Cards Against Humanity

July 5th, 2014, 9pm

Described as “a party game for horrible people”, he couldn’t think of many other times a brief like that had been so apt.

He’d not heard of Cards Against Humanity until someone he trusted brought it to his attention. “It was so fun!” they said, and “I wish you were there to play it with us.” He did some research, watched a few YouTube videos of how the game played out, and gained a fair idea of what the game entailed. When an invitation to join a night of Cards Against Humanity popped-up on his phone, he was all too eager to accept, believing that what he had read and seen could prepare him for the night ahead.

From what he had found out, the game required a certain sense of humour, which he believed he had. Spending all those years taking up the jester-like role in social situations, even at his own expense, (he had learned it was far easier to make people laugh with him than love him, because when you’ve got them doing the first, they often mistake it for being the second), he felt well equipped to handle the evening.

Instead, it led to a frank discovery about who he really was.

Once the night was underway and the players gathered in a room to play the game, he recognized certain elements from his brief internet research. Here: the black deck of cards that contained fairly innocuous questions; each person would take one and ask a question when it was their turn. And there: the white deck of answer cards; written on each a line or phrase that appealed to a dark sense of humour that took residence in the gutters of the human mind - everything from misogyny to questionable sex acts, white privilege and every other politically incorrect shade of dark grey to black in between.

His job, and every other player’s job, was to use one of those answers for the question being asked, with the winner being decided by whoever’s answer made the questioner laugh the most. So to win, he had to dig deep, leave his morality at the door, and think in tangents that would disgust and surprise everybody in this mutual race to the bottom rung on the ladder of social acceptability.

When the first round of answers were read out, he was surprised at how unprepared he really was. “Oh my God, that’s horrible!” he shouted and laughed at the same time. He knew ‘ambivalence’ was the word to describe the experience of 2 conflicting emotions, yet he didn’t know the word for the experience of how his disgust and humour were complimenting each other so well. It made him laugh some more, until shame stole his mirth.

The others only laughed at his naivety.

“That’s kind of the point!” someone responded, so for every question after that, he searched inside him for more of anything that would assist in this race to reach moral rock bottom.

And it was then he found a well of dark humour that lay inside him.

The well was bottomless. Every time he would go in to ask for more, and every time the well provided, but not without a price. He would stare into its murky waters, searching, and wherever he looked he could feel something in the water staring back at him. Yet, in search of the answers to help him win this game, he stared and stretched out his hand to take whatever the dark waters would give, not knowing that when he did so, it was the well that was instead taking small slivers of his being as payment.

The well, he thought, was very obliging to give up its secrets, and for that he was grateful. In reality, it was he who was very obliging to give up his humanity, and for that the well was grateful.

It worked though - the more he gave, the greater his chances of becoming the winner of that round. He never recognized that the immediate gains were clouding the long-term costs - his sense of delayed gratification was one of the first things he lost to his inner darkness.

He knew to leave his moral compass at the door, but he stupidly brought it along for the ride. It was quickly discarded however, and spent the rest of the night hovering just outside the borders of his attention, not caring in which direction it pointed as he no longer cared to take guidance from it. Still, he couldn’t shake the feeling that it was doing whatever the compass equivalent of a head shaken in disapproval would be.

When the game and the night was over, he took stock of what had happened. It was then he noticed the large discrepancy in his moral balance. Desperate to find the gap in his accounting, he searched himself for what were now just vestiges of his moral compass. He discovered it, smaller than he remembered, bashed and broken, punched into near oblivion leaving fist imprints that looked very much like his own. When he finally recognized the damage for what it was, he learned then that he could no longer call himself a good person.

Or maybe he learned that it was silly that he ever believed he was a good person at all.

This story originally appeared on my website

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Emanuel Rabina

Emanuel - developer, designer, blogger, and baker - lives in New Zealand. His life, and blurb, are a work in progress.

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