The hangdog look on Upton’s face was pathetic. It would almost be comical if it wasn’t so sad. He was telling Donna how they were meant to be together because they liked the same shows or breakfast cereals or whatever. (She’d heard the same speech from so many guys it all kind of blurred together now.) It had gotten old really fast.
“Listen, Upton, I’m trying to focus on my education right now, and am not really looking for a relationship,” Donna said in as gentle a voice as she could muster, “You understand right?”
Upton tried to speak, swallowed, and tried again. The only sound he could muster was a strange click. Suddenly they were not alone.
“Hey Donna, Ronni said she’s totally free tonight,” Martha started, then she saw Upton and paused, “Oh! I’m sorry, am I interrupting?” She asked already starting to back away.
“Don’t worry about it,” Donna said, “Upton was just leaving,”
Upton took the hint and slowly started to walk away, his feet like lead.
“So, Forbidden Dish and birthday shots huh?” Donna asked, “She seem up for it?”
“Uh huh, I knew she would be,” Martha said, “at least, I hoped,”
“I don’t know why you like to go there, you never do anything the whole night, and yet you insisted on going that one night and randomly decided to invite Ronni there for her birthday.” Donna said. Martha Shrugged.
“I don’t know,” Martha said blushing. She didn’t do well as the center of attention, “I just like it. That’s all.”
“Hey, I wonder if Upton would want to go,” Donna said jokingly.
She noticed that Upton had stopped and turned around. He looked like he was really focusing on something. He didn’t just take me seriously did he? “What is it Upton?”
“I uh, that is, I’ll do it,” his voice was wavering, “I’ll even buy drinks,”
An amused smile crept across Donna’s face.
“You know what Forbidden Dish is right?” Donna asked, “Tell the truth now,”
Of course he did. By now rumor of Clark standing Donna up had leaked to every corner of the campus.
Upton nodded slowly.
“And you know if we go I only want one thing for dinner, “ she said getting way to close to him.
Upton nodded again. He was now sweating. Having her stand so close made his brain shut down.
“I figure it would be worth it,” Upton said. He sounded like he was still trying to convince himself.
“Well, you better be sure, if you change your mind later I’m gonna come get you anyway,” Donna said.
“I-I’m sure,” He stammered.
“Good,” Donna said, “I’ll pick you up at seven. Oh and Upton, no cold feet now,”
Donna and Martha headed off to class, and Upton, too stunned to fully take in what just happened walked in a daze back to his dorm.
What did I just do? Upton paced in his dorm. I’ll do it? Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Maybe I should just call Donna and tell her I changed my mind. He knew it wouldn’t work. Even if she couldn’t follow through with her threat to come get him, how could he face himself? This was his “one true love”. If he couldn’t be with her one way, he had to be with her another. He saw no other option.
Upton had a class at three but decided to blow it off. What good would it do to go? Even knowing that he wouldn’t be here after tonight he had a hard time making himself miss class. He’d never missed class, or a day of work, or anything else he’d ever said he’d attend. It would be my last one. I should go for sentimental value. On the other hand I might end up telling someone and being talked out of it. Maybe I want that. No, this is for the best. No distractions.
He steeled himself and tried to spend the last few hours of his life finishing a book he’d been reading. He knew he’d just barely make it. He changed into his going out clothes before he started reading so he wouldn’t be rushing later. He decided to dress nice, but not fancy, so he put on a button up shirt and a fresh pair of jeans. He was hungry, but since he’d offered to pay for the night he didn’t want to spend all his money. The fridge barely contained anything that could be classified as food, but he managed to put together a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Upton’s stomach was upset from nerves and he had a difficult time eating the dry sandwich. He ate half of it before deciding to just start up on the book. Every now and then he’d glance at the clock and was alarmed to realize how quickly time seemed to melt away.
Donna checked her makeup in the mirror. Donna and Martha shared a dorm and Ronni lived across the hall. They met at Donna and Martha’s to get ready.
“Perfect” she said. Most people would agree with her. She exerted a lot of effort to make everything look effortless, but it paid off big time. Men lined up to give her stuff and women flocked to hang out with her and fight over her castoffs. It had been that way as long as she could remember, and she wouldn’t change it for the world.
She was dressed to kill (literally) with a black t-shirt that hugged her body. It showed off her generous cleavage and just a hint of midriff. It had a giant red lip smack silkscreened onto the front. She also wore a pair of “Doctored” low-rise jeans she converted into shorts with scissors. She finished it off with platform heels that made her look taller (as if she needed it).
“So, let me get this straight. “ Ronni said, “You go to this restaurant, they shrink men, and you swallow them?”
“Pretty much” Martha said.
“Why aren’t more people talking about this? It seems like it’d kind of be a big deal!” Ronni said stressing kind of, “I can’t believe it’d actually be legal! You’ve both been there before? What’s it like?” One question seemed to fly out of her mouth before the other was even finished, but that was just Ronni. She tended to be full of energy and have little to no volume control, but she was funny, quick-witted, and very outgoing. Martha liked her because she did enough talking for both of them. Donna liked her because she helped deflect the losers.
“W-we’ve gone before,” Martha said, “I think it’s legal because the men volunteer,”
“That’s the craziest thing I’ve heard so far,” Ronny said, “Who would volunteer to be eaten? I mean can you imagine?” She got up as she talked and began to flail her arms. Her Theater background had made her unable to talk without moving (or maybe her inability to talk without moving made her good for theater.) “Do they just one day think hmm, I feel like a snack? Get it? I’m totally down for this,” She clapped her hands and jumped up from her chair, “I mean I want to try it out, but I still don’t see why anybody would want us to do this,”
“I think it’s a sexual thing,” Donna said in a noncommittal way while continuing to primp unnecessarily.
“Yeah that makes sense,” Ronni said rolling her eyes. Martha blushed, “So, what are we waiting for?”
“I told Upton we’d pick him up at 7,” Donna said, “He’s buying,”
“Is he also?” Ronni started.
“Yup,” Donna said, “But I think he’ll chicken out. He seemed unsure when he volunteered,”
“I wouldn’t blame him!” Ronni said, “If you’d asked me I’d be like heeell naw! Then I’d deck ya and you’d be like “Eyoo thud!”” She accentuated this by acting it out. Well, I’m ready when everyone else is. It’s mah birthday and I’m ready to go do something stupid!”
Ronni was wearing a white micro tee that was almost a bra, short shorts that didn’t have legs and red suspenders. She was wearing an old pair of sneakers and way too much eyeliner.
She was tall like Donna but more athletic and she wore her hair very short.
“I guess it’s close enough to time,” Donna said, “Let’s not leave Upton waiting,”
Martha nodded and got up to follow them. She was dressed more conservatively than the other two. Donna couldn’t understand why she insisted on wearing a skirt and simple blouse. At least show some skin. How does she expect to get anybody’s attention like that?
“Yeah Donna, don’t get any ideas or,” Ronni feigned a punch and spun around, “Eyoo thud!”
Upton finished the book (it was the fifth in a series and it took five years for this one to come out) He was disappointed to find out that a sixth book was due out next year. Next year. I won’t even be here next year. Heck. I won’t be here tomorrow. He looked at the clock. Five till seven. He decided to wait outside. At ten after Donna’s car pulled into the parking lot. Aww come on! The girl’s dorms aren’t even that far away. Punctuality had always been a big deal to him.
“Hey Uppers!” Ronni yelled out the window. She was in the front passenger seat and Donna was driving, “I guess he’s braver than you thought!”
“Hi Veronica. Happy birthday,” He couldn’t think of anything else to say. It was like a force field of awkwardness radiated from him.
“Thanks Uppers, now get in the car,” She reached out the window and slapped the door, “We’ve got things to do!” Upton got in next to Martha. He didn’t remember much of the ride. From the moment he sat down in the car to the moment they met the hostess was a blur. He knew that they were carded at the door and that Veronica was more than eager to show off her I.D.
“Hey everyone!” Ronni yelled, “It’s mah birthday!” Scattered cheers started throughout the restaurant. Upton and Martha tried to hide behind Ronni to little success. Ronni put her arm around Upton, “Come on Uppers Let’s get some birthday shots!” Upton looked at Donna uncertainly. Donna shrugged in a “What can you do?” sort of way and they all followed her. They chose a table semi close to the bar, but not in the line of “bar traffic” There was a decent crowd today and sitting at the bar itself would’ve been impossible, “Ooh fancy!” Ronni unrolled her silverware from the handkerchief and began drumming on the table.
“Hi! Welcome to Forbidden Dish, I’m Lindsay and I’ll be your server today,” Lindsay said, “I heard someone say it’s their birthday today,” She turned to Ronni, “So, how do you want to kick off the celebration?”
“I wanna get drunk!” Ronni said pumping her fist at the word drunk, “Let’s get some birthday shots! I mean it! I wanna be like “Why didn’t you call me?”” She began crying into her hand like she had a telephone, “ Drunk. d-r-u-n-k.”
“We’d like a party sampler of shots please. A little bit of everything,” Donna cut in, “Please excuse my friend. It’s her first legal night drinking. We have to make sure to save room for, uh, other activities, Ronni,” They both smiled at each other like they were sharing a secret.
“Oh yeah, how do we do that part? Do we order, or do we go nab ‘em? How does it work?” Ronni barraged Lindsay with questions.
“Anybody in this bar wearing a red bracelet is potential prey,” Lindsay said, “You just go around and mingle. No nabbing, you have to ask. If they agree to go with you, you take them to the back over there,” She pointed to the booth room, “There are shrink booths and private rooms should you feel inclined,” Lindsay smiled, “Anything else?” They all shook their heads, “If you need anything, I’ll be around. I’ve got other tables and little men of my own to tend to,” With that she left them to enjoy the night and wait for their shots.
“We need at least two more men. At least!” Ronni slapped the table, “ I hear once you pop you can’t stop!” Ronni said, “Sorry Uppers you’re not enough man for all three of us,” Upton hated when she called him that. He couldn’t figure out when it started, most likely at orientation. Ronni stood on her chair, “Who wants to get in mah belleh?” she yelled. There was a mixture of laughter, applause and angry stares from fellow diners.
“Careful on that chair, you don’t want to wipe out on dry land,” a male voice said from behind Ronni. She jumped down and looked at their first taker. He was well built and shirtless. His only clothes were board shorts, sandals, a hemp necklace with sharks’ teeth on it, and most importantly a red bracelet. He had a golden appearance to fit his clothes (or lack thereof). Without asking he pulled a chair up between Upton and Donna and sat down.
“We just ordered shots!” Ronni said, “Wanna join us? Uppers here is buying,”
“Alright Uppers!” The man said slapping Upton on the back, “Way to go bra! I’ll chill with you, but no shots for me. I want to be totally sober for my last ride,”
Upton was of a different mind on the matter. He would rather be a bit sedated when it happened.
“Are those sharks’ teeth?” Donna asked fingering the necklace.
“Yeah, each from a different shark,” The guy said, “Until this restaurant opened things like this were impossible. Hanging out with the sharks was the closest thing I had to my dream. It’s the whole reason I took up surfing in the first place. Good thing I didn’t bite it, or it didn’t bite me knowwhatimean? This will be totally better!”
The girls laughed. Upton was annoyed. He wondered why he never took up surfing, and then realized he’d never get the chance now. Surfing was one of the many things that were about to be beyond his reach.
When the shots arrived everybody but Martha and the surfer downed at least two. They were expensive, but what was Upton really going to need the money for anyway. Upton had two four horsemen shots and decided he was dulled enough. He sat and contemplated his last minutes. Martha sat quietly on the other end of the table while the surfer spent time joking back and forth between Donna and Ronni.
“What about Martha?” Ronni asked. Before Martha could tell her she was fine Ronni had already climbed on her chair again. She wobbled, and the surfer jumped up and steadied her.
“It’s like this,” he guided her with his hands firmly but not roughly on her sides, “Yeah that’s it lean in,”
“Hey everybody!” Ronni yelled, “Who wants to feed my friend here?” She grabbed Martha’s arm and pulled her protesting friend from her chair. Martha pulled her hand away quickly and sat down crossing her arms. She was beet red and bent over. The surfer helped Ronni down while people cheered. After no volunteers showed up conversation resumed. The surfer moved to a chair between Martha and Ronni and was trying to get Martha to look up. Upton didn’t know if it was the horsemen kicking in or what, but he was starting to like him. He wished he could just talk to anybody like he did. It bothered him that he didn’t know his name, but they were already in that awkward part of the conversation where it felt rude to ask. It only reminds the person that you didn’t ask earlier, besides, he didn’t want to interrupt. The surfer was making progress with cheering Martha up.
As she finally warmed up and began to smile they heard a scream at the door.
“What are you doing? Let us out!” A woman was yelling at the bouncer and trying to walk past him. They could see him calmly talking to her and holding her back.
“This is my boyfriend not a leftover prawn!” The yelling escalated. Donna and Ronni were laughing.
“She must be a bit drunk too,” Ronni said. Upton noticed that Martha was watching the woman intently. He saw something in her eyes he’d never seen before and couldn’t place, but it scared him beyond description. Nobody else noticed. They had already started talking to each other and ignoring the “crazy lady”.
“I-um, I think I’m going to go get a drink of water,” Martha said starting to get up.
“Why bother?” Donna asked, “We can just get the waitress to do that,”
“It’s ok,” Martha said, “I don’t mind,”
She got up and walked towards the bar. While she was gone conversation resumed. The place was pretty packed. Lindsay walked over and looked at Upton and the surfer.
“Ready for your papers?” She asked. When they gave her a questioning look she said, “It’s just a formality. Something to document that you are here voluntarily. I’ll go get them for you,”
The papers made it all more real for Upton somehow. He noticed the surfer just leafed through them and signed without checking anything. He, on the other hand (to Donna’s protest) read the entire thing. Hmm, apparently after you shrink you are considered food. No exceptions. I wonder if Donna knows that Clark probably never left this place? He looked up and saw her laughing at Ronni. Probably not. Well, there’s no backing out now. Upton signed the papers and looked around to see if Lindsay was back to check them. He saw Martha sitting at a table with the woman who was yelling earlier and talking like they were old friends. “what the?”
Lindsay showed up and took the papers before he could say anything to anyone. Donna grabbed him and the surfer by the arm and started walking towards the booth room.
“Come on, let’s go,” Donna said impatiently, “Ronni, stay here and enjoy a few more shots. I’ll have a treat for you when I get back,”
“Woohoo!” Ronni said downing another shot. The line looked long but any line to your doom is going to feel way shorter than it is. They were in front of the booth before they knew it.
“Who wants to go first?” Donna asked.
“I’ve got this,” the surfer said, “But first,” He undid his necklace and gave it to Donna, “Give this to Martha for me will you? I think it will cheer her up,” He climbed into the booth and the operator shut the door.
“Now, are you sure you want to do this. After we shrink you there is no backing out,” The operator said.
“I’ve been sure my whole life,” The surfer said.
“They all say that,” The operator answered pushing the button. There was a blinding light and the surfer was about an inch and a half to two inches tall. Donna bent down and scooped him up while he was still dazed, then shoved Upton from behind.
“Get to stepping,” she said, “We’ve got a lot of partying to do,”
The glass door was closed over Upton.
“Last chance to back out,” the operator told him. Upton swallowed.
“Do it,” he said focusing on Donna and trying to look brave. The operator hit the button and next thing Upton saw was Donna’s giant hand lifting quickly into the air. Even though he was going up it felt like a rollercoaster drop. Before he could restabilize, Donna was already at the table with her hands behind her back. Upton nodded to the surfer. He nodded back. They were both understandably nervous.
“Ta Dah!” Donna said whipping Upton suddenly from behind her back and showing him to Ronni in her flat palm, “Happy birthday from me and Upton,”
“Aww you shouldn’t have,” Ronni said as she plucked Upton from Donna’s hand, “Now how do I do this?” She asked staring at Upton with a studious look on her face.
“But I thought-“ Upton began, but he was cut off.
“It’s easy,” Donna said, “Just get your mouth really lubricated, put it in and swallow,”
Ronni smiled at Upton, “Hear that Uppers? You’re going down,” She licked her lips and slid Upton into her mouth heedless of his protests. It was hot, wet, and smelled of alcohol in her mouth. Upton struggled, but the thick wet tongue was bigger than him and forced him against her hard palette. He was soaked through and through as he felt around for something to hold on to.
“Ronni no!” he yelled, but she was humming a happy tune that drowned out any sound he made. His ears, his nose, his skin, and now even his mouth was assaulted by alcohol thick saliva. It burned his eyes and made him cough. He realized early on that yelling would do more harm than good. As he tried to wipe away saliva he felt himself sliding forward and down on the slick surface. When he offered resistance the tongue pushed him harder against the hard palette and he started sliding faster. His arms were forced awkwardly to his sides as he was grabbed by her esophagus. He could feel himself being pulled down, then suddenly squeezed extremely tight, and then pushed back up in a cough. He felt a pop and his left arm began to flop uselessly. Pain shot through him. Had he lived he would’ve been delighted to know that it was not broken, only out of socket. There was a loud rumble as she talked with him in her mouth, but he couldn’t understand any of it. It was like a jet engine coming to life right in front of him.
Before Upton could recompose himself or check his arm he was flooded with liquid. Ronni had downed another shot to help lubricate him. Surrounded by burning alcohol and holding his bad arm in his good arm, Upton shot down Ronni’s esophagus. If, at any other moment in time you would’ve suggested an alcoholic waterslide to Upton, he would see it as nothing but a good thing, but today, right here and now, it was the most frightening thing he’d ever experienced. Of course he was young. He had a few minutes left that would make this a pleasant memory.
Upton went from falling in a tightly confined space to freefalling into a mixture of liquids he couldn’t begin to describe. Ronni hadn’t eaten anything besides Upton that day, but she’d been drinking steadily since they’d arrived at the restaurant. The mixture of alcohol and stomach acids was very unpleasant. It burned immediately and when he tried to swim he only managed to spin in circles. He had no eyes anymore he was sure of it. Things were mercifully fading. He no longer felt the burning, but he was sure it was still there. I should’ve just went to class.
It was funny watching Ronni swallow Upton. Donna was sure he didn’t feel that way about it, but that was just too bad. He was hers to give away and she wanted the other one. Ronni coughed and brought her hand to her mouth.
“I’ve never swallowed anything this big before. I think he got stuck,” She downed a shot, ”All better” she said patting her chest, “Wow, I can feel him going down. Good thing he asked for this,” She looked down and rubbed her belly, “See ya around Uppers,” she said. The surfer watched her with awe. Donna could feel his arousal in her hand.
“Your turn,” Donna said bringing him to her mouth.
“Wait!” he yelled.
“What?” Donna looked impatient.
“I just realized I never introduced myself. My name’s-“
“Don’t care,” Donna said popping him into her mouth. It won’t matter soon anyway. She could feel him struggle as he slowly slid down her throat. Donna had been a man-eater since before she’d even heard of Forbidden Dish. She just got to be a bit more literal now.
“Well, that was-“ She started, but she felt a flutter from under her left breast. Is that him? I think I feel him fighting! The feeling sent a warm tingle down her abdomen and to her nethers. “I can still feel him!” she said.
“Really?” Ronni asked, “I think Uppers already gave up on me,” She ran her hand over her belly, “Lucky,”
Donna could still feel the surfer putting up a fight when Martha rejoined them.
“Hey slowpoke, you missed the party,” Ronni said.
Martha just smiled. Donna still didn’t see why Martha liked this place so much. She had spent the entire party getting a glass of water.
“Want us to get you someone?” Donna asked. Last time they came she had hooked her up, and the time before they came with dates.
“I’m fine,” Martha smiled. When they got up to leave Martha walked over to Lindsay and talked to her. Donna couldn’t hear what was being said. As always Martha (being the only sober one) drove them home.
Martha timidly approached Lindsay.
“Um, excuse me,” she said. Lindsay didn’t hear her, but when she turned she nearly bumped into her.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I’m not ignoring you, just scouting. There’s lots of potential in this crowd,” Lindsay said, “How may I help you?”
“Um, that customer that I was talking to earlier, she said that she was told that once her boyfriend was shrunk he couldn’t be returned,” Martha hesitated, “I was just wondering. What do you do with the ones that change their minds?” She needed a new angle. She couldn’t just throw water at random women each time she visited and the willing ones weren’t near as exciting.
Lindsay smiled and leaned in, “You’re going to love this,” she said.