During the Golden Era of King Wheaton’s reign, Frutopia was the greenest it had ever been. Water flowed freely from the Great Crystal Lake down the Grand Canals, irrigating the realm. The hills were covered in lush green waves of grass that were speckled by wildflowers. The fields were fertile and never barren. The population of the valley continued to grow, and all was at ease in the realm.
Villages were filled with Frutopians that happily lived their lives, merrily going about their daily tasks. One such village was inhabited by carrots. These hardworking vegetables could often be found farming out in the fields or the mining below the surface, carving out caverns of great repute. The carrots were very different than other Frutopians. These tall orange creatures had six limbs, large black eyes, and they could happily spend hours mining underground. The rest of Frutopia found more pleasure being out in the sun than staying in the ground below.
Nevertheless, carrots played an important part in the kingdom. They were responsible for gathering the iron from the earth that was used as currency in the realm. It was for this reason that Ebram, the carrot father, had a very close relationship with King Wheaton. Ebram often marched to the capitol with a band of 100 of the most skilled carrot miners. Every time he left, a young carrot boy named Gallib asked if he could join them. “Not yet, my boy, you are still a child. When you have grown you may come.” He would always respond.
“But grandfather, I want to come!”
Ebram picked his pack off the ground and threw it on his back. “Your time will come, Gallib. I shall see you when I return.” He would get down on all six limbs and scurry off to the head of the pack.
After one of these particular times, Gallib was so upset he went to visit his friend Sura. She was four seasons older than Gallib, and she always gave him a hard time for it. “Look who decided to come over!” Sura hopped from her bunk bed to the floor.
“Hi Sura!” Gallib made his green carrot top stand to one end, in the typical fashion of carrot salutation.
“Hello there, baby carrot.” She said as she brushed one of her stems through his mane.
“I’m not a baby carrot!” Gallib’s voice whined. “I’m a regular carrot that isn’t full grown yet. That’s all.”
“Ha ha.” Sura stood upon her four roots as she laughed. “I know you aren’t really a baby carrot. You are just still so small.” Gallib stood onto his four roots as well and saw that he only came up to Sura’s waist. He went back to the ground and pouted. “You are small perhaps, but is your courage also small?” Gallib made a straight face, furrowed his brow, and confidently replied.
“Why, no of course not. I am brave!”
Sura had a rye smile on her face as she asked. “Then would you go with me into Jasper’s cavern?” Gallib knew the youth were prohibited from entering Jasper’s cavern, ever since Jasper went insane. No one knew what got into the young miner. He would rave in the plaza about the black spots, until one day, he finally went off into his cavern and never came back.
Gallib cringed at the thought of going into the cavern. If he backed down now Sura would always lord it over him. “Ok. Let’s go.” He reluctantly said.
“Really?” Sura gave him a wary eye.
“Yes.” He affirmed her.
“Alrighty, then. Let’s go.” She beckoned him to follow her with a flick of her stems. She crawled out of the house and he followed suit. They scurried across the back roads of the town until they made it to a field far from the canal. Small, green shoots sprouted out of the earth in straight rows. “Who’s field is this?” Gallib asked.
“It belonged to Jasper, but now it belongs to his widow.”
“Oh, poor carrot woman.” Gallib sympathized.
“Should have seen it coming.” Sura shrugged. “Look, there’s the mineshaft.” She pointed to the entrance jutting from the earth as the two approached it. The wooden beams of the archway had begun to crack and splinter, but otherwise the round frame remained the same as it had been on the day Jasper was last seen entering the cavern.
Sura and Gallib stood at its entrance and stared down the menacing dark tunnel. It was not the dark that scared the two of them, for carrots have large, black eyes and can easily see in the dark. It was the unknown that they feared; the great forbidden chambers where poor Jasper had lost his sanity.
Gallib looked at Sura, waiting for her to make the first move. The girl’s face was frozen. There was no more of her usual jests, just an unusual discomfort. Gallib saw her hesitation, snickered, and started crawling into the cave. “Hey, wait for me!” Sura cried after she was already inside. She scrambled to catch up, and then the two of them kept a steady pace, side by side.
It was not long before they reached a wide open cavern. The roof was twenty feet above them, and the orange roots of the carrots could be seen sticking out, stalagmite like.
“Look at the carrot roots!” Gallib said pointing up with a smile.
“I see them.” The two Frutopians stood on their hind fours and looked at the ceiling in awe. They had never before seen carrots growing from beneath the earth before.
“Hey, this place ain’t so bad.” Sura said returning to the ground. “Why do they say it is forbidden for us anyway?” Just then, a long, eerie moan sounded across the cavern walls. “What was that?” Gallib dropped beside Sura and pressed into her side for comfort.
“Oh, please.” Sura said feigning confidence. “I’m sure it was nothing.” The same sound echoed around them. “Or the wind?” The sound grew louder, as if something were unmistakably drawing towards them.
“Ah!” Gallib grabbed Sura’s roots with his stems. “It’s getting closer.” Now Sura began to show concern.
“Maybe we should go…” Sura gave Gallib’s hand a squeeze and turned to go. Suddenly, her foreroot knocked something over that was on the floor. “Yikes!” She yelped, hopping to her roots as the tiny, hard-shelled, brownish bug wiggled to get back on its own feet.
“That thing is disgusting!” The creature had a long brown snout and speckles all over its body. “Is that the thing made all the noise?” Gallib asked as he poked the creature, helping it return to its feet. As if to answer his reply, the moan sounded again. This time it was louder and lasted longer than it had before.
Gallib and Sura looked around the walls of the cavern, searching for what violated the silence. Instead of finding its source, they saw something they had not noticed before. The walls were covered in those small weevils. “Oh no!” Gallib and Sura cried. “We have to get out of here!”
“Ooooooohhh…” The voice sounded clearer now and echoed less than it had before. Whatever it was had entered the chamber. The two of them turned to one of the tunnel entrances, and there they saw a poor, dilapidated carrot miner crawling out from the opening.
The tired miner’s eyes were fixated on some unseen object, his mouth drooled foul green, and his body limped along as he crawled across the ground, caterpillar like.
“It’s hideous!” Sura scrabbled to go back the way they had come. The long moans rang all around them, echoing through the wide cavern, sending shivers down the two carrots’ backs. The strange insects began to crawl down from the walls in droves. As Sura tried to escape, the small bugs marched across her path, cutting her short. Gallib tried to follow Sura, but the bugs continued to surround them. Bugs circling, moans echoing, strange miner approaching, the two Frutopian youths could not help but scream.
The bugs encircled them. Their strange trunks lifted upwards as they closed in around them. Sura and Gallib stood up on their roots and went back to back as the insects came closer and closer. One of the zealous creatures rushed toward them, but Sura gave it a kick that sent it tumbling backwards into the other creatures, sending them rolling like ninepins.
“Ahhh!” Gallib screamed again. The creatures came closer and closer, their mouths seemed to be grinding their teeth together, ready for a tasty morsel. In that moment, that strange carrot miner stood to his four roots and began to limp towards them.
“What do we do, Sura?” Gallib questioned, driving his back into hers.
“We never should have come here.” Her voice cracked as tears welled in her eyes. “I’m sorry, Gallib.” She turned to him and covered his eyes with her stems.
The strange miner took the pick that had been strapped to his back and swung it at the cluster of bugs sending them sailing left and right. He cleared a path to the center and grabbed the two carrot children. Their eyes snapped open to look into the face of the odd miner. Drool and a sigh escaped from his mouth.
“Jasper?” Sura questioned, shocked by the change that had taken place. Black corruption ate away at his once green roots, causing all to decay.
“Rahhh.” A strange groan emitted from his lips. “Parasites…” The insects in the cavern were carrot worms. They had bitten into Jasper’s head long ago and caused his brain to be corrupted, making him go insane. “Save…the…carrots. Run!” With a sudden flick of his stem he launched the pick axe forward, clearing a path to the exit for the children. The two carrots ran out of the cavern screaming. They emerged from the cave and rushed into the town center, screaming of Jasper’s return and the terrible weevils that were in his cavern.
“What happened? Why are you screaming?” The adults in the town center asked.
“We went into Jasper’s cavern and found some terrible bugs. They surrounded us and almost ate us, but Jasper came out and saved us!” Sura said with her stems frantically pumping.
“We barely made it out without getting eaten alive!” Gallib added.
“Don’t you know you are forbidden from entering there?” One of the adults asked, causing the two to look at the ground ashamed.
“I’m so glad you’re alright!” Another added, causing them to smile sheepishly.
Then Marsa, the great, grandmotherly founding carrot spoke in a caring voice. “Children, children, can’t you see? Your elders love you, so please, listen to them obediently.”