Saida almost got a seat on the airport connector’s lead car, but she ended up with a handhold near the front; the automated tram was at standing-only capacity. Fortunately, the ride to the airport terminal only took about eight minutes.
As the train started to pass over the freeway, the cat glanced her watch. They should be at the terminal in—
The train jerked to the side, shuddering wildly and slamming to a halt with a metallic screech. Saida barely stayed on her feet, gripping a support pole. Earthquake? Bomb? But the noise was… thunder?
The light outside had changed. Something was in the freeway. The cars that had been on it were just gone, the road completely clear, and in the road was…
Saida’s ears folded back, fluffy tail flicking wildly. It was a paw. An immense grey paw. The surrounding asphalt had been pulverized, cracks radiating out for hundreds of yards. Even if Saida had been a giantess, that paw would have covered her completely. Mouth dry, she leaned forward, pressing her face against the window.
Rat, definitely. Female, although she couldn’t see past her hips, dozens of stories overhead. Variegated white and black fur. Even without touching the train, Saida could feel her movements, transmitted through the ground up to the train tracks.
The light shifted again and the train wrenched to the left. Saida clung to her pole, but other standing passengers slid into that side—the side with immense grey fingers wrapping around it. A cacophony of snapping sounds came from underneath as the rat lifted the train, intact, off the tracks.
Saida stared out the windows, breathing hard. None of the city’s stately high-rises would reach the rat’s waist if—when—she strolled that way. Out the side window was fur. This close up, the scale made it hard to see as part of a living body. The rat wore a shimmering blue-green bangle on the wrist of the arm she’d grabbed them with.
Soon it became easier to see the rat’s shape, and to see that the bangle was all she wore. Other passengers stared out the windows with, judging by their dismayed expressions, the same uncomfortable thought Saida had: the rat was hot. As they passed by her chest, Saida found herself studying an immense, shapely breast, and squirmed.
Finally, they reached her face. The screaming became panicked murmurs as she brought them closer. Curious, bright eyes, the same color as her bangles, looked through the windows. Some passengers began to wave, to call desperately, begging to be set back down. Saida didn’t. She could tell the rat knew she’d picked up a passenger vehicle. Their fate was just a coin toss between toys and food.
The rat drew back, seeming to consider that very question. Then she gave the train a slow lick.
The huge, wet tongue slid along one side of the tram, completely covering the windows on the right side, dragging along to the front. Bumps and ridges in the flesh dragged at the glass and metal, passing by with a thick, liquid rumble. As the tongue withdrew it left the glass slick and blurry.
The rat turned the train to face her muzzle head on, her huge nose in front of it. Then her jaws parted. The front view became her tongue, rising like a hill ahead of them, the roof of her mouth making a huge, wet tunnel that slowly constricted to the darkness of her throat.
Saida sighed. Food, of course, because that was her fate. Just a question of how the rat would get at them. Rip the train with claws? Bite off the front?
The screaming intensified as the train lurched forward, the view becoming just the inside of the rat’s muzzle. The other couple dozen passengers still toward the train’s front tried to scramble back, sliding and slipping as the vehicle rocked back and forth, tripping over connectors between car sections as they flexed. The train slid along her tongue like it was a track, and the train rocked like a wild amusement ride—a flume ride, given the sounds of splashing saliva. Crunches and scrapes rang loudly through the car as her jaws started to close, most of the train still outside her mouth. The ride came to a halt against the back of the rat’s throat, the view ahead now just pulsing, wet dark red flesh. The temperature and humidity in the car rose quickly.
She stared, mouth open, then choked back a giggle. Was this really happening?
A fox in a business suit gripped her shoulders. “It can’t eat the train!” he yelled.
Saida started laughing.
The wall of muscle ahead flexed, and the train jerked forward, tilting sharply. The dark red flesh surrounded the front car, and Saida’s ears filled with the scream of crunching metal and shattering glass. A thick wet glrk sound she knew all too well echoed in a way she’d never heard before.
“What’s wrong with you?” the fox shrieked, scrambling away and joining a group of passengers trying to pry the nearest doors open. She glanced back at them, feeling strangely irritated. They knew even if they got out, they’d still be in the rat’s mouth, right?
For another couple of seconds, the train remained stuck just at the top of a steep roller coaster hill. Then the next swallow sent that front car almost vertical. The Rha clung to her pole as passengers slid past her. More glass shattered, more metal twisted, the car deformed under the strength of the surrounding muscles. Light still dimly shone in from above, channeled in by the rest of the train; ahead was wet, hot blackness. Even after the swallow, the train slid slowly down.
Saida blinked. And—lightning? Something flashed past on the throat walls, blue-white light. The heat had grown more intense, the humidity oppressive. Rivulets of saliva ran down the train’s walls.
The train rocked side to side, causing more panic and confusion. Saida giggled again, no longer bothering to suppress it, imagining the mega-rat rubbing a finger against her throat to feel the train there. It’s what she would do. Not that she could digest a train. How could the rat?
A final swallow sent them sliding down in total darkness—except for the bioelectric light flashes. They created freeze-frames of tumbling and screaming passengers, bent floors and walls, broken seats. Then the monstrous gullet squeezed the train down into her stomach. Saida went flying out of the train, perhaps through the space the windshield had been, cushioned as she slammed into a stomach wall.
She sat up, spluttering, covered in thick, sticky mucus, then gaped.
The bioluminescence had intensified into flickering blue light dancing across the huge, wet chamber. Saida saw the train, twisted and bent, lying on its side. A few other passengers had been thrown clear; others tried to climb out, as if they had anywhere safe to go other than splashing into the inescapable goo. Everything glistened. The mucus dripped, splashed, oozing everywhere, coating everything. It burned, less like acid than like a live wire.
And, she realized, it was the source of the light, shimmering across the train, across other passengers, across… her. The screams echoing around her intensified as the flashes became faster, more frenzied. The train was—melting.
The rat goddess’s light grew brighter and brighter around her, over her, inside her. Then everything faded to black.
© 2021 Arilin Thorferra