Our story begins many moons ago.
It was a happy, peaceful time when mankind would run free through the fields, undistracted by needless materialistic rubbish like toothpaste and furniture. All the humans needed to have fun back then was an organic stick and a ball of their own hair, or some pebbles and a bout of cholera. It was a joyous time indeed.
After a long day chasing squirrels around the tofu bushes, the people would snuggle up together and sing Enya songs until they drifted away into a sleep so sound it was as if they had smoked some drugs. But as they lay in slumber, dreaming of the bean curd feast for breakfast, sinister plans were being hatched many miles beneath the dusty ground below them…
In the spacious boardroom that occupied much of the third floor of Hell, Satan was busy trying to get his laptop hooked up to the projector screen. When the powerpoint presentation was finally loaded, the Creative Director of all things evil stood before his satanic sales minions and cleared his throat.
‘Fiends, demons, marketing men, lend me your horns. With extensive research it has come to our attention that the people of Earth are happy. They are happy with their tree houses, they are happy by campfires, they are happy as their hairy pits and bare arses perspire. But we must teach them not to love but only to desire…’
Satan clicked the remote control to bring up the next slide.
‘But my Liege,’ called out Ogilvus, Chief of Global Evil Strategy, ‘how can we teach them just to want when they have all require?’
‘Indeed,’ echoed Saatchini, the Senior Temptation Servicing Consultant who had not noticed the vocal meter that they had going, ‘they cannot possibly guzzle any more granola burgers or collect any more attractively shaped sticks can they?’
Satan smiled (in an evil way). ‘My ghouls I have just the answer for your perfectly good questions. Behold the list of THINGS YOU DO NOT NEED!’
Silence fell around the boardroom.
‘Socks! Laptops! Flaky scalp shampoos! Cheap flights to obscure Swedish cities! Useless acquisitions that will in no way enhance their meagre lives, things they could do perfectly well without yet will come to love like their very own siblings!’
The table flipped as the room erupted into blood curdling laughter and applause. Satan stood up proudly to receive congratulatory handshakes and every demonic creature in the room fell off their chairs in their pinstripe suits, ROFLing. All except one.
‘Grayus!’ called Satan to the solitary demon still sat upon his chair. ‘Why do you not rejoice and ROFL with the others?’
The room fell silent again as Grayus leaned forward in his chair. ‘Well, my Lord, I do have a small question. When all of the humans have their socks and their laptops and flaky scalp medication, well, what then? Surely we can only make them desire until they actually possess the things they believe they want…’
‘Yes yes,’ said the rabble, ‘it would be like a kind of market, a market that had somehow become saturated in some way…’
But by the grin on the master’s face they knew he had clearly thought this through.
‘Do not fret my pretties, for that shall be the greatest trick of them all.’
Above ground the sun had risen and was warming the soft grass on which the humans slept. One of the men had already climbed out of his nest and was preparing for a walk. A voice called out from the weave. ‘Bongo, why are you up so early? Come back to the nest and rub your hairy chest against mine.’
Bongo turned to his wife. ‘No my dear, I must find myself a new stick to pick tofu from the bushes. If I do not hurry the sun will become too strong and burn my bare skin.’ If only there was some kind of protective cream I could rub on it, he thought as he ventured across the fields.
As Bongo skipped down the path he knew so well, a set of flashing lights caught his eye. They were flickering around an opening he had never seen before, a gap in the bushes that led to an unknown embankment by a stream.
Bongo felt a strange attraction to that opening. It seemed to be the sort of gap in the undergrowth that somebody more successful and attractive than him might squeeze into. The sort of stream that would gain him the respect of his peers should he stand beside it for a while, pouting his lips like he wasn’t really bothered.
The stream itself was a minor disappointment, but Bongo knew that when he got back he would tell the others it was actually much more enjoyable, that they should definitely paddle in it sometime. Just as he was devising a nonchalant description of the experience in his head a wizard approached him from the bushes.
‘Hey buddy,’ said the wizard, ‘what’s a good looking chap like you doing round these parts?’
Bongo blushed. ‘Well, er, you know I was just on a little walk. Got to find myself a new stick to pick tofu from the bushes with.’
‘Tofu aye?’ said the wizard, stroking his beard. ‘I bet you’re the kind of guy who likes to maximize his tofu yield, to show all your neighbours who da man. Well I might just have something for you.’
From under his cloak, the wizard produced the shiniest, most elegant stick Bongo had ever seen. The wizard pushed it into Bongo’s hands.
‘It’s basically your premium range fast-action tofu extractor, but feel the handle, you feel that? That is a pre-polished 12 grade handle my friend, with the latest poly-grip technology.’
‘Oh yeah, poly-grip…’ said Bongo.
‘I have only got one left and I was reserving it for someone else,’ said the wizard, ‘but for a good looking guy like you I might make an exception.’
The knowledge that this was the last premium range fast-action tofu extractor that the wizard had in stock made Bongo panic. ‘I will take it! I have 7 acorns I can give you.’
The wizard raised his eyebrows and quickly took the stick back from Bongo. ‘The problem is my man,’ said the wizard, now stroking the stick like a new born baby, ‘this is a 15 acorn extractor. I could probably knock off a couple of acorns but that still leaves you short.’ Bongo looked heart broken. The wizard smiled. ‘I know what we can do, come and have a seat in my office…’
As he neared the camp, Bongo could barely contain his excitement. He had been thinking of the perfect way to show his life changing device to the others. He wasn’t going to simply run up like a dog with a bone in his mouth. That would be undignified. Instead he would make a few remarks about how difficult it is to reach to the highest hanging pieces of tofu, perhaps ask one of his neighbours if they ever suffered sore palms from their sticks. There was a small crowd gathered around the fire and very soon they would all be marvelling at what Bongo had hidden behind his back.
Bongo joined the group but they did not seem to notice his arrival. Somebody in the centre of the group was holding their attention rather too well. Bongo pushed his way to the front to see what commotion was about. They would shortly have something very much more important to think about.
‘It has a 16 grade handle!’ said the voice from the centre.
‘Ohhhhhh…’ said the crowd.
‘The latest multi-grip technology!’ said the voice.
‘Ahhhhhh…’ said the crowd.
‘All the way from Japan!’ said the voice, with no idea where Japan was.
‘Waaaaaah!’ screamed the crowd, with no idea where Japan was either.
Bongo thought he was going to throw up. ‘Could it be that someone has acquired an even better premium tofu extractor than mine? It is impossible! It can’t be!’
‘And it glows in the dark for all your night foraging needs!’ said the voice.
The crowd exploded in cheer and Bongo did indeed throw up, all over his beard. His wife turned to him. ‘What is wrong Bongo? And what is that behind your back?’
‘Nothing,’ said Bongo, ‘nothing at all.’
There was a new table in Satan’s office. In fact, there was new furniture in every office. Over a meal of deluxe sushi, it had been decided that projecting an image of success was the single most important thing in bringing more success to the dark empire. They had also taken on a couple of freelancers to help out with the evil work. They could sit at the old desks.
In the boardroom Satan had already set up the projector. Except this was not an internal meeting. Around the table sat the head wizards, drinking little espressos and waiting to be impressed by the team of devilish experts. Satan got the ball rolling.
‘Gentleman as we all know the last campaign was a roaring success. The demand for shiny sticks has gone through the roof. The acorns are rolling in, with nut collecting organisations springing up across the land. The question that I am sure has been in all your mind’s is ‘What do we have next?’’
The wizards all nodded at each other half-heartedly and then looked back towards Satan like children with too many toys.
‘Well,’ said Satan, ‘we have a project so big it will keep your families swimming in acorns for generations to come.’
The wizards did not flinch.
‘Our research has shown that the humans’ productivity in acorn collection is inhibited by up 40% by the regular bouts of cholera they suffer from drinking filthy water. Well we have a way to both keep them healthy and increase their work rate.’ He paused for effect. ‘Let me introduce the Water Purification System!’
‘This comprehensive water cleaning system we have developed will not only cost the humans 20 acorns per quarter per head it will actually increase their personal health, meaning they can work up to 62% harder per annum. It’s a revelation in design and public health!’
The wizards leaned towards each other and began a short muffled discussion.
‘No,’ said the head Wizard after about 12 seconds of thought. ‘We don’t like it.’
Satan was aghast. ‘But it’s a revelation! It will keep them healthy! It will make money! It’s perfect!’
The wizards sat stony faced.
‘We were thinking,’ said one of the wizards, ‘about more shiny sticks. But this time, in colour. Coloured shiny sticks. Could you do that? Because if you can’t we know another agency who…’
‘No no, we can do that,’ said Satan. ‘coloured shiny sticks. Of course! It’s brilliant!’ He glared at Ogilvus, ‘Don’t you agree?’
‘Oh yes,’ said Ogilvus ‘Genius idea! Truly creative. Let’s get started right away.’