“I don’t like lies.”
Moira groaned as she slowly opened her eyes, her head throbbing in a dull, aching pain. She wasn’t sure how long she had been unconscious, but the light coming in from the windows informed her that it was still day. She looked around to see her surroundings, but her eyeglasses were off and the world was a blur. Squinting for a few a moment, she groaned once more when she saw that vile woman sitting in front of her.
“You lied to me,” the French woman continued in a calm, but cold voice. “Though maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised.” She crossed one leg in front of the other and sat back in her chair, placing one hand under her chin as she stared at Moira with indifference. She was still wearing the black dress from earlier, though she was now wearing a simple gold chain necklace that draped down the front of her chest and gathered in her exposed cleavage.
“Do you want to know what the lie was? You told me that you didn’t know where Dirk was.“
Moira’s eyes shot open and her heart sank in fear, but was soon replaced with anger. She tried to move, but she could not, as her hands were bound behind her back. She continued to struggle, not saying a word apart from a couple of exasperated grunts. She soon gave up, recognizing the futility. In her resignation, she stared back at the woman with visible resentment.
“Are you looking for him? Because I found him,” the woman said with a bemused smile. “I will confess that I was quite surprised when I did. I was even shocked! There he was in your pocket the whole time! A pocket-sized Dirk Harrison. My, what a discovery! Fortunately for him, you fell backward and not forward, or else our little friend would have been crushed under your weight. What a travesty that would have been!” she tsked.
“Where’s Dirk?” Moira demanded to know.
“He’s right here. Oh, you can’t see him without your glasses, can you? You have pretty eyes and shouldn’t hide them, dear. But here, allow me…” The woman unfolded Moira’s glasses and replaced them on her face.
Moira was relieved to be able to see again, but still could not see find Dirk. It seemed like the woman was playing games with her. “Where is he? What have you done with him?”
The woman giggled in amusement at Moira’s plea. In response, she sat forward in her chair and pulled on the chain of the necklace she was wearing. When the line went taut, a small figure was revealed at the end of the chain, popping out from deep within her cleavage. She dangled it in front of Moira’s face. Her eyes focused and she could see that it was Dirk.
“Oh, hi Moira!” Dirk said with a somewhat forced smile. He was out of breath and drenched in sweat after being released his fleshy imprisonment.
“I hope you didn’t mind the accommodations, Dirk. I placed you there only for your own safety. There’s a lot of turbulence in the air today and we don’t have seatbelts your size.”
Moira looked around the room. The vibrations in her seat and the familiar humming of jet engines confirmed that they were flying. They appeared to be in a small cabin on board a private jet.
“Ever so thoughtful, Sophie,” said the dangling Dirk.
“Do you two know each other?” inquired Moira.
“Ha! He wishes,” the woman scoffed.
“Well, you might as well be an ex from the amount of grief you’ve caused me…not to mention all that you’ve stolen from me.”
“Stolen? Now Dirk, that hurts me…especially coming from a thief such as yourself. All that I have ever taken from you, you have taken from others. The only difference is that you waited until they were long dead. I’d just rather not wait that long to exchange hands.”
“We’re not the same. I don’t kill people. You murdered my men!”
“Did I? How can you be so sure? You need to hire more loyal mercenaries in the future, ones who don’t so easily take bribes. Bloodshed wasn’t necessary when everyone else surrendered.”
Dirk sighed, not wanting to get into it further at the moment. “Sophie, meet my assistant, Moira Davies. Moira, meet Sophia Leblanc, the richest spoiled bitch you’ll ever meet.”
“It’s nice to make your acquaintance,” Sophia said tersely. “Now that introductions have been made, let’s get down to business, shall we? You have something that I want.” She leaned forward, joining Dirk in front of Moira’s face. She placed her free hand on Moira’s stomach, stroking her softly. In a slow, emphatic whisper, she said, “And I want it now.”
“I am not a patient woman, Moira. You perhaps sense that by now. I apologize for striking you on the head earlier. Forgive me,” Sophia said, sitting up but continuing to hold Dirk between them. “I want my ring. I want it right now. The problem is that I can’t have it right now because it’s in your sweet little tummy. It’s there because you swallowed it like a fool. I don’t want to wait for you to…pass it. That is, if it even leaves your stomach. It is such a large ring; it must have been painful getting it to where it is now! But no more painful as it will be when I cut it out from your gut…”
Moira gasped in fear. She didn’t know this woman, but something about the way she spoke made Sophia’s threats far too believable.
“I don’t want to do that,” Sophia continued. “I really don’t. I don’t know what little Dirk has said about me, but I’m not a monster. That’s why I’m giving you an alternative. We couldn’t get you to throw it up earlier. That would explain the lingering taste of ipecac you might have in your mouth. That would have been easier for both of us, but the ring was just too big and heavy to come up.”
“Now…” Sophia pondered out loud, “if only someone could just crawl down your dainty little gullet and retrieve it for us. That would save us both a lot of pain and trouble and death. But where could we ever find someone so small?”
“Oh!” Sophia exclaimed in faux shock as she set eyes on Dirk. “Now this is fortuitous, isn’t it? Dirk can get it for us! He’s very good at retrieving things. And at his new size, he would be a perfect fit. What do you say, friend? Will you do that for us? If you could do it within the hour, that would be great. Then I wouldn’t have to kill Miss Davies here.”
“Are you serious?!” Dirk shouted.
“Like cancer,” she said with a smile.
Sophia casually tossed Dirk onto Moira’s lap and untied the rope binding her wrists. “We’ve provided some supplies on that side table that will perhaps lessen the danger. I do, after all, want you to see you succeed! Having both of you die would just break my little heart.”
Sophia stood and made her way to the door. “I’ll leave you two alone. I’ll be back in a bit! I look forward to seeing Khaba then. Oh, and I’m locking the door, so don’t bother…not that you could escape at 25,000 feet anyway. Ta ta!”
Dirk and Moira could hear the door latch as Sophia left the room.
“She’s a psychopath!” Moira exclaimed.
“Sophia is what happens when rich, busy daddies give their little girls everything they want and never say ‘no.’ And for years, she has been the bane of my existence,” Dirk said as he stood himself up on Moira’s lap, raising his arms for balance. He inspected himself, including his satchel, which fortunately didn’t get lost in Sophia’s bosom during his confinement.
“Now,” Dirk said, looking up at Moira. “You just had to swallow the ring, didn’t you?”
“What else was I going to do?” she said defensively. “I didn’t exactly have a lot of options!”
“Oh I don’t know. Maybe not eating a 4,000 year old ring! What was your plan, anyway?”
“You said that as long as I had the ring, I had something she wanted and would be safe. Well, I still have it! I thought this would give us time to come up with a plan.”
“Right, well that’s just wonderful. Did that plan include you being dead in an hour if I don’t go spelunking through your bowels?” Dirk looked ahead of him at the wall of abdomen hiding behind a curtain of blue cotton pajamas. As if on cue, it let out a roaring rumble lasting several seconds before quieting back down. Dirk shuddered.
“Sorry,” Moira said in mild embarrassment, clutching her stomach with one hand. “If it helps, I’m starving. I haven’t eaten anything since yesterday.”
“So I should take comfort in being your breakfast?” Dirk said, cocking an eyebrow.
“No! I mean that at least you don’t have to wade through whatever is left of last night’s falafels and kebabs to find the ring.”
“Always a bright side, isn’t there? I’ll take any bright sides I can get…”
There was a brief moment of silence filled with palpable awkwardness until it was broken by Moira. “So, umm…how do you want to do this?”
“Well, uh…” Dirk said as he tightened the chain, having fashioned into a makeshift harness. “This is pretty sturdy for being jewelry chain. It will make for a good rappelling rope and should be able to carry me and Khaba’s ring up and out without snapping. I’ll just need you to lower me down and — for the love of God — hold on to the other end tightly. You’ll likely be unable to hear me, so wait for my signals. Two long tugs on the line means start or stop. Three means pull me back up.”
“Understood. But er, what I meant was, how do you want to get…in? Do you just want me to pop you in my mouth and swallow? Or for you to walk in yourself and slide down my throat? I’m sorry, this is just a little surreal.”
“I thought I would just dress myself up as a scone and wait for you to dunk me in your tea.”
“Dirk, I was being serious!”
“I’m just trying to lighten the mood. But to answer you question, I think it would be best if you just lowered me down from above. I don’t want the chain resting and rubbing against your throat and irritating it; that could make you cough or gag. Instead, send me straight down like a sword swallower at the bazaar.”
“I think I can do that.”
“Good. Welp, time is ticking. Let’s get this expedition underway!”
On the side table next to them, they found a couple of items that would prove useful to them, just as Sophia promised, though it was unlikely that she had put much effort into it. They found an opened roll of antacids and a small bottle of water. That was all, but it was better than nothing. In truth, it was the most generosity Dirk had ever seen Sophia display! Moira consumed the entire roll and drank the whole bottle, just to be on the safe side.
Dirk double-checked his harness. It wasn’t the most comfortable, especially around his groin, but it was secure and would keep him upright. In a few seconds, he was once again suspended through the air, rising up higher and higher. He watched Moira’s body going by as he ascended like an elevator, paying special attention to the long length of her throat. He imagined the unseen passage that he would soon be traveling. He had been through many tight spaces in his career, but this would be by far the most unusual.
Before long, Dirk was hanging directly above Moira’s upturned face. She made a forced smile, flashing a row of white teeth the were like giant slabs of porcelain to Dirk’s perspective. He returned the smile along with a confident thumbs up and his trademark wink. In response, the jaws below opened up. Moira’s lips parted, slowly revealing every detail of the awaiting chasm into which he was making his descent. Dirk was well acquainted with the inside of the human female mouth, but he had never experienced one this up close. Warm, humid air wafted up from below, contrasting greatly with the cool, dry air of the airplane. The pink linings of her cheeks glistened with saliva, as did every surface within. Molars, canines, bicuspids, and incisors were lined up like soldiers standing at full attention. The largest feature, her tongue, rose up from the base of her throat like a stalagmite. It twitched and wavered as if it had a mind of its own, despite Moira’s efforts at keeping it pinned down at rest. Lastly, Dirk looked at the far end of the chamber. Tonsils and a uvula guarded the way into the throat, which pulsed and throbbed in anticipation.
All in all, Dirk considered that there was something naturally beautiful about what his eyes were seeing. The view from above was strangely similar to the vertical cave he had once rappelled into in Mexico. It even had the humidity! He chuckled to himself as he recalled what its name was in English: the Cave of Swallows. He thought about mentioning the irony to Moira, but decided against informing her that her mouth was like a massive Mexican limestone pit cave.
Moira tried to keep her hands from trembling with nervousness as she lowered Dirk into her mouth. She could never be a surgeon with those hands, but she did her best to remain steady. Little by little, she allowed the chain to slip through her fingers, letting gravity do its work until Dirk was resting at the back of her throat. At that point, she had to make the conscious decision to close her mouth and swallow her employer whole.
Dirk steeled himself as the opening above him came to a close, sealing shut as Moira’s lips came together again, locking him into the darkness. Though he had tried avoiding contact with her tongue, his clothes were already becoming damp just from the air. It was all but certain that by the end of this exploit, he would be utterly soaked. At any moment, his journey downward would continue, but he was not afraid. He was focused on his mission. He hoped Moira was just as focused on hers.
The inevitable moment came. Dirk could feel the pressure in his surroundings change. His hands remained tightly gripped to the chain. Moira’s tongue pressed against him, squeezing him against her soft palate. The slippery surface offered little resistance as he was pushed past it, gliding past her uvula and further into her throat. In one fluid motion, he was passed from her mouth down into her esophagus with a characteristic gulp.
Suddenly, the passage he was traveling grew much narrower. His body was pressed on all sides by the fleshy tube. Muscles undulated around him, doing their peristaltic task; this combined with gravity would have sent him plummeting at quick speed, but the chain slowed his fall to a controlled descent. The esophagus was dark with very little light. By the time he entered into Moira’s chest cavity, it was completely devoid of light. Sight was replaced with sound. Nearby, gales of wind were billowing in and out of her lungs. He could hear Moira’s blood rushing around him with a sound similar to the inside of a conch shell. All this was steadily drowned out by the intense beating of her heart. During the ten seconds he was adjacent to the blood pumping organ, he feared that its power and fury would overwhelm him. He was happy to advance downward.
Outside, Moira could feel Dirk and the chain sliding down her throat. It was an unusual sensation. He had been much easier to swallow than the ring, though her throat had still been a little tender from earlier. She would continue to lower and take in more of the chain until she felt Dirk’s signal or she ran out, whichever came first.
Soon, Dirk found himself approaching her stomach. Passing through the sphincter at the bottom of the esophagus, he entered into a fairly large chamber where Moira’s food went to begin digestion. He, of course, was not there for that purpose and would much prefer to find the ring and get out of there as soon as possible. Even with the antacids, they had estimated that he had no more than ten to fifteen minutes before his situation grew very dire. When he was suspended in midair inside her stomach, he gave two tugs on the line. Moira complied and his descent was halted.
Dirk looked around, but there was no light in Moira’s stomach. The sounds of the inner workings of her body continued their cacophony around him. Not far below, he could also hear the light sloshing of the water she had drank earlier. Carefully reaching into his satchel, Dirk retrieved his flashlight and clutched it tightly knowing that if he were to drop anything it would automatically be counted as a loss. Shining the small beam of light around the room, he was able to better get his bearings. The stomach walls were bright pink and wrinkled and glimmery wet. The whole “room” was an L-shaped sack, curving slightly upward at the bottom. It was there that he imagined he might find Khaba.
At the very end of the stomach, there was another sphincter through which digested food would make its exit into the small intestine. However, that valve would not be able to pass something the size and weight of Khaba’s ring (at least not without difficulty.) Dirk’s suspicions were confirmed when he shined his light downward and saw the engraved face of Khaba staring right back at him. The ring was lodged in one of the folds at the bottom of Moira’s stomach.
“This is where it gets tricky…” Dirk said to himself. Holding the flashlight with his teeth, he used his free hand to retrieve his grappling hook. Swinging it around a few times, he lobbed it towards the ring, which was about fifteen feet away, to his scale. Years of practice had granted him skilled accuracy, but the conditions being what they were, it took a few attempts to hook around the ring’s band. Eventually, he was able to secure it, but it was too heavy. Pulling on his grapple only resulted in him swinging on the chain. He was going to need Moira’s help. Holding onto his hook rope tightly, he tugged on the chain three times.
Moira felt the signal and reacted with relief. Not only was she excited that Dirk had (presumably) found the ring, but she was growing weary of sitting with her head tilted up and mouth wide open. She had even been afraid to swallow the saliva in her mouth more than absolutely necessary, for fear that it would somehow interfere. Slowly and carefully, she began pulling the chain back up her throat.
Dirk could feel himself being lifted back up to the top of the stomach. He put his flashlight back in his satchel and gripped the nylon rope secured to the ring. It was offering more resistance than anticipated. The strain was being felt most in his arms, which struggled to hold on while feeling like they were going to pop off. Fortunately, he soon felt it budge. It appeared to have dislodged from Moira’s stomach lining and was now joining him on the journey to the outside world.
Just as Dirk was about to be squeezed through the upper sphincter and into the esophagus again, a great tremor shook throughout Moira’s body. It was followed by another one, which continued for much longer and sent him crashing against the upper stomach walls.
“What the hell’s going on up there, Moira? Pull me up!” Dirk shouted, knowing that it was a slim chance that she could even hear or understand him. He was tempted to start climbing up the line himself. Very soon, he would wish that he did. In a moment, he felt himself enter into freefall. The line had gone slack!
Outside, Moira was petrified with fear over what had just happened. She stared at her empty hands. She had let go of the chain! The plane had entered turbulent airspace and the whole aircraft shook violently. She reinforced her footing, but one particularly jarring quake caused her to instinctively brace herself with her hands to keep her from falling…including the hand holding the chain. She could feel the chain rapidly slipping down her throat. In the time that it would take her to reach in and grab it again, it would be gone. She needed to react fast. Right as the very end was about to slide through her lips, she bit down as hard as she could.
Moira exhaled. Clutched between her top and bottom incisors was the last little link of the chain. With extreme care, she grasped it with her fingers and started pulling it back up. She didn’t care about the status of Dirk’s mission or if he was ready or not. She just needed to know that he was okay.
Within the darkness of Moira’s belly, Dirk felt his back collide with the squishy floor. He had landed in a shallow pool of water, which he quickly stood up in and shook off, being fearful of the acids and digestive fluids. The antacids had effectively neutralized them and the water diluted it further, but the stomach was continually producing more, especially once it could sense that it was presently occupied. He managed to keep a grip on the grappling line through his fall, so he followed it through the darkness until his hands touched the warm golden band of the ring.
Just as he was trying to figure out his exit, Dirk felt the chain moving. It had been so loose, he had lost hope that the rappel line was still functioning. Thinking quickly, he stepped in and out through the ring a couple of times, effectively threading the chain through it like a needle and thread. When the line went taut, the ring was carried into the air…with Dirk riding on top of it.
The journey out of Moira’s body was much quicker than the way in. Once she could feel weight at the end of the chain, she began extracting it from her mouth with haste. Tears were streaming down her eyes as she felt a large object making its way up her esophagus and closer to her throat. She nearly gagged again as it re-entered her mouth, but soon she was setting her eyes on Khaba’s ring, dangling in front of her bleary eyes. Her heart raced even more when she saw its diminutive rider, waving his arm in the air like a cowboy.
Moira rested the ring down on the table. Dirk was thrilled to be back on solid ground. He had nearly burst into song when he saw daylight again, shining in through the frame of Moira’s teeth when he was lifted out of her mouth. For all that he was concerned, he was done spelunking for quite a while.
“You know, Moira, just the other day I was thinking that I needed to get to know you better. Thanks to our dear friends Khaba and Sophia, now I know what you’re really like on the inside!”
Moira groaned inwardly at the poor joke, but smiled anyway. She also considered the literal truth of his statement and was unsure about how comfortable she was with another human having seeing so much of her body. Even if those particular views weren’t of what were normally considered “intimate areas,” Dirk had still seen more of her than any other person…and even more than she had seen of herself! The mere thought made her blush and she moved her mind to other things.
“Our problems aren’t over,” Moira reminded him, shifting to a more serious tone. “We’re still being held captive. At any moment, Sophia is going to come back and demand that we hand over the ring.”
“Don’t worry about Sophia,” Dirk said nonchalantly. “I’ll handle all the talking. She won’t be back for a while anyway. Maybe we can plan our escape in the meantime.”
As if she were summoned by the mere mention of her name, the door opened. “Time’s up!” Sophia announced as she entered the room.
“What? It’s only been a half hour!” Dirk protested. “You said that we had an hour!”
“I lied,” she replied matter-of-factly. “Now…do you have what I want or are we going to have a problem?”
“Calm down, Soph. I got the damned ring back.”
“Perfect! I knew you could do that for us, Dirky,” Sophia squealed, grabbing the ring from the table. She held it up and admired it with sheer glee. At long last, she was holding the great Khaba’s ring! She had lusted after it for years, ever since she first learned that Dirk was looking for it. She would never admit it, but a large reason for her desire to possess it was simply because Dirk wanted it himself.
“The ring is still ours, Sophia! It belongs in a museum! Wherever you go, wherever you take it, we will get it back!”
“Oh Dirk, don’t you worry. I know how hard it would be for you to part ways with the ring after all that you have done to find and acquire it. I couldn’t make you do that!” Sophia cooed with a sympathetic voice. She bent over to where he was on the table and stroked his dampened hair back with the side of her finger. “That’s why you’re coming with me!”
“Like hell I am!”
“We’re not going with you!” Moira said sternly.
“You’re not going anywhere with me, silly girl,” Sophia said to Moira. “I have a car waiting at the airport to take you back to your camp. Upon your arrival, I will have your people released. I assure you, though, that you will not be following me. Dirk, however…he’s far too precious to let go!”
Before he could even think about running, Dirk was scooped up in Sophia’s hand. It closed around him, her delicate fingers forming a cage from which he could not escape. From within, he could feel the momentum of being carried away and could see the world rushing by through the small hole her fist made near her thumb. He tried to squeeze through it, but Sophia could immediately sense his attempt and moved her thumb over his body, rendering him immobile. When the motion stopped, her first opened up and he was shifted between her thumb and forefinger.
“I’m so sorry to have to do this again, but you must understand that I have very few places on my person to transport you safely. Better to be on me than to be in me, yes?”
Once more, Dirk was pushed down between the enormous mounds of flesh. This was another area on a woman that he was quite familiar with, but there was no joy to be found with him there, only anger. He knew that Sophia found entertainment in humiliating him. His only thoughts at the moment were on revenge and escape.
“Let him go!”
“Goodbye, my dear. Enjoy the rest of your flight. I hope to never see you again,” Sophia said. “And to make up for my lie earlier, let me tell you some truth: your pajamas are hideous.”
Before Moira could make it to Sophia’s face to slap her, the door was shut and she was locked alone in the room without Dirk and without the ring.