Estimated reading time — 9 minutes
Frank, Thomas, and Kirby enter the office break room at approximately 12:25 pm on a Tuesday afternoon. Each man holds various containers designed for holding food and drink, and as they lazily slump into the fiberglass chairs that were haphazardly pushed under the table after their previous uses, the room echos of violent thwop-pops and elongated scraw-jips as Tupperware lids fly open and velcro bags release their treasures.
“God dammit!” Thomas rolls his eyes.
Frank, with a mouth full of cold pizza, mumbles in empathy, “Wife packed ya tuna-salad again, huh.”
Thomas tosses the soggy sandwich down onto the table with a resounding glop.
“She knows I hate this stuff! I swear, I’ve almost reached my breaking point with this shit!”
“Why don’t you just pack your own lunch.” Kirby attempts to speak through teeth caked with salad. A drip of ranch dressing falls from Kirby’s lip and collides with the table. Thomas just glares at Kirby in disdain.
“You don’t get it, man. I’ve told her, like, fifty times. ‘I don’t like tuna-salad’, but does she listen? Nooooooo!”
Thomas raises his right hand to his forehead.
“I swear, I’m up to here with this!”
“Well, at least you’re not like that one guy.” Frank wipes his mouth of the residual pepperoni grease with a cheap paper napkin.
“What one guy?” Thomas looks at Frank in slight confusion.
“You talking about that guy from CompuTools? I heard about on the news last week.” Kirby chimes in, he has already begun digging into his pudding cup.
Thomas spins around to Kirby, “What the hell are you guys talking about?”
Frank, wipes off his hands with another napkin, folds his hands in front of him and leans in quietly. Thomas and Kirby follow suit.
“Y’see, there was this guy over at CompuTools. Nice guy, I hear. What was his name?” Frank concentrates in the ceiling, search for a name. Suddenly Frank snaps his fingers, “Phil Kerbson. Anyway, He was one of those diligent workers, never complained, always got his work done before the deadline. Hell, he would even stay late to make sure that his perfect record was never tarnished.”
Thomas chimed in, “Ugh, I hate those guys!”
“Well, supposedly, CompuTools hired this new hotshot manager. Basic ROTC’d up from corporate, y’know… never lifted a finger in his life and get to skip right to the front?”
Thomas shook his head.
“Exactly. So this guy was brought in to,” Frank raised his finger quotations, “help. And since this douche really didn’t know anything about CompuTools products, he would just bark orders and micromanage everyone. Everyone in the office was buzzing, ‘We’re gonna quit’, ‘Let’s get HR involved’, ‘This guy is completely heartless’, the usual empty water cooler promises. Everyone was in a tiff… except for Phil.”
“Phil would mind his own business and do his work with a silent smile. He would even go as far as asking this new manager, ‘Anything else I can do to help?’ Well, I don’t know if that manager deliberately planned to be this malicious or if it was just common nature for him, but he got this notion in his head… to see how far he could bend Phil until he broke.”
“Starting the very next day, the manager threw the biggest workflow onto Phil’s desk and barked out, ‘I need this done by five o’clock today or you can just pack your shit now!’ or something to that effect. Phil quietly turned to face the manager, smiled his calm innocent smile and said ‘Sure thing, boss.’ 5 O’clock rolls around and Phil walks into the manager’s office and proudly places the completed report onto the man’s desk. ‘Here ya go, boss.'”
“The manager looked up from polishing and buffing his prized six-hundred-pound marble desk to the completed pile of papers with a look of complete shock. How could one man complete that report in only 7 1/2 short hours? His eyes then shifted from the report to glare viciously to look upon Phil’s calm, lucid face. “Anything else I can do to help?” smiled Phil. The manager simply shook his head in disbelief. “OK, well I’m going to head out for the day, sir. You have yourself a great evening.”
“The manager was flabbergasted. He steeled his motives and vowed that he would try harder to break this man’s spirit by the end of the week.”
“Well, the end of the week came and went and still Phil was as cheerful as ever. Always responding to every outrageous task with a happy, “Sure thing.” And then turning in the completed work to the manager at the end of the day with a pleasant, “Anything else I can do to help?” Well, this went on for a few weeks and the manager, now seeing that current efforts were fruitless, now decided that maybe he needed to up the ante. The manager would now bombard Phil with major accounts and lengthy business trips and tedious conferences all to quell his passion that Phil must be broken. But with every new and more difficult task, Phil would embrace it with a ‘Sure thing, boss’ and come back for more with a sunny ‘Anything else I can do to help?'”
“The manager, now at his wit’s end had one more trick up his sleeve. Although his lack of concentration on the job he was hired for was beginning to come under fire, he wanted to give it one more shot before, he himself had to face the firing squad. He got it in his head that it was the breaks in-between each eight hour day that was allowing Phil to wind down regain his bearings, get a good night’s sleep and come back the next day ready for more.
So, with that in mind, he gave Phil the budget report for the following year and told him, ‘I don’t care how long it takes, but you cannot leave your desk until we trim at least five million dollars off of next year’s budget.’ As always, Phil replied with his trademark ‘Sure thing, boss.’ The manager turned away knowing that this task would be Phil’s breaking point. And, like clockwork, Phil came into the manager’s office with the completed budget and handed it to him. ‘Anything else I can do to help?’ The manager looked over the budget, ‘Eh, I really don’t’ like these numbers.’ The manager threw the report back at Phil. ‘Do it all over, and this time… do it right!’ Phil’s smile sagged a little, but soon rebounded and turned around and headed back to his desk.”
“The manager saw Phil’s smile buckle for just a moment and he chuckled to himself that his plan is finally working. Eight O’clock rolls around and Phil returns back to the manager’s office. But Phil looks a bit different. His hair a bit disheveled. His horn-rimmed glasses are now on his forehead. one corner of his shirt has become untucked from his pants. Phil’s stride isn’t as carefree. Phil hands the report to the manager and exasperatedly utters, ‘Anything else I can do to help, sir?’ The manager, now seeing victory close at hand looks at the report, ‘Uh, Phil. I think you made some miscalculations here.’ The manager hands the report back to Phil, ‘Do it again, and remember what I said! You stay until it’s complete!'”
“Phil, dejected, defeated, disappointed, looks at the report in his hands, wiped the sweat from his brow, and scratched the back of his neck. The nearly broken man headed back to his desk to correct his errors. As soon as Phil left his office, the manager closed the door and danced a twisted victory dance. Phil was nearly gone. The manager was going to sleep well that night.”
“At eleven o’clock, Phil trudged back into the manager’s office and handed him the completed and corrected report. Exhausted, Phil asked ‘Is there anything else I can do to help, sir?’ The manager, now a shining example of pure arrogance, threw the report on the floor and exclaimed, ‘Why did you do the budget for next year? I asked you to do the budget for this year. Can’t you even follow simple instructions? I want you to march back to your pathetic little cube and you are going to stay all night in your have to until you do exactly what I ask you to do, or so help me God, I will find someone else who can do it!'”
“Now, no one knows exactly what happened next. But some of the late night stragglers who heard the manager’s tirade claim that as soon as he was finished. Phil took off his glasses, cleaned them off with the corner of his shirt that was still untucked, put his glasses back on and closed all of the blinds in the manager’s office that faced the rest of the room. What came from the room after that was a thunderous crash, and a high pitched shriek.
The door flew open and the manager bolted out of the room with glass shards in his hair, bleeding profusely from his face screaming, ‘CALL SECURITY! CALL SECURITY!’ Witnesses then claim that they saw Phil calmly walk out of the office, his shirt and hands splattered with blood. He held a letter opener in his right hand, now stained with blood. Phil’s calm and happy expression was lost to a visage one person could only describe as berserk. Phil brow furrowed, scrunching his eyebrows into a wide arch.
His teeth gnarled and, according to one person, appeared sharp and pointed. His skin, once pale and fair, now red and scaly. His slick hair now flailed wildly about his head and danced of its own accord. Phil marched towards the cowering manager, ‘sure thing, Sure Thing, SURE THING!’ Phil continued to chant these two words over and over and the volume of his voice continued to climb until he was shrieking.
Phil destroyed everything in his path to get to the manager, who was now scrambling for the elevator. He turned over cubicle walls, hurled the office printer, overturned desks but was still marching at a steady pace. Not once did Phil’s gate increase in speed. The elevator doors finally opened and the manager quickly darted inside. And as he was frantically pounding on the ‘door close’ button, Phil’s arm thrust inside the cabin as the doors were closing. The manager let out a girlish cry for help, and then…”
Thomas, now sitting on the edge of his seat, blinked “Yeah?”
“Well,” Frank continued, “Security hauled him away. The folks that stuck around for the whole ordeal say that they’ve never heard Phil use any profanity, ever. But on that day, they heard curse words so vile, that they almost sounded like they were in some form of ancient tongue, some demonic language. Only by the grace of God was Security able to restrain Phil. As the paddywagon rolled up into the office building drive, witnesses noticed three things. First, that Phil was kicking and screaming the entire time, and was hardly recognizable. Second, that the manager couldn’t stop crying. And thirdly, and the most bizarre, was that they realized what made the thunderous crash in the manager’s office. The six-hundred-pound marble desk, the manager’s prize possession, now lay in pieces outside the office window.”
“So that’s it? What happened after that? There had to have been a trial?” Thomas exclaimed.
“Oh there was a trial, but Phil was deemed mentally unstable to serve trial, so he was committed to the State Hospital over in Brookfield. And everything died down and returned to normal. The manager was brought in to see corporate and he was actually let go because not only did the security cameras record what Phil did to the manager and the office, but they also recorded the manager’s outburst on Phil that caused him to snap in the first place.”
“Just desserts, I say!” Thomas commented. Kirby just shook his head as he started to clean up his empty containers.
“Well here’s the real punchline. And this I got from Sally Boyd over there at CompuTools, she used to be the manager’s admin. After the manager was let go, he was cleaning out his, temporary desk, and to pass the time he had the radio on. The manager left his office for a moment to get some more boxes. As he returned back to his office, she heard on the radio announce ‘Phil Kerbson, committed to Brookfield State Hospital on Monday was discovered missing from his cell earlier today’. The manager froze in horror. And as Sally turned around to see the manager’s expression, the door violently slammed in her face, knocking her backward onto the ground.
As she recovered from her fall, she told me that she could clearly hear the manager pleading for his life. She distinctly heard, ‘Please! Don’t! I’ll Do anything you want!’ And then, a familiar calm and soothing voice came from behind the door, ‘Anything I can do to help!’ Sally pounced for the door, but it was locked, she tried to look through the window, but the blinds were mostly drawn so she only saw the flailing of arms and legs. Sally kicked at the door repeatedly and shouted, ‘SOMEBODY PLEASE HELP!’ But it was too late. As soon as the commotion ceased from inside the office, Sally heard the knob ‘click’ to signal that it had been unlocked. With tears in her eyes, she slowly reached for the knob and opened to door to reveal a gruesome scene.”
“The manager, splayed open from his throat to his pelvis, rib cage and organs exposed. His hands twisted into contorted knots of flesh and knuckle. His face, warped into an expression of unrelenting anguish and fear, eyes wide, jaw locked nose broken and twisted. In his left hand, its last cadence drawing to a close, was the manager’s own heart. Sally and some of the onlookers who had finally gained access to the room then looked up to see the following message scrawled on the bare dingily yellow office wall, ‘We were wrong. He had a heart after all.'”
“Jesus!” Thomas had to hold back the vomit by covering his mouth.
“After that, CompuTools shut down that office, I think they turned it into a… a MegaBuy.” Frank finished his tale with a solemn sip of coffee.
Thomas rubbed his eyes, “Whoa! Wait a minute. Whatever happened to Phil?”
“This is when I’ve supposed to say ‘That’s the strange thing…’ but it’s not really that strange. When they finally opened up the office, the only person in there was the manager. Sally even said she never actually saw Phil, she only heard his voice… or at least what sounded like his voice. And he hasn’t been seen since.”
“That story’s complete bullshit!” Kirby exclaimed.
Frank and Thomas spun around to glare at Kirby for breaking the mood.
“What?” Thomas inquired, “As if you know exactly what happened.”
“I just know that that’s not how it happened.” Kirby calmly stated as he adjusted his horn-rimmed glasses.
“Okay, hotshot. How do you know?” Frank jested
“Because…” Kirby leaned in close. Frank and Thomas match Kirby’s movement. “the hospital doesn’t know I’m gone, yet.”
Just then, Kirby’s manager leans into the break room. “Hey Kirb, I need you to do something for me.”
“Sure thing, boss.”
As Kirby stands up to leave the now still break room, Frank and Thomas glance down at Kirby’s security badge for his full name, Kirby Phillips.
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