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Section 1

Two months of darkness had been horrible. The acid, the undulation of the muscles beneath us. Luckily I still had my lighter.

I unfolded the map of Melliflua

"Won't be needing this anymore," I said to Alika, but he wasn't listening.

I pulled away the cord that edged the map, then snipped an inch-long piece of it with the knife, putting the remainder away for later.

I held up my lighter. At one end of the stomach was another chamber I remembered from school as the duodenal ampulia. A steady drip oozed from a vesivle on the wall. I slopped over and held the mess tin under it. Once a little of the ooze had cooled and solidified in the tin, I pushed the small piece of cord into its middle and stood it on end. Then I left the tin to fill to the brim.

I had to conserve the lighter's fuel. So I slopped back to Alika in the dark, feeling for the rectangle of tarpaulin on which he lay, my satchel, his belt, his warm back. I could smell his blubber-breath.

"Fancy having all this junk in your belly." I said. I knelt and stroked his head. His beard was long and soft. "Does it still hurt?"

I felt for the gash where his leg had snagged on the tooth. The bandage would need changing soon, and we didn't have anything left.


Section 2 MISSING


Section 3 MISSING


Section 4

"Surge!"

We felt the beast push upward. Now was the chance. We sidestepped the pit of stomach acid and the coagulated nests of half-digested prey, and grappling with the loose skin of the stomach wall, we made the ascent to the oesophageal slit.

The beast tilted suddenly, as if it were driving. Alika slipped for a moment, but I caught him and held him long enough that he could recover his grip.

"Is it diving back into the Hole?"

We waited, then suddenly the beast surged upward again. We climbed on until we reached a platform of muscle, and the slit.

"Me first," I said.

"Be quick, you know the drill," he said.

I steeled myself, then as we had practised, dive headfirst through the gap. It was a clean dive. There was a phonic roar from aboce, but nothing more. I wriggled up the narrow tract as fast as I could, Alika just behind me. The creature roared all the while, and we were drenched in secretions from the walls.


Section 5

"This time, we don't touch the tongue," he said. The incident with his leg flashed by and I winced.

"If we get that far," I said.

Claustrophobia. We had to get out. One mistake and we'd be crushed in the gullet, or vomited into the void. We'd thought about inducing a vomit, believe me - but what if we shot out, and found nothing out there? What if we just fell forever?
Safer to stay here, but this was no life for anyone.

The longer the crawl takes, the more it irritates the creature. Even for seasoned stomach-dwellers it was unpleasant, but we went as quick as we could.

"The tongue begins," I said. A faint light suffused the oval as far as the lips on the opposite side. We were careful to avoid standing on the tongue, instead clinging to the outer wall of the mouth. All I wanted was to see the mouth open, just for a moment. To see a white hope beyond.

"Keep concentrating," yelled Alika, "those teeth are sharp."

His leg was in a bad way, but he was doing the best he could. If we failed now. It'd have to come off, and we had nothing to cut it off with.

"There are a lot more teeth that I remember."

"The trouble is getting over to the far side without using the tongue."

Then in happened, the jar opened and a great flood of cold air rushed in. And light! After so long, light!


Section 6

Before I could cover my eyes, there was a heavy jolt and we were knocked to the back of the mouth. The jaw bounced up and down, up and down. The teeth chattered together, and pieces of beetle carapace flew back towards us.

"That's what happened last time," shouted Alika, "sooner or later the tongue's going to catch us, and we'll be back down with the beetles."

"Alright, alright, just hold on tight!"

The tongue started slapping up against the palate, and the bits of beetle slid one-by-one down the chute beneath us. Just when I thought I'd lost my strength, the jaw stopped. We dropped down on the tongue, and lay out on our backs for a moment, exhausted.

"Phew."

"That was a close thing."

A darkness so familiar now. I flicked my lighter, barely a dribble of fuel in the cylinder. The doors of the creature's mouth were firmly closed. I let my head fall back down. I shone it above me, and saw a little hole. What hole was that?

"The trachea! If we climb up we can leave by the blowhole."

"But it's too narrow, it won't be able to breathe."

'That's what I'm counting on." I said.


Section 7

The wheezing came as soon as we'd wedged ourselves in. We lay as falt as we could to the trachea so that air could still flow.

Now, "jam into the blowhole" I said. And we did, squeezing ourselves up into the upright shaft. I felt water on my face, a fresh mist from outside. We were so close.

Thunk. Thunk. THUNK.

We shot up the blow hole at highspeed, volleyed up into the open air. I felt my stomach lurch as we went up, but could see nothing through the dredge of mucous covering my face.

"Wahh," I heard Alika scream.

We landed on the great beast's back with a soft thud. We clung to the rough tessellations of its skin, and wiped the gunk from out eyes. All around us clouds, the sun! The Hole was changed. It had retreated below and formed a thunderous cloud-bed.

"What bliss! Saved by this majestic beauty," said Alika, patting the creature's back.


Section 8

A phonic roar rose from the blowhole. "We are the children!" it sounded like.

"These children must love to play here now," I said.

"Children?" said Alika.

"These beasts. They play here now."

We saw others in the distance rising and falling between tiny islands, each a world adrift. Of Foundation the are but fragments of memory preserving something, anything, of what we were.

"Now dearest, how do we get off this thing?"



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