Title: Baloo's Revenge
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March 8, 2003
Something had to be done.
Mowgli was gone. He and his little girlfriend (wife-to-be?) had returned to the Jungle, spent a brief time happy and then had vanished. He had sniffed everywhere for the man-cub, and found nothing but a familiar reptilian scent.
He might have put that thought aside, if Mowgli had been the first. But no: A year ago, Bagheera of the steely muscles and night-dark pelt had gone missing. Not a trace was to be found of his old friend. And then several of the wolf pack, one by one, had vanished just as tracelessly.
Then it had been Shere Khan's turn. The mighty tiger, Lord of the Jungle, had simply stopped showing up at his favored haunts. No more terrorizing the deer or lording it over the lesser beasts.
This time they had a clue. Mowgli had told him of seeing Kaa slide from the undergrowth swollen with a great bulge. The serpent had paraded himself before the man-cub as though showing off, then slithered off to digest his meal. A meal that, in retrospect, had to have been Khan himself. The lordly cat must have let himself be taken off-guard by the python, and now he was gone, eaten and digested.
When he'd realized what was happening, he'd warned Mowgli. But the man-cub was too taken with his new ladyfriend Shanti. He'd been careless, no doubt, and now he and his lady were gone too.
He didn't have any proof. Not for any of it. But he was sure just the same.
And Baloo needed to do something about it, before it was his turn. He was bigger than Khan, bigger than Kaa and all his coils, but he wasn't immune to the snake's hypnosis. Sooner or later, he was sure, the python would appear, eyes swirling, and Baloo would lie down and --
He shivered. All his friends were gone, and the new Lord of the jungle was responsible. There was no one who didn't fear Kaa, and only the little clique of himself, Khan, Bagheera and the man-cub had kept the serpent from utterly dominating the jungle. Now he was the last one left, and he knew that he, too, would become a bulge in Kaa if he didn't do something. The biggest bulge yet, but still digestible.
He had two choices. He could leave, go far away, and find a new spot of jungle. But he was old. Too old to move into a new area and fight off the other bears. Here, he was established.
That left the second choice. Again, he shivered.
But he still went hunting.
He knew the snake's favored spots. The quiet place down by the lake, where the serpent might seize a pig or deer coming down to drink. The dry rocks along the hillside, where the python would lie to catch the morning sun.
He found the snake in the third spot he looked: Kaa was on the pebbles by the river, soaking up the sunshine. The serpent's unblinking eyes were glazed, and a slight bulge deformed its midsection. Kaa was here to digest his latest meal.
Baloo watched from the brush and chewed on his anger. That lump was almost certainly Mowgli and Shanti, nearly digested after these weeks. The warm sun helped the serpent's belly, keeping it at the right temperature to absorb his prey. Even so, it was a slow process. It'd been weeks since the man-cub and company vanished, and still there was a bulge.
The serpent stirred, and the wedge-shaped head, large as a man's, dipped toward the water to drink. For that moment, the snake couldn't see behind himself --
And summoning up all his courage, Baloo charged.
His plan was simple. He couldn't outwrestle those coils, and he daren't look into those swirling eyes. He had too few teeth to bite the snake to death before he was crushed, and his clawed were old and blunt. If he were to dispatch the snake, he'd have to exhaust it first.
So he lumbered up at his best run, thrust his forepaws against the mass of coils, and pushed Kaa into the river.
"What? Ssss!" Hundreds of pounds of python tumbled off the banks, into the cool water, and the strong current carried Kaa downstream at once. This spot he liked to sun was at a bend in the river, and as the bear had hoped, the snake straightened out as the current pulled at him.
For Kaa, of course, this was only an annoyance. He swam very well, even when a bit full, and filing Baloo down as someone to eat soon (sooner than planned, that is), he struck out downstream. But .
He came to a halt almost at once. Something had ahold of his tail!
Kaa twisted his head around and glared across the rippling water at Baloo. "Let go, bear. I am in no mood to play."
The old bear shook his shaggy head. "No. No, you have played already, haven't you? Poor Mowgli. Poor Bagheera ." He clutched the tail up against his chest, his paws still strong despite his age.
Kaa tugged, but the current kept him stretched out. He couldn't reach to the shore ahead of him, so he was going to have to double back along himself if he was to get at his tormenter. Yes, a bit of hypnosis, then maybe a particularly filling afternoon meal. Forked tongue flicked as the serpent contemplated it: the taste of bear, his jaws gaped wide, the strain of the massive lump sliding down his throat. Beginning to reverse direction, he hairpinned back along himself. This way his own body blunted the current, and he could turn around, albeit slowly.
But what was the bear doing? The paws were carrying his tail upward --
"Sss! What are you doing, foolish old bear?" His tail-tip was in the nearly toothless mouth now, sliding over the slippery tongue. He could simply flip it back out, save that the paws were still pulling his tail closer. More tail went into the blackfurred muzzle until it packed full of scales, and the bear chewed this tough morsel.
"What are you doing, foolisssh bear? You haven't the teeth to chew this tough sssnake. Let me go or I will be unhappy with you." Kaa was a third doubled back on himself, swimming upstream against the current. Confound the Mowgli-bulge! It was catching the current and making this harder.
Baloo shook his head. He couldn't say anything with his mouth full. So he did something to help empty his mouth: He swallowed.
Kaa would have blinked, had he any eyelids. He could feel the bear's strong tongue push the bunched-up curls of tail to the back of the fangless muzzle, and felt the gullet accept the lump. Swallowing-muscles grabbed the tail then, dragging it down the slick, rippling tube. Those muscles were weak compared to his own -- he had sent a full-grown tiger down his throat, after all -- but his tail couldn't fight even this weak effort. Three feet of his tail slid into the bear's gullet, kneaded out straight by the rippling musculature.
"Do you think that you are me now, bear? Foolissssh. You are jussst going to make me angry." He was halfway back along his length now, and lifted his head from the water. "You ssshould look me in the eye if you are going to play with me ."
"Nuh. Nuh, nuh." Baloo shook his head and closed his eyes. He wasn't going to look into Kaa's eyes! Instead, he bit down to hold the part he had and slid his paws another two feet along the tail. And, when he pulled his paws back up to his nose --
Gulp. Now the tail was as thick as a man's knee, and he gagged a bit as he swallowed it. But it was worth it: two more feet of Kaa slid down his throat. The snake hadn't spent much time around him. Kaa might not know what a glutton Baloo was, when the food presented itself. Why, to keep edibles out of the reach of others, he'd been known to swallow big chunks of food whole.
Kaa was two-thirds hairpinned now, and his broad wedge-shaped head lifted from the water again. The shore was steep, but the bear was only five feet ahead. Once he had his teeth into that fur, he could wind himself around Baloo, squeeze and, soon after, open his mouth very wide for his dinner. "Foolissssh ."
Or perhaps not so foolish. As Kaa's voice came close, Baloo took a tight grip on the part of the tail just outside his lips and jerked it upward. A wave traveled down Kaa, thrashing him through the water and disturbing his neat hairpin-shape. The strong current grabbed his long body again, and the serpent's head pulled off the shoreline as he once more began to straighten out.
"Sss! Let me go, bear! You are wasssting my time!"
Baloo couldn't even shake his head any more. Breath rasped painfully in and out of his nostrils, and his jaws stretched wide as a column of serpent as thick as a man's thigh moved into his mouth. He might be old, but he was still very strong, and every few seconds he reached down and grabbed the next foot-long section of Kaa. Grabbed it, and pulled into his lips.
Gulp. His tongue was useless now, but his throat grabbed each new bit of snake and tugged it downward. He could feel the pressure all the way through his neck and body, the tightness as his gullet tried to send the snake closer to his stomach.
Deep inside the bear, the pointed python-tailtip squeezed through a muscular valve and into a looser space. Folds of wet muscle expanded to let this morsel in, then to let a foot of thicker tail in, then another foot. There was still plenty of room for more in the gut of the gluttonous bear, though usually his meals didn't arrive in one long lump like this one.
Kaa was beginning to get concerned. Forced nearly straight by the current, he was having to double back once more. On the one hand, he didn't have as far to swim now. On the other, much more worrisome hand, that was because a third of his length -- his whole tail, and now part of his body above the vent -- was down the bear's throat. Ten feet and more of him, gone! The part entering the bear's lips now was as thick as a large man's thigh, and it wasn't going in as fast as his tail had. But it was going in. Strained though the bear's jaws were, they were wide enough to admit even this. Was it possible that even his midparts might fit ? No, surely not! The bear would have to stop sometime.
Baloo did not agree. As Kaa once more slid his head close, the bear jerked the thick column of serpent and dislodged the snake from the shore. And, as the python's diminished length stretched out in the current, Baloo wrapped his paws around the Mowgli-bulge and swallowed.
Tears trickled from his eyes as his mouth stretched. Pain bit at the joints beneath his ears, and the opening to his gullet was so tight it reminded him of females' complaints about giving birth. He was certain something would tear, that his neckfur would simply split open or his jaws snap loose from his head.
Even so, he swallowed. There was a weight in his belly now, like a good meal, and he concentrated on that. Honey yes, pawfuls of honey, until he was gorged. Fruit by the mancub-load, fish by the hundred, to feed until he belched up bits of peel and loose scales. To feed until he could scarcely waddle, though Mowgli might point and laugh, and the monkeys throw rotten fruit.
Truth be told, there'd been a time or two when Mowgli had annoyed him enough that he'd considered eating the boy. Bagheera, too, he knew from his secret conversations with the panther, had thought about it. Though they would have made a messy meal of the man-child, either could have completely disposed of him in one sitting. 'Why no, Shere Khan, I haven't *Belch!* seen the man-cub. Have you asked the wolves?'
He'd had his eyes closed for a while now, but now he opened them. His swollen cheeks kept them from parting more than a slit, but what he saw made him grin a distorted smile. The Mowgli-bulge was all but gone.
'So, you would throw fruit at me like some monkey?', he thought. Gulp. 'You would point and laugh, and run when I stir?' Gulp. The last of the bulge vanished, straining his throat painfully and yet still sliding downward. His belly was uncomfortably tight, but two thirds of Kaa was gone. And his gullet had a powerful grip on the rest, all of which was smaller in diameter than that which had already slid in. 'Would you taunt me, serpent?' Gulp .
By now, it'd become plain that the bear was not stopping, and as the Mowgli-bulge slid heavily into the sheath of stretched bear-throat, Kaa spoke rapidly. "You are taking thisss too far, Baloo. I never really had anything against you or the man-cub. Did you think I would eat him? It was all a jest! Just a jessst!"
Ten feet of Kaa became nine feet, then eight, then seven. Swallowing muscles worked around the Mowgli-bulge, forcing it downward, and though the sheer strain of passing such a lump made the bear's flabby body creak and gurgle, still it slid downward. Kaa could see Baloo's middle swell as what was left of Mowgli slid into the capacious ursine stomach. Gluttonous Baloo had gorged himself many times: his stomach might hurt with this much food crammed in, but it didn't stop him from eating even more. Gulp
Five feet of Kaa remained, and he curled his head in front of Baloo's eyes. "Look into my eyessss, big bear." With what little of his neck remained, Kaa twisted himself in a slow, hypnotic curl. "Look into my eyes, and lisssten ."
Baloo's eyes went wide and glazed as the python's hypnotic compulsion burrowed into his brain. He should have kept his eyes shut! "Yefff ?" The narrower 'neck' of the python gave his jaws enough play that he could speak this much.
"I want you to now wait! Stop!" Though Baloo had gone passive at the first brush of Kaa's control, and his paws had fallen away from the serpent's neck, not every part of his body was under his conscious control. His throat was still tensed in one long gulp; his gullet knew there was something blocking it, and rather than retch it back up (for Baloo had long since overcome his gag reflex), his swallowing-muscles were kneading it downward. Four feet of Kaa. Three .
"Stop! Stop! Stop swallowing meeee!" Kaa thrashed his diminishing length back and forth. "SSSsssstoooop!' He could feet the wet, hot, muscular gullet gripping down and rippling, kneading him downward, and that pressure only released as each inch of his length as it slid into the bear's equally stretched stomach. The huge belly was better equipped to handle the strain, though, and it expanded with a sort of pneumatic force, helping draw him ever inward. Two feet. One.
Kaa's broad head slipped into the confused bear's muzzle, and Baloo tried to reason out what to do. So confused 'Stop swallowing!', he heard, but he wasn't swallowing. There was something in his throat, yes, but that length of food was slithering downward on its own. It was not as though he could stop it, anyway. Whatever it was was heavy, and the only way he could have stopped it was to stick his paw in his muzzle. Dazed, the hypnotized bear felt something bulky and thrashing press against the back of his tongue, and he did the obvious thing.
Gulp! The bear's powerful tongue rolled up against Kaa's nose, squeezing his broad cheeks down into the throat, and before he thought to nip onto the tongue, he slid down as though into an opening trapdoor. All the light in the world went out as Baloo's jaws shut, the bear's head rocking as he swallowed one last time. Muscular throat folded itself around Kaa, squeezing him downward.
On a good day, he could have kept his length straight enough to keep himself out of the stomach. Eventually the bear would have to breathe, and to do that Baloo would have to retch him up. But this wasn't a good day. Kaa had been in a digestive torpor from the start, slowing his reactions, and fighting the current had leeched almost all his strength. He tried to struggle, squirming upward as the muscles pushed down, but it was too late.
Baloo came slowly back to himself as the vast weight settled in his belly. It was the pain that roused him, really: coil after coil of python crammed into his gut. He'd not noticed it before, because he'd desperately focused on swallowing the snake before it got a grip on him. Now his bellyfur was taut as a drum, and he rubbed it with his paws, groaning. He could even see Kaa's coils! The snake was so massive that the thick cylinders stood out of the black fur, the pelt stretched so thin that the brown skin beneath showed.
A fart billowed out of him as the sheer bulk in his belly strained his organs. Kaa was still wriggling, tired and slow but struggling with all his serpentine might. But all that might would not be enough, that time! Baloo grinned through the pain, and patted the enormous bulge weakly.
"Eat Mowgli, would you? Eat Bagheera? Well, this is what I have to say to you, snake!"
Baloo couldn't move. Eight hundred pounds of snake lay in his gut, still alive but weakening. All Baloo could do was lean against a rock and relax as best he could. Even Kaa had limits.
The python reached his limit in about ten minutes. The huge snake inside the bear tensed, strained against the enfolding walls a last time, then went limp save for an occasional nerveless twitch. Baloo blinked from his half-doze and smiled, stroking the bulge. His gut gurgled lightly, slowly digesting the enormous lump of meat and bone. Kaa would have needed a month or more to digest him, and even he, a warm-blooded beast, would need days to return the favor. And the bits of Mowgli-and-Shanti, too, would dissolve and pass through him. Any bits of Khan and Bagheera, too. At that, he frowned. Khan he didn't mind, but to have eaten his friends, even indirectly! Still, he'd had no choice. The only way he could overpower the python was this way.
Baloo belched massively, and turned. Was that a sound ?
It was. It was a red dog nosing through the undergrowth nearby. Baloo felt a chill, but even fat and immobile as he was, one dog was not a threat. He swiped a paw. "Go away."
But it was more than one. A dozen, two dozen dogs emerged from the jungle, their eyes all on the fat bear.
He sighed. There were thirty or more, and more arriving all the time. He knew what would happen next, and he looked up at the sky as he said something like a prayer.
"Mowgli, Bagheera, though I fall, I have had my revenge. I, Baloo, am happy."
And then the dogs pounced.