Author Topic: Under the volcano


Under the volcano
« on: July 03, 2019 »
I don’t really know much about teecee, aka Claudine, other than that she works underneath a volcano – a lair, if you will – along with her business partner Dr Evil. She handles marketing and communications for their firm, Evil Cloud, accepting her lack of equal billing for the greater good, else potential clients might think the name an unprofessional typo.

not to be confused with these vapers

Evil Cloud’s portfolio of services includes, in no particular order, pestilence, plague, chaos, and gender reveal parties – that last one “Pro bono,” according to Claud in a documentary I recently came across on the dark web. “To show that we think of the children.” It's also handy for building a client base for the future.

The programme shed quite a lot of light on what goes on in the undisclosed location. “If we ever get planning permission to make the volcano active again, we may not be undisclosed for long!” joked Dr Evil himself in a wide-ranging interview, unprecedented access being granted in exchange for the ritual sacrifice of the producer at the end of filming, which the unfortunate man apparently also took to be a joke.

Evil and Claud share an open plan office in the currently repurposed magma chamber. It’s actually a very cheery work environment, with modern art on the walls, ergonomic desk chairs, a complimentary masseuse for visitors (they take posture very seriously), and quality Welsh spring water on tap. It goes without saying there’s a well stocked bar. Drinking is frowned upon without coasters.

There’s also a torture chamber/conference room (it’s important to book using the right timecode!) with the latest instruments in persuasion, including an Easton ‘beartrap’ headset adjuster, which is as gruesome as it sounds. “I heard about it on,” said Claud. “It works a charm. We rarely even have to use it – the unveiling is often enough to get results.”

The client list is impressive. “You name them, we’ve helped them,” according to Dr Evil, who can often be found in his lab, where he likes to keep a hand in to avoid death by a thousand papercuts. “We’re often approached by political parties. Client confidentiality normally forbids me from telling you this, but they refused to pay their last invoice, so….” Here he leaned in conspiratorially to the interviewer: “The Greens hired us for that Skripal business. I know, right? But I’m sure they had their reasons.”

The staff have weekly meetings to ensure everybody is aware of what everybody else is up to, to avoid unfortunate injuries, dismemberment, etc. of their own colleagues. A funeral notice on the communal bulletin board, usually reserved for advertisements for flat shares, fun activities, and jokey postcards,

is a sad reminder of the dangers of the business. “We lost the head of HR a few weeks ago in what newsreaders called a freak cricket accident. All because she wasn’t CC’d on an interoffice email,” sighed Evil. “Health and Safety were all over us about that one.” (“Crickey!” headlined the Sun, while the Mail Online posted an exhaustive series of photographs of the sharpened cricket bat, and the thicket where her head was found.)

Evil Cloud take corporate responsibility seriously, earmarking a respectable portion of their pretax earnings for donations to bad causes such as plastic microbead dispersal in the world’s oceans, anti-vaccination disinformation campaigns, and Brexit. “It’s the least we can do,” said Claud, who maintains an impressive Chinese wall between her personal and professional life.

At the end of a busy day marketing mayhem, she tries to put the nature of her work behind her, usually reaching for a bicycle or a beer. “Bicycles and beer,” people said when asked what kept their boss from blowing her top. The more thoughtful suggested, “Beer and bicycles.”

Although much work is done by in-house talent, Evil Cloud has useful contacts everywhere, including the London Museum of Natural History, where an old university mate of Claud’s juggles her research into molecular systematics with freelance gigs in which her knowledge of invasive species comes in handy. We’re a long way from biblical showers of frogs.

What might be termed white-collar plague also comes in handy, as witnessed by the deluge of cheap money, which will eventually lead to financial armageddon. “Who do you think got Mark Carney installed at the Bank of England?” asked Evil without rhetorical intent.

The corporate philosophy is simple: Be evil. “We’ve got to constantly drum it into employee’s heads,” said the new head of HR, Felicity Kendalmint, who's been known to pass out lapel pins with cute little devils on them. “Let’s face it: people are basically good. But we’re running a business in a ruthless and unforgiving environment.

“If you'd rather be good," she added, sticking her finger down her throat for humorous effect, “Go work for Oxfam.” [Kendalmint would later be found half digested in a walrus, the coroner ruling death by natural causes.]

The firm nearly suffered an extinction event last year when the prop master for their amateur theatre group used a live warhead for a production of Dr Strangelove at the Fringe. Dr Evil, meant to play the lead, noticed the geiger counter on his keychain going crazy and evacuated the premises just in time, though most of the accounting department were turned to graphite right in the dress circle. “Work hard, play hard,” said Claud soberly. “These things can happen in an organisation temperamentally attracted to risk.”

Business is booming. This is due to many factors, including canny investment in television shows such as the recent docudrama Chernobyl, which research shows helped stoke unease enough to have an affect on the bottom line. Call it a kind of cold war nostalgia. “Scared people hire scary companies,” the marketing guru said simply. “We can’t do product placement as such, so we’ve had to learn to be creative.” To balance out the more troubling aspects of the job, she’s on retainer ghostwriting tweets for several comedians.

As the documentary ended and the credits rolled over the agonised screams of the producer being fed to the beartrap, I reflected on how I really hadn’t known Claud very well at all.