Warning in advance; contains vore.
There's really something unsettling about watching a zombie eat another zombie with a fork.
Fortunately, Ben had missed most of it while he was unconscious. Unfortunately, he was strapped down to a cheap table and the zombie was looking up from the ravaged corpse it had finished on as if planning to make Ben the second course.
As Ben's eyes widened in something akin to fear, the metal half-cones serving as the zombie's ears perked up as its torn lips curled back into a smile. The eyes on its hairless, rotting ratlike head were obscured by a tinted visor, but its gaze still brought a sense of coldness.
The human looked to his arm, feeling as though something was amiss. Ordinarily, he had a device that resembled a watch there, but it was absent from his wrist. Out of the corner of his eye, he found that it was resting on an uneven workbench.
So at the moment, things weren't looking too good at all.
The rat traced the fork across Ben's jugular, and then paused, contemplating exactly where to start.
It bit down gently on its split, green-tipped tongue as it hovered the tines of its utensil over Ben's sternum. The sharpened tips could probably puncture it, but not at all cleanly.
And then, as it drew back, Ben's pulse began to race, and then his heart even skipped a beat as without warning, flames erupted all over the rat's body. It collapsed on top of its intended prey, a smoldering crater burnted into its back.
"Yi'ashoth zet?" a feminine voice said from beyond the other slab.
Ben took his attention off of the zombie long enough to look over at the source of the voice.
Long, silky red hair hung around a canine head; brown-furred, mostly, but the intricate black marking on her face stood out. The sleeves of her red shirt were both missing, and her denim pants were ripped, but she herself didn't seem to have any great injury.
A tan bowler hat with a black ribbon around it sat neatly atop her head; her ears perking up through deliberately-cut openings in it as she found that the human seemed physically intact.
She set down a heavy, cylindrical machine with many levers on it on top of the zombie who was missing most of his organs, courtesy of the zombie whose organs were missing, courtesy of her.
She approached Ben; her fluffy, broadly-striped tail swaying as she came near.
"Na," she said, kneeling by him. "Yi'ashoth zet?"
"...What's going on?" Ben asked, hoping she could understand, or would even give him an answer.
The humanoid jackal muttered something to herself under her breath, and then turned, looking at the workbench. In just a few moments, something got her attention, and she moved for it. A small, four-sided length of crystal with something inside of it; writing, but it was extremely small. She couldn't stare for very long, as it made her eyes water. She set the crystal down, clutching her head for almost a minute.
Ben watched, wordless, until the jackal recovered, grabbing the crystal and holding it close to Ben's eyes. After only a split second, he clenched his eyes shut, wincing and letting out a pained grunt as a building burning sensation welled up behind his eyelids. And then it was gone.
"Well, definitely keeping that. Anyhoo, asking you that a third time," the jackal said, letting out a relaxed sigh, "Are you alright?"
"What was that?..." Ben said, opening his eyes gradually. Even the dim light sort of hurt to look at right now.
Suddenly, he could understand her, though. He was even speaking the strange language. The words hadn't changed, but now it just came as easily as English.
"I wonder why he'd even have one of these," the jackal mumbled, squinting at the crystal. "I mean, I know he takes random people in, but there's no point in teaching them Sarric if he's just gonna eat them..."
"Um, hello?" Ben spoke up, looking to the dead body slumped over on him again. "If it's not too much trouble, could you unbind me?"
"Ah. Right. Yes." She slipped the gem into one of a few pouches on her belt, and then reached under the table, releasing the straps that held Ben in place.
"Much appreciated," he said, sitting up and nudging the corpse off of himself. It hit the floor with more of a clang than a thud.
He reached out for his device on the workbench, but the jackal grabbed him by his shoulders and leaned into him, holding him back against the wall.
"Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, who are you?" she asked, displaying a full set of strong white teeth in a wide grin.
"Just a traveler," he answered. He wasn't lying when he said that; one of the perks of his organization was the frequent traveling, but he was fairly certain nobody in that organization had heard this language before.
"Really? I'm a bit of a traveler myself," the jackal returned. "But... how did you get here? You weren't speaking the language, and that definitely wasn't Avian or Jolgon coming out of your mouth, so I get the feeling you're new here."
"You could say that. As for how I got here, I really have no idea."
"Well, I do."
"Yep. That guy on the floor decided to go fishing for people, and he landed you on his hook. And it was a hook with no regard for time, space, dimensions, or the physical world."
"Why'd he pick me?"
"He didn't pick you. He just happened to get you. And that was good enough for him, I guess. I mean, that's one damn fancy fork he was using. I went through his stuff and he had a whole drawer full of kinda shoddy looking ones and I guess he uses those for less-special meals and-- But I'm rambling here. Anyway, I found that proverbial hook, and we can use that proverbial hook to get you back wherever you came from."
"Well, thanks, but I can get home on my own. That watch thing there is mine, and I can use it to get back."
"No, you can't."
"This whole world has been plucked out of its resting place in the multiverse, and we're sealed off. The only way to get in is to be the lucky person a Breacher brings here because he's hungry or something, and the only way to get out is to be from somewhere else in the first place and returned using Breacher equipment. Unfortunately for you, he's using the weird kind and I can only get you home any time after a few days have passed and your aura has gone stable. I can do it from anywhere though, so that's an upside."
"So, why is this world sealed off?" Ben asked, taking her word for it on the more technical-sounding stuff.
"Well, some people would call it the apocalypse. I would also call it the apocalypse."
"When did it start?"
"A while ago. I've been on this stretch of land for all that time. Hardly anything left here except for guys like the one that was about to go to work on you. Most living people have already been killed. The same goes for surrounding islands."
"And what even happened?"
"This is a world full of zombie surgeons making zombie war machines and most of them answer to a weird voice that wants to wake the moon and use it to eradicate us all. Something like this is kind of to be expected."
"...That does sound like a recipe for disaster."
"And it's a very reliable recipe, too. ...Aaanyway. Go ahead and get your watch, I'm gonna look for some of this guy's food that isn't rotten."
With that, she let him go, and then turned away, standing to her full height of seven-and-a-half feet tall, and picked up the weird machine she had brought in with her, exiting and turning left, heading down the passageway.
"You can come with me if you want," she called back as an afterthought. "You probably- probably -won't get ripped up by more undead that way."
Ben made no response; he slipped the device back onto his wrist, and then scanned for an area he could use to open a way home. The vast area around him was completely devoid of any exit points.
He let out a sigh. So the jackal was right about that then. But a few days here sounded survivable.
At least his personal storage still worked, to an extent. It seemed kind of empty here, but he at least had access to some essential items. Producing a flashlight from what would appear to be thin air, he switched it on and followed after the jackal.
He just hoped she was actually trustworthy.
"So, do you have a name?" Yhana asked, hearing footsteps behind her.
"Ben," was the reply.
"I'll remember that," she affirmed, picking out a frozen hunk of wrapped, unidentified meat from a freezer, and whisking it into a remote storage area of her own.
"And yours?" the human asked, watching her.
"I'll remember that," Ben said.
Yhana turned briefly, giving him a slight smile before resuming the raid on the zombie's hoarded food. Most of it seemed to be toaster pastries, and for some reason the previous owner of these items saw fit to freeze them.
"So, have you been all by yourself?" the human asked after a while.
"Yeah. Been maybe a year or so now; I haven't kept the best track of it."
"That's a long time to spend alone..."
"Kinda. You get used to it after a while, though."
"Still, I guess you've got some company for now, right?"
"Yeah. For now... but most company really doesn't stay for long."
Yhana shut the freezer, but remained crouched and turned away. "Well, most people are kinda uneasy around me."
"Really? Why is that?"
"Do you know what I am, Ben?"
"If you're alright with it, I could just make a scan and figure it out."
"I can tell you all you need to know."
"...Alright then. I'm all ears."
"I'm a creature we refer to in this language as a Xeeok. As was the guy I blasted upstairs."
"So... where are you going with this?"
"That one was going to eat you. That's just what Xeeok do." The jackal stood, offering Ben a little lopsided smile. "Because you know, you're delicious."
Ben took a step back, keeping his eyes on Yhana. "Is that supposed to be funny?"
"That depends on wether on not you find it funny or not. ...But I'm being totally serious, just in case you couldn't tell."
The human turned, bolting for the stairs, but found Yhana standing there, blocking his way.
"Too slow," she said, reaching out to Ben.
As her hand made contact with his forehead, a feeling like a static shock started there, and then a weird tingling sensation spread over the rest of him as black mist rose around him, obscuring his vision.
Yhana closed her hand as the last of the mist flowed into her personal storage space, and then crouched, watching the disoriented human slowly regain his senses.
A few moments passed, and he looked up, jumping when he saw how significant the size difference between Yhana and himself had become. His slowed reflexes prevented him from reacting in time as the Xeeok's hand wrapped around him and lifted him.
"I could just swallow you right here, and it doesn't look like there's a lot you could do," Yhana smirked.
"Why?" Ben asked, staring into her narrowed pale-green eyes. "Why do you have to do this?"
It had all been a trick; she didn't want to help him survive any more than she wanted to help a pill do what it was supposed to.
"Because it's fun," she replied. Her voice was unburdened by guilt of any degree. "But maybe we could make this a little more fun; we could play a little game, if you want."
Ben said nothing, not that the pause Yhana had given him would provide very much room to say much.
"You hide wherever you want in this room, and I'll try to find and catch you. To be a little more sporting, you know? I won't even use aura tracking."
The human narrowed his eyes at her as well; if she wanted to be sporting, she would have left him at normal size and so left them with an even playing field.
"Sounds good," he said at length. It really didn't sound good at all, but on the off chance there was a hole in the wall somewhere, he could use that to escape.
Yhana crouched, and set Ben down.
"You've got one minute," she said, turning away from him. "Make good use of it."
But she didn't get an answer; the shrunken man was already hurrying towards a cluttered corner of the room.
He didn't have much of a chance, but there was still a chance.
Yhana turned slowly, standing up and stretching. She surveyed the room carefully, trying to look for any signs of Ben. Then again, when you're four inches tall, you really don't leave too many signs.
The jackal headed to a dusty bookshelf, crouching again and removing several books, in case her prey had hidden behind them.
But Ben was on the other side of the room, crouched behind a hubcap in a pile of miscellaneous scrap metal. His heart pounded in his chest as he heard Yhana go to work disassembling things in her search for him.
The human peeked out cautiously; his view of Yhana was still obscured by the assortment of pipes and springs and whatnot, and so was her view of him, if she were faced towards him.
He crept back behind the hubcap, and began moving along the wall as the jackal stood, spun on her heel, and headed towards the other side of the room, looking under a wooden chest.
The jackal backed away from the chest, still crouched, and sniffed the air for several moments. Turning her attention to a corner of the room, she rushed over the the pile of scrap metal and began searching it.
Ben did his best to contain a sigh of relief; it was a good thing he had just moved behind the freezer box, or he would have been found. A new sort of anxiety set in however, as he contemplated the idea that since Yhana had been lead there by his scent, she could trail him with ease.
Although, in his current hiding spot, the smell of some kind of dripping chemical was present from somewhere below the freezer, and he hoped it did something to mask his scent.
Yhana had taken apart the scrap heap and even laid it out in an organized manner in less than a minute, moving on from there. Ben was already on the move again by then; whatever scent trail she picked up would lead her straight to him.
The man had disappeared under the freezer; there was a little space for him there. By then, the jackal had turned her attention to it, and peeked under. Nothing.
Ben was actually considerably strong, but even for him, it was tiring to brace himself against the sides of the square slot in the bottom of the freezer, especially with the scent of chemical fumes causing him to experience lightheadedness.
He dropped down as he heard the sound of Yhana's hindclaws clicking against the floor as she walked away. He crawled out from under the fridge, and not a moment too late; the jackal returned and in one quick movement, lifted up the human's former cover, checking the underside.
"You're close, aren't you?" she breathed. "But why are you trying so hard? I've got a special hiding place just for you, and nobody will ever find you there..."
As to be expected, Ben didn't reply. He moved along behind the next cabinet, and then ducked behind a pile of other miscellaneous objects on the far side of it.
There were spiderwebs all around; he really hoped the one who put them there wasn't around.
"Aren't you a little cold right now?" Yhana asked, continuing her search. "I'll warm you right up if you'll come out..."
She was just trying to tempt him, at this point. Apparently this could be a desirable thing to people here under better circumstances and she knew that. And it was even desirable to Ben under better circumstances, as strange as that may have seemed to some.
There was more than just a bit of appeal in it, but it wasn't worth having the skin melted off of his bones.
He kept moving past the cobwebs and electrical adapters, searching for some way out.
"There you are."
Ben jumped at the voice, and looked to his left. Yhana had her ear to the floor, and her hungry gaze fixated on her prey.
The human pressed himself back against the wall, not daring to even blink.
"You should probably just give up," Yhana suggested. "I recognize those web patterns; that's a poisonous spider. And I'll be a lot more gentle with you than it will be."
"I'd rather take my chances with the spider, if you don't mind," Ben responded, shifting to the left a little.
"Just get out here so I can eat you properly," the jackal said, her tone indicating impatience.
She reached in for him, but Ben made another quick step to the left, but it was to fake her out, and he rolled to the right, catching on a web briefly, but it didn't hinder him much. Coming to the edge of the underside of the cabinet, he found there wasn't really anywhere left to go. Yhana had already removed many things Ben could have used as cover, such as the books on the shelves, and there was nothing in the corner; just an open space that would leave him more vulnerable than he was now.
"I think you might be stuck," Yhana grinned. She brought her hand around, just falling short of Ben with that swipe. He could feel a slight air current as her claws rushed past him.
She moved around to the open space to the side of the cabinet, reaching in from that angle, but Ben dodged out of the way. He was still within range at that time however, and Yhana closed her hand around him, pulling him out as he tried to force her grip open again.
Ben found himself held up in front of a smiling set of jaws, with those green eyes examining his face, looking for some trace of fear, but Ben wouldn't dignify her with more than just the trace he couldn't hide.
"I feel like we've been here before. Are you getting that vibe?" the jackal asked.
"Just get this over with," he growled.
Yhana shrugged at that. "Fine with me."
Warm, sticky saliva seeped into Ben's clothing as Yhana opened her hand, transferring him onto her tongue. In the off-chance there was a moment he would be able to slip out of the predator's mouth, he fought for that, but she simply clamped down on him with her teeth, and used her tongue to bring him fully inside.
Ben tried to turn himself around, still showing defiance. By now he was more than just damp; it was hard to find traction.
Yhana placed her hands against the wall, bracing herself for the rush she'd experience as her prey entered her stomach. It was a fantastic feeling, but it made her enter almost a trance of sorts sometimes and she preferred not falling over when it came.
She tilted her head back, gulping Ben down. A bit of light crept through as her canine jaws opened partially, but as her throat closed up, the only light left was the glow from the runes in her mouth and throat.
Sliding down her throat was an odd feeling, to say in the least. Physically, it was by no means unpleasant; perhaps it would have been rather enjoyable, except for the feeling it gave mentally.
Ben could feel the jackal's entire body shiver as he slipped into her belly, stimulating the touch receptors in the lining. The human forced his hands back through the opening he came through, trying to keep it open, but the slow-but-heavy cascade of saliva prevented him from doing anything but getting wetter.
He lost his hold on the rim of the valve, and slid down the slick walls, resting at the lowest point of Yhana's stomach.
He wasn't totally helpless; he had a last resort, but preferred not to use it until the situation had reached critical.
"Are you happy now?" he asked bitingly. "Is this really so important to you?"
"M-hm," was the simple reply. Yhana was definitely lost in the moment right now.
"I've got my own set of needs a human doesn't."
"And eating me is one of those needs?"
"Perceptive, aren't you? Now, why don't you take a nap and sleep all this stress off?"
Red runes lit up in the jackal's stomach, forming kind of a cage of lights around Ben, and he could feel himself getting drowsier by the second.
He tried to activate his trump card; it was a weapon that definitely could have sliced through Yhana- not that he was eager to really wound her so deeply even now; he wasn't a vengeful person, just one that valued the state of being alive -but his focus had already floated away from him.
"You can't just..." he strained to get the words out.
"Oh, relax," the jackal responded. "If I actually wanted to hurt you, why would I have put it off until now?"
As she finished speaking, Ben lost consciousness, even before the realization he was going to be alright could completely surface.
Yhana stood up straight again as the movement in her belly stopped. She chuckled to herself; Ben really did provide some fun.
She'd give him an explanation later, when he would wake.
She had no idea when that would be though; people generally stayed asleep a while in her stomach. She took pride in that, though.
She walked to pick up the thruster she had been using as a weapon, and then turned, heading for the stairs. After she got the breaching equipment, which would be necessary to return Ben home, there would be no reason to stay around here anymore.
The first thing Ben became aware of was warmth all around him.
Almost immediately after, he remembered just what that warmth meant.
"About time you woke up," Yhana said at feeling movement inside of her. "You were asleep for hours. Am I really that comfy?"
"I'm still alive?" Ben mouthed to himself. But then he remembered the last thing the jackal had said to him before he went unconscious.
If I actually wanted to hurt you, why would I have put it off until now?
"You weren't actually going to digest me at all," Ben said so the predator could hear.
"About time you figured that out." The response came with a laugh. "I said I was going to eat you, which I did, as you've noticed. Never once did I say you'd be harmed."
"Well, it's sort of a reflex in most living creatures to assume they'll be harmed in this situation."
"Fair enough. By the way, you were pretty great back there, in that zombie's nest."
Ben shrugged; Yhana couldn't see it, but she could feel his shoulders moving against the wall of her stomach.
"You still got me cornered though."
"True. But it was all about the circumstances. You got unlucky; you were sort of in bonds from the moment you were brought to this world. In different circumstances, you'd probably have been able to handle things a lot better."
"Maybe so. Though I wouldn't quite call it bad luck, now. Maybe I got lucky since I happened to be where you came along; I got to meet you, rather than someone elsewhere who probably wouldn't have been quite so nice about... this."
"True as well. I guess I got lucky too then, hm?"
Ben's surroundings contracted around him, gently but still firmly, and brought him upwards. Light poured in as Yhana's mouth opened, and Ben slid out across her tongue and onto her waiting palm.
He turned, looking at Yhana. No longer did she have that mocking grin; this time, she gave him an honest smile.
She set down the book in her other hand- apparently, she could read it even with the absence of any major light, save for the glow of runes in her mouth -and shifted back a little to place her back against the wall, for a little spinal support.
Ben looked around, wiping himself off; they seemed to be under a sheet of metal held up with straight poles. Yhana rested on a bedroll and had a chest next to her, but other than that, there wasn't much around. The scenery was one of the ocean, but it was waveless and dark. The only life it appeared to have was that of the pale moonlight. It was eerie, and the shimmer of the moon sent a kind of chill through Ben, and it wasn't just the wind. Snow fell outside- or maybe it was ash; it was hard to tell.
"So, this is where you live?" Ben asked.
"At the moment, yeah. Some of the highest ground I could find, and it's all I need right now."
"I see. You had somewhere before this though, right?"
"Oh yeah. First a ship, then a submarine, and then came the storm. But knowing the ones I was separated from, they'll hold out until we get a chance to find one another again. Well, most of them will, anyway..."
She broke eye contact at that point.
"Hey... it'll be alright," Ben said, trying to comfort her a little. "You'll see them all again."
"I guess so. I just worry about them so much..."
This was a softer side of Yhana that Ben hadn't yet seen. Despite her playfulness, she could fall prey to these feelings rather easily it seemed.
"Everything will work out okay in the end. After all, you're looking for your chance to go find them again, right? If you're on the case along with them, you'll definitely get back together."
"Thanks, Ben." She looked up again, smiling a little again.
She got situated again, lying down on her bedroll, and sliding Ben off of her hand and onto her belly. "It's pretty late; I'm gonna go ahead and get some shut-eye, if that's alright."
"Yeah, that's fine. You don't need my permission to doze off, after all."
Ben decided to lie down as well, folding his hands behind his head.
The wind wasn't terrible, but despite the warmth from Yhana, it did preserve a lingering coldness that made it a little hard to relax.
After a couple of minutes Ben sat up again.
"I've got something to request, if that's alright."
"Sure, lay it on me."
"Well, it's a little cold out here, so... could I maybe sleep in your stomach again?"
The jackal looked to him, flashing that predatory grin, but it was welcomed, this time.
"I was hoping you'd ask that. You're sure about this?"
"Pretty sure. Actually, I enjoy it, as long as my life's not on the line."
"Ah, then this works out a lot better than I thought it would." She brought her hand up to Ben again, picking him up around his torso.
The human looked down at the parting jaws again; the runes serving as Yhana's defense system were turned off this time, as a show of trust.
He found himself being lowered onto Yhana's tongue, which curled up behind his head, pulling him in. He rolled over as the slick muscle familiarized itself with his taste once more, and stroked his hand along it as he slid deeper into the jackal's mouth.
Yhana tilted her head all the way back, giving Ben a straight passage to slide down as she swallowed.
It really was enjoyable for him this time; soothing, warm, and sheltering. It wasn't long before the trip reached its end, as he glided into Yhana's stomach once more, receiving a gentle internal caress as she contracted around him gently, sort of snuggling up to him from all sides.
She really could be nice, when she wanted to be. Nice even to the point that being locked away deep inside her became something to cherish, not to fear.
Ben rubbed the walls in a wide motion, causing Yhana to writhe a little, as though being tickled, but she emitted a sound that indicated blissful relaxation, more than anything.
"So, you're alright with everything, now?" she asked tiredly.
"Yeah, I suppose I really am," Ben replied, resting down against the wall of the fleshy chamber. It was quite an understatement though. He was more than just alright with Yhana, he was happy.
"Glad to hear. After I get around to returning you to normal size, you're still gonna have to put up with me for a few days."
Ben yawned, stretching a little and preparing to go to sleep again. Being where he was now had an effect that made him want to rest, even without runic influence.
"I think I can do that."
Yhana laughed a bit, placing one hand behind her head and the other on her occupied belly. "I think you can, too."