"I Think, Therefore I Ant."
Satan’s New Image
Carl Frond had not slept well in 27 years. The bone scorching heat was bad
enough, there was no doubt about that, but worse -- far worse -- were the damned
fires. Every morning, without fail, Carl spent at least ten minutes
extinguishing the flames in his bed and smothering the small blazes in his
toupee with his one and only pair of pants. It was a bitch of a way to greet the
day, but, on the upside, things only got worse after breakfast…
ornate ticker tape machine spewed a steady stream of numbers across the large
oak desk in Satan’s office. After casting a glance at the door to make sure that
no one was watching him, The Prince of Darkness reached into his desk drawer,
removed a small pair of wire-rimmed spectacles, put them on and settled down to
the business at hand.
had been crunching the numbers of the damned for the past week, and the results
had done nothing to improve his already foul mood. Business was down for the
eighth quarter in a row and while the gates of Heaven had been forced to open a
second wicket, Hell’s waiting room was sadly under used. Satan removed his
spectacles, wearily made his way to his office window and looked out at the
tormented souls of the eternally condemned. There was no doubt in his mind that
they were a pathetic looking bunch. If he was ever going to return Hell to its
former glory he would have to make some changes. He needed a way to make Hell
more appealing to the mortal masses that so recently seemed to live low fat, sin
free lives. Satan shivered at the thought and buzzed for Morag.
morning it was the same drill. Carl wandered through the frightening corridors
of the abyss leading to the cafeteria where he sat down to a plateful of his own
intestines. He sprinkled them with salt, took a small mouthful, screamed and
washed it down with a glass of non-alcoholic beer and a chaser of luke-warm
urine. After his meal, Carl was poked liberally in his buttocks with various
multi-pronged spears and then sent off to his 16 hours of swimming in the sea of
fire and brimstone. For the first 20 years it had been a pretty rough haul, but
Carl was slowly getting into the swing of things and had learned to find some
small comfort in the predictability of his daily routine. At least he knew he
wasn’t going to spend his days splayed out on a rock while a pack of
three-headed vultures picked at his eyes. From what his roommates had told him,
that was a real grind.
Satan’s secretary, Morag, listened to her master patiently as he described the
predicament that Hell was facing. It was a matter of pride, he explained, the
number one sin. That Hell should just drift off into oblivion was unacceptable.
There was too much history, too many fond memories and, god-damn it, he had
invested too much of himself in it to sit idly by and watch it’s decline. Satan
stared at his wretched little minion and waited for her to reply; to offer
something, some words of advice, consolation, anything. As he waited for some
sign of understanding to cross her face it occurred to him that this
bandy-legged crone embodied everything that was wrong with Hell. What kind of a
successful operation today had a 17th century whore who was still trying to
comprehend the alphabet as a secretary? She knew nothing about computers; her
short hand was literally that -- the result of inbreeding, disease and a poor
diet -- and her only interpersonal skills were disgusting offers of cut-rate
sexual congress. Satan waved her from the room and tried to ignore his throbbing
temples. There had to be a way to bring Hell into the 21st Century, to make it
more...marketable. He spoke the word aloud. “Marketable.” It hung in the air.
All Hell needed was a little image massage.
Fortunately for Satan, most successful image consultants and PR people were also
hopeless boozers, idolaters, adulterers or coveters -- and the small percentage
that weren’t could be counted on to be sodomites. All in all, the underworld had
no shortage of the media savvy set. He consulted his Rolodex and made a short
list of the damned that might be appropriate candidates to help.
had just finished being flogged by a particularly sadistic imp named Larry when
he saw his friend Hermes hanging from the gallows. He waded through the flames
to join him. Hermes was always good for his daily “hot enough for you?” joke,
and their friendly chats broke the tedium and unimaginable physical agony of the
sea of fire. Hermes was in the midst of a 14th Century knock/knock joke when the
PA system belched to life.
Frond, report to the office of Satan immediately.”
27 years in Hell, Carl had never been summoned to Satan’s office. In fact,
beyond the orientation session he underwent on his first day, he had never laid
eyes on him. Not that he minded. For Carl, life in Hell was not that dissimilar
to life at Henderson, Murphy and Glitch; it was best to stay in the background
and not draw the attention of the uppity ups...
had worked for Henderson, Murphy and Glitch for almost 15 back breaking years;
first as a junior salesman, peddling ad space in their yearly menswear
mail-order catalogue. Then as copywriter for the catalogue itself, then finally
promoted to managing editor. Carl’s flair was in his lack of obvious flair. He
preferred simple copy that captured the essence of the product and eschewed the
flowery, poetic prose of his colleagues. One could argue that it had been Carl’s
knack for the common sense approach that had transformed H. M. & G’s catalogue
into a multi-million dollar a year enterprise. Not that anyone would have argued
that point; or even mentioned it. Or, to be honest, even have thought of it.
Carl’s talents were largely unnoticed and decidedly unappreciated. Certainly
his wife appeared to think nothing of the man. She berated his lack of ambition
and willingness to let others take credit for his achievements. She was in Hell
now too but, fortunately, resided in the 7th ring, so they rarely saw each
other. It had never occurred to Carl to trumpet his virtues and launch himself
into the dog eat dog management arena. No, Carl had been too busy embezzling
hundreds of thousands of dollars into a foreign bank account and planning his
escape to a stress free life in Australia.
years Carl siphoned off cash from catalogue sales, pocketed kickbacks and
quietly went about his business. When the day finally arrived, he simply kissed
his wife goodbye in the morning, got on the train to work, took a taxi cab from
the train station to the airport and jetted off to paradise. Everything had gone
according to plan except for the fact that Carl had fallen down the stairs of
the plane moments after it had landed in Melbourne and broke his neck in three
had always been Carl’s biggest problem.
stopped at the entrance to Satan’s outer office, took a deep breath, and tasted
his impending doom. He steeled himself for the worst and entered. After
disentangling himself from Morag, who thought that perhaps Carl had come for a
discount blowjob instead of a meeting with Satan, Carl reluctantly showed
surprised to see Julia Poppone and David Spawn there as well. Carl didn’t know
either of them personally, but he knew them by reputation and was worried why
he, they and Mr. Satan should be in the same room. Julia and David were both
recent arrivals, and big shots in the world of advertising and marketing. They
both looked at Carl with a combination of interest and amusement. Sadly, noted
Carl, it was more amusement than interest.
then entered the office. The big devil doll of the underworld sat in his large
armchair, scowled and looked the three of them over with unbridled loathing and
a certain amount of respect mingled with disgust and outright contempt. Carl was
pleased to note that Julia and David didn’t look so superior now. Clearly, they
had no idea what was in store for them either.
was quiet for a long time. Carl, freaked out as he was, recognized this as a
standard management ploy used to build tension and emphasis. “I would like to
begin by assuring you that I am thoroughly sickened by the sight of you all.”
Satan started. “You’re all scum and you know it. Your depravity, your loathsome
souls and your very humanity make me want to invent new means of torture.” Satan
paused, his eyes burning like anthracite. “However, I need a favour.”
the next ten minutes, Satan solemnly reflected on Hell’s declining numbers. He
spoke of the pressing need for a new image, a new way to entice the masses to
join the ranks of the damned. Carl was ashen, terrified and most horribly
concerned. This was why he was here? To offer advice on how to make Satan’s
fiery concentration camp more attractive to potential clients?
and Julia’s presence he could understand. They had, unofficially, been doing his
bidding for years. But Carl? He was just a menswear catalogue editor and
embezzler. Clearly, there had been some kind of mistake.
finished his tirade, looked to the three of them and demanded suggestions,
comments, and ideas. Even worse, he would be expecting pitch ideas, image
concepts and a catchy jingle. The rewards for success would be great, the cost
of failure would be unimaginable and heinous beyond anything their limited
imaginations could begin to dream up… This was pressure, and Carl Frond was not
a high-pressure performance type of guy.
Popponne and David Spawn, of course were used to this kind of daily nightmare
and weren’t about to pass up an opportunity to ply their trade and make valuable
points with Satan. Julia stepped forward, one hand on her chin and the other on
her hip. “So what I’m hearing here, if I may, is that we need to find a way to
make Hell a more...viable alternative.”
“Exactly,” offered Satan, lighting a cigar with his fingertip.
a 39-year-old dynamo who had owned a powerful L.A. based ad agency, smiled
cautiously. Carl knew that Julia was a lesbian and that she had killed her
business partner, but he was not sure which of those facts was responsible for
her being in Hell. The rules were so complicated. Julia stroked her
close-cropped hair and tugged on one of her innumerable piercings. “Well” she
added, “I have one question for you. What the Hell is so great about Heaven?”
on cue, David Spawn snapped his fingers and picked up where Julia had left off.
“Exactly!” He roared with his rather odd combination of misguided passion and
pure love of evil. “I mean people see Hell as this place of suffering, of fire
and punishment, but what about Heaven? First off, the place has to be dull. No
parties, no jokes… And an eternity of harp music? Thank-you God no, I’d rather
did kill yourself, but you’re on the right track,” added Julia. David laughed,
but it was clear to Carl that he did not like Julia undermining his authority.
While he was alive, David Spawn had prided himself on striking fear into the
hearts of competitors, clients, underlings, pets, furniture, you name it.
had always admired Satan and the prospect of having him as a client seemed too
good to be true. Secretly, David was confident, he could sell anything to
anyone and was a man of considerable and varied talents; talents that included
ingesting 7 grams of cocaine and 40 ounces of whiskey daily. A habit that led to
his undoing and a paranoia infused jump from his 30th story office window.
Spawn recognized that Julia Popponne hit a nerve and he wanted to cash in on it.
“Right off the bat, I’d say we show people Hell as a place where everyone is
welcome...none of the strict rules of entry that they have in Heaven apply here.
It’s not discriminatory, you can let your hair down...dance, sing, have the
occasional sexual indiscretion. It’s infernal, but informal.”
appeared interested. Maybe he could get Bing and Frank to sing the jingle.
leaned on the edge of his desk. Carl could see that she was checking boundaries,
seeing how much leeway she could get. Carl could only watch. What the Hell did
he have to offer? ‘Get a new tie?’ This was worse than he had imagined. Julia
was now edging her left buttock on to Satan’s desktop.
it’s a party place.” she said. “That’s good. But it also has to be a family
place if you want to make a serious move. It has to be like...like Club Med.,
dirty, but sanitised for your eternal pleasure. It’s like a Bond flick; some
tits and ass, but no insertion shots.”
seemed to be mulling the information over carefully. He looked at Carl. Carl
smiled and gave a thumbs up. Satan scowled and turned back to the pair of
beaming sycophants. David winked at Julia. They were working as a team now, a
team that had no room for the likes of Carl Frond.
well” said Satan, “and just how do we achieve this?”
got off his desk and looked at Satan directly. “Well, we all agree that the key
is to start by playing on the down side of Heaven, right?”
heads except Carl’s nodded in agreement. Not only did Carl feel out of place,
but these ideas they were tossing about struck him as moronic: the type of
‘great ideas’ the flashy idiots at
H. M. & G regurgitated to management on a daily basis.
she chimed on, “we get the idea out that an eternity in Heaven is the mortal
equivalent of filling out an income tax form. Boring, slow and only necessary if
you have no imagination. If you can combine that with a relaxed, fun and spunky
image of Hell, you’re half way there.”
picked up the thread and ran with it. “What we do, is run a negative ad campaign
against Heaven and then start an exciting buzz on Hell. I see a real media
blitz. We get the, and if I may suggest a working slogan, “Helluva Time, Helluva
Place” campaign off to a blistering start, but only on the two coasts. Get the
trend-setters hooked on the idea and the rest of the world will fall in line.”
nodded dementedly and continued. “It’s true. In order for Hell to be truly
chic it has to have time to ferment into the middle class consciousness.”
couldn’t believe that he had laughed out loud. He pressed his hand to his mouth,
but it was too late; Julia and David were now staring at him with a mixture of
amusement and hatred. Sadly, Carl noted it was more hatred than amusement. A
tactical error, Carl thought, but honestly, “middle class consciousness?” It
was too much. Even Satan had to see through this.
eyed Carl curiously. He took a moment to ponder what Carl would look like
headless. It was a concept he should pursue. “You have a comment, fat man?”
smiled to try and hide his discomfort. He was terrified, and as a stout man --
he preferred stout to fat -- who was prone to perspiring, could feel his shirt
dampening and sticking to his back. Carl’s mind raced for something to say.
Should he plead ignorance and hope to be excused? Profess he was out of his
league? Or hope that his ability to faint on cue might save his bacon?
waiting!” Satan roared.
felt his stomach twist. His entrails were not sitting well. He opened his mouth
and left it to the fates. “Well...uh...frankly, I don’t quite understand the
tactics that these two seem to be...uh...embarking...taking. It seems...well,
uh, you know...phoney.”
David and Julia’s turn to laugh now. They had long ago written Carl off as a
useless relic but now they realized just how entirely out of his depth he was.
Satan rose from his chair and walked slowly over to Carl. At 5’5”, Carl barely
came up to Satan’s demonic shoulders. The Devil clasped his hands on Carl’s head
and lifted him to eye level. “Explain yourself, Fraud.”
“Frond, actually, Carl. W.”
be the judge of that. The judge, jury and executioner!” Satan dropped Carl
abruptly and waited.
adjusted his tie. Why the Hell did he have to die in his winter suit? Why hadn’t
he changed into a pair of shorts before he got off the plane? There was no
turning back however; Satan was waiting. “Well, your excellency, these ideas
seem very fancy and grandiose, but in my experience smoke and mirrors don’t move
the product. I think that repackaging Hell as some kind of 3000 degree, Howard
Johnson’s is not going to address the real problem.”
Satan’s interest was piqued. “And what exactly is the real problem?” he asked.
It’s… You...Satan...Mr. Satan...yourself.” David and Julia gave each other a
sideways glance and waited for Carl to explode, or implode, or something. Carl
realized he had not picked his words as carefully as he would have liked. Satan
appeared dumbfounded for a brief moment and then turned his wrath on this short,
odious, worm of an embezzler.
dare to say that I...Lucifer; Lord Of Flies, am ‘the problem’?”
needed to be strong. He had backed himself firmly into a corner, but damn it, he
was right. It was time to stand up for himself and show the pair of ad weasels a
thing or to two in the process. It was time for some of the patented Frond
I think of Hell, I think of you Mr. Satan. I mean let’s face the facts here,
you’re the big draw, you’re the one people are here to see. And all I’m saying,
and I mean this with the greatest respect, is that a personal image change is
going to do you more good in the long run than trying to bamboozle people with
some slick ad campaign.”
office fell completely silent as Satan pondered Carl’s words. He walked over to
a full-length mirror in the corner of the room and studied himself closely. Carl
could see the concern register in David and Julia’s faces. He had hit on
something, it was clear, and they saw it too.
continued to look in the mirror. “I had been thinking about making a change or
sensed victory -- he was back. “I think it’s a wise idea, Mr. Satan. I mean look
at you, you’re a heck of a specimen if I do say, but people...well they frighten
easily. First off, there’s the tail, it smacks of some kind of Kentucky
in-breeding, and...” Carl quickly checked himself. There was no point in getting
to cocky too quickly.
turned to Julia and David. “Well, is he right!?” David wasn’t sure what to say,
things had not gone according to plan. Julia reluctantly stepped forward.
“I...for one, am in complete agreement with...with, um, Carl. You need a new
image. To start with, you are red, very, very red.”
red, too ethnic, sort of Commie-like,” proffered David taking his cue from Julia
and hoping his allusions to the 1950’s would appeal to Carl.
you want to be accessible,” Julia offered, “you’re going to have to make some
asserted himself again. He wasn’t going to let these two punks steal his
thunder. Not now, “First off: the horns. Keep them; they’re dangerous but not
threatening, and very marketable. Every kid will want a pair. We’ll push them
during Christmas. Satan -- Santa, what’s the difference?”
suit the shape of your head,” added Julia.
you don’t want to look barnyard!” David screamed, looking desperately for a line
of coke to snort or a window to jump out of.
smiled and rubbed his hands together. He was hitting his stride now and wasn’t
about to defer to anyone, Satan included. Carl circled about Satan’s desk in
silence. “Mr. Satan” he finally said, “I was in the menswear business for a
long time and I can say to you, without exaggeration that it is the clothes that
make the man. Having said that, I look to you, and one word springs to mind.
“Agreed!” David and Julia boomed in doomed unison.
was in full stride now as he cast his eyes downward to the Devil’s majesty.
“It’s an impressive...asset, but not entirely palatable to the general public.
And you should think about a shirt, tie, jacket and what the heck, shoes. The
cloven hoofs would look better with an open toe.”
thought he detected a smile on Satan’s lips. Playing to his vanity had been a
brilliant stroke, and if Satan was serious about changing the face of Hell he
had no choice but to change himself first. Carl looked at David and Julia and
smirked in a way that let them just how far out of their depths they were. Carl
was going to come out on top.
a feeling about you, Frond,” said Satan, “it’s never wise to underestimate a
pork- faced, underachieving little monster, like yourself.” He extended his
hand to Carl, who, unsure if he had just been complimented or insulted, shook it
firmly. “You’ll be my number one man on this assignment.”
and Julia murmured their congratulations. Satan turned them both inside out,
interchanged their sex organs, and buzzed for Morag.
Julia and David were shovelled out of his office, Satan seemed to soften. It was
just the two of them now. Carl had the ear of the big evil and a bright future.
looked at himself in the mirror once more. “You’re sure about this pants thing?”
hadn’t slept well in 3 months. It wasn’t the room, it was nice enough, there was
no doubt about that -- an air-conditioned suite with a king sized bed, mini bar
and satellite TV -- it was the damned pressure. Every morning Carl fitted Satan
into a new set of clothes and every morning he was the object of Satan’s scorn,
rage, insults, humiliations, and nasty physical outbursts. Carl’s body had been
twisted inside out so often he barely recognized his own face. Most days, Satan
tried to squeeze into pants three sizes too small and this discomfort enraged
him so much that his only recourse was to set Carl aflame and then use him as a
human pincushion while alterations were made. It was rough at first, but Carl
was getting used to it. This was the life of management after all, and on the
upside, things only got worse after breakfast.
This Week's 10 Fun Search Terms for
The following are this week’s favorite 10 search queries
people used to get to www.averyant.com
one minute in
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Last Christmas is so 2005...
Shopping Days Left Until Xmas!
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