The great snake lay in the darkest, warmest corner of the cavern, and
A herpetologist would have eyed the snake, and thought to himself, 'Burmese
python'. An almost checkerboard pattern of dark yellows and browns mottled
its form, from the blunt-nosed head to the massive thickness of its
coils, down to the short, sharp-tipped tail.
But a wise herpetologist would have stayed far, far away from this serpent,
for though its head seemed small half-hidden among its curl, that head
was fully three feet long. The broadest parts of its massive form were
thicker even than that.
More than sixty feet and two tons of snake lay silent, motionless, and
considering the new entry into the cavern. Among the scattered beanbags,
small tables, and couches that ornamented this place, the new arrival
stood out. Even though it was just a raccoon.
But like the serpent, this was no typical raccoon. As the snake watched,
it flipped over a beanbag large enough to hold a dozen men, turning
its muzzle down to sniff beneath as sensitive hands with thigh-thick
fingers probed for hidden morsels. Finding none, the coon lifted its
muzzle, looking at the next cluster of bags.
That was the cluster the serpent lingered behind. Its coils draped lazily,
as though it had melted in place, each yard of its length flattened
against the floor from sheer bulk and flexibility. It considered the
coon, flicking out a meter-long forked tongue to taste the air. Unblinkingly,
it watched. In its reptilian way it judged the raccoon, comparing it
to previous creatures it had seen.
The serpent was not the largest creature that came to this cavern. Not
by far. But it was larger than most, and its silence and slow movements
had let it creep up upon many a meal here. Full-grown bears and small
dragons had vanished down its gullet, the snake not considering that
after a time, some of the meals looked and smelled so very familiar.
The sunny hills reached via the door nearby were a fine place to rest
and digest its meals, and this place a fine one to catch them.
The raccoon drew closer, snuffling at the bases of the beanbags. The
serpent took a last moment to consider the bulk of the coon, six feet
tall at the shoulders, fat across the rump, and came to a decision.
As its meal poked inquisitively at the serpent's tail, it moved at last,
slowly gathering its coils beneath itself. With a sibilant hiss, scales
scraped stone, the vast, soft-seeming bulk of the snake tensing as the
head pulled back and lifted.
The raccoon blinked, and, realizing perhaps the sheer bulk of the snake
before it, took a step back. But it was already too close. As it began
to turn, the serpent struck, jaws gaping suddenly to sink needle-sharp
fangs into the pelt of the coon's shoulder. At once the snake slid a
coil forward, pushing it atop the coon, and anchored to the meal by
fangs and to the floor by sheet bulk, rolled the raccoon over, folding
coil after coil around its prey.
The raccoon jerked back at the sudden pain, pulling the serpent's head
forward, but unwary and clumsy with its fat bulk, it stumbled beneath
the onslaught. One stumble was all it took, and it tumbled to its side,
venting a chilling screech as pain and pressure struck at its neck and
torso. More and more serpent followed the first coil, winding around
the coon's chest and belly, a soft, firm grip that pressed in more strongly
with every passing second. Already the pressure made drawing a breath
difficult, the serpent tightening its grip just a little more each time
the raccoon exhaled. The snake seemed in no hurry, just keeping its
coils as far as it could from the raccoon's snapping fangs, ignoring
the clawed handpaws that dug at its scales.
The serpent bore down remorselessly, silently, the chattering coon held
firmly. Cool thoughts passed through its small brain; now that it had
a grip on its meal, it compared the feel to previous prey. The raccoon
was much more massive than it had appeared from a distance, perhaps
even more massive than the serpent itself. The snake allowed itself
to consider the slow progression of its jaws that would be needed to
engulf this food, once it had grown still. Little, side-to-side motions
of its jaws, unfolding the slick gullet over the furry muzzle, taking
in the head, stretching over the shoulders. The hours of effort that
would be required to advance, infinitesimally slowly, over the raccoon's
fat rump, until at last just a ringed tail and lifeless hindpaws were
outside the stretched serpentine jaws. The great heaves of effort that
would be needed to push the coon down, winding itself into arches to
use its whole strength to force the meal to its stomach. And, finally,
to relax, and slither heavily to the sun to rest, with its midsection
distended around the great bulk, swollen for weeks as it gradually digested
The serpent's cool contemplation was interrupted. Against all instinct
it had let itself think ahead, and in the moment of diversion the raccoon
found its head with both handpaws. The snake tensed its neck, squeezing
the raccoon tightest of all, as the strong fingers and sharp claws scraped
at its eyeridges; it could do little but hold on, and hope the coon
succumbed before it managed to find an eye or other vulnerable spot
with one of those claws.
But that was not what the raccoon was trying to do. Fingers thick as
a man's thighs gripped at the serpent's head, and with a single, desperate
heave it pulled. Muscles popped in its bound chest and forelimbs, the
painful effort felt rather than heard by the snake, and fangs ripped
through furry pelt and skin as the serpent's jaws were dragged out of
the coon's shoulder.
The snake let out a long hisssss, started, and looped its neck back
to try an get its head free from the raccoon's grip. The coon was weakening,
still squeezed by the enfolding coils, but now the serpent's anchorpoint
was lost, and its constriction was less effective. Hissing, the python
tried to pull its head free; instinctively it knew that just a few more
minutes of even this reduced pressure, and it would have its meal.
But the raccoon was not done yet. The fat layering its rump and belly
had blunted some of the force of the constriction, flexing beneath the
pressure to let the coon draw shallow breaths. The snake's grip loosened
further as it bunched its muscles to try to get its neck and head clear
of the raccoon's paws, and the huge coon grew stronger rather than weaker
as the moments passed. Panic abating, it tugged at the python, pulling
the head in close to its muzzle.
The snake struggled silently as its head was pulled closer to those
jaws. Its one vulnerable part; it could be bitten, clawed, ripped across
its length, have scales torn loose and bloody as the raccoon's shoulder
was now. All of that and more it could sustain, and still squeeze the
life from its prey and dispatch it down its gullet. But its head it
had to guard
and now it was threatened.
The raccoon churred at the serpent began to unwind from around it, writhing
desperately. The snake's immense strength pushed the coon to and fro,
battering at his flanks, gripping haunches and then chest again. But
the raccoon did not let go of its head. This was a very large snake,
very strong; but it knew what to do with snakes.
The snake let out a third, fearsome hiss, as its head was pulled in
close to the raccoon's jaws. Pulling back with all its might, it actually
dragged the huge coon after, and it had to take a moment to recover,
muscles twitching with the effort. And then even its blurry vision was
cut off, its sensory pits filled with the glow of body-heat, as the
coon stuffed its head into its muzzle.
There were no fangs here; the raccoon was completely toothless. But
hard gums ground down on the serpent's skull, the pressure sending a
ripple all the way down its length as its head was forced to fit into
the space between upper and lower gums. The raccoon's tongue provided
a welcome release, squelching soft underneath, but the snake's frantic
struggle did not slow. Its head might still be crushed, and though its
length would wriggle for hours afterward, that would still end its life.
It did not happen. It felt the raccoon shift its hands several feet
down its neck, the pads digging in hard, and pull with immense, determined
strength. Its eyeridges scraped over the coon's palate, its underjaw
was cupped by the wet tongue
and then the tongue pushed, humping
up under the snake's jaw. With cool horror it felt its head pushed inward,
the raccoon's throat opening up over snout, cheeks, eyes, as its head
The snake knew exactly what was happening now. It had swallowed harmless
prey alive before, from the pink, oddly constructed things that walked
on two feet to huge creatures that fell asleep in the cavern and woke
to the gurgle of the serpent's belly. With desperate strength it threw
its coils back and forth, lashing at the coon, trying to get a grip
on something, anything.
The coon was having none of it. Each powerful lash of the snake's body
drove a grunt out of him; fat helped blunt the force. The snake tugged
its head back; the coon dug in its gums. The serpent coiled around hindlegs;
the coon let it, and pulled at the snake's neck. Gulping hungrily, it
swallowed down foot after foot of scaled neck, feeling that neck twist
and struggle violently in its gullet.
The snake approached panic. There were only so many tricks it had; gathering
its strength, it wound around the raccoon again, using the coon's own
grip as an anchor to try to squeeze it senseless. This predator did
not have its own inward-hooking fangs; if the snake could get the coon
to relax for just a moment, it could pull its neck and head wetly from
the gullet, and see about dispatching the raccoon down its own. In the
hot dark of the raccoon's throat, it tensed, Ess-ing its neck to try
to make the swallowing as difficult as possible.
But it could only do so much. The raccoon was more and more on the outside,
now, its throat surrounding the snake's scales. From this perspective,
the raccoon might as well have been a fellow serpent
and with cool
despair the serpent recalled swallowing other snakes alive, and how
their wriggling only made it wriggle, as if in sympathy. It had not
saved them from the slow fate of digestion; its struggles were not saving
The raccoon swallowed, heavily, rhythmically, handpaws digging claws
into the scales, pulling in another foot, swallowing again. He felt
the serpent's head wriggle as it pulled in the next bit; more than anything
else, it was that pull that was sending it down the gullet. Only so
much could fit in his throat at once, and as each new bit was engulfed,
it forced the head that much deeper into the smooth chute of wet skin.
Somewhere, deep inside, he felt the snake's head enter his belly.
The snake did not cease its struggles. It could go without air for a
very long time, and even were it out of breath, its would wriggle for
much longer, still. Its head found a home in a soft, wet chamber, the
raccoon's stomach padded outside with fat, and foot by foot, more of
itself was gulped in. Very quickly the chamber grew tight around it,
and still more was gulped in, the raccoon as relentless as itself.
The coon's jaws gaped to their limits, the serpent's thickest parts
filling them. Scales bulged out around his lips as he pried the snake
loose from its grip, pried another foot up from the coils that still
tried to stifle him, and swallowed that as well. Grey-brown neckfur
was stretched tight around the huge cylinder of scaly flesh, the muscular
serpent still wriggling powerfully. But enfolding the raccoon's haunches
in its coils had only prolonged the inevitable. Bit by bit the coon
pulled the snake free, swallowed. Already his stomach was painfully
full, the coon accustomed to smaller meals; but this huge meal was in
one large piece, and to breathe comfortably again, he must swallow it
all. He gulped heavily, pulling at more of the snake.
It grew ever tighter inside the coon. The serpent, feeling its vent
approach the raccoon's lips, struggled against the raccoon's nimble
hands and wound its tail around
something. A footpaw? Perhaps.
That grip had to be enough
the heat here had begun to leech the
snake's strength, already. Over one hundred degrees, hotter than it
liked, the sort of temperature it avoided or slept through. Sleep beckoned,
the slow torpor of digestion
and with a start, the serpent began
to struggle once more. Should it lose its grip, the digestion that followed
would be its own.
Unconscious of the serpent's dreadful thoughts, the coon found his muzzle
slowly closing as the snake's thickest parts slid down. He was well
past comfortably full; not even the fat bear he had once managed to
choke down had stretched his belly like this. Small furs slid easily
down his gullet; this snake was just too big. But the coon did not stop.
Each gulp pulled a bit more of the serpent out of sight, and at last
all that remained was the tail, wrapped tightly around his leg. He grabbed
at it, the wiggling inside him sending him rolling helplessly on his
and then the tail was squirming in his handpaws. Cramming
this last bit into his narrow muzzle, he squeezed his jaws shut around
it, closed his eyes, and swallowed.
The snake felt the throat grip at his tail, felt the tongue push, felt
the rippling grip pushing the tail-tip after the rest. Slowly the tail
joined him in the hot, wet dark. As the coon began to relax as best
he could around it, the snake gathered its strength, and began to look
for a way out. It could survive for a long time in the dark, though
the skin between its scales was already beginning to sting. The thick
slime of the raccoon's bellywalls was kneaded in among the snake's coils,
the slow, rippling movements of the stomach clenching and relaxing forcing
the copiously produced juices into every crevice of its belly. The snake
slid its blunt head around, searching for the way it had entered, which
now seemed to have vanished
The raccoon belched heavily, stretched out on his side. Groaning, he
tried to roll over onto his belly, and finally succeeded, only to find
he could barely reach the floor with his hindpaws, so distended was
his belly. The fur rippled there, faint gurgles reaching his ears as
the snake inside him wriggled and twisted. With a heavy effort, he began
to drag himself towards the door that led to the sunlit hills. It would
make a good place to rest, sleep, and digest this huge meal. Forcing
the door open with his forepaw, he squeezed through, popping free with
a grunt and rolling onto the grass.
The snake was weakening now. Casting its thoughts back, it recalled,
faintly, the struggles of the smaller serpents, once it had his head
over theirs, once they slid down its gullet. They hadn't escaped, for
all their efforts. It had not been able to escape. But still, it tried,
pushing at the surrounding walls.
The snake's struggles kept the raccoon from drifting off. Still, as
its movements slowed, a half-doze overtook him. The great serpent, that
might have consumed him, was trapped inside his belly now
took no concentration to let his stomach do its work. Belly-fur rippling,
twitching, bulging, the raccoon burped again, and fell asleep at last.
Paws twitching, he would sleep, and dream of this encounter. Dream of
the serpent, the largest of his meals, who had struggled to devour him,
only to find turnabout is fair play.