There was once a man.
A very lonely man, to whom the local children, who didn’t scream in fear, called,
‘Bumface!’ Or ‘Sphincter Van Speinter!’.
These reactions had the desired effect of making his already pocked, wrinkled and red-raw features burn brighter with sorrow and pain.
Many’s the time that the poor gentle soul would have very much desired his heart to: stop beating in his chest; jump out of his crooked mouth; find a shovel; repeatedly hit him in the face with said shovel; and, with the mercy of the saints, bury what was left.
This dear, sorrowful wretch was called Morcan Van Speinter.
After being cast out by his family, who thought that his mother must have unwittingly slept with a dirt devil, or more likely a Orc, Morcan tried to live in villages. The small-minded villagers, however, gathered in tiny groups to point and jeer, so he moved to the city.
Alas, the city dwelling lot gathered in larger groups to do the self same cruel taunting that the village lot had done.
Until one day he found himself a deep cave in between the village and the city and there he lived. Alone, sad, but never afraid.
It was in his cave that one day he had himself a visitor.
‘Hello,’ the visitor called, from the mouth of the cave, over the sound of a busy weather day.
Morcan didn’t know if to answer, therefore stayed silent.
‘I can hear you breathing,’ the voice began. ‘So, could you answer yay or nay to the possibility of allowing me shelter against the dreadful weather we are being pummelled by, this very eve’?’
The day had indeed been stormy and wet, with promise of more to come in the night. So, without pause for thought, Morcan, a man who had been shunned and beaten for the way his features had turned out all his lonely life, abruptly shouted his reply to the stranger…
‘Nay!’ He called back. ‘I do not mind you taking shelter. I have a nettle stew on the boil, if you would like to join me.’
‘You are very kind,’ the stranger told him. ‘My name is Gulbean.’
‘It is a pleasure to meet your acquaintance, Gulbean. I am Morcan.’
And with that, and a tip-tapping of what must have been a stick on the hard rock floor, Gulbean entered.
Yet, Morcan didn’t move from his position at the back of the cave.
He was frozen to the spot by the worry of mockery in his own residence. That would push him right on over the edge. He was certain of that, if nothing else.
It wasn’t until he noticed that the silhouette belonging to the stranger was drifting rather too close to the roaring fire did he bolt forward.
‘Be careful, Gulbean, you are near to cooking yourself there!’
‘My thanks,’ Gulbean replied, before sidestepping safely, at the very moment that a lick of a flame greedily spat towards his hanging, dripping cloak. ‘You will have to forgive my clumsiness, I was born completely without eyes.’
‘I’m very sorry for your loss, friend,’ Morcan said with deep compassion. ‘I was born with a face that not even my mother could stand.’
‘My father accused my mother of adultery with the horns of a devil and ran away,’ Gulbean told, as he seated himself carefully down with a squelch. ‘My mother then dropped me off a cliff at the delicate age of three, but luckily I slipped through a chimney of a house at the bottom and landed neatly into a cooling pot of lightly seasoned broccoli soup. My new childless parents were ever so grateful and brought me up like a prince.’
‘I am pleased and also jealous by your tale, Gulbean,’ Morcan told the other.
‘How so are you in such a juxtaposition of contrasting emotions, dear fellow?’
‘I am pleased that you landed safely,’ Morcan began. ‘Yet jealous that my mother didn’t likewise throw me off a cliff. Humans have been nothing but heartache to me. I could happily be done with the lot of them.’
‘Then why did you allow me entry to your home?’
‘Because you would surely have drown to death, or worse, in the oncoming storm.’
‘You are a good man, sir.’ Gulbean told Morcan. ‘Would it be possible to feel your face myself?’
‘Ermmmm…I’d rather not, no. Though thank you for your…erm…kind offer?’
‘Surely it’s only fair,’ Gulbean replied with a smile. ‘You are face to face with my disfigurement. It is plain for all to see. Well…all but me, of course. Go on: be sport!’
‘Well…okay,’ Morcan reluctantly replied and leaned forward, so that the other man could go to work with his damp digits.
He closed his eyes. After a moment he could feel the other man’s fingers drifting over his bumps and protrusions.
‘My god, sir! You really are as ugly as sin, aren’t you?!’ Gulbean eventually announced, with a shudder that didn’t disguise his utter revulsion in any way at all.
Morcan opened his eyes in dismay.
‘W-w-ell…’ the scarlet faced monster stuttered. ‘I may be ugly, but you sir are too stupid and blind to see this!’
He then lifted the nearest and biggest rock and beat the other man to bloody, squishy pulp.
Enough was enough, after all, he thought. And now I can have a barbecue and throw the vile nettle soup out of the cave doorway.
‘Bonus!’ He told the cave.
The cave happily echoed his sentiments several times over.
Now, if you’re looking for a moral to this story, then you’ve come to the wrong cave.