December 19th, 2000 by Clark Humphrey

(WHEN WE LAST LEFT BENNY BUCKS, the wannabe dot-com magnate was in the the worst nightmare of his life. It all started when he told the employees of his company RevolutioNet that they all had, and should want, to work on Christmas. His head programmer, an aging computer geek named Pratt, said he had an ill boy to take care of and couldn’t come to work that day. Benny stormed back and threatened to fire anybody who didn’t work on 12/25.

Afterwards, Benny dreamed that a Spirit of Christmas Past had showed him how his own childhood holidays had all been ruined by his selfish attitudes. Next, a Spirit of Christmas Present showed him how everybody he knows was having a happy holiday, or was at least trying to, while he remained trapped in his self-made prison of attitude and hate. Just as he began to feel the first stirrings of long-repressed emotions, he was abandoned into a dark, silent space, alone with his thoughts and what little conscience he might have had.)

THE DARKENED, INFINITE SPACE surrounding Benny slowly lightens after about an hour, to appear as the Sky Church auditorium at the Experience Music Project.

He’s standing at the front of the otherwise empty stage, with spotlights on him slowly growing in intensity. To his left and right, he sees high-definition video images projected on the curved rear wall. On the screen to his left, a succession of images from old TV cartoon Christmas specials. On the screen to his right, a fast time-lapse skyline shot with day quickly turning to night and back again. On the digital-surround sound system, an unseen DJ is mixing ambient-techno versions of passages from Handel’s Messiah and Mozart’s Requiem.

At this point Benny vaguely remembers an old story, one he’d never bothered to read because it was neither science fiction nor Ayn Rand. He deduces that a Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come will show up, and he hopes it’ll look like that cute goth-teen Angel of Death from the Sandman comic books.

Instead, it turns out to be a mute, black-robed version of Anais, the slightly pudgy punk-rock teanager who hangs out at the coffeehouse with her pudgier punk-rock mom.

Anais moves like a sprightly girl trying hard to be ritually solemn as she leads him through the wall in back of the stage and into a swirling, flawless sea of light and color, the visualized Cyberspace straight out of a William Gibson novel.

Benny floats, free from gravity or any known means of propulsion. It takes a moment’s getting used to but Benny begins to enjoy the carefreeness, the total lack of pressure or force–until he lands with a thud on a damp lawn on a dreary, drizzly afternoon.

Anais floats gently down to earth. She notices Benny, while dazed and shaken, still manages to look up her robe. She seems not to mind. As soon as she touches ground, she stands him up, dusts him off, grabs his arm, and drags him over a short hill.

There, they find themselves at a cemetery, overlooking the funeral of Pratt’s young son. The family and mourners exceed two hundred, overflowing the little corner of the cemetery and rising up the small hillside.

A nationally known political leader stands up to give the eulogy. He mentions how the son might have been saved if his condition had been treated early enough, but that had become impossible when Benny’s company’s HMO canceled his coverage. He mentions how the son’s case had become a global cause celebre that finally led to the introduction of universal health care in the U.S.

The speaker asks the Vice President of the United States to stand and take acknowledgment for helping this get passed. Benny’s not at all surprised, but still disturbed, to see a middle-aged version of his old corporate rival, Demographic Debbie, rise and wave and grin her perfectly perky grin to the admiring throng.

The audience applauds when the speaker proclaims how one boy’s courage, and one family’s perserverence, has changed the world.

Benny’s moved, at least a little, by the stirring speech. Then he talks out loud (nobody but Anais can see or hear him, of course) that the power of one person to change the world was what his company, RevolutioNet, had all been about.

As Anais stares at him silently, Benny concedes that the one person whose power he’d always had in mind was himself, and the changes to the world he’d had in mind were to draw more money and power his way. But I had the idea right at least, didn’t I? Shouldn’t that count for at least something? SHOULDN’T IT?

The still-silent, deadpan Anais turns and walks away. Benny follows her across the cemetery grounds. The drizzle turns to rain, then stops. The clouds clear to show the sun far lower in the sky. The air turns bitterly cold. It is now winter.

Anais stops in a forlorn part of the cemetery. A damp, shivering Benny spies an open grave, in front of a gravestone with his own name. A minister rushes through a perfunctory speech. The pallbearers (all in cemetery grounds-crew uniforms) stare at their wristwatches and listen to personal stereos. There’s only one mourner; a veiled female of indeterminate age.

So, a newy-somber Benny tells Anais, that’s supposed to be what happens to me, huh? I don’t become rich and powerful, admired and feared. Instead, I die unloved, unmourned, and unnoticed. Except by her. Who is she? You’ve got to tell me.


Anais nods her head, and with her right hand beckons him to follow her again. They walk into a small group of trees and through a brick wall into a modestly-sized, but adequately decorated apartment. Only the exterior-facing wall is brick; the others are regular wallboard.

The woman from the funeral enters and removes her veiled hat. It’s the ex-fiancee Benny had jilted so long before. She greets her college-professor husband and a couple of well-behaved children. She tells them how sad Benny’s funeral had been. She wonders out loud if Benny ever could have turned his life around, to embrace life and love rather than caring only for money and himself. Maybe, she says, there had been such a time once.

Benny’s eyes wander. A mortgage notice on a rolltop desk identifies the building as a moderate-income unit maintained by a cooperative society. Then Benny notices something familiar about the brick wall. The pattern of the bricks reminds him of somewhere.

Then he sees holes in the mortar. Holes he remembers having drilled himself.

It hits him–this affordable-housing unit was remodeled from the former loft offices of Benny’s long-kaput company.

Benny screams himself awake.

He comes to a realization, an epiphany, a Big Idea. He has to change his life, to make sure that the future he saw never happens.

Specifically, he decides he has to work even harder to make sure that his company survives, that little people like his ex-fiancee never get to upstage him, and the bleeding-heart liberals and the welfare statists will be thwarted from ever coming back to power.

In other words, Christmas is not only still canceled at the office, but so is New Year’s.

His all-points email memo lists the amount of time (10 minutes tops) that can be taken off at midnight for a champagne toast in the conference room (with any beverages and party favors to be purchased by the employees themselves).

After sending that email, Benny searches websites for a special treat he’s giving himself, from company funds he’s recently discovered he still has access to. He’s going to spend New Year’s on a private island off Costa Rica, with the best cigars, alcohol, and women money can buy.

Christmas, Benny thinks, is a holiday for losers.

But New Year’s. Now that’s his kind of holiday. No religious crap; just partying–and resolutions.

Benny’s already resolved to be even more revolutionary in 2001 than he’s been in 2000.

OPTIONAL EPILOGUE: In an alternate version of this tale, Pratt the programmer and the other RevolutioNet employees receive a merry Christmas after all. They arrive at the office, only to find an email printout taped to the locked front door. The company’s executive chairman Deborah Grafton (Demographic Debbie’s real name) has rescinded the work-on-Christmas order and, with support of the investors’ committee, has suspended Benjamin Buchan (Benny Bucks’s real name) from all corporate duties pending further review. In another part of the city, Benny can be seen pouting and moaning as the lease company comes out to repossess his company-leased Mercedes SUV.

TOMORROW: At last, the highly awaited MISCmedia In/Out List for 2001.


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