Darnsworth Products

~4600 words, ~25 minutes reading time

People imagined the worst that cold December morning it arrived, fears flooding their minds; imagined coming downstairs to their TVs stolen, living rooms ransacked, their partners, pets, children gone. Nearly everyone agreed to creeping through their house with a tight chest and an overthinking mind, all of them drawn curiously to a single room in their house. With thumping hearts they peered from the safety of distance, hands shivering as they gripped the nearest wall. There, in the corner or on the countertop or on the charity shop plastic table, was the oddly-coloured device shimmering in the grey, morning light: The Darnsworth Products Coffeemaker. 

It took one morning for Darnsworth to reach a virality of a memefied outrage or a celebrity death. Hundreds of thousands of posts across Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Reddit. Pictures of strangely-illuminated coffeemakers of manifold shapes, qualities, and sizes. An untold number of people thought it a prank; but a great many more thought something very different. That Darnsworth had always existed, that the presence of the coffeemaker in their kitchens was no more surprising than the direction water flowed out of a tap.

This problem is present from the very first post, a tweet:


@sarahxlowett: Does anyone else have these coffeemakers in the kitchen? I asked my dad about it and he said we’ve had it since we moved in. WTF.


If the coffeemaker had been a staple of their family home, why would Sarah Lowett suddenly have forgotten its existence? This amnesia was present in the millions of posts and interactions across social media. The general narrative was: OP would report having asked their parents, or their roommates, colleagues, if that coffeemaker was new; and, upon learning it was, in fact, not new, had been an architectural facet of their kitchens since time immemorial, they had sought refuge online. 

Many attributed this blank in memory to the failings of a younger generation. A large number of posters were often below the age of twenty-five.  

Jessica Sindon of The Guardian wrote of an “obviated time”, of “moments lost to oblivion in the crushing monotony of the everyday”, blaming this mass forgetting on the spread of “corporate ontology” into almost every aspect of our lives.

The Telegraph, meanwhile, ran a story with the headline, Zoomers: The ADHD Generation. Journalist Steve Hackett called the youth of the day a “degenerate group” who “have their heads so far into their phones that the real world simply moves around them.” He added: “This isn’t just some Mandela Effect; this is a complete absence of reality. A mass amnesia. These are the signs of a woefully misinformed and underperforming youth.” He even disciplined his own son, he said, for not remembering the kitchen appliance.

Both articles, however, made the same mistake: the insistence that Darnsworth has always existed. They were quick to diagnose Zoomers as part of a problem and yet neither of them critically assessed the ominous implications of millions forgetting a supposedly household name.

There were two potentialities: either Darnsworth had always existed, and millions simply forgot, or Darnsworth manifested only recently,  implanting itself in the minds of an even larger group of people (since those who could not remember Darnsworth were a minority). 

The UK Government, among many others, was eventually petitioned to address the issue. Multiple countries contributed to a global taskforce to investigate Darnsworth Products for malpractice, for invasion of private property, and for possessing potentially nefarious technologies uncleared by patent registries.

A week after the petition reached its record-breaking number, the head of this taskforce addressed an anxious audience with their findings. 

“There is no such company on any financial registry,” she declared. “Darnsworth Products doesn’t exist.

Conspiracies flooded the internet. Theories that Darnsworth was a secret government program gone wild, or was a mass delusion brought on by world events, invaded minds and thoughts with that virulent ease of flu in a chicken pen across all online forums. Some even argued the government arrested  the Head of Darnsworth and harnessed whatever malevolent technology they possessed. Nasdaq shook like a seismograph as rumours spread about which companies might benefit most from this House-invading tech, stocks tumbled and rose in equal measure.

Everyone missed the point, though. So caught up in the back and forth they failed to see that all this arguing and rumour-spreading and general calamity only served to benefit one entity: Darnsworth. A week after Sarah Lowett’s viral post, Darnsworth was now a naturalised aspect of existing in the universe: solid as the carbon bonds of diamond and as unknowable a black hole’s innards.

A scroll through any social media platform to relax became a futile exercise. Facebook, with its higher word count, was flooded with essay-length testimonials. One father made a post explaining how he had locked away the phone of their youngest son (no doubt on account of the Hackett article) and now was keeping him and the boy’s mother on a 10-coffee-a-day diet. His reasoning? “Darnsworth refills my DarnCups for free! We can’t turn that service down.” Another had a video of their four-year-old daughter unabashedly hugging the coffeemaker, saying without a lick of irony, “Darnsworth is a family product.”

Some abhorred these posts, though that some were a minority. The vast majority of posters enjoyed taking  part, to not feel left out. A comment left on that aforementioned video espoused a “genuine connection to all those following Darnsworth,” going as far as to refer to the girl and the father and others alike as “Darnsfolk,” who knew their “Darn Worth.”

Darnsworth’s virality spread to the listicles as well. A BuzzFeed post bore the title 10 Reasons Darnsworth Shows Us Our Darn Worth. Number one read as such: 


When I was younger, I always wanted to use the coffeemaker. The logo warmed me. Held me like I was a baby in his father’s hands. That’s how I imagined coffee to taste. Togetherness. Dad never did let me have a coffee—not even a small one! But now, at age thirty, I take the time in the morning to have a Darn fine cup of coffee. Because I need to know my Darn Worth!   

Darnsworth grew with each mention and, like all mutating viruses, made the leap to more profitable mediums. Whether you were waiting for an already-late bus, in the queue at the bank, lifting weights at the gym, or sitting in the cubicles of public toilets, everyone talked about Darnsworth. Even those strangers who once walked blindly past each other at shopping centres now stopped, and paused, and talked to anyone returning their newfound enthusiasm. People made clubs, had meetings in bars and pubs, had quiz nights about the Darnsworth Patented Coffeemaker. 

Young children especially were fixated with Darnsworth. It was as though they could not unplug themselves from the product. As though they were born with Darnsworth already in their heads. 

This author’s children spoke of nothing but Darnsworth, some nights refusing sleep, sitting instead in the kitchen, staring at the coffeemaker. They were asked one evening what was the matter. Impatiently they replied, “Shush, Daddy. The programme is on.”  

The author thought it a game. Yet another fad or trend they could not follow.

How wrong they were. How stupid. How–

This author apologises for the intrusion of subjectivity into what is supposed to be an objective accounting of the Darnsworth cascade. It has been a difficult time, and there is not long left before the change, so continuing on from my notes:

Darnsworth’s growth took place over three stages, all of which made use of viral trends of some kind. The first began with the post from @sarahxlowett, which continued engagementfor the first week and a half. It was during this period that the posts moved away from the coffeemakers themselves and toward Darnsworth’s logos and the strange phenomena of the “Two Sides” effect. Tweets, and posts on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and TikTok really took off at this stage, as people responded to each other about what their own Darnsworth logos looked like. Here is an example of this effect in an exchange on Twitter:


@pokemepls: I knew this shit was off for so long. Look at the logo! Its eyes follow u around the room. 


@h0neydue: Eyes? What eyes? I see a donut with empty black sockets sliced into it. 


Both individuals looked at the same image and saw different things! Picture a coin with two observers either side. One will see heads, the other tails. Neither reports are incorrect. They are simply two sides of the same coin. If millions of onlookers see something entirely different when looking at the Darnsworth logo, the only conclusion to draw is that Darnsworth is far more consistent with the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle than with Euclidean geometry. Perhaps it is our human conception of three-dimensional space limiting our perception. In three-dimensional space, Darnsworth is a collection of items across the world bearing a logo, but if humans could perceive four-dimensional space…

There is still the matter of how and why observers see the “sides” they see, the logos. Children often saw smiling cats with big eyes, the letters D and P overlapping to look like an open mouth biting on a lollipop, or dancing coffee beans. For the average bigot, the logo was St. Georgian shields defending a sovereign England, or a racist caricature. 

The image, then, always comforted the onlooker. Darnsworth knows how to placate a person, much like how advertisers mine your data so as to better control the products a customer is exposed to.

This author’s own experience: the Darnsworth logo is the face of a man. A vague impression of a kindly uncle, or maybe even a mixture of several. When this author looks upon him, he sees the same memory every time. 

They walk through a bedewed meadow, mist billowing through overgrown reeds, and a low-hanging sun scorches the sky in a crimson blaze. To the east, where the tomb door of night is sliding shut over the open vault of sky, alien asterisms shake. The man from the logo is beside the bearer of these memories, me, whistling a tune that—

Actually, only now as I recount the memory do I recall where it’s from: my daughter’s favourite TV show.

Forgive me, but I—when I look to the horizon, to the sun on its controlled descent into the earth, shadowy forms stand huddled in a scrum, silhouetted in the dying light. These figures I know intimately. I have seen this memory—if one can even call something a memory before they have lived it—since the arrival of Darnsworth and its logos. But I did not—could not know its significance at the time when I was still with them. With my husband, with my daughter, my son. 

When I was not alone. When I was not sat here in the dark pulling fevers from my sleep, to speak out loud the fall of this world, its Darnsworthification. I have so little time now but I can’t—I can’t think. Darnsworth not only shows what the observer wants most at that very moment; it knows what the observer will want—no, what they will need for the rest of their life.

Again, I’m—this author apologises. The clock ticking away behind the camera keeps smiling. It’s odd, to know it is coming. Not even a death but a change.

I should just get on with it. How the second trend began when another slew of Darnsworth Products manifested. Except this time, fewer people woke with unease, fewer people cared, while more people (mis)remembered the objects. One poster remarked that their Darnsworth Patented Fridge had been a reliable shoulder to cry on through their divorce, where it had always stocked a healthy number of beverages whenever the poster needed to decompress. Another sang the praises of their Darnsworth Patented PotatoPeeler: “Ever since I was a child I wanted to peel spuds. And I remember my mum getting me this Darnsworth Patented PotatoPeeler for Christmas and all morning I washed and I peeled them! With each slice of potato skin I shaved away the stress of the day. Each cut, each spray of starch across my hands, was a cuddle I lost myself in, where I could forget Me.”

While these aforementioned manifestations are fairly quotidian, a larger number of them went by the “Rule of Ridiculousness”: the more odd and strange the item, the more mileage it had on social media when subsequently posted. No longer were Darnsworth’s products manifesting in the living room as something as average and normal as a pine table, instead came fish sculptures made of discarded bottle caps, realistic models of moons that stank of rotting flesh, pet fish that choked in water and needed to swim in Diet Soda (which eventually became Darn Soda). One person even found a seashell in their living room. Its conical opening gave off the impression of infinity, and when lifting it to the ears, it susurrated in deep, dulcet tones, “The Black Ocean hears you.” 

At the height of this nonsense, rumours began to spread in the media about the leaked findings of an article soon to be published in NATURE. Reports, newspapers, Tweets, TikToks, everything posted wild speculations on what the article could be. The more incensed followers of Darnsworth argued that it would be an article on the benefits of the company to the mental health epidemic. Those who often didn’t remember Darnsworth, however, suggested it might have led to a breakthrough in quantum mechanics, or in the many worlds theories. Much like the groundbreaking revelation that the universe is not locally real, in that photons decide their spin when observed, Darnsworth’s logos collapse into a static logo by being observed by a psyche. A war broke out across all platforms between the Darn Folk and the then-dubbed Darn Haters. Just as protests began brewing in city centres, as online vitriol oozed from digital spaces and into the unkempt and weed-ridden roads of broken metropolises, the paper was released. 

A spate of remains were discovered, north of the Cradle of Humankind. Carbon-14 dating placed the remains in the Upper Paleolithic era, over 40,000 years ago, when a nascent humankind was crawling from the womb of the world. On the front page of the article stood a lab-coated scientist pointing toward a scribble on a boar’s jawbone. A zoomed-in image of this spot shows all: an in-depth, engraved Darnsworth logo. 

At its most basic level this statement is flawed. How can a company predate companies? Even mercantilism? A vocal minority questioned the evidence, while many, many others argued that this was simply an immutable fact that, like Fukuyama’s declaration of the end of history, humanity now faced the end of want. Humans have always been cared for, had their desires met, and they have always been part of one big corporate family.

People were too tired from their jobs, too worried about the end of the world to be concerned with something as odd as this. After all, what harm was Darnsworth doing? All they did was give out products for free. They gave impoverished homes food-packed fridges and massage chairs for fatigued, ever-working parents, even going so far as to entertain the children with an endless supply of distracting devices. At multiple places in the world that did not even have the facilities for electronic appliances, fridges and TVs and phones manifested all the same, working curiously without power. 

Darnsworth’s imperialist aspirations reared their head. Why would it take after a westernised neoliberalist practice? What was stopping this corporate entity from simply being a socialist one? Why not simply provide endless accessibility to heat, water, internet, and allow humans to never be without while letting them maintain agency? Why did it have to do what it did next, when everyone, including me, took the change?

Do not judge us too harshly, future reader. Humans have short memories and weak wills. How many times do we walk past an empty field, even remark on its purity, its blankness, only for one day to come across that same field to see that, seemingly overnight, it’s been turned into a muddied wasteland of ruination, where pyroclastic flows of rubble and concrete ejecting constantly into foul, grimy air? We might feel a detachment at first, a feeling of alienation as our reality is slowly overwritten, the neuronal pathway burned, branded with this new image. And sure enough over the coming days we will no longer remember the field, only the housing estate that has always been coming slowly into existence. Try to remember it now, if you can, a place that preceded a place. Try to remember the hilly promontory where now stands a supermarket. Try and recall the windswept willows and poplars where now sits two-hundred houses. Try to remember the home you once had. 

I remember my children, Alyssa and Stephen shouting for orange juice. Adrian still in bed, laughing at me as I give in to our children’s demands.

Memories are like mist. You breathe them in, feel them condense, turn solid, only to evaporate again a moment later, never again to be attained. 

I suppose there’s no point. 

I suppose things should just be accepted. 

I suppose those silhouetted figures, that kindly uncle of a logo, knew all along. I suppose Darnsworth knew all along. 

My family knew that, even tried to tell me. But I was obstinate, as always. And now, who am I to judge, sat here alone, this tattered house tearing itself apart day by day? 

My husband, my two children, they didn’t know what would happen. No one did. They were caught up with the craze. Who doesn’t get caught up? 

I tried. I really did. To be objective and to account what I knew but I—

I’m a person.

But Darnsworth understood. Darnsworth knows what I want before I want it, knows what I need before I need it. 

And it is only Darnsworth who can bring my family back. 


That’s pretty much how we all came to join the Darnsworth Gang. It was at the end of the second phase, when everyone wanted to get in on the craze of getting new products, the hashtag #TheDarnsworthMakeover making the rounds. All you had to do was use this tag and post on any social media platforms a picture of your room as a kind of ‘before’ image. The ‘before’ posts were always messy. I even want to say misaligned for some reason. It’s hard to cater to so many people with so many odd quirks, so many eccentricities and idiosyncrasies. So Darnsworth went about amending that. I see that now. It’s not so much homogenisation as it was a unification. A coming together. An interweaving of separate cloths. It was only like a day ago that I did the same old Darn thing and look at me now.

Ha! In my previous notes, I wrote, “all of a person’s unique qualities and intimate touches were wiped away come the ‘after’ image.” Darnsworth isn’t boiling away uniqueness here. Darnsworth loves the unique, the odd, the strange! That’s the Darnsworth ethos. 

Better yet, in these “after” images, we always see the cheek-eating, face-stretching grin of our lovely OP. Before that, they never smiled. Or if they did, it wasn’t genuine. And you can tell. But now, they all smile exactly the same way, enthralled by that same oneness and connection I now feel. If I listen carefully, I can hear all our heartbeats thumping as one. 

But again, my notes are silly little scribbles. I wrote: 

These ‘after’ images had empty smiles, the nothing-behind-the-eyes curl of the lips, the I-have-been-emptied-out-and-repurposed bearing of the too-white-to-be-real teeth. Who in the world-as-it-is remembers not this smile? It is everywhere: shopping centres, stadiums, hotel lobbies. 

But now those smiles nourish me! To look at them is to be held. To be reflected in the smile of another.  I once deplored them because I hated what they showed me: a mean, tired man. 

Wow. Again, in my notes, I even say, “Why did people continue to post? Surely they saw the difference.”

Of course they did. That’s why they did it, dummy! 

After the success of this viral trend—with many, I suspect, seeing how beautiful those smiling faces were!— other corporations jumped in. Financing and marketing firms, fast food empires, even blockbuster movie studios who wanted the rights to tell the glorious rise of Darnsworth! All of them tweeted #TheDarnsworthMakeover. 

The following day, every corporation had been welcomed into Darnsworth. Twitter was no longer Twitter, Reddit no longer Reddit. Upon loading any social media site you’d see the Darnsworth logo sparkling into your mind, and the words Darnsworth Feed squirming slowly on a blank page

Finally, everything had become one. And the Darnsworth Web—sorry, the Darnsworth Family—grew.  

People didn’t have to go to their boring old jobs at stinky fast-food joints. They got to work at a fantastic, enterprising corporation like Darnsworth! Who would want to be anything other than a Darnsworth employee? Why be a nurse, or a teacher, a builder, an architect? Phooey to all that degree nonsense. Darnsworth makes more-sense. I’ve never seen so many people smiling.

But for some dumb-dumbs it was just too darn much to handle. They tossed themselves away like a three-week-old ham! What a waste of good meat. 

Other Darn-Haters got annoyed by the Darnsworth family. Tried to organise and go to the woods, to the ruined shops that had somehow slipped past our forever-loving embrace! They’d sit there and whine and shout about their rights. They have rights! They claimed—oh my, I can’t believe it, even in my notes I claimed the same thing!—that we’d taken away their internet access. We did no such thing. We just want people to sign up and post a picture of their room, using the fun new feature on DarnsFeed, called the #TheDarnsworthTakeover. And by the very next day, you’ll be a part of the Darnsworth Family—because you’re Darn Worth It! 

But these angry people, these confused people, they thought we were all one big brain. Even I say as much here. Ha. Look at this: 


What follows is an estimation of the events, pieced together from half-heard jabberings in the night beside dying fires: Many who were in these communes, then, had organised themselves in stores that survived the Darnsworth Cascade. They were safe havens, procuring supplies and foodstuffs where they could, from farms that had also survived the Darnsworth Cascade. These bastions of rebellion were seen as sores on the surface of the world, of Darnsworth. Whenever any of those “corporatized” by Darnsworth interacted with someone who had not been, there was always a kind of foul air between them in conversation. When one of the corporatized stopped to speak, the foot traffic surrounding them also slowed. One corporatized individual was a string that would shake, disturbing the rest, until they would all turn their heads. It was like a web. People tried to avoid the corporatized for this very reason. They were not sure for how long they could keep shaking the corporatized before whatever hung in the dark corners of that web came crawling. 

When speaking to these corporatized, the conversation would circle with platitudes and Americanisms (with even a bland, vague imitation of a generalised American accent, a composite of every voice it seemed). They would say phrases like, “Why don’t you just have a darn good day?” or “Ain’t it a darn shame,” no matter the reply. No actual conversation would take place. Never. Try as one might, anyone who tried to break that barrier would only be fed this bot-like chatter, a forever frustrating trial. Eventually the corporatized collocutor would walk away, smiling still, and then the disturbed web, the shaking tendrils of thin white string that tied them all as one, would settle, and the once slowed foot traffic would resume normal pace. 


Wow-weee. Who is this Darn-nincompoop that writes so stiffly? (I kid, it’s me!) Wowser. What a darn shame I used to be such a so-and-so. Such a hose on the fire. A stick in the mud. Hole in the head. Break in a bone. Knife in the eye. Suppurating sore. Comet toward a planet. A solar flare across the Black Ocean. A— 

Whoops! Got caught up in myself. Like I tuned into the wrong radio for a moment. Where was I? Oh, yeah. The Family. We’re all a big family—that’s what I was missing, what we all were really. So the Family released this post on DarnsFeed saying that we’d release a Product Recall Squad for those who were still avoiding our shindigs online. The old (boring, tired, lonely, angry) me said this:


A post on DarnFeed posted by DarnFeeder #84h38dab78x spoke of a “Darnsworth Product Recall”, and of an “Order decreed by the Council of the Black Ocean”, supposedly “predating man’s inception”, which gave Darnsworth Products the right to reclaim any and all technology that did not appear to be updating to “working requirements”. 

The day after, there came the Darnsworth Product Recall Squad. 

The Squad, seemingly everywhere at once, manifested as randomly as did the products in people’s homes, and they would indiscriminately capture anyone who had not yet at this time been corporatized. They would appear, it is said, from back-alley doorways into the large factories, from the side doors of shops, and in one incident there were six of them who emerged from a singularly small bush beside a small Darnsworth Convenience store, where they promptly grabbed a passerby who screamed wildly as she was pulled in and swallowed by that bottomless greenery. They would collect those who gathered at these independent stores with an inhuman strength. It did not matter where one was, they were always liable to be taken. 


What’s this pishposh about being “corporatized” anyhoo? If anything we’re familiarised. Familified. Darniated. Or better yet, Accepted. The Product Recall Squad is well within their rights to collect those who feel misplaced and disconnected. You wouldn’t want to keep a faulty phone that couldn’t charge, would you? Always got to be plugged into that main source. Into the Family. 

Look at me! An hour ago I couldn’t stop looking at that kindly uncle and seeing the silhouetted huddle and imagining the faces of—what were their names again? oh, who cares. By Darn am I glad I signed up for that Darn Internet. I didn’t even introduce my own Darn name did I? Well that old downer Me ain’t me no more, and those names, whatever they are, are no heavier than a feather on my heart. And if I don’t remember them, it ain’t a Darn worry! I gotta remember my Darn Worth. 

Already everything feels clearer, better. It’s like slipping into a hot bath after a cold day, where you can’t feel you no more, where the meat of your arms and your head, heck, your whole body, slides from those old bones like bacon from ribs in a slow cooker. With every second you smile, it all oozes out of you, that virus, pain.

And you feel okay. 

You remember your Darn Worth as you close your eyes and you’re gone. 


The End


If you enjoyed this DarnTale from DarnFeeder #6h5rr54k321, check out his other work: There’s No Darn Way Out, or My Darn Shame, or his best yet, That Darn Time I Lost My Darn Family. 




RSL (he/they) is a writer and academic of weird, absurd fiction. They are doing a PhD on the importance of New Weird fiction to mental health in marginalised communities. When he isn’t avoiding his PhD work, he’s writing about his nightmares and playing games, and is also an associate editor with Haven Spec magazine. You can find him at @RSLjnr on the blue bird (now the terribly named X), or read his fiction in CHM and Vastarien.

Photo by Kam Idris on Unsplash

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