Generally speaking, I don't travel all that often. I'm usually stuck at home working on my studies or being a lazy dolt, but I make time to trek over to my friends' houses every once in awhile. Of course, when I travel, I usually expect to arrive at my destination at a normal hour, so I can have some time to unwind with friends first thing.
So when I finally disembarked my taxi and stood at my friend Panda's doorstep, I was a little surprised to see a note posted to the front door:
Tired tonight, going to bed early. Back door is unlocked. Make yourself @ home.
I mean, I know we'd caught a little bit of traffic but it was only 9 P.M. Surprised but nevertheless anxious to get settled in, I walked around to the back patio of Panda's house, sliding open the screen door to her kitchen. All the lights were off from what I could tell, save for one dim light over the sink. I was expecting some sort of surprise or, knowing Panda, an ambush somewhere in the dark corners of her house, but everything remained still. So, after pouring myself a glass of water, I slowly shuffled over to the guest room on the main floor.
Everything was nice and neatly arranged, even with another little apology note scrawled out and sitting on the pillow. Panda had already written an itinerary for the following day, planning out a park and a museum she wanted to visit, possible lunch choices...she'd really itemized everything!
I just smiled and sighed to myself, a bit bummed that i'd have to wait for morning to meet my friend. But as I unzipped a suitcase and started unpacking, a thought occurred to me: just because SHE hadn't chosen to mess with me this time around, that didn't mean I COULDN'T mess with her!
I grinned fiendishly as I remembered the trick she'd pulled back in September, inviting herself over to my house to "help rake leaves" as an excuse to snag me at a shrunken-down size and...well, I've written about that before. In any case, I still owed her payback from that!
I rummaged through my backpack for a pen and a piece of paper to write my own little note. I then slipped off my shoes as I jotted down a special message for her. Grinning at my plan, I pulled out a special, vacuum-sealed bag from my suitcase: the container for my endosuit. For those of you who don't know, the endosuit is sort of like a scuba diver's wet suit, but designed to protect the wearer from more than merely water. The prefix "endo-" normally means "within," which would imply it's some sort of weird burrowing article of clothing under normal naming conventions! But I had chosen this name for its purpose, not for how it is worn.
Endosuits can survive the internal ecosystems of the human body, with self-contained oxygen supplies, anti-acidic and antibacterial coatings, and more. It's the perfect little scuba suit for exploring the inside of, well, my friends! Plus, it allows for some devilishly fun pranking opportunities--and such was my intended application.
I crept slowly upstairs, the black-and-blue bodysuit making me feel like a big, aquatic-loving ninja as I sneaked into Panda's room. The poor girl had fallen asleep half-curled around a digital tablet, no doubt working on some art assignment for her classes. She'd left the lights on in her room, too, but the blinds were drawn so I hadn't been able to see it from outside. I slowly walked in, feeling a bit guilty about this whole prospect. I mean, I'm not the kind of person who generally pranks other people, since I get sort of a guilty conscience about it. Moreover, this whole scenario looks REALLY awkward in the back of my head, and I was really hoping she wouldn't wake up and see me like this!
Fortunately my luck seemed to hold, and I softly walked to her desk. I placed the note I'd scribbled out downstairs on her desk, smirking again as I read it in my head:
Wish I could've seen you, but you were already asleep. Decided to proceed with experiment on internal nerve sensitivity as discussed. Part of making myself @ home. Sorry, not sorry.
With that, I looked back over at Panda, who'd turned over onto her back since I'd entered the room. She was still asleep, but her left arm remained circling the drawing tablet while her right flopped on the other side, acting as a counterweight and balancing her on her bed. Satisfied with the conditions of the room, I flipped off the light switch, bringing the room to darkness temporarily. Only the LED's from the endosuit were on, and on their dimmest setting, just so I could see enough to get back to her bed. With everything in place, I activated my favorite little gadget, the Minimizer device I kept with the suit.
In mere moments I had shrunken down to a size of a mere 2 inches, treading on the carpet of her floor as if it were a field of gray grass. It only took a minute or so to walk all the way back to her bed, climbing up the legs of her desk chair to easily reach the plush plain. I gingerly avoided the tablet, since I wasn't sure if it were touch sensitive in its inactive state. Accidentally bumping into it could ruin my whole plan!
Fortunately my sneaking streak continued, and I successfully made it up to Panda's mouth. It hung a quarter of the way open, and the smallest of adorable snores echoed up from her sinuses. She must've been transitioning back into deeper sleep; maybe my shuffling about had caused her to stir after all. In any case, she was sufficiently snoozing now. Gently, I climbed up her pillow and sort of slid halfway down it, so I was sitting right next to her open mouth.
I slowly pried her lips apart more, poking the grooves of her lower lip. The pressure was intense; I knew that too much pressure, too enthusiastic of a poke, could accidentally wake her and ruin my prank!
Ok, maybe it was silly to feel pressure in the first place, since i'd put myself in this situation willingly. But hey, I was determined to make my prank work, so it mattered to me! How often to people who play the part of prey get the chance to strike back at their predatory friends? And strike I did, swiftly, as soon as I had moved Panda's mouth as wide open as I safely could. I draped one leg over her open maw, dropping slowly in between her jaws.
Her mouth was really, really dark, with no light source but my LED's to help me with my bearings. Fortunately she was healthily slippery, as her salivary glands still reacted to my presence. Normally i'd be afraid of the slowly-slicking surfaces inside Panda's mouth, but the reflective gloss of saliva captured the light from my suit pretty well, refracting it a bit to better let me see inside.
I now had both legs in, and was lowered all the way to my waist. It was kind of difficult, since i've never been big on upper-arm strength, and I had to hold on tight to her lower incisors for balance. But I soon felt the solid "floor" of the back of her throat below me, and I fully lowered myself inside, sidling against her tongue as I descended. Now fully inside Panda's maw, I crouched down, careful not to bump her tonsils or the INCREDIBLY tempting-to-touch uvula. Either one is a source of playful, PREYful fun, but it'd defeat my true mission's goal! From where I crouched, I could see the slowly fluctuating flesh of her esophagus. Her epiglottis would flap back and forth against the squishy ring of muscle, swaying on the breeze of her breath.
This was one of the coolest parts of my plan, a proverbial upending of typical pred/prey stories. Panda's throat was horizontal in her unconscious state, creating a unique perspective for me as I'd pass deeper inside of her. I know many friends of mine who somewhat fear the sensation of being swallowed alive, since it can be in all honesty a frightening trip! Even if you can overcome the fear of heights, gazing down into the pinkish-orangish tunnel makes you realize it can be a tight squeeze in there.
But plucky ol' peristalsis, the rhythmic muscle spasms that send food to the tummy, are lessened at night, so I had little to fear. So, trembling a little bit from excitement (because c'mon, this is always a thrilling adventure!) I slid my hands between the slimy, warm opening of Panda's throat, coaxing it to open for me. In seconds I was signalling her subconscious to begin the motions of mealtime, and I crawled forward into the first soft, strong wave of swallows--~Glp!
I gloated as I was gulped down her gullet, plotting for my plan to reach completion. You see, it's common knowledge that Panda's pretty ticklish--outside AND inside. She's usually pretty good about bracing herself for it, especially when she swallows somebody (usually ME) unwillingly. But her defenses were down, her stomach a sweet spot just begging to be messed with. So I slowly neared my destination down her digestive tract, giddy with my glorious revenge on horizon. Finally the massaging, manhandling waves of muscle eased as I slid into Panda's bean-shaped belly headfirst. But my expression soon changed to one of confusion and surprise; as soon as I arrived in her stomach, someone spoke!
"Hehe, hey there! I wasn't expecting a visitor."
"AHH!" I yelped, caught off guard by the somewhat cute voice. I fumbled with the LED's to shed some light on my situation. Leaning against the lower side of Panda's stomach was a girl, a few years younger than me in age, wearing a peculiar red dress with a rainbow pattern that swerved up the side. Her skin seemed as white as chalk, but her face was blushing bright red to complement an absolute rainbow of crazy colors in her hair. She pulled back her bangs a little bit with one hand while sitting up off of Panda's stomach wall.
"Hey, no need to panic, silly." The girl was surprisingly calm considering her circumstances, almost perky at the sight of me. "We've met before, right? Aaron, Andy? No, Andrew, that's it. Hey! Though the last time we saw each other you weren't this small..."
The mystery girl's identity came back to me as I put the pieces together. Super pale, save for bright colors; bubbly personality; totally fine with being eaten alive? I sighed in relief as I recognized her.
"Skittles, it HAS been awhile, hasn't it?" I wiped some of the saliva and sticky stuff from Panda's throat off of my suit as I approached her. Skittles beamed at the mention of her name, bouncing up on her tiptoes until the swaying stomach floor messed with her balance and she stood upright again, giggling. "Oops, it's a little tricky to stand in here! But that's ok, I prefer to lay back anyways!" Skittles bounded over to me, giving me a hug as I balanced, bewildered, alongside her.
Skittles is an...interesting lass, to say the least. Whether by some silly science or sheer imagination, she came to life one day from a bag of Skittles candies Panda had at her place. The young woman has the absolute sunniest disposition you can imagine, with a penchant for politely asking to be eaten by her friends! She practically lives for it; it's probably something to do with her being based off of a bag of candy. I'm still not sure where she came from or how she came to be, but she's just about the best company you can have post-consumption!
"Yeah, I'd have to agree with you there. So, I wasn't expecting to see you in here tonight," I admitted.
"And I wasn't thinking i'd get any guests, mister!" Skittles teased. "What, were you caught messing around inside Panda's house, huh?"
"What? Noooo, I wouldn't do something like that. Why would you even think I--" I suddenly remembered my endosuit, its dark coloration looking pretty suspicious to the unfamiliar eye. "Oh, you see my suit and think 'burglar," huh?"
"Mmmmmhhh, not from you, Andrew. You're too nice to do something like that. Or too timid. I'm not sure," she hummed, obviously taunting me. "But you WERE sneaking around, right?"
"Aha, you've got me there," I confessed, too caught up in her cheery demeanor to be off-put anymore. "It's why i've got this suit on, too. Y'see this is called an endosuit. It allows me to go spelunking into this big lug's stomach when I feel like it without fear of any harmful or dangerous conditions." I poked Panda's stomach wall to make my point. "You know, digestive enzymes, sticky mucous, blood cells, that sort of stuff."
"Ohhhhh, so it's a suit of armor for gettin' swallowed, huh?" Skittles's eyes sparkled with wonder as I explained more of the suit's functions (which I've already done once in this story, for you, my readers, so I don't think i'll repeat myself!)
"Well, that's a neat outfit then!" Skittles smiled, but something about this particular grin was off. I tried changing the subject because I wasn't too sure I should pry any further on it. "So, what brings you down here this evening?" I asked, pretending to be nonchalant.
Skittles giggled again as she flopped back onto the plush pink folds of the stomach, sighing happily. "Panda was bummed earlier tonight, talking about how she was struggling on an art project. I was feeling...well, happy to please! So I offered her a sugary snack to keep her up." The blush had returned to her ivory cheeks, her tender attitude towards vore once again showing. "She agreed, but still seemed distracted by her drawing. I think she got it done tonight though."
"What makes you think that?" I asked. "When I arrived she was already asleep, and still huddled around that tablet of hers."
"Welllllll," Skittles hummed, "I've gotten pretty good at feeling her whole body's motions when i'm in here. I just felt her sigh, say, about an hour ago, and then everything got a lot more relaxed in here." I watched her lean her head against the tummy wall, brushing her hair back away from her ear as if she were listening straight through the stomach tissue. "Her heart rate slowed shortly afterward, and that was that--until you tumbled in here, that is!" Skittles finished her story with a smirk edging onto her lips. "You never said, mister--why ARE you inside Panda? She certainly didn't snack on you on purpose!"
"Alright, alright, you've got me," I raised my hands in pseudo-surrender. "I ended up in here as part of a prank I wanted to play on Panda."
"Ooooh! I KNEW you were sneaking around for something," Skittles pointed at me. "You sneak! Well, are you still gonna do it?" Her own eyes had the spark of inspiration now, catching the fire of my fun plans.
"Well..." I stammered, "I really want to. Believe me she totally deserves it, for all the times she's snatched me up and swallowed me whole without my permission! But, she's obviously really tired right now. I planned on tickling her from inside--"
"OOH! My favorite!" Skittles clasped her hands together in one loud clap, approving of my idea. "She's so ticklish along these wiggly, squiggly sides of her stomach wall--but, you know that already, don't you?" She seemed a little embarrassed by her enthusiasm, getting so excited by my idea.
"Hey, glad you know too!" I reassured her. "Everyone who ends up down here should know it, just so we can strike back at this hungry miss. But anyways, I think i'm gonna postpone my revenge 'til tomorrow." I sighed, resigned to my decision. "But at least I won't be bored, waiting to go to bed. I have a friend I can talk to."
Skittles's blush returned in full-force, though I believe I may have caught on to a pattern: her skin turns to a reddish hue when she's pleased, and more of a purplish-red (like, somewhere between a red and purple Skittles candy piece!) when she's really embarrassed. Thankfully this one was the former, showing she was pleased at my calling her friend.
We spent about forty-five minutes or so getting to know each other more--general things friends do upon their first real chance to catch up. She seemed to know just as little about where she came from as I did, but she seemed fascinated with hearing about my life. She got a little excited at the idea of meeting Dragonair, and desperately hoped my dear dragon Pokémon had a sweet tooth. We'd laugh and readjust everytime Panda shifted around in her sleep, sloshing around inside her stomach and making jokes about our past prey experiences.
But eventually, we started to run out of things to talk about. My mind still lingered on that one weird moment of Skittles's shift in attitude, right after we'd talked about the endosuit. I cleared my throat, then raised the question at last.
"So, Skittles, you seemed a little interested about my suit earlier," I approached the topic as cautiously as I could.
"Oh? Hm, well, yes...It just seems pretty nifty." She sighed again, and for the first time this evening it wasn't a happy sigh. "It must be nice to have, to be able to explore."
"Is that what's bugging you?" I blurted out, totally forgetting my attempts at being cautious.
Skittles's embarrassed purple blush returned, and she looked at the soft, slimy floor, no longer making eye contact. "I guess i'm just jealous of your suit, Andrew. It's such a cool idea, to think about it. Getting to explore like that, I mean."
"You know Panda has a suit like this, right?" I asked her, confused.
"Yeah, she told me...It doesn't fit me though. The proportions are just, off. It's too tight in some places, too loose in others. A-and...it doesn't matter. I doubt I could even bring myself to wear one of them, anyway."
"What do you mean by that? It's not a fashion faux pas, is it?" I tried to make a joke but Skittles just sighed again.
"It's not that, it's who I am. Or, what I am, but they're kind of the same thing." She slouched as she sat, sinking into the soft tissue behind her. "I'm...i'm only me if i'm really being enjoyed in this. I can't just get swallowed down here like you did, it feels wrong that way. I...like being enjoyed, Andrew. And you can't enjoy the flavor of a friend wrapped in whatever that thing's made of."
I hadn't even considered that side of her before now. Skittles is so connected to her predator-prey relationship because of her origins; she, in many ways, lives to be somebody's savored snack. It's not something I totally understand but it's important to her, and that was reason enough to not push the matter.
"Still," she kept going, "it must be nice to go exploring. I've never left here; I can't. I sometimes can't even stay inside someone else's stomach for fear of their body beginning to break me down." She moped a little more, holding up a hand to show me the waxy white limb. "Sugar isn't as strong as skin."
I felt sorry for her, for a moment, until I got an idea. "How much do you know about the body, Skittles?"
She perked up, perhaps glad we were off the subject I'd spoken of. "Um, I'd say I know a bit about it, but mostly I just know about the trip from tongue to tummy. Why?" She asked, curious.
I grinned, my new plan forming. "Skittles, I can take you on a very short but sweet adventure. Wanna come?"
Skittles giggled as I held out a hand to her. "Ok, but, where? There's not a whole lot you and I can do here, Andrew."
I grabbed hold of her hand and started half-walking, half-sliding towards the tiny opening at the far end of the bean-shape of Panda's belly. "Just one room over," I said matter-of-factually.
"Oh no no no no, Andrew, that won't work, that's--" Skittles stammered with a look of dread on her face"--that's where the food goes, afterwards. I'll get hurt won't I?"
"Not at all, miss!" I laughed. "You should learn your anatomy. The first small stretch of the small intestine, it does very little to aid digestion. It mostly just adds some enzymes to full flows of chyme--the soupy stuff that leaves the stomach post-mixing--to make the rest of the intestine have an easier go at it. But, it's super easy to avoid."
"Are you sure?" Skittles's hesitancy was disappearing at the delightful prospect of delving deeper.
"Absolutely. I've been down there a few times outside of a suit, and i've come out just fine. Trust me, Skittles, it's a pretty cool sight."
"O-okay," my candy-coated companion gulped nervously, but soon she was overwhelmed with curiosity. The tiny sphincter portal at the end of the stomach, the pylorus, was barely open as we approached, but something inside of Panda perceived us as we passed nearer. Her tummy trembled and the muscly valve sprung open, squeezing Skittles in!
"Whoa, hang on, i'm right behind you!" I hollered, diving in behind her. The dilated ring relaxed as I passed through into Panda's tube-y part of the tummy. "Whew...that's always more sudden than I expect it to be. You alright, Skittles?" I asked.
But Skittles didn't answer. Her mouth hung open in a huge smile as she traced the firmer, round coils of cartilage inside the duodenum. Her eyes grew wide as the rhythm of Panda's pulse and internal plumbing passed in and out of sync, slowly lulling into relaxation after squeezing us through.
Skittles was elated. "All this time, just beneath me, there was a little tiny tunnel?" she exclaimed. "And, it's just, clean! It's not messy or dangerous, it's so different, the colors are all different too!"
"Yeah," I lectured, "The color tones of the tissues change slightly the deeper you go in the digestive line. Isn't it nifty?"
"It's an internal rainbow is what it is!" Skittles cheered. She crawled on all fours around the tunnel space of the intestine, following its bends around the pancreas. "Hey, avoid those two ducts on the left," I cautioned. "Just in case. That's where those juices I mentioned dribble out of."
"Okeedokie!" Skittles whooped as she kept exploring. I sat back, smiling, listening to the tired heartbeat above me. I thought her enthusiasm was a little overboard but really, it IS wonderful to think about sometimes. Even the short stretch of the duodenum is a drastically different organ than the one above, the snug sleeping bag of the stomach.
"Hey Andrew!" Skittles called from further in. "Where's this ring lead to?"
"Oh, crap. Stay back from that one, Skit! That's the Ileum, it's not safe to go there." I felt relieved when I saw her bright white figure crawling back towards me, beaming. "It's really pretty beautiful, when you think about it," she remarked.
"Couldn't agree more," I replied, turning to look back at the Pyloric valve. "And the best part is that Panda can still feel us pretty clearly down here, if we go."
"Really?" Skittles exclaimed. "So she can still feel nice even as I see new sights...amazing!" Skittles closed her eyes, leaning against the sides of the duodenum. "I'd like that sometime, to hear her, feel her feeling me further within. I bet she'd like it."
"I promise she would, and will. We'll do it together, just like this, tomorrow, just to prove it."
"Yay!" Skittles gave one more string of giggles before sighing again, looking up towards the Pylorus. "Still, i'm getting sleepy, and...I think it'd be softer back up in her stomach."
"You ready to go then, Skit?" I asked.
"Yea--hey, what is that?" She asked, wrinkling her nose.
"What is what?"
"That name, you keep calling me 'Skit.'"
"Oh," I mumbled a little, feeling awkward. "I just thought of it. You're so lively it reminded me of an actress in a play, and it's a short way of saying your name."
"Oh! I like that, then," Skittles laughed. "It's clever but short, and silly. So, you wanna keep it?"
"Sure," I replied with a grinned. "Looks like you have a nickname now, huh?"
"Yeah," she nodded, then crouched up to climb back through the Pylorus. "I think I'll keep it. Well c'mon, Andrew, back to the bunk beds! We have a long day of tickling tomorrow and we wanna be well energized for it!"
With that, the waxy white girl slipped back up the squeezing portal to the stomach, and I followed behind. Sometimes, it seems, there are sweeter things than payback to be found in visiting a friend. Sometimes, you make a new one along the way.