The first time it happened, Corey was only mildly weirded out. Even booking it across Miskatonic’s campus, he wasn’t sure why he suddenly needed tacos from the food truck. All he knew was that he wanted them as soon as possible, and damn the consequences.
After five agonizing minutes, he was sitting on the nearest bench with three of the best tacos he’d ever seen. The food truck always grilled the meat to perfection and used the crispest, freshest vegetables possible. When he bit in, Corey felt even more blissed out and excited than usual.
Later that night he explained his escapade to Gabriel during one of their regular chats.
“I’m telling you Gabe, it was so weird. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the tacos here are definitely Corey-approved. But usually I can at least wait long enough to walk instead of run! And it tasted incredible, almost like I was having tacos for the very first time.”
That’s… Weird. But then those tacos are magical. At least according to Aemrys. It’s been months since he was at Miskatonic and he still thinks they’re the best thing to come from the humans.
“Wow. He digs the tacos even more than you and Spence? We’ve got to get him up here again soon, then!” Corey laughed.
Nice try. I’m pretty sure Aemrys still thinks Tabatha was the exception to the rule, and if you even think that the credit for Spencer goes to the humans, Cetus shows up to rant at you. I’m not kidding. We once managed to lure him like halfway across the Atlantic just by faking negative thoughts about Spence. Gabriel sounded exasperated with the new Mer co-ruler.
“Oh boy. Well, at least he loves his son!”
That’s one way to put it. Spencer’s nearly at his wit’s end with the “enforced family bonding.” Last week he – what? Oh, I’m sorry Corey, I have to go. Zed’s helping me train to be a proper Caller.
“Have fun Gabe! Love and tacos to all my fishy friends of the deep!”
The second time, Corey was mildly concerned.
He was halfway through a lecture on arcane cult worship practices when he started craving Grandma G’s pie. Not unusual in and of itself, but this time it was so bad that he couldn’t focus at all on the professor. He was the first one out the door when class was dismissed and had his phone out almost as fast.
Grace picked up after three rings.
“Hi Grandma G! Are you busy right now?”
“Oh, hello Corey. No, I’m not terribly busy right now. Aemrys was here for a visit and just left. There’s nothing serious going on with the Next Society, is there?” Grace sounded concerned, which was probably fair, given how often Corey ended up in the middle of dangerous situations.
“Ah, no no no, nothing’s wrong! You’re going to think I’m crazy but I just really want pie right now and was wondering if I could bribe you into making me one?” Corey bit his lip.
Grace was quiet for beat, then burst out laughing.
“Corey Rudman you are ridiculous! If you really want to drive all the way to Oceanside just to get a pie, then I won’t stop you. I’ll even make an extra one so that you can take it with you back to campus.”
“You’re awesome, Grandma G! I’ll be there as soon as possible.”
One long drive later, Corey pulled up to his favorite house in the world. His cravings came back full force when he smelled delicious cherry pie coming from the kitchen. Grace intercepted him before he could make a beeline for it, though.
“Corey! The pie’s still cooling; you might as well give me a hug before going to burn your mouth.”
Laughing, Corey gave her a bear hug and spun her around.
“Sorry Grandma G! Your baking is just so good that burning my tongue off would almost be worth it! How much longer until it’s safe for human consumption?”
“At least twenty minutes. Don’t look so put out, Corey! Let’s sit down, and I’m sure by the time we’re caught up with each other the pie will be plenty cool enough to eat.”
Grinning sheepishly, Corey joined Grace in the living room.
They only made it through ten minutes of catching up before Grace conceded.
“Alright, Corey. You’re looking at the kitchen more than you’re looking at me, and somehow you’re two feet closer to the door than when we started. It’s probably cool enough now.”
Corey had cut two slices by the time that Grace even made it into the kitchen. He stood at the counter and dove into his piece with relish as soon as she joined him. The crust was flakey and a perfect golden brown, and the still-steaming cherry filling oozed out onto the plate. It was, quite possibly, the best thing Corey had ever tasted in his entire life.
“You look like you want to marry it!” Grace laughed.
“Just enjoying your baking while I can before Aemrys and Gabe finally convince you to take the gene therapy and move to Emralis,” Corey shot back between bites. Grace shook her head.
“Oh, you too? I said I’d think about it!”
By the third time, it wasn’t only Corey who was alarmed.
“Corey? Why do you suddenly need to eat? We had lunch an hour ago!” Jaela demanded as Corey veered toward the parking lot.
“I don’t know! It happened last week with pie, and tacos before that. This time I just really, really, really want pork dumplings,” Corey huffed and gave Jaela a pleading look. She gave him an exasperated glare, but joined him in his van.
Ten minutes later they walked into Wok a Mole, a Chinese restaurant on the edge of the city. It was one of the few entirely innocuous places in all of **********; even the name was aggressively silly and lighthearted. But what really made it popular with Miskatonic students was that it had the key combination of low prices and big portions.
They got a table and soon Corey was tearing into a plate of plump, perfectly steamed pork dumplings while Jaela watched him with growing suspicion. When he leaned back and sighed in contentment she finally spoke up.
“Corey, how do you feel right now?”
“Awesome. Like I just ate for the first time in weeks!” Corey laughed and reached for a napkin.
“And do you have any idea why?” Jaela refused to let up.
“No, I’m actually going to spend tonight in the library to see if it might be something otherworldly.” Corey waggled his fingers and pretended to be unconcerned despite his growing unease.
Jaela pursed her lips, nodded, and dropped the subject.
“Okay Corey, we’re here. I’ll take the blindfold off as soon as I’ve parked.” Jaela said from the driver’s seat of the van. Corey was still tied up in the back. He wasn’t quite sure if Jaela was actually kidnapping him or playing a prank. The ropes and blindfold might have just been Xavier getting carried away when Jaela asked for help “capturing” Corey. Which was totally cheating, as he’d pointed out to her several times.
The door of the van slid open and Jaela reached in to untie Corey. He pulled off the blindfold and blinked as he realized where they were.
“Grandma G’s house? Why are we here?”
“You’ll see.” Jaela smiled enigmatically.
Grace had the same smile when she let them in.
“Gabriel is feeling very contrite and is ready to start whenever we are,” Grace informed Jaela as they sat on the couch in the living room.
“Start what – oh!” As Corey spoke, he could feel Gabe reaching out to his mind and the world blurred. When his vision returned, the room was full of Mers and had a table piled high with unfamiliar seafood dishes. Gabriel stood in the middle of it all with Aemrys at his side.
“Hi Corey. So I have an apology to make. Some of the Mers have been really interested in human food, so I’ve been working on projecting memories like this,” he gestured around the changed room. “I can do people and places fairly well, but it’s hard to remember tastes as well. Connecting with someone’s mind while they’re eating is much easier. I may have… influenced your eating habits a few times when people wanted to experience a specific dish.” The last was said with a pointed look at Aemrys.
“The tacos!” Corey crowed as realization dawned.
“And the pie. And the dumplings,” Jaela added. “I could sense Gabriel in your head when we were at Wok a Mole, so I called Grace and we compared notes.”
“Honestly, you two could have just asked!” Grace joined in.
“I’m really sorry, Corey. I only intended to influence you a little bit. I didn’t realize the cravings I was giving you were really that bad! To make it up to you, I thought you might like to meet your fans and try some Mer food.” Gabriel gestured to the guests and banquet table.
“Woohoo! Partying it up with the Emralis Cuisine Society! All is forgiven, Gabe. And I’ll totally eat whatever human food you guys want in the future.” Corey high-fived Gabriel on his way to try what looked like crabs steamed in undersea vents with some kind of viscous brown sauce.
“Is that what we’re calling it now?” Aemrys asked as Jaela, Grace, and Corey mingled with their Mer guests.
“Oh yeah. I’ll ask Zed to make us a nice little sign to hang over our meeting place. “ Gabriel smiled at the scene.