The Eater 

By Strega
Story Copyright (C) By Strega
 2001 - All rights reserved.

Story not to be reprinted, or redistributed, 
without author's Permission.

If you wish to use the stories, or 
anything copyright by me, please e-mail me.
I'll also forward any mail to the author.

  The Eater

The anteater relaxed, letting his frame droop to the ground, pulled down by the heavy lump in his belly. Under the surface of the distended furry gut, his meal jumped and squirmed, pushing at the pelt and muscle stretched so thin around it - looking for escape.
But there was no escape. He could feel his stomach tensing down already, squeezing his meal, the powerful, muscular contractions kneading at the man, trying to crush him. This was how ants died in his belly, in the thousands, squashed not by his narrow snout's feeble jaws but by the walls of his muscular gut.
He belched, long and high-pitched, and rolled onto his side, enjoying the swollen feeling. Instead of spending hours hunting for ants or termites, and having to rip open the hill and lick them up, his tongue had found this man's feet as he slept in the field. So quickly had be pulled it in that the meal had only awoken when up to his armpits in snout.
It'd screamed then, unsure what was happening, but before it had time to cry out again the swollen snout had pulsed and rippled, and the shoulders and face had been gone. Hands had clutched at the lips of his snout, and then a last, heavy gulp, and he'd settled down as he was now, enjoying the squirming inside.
The wriggling was slowing, now. Squeezed relentlessly by the strong belly, the man shuddered, twitched…and was still. The anteater waited for several seconds, to be sure it would stay quiet, and then rolled to his claws, and waddled heavily away, his brushy tail wiping the tracks from behind him. He knew that men would look for the vanished one the next morning, and though no one would suspect the larger than usual anteater, it was still best to be away.

The anteater reached the ravine past the avocado orchard, curled up around the bulge in his middle, and mused about how it'd all started. It'd only been about a year ago….
The odd human. Just separated from his mother, and of a docile disposition, he'd not reacted when the man came out of the village to where he was nosing around the termite mound. He's just been working at a soft spot in the mound, ready to push his snout in, when the man pointed at him and began to chant.
The high singsong had been no more understandable than any other human babble, and he'd ignored it, prying at the crack in the mount with his strong foreclaws. But then there'd been a rustle, and when he looked, the man had thrown a handful of live crickets down next to him.
Crickets were not too big to eat, but were too much trouble to catch normally, as they did not live in packs. This group of them vanished in swipes of his tongue as he turned his attention that way, were gathered up into his narrow snout and gulped down kicking and wiggling. Bigger than his usual ant fare, he could feel them all the way down, even kicking a few times at his stomach before they were crushed. He turned his attention back to the mound.
And more crickets appeared. The chanting had grown more feverish, higher-pitched, and this time he took the crickets one by one from the man's hand. When the man turned, and walked slowly away, it had seemed perfectly natural to follow.

Living in the village was strange and different. The children of the men found him infinitely amusing, jumping on his enormous tail, peering into his tiny eyes, and feeding him stray insects and bits of fruit.
He slept in his man's tent, and shuffled around the huts in the morning and evening, when it wasn't too hot. Sometimes he found broods of cockroaches or beetles, and slurped them up, or occasionally a larger thing, like a big walking stick or praying-mantis. The children erupted in hysterics when a mantis as long as his paw gripped into his tongue with its pinchers, leaving him lashing his tongue around in pain until he finally managed to stun in and draw it into his snout. After that, he was more careful with mantises, and stepped on them before swallowing.
His man was very interested in what he ate, for some reason. As a pet, he was often presented with bowls of chopped meal and vegetables, and he ate that, chewing the larger bits with his little peg-like teeth. He'd been at the village for a few weeks when the man changed that.
It was raining the evening rain when his man brought out the covered basket. He watched with interest, expecting his dinner; but the man drew out a gray mouse, and held it squirming by its tail. He eyed the squeaking thing, and started to turn away, only to be stopped by a low chant.
He looked at the man again, and at the mouse, as the chant sunk into his bones. The mouse was not a bit of fruit or chopped meat, nor an insect. The mouse was…the mouse was in his snout. He blinked, not remembering the man pushing it in, nor opening his snout for it; it was devilishly tickley, wiggling against his tongue. Without thinking, he opened the narrow jaws inside his snout, and swallowed it.
It wriggled all the way down, and his twitched his ear in discomfort. In a moment it reached his belly, and he relaxed as he felt it crushed lifeless between the muscular walls. Mice could be eaten, it seemed. The next one, he licked from his man's hand, and the next, and finally, from the open basket, the mice there larger, gray and white and black and all patterns of fur in between.
He belched, tilting his head to look into the empty basket, an felt the mass of rodents squirming helplessly in his stomach as the walls squeezed them. The struggle did not last long, and in a few moments he lay down next to his man to digest his meal. With a happy sound, the man patted his narrow head, and retired to bed himself.
He diet of mice lasted for a week. It caused some strange things to happen to his toilet habits, and twice the man chanted over him as he struggled with the masses of fur and tiny bones that did not dissolve as ants did. At some point, the bones began to digest, too, and finally he learned to gather the fur in the front of his belly, and cough the mass back into the basket after the meat was digested.
The next food he was offered was rats. The first of those was a fearsome animal, a gray-black, violent beast larger around than his snout, with yellowed chisel-teeth and glittering eyes. It snapped at him, and he eyed his man dubiously; this did not look like food, even after the mice.
He was not to argue, it seemed. With a single word, he was frozen in place, and his man pulled his snout open, stunned the rat against the wall, and shoved it nose-first into his lips.
The paralysis ended, and he stared in horror down at his snout, which now had a curious bulge in the middle. The rat was waking as well, its claws already scrabbling at his delicate mouth, and the man's hand held his lips shut, keeping him from spitting the rodent out.
It never occurred to him to swipe his great claws at his man; that was just not done. But he backed away, was followed, twisted his head to and fro, unable to free his snout from the man's hand. The rat grew more and more active in his mouth, and as he approached panic, the man spoke another word…and he found himself swallowing.
The rat gave a convulsive kick in his jaws, scratching him inside, but it was past his jaws now, and the throat carried it heavily down, just as it'd carried smaller things. The anteater coughed and trembled, the hard lump painful in his gullet, but after a moment the pain passed, and he felt the rat wriggling futilely in his belly. A moment later, the stomach clenched down on it, and the struggle ended.
He eyed the next rat just as uncomfortably as the first. But…he shouldn't have been able to fit the first one down at all. His snout was, after all, meant for ants. So he stood still this time, let his man cram the rat into his snout, and gulped at once. This one slid down even more easily, as it was still stunned from the blow it'd been given.
The next rat he snapped up without help. The fourth he caught in his tongue, and pulled it in kicking and scrabbling, until it, too, was a bulge in his snout. And then, gulp, it joined the others.
His tongue, previously just wet with enough saliva to pick up clusters of ants, had become truly sticky since he had lived with the man. And his snout was more stretchy by the day. Though he hadn't quite realized it, the very fact that he knew that was odd. He was becoming self-aware in a manner that didn't quite make him intelligent, but did definitely make him very clever for a beast.
The weeks and months went by, and his meals continued to grow in size. His man led him on a diet that went from mice, to rats, to large parrots, stray cats, a coati or two (their ringed tails lashed furiously from his snout, as he swallowed them), and, by the time the summer rains were nearly due again, to a young capybara half his size. He'd grown, too, and was now much bigger than most anteaters, over a hundred fifty pounds on his steady diet of wriggling animals.
The capybara swelled his snout out grossly, almost as large as his body if you didn't count his huge tail. Its clawed hindpaws kicked from his muzzle, and he struggled to gulp it deeper, his distended snout slowly bending and rippling as the rodent squirmed beneath the fur. With a powerful, tiring gulp he managed to get its head down into his body, and from there it was easy. Moments later he lay panting, his swollen belly jiggling as the capy struggled to get out.
That was one thing that never changed. No matter how big it was, how hard it was to swallow, or, later, how hard it was to pass the remains, his stomach never failed him. It squeezed the meal tight, a suffocating hug that'd once been reserved for ants and little bugs, and the rodent gave a last despairing kick and expired.
He belched, a drawn-out, high-pitched burp, and his human grinned and reached for his foreclaw. Lately, the man had been trimming them, a touchy process that the anteater would never have accepted without a quieting chant. Now he'd let the man clip away, blunting the claws until they were just nubbins. Why? It was not his place to ask, and the way he lived now, he didn't need claws that could dig into a hard termite mound or savage a jaguar.
Two days later, when he'd digested the rodent, he found out why. He'd followed his man to the river, coughed up the capy-fur into the muddy water as he'd been trained, and then they were off on a long walk downstream. He soon found that there was another village almost within sight of his, and another, and another. Finally, a gap, a swampy area that continued for an hour, and then the largest village yet. Some of the human-places here were colorful, made of materials very different from the treeparts and hides of his own.
They were barely in the outskirts of the town when he heard the fight. Two dogs snarling, ripping at each other, and finally, one yelping, giving way; he and his man found the crowd of people just as one bloody dog was dragged out of the ring. He eyed the wounded dog curiously; its ears and neck were torn, its fur reddened by whatever it'd been fighting.
His human led him to the crowd, and began speaking to a pair of humans that seemed in charge. At first, the darker one laughed, but his man brought out a sheaf of colored paper strips, and then the dark one looked at him seriously.
He looked back, blinking, and then man bent down to pick up one of his foreclaws. Or fore-paws, now, as his long digging claws were just nub. The man felt the claws, then stood back up and talked to his man again, gesturing.
There was an argument, and then his man handed over the strips of paper, and the dark man smiled and spoke some more. Finally he gestured, and the crowd parted.
He'd begun to lose interest in all of this, but then his man patted his snout and pointed him into the ring. Curious, he ambled in, the humans filling in again behind him. Some of them laughed, pointing at him, and one reached out to grab the tip of his long furry tail, gave it a tug.
He turned to look at the man, who was laughing so hard he could hardly stand, and as he faced the edge of the ring, something struck his rump a heavy blow. Staggering, he turned back, and confronted a dog.
This dog was much larger than the little yellow ones that lived in his village. It was a heavy, black and brown thing, with a huge head and short, shiny fur. Drool dripped from its lips as it growled at him. Even its legs were thick, with big, long-nailed paws that had thudded against his hips.
The dog's growl went down in pitch, and then it snarled, leaping forward at his eyes. He barely heard his man behind him, saying the sound that meant 'eat'…but with the dog coming at him hard, he had already lifted his snout. His lips parted in a V, wide as a man's hands with wrists together and fingers spread, and he stepped forward, meeting the dog's leap.
With an impact that shook him to his haunches, the dog's muzzle connected with his maw. His snout wrinkled oddly, bending down, but even so the dog's head vanished, now a heavy bulge in his narrow muzzle. The humans went silent all at once, and the only sound was the scrabbling of the big dog's paws as it tried to pull its head out.
One man cursed quietly, trying to get into the ring, but two others held him back. The dog jerked in his snout, the big head caught between the weak jaws that hid inside the narrow muzzle. He paused for a moment…and then remembered the capybara, and licked out his sticky tongue to wind around the dog's forelegs and chest.
The tongue drew back into his snout, and with it came the dog's neck, the big head slipping past his jaws and into his gullet. Lowering his nose, he pushed his lips up over the struggling thing's shoulders, soon forcing its forelegs back against its chest. The head was in his throat, now, and he swallowed, the shoulders slipping into his bulging snout as his tongue wrapped farther down the dog's belly.
The dog was strong, kicking and wriggling, but his tongue was stronger, and the shape of the thing's chest moved into his snout, bulging and rippling the fur. Swallowing heavily, he managed to get the muscular forelegs between his jaws, and the dog began to fall downward, enough of it in his throat now to be pulled deeper with each gulp.
It was nearly as large as he, and very strong; he felt its ribcage sliding past his jaws, the big bulge moving through his neck and into his body. Now his lips were around its belly, the hindpaws kicking at his neck frantically. He lifted his snout , tossed the bulky dog's hindquarters upward, and swallowed.
The cursing man was sobbing, now, reaching out as though to grab the dog's hindpaws or short-cropped tail. Held back by the other men, some grinning, some staring in disbelief at the anteater, some talking to one another and pointing at his man.
His man was one of the grinning ones, and he reached out to pet the anteater's thickly furred tail as the dog's rump was sucked into his snout. The pelvis stretched his jaws again, and then the rump was past, and his snout bobbed as he got the dog's haunches into his throat, swallowed, and swallowed again.
The big hindpaws kicked one last time from his snout, and then the tongue licked out to pull them in. The shape of the dog's hindlegs moved through his snout, slipping back towards his neck, and were gone, the bulge slipping down into his neck and body. With the weight descending to his belly, the anteater arched his body, swallowed, then stretched, and felt the mass gather in his gut. His hindclaws were pushed apart by the huge, squirming lump, his bellyfur stretching so thin he felt the dirt against his skin as he sagged to the ground.
The dog was struggling, trying to bite, scraping its nails against his belly, but the muscular sac crushed down on it, squeezing the breath and life from it. The anteater lay atop his meal, eyes shut, and tried to relax, as his body resumed its usual shape after the passage of the enormous meal. Ribs creaked, muscles twitched uncontrollably, and he whiffled uncomfortably as the dog's hindpaws were pushed down to join the rest.
Another moment of desperate struggle inside, and then the dog quieted, squeezed into unconsciousness. The pressure in the anteater's belly eased as it grew accustomed to this meal, and he let out a high-pitched and lengthy burp.
Some of the men were still grinning, some laughing, some watching him with horror. His own man laughed!, taking bunches of paper strips from the dark man, and then snapped his fingers. The anteater rose heavily to his paws, and waddled after, as they set off up-river again.
He was not able to move very fast, with a dog almost as large as he in his belly. His stomach was working at the meal, sapping his energy, and is he did not strain to arch his back, his belly dragged uncomfortably. After half an hour, he was exhausted, and at his man relented, allowing a rest at the edge of the swampy area.
After an hour's nap he barely roused when his human called, so the rest stretched into the evening, and finally through the night. When he woke at last, the sun was just risen, and his man was using a small fire to roast an ugly fish. The cooking and eating gave him time to fully wake, visit the undergrowth, and return, his belly much lighter now. By this time the dog's flesh had digested, and the bones were following, though more slowly. Half an hour later, they were back on the trail.
Two hours after that, they were back in the village. His man was happy, stacking all the strips of paper he had now, shuffling them about on the table, laughing when a rare visitor would stare goggle-eyed at all of it. The anteater just lay in the corner, still heavy-bellied and enjoying it. The next day, they would visit the stream and cough up a head-sized mass of black and brown fur.
His human was happy, still, and so he was happy. It was back to his diet of crickets, fruit, and the occasional animal that his man brought him. Nothing too large, for a while, certainly nothing as interesting as the dog had been….
One evening, a week or so later, he noticed his man was packing up a travel-bag with food, a change of clothing, and all those strips of paper. Before, this wouldn't have aroused his interest, but his man had done something very like this, before…before the dog.
It developed just as he'd hoped. The next morning, they left the village, the children chasing after and taking one last tug at his tail, and then they were in the rain-forest again. A different direction, this time, not along the river but crossways to it, and up over the hills. This trip was longer, too, up and down the wrinkled land, through the forest. It was noisy there, and there were many bugs, snacks along the way. But bugs just weren't as interesting any more.
He almost caught a coati that stood eyeing them curiously. The fearless thing was just out of tongue-reach when his man tugged at his scruff, steering him back onto the path. He turned to follow, whiffling unhappily. He was hungry.
By the evening, they reached another river, and shortly after, the path led to a village. No sound of a dog-fight in this one, but his man patted his head, and the bag that held all the paper strips. A few of the strips got them into a disused hut, and there they bedded down for the night.
That night it rained. Not the usual, slow, drenching rain, but heavily, with great cracks of thunder every few moments. The lighting flashed and crackled, and the two of them slept uneasily. His man had given him a bowl of crickets, but after lapping up a few, he lay and looked at the bowl in the flicking light. Crickets weren't enough. Rats weren't enough, any more. The dog…tomorrow he thought he would have a dog.
Finally he slept fitfully, as the crickets hopped out of the bowl and through his fur. Thunder woke him twice; this village near the mountains had storms as he'd never experienced. Finally, though it still rained, it grew lighter outside. His restless sleep over, he rose, and paced from one side of the hut to the other. He was so hungry that he slurped up the few crickets that had stayed in the bowl; but they were hardly felt on the way down. They weren't real food any more.
His man woke, and laughed at him as he paced. A pat on the head, and then the man went back to counting the paper strips, as he'd been doing the night before. The anteater paced, his belly grumbling.
At last there were voices outside, and his man went out to talk to the men. Soon he returned with two others, and they held his forepaws and looked at his claws. The anteater stood patiently for this, because he knew what it meant. It meant he would have a real meal, soon.
His man led him outside, and stood with a crowd while other men brought dogs to the ring. It was still cloudy, and the rumble of thunder came from the storms that still hovered father up the canyons. The river beside the village ran rough, and some of the men pointed and spoke, but most just had eyes for the dogs, many large and heavily scarred. Other men pointed at him and laughed, or patted his furry tail.
His owner spent the first dog-fight exchanging paper strips with the others; the anteater couldn't see the fight at all past the ring of humans. The men watching shouted, and cursed, and cheered. Finally one dog yelped in submission, and the fight was over. He waited impatiently, expecting another fight to start.
But then the ring opened, and his owner signed him forward; he wouldn't have to wait any longer. Eagerly, he padded into the ring, ignoring the soreness in his forepaws, where the claws were trimmed too short.
On the opposite side of the ring, two dogs were pushed in. They were yellow, and about half his size, not nearly as muscular as the big dog he'd met in the other ring. But they were wiry, and stood staring at him growling, hackles raised. He returned the look, and anticipated how they would feel kicking in his belly. One, at least, would be caught by surprise; they looked at him and expected an easy fight, but he knew better. With a slow pace, he stepped forward, waiting for them to split apart.
But before he could do more than anticipate his meal, there was new shouting. The men were turning, looking at something; one grabbed the larger dog (his meal!) and dragged it back out of the ring. An instant later, women in the huts screamed, and the ring broke up into a chaotic swirl or running men.
It was the river. He blinked at the wall of brown water that swept down the canyon, and staggered as a man tripped over him and crashed headlong to the ground. The wall was as tall as a man, and it carried trees and brush, bobbing up and around in the foaming mass of water. A dog ran past, yelping, and he turned toward the forest.
Half a dozen steps, at his best shambling run, and the water was there. He was swept up in the churning maelstrom, tumbling wildly, his balance and orientation instantly lost. Something smashed into his side, and he barely glimpsed a man, head flopping limply as he was carried past. He coughed, and managed to get his snout above water as he was swept along.
Seconds later, it was over, at least for him. The flash-flood flipped him up into the branches of a tree, and he hung there dripping, panting, gripping the trunk with all four paws. The tree shuddered, and brush and logs swept past, and mud, and bodies, and he thought how lucky he'd been. The village was gone, the grassy flat now a swirling lake, driftwood and kindling all that was left of the huts. Of the village, he saw no survivors, except himself.
The tree shuddered again, and he peered down at the churning brown water. Something had smashed into the trunk…would the tree fall? He coughed up some of that brown, and saw the smaller tree that'd been carried into his tree-shelter's trunk. Something moved…it was a man, clutching weakly at the bark, slowly pulling himself out of the water.
It was his man, bloody across the forehead, but alive. The man used the bobbing trunk he'd ridden to push up the anteater's tree, and when his life-raft was carried away, he'd climbed high enough to not be pulled loose by the torrent. Up the trunk he came, gasping and coughing up water.
He lowered his snout, blinking down at his sodden man. The blood across the man's forehead welled up now that the water didn't wash it away, and the human blinked blindly, feeling his way up as he climbed the sloping trunk.
A hand reached up, almost touching the lips at the end of his snout, and without thinking about it he licked out his sticky tongue to encircle the wrist. He tugged upward, helping his man up into the fork he occupied, and the other hand found his snout, petting him as the human struggled to climb in. He licked his tongue around the second wrist as well, and the man smiled, realizing it was his anteater who'd helped him. It opened its mouth to speak.
And as it spoke, the anteater thought. He had not had the dogs. He'd had nothing but a few crickets since yesterday, and then only bugs. Not since the big dog in the other village had he eaten anything really satisfying. The hands were so close to his lips, his tongue wrapped around the wrists. The man was not so much larger than the dog had been. And he was so very, very hungry.
His man's expression froze, as the sticky tongue pulled tight, dragging the hands up against the v-shaped lips. The narrow snout stretched open, and with an easy tug the anteater drew the hands inside, enjoying the bulge they made in his long muzzle as he sucked them down between his little jaws. The man's arms were pulled up, stretching him out where he lay half in the fork.
His man's mouth worked, but no sound came out, as the hands slid between his jaws. He caught them there, tasted them, and then swallowed, pushing them past and into his throat. He felt the beginning of tightness there, and swallowed again, gulping in the wrists, the man's arms now all in his muzzle. The flexible snout flexed, and he tugged with his tongue, hungry for more.
Now his man spoke, quiet and urgent. He didn't understand the words, but he knew what the man was saying. He gulped down the forearms, and pushed his snout down over the upper arms. His lips flexing and stretching. It was stretched very tight already, as tight as when he'd swallowed the dog, and wanting more, he pushed his head down violently.
The man had just begun to chant when the snout-lips folded down over his eyes, stretching over the top of his head and sucking tight. He shuddered, but kept chanting. The man's voice was relaxing, soothing, as it always was when he chanted. The voice made him want to just lie there, let his claws be trimmed, or let himself be fed the next larger thing. He whiffled pleasantly, and pushed his head down between his forepaws, remembering.
But then the chanting stopped, and something was wriggling in his snout. He blinked, and looked down his muzzle at the big bulge his man's head made, and then swallowed, taking in the rest of the arms, watching the bulge of the head pull up towards his eyes. The chanting had stopped because even half-asleep, he had sucked in the man's head, and it couldn't chant when it was between his jaws.
His man was struggling, now, kicking at the tree-trunk, wriggling back and forth. The anteater looked at the naked back just in front of his lips, and swallowed, feeling the head squeeze down between his jaws, slip into his throat. The shoulders were being pulled into his snout, stretching it wider than it'd ever been stretched. It hurt, but at the same time, the bulk sliding into his maw was so…satisfying. He gulped the head down into his body, and sagged in the tree, the wiggling human almost half inside him weighing him down.
Swallowing firmly, he got his man's shoulders down past his jaws, into his throat. That was the widest part. And, just as with the capybara months ago, that was the beginning of the end. His throat gripped the wide part, and each gulp dragged his man inches deeper, his lips folding out over the ribs, then down over the belly, and soon, stretching out over the rags of the waist-cloth his man had been wearing before the flood.
His body was stretching and creaking, odd gurgles bubbling up every second gulp or so. He hadn't noticed this with the capy, or with the dog - but maybe he'd been straining too hard at the time to notice. This wasn't easy, it was anything but easy, but he was so hungry that gulping the man down seemed the most natural thing in the world.
His man's rump was pulling into his jaws, now, the naked thighs struggling as his lips sucked them in. His weak jaws strained wide, over the hips and butt, and then it was past, and he gulped that down, too. His snout was still swollen over the legs, but he could feel the head enter his belly, and the shoulder a moment later, as he licked out his tongue to spiral around the calves.
Squeezing his eyes shut, he swallowed, felt the thighs move through his throat, bulging out his neckfur. His belly was tense and full already, fatter than it'd ever been, but he kept gulping. Opening his eyes, he saw the bare feet just outside his lips, the tanned toes curling; a moment later, he pulled them in as well, and closed his snout around the last bulge.
Leaning back in the fork, he raised his distended snout, and swallowed once more. The legs moved in his gullet as he strained to get this last part down, the feet kicking strongly as they slipped past his jaws. It was all in his throat, now, the toes pushing at his teeth as he gathered his strength.
The last gulp was surprisingly easy. He felt his throat grip around the feet, push them down; with a long, smooth slide the legs moved through his body, gathering in his belly to swell the already huge bulge. And then at last he could relax, panting, his narrow tongue hanging out. Lying on his back, his belly spilled out to the sides, the lump in it as big as he was unfed. The lump kicked and wriggled, the fur stretched….
And he felt his stomach tense down, squeeze his man in a suffocating grip. Squeeze, and squeeze, as the hands felt at his insides. The muscular belly-walls bore down, and then, his man was still.
*Belch* He lay pinned under his belly in the fork of the tree, and listened to the river running below. It showed no sign of receding; had the flood washed away the village entirely? Where would he go now? His man was….
He pawed at the vast bulge in his middle. His man was gone. It'd been better than the dog…more satisfying. And no other man had seen. Somehow, he knew that was important.
He'd wait until the river went down, or until he was hungry again, one or the other. And then, he would find another man.


He padded heavily through the rain-forest, putting some distance between him and the field. The man who he'd eaten lay heavily in his gut, but he knew staying was dangerous; he would walk for a while, then rest and finish digesting his meal. In time, he would heave up the clothing and hair into the river, and then walk another ways, to another village, before he looked for another meal.
There was something moving in the brush ahead, and he watched carefully in case it was a threat. But it was another anteater, a female, whose half-grown cub clung to her back. He stepped aside to watch them pass, and caught the eye of the cub, nodding. A rat's…no, an opossum's tail writhed from the cub's swollen snout, and the smaller anteater nodded back to him.
He was by far the largest male anteater in these parts, and it had been easy for him to monopolize the females for miles around. None of the other males had put up a serious struggle; he could have eaten them, as he had the occasional overconfident jaguar or lesser beast, but it had seemed wrong. Still, he had been the one to mate with the females, and the half a dozen cubs he'd fathered would soon need to be taught the way of things.
He found a quiet spot, and settled down to digest his meal. Humans were scarce now in these parts; for each one he swallowed, a dozen or more left, convinced this part of the rain-forest was haunted. Lately he'd had to wander further afield in search of fulfilling meals.
He glanced at a raccoon that ambled by; the bandit took one look at him and scurried up a tree, to blink down at him fearfully. The animals knew, somehow, that he wasn't just an anteater any more.
He was just an Eater. He belched, listened to his stomach gurgle, and lay his head down to rest. Soon, there would be no more humans left to hunt here. Then he'd take his children, and move to a new spot, and teach them how to feed on men and women. And if their children grew up as they were…perhaps there would come a day when humans were hard to find anywhere in the forest.
He napped, and dreamed. He would have to save a few humans, if that looked to happen. There was nothing quite as satisfying as a man.

The End.