“If I’m Not Happy, You’re Not Happy.”
That slogan was plastered over every wall in the factory. It hung over every door. It had been hammered into the heads of the Sloofiewoofs constantly, and it was all they thought of as they sewed every t-shirt, assembled every action figure, stuffed every teddy.
Sloofiewoof Land used to have bright, sunny days and beautiful, starry nights, but now the sky was blanketed with dark grey clouds twenty-four hours a day. In the factory, all the days seemed to blend together into one, with the only indicator of the time being what type of merchandise they made. They knew it was March when they made little Oozies dressed as leprechauns, and they knew it was October when they made little Oozies dressed in pumpkin costumes.
Oozie, once the happiest Sloofiewoof in all of Sloofiewoof Land. Oozie, who had now usurped it all and drained it of its joy. He turned the bubbly shrubbery into skeletons of their former selves, he removed all the grass to make way for a grey, cracked ground, he created bizarre and hideous monsters to roam and terrorise his kind.
He no longer had any happiness. If he wasn’t happy, nobody could be.
That was why he forced the others of his kind to work in his factories, creating merchandise with his face to be given to him and him alone. Bluff and Fluff the twins, Munchy the food connoisseur and ABC Arnold the alphabet-loving postman, all working in hopes of reigniting the joy in Oozie. Sometimes Oozie would come to the factory, look at their wares, and an iota of his happiness seemed to return. He would smile and say ‘Very good’ and when he would leave, the workers all looked outside in hopes that flowers would spring and songs about counting up to a hundred would fill the air once again.
Still the days would be overcast. Still the other reason for the hard work would exist – the blubbery, fanged beasts looming over the Sloofiewoofs, who licked their lips at the thought of one of the Sloofiewoofs slacking off and thus being their meal.
Soft toys, figurines and clothes with Oozie’s face, created and collected, and then sent to the medieval tower that loomed over all of Sloofiewoof Land, engulfing it in its oppressive shadow. There, Oozie lived alone, spending hours sitting down in quiet contemplation.
Oozie still bore some resemblance to how he looked in the old days. His fur was still orange, and he had a bright blue nose, and he was never seen without a top hat and tails. His fur and nose, however, had lost some of their saturation, and while he once wore sparkling clothes, his outfit now looked like that of an undertaker.
He sat on a wooden chair, staring at the TV that hadn’t been turned on for years. The TV that used to show his beaming face. He stared, and almost didn’t notice the lump of lard slithering in to deliver his latest batch of merchandise. Though he could easily conjure up products with his face on himself, he felt that someone else creating something to do with you felt more special than doing so yourself.
He looked at a t-shirt, one with the bright, happy face of his former self, and waited for that glow he had felt years ago when everyone in Sloofiewoof Land had given him birthday presents, that glow he felt when he performed a stage show and everyone applauded, that glow he felt when sales of the first doll made in his image skyrocketed.
It never came.
Still his stomach felt like a bottomless pit.
Still his mind bellowed the same old words of discouragement.
Another flabby monster materialised into the room.
‘Go away,’ said Oozie, and the two monsters slid away, leaving Oozie alone once again. Alone to ponder on what had turned him this way. Alone to remember the jeers and the insults that had been thrown his way over the years. Alone to embrace his sadness and stare at the blank screen of the cobweb-coated TV.
It turned on.
What greeted Oozie on the screen just then was a re-run of the 70’s British children’s show Henry Hop. A show infamous among nostalgic types due to Henry being an unnerving, poorly-put-together puppet. Stitches were visible, making him resemble a Frankenstein-created bunny, and his eyes seemed to pop out of his burlap sockets.
That was nothing compared to what was on Oozie’s screen at that moment. A patchwork quilt draped over a rabbit skeleton, one with actual human eyes, singing a song about how much he wanted to go to the park.
Oozie knew he did not imagine that.
Though he wanted to switch the TV off, or even smash the screen somehow, he remained frozen in his seat, even when the show cut to static and the new Henry materialised before Oozie.
‘Who are you?’ asked Oozie.
‘Didn’t you see the intro?’ replied the zombie rabbit, ‘I’m Henry Hop.’
‘No…’ Oozie squeezed his eyes shut and attempted to imagine something to use against Henry – a hunter, a fox, the good old-fashioned falling anvil…
‘That power of yours has more limits than you think,’ said Henry, ‘It certainly doesn’t work where I come from. You see, I was just like you. When people said my show was creepy, I didn’t like it. I was miserable, and made everyone in my life miserable. Then I died and ended up in Heck. What you just saw on the TV was a special version of my show I film in Heck and show to the people in Hell.
‘You see, Heck and Hell are separate places. Heck is where kids’ show characters like us end up when we die, while Hell is the afterlife for big boys. I’m here because I want to spare you my fate. When I was alive and miserable about how people saw me, I may have wrote angry rants and not tipped at restaurants, but I didn’t force people to make crap with my face on!’
Henry floated right up to Oozie’s face, forcing him to look him right in his bloodshot eyes. ‘This little empire of yours can’t last forever. You know, beware the ides of march and all that.’
‘You’re just another one,’ grumbled Oozie, ‘another one of those people who get a rise out of torturing me. Haven’t I suffered enough?’
‘You like being miserable, don’t you?’ snarled Henry, ‘You do feel joy, but it’s not exactly a productive type of joy. The joy of being a victim. You have all this power, all these minions, all this merchandise, and the sense of superiority that comes from being a victim. You do what you do because you can blame someone else for them.
‘But you weren’t always like that, were you?’ Henry said as the TV showed something familiar to Oozie:
It’s a bright and sunny day,
So why don’t you come this way,
We’ll have some fun and play
With the Sloofiewoofs!
Oozie leaned forward to once again watch the show he owed his life to. Bluff and Fluff the twins, getting up to some mischief. Munchy the food connoisseur, talking about why it was important to eat fruit and vegetables. ABC Arnold the alphabet-loving postman, talking about what began with the letter B. Bee began with B. Bird began with B.
‘And speaking of birds, let’s visit Oozie and his house of imagination!’
And there was Oozie’s past self, his colours almost blinding his present self. ‘Okay,’ said Oozi, ‘if everyone’s all comfy-womfy, let’s imagine our favourite birds! This bird can’t fly, it waddles around, it lives in the South Pole, can you imagine what bird it is?’ A short pause followed, and then a penguin appeared next to the past Oozie. ‘Right! It’s a penguin!’
‘Don’t show me this crap!’ cried the present Oozie, ‘This is what started the whole thing!’
‘Exactly,’ sighed Henry, who then showed another image on the TV. A “Kill Oozie” flash game on the internet. Click on a picture of Oozie and bloodstains and bullet holes show up on him.
A group of schoolchildren, singing to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle”: ‘Oozie, Oozie, he is dead, I went and shot him in the head…”
A parent, watching The Sloofiewoofs with his son, sighing when Oozie came onto the screen.
‘You see?’ said Oozie, ‘Is it any wonder I became the way I did when people treated me this way, just because I was trying to educate and entertain kids? Every day it was “Ha ha, Oozie is stupid” or “Let’s kill Oozie!”’
‘You really let that get to you? You did, and you spent days wallowing around in self-pity. “Nobody likes me, waaah”, overlooking all the children who religiously watched you…’ The TV showed children glued to the screen. ‘…the drawings they made of you…’ Crude cartoon crayon renditions of Oozie in a sunny field. ‘…the nostalgic adults…’ A man in a charity shop, buying a cheap Oozie toy, and then displaying it on his bookcase. ‘…and all the money you made.’ Men in business suits, throwing around cash.
‘Then you realised the power you had. If you could bring a penguin into existence, you could bring anything. Thus you created monsters, and usurped all of Sloofiewoof Land with them. From your imagination sprung the factory, all because when you tried to think of happy memories, all you came up with was material things. Thus the show became too depressing, and it got cancelled.’
The TV showed another clip of The Sloofiewoofs. Munchy again, singing about apples. Then it transitioned to an emaciated version of Munchy, one with dark circles under her eyes, robotically sewing together a soft toy. When that was complete, she was handed another one, with her saying absolutely nothing.
‘Look at what you’ve done to your friends,’ hissed Henry, ‘and all because you want to feel loved. Your friends already loved you, and made you things to show you their love.’
On the TV, there was the healthier Munchy again, along with Bluff, Fluff, Arnold and others. They sat around a bowl, mixing eggs and flour and cocoa and butter, putting their mixtures in the oven, decorating the resulting cake with pink icing, gumdrops and candles. ‘Oozie will love this cake,’ said Fluff.
‘Yes, as long as Munchy doesn’t eat it first,’ giggled Bluff.
‘They loved you and put in so much effort to show it, and this is how you repay them?’ Henry held up an Oozie doll. ‘This means nothing. This wasn’t created out of love. It’s as soulless as this.’ The TV then showed the opening to the 90’s cartoon Radical Skateboarding Dudes Yo.
‘Stop showing me this crap,’ snarled Oozie, ‘just leave me alone.’
‘You must watch.’ With a flick of his paw, Henry seemingly forced Oozie’s eyes open, and forced his head to look towards the screen. On it was Bluff, in the clutches of one of Oozie’s monster minions. ‘You were slacking,’ the monster growled, before opening its mouth and adding, ‘I’ve been looking forward to this!’
‘And after he and his friends made you that big cake,’ said Henry.
Oozie gasped. ‘Is this…’
‘This is actually a glimpse of the future,’ explained Henry, ‘or how it may be if you carry on like this.’
Before the monster could bite Bluff’s head off, his twin Fluff rose out of his seat. ‘Don’t you dare hurt my brother!’
The monster cackled. ‘Or what?’
Fluff grabbed an Oozie Cutlery Set and from it pulled a steak knife plastered with Oozie’s face, plunging it into the heart of the monster. The monster fell, and the others actually backed away. Munchy arose too, laughing wildly at the death of one of her oppressor’s. She leapt towards the corpse, and licked the blood that trickled from it. All of a sudden, more food materialised: bananas, grapes, apples and plums fell from the ceiling.
‘I wonder,’ said Bluff, as he licked off some of the blood as well. Sure enough, he made a glass of water materialise in front of him and he guzzled it down. Then he conjured up knives for everyone in the factory. ‘Their blood gives us a fraction of his power!’ cried Bluff, ‘Get stabbing!’
More monsters were stabbed. More blood was consumed. All the Sloofiewoofs stood outside Oozie’s tower, holding hands as if about to sing a protest song. Instead, what they did was imagine their own monster, what looked like a huge melting marshmallow with fangs.
It roared at the tower.
The tower and everything in it disintegrated away.
No, not everything.
The future Oozie fell to the ground, surrounded by his former friends.
A rifle, a gigantic rifle, appeared out of nowhere, above Oozie’s face.
The sun rose again. The ground regrew its grass. The sky was once more blue.
Yet not a smile could be seen.
‘We…’ Arnold shuddered. ‘We did it.’
‘Well, we’ve fantasised about doing it,’ said Munchy, ‘and now we’ve done it.’
‘All these years of teaching people to be nice each other,’ said Bluff.
‘…and how to solve problems through non-violent means,’ added Fluff.
All the Sloofiewoofs stood in silence.
The TV switched itself off. Henry vanished.
‘Come back!’ cried Oozie, finally getting the strength to get out of his chair.
With him back on his feet, he walked to a window, one where he could see his lugubrious little factory. Even from where he was he could hear the roars of the “staff” and the clanking of the machinery.
With a sigh, it vanished, leaving the Sloofiewoofs standing confused in a clearing.
The grey clouds were wiped away, revealing the sun. Grass sprouted from the ground and the trees regained their leaves. No monsters prowled the lands, as they were all replaced by little sparrows.
Out from the tower came Oozie, regaining his colour himself. He stood before his people, who all still scowled at him.
‘After all the torture you put us through,’ snarled Munchy, ‘why should we forgive you?’
With a click of Oozie’s fingers, music filled the air.
‘I’m very very sorry,
I’ve been a bad bad boy,
I know I’ve been a meanie,
I know I did annoy,
But I’m very very sorry,
As sad as I can be,
So, my friends, I ask you,
To forgive little me!’
All the Sloofiewoofs embraced Oozie in a big hug.
‘Let’s have a party!’ cried Oozie, conjuring up cakes and ice cream and balloons. ‘Maybe if we’re happy enough, we can get our show back on air! I’m happy, and I’ll make you happy!’