that the title suggested that something big had happened.
So, that was the episode I chose. Nothing on the screen, just a bunch of blackness, whatever. I can't say I was too surprised, given how old the box had looked and all. Then, about 25-30 seconds in, I got an error message... and that was when things started getting a little, well, out of the ordinary.
"Your DVD is cracked. And so are you."
That was the message that displayed on the screen. It sure as Hell wasn't the message I usually got when a DVD didn't work, but I figured that the DVD may have customized itself somehow. I went to get up and eject the DVD, but by then the message had went away. Okay, I thought. 'Cracked' might mean, like, psychologically, when you start to feel a little crazy, and Dr. Crane was a psychiatrist, so... after thinking about things for a few seconds, I actually thought it was kind of funny.
After another 5-10 seconds of blackness, we got video of Frasier's usual apartment. Something seemed off... there wasn't any conversation, any real action... it was just Frasier with his head down on a piano. He was making muffled noises that seemed like tears--not funny sounding ones or anything, either. Yet his head wasn't moving at all, it was sternly down on the top of the piano.
"Alright," I thought. "I guess this was pretty easy to make. Some college kid probably quickly edited some footage from the show together and called it a day."
The crying stopped, and then there was a knocking on the door. "In. Come." was said, but it definitely wasn't in Frasier's voice, it sounded like some kind of Frankenstein, or something. The door opened, and in came Frasier's dad Martin, holding his usual cane.
"Get up, ya lazy ol' knucklehead. Bet you had too many margaritas, or whatever you well-to-do are sipping these days on the way to the Wall Street Journal stand."
Canned laughter was heard. Following that, Frasier lifted his right hand and slammed all of his fingers against some piano keys, doing it entirely without grace, and with his head still entirely down. No sound was heard from the piano, strangely enough.
"You're still all gloom and doom about your failed experiment, aren't you? You gotta cheer up man, relax about the whole thing, go outside and get some air."
That was obviously an awkward line, but was nothing compared to what I heard next.
"oo... know... why... ah... c... c... c... c... can't", Frasier stumbled, in the same Franksteinian voice we had heard just moments ago.
"Can't go out? Can't go out like what? Why?", I thought.
"Pshhh.", Martin waved. "You know, in the force, Larry had half his face shot off. Looked a lot like Two-Face, too. If you're having yourself a bad hair day, you can at least accept that not everybody has the same kingly standards as you do, 'your royal highness'."
Frasier finally lifted his head up, turned around, and... I'm gonna be honest, I screamed like a little school girl.
There was nothing there.
His face was a void. No eyes. Maybe the top half of his forehead and chin, and otherwise, black. Pure black. No light. Just black. No features. Just... void.
I paused the DVD, turned off the TV for a minute or two, and took some deep breaths... in and out, in and out. It's funny, really. It was just a TV show, yet my heart was racing and the sweat glands were goin' off like I was still in puberty.
Good news is that rational thought kicked in sooner than later. "Okay," I thought. As legit as this episode seemed--perfectly synced audio and video, and the set looked exactly the same as it did on the show--this may have just been an elaborate dub, or something. I lit up a fag (... that means cigarette), took a few puffs. "Maybe this was just a Halloween episode.", I thought. "Clever that they'd call this a Christmas ep, too... maybe that's part of the joke."
Damn, I felt like such a chickenbrain... never so gullible before in my entire life. I put out the cig, turned the TV back on, let out a chuckle at Frasier's outer space head, and unpaused.
And then realized that I wasn't just watching a Halloween episode.
There was about five and a half minutes of giddiness and applause--not steady, not static, but up, down, sometimes like a cry, sometimes coughs, like some sort of bizarre punk rock canned laughter symphony. The camera zoomed in and in on the void, and as the fanfare faded, brightly burning red letters filled the emptiness on the screen, panned out to be unmistakably clear.
"Frasier's head is cracked. And so are you." My skin suddenly felt awfully dry, despite all the immediately recent perspiration. Still, I've skimmed enough articles in my time about how impressionable the human psyche is.
"FUCK this DVD! And FUCK whatever this Christmas is SUPPOSED TO BE!", I hollered to myself. I turned the disgusting thing off and stuck it back in its putrid old case and went to make my bed.
Won't surprise you, but I couldn't get to sleep. But it wasn't just a matter of being scared. It was like a trance. I couldn't get that episode of Frasier off my mind.
I laid in bed, in this trancelike state, for hours. Before I knew it, I was maybe 90 or 100 minutes away from having to get showered and dressed and ready for my Monday shift. And instead of steel-toed boots, machines, grinding noises, and my asshole boss and coworkers, all I could think of was Frasier's empty head.
An Ivy League brainiac... now without a brain.
Then I thought about my mother. And I thought about sex for a little bit. ... And then I put the DVD back on, and fast forwarded through a few more minutes of what I assume was emphatic laughter and Martin yapping at Frasier for being a snooty, upperclass individual.
The scene changed to that of a basement. Funny, 'cause I'm pretty damned sure that Frasier's apartment doesn't have one. Hell, I've never met an apartment that did. There were cobwebs, spiders, dimly lit steps, I'm guessing to supply the Halloween feeling (still doesn't make sense, given there's no way Fox ever would've aired this.) And then there were viles full of blood and saliva and randomly hued chemicals and I'm guessing semen. Lots and lots of semen. ...
"You know you fucked your mother down here, right?"
That. Didn't. Make. SENSE! Frasier's mom passed away years ago! Anyone who knows ANYTHING about Frasier knows that! And Martin doesn't say 'fuck'! And Frasier doesn't have a void head! And he doesn't have a basement! And he doesn't sound like Frankenstein! And he CERTAINLY doesn't have sex with his mother!
"F... f... fath-er. She a... wakens.... s... s.. s..."
Alright, you can pretty much slap me senseless at this point, because there was a corpse in a test tube with the letters 'H-E-S-T-E-R' written in... what looked like sperm, right below, on a plaque.
Hester, of course... is the name of Frasier's long deceased mother.
Whatever bind this show had on me, it was tightening its grip on me like Superman on a hamster's head. My face felt dry. I ran my fingers down it, and I... I felt cracks. This show was cracked, and so was I. I don't know how. It was just a DVD. Logically, I should've been able to dismiss it as some sort of college prank.
I brushed my fingers against my face again. It seemed like less of it was there.
I knew I couldn't go out like that.
Written by Cjaymarch84