Mera hesitated. She had, of course, seen plenty of doors in her lifetime. But she had never seen one so intimidating.
Not that it looked any different from most doors. A solid, rectangular wood affair, it nestled snugly in its frame as though it had been waiting there since the beginning of time. The polished doorknob beckoned, practically begging her to turn it, to pass through the portal into a completely unknown world.
And that was why the door frightened Mera so. Not because of what it was, but because of what it offered: a potential new world. A new life. A new her.
Nothing had ever scared her more.
"So?" Lilith said, standing next to her in the hallway. "Are you going to go in?"
Mera continued staring at the door. "Umm... I dunno."
"Don't 'umm' me, girl." Lilith rested her hands on tilted hips. "If I've got to go to these things, then you're going, too. Your first session is already paid for, anyway. You're going."
Mera swallowed hard. Lilith was right: it would be foolish to back out now. Mera put her hand on the doorknob. "Are you going to come in with me?"
Lilith shook her head. "I've got my own session down the hall. Don't worry, you'll be fine." She flashed Mera a smile.
Mera forced herself to smile back. Then, steeling herself, she turned the doorknob and walked into the room, leaving Lilith behind.
In spite of the fact that the chair had soft cushions, Mera still couldn't quite get comfortable. At least she hadn't been asked to lay down on a couch -- that would have made her feel completely crazy.
Not that the lioness sitting across from her gave any indication that she thought Mera was crazy. Quite the contrary: everything from her posture to her tone was casual, as though she had conversations like this all the time (which, of course, she did.) Only the clipboard and pen, currently resting in her lap, would give any indication to an outsider that this was more than a meeting of two friends.
"So," the lioness, who had introduced herself as "Stephanie," said. "I admit I'm a bit intrigued. I don't usually get members of your particular species, considering my specialty."
Mera nodded, her eyes staring firmly at the floor. "My father was a spectral bat. I inherited his... diet."
"Ah, I see. That makes sense." Stephanie smiled, and spoke to her like they were old friends. "Did he teach you how to hunt?"
"No," Mera said. "I never knew him. He doesn't even know I exist."
"I see. But I imagine you figured it out for yourself, or you wouldn't be here. So tell me, Mera, why is it that you have trouble eating prey?"
Mera swallowed hard. She was getting straight to the point. "Well, it's... it's wrong, isn't it?"
The words came unbidden as Mera parroted the words she had heard so often. "I have to... I have to take someone else's life. That prey's whole future is gone just so I can feed myself for another week or two. Only a maladjusted monster could do that without remorse."
Stephanie tapped a finger on her knee. "And who told you that? Those didn't sound like your words."
Damn, she was perceptive. Mera's first instinct was to lie -- to say that, no, that was just how she felt. But Stephanie had opened up to her -- put herself up for judgment. Shouldn't Mera do the same? She hesitated for a second or two, then finally spoke. "They were... my mother's. She used to say that every time I hunted."
Stephanie nodded, as though expecting this answer, and scribbled something on her clipboard.
"But I mean... she was a good mother! She just wanted what was best for me. It turns out she was right, anyway."
Stephanie sat silently, meeting Mera's gaze, not prodding, but waiting patiently for Mera to continue.
Mera took a deep breath. "When I was younger, I... I accidentally ate a boy I liked. I had run away, and he took me in, and I paid him back by eating him."
"I see. That must have been quite hard on you."
Mera stared at Stephanie. She had never really thought about the effect the event had on her. She had always thought about it in terms of what she had done to him.
"In my experience," Stephanie continued, "the punishments we give ourselves are far harsher than anything anyone else might do to us. Tell me, Mera, when was the last time you ate?"
Mera hesitated a moment, but she heard no judgment in Stephanie's voice. "It was... probably about two weeks ago."
"That's a long time to go without eating anything."
"I know, but... if I wait as long as I can, then..." Mera trailed off, not sure how to finish the sentence.
"Then you're making yourself less of a 'monster' -- at least as much as possible."
The lioness sat still for a moment, then reached over to the nearby desk and picked something up. She held out her hand. "Do you see this?"
Mera forced her eyes up from the floor to look at Stephanie's hand. A small necklace dangled from her fingers. "Yes."
"This belonged to my breakfast this morning. A young rabbit. I believe her name was Cindy."
Light from the window caught the necklace as it swung gently from the lioness' hand.
"I swallowed her alive. She wasn't very happy about it. She stopped struggling just a few minutes before you came in."
Mera looked past the necklace at Stephanie.
The lioness was tall and well-groomed, wearing slacks and a thick sweater over her ample curves. The outward curve of her stomach looked natural on her. Mera certainly couldn't see any indication that she had the remains of a rabbit stewing in her gut.
"The last time I ate before that was a few days ago. I certainly was not starving." Stephanie continued. "So tell me: do I look 'maladjusted' to you?"
Stephanie had a few more years behind her than Mera, and the kind of body that suggested she had carried a child or two. Her eyes were gentle, the kind of eyes that always smiled even when the mouth did not. She had the beauty of a mother, rather than a lover: the kind of nurturing, gentle force that Mera's own mother had never been.
"No," Mera conceded. "You don't." In fact, Stephanie seemed like the exact opposite of the predators her mother had always imagined: cool, collected, and in control. Mera would give anything to be that kind of predator.
Stephanie smiled. "I'm glad to hear it. Would you like to hear what I think, Mera?"
"I think your mother was doing the best she could with a difficult situation. She had a child that she didn't -- that she couldn't -- ever really understand. So, while she did her best, she didn't ever really understand what you were going through. You have an eating disorder, Mera."
"I... I do?"
"Yes. You're hurting yourself and others by refusing to eat until you're starving -- at which point you lose control. Things would be better for everyone if you can bring yourself to eat before you reach that point. And the first step on the path to recovery is going to be admitting that."
"I... I don't know if I can do that." Could she do that? Could it really be that simple?
As if answering her unspoken question, Stephanie said, "Of course, it's rarely that simple. And it won't be easy. But it will be worth it, if only for the piece of mind." Stephanie smiled. "We don't have too much time left, but I'd like to try a little exercise, if you're up for it."
"S-sure," Mera said. She wasn't sure what this exercise would be, but if Stephanie thought it was a good idea, Mera was all for it.
Stephanie leaned towards her desk and pushed a button on her phone. "Okay, Lydia, we're ready for you."
A few seconds later, the door to the office opened and a ring-tailed lemur walked in. Mera recognized her as the receptionist that had greeted her when she first arrived. She smiled broadly at the two of them.
Stephanie indicated the new arrival with a gesture of her hand. "Mera, this is Lydia, one of my interns. For this exercise, you're going to eat her."
"W-what!?" Mera's eyes widened in surprise, and she found herself looking Lydia over. The lemur was petite, with a slender frame and big, blue eyes. She was adorable -- and Mera couldn't help but notice that her mouth had started to water.
"Since you have trouble hunting prey, I think it would be a good idea to start you off with some exercises involving willing prey."
Mera looked at Lydia. "You mean, you're okay with this?"
"As long as you spit me back out afterward," Lydia said, still smiling.
"Do you have any objections?" Stephanie asked. "If you don't think you're up for something like this, then we can end the session now and try this next time. But I think this could be a healthy experience for you."
Mera hesitated. She had not expected this meeting to go like this. She had expected a counselor who would give her some ridiculous platitudes, maybe say something about how she just had to try harder, and leave her no better off than she was before. But Stephanie was the exact opposite of that: she was sincere and honest, and Mera had begun to realize that maybe, just maybe, there was another path for her, and maybe this lioness held the key to it.
"No," Mera said. "Let's do it."
"Great!" Lydia said, and began to unbutton her blouse.
Mera blushed and looked away as Lydia began stripping, only to realize that she had been wearing a two piece swimsuit under her clothes. The lemur was quite pretty, and Mera had to lick her lips to stop herself from drooling.
Lydia noticed Mera's reaction, though, and gave her a wink, which caused Mera to blush even brighter.
Lydia kicked her skirt away, and now stood before Mera, dressed only in the swimsuit. "Alright, I'm ready when you are."
Mera looked at Stephanie, who smiled and nodded. "Take it as fast or as slow as you need," she said, her tone encouraging. "If you're having trouble, just wave at me and I'll pull her back out."
Mera nodded, then let her gaze fall back to Lydia, who was climbing into the chair with her, her knees straddling on either side of the bat's legs, their bodies close, their mouths just inches apart. "Open up," Lydia said.
Mera obliged, opening her mouth as wide as it would go.
Lydia placed both her hands into Mera's mouth. They felt warm on her tongue, which flexed up to meet them, to glide between her fingers and taste her palms.
She tasted delicious.
Lydia pushed forward, and her hands slid into Mera's throat. The lemur hunched her shoulders, lowering her head so it could have an easy entrance into the bat's maw.
Mera closed her eyes as Lydia continued pushing herself deeper. It all felt so... different from how it usually felt. Lydia wasn't struggling or kicking or fighting or screaming. She was willingly pushing herself into Mera's body, which accepted it easily.
The bat's hunger was starting to take over, and Mera began actively swallowing, pulling Lydia down her gullet more quickly. She felt the slick material of the swimsuit top on her tongue, and then it passed back onto soft fur. Mera gripped Lydia by the thighs, helping to push her in.
Mera didn't usually savor the flavor of her prey, both because she was usually so hungry that she couldn't stop herself from stuffing them down her throat as fast as possible and because it felt immoral to do so. But now, with Lydia so willing, it felt as though she had permission to do so -- and the lemur tasted heavenly. What if... what if every meal could feel like this?
Mera let out a moan as she swallowed up Lydia's waist, tilting her head back so gravity could assist. Lydia wasn't doing any of the work now: Mera swallowed those legs down herself, enjoying the flavors of the soft fur until the lemur's toes disappearing between her lips. She swallowed one last time, and the lemur landed in her belly, which gurgled softly in thanks.
She looked over at Stephanie, who was watching with a smile on her face.
"So? How do you feel?"
"Good," Mera said. "Surprisingly good. I... I'm not sure I've ever felt this good about having someone in my belly."
"It must be quite a relief to have a meal without guilt."
"Would you like every meal to be like that?"
Mera looked into the lioness' piercing, honest eyes. She found her voice, and to her own surprise, didn't stutter. "Yes. I would."
"Good. It won't be easy. It'll mean coming to a greater understanding of yourself and your role in the world. It will mean forgiving yourself for your past, including what happened to that boy. It won't happen in a day. But if you're willing to try, I'll help you on that journey. Are you willing to try?"
Mera took a deep breath. "I think so."
Stephanie smiled. "I'm glad to hear it. We'll schedule another session for next week, then."
"Should I let Lydia out?"
Stephanie regarded Mera's belly for a moment. "If you'd like, you may keep her."
"What?" Mera said, the word echoed by a similar, though muffled, outcry from her belly. "But... are you serious?"
"Part of learning how to be a pred is going to be learning how to act like a pred. And I can always get more interns," Stephanie said, a wry smirk on her lips. The smirk then changed into a genuine look of concern. "Again, if you feel you're ready. She is going to start struggling if you don't let her out soon. Do you think you can handle that?"
Mera looked down at her belly and thought about what Stephanie was proposing. To betray Lydia in such a way -- it was exactly what a predator, a real predator, would do. It was the kind of thing she had spent her whole life trying to avoid.
Yet she couldn't deny that her full stomach felt wonderful. Without the burden of all that guilt, the experience of swallowing the lemur had been divine. And if she did give Lydia up, what would she do? Last another few days before she was forced to feed on the next random person she saw? If she digested Lydia, then at least it would be done, and she wouldn't have to feed again until after her next session with Stephanie. And just the thought of that gave her courage.
"I'll keep her," Mera said.
"What!?" Came the muffled reply.
"Good girl." Stephanie stood up, and Mera did likewise.
"This is a joke, right?" The muffled voice came from Mera's belly. "You're going to tell her to let me back out now, right!?"
Stephanie ignored her, instead reaching forward to shake Mera's hand. "I'll be looking forward to seeing you next week. You can tell me how Lydia's digestion went, and I'll try to have another willing prey lined up if possible."
"I am not willing!" As predicted, Lydia had begun to struggle quite a bit.
Stephanie put a hand on Lydia's shoulder and began to walk her to the door. "Try not to be too hard on yourself," Stephanie said. "We'll talk more next week."
"Do you think..." Mera hesitated. "Do you think I can really change myself that much?"
"I believe you can, Mera. I believe you can."
Originally posted on FA on Jun 24th, 2016 02:58 PM
A commission story for Raksha Jareth of FA, which has consistently been one of my more popular stories.