Fear gripped my belly as I watched the dragon from my hiding place. She had clearly caught something and, thankfully, it didn't appear to be human; it seemed as though another unlucky deer had crossed paths with her.
The animal's final struggles died away as a claw poked into its neck. The limb body was placed on a large stone table as a large, pink tongue ran itself over the predator's lips.
"Now don't move," she said playfully. "I'm going to go get one of your friends so you can have some company in my belly, ok?"
With that the dragon turned and walked out of the cave, spreading her wings and taking to the skies. I waited several moments just to be certain she was gone before I darted from my crack in the wall, sprinting towards the table.
Life had been like this for me for several months. The world was once run by humanity, a utopia for the once-dominant men and women of my race; that had changed about a year ago, however.
No one knows where they came from; some say they emerged from a portal to another world, while others say that they were aliens from the distant corners of the galaxy. Regardless, Earth found itself occupied, seemingly overnight, by another race of creatures: dragons.
The dragons each stood at well over one-hundred feet in height. They were humanoid, like us; but all resemblance to human beings stopped there. Scales covered their bodies, the shade seemingly unique to each of the dragons, and wings burst from their backs, allowing them to dive down on their victims from the air to impale them on their massive claws.
Their diet was also quite different from that of humanity, mainly due to the fact that humans were part of it. It seemed some sort of sick game among the larger race to not only devour unfortunate men and women but to swallow them alive, a less-than-desirable end.
It had taken the draconic race a mere six months to not only spread across the globe but to topple all existing governments. Humans were reduced to mere animals, forced to live from the land as they had many millennia before as they did their best to evade the planet's new dominant species. Life was hard, especially for those who had never worked a day in their lives.
I was one of those.
I had been a computer nerd before the apocalypse. I had never explored much further than my front door; I had never been forced to hunt, fish, or even really exercise. I wasn't strong enough to survive in the world on my own, especially when I was separated from my family; but I was smart enough to know that I didn't have to.
For nearly two months I lived in the shell of an abandoned grocery store, taking advantage of the timeless packaged goods. Just as my supply of pop tarts and oatmeal was beginning to run low a new opportunity presented itself in my life: a dragon by the name of Liz.
She came through the shattered remains of my home town searching for a snack, one of my kind. A short time later another dragon came and spoke with her, the pair thankfully using English. I learned that the black dragon (Liz) had recently moved into the area, a cave about a mile to the north.
A thought came to me. Humans had been reduced to the status of animals; one animal that quickly came to mind was a rodent. Mice were stereotyped as living in holes throughout a home's walls, stealing tidbits of food and remaining virtually undetected for the longest time.
Could I be a human-in-the-wall?
I answered that question a few days later when I snuck into Liz's cave. Conveniently I found a crack just large enough for me to slip into in the back corner of the cavern. Just beyond was a smaller cave, a hollowed-out area in the limestone mountain almost the size of my bedroom back home.
It was perfect.
And so, just as the countless days before, I found myself rushing across the temporarily vacant home towards the deer that would become my dinner. The table was really just a large boulder with a flat top, an easily scaled obstacle. Moments after reaching its base my muscles, honed from weeks of exercise, pulled me to the corpse's level.
"Hello delicious," I muttered, taking out a knife from my belt and cutting a large piece of meat from the thigh of the creature. Blood soaked my hands but I wiped it away on the rock face, licking my lips as I imagined how well I would eat later that night.
A great shadow loomed over me as I began to flip the carcass over, hoping to hide my stolen portion. I looked toward the cavern's entrance, expecting to see a cloud passing over the sun; the day had been overcast, after all. What I saw instead were a pair of great obsidian wings folding back behind the massive body of my hostess.
The dragon was back early!
"Your friends weren't very good at hiding." Liz called as she entered the cave, continuing her act of talking to the dead deer. "You'll have plenty of company."
I panicked, looking around for a place to hide. I dashed across the tabletop, sliding down the far side. My body became wedged between the boulder and the far wall of the cave, concealing me. I nearly found myself stuck in my hiding place and hoped that, after the danger passed, I could manage to climb back out.
"Wow, I don't think I've ever had six of you inside me at once!" the dragon giggled. "I hope my tummy can hold all of you; I'd hate to leave one of you out."
I heard a loud swallow behind me and knew that one of the deer had made its way inside the cave's owner. She went on to gulp down each carcass in turn, leaving nothing behind save for the taste on her lips.
"That was delicious
" she sighed. "And, actually, I'm still a bit hungry."
I heard Liz rise behind me, her claws scraping softly on the cavern floor as she moved toward the entrance of the cave. But, it seemed, she only took a single step; instead of following footfalls, I heard an interested "hmmm" echo through the dragon's home.
"What do we have here?" she asked. I could feel her bending closer to me; but there was no way she could find me, hidden as I was.
"I don't believe I own one of these." Liz said. Her words were followed by the sound of metal scraping against stone, a sound that confused me.
It was then I looked down to my belt. I had dropped my knife! My tool and the pilfered piece of meat still lay on the tabletop!
"Is someone else here?" the huntress asked slyly. "I would hate to ignore a guest
Her shadow moved away as she bent down, inspecting the area around her table. I heard her sniff the air, muttering a confirmed "I know you're still here
" before she rose again.
"Where could you be?" she giggled. "I think you humans call this game hide-and-seek; you're very good at it, you know."
I heard the gravely sound of stone grinding against stone and realized to my horror that the boulder at my back was shifting. She was moving the table to look for me; and she would find me!
The gap that was my hiding place widened, allowing me to move again. As the stone floor appeared below me I leapt towards it, hitting the ground with a thud. I oriented myself quickly, finding my safe haven against the far wall.
I prepared to sprint for it, chancing a glance upwards before I did so. A pair of blood-red, reptilian eyes stared back at me hungrily. The gaze seemed to pierce me, take away my ability to move; I was powerless.
" Liz purred. "Who do we have here?"
I didn't respond; how could I when my mouth seemed as useless as my legs?
"None of the deer ever talk to me." The dragon pouted. "But you're different; you aren't an animal, are you? Come on, talk with me
"M-my name is Alexander." I said weakly.
"Alexander? That sounds a lot like a knight's name, doesn't it? Let's be a bit less formal; can I call you Alex?"
"Sure," I mumbled.
"So, Alex," the predator continued "what brings you into my cave?"
A shock coursed through my body. I couldn't just tell her I had stolen her food for months on end, could I? I needed to come up with a lie, an excuse as to why I was here; unfortunately, I had never been a good liar.
"You weren't stealing from me, were you?" she asked. "I worked hard to get that meat
"I-" I started but realized that she was onto me; maybe she knew I was there the whole time.
"Tsk, tsk, tsk," she scolded, clicking her tongue. "That wasn't very nice of you."
"I'm sorry?" I tried desperately, realizing the conversation was taking a turn for the worse.
"Well," Liz said with a mischievous glint in her eye "I studied a bit about human culture. In ancient times it was typical for a thief to lose a hand, wasn't it?"
I recoiled in horror, grasping your right wrist protectively. Was she actually thinking about cutting my hand off?
"Of course," the dragon went on "I'm not going to take your hand. No, you look to tasty for me to stop there
A great black hand came up, flexing above me before it shot downwards. I rolled to the side, trying to evade its grasp; luck was with me as I passed between two of Liz's fingers.
Then I was off at a run, my fate resting in my legs as they propelled me for the crack. The dragon seemed shocked that I had gotten away and was slow to react; but, when she did, it sounded like a cavalry of mounted knights was at my heels.
I reached my mouse hole and dove into it, feeling the vibration as the dragon crashed into the wall just behind me. I panted heavily, trying to shake the terror that dwelt within me.
I had almost been eaten!
"Oh come on," Liz begged from just outside. A great red eye lowered itself to stare into the darkness of my personal cave as the dragon got down on her knees, still seemingly in a state of disbelief as she looked at the meal that had escaped her.
"Don't be like that, my little snack." She said. I didn't move, still watching the fiery orb, horrified.
"You need your knife back." She taunted. "And you left your dinner behind, too."
I continued to sit still. Nothing she could offer me would make me brave the dangers outside.
"I wasn't really planning on eating you." Liz tried, desperation growing in her voice. "Honestly! I just wanted to have a little fun, that's all. Please come out and talk to me
I crawled away from where I sat, but in the opposite direction of the hole. My back pressed against the stone wall as I allowed the blackness to envelop me, hiding my fear in the blanket of sleep.
* * * * *
I awoke with a start. The light beyond the crack was fading, giving way as night's shadows enveloped the planet. I shook the sleep from my eyes, putting a hand to my head as the memories of the day flooded back to me.
I had almost ended up a dragon's second course; Liz had tried to eat me!
My own stomach seemed to like the idea of a meal, though, and growled in protest to its emptiness. I started to move towards the entrance but stopped; how could I go back out there after only a few hours? For all I knew my hostess was waiting just beyond, hoping to get an opportunity to pounce on me and give the deer in her belly more company.
I slumped back, shaking my head. Maybe I could wait until late in the night, when Liz would have hopefully given up; then I could sneak out of the cave and get away. I nodded my head as if to agree with myself, finding my plan full proof.
But then a pleasant smell hit my nostrils. I looked back outside the crack in the rock to see two items on the ground: the first was my knife, the second the meat I had found earlier that day. The venison was already cooked, roasted just the way I liked it somewhere between medium and medium well. My tongue passed over my lips as my stomach began to complain again, louder this time.
The knife and the meat were obviously bait, and I was the fish nibbling at the line. I needed the knife, though, if I was going to survive on my own; and the meat smelled so good
I swallowed my fear, a stern expression crossing my face. I brushed the brown hair from my eyes as I started forward one hesitant step at a time.
I reached the entrance to the cave and took a deep breath, fixing my eyes on the prize several yards away. My body tensed in anticipation for the dash as my heart began to work a double shift, quickening its pace to flood blood through the muscles that would so desperately need it.
And then I shot forward, feet slamming into the stone with enough force to move a mountain as I made the sprint of my life. My movements reminded me of a suicide at school; I needed to reach out, grab my target, and then dash back.
My fingers circled the hilt of my knife, which stabbed out to spear the meat. I had what I needed; now I just needed to get home.
I spun towards the crack but managed only a single step before despair stopped me. Liz sat there, watching me with a pleased expression across her muzzle. She had been only a foot to the side of my hole, the darkness of the cave shrouding her; now her tail flicked back and forth in front of the opening, blocking my path.
I was doomed.
"I was wondering if you'd ever come out." She purred, not making a move towards me. She didn't need to; she had complete control of the situation from any point within a few feet of me.
"Did you sleep well?" she giggled. "I was afraid you'd died of fright, and that you'd never wake up!"
I made no move to answer. She was toying with me, as so many dragons had done in the past to other humans; I was a single move away from being her dinner and I wasn't planning on giving her any satisfaction in the fact.
"Please talk to me." She begged, as though reading my mind. "I almost never see other dragons; all I have are animals. They never talk back to me; but I know you can, Alex! Please; you owe me for the food, after all."
I smirked at the statement. I did owe her; but she would have her debt paid a thousand times over as I slid down her throat.
are there any other humans around?" she asked.
Anger flared within me at the statement.
"What, I'm not enough for you!?" I demanded. "You want me to give away my family and friends? You want me to have company inside you, do you? Well I'm the only one for dozens of miles; you aren't going to get what you want; sorry."
A pleased smile descended towards me as Liz leaned down. I gulped as my eyes fell on the razor sharp teeth before me, the doom that lay only a few feet away.
"I just got what I wanted." The dragon said. "You talked to me; that's all I wanted."
"Whatever," I muttered.
"Oh, don't be like that!" she giggled. "You started, so go on. Tell me about yourself, little man. How long have you lived here? What was life like before dragons came to Earth? There are so many things we have to discuss
I snorted. I had a bad feeling that my words would be rebounding off of the walls of her stomach before too long; I'd save my voice for screaming.
"You seem to talk a lot when you get emotional." Liz observed. "So, if I scared you a bit
There was a pressure against my back suddenly. I felt myself being lifted from the ground, the back of my shirt pressed between her thumb and forefinger. My body shook with my struggles as I was lifted several stories above the floor of the cave, left to dangle above her open mouth.
"Feeling chatty?" she asked.
"Let me go!" I yelled down at her, my eyes wide with horror as I stared at the gap in her fangs.
"As you wish," Liz giggled, allowing her fingers to part so that I fell through her lips. I hit the soft, wet surface of her tongue and my struggles took on a renewed vigor as I fought against the slanted surface, struggling up towards the gap in the keratin barrier.
Sensing my escape my captor sealed her lips shut, taking away what light remained in the organic cavern. Her head leveled itself out, ending my slide towards her throat.
"Now?" her slurred question echoed around me, the giant lips moving as little as possible so as not to present an escape route.
"Let me out!" I yelled. "Please, don't eat me!"
Her head tilted back again and I screamed in terror. My body slid towards her jugular, the muscles beneath me pressing down on my legs to pull me deeper within her body. My screams died away as I found myself encased in a tunnel of flesh, an organic highway to hell.
Long moments passed as the lump that was my body passed down the slippery tunnel. Then my legs entered a larger, open space. The limbs kicked violently as the rest of my body was pulled into my jailer's stomach; I had actually been eaten!
"Now?" the great voice of the dragon boomed around me.
"'Now what?" I yelled up angrily. "You expect me to talk to you while you digest me? Just shut up and leave me alone. You got what you really wanted: dinner."
I looked around for the corpses of the deer, expecting to see piles of decaying flesh and bone sticking up from the shallow liquid. The carcasses were gone though; it seemed as though I wouldn't have to suffer long. The acid would end me quickly.
"You're very filling." Liz called down to me. It sounded as though the words were some sort of compliment; I shuddered, realizing it was probably the nicest thing a dragon could say to one of my kind.
"We'll have to do this more often." She added. "Your taste is unique; you're a delicacy, Alex! And then when you actually get deeper
well, you send a warm feeling through my whole body. Can you squirm around a bit? You feel so nice against my stomach walls
I ignored most of what she said. My mind focused on the first sentence she said, that we should "do this more often." It didn't make sense; something could only be eaten once.
"If you squirm around," the dragon promised "I'll swallow that venison for you."
"There's no point in eating when your life is measure in hours." I yelled up.
"Aw, Alex, that's so sad." The dragon boomed remorsefully. "Don't worry you'll be fine; I promise."
"You promised earlier today that you wouldn't eat me." I reminded her.
well I lied about that. But I swear you're perfectly safe where you are."
"My second stomach." She corrected. "Dragons have two: one for digesting, one for storage. You are perfectly safe where you are; you can stay down there for years there's a thought and, with food and water, could survive."
"You're kidding me." I yelled up in disbelief.
"Well, do you see any acid? It would sting if there was any, wouldn't it? No; you're ankle-deep in saliva."
disgusting." I laughed.
The dragon's giggle boomed down around me, shaking my organic surroundings.
"I could always move you over to my first stomach if you wanted
" she joked. "No!" I yelled up at her. "Your saliva is really
"I thought so." She chuckled.
I don't know how long we talked; hours, to be certain. But, in time, we fell asleep together; the morning found me alive and well, just as Liz promised.
Somewhere in his great book, Father Time marked our relationship down as the first friendship between a human and a dragon; I had found happiness in the world I thought destroyed.
The cat had spared her little mouse.