It is not well-known that there was once there was a job title “Prick”. It was back during the witch crazes and Inquisition that racked Europe during the 13th to 16th centuries.
Many forces combined in this human aberration that resulted in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands. The early modern period saw the breakdown of the feudal order as the beginnings of industrialization fostered the growth of towns. There was a collateral decline in the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. The climate had turned cold in the Little Ice Age, and plagues ravaged the population packed into the towns.
In spite of the Renaissance, and in part because of it, there was a dark undercurrent of guilt and uncertainty and a feeling of impending doom.
Time for scapegoats. Time to placate the angry God.
The job of the Prick was to go around and prick birthmarks. Birthmarks were thought possible evidence of salacious conjugation with the devil, but it was recognized that not all were. If your pricked birthmark bled, it was deemed natural. If not…
Zoom to the 21st century. The nasty black ooze of buried hydrocarbons has been transformed by modern alchemy into traffic choked megalopolis where the dream of zipping about at every whim comes to face the reality of the stupendous magnitude of the desire to do so. Electrons spun by the same ooze power information far beyond our capacity to assimilate. People seated together text rather than talk. There is deep uncertainty, and a feeling of impending doom.
Meet the modern witch, Carbon. Element number 6. An element so magical an entire branch of chemistry is devoted to it. An element fundamental to the chemistry of life itself.
A modern sort of witch, to be sure. Capable of both good and evil. Both Christ and Antichrist. The green and the black. Blamed for every natural event, real or imagined.
Time to sacrifice the ooze to the angry God.
The Carbon pricks go around checking our footprints.