by Aengus Cargo
Gerg wasn’t a monster, they insisted.
He was big. He was temperamental. He was covered in green fur and didn’t wear pants. He was ever demanding. His face changed color, shape and expression depending on who was looking at him. Everybody loved Gerg, and Gerg loved everybody, but not in that genuine, heartfelt way — more like a golddigger cherishes her trophy husband, or a cheerleader loves the ugly friend she keeps around to look better in front of guys. But the support was strong, the words as heartfelt as they could sound, and the dubious sincerity of it all was easily drowned out with more wide smiles and more pairs of outstretched arms.
Gerg was, indeed, the town’s beloved mascot. On top of it all, he was always hungry.
The entire town functioned solely for the purpose of feeding Gerg. Nobody ever admitted it outright, but all anybody did was for the benefit of Gerg. “Do for Gerg, do for you,” I heard at least thrice a day in the town square.
I couldn’t really tell what Gerg did besides his almost constant eating and the daily speeches, stage plays, and karaoke performances in the town square, which all revolved around reasons why we needed to keep his brain entertained and his belly full. “Nourish Gerg,” he would proclaim, “so that Gerg may nourish you. Gerg will protect us all from those who would take our delicious foodstuffs. Rodents! Greedy bandits! Giant, gluttonous, brightly colored monsters! Even your own friends, family and neighbors, should you let them, especially if they look or speak in a different manner from yourself! Gerg looks out for your best interests — nay, Gerg is your best interests!”
“Marvel at the bounty Gerg has bestowed upon you,” his windpipe would wail at the exact same time that bounty seemed to be going, one bushel at a time, directly down his foodpipe. “Be grateful for Gerg’s nutritious products, which keep you and your precious children happy, healthy and productive, so that you may continue to hope that one day you, too, will also be the one and only Gerg! After all, you can’t put a price on hope!”
“And just imagine,” he would say, licking his fingers clean. “Imagine how those fresh foodstuffs will taste once we can eat them together!”
Every second of every day in the life of every citizen was devoted either to acquiring foodstuffs for Gerg, seldom sampling them for themselves, in exchange for foodstuffs-shaped, bright green feces; or making new citizens with fresh, capable bodies to help gather more ingredients from the fields, shipping depots, dumpsters, and their own stockpiles alike, should they be fortunate enough to have extras. Most, by the time I’d passed through, didn’t believe in stockpiling. “That’s selfish,” one citizen explained. “We don’t provide for Gerg, Gerg won’t provide for us. We need to keep giving Gerg the foodstuffs we have on hand to produce the Green Substance for us so that we may finally, one day, have access to foodstuffs.”
Gerg was friendly (at least to your face), and his long, giant arms were gentle in accepting the offerings of the townspeople. One hears how great it feels to get a hug from Gerg, but nobody I’ve ever talked to has ever witnessed, or felt, an embrace in the first person. The speeches elicited warm and fuzzy feelings from time to time, but that was about it.
I decided to test Gerg.
“I’ve no foodstuffs left to give,” I hollered towards his head, some 50 feet up in the air. “By the time I get to the fields, the depots, the stockpiles and even the gutters, they’ve all been picked clean! I don’t know where I can go, or what I can do, to have an offering for you when I can neither obtain the Green Substance, nor the foodstuffs required to produce it! I do not starve you deliberately, Gerg! This you must believe!”
He said nothing as his arm slowly approached my face. He caressed it, ran a couple fingers gently through my hair, lovingly scratched behind my ear as though I were the family dog–and with a quick smack, knocked me unconscious.
I awoke inside what looked to be a dark cave. “This is your reward,” read a yellowed poster pinned on the wall above an entertainment center. “Gerg will shelter and protect you in your final hour of need.”
“Look,” a man in a suit, sitting across from me, snapped. “I’ll give it to you straight. Nobody gives a fuck what happens to you because the only thing you have left that can be converted into the Green Substance is your own flesh and bone. The only way you become Gerg is when he absorbs you completely and the rest of the town go on with their lives. You might make it out alive and whatever’s left of you can go back to a semi-happy, semi-productive life in the fields, if Gerg, or your fellow Gergamites, will take you back. They’ll likely be too busy keeping it up out there to care either way.
“Gerg never goes hungry.”
“Well,” I responded, “at least there’s cable, I guess.”