Holly sat at the small diner table and smiled.
The feline listened as Emily told stories about their youth together. As they recounted the "good old days," the days when they had no responsibilities or worries. They talked about the time that Emily had driven her father's car into the garage wall when she was six. About the time they had gotten lost on that camping trip and spent the night in the woods together. About the time freshmen year when Holly had gotten her first kiss from a young rabbit out behind the high school. Just two young girls, best friends, getting into trouble and having fun.
Holly had made other friends since then, of course, but it never felt quite the same. Emily was just so... alive. Memories with her felt somehow more real than any others.
Of course, it wasn't like any of this had happened recently. It had been years since the last time they had met face to face. But there had always been the possibility of getting together for one last caper. Now that chance had passed.
"So when are you leaving?" Holly asked.
Emily's smile faded a bit. "Next Saturday."
Holly nodded. "I'm happy for you. It's a great opportunity."
"I know," Emily said.
Holly tilted her head to one side and looked the female fox up and down. "I know that tone of voice," she said. "What's wrong?"
"Well, it's just..." Emily hesitated. "Working overseas. It's such a big decision. I don't even know when I'll be back."
"You'll be back when you're back," Holly said. "Don't worry about me. I'll be fine. I'm just glad... I'm just glad we got to meet again before you left."
"Yeah," Emily said, her genuine smile returning. "Me too."
The moment was interrupted by a mechanical beep. Emily pulled her phone out of her pocket. "I've gotta go," she said. "I've got an appointment with the moving company. We're getting my stuff all packed up."
"I understand," Holly said.
The two females sat in silence for a moment. Then, as if on cue, both stood up, walked around the table, and pulled each other into a tight hug.
"I'm going to miss you," Emily said.
"Same," Holly answered. "But I'll be here when you get back. I promise."
Emily broke off the hug, gave Holly one last warm smile, and left. The bell over the front door of the diner jingled as it closed behind her.
Holly sighed and sat back down. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the diner's waitress. "Another coffee, please," she said, holding up her empty cup.
The waitress didn't respond.
"Excuse me?" Holly said, raising her voice. "Could I get another cup of coffee?"
The waitress didn't answer. She didn't even look at Holly. In fact, she just... stood there.
Holly lifted herself from her seat and walked to the waitress. She was a female rabbit, wearing an apron with the logo of the diner on it. She held a tray in her hands. She was as still as a statue.
Well, no, not quite as still as a statue. Holly could see her chest rise and fall as she drew breath. But her eyes were vacant, and she didn't notice when Holly waved her fingers in front of them.
"What the hell?" Holly asked, to no one in particular.
Because, indeed, everyone in the diner seemed to be in a similar state. It had gone eerily silent; conversations had paused, and customers and wait staff alike all had the same vacant expressions on their faces.
The fur on the back of Holly's neck stood on end. Something was very, very wrong.
The sound of the front door bell broke the silence. Holly spun around to see several figures entering the diner.
To call them "strange" would be an understatement. There looked to be about ten of them, all perfectly identical. Their ebony fur was so dark it was hard to make out details -- like living shadows. They were definitely female, with lithe figures, sinuous tails, and large ears, but Holly couldn't determine their species. The only article of clothing worn by each of them was a white mask covering the top half of the face, so bright in contrast to the dark fur it almost seemed to be glowing.
The figures flowed across the diner, moving with the synchronization of a flock of birds or school of fish. Several were coming straight towards Holly.
"H-hello?" Holly asked. "Who are you?"
The figures ignored her. Holly half-expected them to pass right through her, but instead she found herself shouldered aside as they passed. While most of them continued onward, one of them stopped in front of the comatose waitress.
"She just froze like that," Holly started to explain, even though she had no indication that these... whatever they were could even hear her. "I tried to talk to her, but..."
The figure stepped up to the waitress, opened her mouth wide, and shoved the rabbit's head inside.
Holly's eyes widened as the dark silhouette devoured the waitress. The rabbit didn't put up any kind of fight, her tray clattering to the floor as the figure gulped down her limp body.
Holly looked around to see similar scenes all over the diner. These creatures were swallowing everyone, and no one was able to put up a fight.
Holly swallowed hard and started backing towards the front door. They didn't seem to notice her yet, but who knew when that could change? She had to get out of here before...
She bumped into something large. She slowly turned her head to look behind her -- and then had to crane her neck up.
This figure looked a lot like the others, except she was quite a bit larger. She appeared to be wearing a black cloak that matched her fur, and her mask had an intricate pattern of black lines on its white surface.
"Hello," the large figure said. She gestured towards an empty booth. "Would you like to have a seat?"
Holly eyed the door. The creature had positioned herself between Holly and the exit. Though phrased as a question, her words had sounded less like a request than a command. Holly weighed her options, then stepped carefully to the booth and sat down.
The masked figure sat down across from her, the seat creaking beneath her weight. She leaned back, resting one arm against the back of the booth. "I suppose you are wondering what is happening here."
Holly stared, taken aback. In spite of its fantastic appearance, the creature's voice and tone were so... conversational. Normal, even. "Y-yes," she said.
"How familiar are you with the idea of solipsism?"
Holly furrowed her brow. "I think I've heard of that. It's like... the whole world is a show put on just for you, right? Because you can't prove that anyone is real except yourself."
"More or less. The truth is, Holly, that's how our universe works."
"Wait... you're telling me that all of reality is just a show?"
"In this universe, it is." The black silhouette shifted position. "I can't speak for any others. There is just one 'real' person; everyone else is just a construct."
"Then... then who are you?" Holly asked. "The ones putting on the show?"
The white mask shook from side to side. "No. We're the cleanup crew."
Holly glanced around the diner again. Most of the others had finished their meals now, though she saw a few footpaws and tails sliding into dark maws.
"So, if all the universe is just a show for me," Holly said, "why tell me now?"
"You misunderstand. The universe is not a show for you. It's a show for Emily."
A long silence drew out between them as Holly considered this new piece of information.
"But..." she looked around again. "But I'm real!"
"But I didn't freeze like the others!"
"They were background characters. Scenery," the figure explained. "They didn't need to be able to hold long conversations or have in-depth personalities. You did."
Holly swallowed. "'Did?'"
"Your role is over. Emily is not planned to ever meet you again during this lifetime. You are no longer needed."
Holly felt her heart pounding in her chest. "But... but she's my friend! Surely we would..."
"Emily will think about you from time to time, but never actually get in touch. By the time a few years have passed, she'll assume you've moved on, that it would be 'weird' to call you after so long."
"But then..." Holly hesitated. She knew the answer, but she asked anyway. "But then... what happens to me?"
The figure answered by reaching across the table.
Holly tried to make a break for the door, but she was too slow. The creature anticipated her escape attempt, and she grabbed for holly's back. Strong fingers twisted into the fur on the back of Holly's neck, lifting her painfully into the air.
"P-please!" Holly said. "Surely you can find some other use for me! Who do you work for? Let me talk to them!"
"You misunderstand again," the creature said. "We don't 'work for' anyone. We are as natural and inexorable as the rising tides. What must happen, will happen."
"No!" Holly shouted. "NO!"
But the figure had already lifted Holly up over her head. The dark predator's mouth yawned open, and Holly felt her feet being lowered into it.
Whatever these creatures were, they sure felt real enough. Warm saliva soaked into her fur, and she could feel a tongue playing across her toes.
Holly yanked her feet back. She aimed a kick for the mask, hoping to catch an eye.
The figure grabbed Holly's ankles with her free hand, stopping the attack. She maneuvered Holly's feet back into her mouth. The tongue rippled against the pads of her paws as the figure swallowed.
Holly's feet and ankles were pulled into a tight tunnel, and the warm wetness of the figure's mouth began creeping up legs.
"Please!" Holly shouted. "Please don't do this!"
The creature ignored her, lowering the feline deeper as the peristaltic movement of the throat tugged at her legs. Soon her thighs were sliding inside.
Holly looked around for something to grab hold of, a weapon, for anything. She saw that the other creatures had finished their meals and had gathered around. Each of their bellies bulged out, in various sizes. Even if Holly could get away from the leader, she was surrounded.
Not that she didn't try. She clawed at the figure's mask, but the thing didn't budge. She tried to punch at the face, but it felt like it was made of concrete.
Slowly but surely, she was pulled deeper and deeper into the waiting gullet. Warm lips crept up past her waist, passed over her stomach, engulfed her chest. Her shoulders slipped inside, and then she felt teeth scraping against her chin.
"P-please," she begged, one last time. Tears stained the fur of her cheeks. "I don't want to..."
The figure swallowed. Holly's muzzle disappeared into the darkness.
Holly let out a pitiful mewl. Her entire body was wrapped in tight muscle that undulated around her, trying to pull her deeper. Wet, organic noises filled her ears, and she could feel the tongue licking across her arms.
Her arms! She wasn't completely swallowed yet: her arms were still hanging on the outside. Another gulp shoved Holly deeper, and she grasped at anything she could find.
Her progress stopped. Her fingers had caught something hard and slick. She realized that she had grabbed on to her devourer's upper teeth.
Holly hung on for dear life, even as she realized the futility of doing so. All the figure would have to do was bite down -- Holly would lose her fingers and be helpless.
But the teeth didn't come together. Instead, she felt the tongue licking against her hands and fingers. Her hold began to grow slick.
Holly tried to adjust her grip, but only succeeded in losing what little leverage she had. Her fingers slipped off the slick fangs, and when she tried to grab again, she found only air.
The creature's teeth closed with an audible click.
Holly screamed, but the tight flesh around her muffled the noise. She heard a loud swallow, the gullet around her tightened, and she was pushed down. Her feet hit a wall, and she was forced to curl into a tight ball in a chamber that seemed far too small for her.
Holly pushed on the walls, and they gave a little, only to snap back into place. She tried to find the entrance so she could claw her way back out, but could only find slick walls. Sobbing, she kicked and punched at the walls until her arms and legs were too tired to continue.
Unable to do anything else, Holly curled up into a ball and wept.
The cleaning crew waited patiently while their leader sat at the booth, one hand resting on her belly. She was enjoying the sensations of her meal's attempts to escape. It had been a long time since she had done this personally -- normally she let her crew take care of the dirty work. But the moment she had seen Holly, she had decided she wanted to take care of this particular construct personally, and she wasn't regretting the decision.
In fact, she might hold off on digestion for a while. No one would mind if she let the construct stew in there for a few years. Eventually she would need to be broken down into her raw components for the builders to use to make new constructs, but it wasn't like they were hurting for materials right now.
And besides, she had done a good job: she deserved to treat herself once in a while.
She let out a soft belch, then hefted herself from the booth. She walked towards the exit, her crew following behind her. They had more work to do, after all; there were some constructs at the airport that would need to be broken down after Emily got on her plane.
The leader of the crew smiled. She was looking forward to another day's honest work.
Originally posted on FA on Mar 12th, 2017 06:14 PM
A slightly creepier story than what I usually write. Contains F/F, sorta-fatal vore, implied entrapment, and some existentialism.