Something was definitely wrong with the world. The Provider appeared to have abandoned his children, and the cold advanced unchecked from the great beyond, even as the land lost its life-giving warmth. And, although every single being was aware of the incipient disaster, none could understand the reason for the inexplicable climate change, let alone think of a way to stave off the certain destruction of their kind.
Mergs, the dominant beings in a world of almost limitless bounty, are highly resilient, sentient beings who had evolved in an environment that offers no natural obstacle to their growth and development. With no natural enemies to protect against and no need to marshal limited resources, Mergs, who are not by nature particularly gregarious, never developed a social structure or any concept of property; all the necessities of life are provided by the land in inexhaustible quantities. Each Merg simply takes from the land in accordance with its needs or appetites without the slightest need for toil, industry, or planning. Food can be found all around in limitless quantities and varieties. All that is required to obtain a meal is to bend down and scoop up tasty, highly nourishing morsels of delectable substances in endless varieties wherever a Merg happens to be at any given time. Thirst quenching, delicious liquids quite nourishing in their own right are available in pools, lakes and rivers of assorted sizes scattered throughout the land. As with the solid food, the land offers up liquid nourishment in endless refreshing varieties, some yielding intoxicating effects not unlike that of alcohol and hallucinogenic drugs in the human system. These intoxicating springs are particularly popular with Mergs who are not by nature temperate creatures.
Although the Mergs’ existence might seem an utopian one, there is, alas, a price exacted for a life of such perpetual ease and endless bounty. Perpetual leisure and an existence devoid of challenges had made the Mergs into a rather intellectually dull race. Intelligence is not prized in a land that so freely yields up its bounty, where there is no game to hunt or trap, no enemy to guard or plot against, and no need for shelter to protect one’s property or oneself from the elements, or the aggression and greed of others. Thus, while Mergs had the same genetically coded survival instinct as all other living organisms, the particular circumstances of their overly hospitable world did not necessitate that it give birth to science, mathematics, or the cultivation of knowledge that at its most fundamental core is born of the survival instinct. For Mergs, survival merely requires eating, sleeping, and reproducing to take place. And, since Mergs reproduce asexually, that function is best served by eating as much as possible, thus obtaining the necessary mass and energy required to trigger the reproductive function. Not surprisingly, then, Mergs spend most of their waking hours eating, or looking for new sources of food in order to find pleasure in what would otherwise be the tedium of their existence.
Although the Mergs have no religion as such, they share a universal belief in the Provider, their creator who is the source of life and, in accordance with their belief system, constantly replenishes their supply of food and keeps the land warm for their benefit. Perhaps such a belief system developed due to the destructive floods and killing fumes that are inexplicably visited at least once on the land during the typical Merg’s life cycle. In the Mergs’ belief system, the Provider doles out such catastrophes as punishment for unknown transgressions of which they must surely be guilty, though they be beyond their comprehension. But, because such punishments are uncommon, they are more an apocalyptic myth than a reality to be feared by the average Merg.
When such disasters occur, the remarkable resilience of these creatures allows them to spring back undaunted to soon forget they had taken place. And if the Provider earned their respect through the awesome power he wields, he also earns their unwavering devotion through his constant replenishment of their food supplies which miraculously appear daily throughout the land, rumored to emanate mostly in a far-off region of the world, where they are said to gush forth in incalculable quantities, conjured forth by the benevolent Provider, erupting from the bowels of the earth and spread by It to the four corners of the land through Its mysterious powers beyond their ken.
Although most Mergs spend their whole life in a relatively small area, some travel does occur in one of two ways: some Mergs literally eat their way from one region to another in search of diverse sources of food. Each recurring catastrophic flood also deposits a few hardy survivors in far-off lands. Additionally, some of the more adventurous Mergs--those not yet of breeding age who for that reason need not spend most of their time eating--sometimes venture to climb “the growing regions,” incomprehensively vast, dark mountains that rise upward slowly and inexorably as lava-fed islands do on Earth’s oceans, reaching for the heavens, stretching out endlessly into the Great Beyond.
Unlike the beneficent land, these regions are largely bereft of food and contain no pools of liquid from which to drink. Some Mergs believe that these massive desert regions are a link to the Great Beyond through which a brave Merg with a pure heart might travel, prove its worth and earn the right to meet the Provider. Few were brave or foolish enough to attempt the quest, and of those who did, fewer still returned to tell of it. The fortunate few who made it back alive uniformly reported that the warmth of the land does not reach into the higher regions, but clings closely to the ground. Despite such discouraging reports, a few Mergs still venture forth from time to time, convinced that none who had tried the ascent before had been worthy, and taking heart in the fact that so many had not returned, believing these to be enjoying the unimaginable Epicurean delights awaiting in the Provider’s own domain in the Great Beyond.
But then the cold began to spread over the land, bringing with it more death and devastation than had ever been visited by floods or noxious clouds. Many Mergs blamed the adventuresome youths for having angered the Provider by trying to venture into Its realm, thus visiting upon them this new, harsher punishment. The practice must be stopped. An alarm call went out to every corner of the land summoning Mergs to come together.
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