Originally posted on Feb 6th, 2018 08:57 PM
A story involving Lindsay from my The Den setting, revolving around some of the difficulties that preds can have making friends in The Den universe. A commission for Arta Shrike.
Violet yawned and stretched as she walked down the hallway. Today had been a long day. Numbers swam in front of the rabbit's eyes every time she closed them. At least she had almost made it through: just a few more hours after this break, and she'd be home free. She pushed open the door to the break room.
A familiar sight greeted her. The calico feline stood in front of the coffee machine, watching as it poured aromatic black liquid into a ceramic mug. Her long tail swayed idly behind her as she waited. When Violet entered, she glanced over her shoulder.
"Hi, Violet," she said.
"Hi, Lindsay," Violet responded, walking across the break room and hopping onto the couch. "How's your day been?"
The coffee machine made a clunk sound as it whirred to a stop. Lindsay blew on the hot coffee as she walked over to the couch and sat down next to Violet. She had to sit with her knees up high: the couch, like most of the other things in the building, were made for someone closer to Violet's size than to Lindsay's. "Not too bad, so far. Wish I was as close to being done as you."
"Yeah, well, you'll be there soon enough," Violet said, leaning back into the couch. "So, any weird visitors tonight?"
Lindsay grinned. Her job as receptionist on the night shift meant she got to meet the most interesting people. "No one today, but I should tell you about the one from yesterday! Male rabbit, little fellow, came in with a petition to end government subsidized housing."
"What?" Violet raised an eyebrow. "He's a rabbit. We kind of depend on that for our big families."
"Yeah, he thinks that rabbits are too dependent on other species and need to solve their own problems and go back to 'the old ways.' I guess he wants to go back to when rabbit families would eat half their young."
Violet snorted, then immediately covered her nose with her hand, an embarrassed smile on her face. "So, what happened?"
"Well, I was trying to let him down easy, said that I don't mind part of my taxes going to the big breeders to help them raise their families. It's not like I don't benefit from... I mean..." Lindsay paused for a moment. "I mean, you know, society as a whole benefits from it. And that probably would have been it, except there was this female rabbit in the reception area -- I never got to find out why she was there -- and she had, like, five kids with her, no telling how many she had otherwise."
"Oh no," Violet said.
"Yeah. So, she gets up and starts arguing with this guy, and he calls her a 'drain on society,'" Lindsay said, making "quotes" with her fingers, "and they start actually fighting. Like, straight up brawling in the lobby. Security had to escort both of them off the property, kids in tow and everything."
"Wow." Violet shook her head. "I mean, I kind of get where he's coming from, it does kind of suck to have to depend on other people to survive. But, like, isn't that the whole point of living in a civilized society? Everyone helps each other? I mean, in the dark ages, I'm pretty sure big breeders like rabbits had a ninety percent mortality rate or something. Even predators don't hunt kids anymore."
"Exactly," Lindsay said. "Everyone gets a chance."
There was a pause as Lindsay took a sip of her coffee.
"So," Violet said, "I wanted to ask: do you have any plans for the weekend?"
Lindsay raised an eyebrow. "Why?"
"Well, just... we've been sharing this break time for a while, now, ever since my normal break time got moved. I like chatting with you, and I thought maybe it would be fun to hang out outside of work."
Lindsay closed her eyes and took another sip of coffee. She looked... pensive. Had Violet made a mistake by asking? Maybe she had assumed too much about their friendship. It wasn't like they were "besties" just because her final break of the day happened to coincide with Lindsay's first.
Lindsay's stomach let out a loud rumble.
Violet smirked. "Hungry, there?"
"A little. Anyway, I'd love to," Lindsay said, "but I can't this weekend. I've got plans with some other friends. But maybe next weekend? I really would like to hang out with you."
Violet let out a sigh of relief. While this, unfortunately, left her without plans for the weekend, at least Lindsay did seem excited about the idea of doing something later. "Alright, sounds like a plan. We can talk about the details next week."
"Sounds good," Lindsay said, with just a hint of a smile. "Anyway, I've got to get back to work."
"Okay. Enjoy the night shift! And get yourself something to eat!"
Lindsay chuckled. "Thanks, I will." Holding her coffee cup carefully, Lindsay hefted herself from the small couch and left the room.
It was a minute or two later that Violet noticed the folded piece of paper. It was sitting on the couch next to her; it must have fallen from Lindsay's pocket.
Curiosity rising, Violet picked it up and unfolded it.
It appeared to be a flyer for some kind of night club. The background was a stylized, abstract image of lights and colors, and in clear, sharp letters on top were the words "The Den." A location was emblazoned in smaller letters along the bottom.
"Huh." Violet never would have pictured Lindsay as the type to go out clubbing. Obviously, there was more to the feline than Violet realized! Maybe they would get along even better than Violet had thought.
And, on top of that, this afforded her a unique opportunity. She fished her cell phone out of her pocket, tapped a few buttons, and waited for the other end of the line to pick up.
"Hey, Ivy," Violet said, still looking at the flyer. "Guess what! I know what we're doing this weekend."
Violet always had to be moving.
Yes, her day job did mostly involve sitting at a desk crunching numbers: that was exercise for the brain. Once the work week was over, it was time to get exercise for the body. To Violet, a weekend spent doing nothing was a weekend wasted. She always had to have some sort of plan, ideally one involving friends. There were only so many days in one's life, and she wanted to make the most of every single one of them.
Ivy, for her part, was a little more subdued. The other rabbit trailed a bit behind Violet, her ears drooping a bit.
"Are you sure this is a good idea, Violet? I've never heard of this place before," Ivy said. "And the flyer doesn't even have an address, just a street."
"Of course I am," Violet said. "That's the whole idea! It's an adventure! Finding the place is half the fun!"
"If you say so," Ivy said.
Violet slowed down so she could fall into step beside her friend. "Look, just promise me that you're not going to waste the whole evening, okay? Talk to people! Make some friends! Hook up with someone! If you want to ditch me for some cute guy, I won't be mad."
Ivy looked so embarrassed, Violet could almost see the blush through her cream-colored fur. "W-what!?"
"I'm officially giving you permission. Seriously, Ivy, you need to have a little fun. You're wound way too tight."
Ivy didn't answer, instead turning her gaze back to the street ahead of them.
It didn't take them long to find the club. The outside of the building was surprisingly subdued, but a significant line had formed at the entrance. The line moved quickly, and soon Violet and Ivy found themselves standing in front of the doors.
Even Violet found herself shrinking back at the sight of the bouncer: the tall, broad-shouldered male wolf towered over the two rabbits. He looked down at them, arms folded in front of his chest.
"U-um," Violet said, "we don't have any reservations or anything."
To her surprise, the wolf gave her a friendly smile and pushed the door open with one hand. "For two lovely ladies like you? No reservations necessary."
"Oh! Thank you!" She took the stunned Ivy by the arm and led her inside. "See? The night's already going our way!"
Ivy glanced back over her shoulder towards the door, where the bouncer was talking to the next person in line. Then she looked at Violet, who couldn't help but notice that Ivy looked a bit pleased with herself. "Did that really just happen?"
"Sure did! C'mon, let's check this place out!"
They walked through a small hallway and past a coat check-in that was currently empty (unsurprising, as this was the middle of summer) before finding themselves walking out into the main room of the club.
Bright, neon lights and loud music filled the room. A large dance floor filled the main part of the room, with several booths with high, opaque walls surrounding it. A pair of metal stairs on each end of the room led up to a catwalk that surrounded the perimeter of the room. A bar stretched along the right wall, where several bartenders were handing out drinks.
And all the patrons! The entire place was packed. Bodies filled the dance floor, the booths, the catwalk; Violet wasn't sure they would even be able to find a place to stand.
There was something off about them, too, but Violet couldn't quite place what it was.
"Wow," Ivy said.
"Wow indeed," Violet answered.
"I'm, um... I'm going to go powder my nose."
Violet cast Ivy a sidelong glance. "You're not chickening out on me, are you?"
"No!" Ivy said, sounding surprisingly emphatic. She composed herself, then continued in a more neutral tone. "No, I'm not. This is just... kind of overwhelming. I just need a moment to compose myself and then we can go socialize. Don't let me hold you back, I'll catch up in a minute."
"Alright," Violet said. "I'll see you soon!"
Ivy nodded and ducked back out into the hallway.
Violet turned back to face the large crowd, steeled herself, and dove in. She wove between people's bodies and occasionally ducked under the taller patron's legs. She made her way toward the bar, hoping to find an empty stool where she could sit for a moment to get her bearings.
Violet jumped at the familiar voice. "Lindsay!?"
Lindsay was sitting at one of the stools of the bar. She was still wearing her slacks and button-up shirt from work, though she had a few extra buttons undone at the top.
"Violet, what are you doing here!?"
Violet smiled and put her hands on her hips. "Following you, apparently! And you told me you had other plans! If you'd just told me you were going clubbing, I would have been more than happy to j-"
Lindsay flew out of her chair with surprising speed, grabbing Violet by the arm so hard that she was worried she would leave a bruise. She began to weave back through the crowd towards the exit, dragging Violet along with her.
"We've got to get you out of here, now," Lindsay said. "Before it's too late."
"Lindsay, what is going on!?" Violet shouted, but she wasn't sure Lindsay even heard her over the loud music.
As Lindsay pushed open the door that led back into the entrance hallway, Violet had a sudden realization of what it was that had bothered her about the crowd at the club: there were an awful lot of carnivores there. They made up less than five percent of the population, and much more than that number was represented here.
She had a sinking feeling in her chest as Lindsay pulled her towards the exit.
The wolf bouncer had just stepped inside and closed the door, and was fishing in his pockets.
"Hey!" Lindsay said. "Have you locked the doors yet?"
"I was just about too," the wolf answered, pulling a key from his pocket.
"Do I have time to put this one outside first?"
"Yeah, but hurry it up."
Lindsay grabbed the door and yanked it open, then put her hand on Violet's back. "I'm sorry about this, Vi, I'll have to explain later."
"Wait!" Violet tried to shout. "I came with..."
Then Lindsay gave Violet a hard shove, and she found herself out on the street. The door shut behind her, and she heard the distinct click of a key being turned.
Violet spun around, grabbing the door and attempting to pull it open, only for it to clatter against the door frame. She pounded on the door with her fist: no answer.
Violet's heart was pounding against the inside of her ribcage. This was bad. This place -- if it was actually what she now suspected it was, then Ivy was in deep trouble.
Her hands shaking, Violet pulled her phone out of her pocket. She briefly considered tapping on the video call app that Ivy usually used when calling her, but decided on a normal phone call instead. She flicked through the contacts and clicked on Ivy's name.
Three rings. Four. Five.
"Hi, this is Ivy. I'm sorry I can't come to my phone right now, but please leave a message and I'll get back to you as soon as I can."
"Ivy!" Violet shouted, then forced herself to calm down. "Ivy, if you get this, you've got to get out of there. There's something seriously wrong with this club. If you get this, call me back, okay!?"
Violet stared at the phone for several seconds after the call ended, then sprung into a brisk walk. Maybe there was another way into the club!
Unfortunately, two circuits around the building only revealed one other door, and it was also locked. There weren't even any windows! What kind of place didn't have windows?
Violet was trying to decide what to do next when her phone started beeping. Rather than the sound of a phone call, she recognized the jingle that her phone associated with a video call.
She yanked the phone back out of her pocket and looked at the name of the caller: Ivy.
She jabbed the pick-up button with her finger. "Ivy, are you...?"
Violet's heart leaped into her throat. The video feed on the other end of the call was dark, and there was a lot of movement. She could hear some odd noises coming from the other end, along with Ivy's frantic voice, speaking so fast the words were jumbling together.
"Help-I-didn't-know-where-you-were-and-I-met-this-hot-cat-and-she-wanted-to-get-a-private-room-and-she's eating me-- aagh!"
The phone suddenly twisted, the view spinning as it fell through the air and bounced on something soft. It seemed to land propped up against something, and though the camera was slightly askew, Violet now had a good view of what was happening. It took her a moment to process it.
The room was dim -- definitely not the main room of the club, with its neon lights. She could still hear the club's music in the background, but muted, like it was muffled by several walls. A single light cast an upward glow on the scene, probably a bedside lamp rather than overhead lighting. It gave her the impression of a cheap motel room.
And there, in the middle of the picture, was Ivy.
Or at least, Ivy's upper body, her shirt stripped off to reveal her spotted fur. She could only see down to Ivy's waist, because everything below that was in the gullet of a female feline. The predator's throat bulged with Ivy's legs, and Violet could see imprints of rabbit feet through the fur of her belly. The feline was currently jamming Violet's hands into her mouth, trapping them at her sides.
"Please," Ivy pleaded, tears in her eyes, "please, let me go... mmph!"
The feline, having finished her work of trapping Ivy's arms, now had one hand propping up her prey's body, and she had jammed the fingers of the other into Ivy's mouth to stop her from screaming.
Violet watched, helpless, as the predator swallowed Ivy whole, her slender torso slowly disappearing into the expanding gullet. The feline was taking her time; she knew that no one would interrupt her. Ivy's stomach, then breasts, then shoulders disappeared. For a moment, Ivy's face was framed by teeth, before a rough tongue came up over her nose and pushed her back. The feline's teeth clacked together, and she tilted her head back and swallowed.
And Violet realized that, even in the dim light, she recognized the predator.
Lindsay glanced down, her shining eyes looking straight at Violet. Her bulging belly still squirming, she reached for the phone.
Panicking, Violet punched the "hang up" button with her finger, and the image disappeared.
Violet stood outside the break room, one hand on the door. It was shaking slightly.
Would she even be here today? Or would she have to call in sick? How long would it take for her to...?
Maybe this was a bad idea. Violet should just back away, skip her break today, and go ahead with her original plan.
But then she would always be looking over her shoulder, always jumping every time she saw her in the hall. No, she had to face this now.
Violet pushed the break room door open.
And there she was. Rather than sit on the couch, Lindsay stood leaning against the rear wall of the break room, holding a cup of coffee.
"Hey," she said.
"H-hey," Violet responded.
Violet walked in, the door swinging shut behind her. She was safe here, she reminded herself. Even if she was alone in the room with Lindsay, there were tons of other prey around, all within shouting distance.
"You, um, want to sit down?" Lindsay asked.
"S-sure." Violet walked across the room and took a seat on the couch.
For a moment, she thought Lindsay was going to join her on the couch, and she regretted having accepted the invitation. But Lindsay just walked up next to the couch and remained standing, still holding her cup of coffee.
"So," Lindsay said, "about last night."
"You... weren't at the club alone, were you?"
"And that call... I didn't realize it until too late, but it was you, wasn't it?"
Violet's heard pounded in her chest. "Yeah."
"How... how much did you see?"
Violet closed her eyes.
She could still see it. She could still watch Ivy's frightened face as it vanished into Lindsay's mouth.
"All of it."
Lindsay let out a sigh. "I was afraid of that."
A long moment of silence passed between them. Lindsay took a sip of her coffee.
Violet looked up at Lindsay. She had kept a reasonable distance away from Violet, and her stance was passive. Everything about the feline looked calculated to be non-threatening. But even so, she still towered over the rabbit; had Lindsay always been so damn tall? And it was hard not to notice that her figure looked a little... fuller, especially around the belly area. Would she have noticed it if last night hadn't happened? Had Lindsay come in to work with a belly like that before?
Violet pictured what might still be left in there at this point, and she shuddered.
Lindsay said nothing.
Violet couldn't let this silence go on any longer. She had to just say it. Get it out there.
"So," Violet said. "That place... it's a, it's a club for predators."
"And... and you're one of them."
Violet swallowed. A large lump had formed in the back of her throat and taken up residence there. "I... I guess in retrospect, it seems obvious. I mean, you're a carnivore, right? So you have to eat... meat."
Violet stared at the floor. "You didn't try to lure me to go. In fact, you got me out of there. You couldn't have known I had a friend with me. I should have asked you about the flyer, instead of just going."
Lindsay took a step toward her.
Violet, without thinking about it, cringed away.
Realizing her mistake, Lindsay stepped back again. "I would never hurt you," she said.
"I... I know," Violet answered.
A pause, and then Lindsay said, "But...?"
"But... every time I look at you, I'm going to see it," Violet said. "I wish I hadn't actually seen it. I'm going to see Ivy's face vanishing, hear her pleading with you to stop. I'm going to look at your stomach and wonder how much of it is her. I don't... I don't think I can do it." She took a deep breath. "I'm going to request having my break changed back to the normal time."
She heard a sharp intake of breath, and then Lindsay's voice. "I understand."
Violet snapped her head up to look at Lindsay. Those two words had been filled with a profound misery unlike anything Violet had ever heard before. She half expected to see Lindsay's eyes filled with tears.
But Lindsay's face was a cool, expressionless mask.
"I understand," she repeated. She walked towards the break room sink to clean out her mug.
"Lindsay..." Violet started.
"I'll stay away from you," Lindsay said, her tone neutral. "Other than a polite nod if we happen pass in the hall, you won't have to interact with me at all."
She finished rinsing the cup and put it in the drying rack. She dried her hands, and then walked to the break room door.
Violet opened her mouth to speak, but she couldn't figure out which words to use.
The door slowly swung closed, and Violet was left alone. Letting out a long breath, Violet lowered her face into her hands.
Today had been a long day.