Down the Gullet (Illustrated Short Story)

Author's Note: This story was originally written for the 2017 Flash Fiction Challenge. The challenge was to write a 1,000-word story in 48 hours with the prompts: a Fairy Tale; a boxing match as a location; and a plunger as the featured object. Here's the result, with a few rough sketches to suggest how it would be illustrated (if I someday decide to do so).

Scannable Document 13 on Sep 18, 2017, 9_45_00 PM

Once upon a time, three big, ugly Magnas lumbered through an open field, each holding an empty crate. Their round torsos balanced precariously on their long, spindly legs as they took soft steps with their tree-root-shaped feet. Silence was necessary; it took focus to catch Yoomens.

The smallest of the three, Terry, sighed. “I told you they’s gone.”

“They’re here,” said Pouch, the largest and ugliest. “They’re just hiding.”

Tubbs, the hairiest, said nothing.

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They scanned the barren lands for movement. The elder Magnas said fields used to be full of Yoomens. You could throw your box down, without looking, and catch at least a dozen. Over time, they grew scarce, which increased their value. Yoomens were once considered to be food for peasants, but now their rare hides and bones were used to make expensive clothing and jewelry. Yoomen hunts were a popular pastime among the poorest Magna, as a box hunter could easily sell one at the market to pay for a week’s worth of food.

“I see one!” shouted Tubbs. He pointed a hairy, spindly finger at a Yoomen far out in the field. They gripped their crates and raced each other to the small creature.

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Though they hunted together, they did not share the profit. Instead, each week they competed to see who could catch the most. He who caught a Yoomen with his box could keep it and what it fetched at the market. At these weekly boxing matches, they each usually caught two or three. It was unusual to go this long without catching a single one.

They pushed and nudged each other during the run, but with a final leap, Pouch boxed it first, slamming his crate over the creature. Heaving, he collapsed next to his box. “Got him,” he huffed, proudly.

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“Y’all see thut?” asked Terry. “The thing aint even run.”

Tubbs scratched his head. “It just stood there. Like he wanted to get caught.”

Pouch sat up and looked at his crate. “What Yoomen wants to get caught?” He leaned down, tilted the box slightly, and peered underneath. Confused, he picked up the crate to show the others. The Yoomen stood still, unmoved and unphased.

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“I’m pitchkettled.” Terry knelt next to the Yoomen. They were strange creatures. Completely hairless except for a patch on their head, itself nothing more than a growth atop their lanky bodies. Their two arms dangled at their sides, and they easily balanced on two legs. When they stood tall, they were just below a Magna’s knee. Though they wore clothing, Yoomens were generally considered creatures lacking any and all intelligence. “If I ittn’t know budder, I’d thunk he unts to be eaten.”

“He’s not afraid of us at all,” Tubbs snorted. “Give ‘em here.” He grabbed the creature by its middle, letting its legs and arms dangle. He pulled it close to his face. “Disgusting rodent.”

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The other two leaned in. It was dangerously close to its captors, yet the Yoomen was calm, defiant.

Terry poked it, then pulled back his hand in disgust. “Ee’s soaking wet!”

Tubbs shrugged. “Wet, dry, big, little. They’re all the same.” He threw it into his satchel, then readied his crate for another catch.

Pouch grabbed Tubbs’ arm. “You’re not gonna sell that one, are you?”

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“Course I am.” He gestured toward the empty field. “You see any others around here? At least I have one.”

“But what if he’s diseased?”

“Or special?” Terry chimed in.

“Special?” The thought of a special Yoomen piqued Tubbs’ interest. A special Yoomen might be worth more.

“Lemme see ‘em again,” said Terry.

Tubbs pulled out the creature and held it in both hands. The Yoomen remained calm, despite being tattered from the rough handling. “Seems normal to me,” he said.

With much care, Terry lifted him from Tubbs’ hands. He stuck out his moist, pockmarked tongue and licked the side of the creature’s body. He gasped and moved the creature away. “Ew! Ee’s bitter.”

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“Let me try,” said Pouch, grabbing the Yoomen for a lick. He too screeched in revulsion. “Why does he taste like that?”

“These things always tasted bad.” Tubbs took back the creature. “I bet he’s no different.” Without warning, Tubbs threw back his head and forced the little Yoomen down his throat. With a gulp, the Yoomen was gone, swallowed whole. “Yep, tastes fine to me.”

Terry and Pouch shared a look of indignation. “Your loss,” said Pouch. They faced the field, ready to continue the hunt.

Tubbs felt strange. He reeled in pain, then groaned, loudly. The others turned to see him bent over, holding his gut.

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“What’s wrong?” asked Terry, coming to his aid.

Tubbs didn’t answer. He writhed in agony, then fell to the ground. He let out a short gurgle, then nothing. He was dead.

A tiny blade burst from Tubbs’ stomach. Terry and Pouch jumped back. The blade lurched back and forth, then sliced open the Magna’s entire stomach. The Yoomen crawled out. Dripping with gunk, it stood up with pride and, to the others’ surprise, said, “I’m The Plunger.” His voice was so tiny they could barely hear it. “I stand for all humans, especially those slaughtered by giants. We’ve had enough. I’ve decided to kill giants the only way I know how – by plunging deep down your gullet and cutting my way out.” With elegance, he slashed his blade in the air, then sheathed it.

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A moment of stunned silence was quickly interrupted by a loud gagging sound. It was Pouch, who coughed violently, then fell over, dead.

Terry, mouth agape, looked down at the little creature.

“Well, I do know one more way to kill giants,” The Plunger said, giving a wicked smile. “Soaking my clothes in poison.”

Terry felt a pain deep inside. He too coughed, then fell to the ground. Gasping for breath, he tried to grab the little creature as it crawled up on his stomach, but he was too weak. He could do nothing, but watch the The Plunger stand with pride, admiring its work.

The last thing Terry saw was hundreds of Yoomens crawling out from hiding spaces all around. Once the Magna was dead, the tiny crowd surrounded the three fallen giants. Together they cheered The Plunger’s victory.

From that day on, the Yoomens continued to slay the giants until they were no more. The large Magna bodies would fall, always because they underestimated the small.

Scannable Document on Sep 18, 2017, 9_45_00 PM

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