Present For a Mutant
Another gloomy night in the haunted woods was about to begin. The sun was setting over permanent darkness, and in the Graveyard of Doom, Albert the Kacheek was awakening from another awful day spent resting alone. His head was pulsing, for more reasons than one. Where another may have held their head in hopes of appeasing the dull pain, Albert didn't. He simply could not bear to feel his own body any more than necessary, especially that hideous growth his head had become.
Unrested eyes looked around, unmet by any reflection that could reveal his appearance to the Kacheek. He made sure of it.
It had been years since he was cursed, cursed to be the eternal servant of the Esophagor, and turned into an unsightly mutant. Promises of a return to a normal life still echoed, but had become quieter and quieter. Every night, he would head out into the unfathomable dangers of the forest he had come to know too well, only to be met with discontent and pained complaints. It truly felt like he had to live with this, like this, a slave to gluttony incarnate, never able to appease his tormentor and regain his freedom.
As he gazed through his makeshift home to find his tools for another night, however, something rather unusual met his darkened eyes. Somehow, a small red present, covered in shiny, patterned wrapping, had made its way behind closed doors. He examined all possible entries. Even with good building materials being more than sparse, the Kacheek knew all too well that security was something he could not simply skip over. Whoever intruded into his rooms must have been rather strong, or a skilled magician.
And yet, no signs of damage were found, not at the thick door, nor at the dusty windows. It all seemed more than confusing, but, seeing that after a short inspection, something was left behind rather than stolen, Albert decided to inspect the unforeseen gift. A strange sight it was, wrapped so neatly in its yellow bow, such care had become a rare sight to him. Someone seemed to see a lot of importance in bringing this to him in such a state, through all the dangers that surrounded the Kacheek's home, and to then not even wake him up or leave any traces... It was certainly more than impressive, really.
Before he set to opening it, he found a white, folded up piece of paper attached to the present, stuck under the ribbon. A message it appeared to be, and indeed, unfolding the small sheet, a short, hand-written letter was revealed. Albert now knew that this was not some sort of bizarre mistake. It was clearly addressed to him, and so, the Kacheek read.
don't give up. Trust me when I say I know exactly what it is like when no one is ready to stand by your side anymore.
When something seems impossible, chances are we just haven't found the way yet, and maybe, we need some new ideas from somewhere else.
I sure hope my present reaches you in one piece, and that you appreciate it. It wasn't the easiest to get.
May you blossom like the flowers you loved so much.
- a Meerca with too much time"
It was a gesture of kindness, undoubtedly, yet in his state, after all this time, it almost felt like mockery to Albert. Years of anguish made him a duller soul than he used to be, and the hope of ever escaping his curse had grown dim. Nonetheless, the Kacheek went on to open the present of the mysterious Meerca. It wouldn't be right to let such a gesture go to waste, even if he felt rather indifferent about it all in all.
The actual contents of the rectangular box were an unusual sight for certain, yet almost a pleasant reminder of happier times. Inside was a potted plant, a corn stalk, possibly the smallest Albert had ever seen, no longer than a Skeith's arm. Old thoughts resurfaced, there was no doubt to him that this must have been a special breed, carefully selected each generation to not outgrow these minuscule sizes. It was a very personal gift, yet still, Albert had no time anymore to do gardening. He feared these days may be behind him now...
But, before he went to set the plant down again, ready to head out for the night, something peculiar caught his eye. Turning the stalk around, he saw that this was not an ordinary corn plant, even ignoring its size. At the back of the yellow cob, its colour too reminiscent of the yellow the Kacheek's fur used to have, was a strange growth. It was easy to tell that it was some form of mould or fungus, bulging forward in a hideous manner.
However, Albert knew more. He studied plants for a while before... his curse. The Kacheek faintly recognized the growth as corn smut, a common infestation of the plant, black to... vaguely green in colour, that would fester in the kernels and use them for itself. Once again it felt like a cruel joke, but Albert continued thinking about it.
Corn smut was, unlike what one may think, entirely edible. Those brave enough to try it would usually have plenty positive things to say about it. And yet, it was a treasure for the few, as the vast majority would not dare to eat what was little more than a rotting piece of corn, a mouldy grain too shabby to feed to one's own worst enemy. With its bad reputation and good taste, one may even dare call it a food both delicious and disgusting.
Suddenly, it hit Albert. Disgusting food... disgusting food easily grown... disgusting food he would not have to venture out for, and could basically make in any amount he pleases. Maybe not corn smut itself, but another plant could be his saviour. He could certainly grow hundreds of different food sources he was sure the Esophagor would love, and gather them in a fraction of the time it would normally take him to gather and forage. Maybe like this, he could appease the monster, and to think the answer may have lied within what came most naturally to him all along...
Of course, fears and doubts remained. What if the Esophagor would not accept these, or plainly lied about his promise to lift the curse? No... the gluttonous creature was no liar, yet still, Albert decided to give the note he had previously read another look, just to find an addendum on the other side.
"And, if that fatso decides to cheat you, then no worries, I'll be right there, trust me."
Just who was this Meerca? How did it know who he was? And, most importantly, why did it care? Just why did it care about the fate of a random, foolish Kacheek that thought it was a good idea to ever come to this cursed forest? There was no time for answers, the Esophagor was already calling out for him. However, this time he would have to wait. A plant needed Albert's attention, and he had himself waited long enough...