Archive > minakotomoka14`s Gallery > M/F Stories > Broken Sweetheart
Broken Sweetheart
 
By Minako Tomoka
 
 
Chapter One: Good Friday
 
  "I think it would be a good thing to make everybody come before a properly appointed board, just as he might come before the income tax commissioner...just put them there and say 'Sir, or Madam, now will you be kind enough to justify your existence? If you can`t justify your existence, if you`re not pulling your weight in the social group, if you`re not producing what you consume, or perhaps a little more, then clearly we cannot use the big organization of our society for the purpose of keeping you alive, because your life does not benefit us, and it can`t be of very much use to yourself.'"
 
-George Bernard Shaw, English playwright
 
 
  Fridays were the worst. At least they were for me. And this Friday was especially bad, because my annual medical exam was about to take place. And believe me, this was far worse than any normal checkup. This was a matter of life and death. I sat in the hallway, right outside the school infirmary. My nervous, twitching fingers picked at the hem of my gray, dress-like sailor suit.
I tucked locks of short, bubblegum-pink hair behind my ears, only for them to slither right in front of my orb-like pink eyes seconds later. My body was clenched up in a cold sweat. The results of this examination would determine whether I would live on as an average girl, or if I would become food for a Giant.
3
  I guess I should explain that a bit better. Just a few years ago, this place was called America. And the state I lived in used to be called Florida. That wasn`t the case anymore. Now, America was called the State, and Florida was simply named Cordon 27. There is no President, no Congress, no Supreme Court, and no freedom. There are only the Giants. Around ten years ago, the study of genetic splicing accelerated for no real reason at all. New gene therapies were created to supposedly improve the human condition, but only a small handful of the select, chosen few were given these things. I don`t know what they did, but those select few that underwent the gene therapy grew into colossal, godlike versions of their former selves. They looked the same as they had before, the only difference now was that they stood at a height of 30-40 feet. Normal humans resembled insects compared to them. They were giants, essentially.
 
  The world was stirred up into a panic as these monsters revealed themselves, demanding their whims on the people. It may have sounded strange, because they too were humans, at least in a genetic sense. Unfortunately, those who took the diplomatic route to try and make peace with the Giants soon discovered a terrible truth. These Giants had developed a horrific appetite- for human blood. They could still eat normal food all the same, but if they didn`t consume blood sooner or later, they would die. And these Giants considered themselves too important to die, so they made everyone else suffer.
 
  With their sheer size and raw power alone, they overtook the current government, claiming it as their own. The small humans who cooperated became servants to the Giants, while the ones who didn`t were devoured. Since the monsters could now have their way with the world, they had no qualms about turning the place I called home into a totalitarian, dystopian nightmare. With us small humans under their shadow, they had a nearly unlimited supply of food. But how would you go about that? Even Giants couldn`t just pluck and devour the populace. I mean, they COULD, but they had to control themselves, or we`d all be dead, and they`d starve to death.
 
  So they made a wager with us, declaring annual medical exams on every citizen. If someone happened to be infertile, diseased, or somehow genetically unfit, they were served up as food for the Giants. Even conditions like asthma or diabetes were a death sentence. They rationalized it as people who weren`t productive to society had no place in it, and were thus not fit to give their genes to the next generation, to keep the human bloodline pure. Something like eugenics, I suppose. As for me, I hadn`t had my period yet. Not that I was particularly excited about having cramps and bleeding for the next few days, but I begged for it, because if I couldn`t reproduce, I would become lunch. So I was understandably quite nervous about this procedure. Scratch that, I was terrified. About to pee myself.
 
  The door to my right flung open, and a boy around my age raced into the hallways, whooping and cheering. I guess he passed. He was free to live another year of life, but I was certain he wouldn`t make it past 40. The nurse stepped out, clutching a clipboard. Her long, wavy, emerald-green hair nearly flowed down to her feet. She was Ms. Ritsuko, the school nurse. I had known her ever since I was little. She was like a mother to me, because my real mother wasn`t worth a damn. But she wouldn`t be performing my examination. That was the State`s job. "Ms. Minako Tomoka?" Ritsuko asked, peeking down at me.
 
  I immediately stood up. "I-I`m ready," I stammered. Ritsuko placed a hand on my shoulder, smiling weakly. "Don`t be afraid, Minako. You`re the healthiest student I`ve known at this school. You`ll do just fine, I`m sure of it." Her words were meant to be reassuring, but I wasn`t convinced. I entered the infirmary, where I approached a State doctor. He was gaunt and thin, pale as his own labcoat. He had dead eyes like a fish. I don`t know how he ever got a medical license, or how he managed to even live this long. "Lay down here, Ms. Tomoka," he said, pointing to the examination table.
 
  I did as I was told, and my inspection began. He did all the normal stuff, drawing blood, checking my hormone levels, shoving that wooden stick in my mouth, the usual. It seemed like nothing more than an annual checkup, but that wasn`t how I felt. I felt like a virgin at the summit of a volcano, about to be sacrificed to the gods. "Now, lie down and remove your undergarments," the doctor ordered.
 
  I blushed with royal embarrassment, but right now, taking my pants off in front of a doctor was the least of my worries. I found myself squinting at an unwelcoming exam light glaring in my face. I was lying on my back, my legs lifted up high. This was the fertility examination, and it was the most important. At that moment, I couldn`t have cared less about the perverted doctor inspecting my intimate areas. I just didn`t want to die. The doctor poked at me with sharp, ice-cold metal instruments. I gritted my teeth, trying to endure it. Thankfully, it only took about ten minutes. Once it was all over, I sat with bated breath, biting my nails for the results. The whole exam took about an hour, but it felt like an eternity to me.
 
  When the doctor finally returned with the results, he wore a forlorn look on his face. That was not a good sign. He inspected my chart for a few moments, then announced, "Ms. Tomoka, from your results, I have declared that you are infertile. Even with special treatment, you will not be able to reproduce. In simple terms, it means that you are unable to have a child. You have failed the annual examination. You will be given the rest of the day to get your affairs in order. The Enforcers will come to take you early tomorrow morning."
 
  My jaw dropped open. I left it hanging there for a bit. The doctor was so nonchalant about it. He didn`t even apologize. He might as well have told me, 'you`re going to die.' My entire body went stiff and numb, like a plank of wood. My stomach turned to lead. I couldn`t breathe. I couldn`t speak. I couldn`t even cry. I forced myself to stand. "I-I see," I stammered, spitting the words out.
 
  I slowly crept out of the infirmary, where I allowed a wave of sorrow to crash down on me. Ms. Ritsuko looked at me, meeting my eyes for a split-second. "I...I`m sorry, Minako." That was all she said before turning around and sprinting away. I collapsed in a chair, burying my face in my dress. It all made sense. I wasn`t having my period because I didn`t have anything to begin with.
I was barren. In other words, I was as good as dead.
 
  Someone was sitting next to me, sobbing loudly. It was a girl the same age as me, wearing the same gray school dress with the sailor collar. Long, silvery white hair cascaded over her shoulders, and her purple eyes gleamed with tears. She was my best friend since childhood, Hinata Fujisaki. "What happened to you, Hinata?" I asked, stupidly. I knew what happened. "I...I failed...the test," she sniffled. "They said...I was genetically flawed...that I would be diseased when I grew up." She clutched my shoulders, gazing straight into my eyes. "Don`t you understand?! I`m going to be eaten! What do you think the Giants are going to do to me!? They`ll probably cook me alive, or swallow me whole! I`d be gone in one bite!"
 
  She leaned against me, crying into my dress. "I...I don`t want to die," she sobbed. I gently petted her head, hot tears burning in my eyes. "I know. I don`t want to die either." I sat there in the hallway for what felt like forever, in a useless attempt to comfort Hinata. How could I comfort someone who was only a day away from death, when I was about to meet the same fate myself?
 
  At last, Enforcers arrived to drag Hinata from my arms and out of the school. She screamed and cried as they did so. I was left alone, so all I could do now was return home to savor the last few hours of my life. I wandered the streets of Cordon 27, en route to the sleazy, State-sponsored apartment complex I called home. Every person I passed by wore the same dead-eyed expression as that doctor. It was almost like they had been hypnotized and were in a trance. But they weren`t. I didn`t know what happened. It was like their inner essence was drained. Then again, I probably looked the same, maybe even more now.
 
  The sun began to set behind a massive steel wall at the edge of town. The sky was tinged red, like blood. Beyond that wall was the land of nightmares, the domain of the Giants. No one even dared to venture within 20 feet of it, for fear that they would somehow be snatched away. I had never seen what was on the other side of that wall, but I`d be getting a glimpse of it soon. I had only seen Giants a few times throughout my life, but believe me, just one appearance will burn into your brain.
 
  They weren`t the stereotypical giants that you`d read about in fairytales, just large, stupid, ugly creatures with no purpose aside from kidnapping helpless princesses so heroic knights could rescue them. They were just like humans in every single way, the only differences being their massive size and their appetite for blood. Not only that, but they seemed to have a strange aura about them that would paralyze you. They were beautiful, but terrifying. I was soon to experience the terrifying beauty of a Giant firsthand- as his lunch, that is.
 
  It wasn`t like I could escape either. Cordon 27 was entirely walled off, and even if I somehow managed to get out and not end up in Giant territory, I`d likely be captured by guards that would drag me back to town and put me on display to be publicly devoured. I had once seen a woman who tried to escape, but was captured and eaten alive by a Giant in the middle of Cordon 27 for all to see. Either way, I was knocking on death`s door.
 
  When I made it back home, I was greeted by my mother, Kyouko Tomoka, who looked like she was just getting dressed after screwing some stranger. She twined her long, jagged blonde hair around her bony fingers, licking her lips and crossing her slim legs. "So, I`ve caught wind of your test results," she sneered. "I have to say, as your mother, I`m very disappointed in you. I expected better from the daughter of Kyouko Tomoka, heheh. So, looks like you`ll be getting a one-way ticket to Pee-Pee Pants City, eh?"
 
  My lips curled in disgust, and I squeezed my fists in rage. "Shut up!" I snapped. "What, I should be the local prostitute of Cordon 27, like you!? I`d rather die!" Kyouko snorted. "Well, looks like you`ll be getting your wish." I clenched my teeth. "I hate you! Why couldn`t you die, you nasty old hag?!"
 
  I stomped up the stairs and raced into my room, where I promptly crashed on the bed and began sobbing into the comforter. Yes, I was the daughter of a prostitute. Kyouko was affectionately known as Cordon 27`s local ho, and she couldn`t have cared less about me from the day I was born. The only reason she kept me around was because she got special benefits as a single mother.
She wanted something like this to happen, just so she could be rid of me. She deserved to be eaten, not me. What purpose was she serving society?
 
  As for my father, I don`t remember much about him. He took off when I was about five, right when the Giants turned America into the State. He`s living in Nevada, I think, alongside about two dozen other individuals in a place that could be safely described as a compound. For my 13th birthday, he sent me a letter that was actually a notebook. I couldn`t make it past the first page. Let`s just say it was the writing of a criminally insane man.
 
  I didn`t sleep at all that night. At least I didn`t think I did. If I fell asleep, it was probably only for an hour or two the whole night. The night seemed never-ending. I was hours away from a horrible death, and I couldn`t do anything about it. Hinata was probably crying in her bed right now. Not that I blamed her. I`d done no better. Unlike me, Hinata had parents and an older brother who cared about her. They would cry over her death. But no one would cry for me. My father abandoned me and ran off to the desert, so that shows how much he cared, and my mother wanted me gone to begin with. I felt so alone and helpless.
 
  The next morning, I decided to forget about trying to sleep. The Enforcers would be coming to take me away soon anyway. I wandered into the bathroom, pulling open the medicine cabinet. Most of them were antidepressants and other illegal prescriptions my mother used to get high, but my mind froze once I discovered a bottle of sleeping pills. I inspected the bottle for a bit, thinking to myself. What if I just swallowed this whole bottle now? I could overdose on sleeping pills, so I`d just peacefully fall asleep and never wake up, like Sleeping Beauty or Snow White. That way, I would never have to find myself in the maw of a Giant. It`d be a much nicer, completely painless way to die, even if I knew I was contemplating suicide.
 
  But the pills wouldn`t take effect for hours. At the same time, did I really want to take my own life? That sounded more like something my mother would do, die like a coward by offing herself.
There was a knock at the door, and it rang in my head like nails in a coffin. I slid down to the floor and curled up in a ball, cupping my hands over my ears. Go ahead. Let them knock all day. If they want me, they`re going to have to smash down that door and drag me out.
 
  Sure enough, they did just that. After a few unanswered knocks, I heard the front door open and collide with the wall. A storm of bootsteps rumbled through the house, and less than a minute later, Enforcers came charging into the bathroom, lifting me up by my legs and arms. I didn`t resist them. It was pointless. Squirm all you want, but they`ll beat you to a pulp before they`ll let you escape. I allowed the Enforcers to carry me out like a limp corpse. They dragged me into a large, jet-black armored vehicle that resembled a tank, tossing me into the back along with about a dozen other people on the highway to death.
 
  I tried to gain my footing as the vehicle started moving, but I was slammed against the wall when it made a sharp turn. I just collapsed on the ground, alongside everyone else. I dug my fingers into my short pink hair, hot tears streaking down my face. A few strangers gathered around me, embracing me and rubbing my head. They mumured comforting words to me, like 'Don`t be scared. It`s okay.' It wasn`t very convincing coming from people who were about to be eaten, and they knew damn well it was NOT okay. Still, I got more affection and concern from those strangers in that moment than I had ever gotten from anyone in my whole life. They were just trying their best to comfort a child like me.
 
  I glanced around the vehicle, scanning for Hinata. She wasn`t there, so I guessed she must have been picked up by someone else. The drive took over three hours. I didn`t know where we headed, but it had to be someplace outside Cordon 27, somewhere in the Giants` domain. After what felt like a perpetual drive to the bowels of the underworld, the vehicle finally screeched to a halt. You`d think a monkey was driving, with how much it was lurching and bouncing around.
 
  The doors were pulled open, and a blinding blast of light surged into the nearly pitch-black cabin. The strangers and I squinted and reeled back like vampires exposed to the morning sun. Rifle-wielding Enforcers barged in, dragging us out one by one. Some struggled and flailed, some screamed and cried, but all of them were hauled out into the daylight. I quivered all over. My guts were in knots. I desperately prayed to escape somewhere, anywhere but here. But those prayers wouldn`t be answered. God wasn`t listening.
 
  A pair of Enforcers began picked me up by the arms, and for once, I tried to fight back, even if it was useless. "No, no!" I screamed. "Let me go! Leave me alone! Don`t take me out there!
I don`t want to die! PLEASE!" My pleas fell upon deaf ears. I continued to flail, clawing and biting at my captors like a wild animal. As I struggled, I felt a sudden blunt, hollow pain in my stomach. I coughed up blood, staining my gray dress red. One of the Enforcers had hit my abdomen with some strange black stick. Even children were given no mercy. Here, I was food, and I would be treated as such.
 
  They hurled me into what looked like a massive holding pen, walled off by spined electric fencing. Those who touched it were shocked unconscious. I was surrounded by dozens, if not hundreds of other people herded up like livestock. There was nothing beyond the fences but fields and forests. I looked up, confronted by a cloudy gray sky. The entire area was guarded by a legion of Enforcers, armed and trigger-happy.
 
  Suddenly, the ground began to shake. Everyone was shocked into silence. The shaking increased every second, like minor earthquakes growing into tremors. The already dark skies turned pitch-black. A collective gasp rang out among the strangers. But I didn`t look up. I didn`t want to. I kept my eyes fixed on my black stockings, despite the fact that my heart was about to burst from my chest. Just then, the person next to me was thrust up into the air. A scream filled my ears, and I was forced to look up.
 
 
Chapter Two: Strawberry Sundae
 
  A colossal creature beckoned me from outside the fence. It looked almost identical to a human, aside from the fact that it was around 30 feet tall. He wore an elegant white outfit, similar to a morning coat, with spotless dress pants and pointed, knee-high leather boots. His short, wispy hair was a navy-blue, but gradated into a lighter aqua-blue at the tips. His eyes were like gleaming emeralds. Overall, I was transfixed and terrified by his unearthly, horrific beauty. Despite the fact that I was shaking with fear, I couldn`t pry my eyes away from him. He licked his lips, revealing a mouth full of razor-like teeth.
 
  I shuddered. I was so scared. Sweat drenched my body, and tears rolled down my cheeks. This is it, I thought. I am going to die. And he will be the one to kill me. Being eaten by a Giant was not a quick, painless death. If you weren`t crushed by sharp teeth, you were gulped down in one piece and left to be digested alive. And that`s if you survived whatever they did to you prior to that, since Giants treated humans as their personal playthings. They`d hurt you so bad you`d beg to die, but you would be in even more pain when they finally decided to finish you off.
 
  The Giant sneered, studying us with hungry eyes. "Hmm, what shall it be today?" He spoke in a very relaxed, calm voice, but to me, it sounded like thunder. I clenched up as he reached down a massive arm, snatching up someone from the crowd. He placed that person out of sight, then clawed out to grab another. And another. And another. All around me, people were being taken away one by one. I resisted bursting into screams to keep from drawing attention to myself.
 
  After about 12 people were taken away, I suddenly realized I was in the middle of the arena, with no escape. The Giant continued to scan around, until a smirk crossed his face. "My, what a delicious-looking little girl. She looks just like strawberry sorbet. I could never pass up something that sweet." His large, gloved hand reached down, and I knew exactly where it was heading for- me. I got so frightened I peed myself.
 
  I spun around and took off as fast as my feet would carry me. But it wasn`t fast enough. The long, snake-like fingers twined around my legs, knocking me into the dirt. My stomach lurched as I felt myself being lifted into the air. Before I knew it, I was hanging upside-down, being dangled in front of the monster`s sharp green eyes. "A little girl is a special treat," he bellowed. "They taste sweeter than candy, but it isn`t often I come across them. I think I`ll save you for dessert, little miss."
 
  He lowered me down into what resembled a gigantic metal box. There were other people huddled inside, just as terrified as I was. Darkness closed around us, and I felt that the enclosure we were trapped inside was being moved. I wanted to scream. And I did. I screamed at the top of my lungs, but there was no point, because I would not be saved. The trip didn`t take long, maybe fifteen minutes, but those fifteen minutes were the longest of my life. The box was placed down, and the metal shook. The top opened, releasing a hiss of steam.
 
  The face of the hungry blue-haired Giant was there to greet me, and he didn`t waste time. He snatched up an older woman and dangled her above his open mouth. She begged and screamed for him to stop, but all he did was drop her into his maw and crunch down on her body. Blood splattered everywhere, spraying onto my face and staining the creature`s mouth. He continued eating, devouring another person alive. The sound of his sharp fangs grinding and crunching through bone made me want to vomit. By the time he bit down on the fourth person, I hunched over and threw up, coughing and hacking on my own fluids.
 
  The Giant paid no mind to all the blood, simply slurping it up with his long, slithering tongue. The monster switched up his feeding frenzy by deciding to swallow rather than chew up his victims. He dropped someone into his maw, then swallowed him in a single gulp. The people he gulped down were seen as only small bulges in the middle of his throat before they disappeared completely. I could only imagine their pain and suffering. Was that what he would do to me? How would I be devoured?
 
  I didn`t get to ponder it long. The ravenous beast ate up everyone surrounding me within a few minutes, and I was the only one left. He clasped me in his fingers, licking at my face. I winced at the warm coat of saliva drenching me. "Please don`t do this!" I pleaded. "I don`t want to be eaten! I`ll do anything, just let me go, please!" The Giant raised a curious eyebrow. "Hmm? And why would I do that? I`ve saved the best for last. Consider it a compliment, little girl. You`re my dessert, and I prefer sweet things anyway. I want you to be as tasty as possible."
 
  He placed me down on a plate, and I tried to scurry away, but he pinned me down by stabbing a fork into the back of my dress. I flinched. "Try that again and it`ll go through you," the Giant snickered. He scooped a spoonful of whipped cream onto my head and began smothering me in it. I squirmed around, trying to pry free to no avail. I rubbed the whipped cream out of my eyes. "Stop it!" I screamed. "I`m not food, I`m a human!"
 
  "Oh, but you are food," the Giant sneered. "To me, that is. Now, I believe our conversation has come to an end. And you, little girl, have an appointment with my stomach!" He raised the fork high above me, then brought it down with blistering speed. I squeezed my eyes shut and struck out my hands, in a desperate attempt to save myself. I bit my tongue and braced for the piercing stab.
 
  But it never came. My hands coiled around cold metal. Reluctantly, I opened my eyes. The gleaming, pointed silver prongs of a gigantic fork dangerously hung inches away from my chest, and the only thing keeping it from stabbing through my body was the force of my tiny arms pushing back against the guillotine-like weapon. The Giant looked shocked. He removed the pressure of the fork from my body. His stunned expression then morphed into a strange grin. "Oh, my. Well, I can`t say that`s ever happened before. How could a tiny little girl such as yourself stop a Giant like me from stabbing you with sheer force alone? I suppose adrenaline and the fear of death can do amazing things to a human."
 
  I flopped over on my side, sucking in great gulps of air. "Just...just stop," I begged, panting. "Please...don`t eat me." The Giant flashed a sadistic smile. "Oh? Give me one reason why I shouldn`t eat you. We Giants are meant to devour humans. That is how it works. You are clearly small and inferior to me, so why shouldn`t I do as I please with you? And don`t even go about trying to flatter me. Believe me, I`ve heard all the flattery you can imagine."
 
  I couldn`t believe I was even in this position. Here I was trying to justify my existence in front of a 30 foot-tall monster who wanted nothing more than to tear me limb from limb and devour me like a piece of candy. How would I convince him to not eat me? The Giant lowered himself down, resting his arms on the table. He brought his eyes down to mine. I was only inches away from his massive face.
 
  I sat there, quivering in fear, wishing I could just disappear. He looked at me with an expectant gaze. "Do you plan on begging me, little girl?" he asked. "I`ve had many humans who begged me for mercy, pleading to be spared. Do you know what I did to them? Why, I ate them up before they could say another word!" He snapped at me, trying to catch me in his teeth. I squealed and scrabbled back, quickly backing away from the monster. He chuckled. "Heh, got you, didn`t I? You`re just so adorable and fun to tease."
 
  I gulped down the rising lump in my throat. I had to say something, or else I would become his next snack. I staggered to my feet and stared right into the creature`s large, shiny green eyes. I watched my own terrified reflection in them. I looked pitiful. I was shaking in my socks. I forced myself to speak. "Please...just listen to me. My name...is Minako Tomoka, and...I want to make a wager with you."
 
  The Giant`s face lit up with interest. "Well, now you`ve caught my attention. No one`s ever tried to save themselves by telling me they wanted to make a wager before. You`ve captured my interest, little one, do tell." I took a deep breath. "If you promise not to eat me, I swear by my life...I`ll allow you do whatever you want with me. If I break the wager, I`ll even agree to let you...cook me."
 
  The Giant smiled, flicking back a few strands of dangling blue hair. He jerked away from me and stood up, pointing down at me in a dramatic fashion. "Very well!" he announced. "I agree to our wager! From now on, you`ll be my personal play toy! My name is Suzuki, and I look foward to our time together, Ms. Minako Tomoka!"
 
  My lungs deflated with relief. I had saved myself- for now. At the same time, I was well aware that I had surrendered all of my freedom to Suzuki. I was essentially his slave now. But really, hadn`t I been a slave this whole time? To my mother, to the State, it seemed as if I was nothing but a tool to be used for others` gain. When I was younger, I used to look up at the birds flying by in the sky and wonder, those birds are free. They`re free to fly wherever they want. Why don`t I feel free? Oh, yeah, that`s right. Because I live in an Orwellian, dystopian nightmare world controlled by man-eating Giants. Because I`m the daughter of a prostitute. In the eyes of both humans and Giants, my existence was even below dirt. Freedom was a foreign concept to me.
 
  Suzuki swooped down and clasped his fingers around me, rolling me around in his palms. "Ahh, you`re so small and cute," he mused. "Not to mention tasty-looking. But I am feeling quite full, and I am an honest man. I don`t plan to break our contract." He took me through the sprawling, labyrinthine hallways of his huge house. It looked far nicer than anything I`d ever see in Cordon 27. Most people there, including myself, just lived in dirty, dark, State-sponsored apartments. Private home ownership was not allowed in the State anymore. You couldn`t build or buy your own house anywhere you wanted. You had to live in the apartments with everyone else, confined to a tiny, cramped living space.
 
  I remember when Ms. Ritsuko told me how she used to live on a large ranch out in the country, where she kept animals and grew her own food with her family, before she was relocated. Imagine that! Citizens of the State weren`t allowed to produce anything for themselves, only for the Giants. In return, the Giants rationed us with the leftover scraps of their food and resources.
 
  Suzuki brought me into his living room, where he plopped down on the couch. He laid on his back, then placed me on top of his belly. I stared across the landscape of his huge body. "So, Ms. Tomoka, tell me about yourself," he said. "What`s life like for you in Cordon 27?" My pink eyes nearly popped out. "You...you really want to know?" I asked. "Yes, of course," Suzuki replied. "I have to learn at least a little bit about you, correct?"
 
  I swallowed hard. "Yes...I suppose you`re right. Well...Cordon 27...is an awful place. It`s dirty and rotted...there`s no heat or air conditioning, and we get food and supply rations every week. I go to school at Five Wings Academy. I`m in the eighth grade. I`m friends with Ms. Ritsuko, the school nurse, and Hinata Fujisaki, another girl in my class. She was sent to the Giants like I was...I wonder if she`s okay."
 
  Suzuki nodded. "Hmm, I`d imagine she`s currently in the stomach of one of my bretheren. Most Giants aren`t as merciful as I am. You should be thankful." My nerves tied up in knots. He was probably right. Hinata was too shy and innocent. There was no way she`d be able to save herself. What happened to her? Did she get cooked, chewed up, or just swallowed in one bite? Just thinking about the pain and suffering she had gone through made me want to cry.
 
  "Now, what about your family?" Suzuki pressed on. "Surely you must have a mother and a father. I assume they`re probably crying over their poor daughter right now, believing she has become my dessert." I shook my head. "No, they`re not. My father abandoned me when I was little. My mother, Kyouko...she hates me. She`s a prostitute, and I was born of an unwanted pregnancy. She never wanted me to begin with. She was glad that I would finally be eaten, and away from her forever."
 
  Suzuki frowned. "Hmm, what a vile woman. Even humans should love their children. If she were here right now, I`d bite her head off. You`ve been through quite a lot, Minako. It almost makes me feel bad for trying to eat you earlier. Why don`t you come a little closer to me? I`ll give you a kiss."
 
  My eyes narrowed in suspicion. "I don`t want to go anywhere near your mouth." Suzuki tilted his head. "Do I sense disobedience? I believe you swore to do anything I wished. Fine then, I`ll make it easy for you." He plucked me by the back of my collar, then placed me at the base of his neck. "You should be happy. I`m not going to hurt you. I can`t eat you, remember?" He leaned his head toward me, pressing his large, soft lips against my face. This was not pleasurable at all. I didn`t even try to kiss back. I felt like I was being suffocated.
 
  Then, I saw his mouth open. Before I could even flinch, he clamped his teeth around my waist and sucked me into his jaws with a long, drawn-out slurp. I screamed. I found myself in a dark, damp, humid prison. It reeked of death, like rotten meat. The heat made me feel like I was being roasted alive. Everything around me was wet and rippling, twining around my tiny body. My heart pounded as I came to the horrible realization that Suzuki was savoring my flavor. His tongue slithered all over me, even slipping between my legs. I was sprawled out on my back, helpless to defend against the terrifyingly powerful muscle analyzing me.
 
  Oh, my God, I thought. He`s eating me. It wouldn`t be long before I was propelled down his throat. The most horrible part was, he wouldn`t even have to chew me in order to eat me. I was so small that with just one gulp, I`d go down like a drop of drainwater. I wondered what was worse, being chewed up, or being digested alive. Which would be more painful?
 
  Fortunately, I didn`t have to find out firsthand. My back brushed against Suzuki`s cold, hard fangs for a split-second before I was spat up into his lap. He was now sitting up, wearing the gleeful expression of a child playing with his new toy. I gazed up at him, shaking uncontrollably. I was soaked in a layer of sticky saliva. I was so scared I could barely move. "Are you afraid of me now?" Suzuki chuckled. "You...you said you weren`t going to eat me!" I sputtered. "I didn`t," Suzuki replied. "I was just giving you an itty bitty taste, that`s all. You were delicious, by the way, so sweet and juicy, like your entire body was made of candy..."
 
  He seemed lost in his thoughts about food. Meanwhile, I just wanted to run. I climbed out of his lap and leapt down onto the ground, running across the floor to get somewhere, anywhere, away from him. My escape was ill-fated. An intense pressure came down on my back, and I flew face-first into the ground. I glanced over my shoulder, shuddering. Suzuki was stepping on me, grinding the heel of his boot into my back just hard enough to keep me from moving. "Leaving so soon?" he sneered. "Sorry, but I can`t allow that. If you do that again, I`ll squash you into a bloody pink mess. You belong to me now, and you`ll do as I say. Understood?"
 
  I nodded slowly. "Y-yes...I understand." The creature removed his foot from my back, then snatched me up in his clutches. "Good! I`m glad you`re not like those thick-headed humans. You`re a woman who knows her place." He yawned loudly. "Well, I`m getting sleepy, and you must be exhausted, so why don`t we call it a night? Don`t worry, you can sleep with me. See how nice I am?"
I grimaced. He was psychotic. There was nothing nice about him. Why couldn`t I have gotten stuck with a gentle Giant, instead of a sadistic monster?
 
  It didn`t take long for us to get ready for bed. Suzuki dried me off with a cloth, and after he got dressed in his nightclothes, he plucked me off the nightstand and crawled into the massive bed, placing me on his chest. "You`re free to walk around on me, if you wish," he said. "But be careful. I might get hungry during the night and mistake you for a midnight snack in my drowsiness. If I ate you up while you were asleep, you wouldn`t feel any pain, would you? That is, unless you woke up inside my stomach, and by then, I wouldn`t let you out anyway. Sweet dreams, little one."
 
  I knew he was only trying to scare me for his amusement, but it worked. Just that thought alone made me too scared to want to sleep. But my exhaustion didn`t care about my fear. I curled up into a fetal position, snuggling into Suzuki`s clothes to use as blankets. It wasn`t uncomfortable. Actually, it was somewhat soothing. The quiet pulse of his heartbeat and the gentle movement of his great chest heaving up and down calmed me for some reason. Suzuki`s body was very soft and warm. Despite the fact that I was lying on top of a genetically mutated monster with an appetite for human blood, my eyelids sank shut on me, and I fell into a deep, dreamless sleep within seconds.
 
  Strangely enough, I slept better that night than I had in a very long time. I guessed escaping a terrible, bloody death in the jaws of a Giant really took a lot out of a person. I was half-hoping it was all some bad dream, like I`d wake up and everything would be fine. But that was far too optimistic. My new purpose in life was to be Suzuki`s play toy, until whenever he decided he was bored of me. It took a lot of effort to stir myself out of sleep. The whole time, I was enveloped by the warmth of Suzuki`s body, but now, it started to feel...really hot.
 
  I slowly opened my eyes, only to stare at a sheet of black metal lying below me. My heart skipped a beat as I suddenly realized what was happening. Suzuki held me upside-down in his fingers, clasping me by the legs, and he was dangling me above a sizzling hot frying pan. A hollow gasp escaped my throat, and I started thrashing. "Suzuki, what are you doing?!" I screeched. The blue-haired Giant yawned. "Ah, you`re awake. Good morning, Minako. I`m feeling quite hungry, so...you wouldn`t mind being my breakfast snack, would you?"
 
  "No!" I screamed, pure fear taking over. "Stop it! Please, I don`t want to be fried!" He paid no heed to my words. "Hmm, let`s see...perhaps I could fry you up along with my French toast," he mused. "I could drizzle you in maple syrup, then sprinkle some powdered sugar on you. I could just add some of your blood as a sauce, and you`d be the most delicious breakfast ever! Mmm...just thinking about it is making my stomach rumble!"
 
  "Cut it out!" I shrieked. "I thought we had a wager!" I wanted to squirm out of his grasp, but if I did, I`d land directly in the frying pan anyway, so I scrapped that idea. Suzuki grinned. "Yes, I suppose you`re right. Perhaps another time, then. Oh, but my fingers might slip!" He jerked me down lower, and I screamed as my short pink hair was less than an inch away from touching the surface of the pan. The intense heat made beads of sweat drip down my face. "Suzuki, get me out of here!" I squealed. Then, the Giant yanked me back up high, forcing my stomach into my throat.
I covered my mouth, trying to hold back vomit.
 
  Suzuki dropped me onto the table alongside his very large plate of syrup-drizzled French toast. The smell of cinnamon wafted in the air. Drool pooled up in the corner of my mouth. "Are you hungry too?" Suzuki asked. "Don`t worry, I`ll share some with you. Be grateful, little one. If it weren`t for my kindness, you could be the one in my breakfast." I gulped as I watched him cut out tiny pieces of toast with his gigantic knife and fork. To him, they were nothing but rudimentary tools. But to me, they were weapons of murder. I had no doubt that he skewered people with them in the past.
 
  But I was so hungry, I didn`t care. I grabbed one of the 'tiny' pieces, about the size of my head, and began chowing down on it like I`d never eaten before. I hadn`t had anything in almost two days, but during most of that time, the fear of becoming food turned off my appetite. "Suzuki," I piped up, "how many people have you eaten?" He shook his head. "Oh, far too many to count. It wasn`t like I was keeping track."
 
  "But...don`t you ever feel bad?" I asked. "I mean, you tear them apart and devour them without mercy. Don`t you feel anything when they cry and scream and plead to be spared? You were a human once too, you know."
 
  "I used to feel bad for eating humans," Suzuki replied. "But when the hunger takes over, I simply cannot control myself. It is just something I have to do. I must eat, after all. I have to live, don`t I? Humans aren`t much different. You eat pigs and cows, right? I may have been human once, but I am completely separated from that period of my life. There was nothing good in it anyway. Yes, I am a genetic mutant. But I feel like I didn`t really live until I became a Giant. I did feel pity for the humans I devoured at one time, but when you realize that there is no punishment or consequences for killing, it becomes much easier. It`s something you wouldn`t understand unless you were like me."
 
  I hung my head. "Oh...I see. So that`s how it is." I didn`t know what else to say. "Well, I planned on heading out to town today," Suzuki said, changing the subject. "Would you like to come with me, Minako?" I nodded. "Yes, but are you sure I`ll be safe out there?" He shrugged. "You`ll be fine, as long as you stay near me. It isn`t all that unusual for Giants to keep humans as pets. But if you stray just one inch out of my sight, it`s not my fault if you get gobbled up."
 
  He reached down and grabbed me up, dropping me into the breast pocket of his elegant waistcoat. "Well then, let us head off!" His pocket was big enough for me to stand up in, so I pulled down a bit of the fabric so my head was sticking out into open air.
 
  The realm outside Cordon 27 was utterly bizarre. It felt like being on another planet. It looked way nicer than the shantytown of Cordon 27. It resembled a modern, technologically advanced city in every way, the only difference being that everything was a hundred times larger than me. Even things such as lightposts and power line poles towered above me like skyscrapers. I looked down, cringing at the fall I would suffer if I slipped out of Suzuki`s pocket. Droves of bloodthirsty Giants wandered the streets, going about their business as usual. It seemed as if they were trying to sniff me out. Their faces were cold and expressionless, like stone. No one talked, smiled, or even laughed. Memories of the dead-eyed people in the Cordon flooded back to me.
 
  It was a frightening experience, to know that I could be eaten alive in the middle of this colossal city, and no one would care. "Welcome to Hakutai City, the crown jewel of Cordon 27,"
Suzuki said. "We Giants are quite proud of this city, as you can see. Its name means 'eternity,' for it will live on eternally." He sounded like he was reciting propaganda of some sort. Speaking of propaganda, there was plenty of it plastered all over the walls and signs of this place. The sayings were bizarre. Things like, 'Humans don`t have feelings.' 'Humans live to serve us.' 'Humans don`t love their children as much as we love to eat them.' Stuff like that. I even read a few I don`t want to repeat. I noticed one sign that read, 'War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.' It was like subliminal messages purely designed to keep victims in a hypnotic trance.
 
  I had seen my fair share of propaganda living in Cordon 27, and while I was one of the few not blind enough to swallow it all, this was just overwhelming. "Suzuki, how long do Giants live?"
I asked. "I mean, like an average lifespan. You`re immortal, aren`t you? Like gods?" Suzuki chuckled. "Gods, eh? That`s a little flattering. Contrary to the propaganda, we Giants are not immortal. My average lifespan is something around 200 years. Don`t worry about me, I`ve got plenty of time."
 
  I wasn`t worried about him. Since I could walk, I had been force-fed the State`s nonsense about our tall overlords, about how they could control the weather and possessed eternal life. But still, 200 years. This country was founded 200 years ago, and fell within that same timeframe. That amount of time was impossible to me. Most humans were lucky to live to 40. If they made it that far, they wouldn`t live much more beyond it. As for me, I wouldn`t even live to 18. I knew every moment I still breathed on this Earth was on borrowed time. It was only a matter of time before Suzuki got bored of me and decided I should be his next meal.
 
  Seeing all this for the first time made me realize how small and insignificant I really was. Just an insect scurrying past the feet of gods. Like comparing the strongest human to the weakest Giant. No contest. I saw the date on an LCD screen. March 17th, 2017. But was that true? I didn`t know. It could have been 1984, 1945, or 2100, for all I knew. I lost my sense of time back when this nightmare started.
 
  At the time, I was just a little girl. I couldn`t understand why this had happened, why people who were once my best friends were getting devoured like cream puffs by gigantic monsters that resembled our own species. It`s hard for a kid to, no pun intended, swallow the idea that I had gone to bed as a human and awoken as a cockroach. Even now, I can barely comprehend it, and I was almost impaled with a giant fork. But really, even calling myself a cockroach was too kind. At least cockroaches wouldn`t be eaten under normal circumstances. Well, except maybe if you lived in China, where they`re served up as a delicacy. In that way, with my wispy pink hair and magenta eyes, I was more like a strawberry. Small, sweet, delicious, just sitting there, waiting patiently to be eaten. My existence was now below even a strawberry, since I was destined to become nothing but Suzuki`s dessert.
 
  "Hey, are there any humans that live alongside you guys?" I asked. "Treated as equals, you know, not pets or food." Suzuki sighed. "My, is this an interrogation? I didn`t expect you to have so many questions. Now that you mention it, I do remember a woman who lived here in Hakutai City. She was a doctor, and she betrayed the State, so she was sent to a particularly sickly Giant. She saved herself by healing him, and she cured many illnesses from then on. She was one of the few humans who wasn`t eaten or treated as a pet or a servant."
 
  My eyes lit up. If I could talk to her, I could learn more about living with the Giants. She could teach me how to survive here. "Can you take me to her?" Suzuki gave me an odd look.
"Sure thing." He split off a different path, taking me to a more secluded part of town. When he finally took me to this 'woman,' my jaw dropped.
 
  I stared at a tiny stone grave. "She...she died!?" I gaped. "Yes, quite recently," Suzuki answered. "One of her tall patients stabbed her with a needle." My heart turned to ice. It felt like I was staring before my own grave. I can`t survive here. I have no future here. I can`t go home. I must live in this nightmarish world, until one of my tall overlords decides my life doesn`t benefit them anymore. I would be devoured quickly, and forgotten even faster. The worst part was, I wouldn`t even get my own grave. I would dissolve in stomach acid.
 
  I hunched over, tears pouring down my face. I sniffled loudly, sobbing into the fabric of Suzuki`s pocket. He didn`t care. Didn`t even try to comfort me. Hinata...Ms. Ritsuko...everything I`d ever known...was going to disappear. All because I couldn`t bear children. I wished I had taken those sleeping pills when I could. This was the true cruelty of the State. I`d live a short life in fear, die in horror, and melt down into this earth, any memories or trace of me to be vaporized, as if I had never existed at all. This was my destiny.
 
 
Chapter Three: You Say You Want a Revolution
 
  "Minako, may we leave now?" Suzuki asked. "Yes!" I screamed, sniffling inbetween sobs. "I don`t care where, just go!" He took a small glance down at me. "I`m sorry. I should have never taken you away. I realize now that humans really do have feelings. You didn`t deserve this. You`re just a little girl. Listen to me, from now on, I`ll protect you from the other Giants, and I won`t eat you. I promise."
 
  I took a huge, breathy gasp. That was all I ever wanted to hear from him. Maybe he really did have a heart, even if it was just a shard. I couldn`t help but think that somewhere inside his large body, shreds of his former human self remained. Still, that didn`t make me think my days were any less numbered. I didn`t even bother to watch where Suzuki was taking me anymore. I didn`t care. I just didn`t want to stare at the monstrosity of Hakutai City anymore. So, this is how the other half lives, I thought. They live in comfort and luxury, all at our cost, while we humans have an existence comparable to that of cattle.
 
  When I was young, State propaganda said that traitors were sacrificed to the Giants, to appease our gods and keep them happy. But that wasn`t true. I wasn`t a sacrifice. I was livestock. For the Giants, it wasn`t about simply preserving themselves. It was about dominating us, forcing humanity to their whims. I`m sure it was the same way in other countries, all around the world. We were the livestock that they owned, and they would make damn well sure that their utopia would reign FOREVER.
 
  When Suzuki stopped moving, I finally decided to peek my head out and see where I`d ended up. He was sitting down at a huge table, alongside at least a dozen other self-important-looking Giants. They were dressed the same way he was, in the elegant white Victorian-style attire. It looked like I was in a meeting room. "What is this?" I asked. "My weekly meeting," Suzuki replied.
"As a representative of the State, I must attend it." My back quivered. "Wait...you work for the State?! You`re one of those rotten dictators!?"
 
  "Keep your voice down," Suzuki whispered. "Yes, I may work for the State, but I don`t make the rules. He does." He nodded to the Giant at the far end of the table, who appeared far bigger and elegant than all the rest. He wore a long, flowing white cape over a red dress shirt adorned by gold chains. The cape`s collar had a frilled, spiked look. He had spotless ivory dress pants and matching leather boots fitted with golden fastenings. His short, steel-blue hair was swept to the sides, sticking out like fins, and his large, shiny eyes resembled a sea of blood. Pointed, glistening teeth could be seen every time he moved his lips. His appearance was stunningly beautiful, almost godlike, but at the same time, terrifying enough to make me bend down and shiver.
 
  "That is Seishirou," Suzuki whispered. "He`s the emperor of Cordon 27. Don`t let him catch even a glimpse of you, or he will eat you up, and I won`t be able to stop him."
 
  "Suzuki!" Seishirou snapped. "What are you mumbling about?" I jumped. His voice sounded like a boom of thunder. It was deep and sharp like a knife. He had a very distinct accent, probably British. He emanated a suffocating air of authority. Even Suzuki looked scared. "Oh, nothing, I was just talking to myself," he chuckled nervously. Seishirou huffed, like he knew Suzuki was full of it. He could probably smell me. "Very well. Everyone, your attention, please. It has come to my knowledge that a certain human is coming to meet us today. Thus, she has been surrendered and sent to us by the State. She says she wishes to make a bargain with us."
 
  He sat down and took a sip of red wine, or perhaps blood. He shook the empty glass at the tiny black-haired human maid beside him. "Would you be a dear and fetch some more wine? Quickly now, you`ve been rather slow lately, and I have no need for a slow servant. I`m beginning to feel a little peckish."
 
  "Y-yes, sir," the maid stammered. She quickly bowed and ran off out of sight. "Excuse me," Suzuki piped up, "but who is this human who has come to visit us?" Seishirou sneered. "I thought you`d never ask. Well then, bring her up!" There was a flight of steps connecting the ground to the table, just small enough for a person to cross. A pair of armed human guards dressed in black arrived, dragging along a very familiar woman.
 
  My eyes grew huge. "M-Ms. Ritsuko?!" I gaped. The green-haired nurse was set down in the center of the table, facing Seishirou. I gasped at the sheer amount of bruises and scars marring her body. Her eyes were red-rimmed and bloodshot, like she`d been crying. She must have been tortured. But why? Why was she here? Seishirou tented his fingers, turning his eyes down at her. "So, according to your sheet, you are Ms. Ritsuko Kamiyama, head school nurse of Five Wings Academy here in Cordon 27, and you are 30 years old. Is that correct?" Ritsuko nodded slowly. "Yes...it is."
 
  "I`ve been told you wish to make a deal with us," Seishirou said. "Normally, I couldn`t care less about what a human thinks, but it isn`t often that you purposefully betray the State in order to meet with us. You`ve sparked my interest. What is your request, madam?" I trembled as Ritsuko staggered upright, trying to keep herself from shaking. Her eyes overflowed with pure terror.
"W-well...you see...someone I care about has been sacrificed to a member of your council. Her name is Minako Tomoka. She`s 18 years old, and she has short pink hair and magenta eyes. So...I have suggested a trade. I`ll willingly give myself to you...as long as you let Minako return to Cordon 27. Please spare her, she`s too young to die."
 
  I had to cover my mouth from how loud I gasped. My blood ran cold. Ritsuko was going to sacrifice herself to Seishirou...for me? I didn`t want that. I couldn`t bear watching her be torn to gory shreds. My body reacted before my mind could catch up. "NO!" I screamed, leaping out of Suzuki`s pocket. I landed on the table and rushed to Ritsuko`s side, throwing my arms around her. "Ritsuko, don`t!" I begged. "Please, I don`t want to watch you die!"
 
  The green-haired woman looked stunned. "You...you`ve been here this whole time?! How did you survive this long!?"
 
  "That`s not important!" I hissed. "Just don`t give yourself to them, I`m begging you! I don`t want to lose you too!" I started crying into her chest, and she slowly closed her arms around me. "Oh, Minako..."
 
  "What is the meaning of this!?" Seishirou snapped. He glared at Suzuki. "You`ve been keeping this human as a pet?! You knew she was disobedient to the State, you were supposed to eliminate her!" I looked up. "What?!" Suzuki`s face fell. "I-I know, but...I just couldn`t bring myself to kill her! Minako, I lied. You were one of the few humans who didn`t entirely fall for the State`s propaganda. Out of all the citizens of the Cordon, you displayed independent thought. You showed resistance to the State since you were young. We believed you could stage a revolution when you grew older, so I was ordered to capture and eat you."
 
  "You can`t be serious!" I gasped. "What...what about the exam?! I`m barren, right!?" The Giant shook his head. "It was fabricated. You are perfectly capable of reproduction. We needed an excuse to give you up as a sacrifice." I couldn`t believe my ears. Everything was a lie. The test, all of it. All the times when Suzuki pretended to eat me, he wasn`t teasing me. He was really trying to do it, but he couldn`t make himself. How could I possibly stage a revolution? My gut curled up into cramps. I had been played this whole time. I didn`t know what to think.
 
  "I`m very disappointed in you, Suzuki," Seishirou snarled. "I`ve had enough of staring at this pathetic human. It makes me sick." He tore a huge silver knife from his pocket and drove it foward before I could even move. I expected to feel the blade pierce my chest. It didn`t happen. Right next to me, I heard the slicing of flesh, then a choked sputtering. I swung my head around, and my heart nearly stopped.
 
  Ritsuko was dangling from the end of Seishirou`s knife, the blade sticking straight through the other side of her body. Blood gushed from her chest and mouth, spilling onto the table below. The sight and smell of blood drew the attention of the other monsters. Ritsuko gasped out in a raspy tone, like she was trying to speak. "M-Mina...ko...run..." Those were her last before she was raised up to Seishirou`s mouth. He bit down on her, and my bowels quivered at the sound of her bones crunching between his fangs. She was swallowed in one gulp. "Ritsuko!" I shrieked. I spun around to face Suzuki. "Why didn`t you do anything!? WHY?!"
 
  "I-I can`t," he stammered. "I`ll be executed if I fight him." Seishirou licked the blood from his knife, then lowered his steely gaze to me. "Heh, you really thought we were trying to bargain with you? It just goes to show how foolish the little people can be. Who makes a wager with livestock? We own you. You belong to us. And if we want to eat you, then you have no right to refuse us. It`s under our contract, after all. At least she might have been the sweetest breakfast I ever ate. Women always taste better anyway. Now, what to do about you? Since you`ve already provoked my appetite, I suppose I shall have to eliminate you myself. I`ve heard little girls taste far sweeter than any candy. Let`s see if it`s true!"
 
  He stabbed his knife at me, and I reeled back before it caught on my dress. "Seishirou, stop!" Suzuki shouted. The red-eyed Giant clamped his hand around Suzuki`s neck. "You dare defy me?!"
I didn`t hesitate. I whirled around and took off like a bolt of lightning. The guards lunged at me, but I sped right past them. I zipped down the flight of stairs, now running across the sprawling expanse of wood floor with all my might. Despite wearing nothing but a sailor dress and a pair of stockings, I ran faster than I ever had in my life. My heart beat so fast I thought it would explode. I didn`t dare to look behind me. I just kept running, trying to stay ahead of the thunderous footsteps behind me.
 
  Miraculously, I slipped out of the building through a small crack in the doorframe. I found myself on the street, but now I was even more exposed. I continued to run, even when my legs felt like gelatin. I didn`t stop until I made it to a distant, lone garden in a park. The crush of the Giants` pursuit faded out. I remained silent until I was sure I was alone. After that, I hunched over and began crying, exhausting my last reserves of tears. Why? I thought. Why didn`t I just take those pills? If I had, I could have died peacefully. Ritsuko would have lived. I wouldn`t be here now, and none of this would have ever happened. I mentally cursed myself for being so stupid. I just laid there, curled up beneath the shrubery, crying myself to sleep.
 
  Hours passed. A startling noise jolted me from sleep. I scanned around, but I couldn`t see anything. It was pitch-dark. Night had fallen. "W-who`s there?" I called out, stupidly. As if someone would answer. "It`s me, Mina," a familiar voice peeped. It came from right behind me. I spun around. As my night vision adjusted, I saw a girl my same height standing before me. But not just any girl. Her sailor dress was tattered and torn. Her silvery hair was dirty and matted, looking more gray now. Her purple eyes were swollen with tears.
 
  My muscles loosened. "Oh, my God. Hinata, is that you?" She nodded. "Yes, it`s me," she mumbled. She looked like she had been to the underworld and back. "How...how did you survive?" I asked. "I thought for sure you would have been eaten."
 
  "Well, I escaped," Hinata replied. "It wasn`t easy. The Giant that captured me wanted to fry me in hot oil. But I was able to slip away from him, and I just kept running and hiding. I`ve been looking for you this whole time." I pulled her into a hug. "My God, Hina. I can`t believe you`re here. I just watched Ms. Ritsuko die. She tried to save me...but she was eaten." Hinata sniffled. "You mean...she`s dead too?" She buried her face into my shoulder. "I miss Mom...and Dad...and Brother...they probably think I`m already dead. I wish...I could see them again."
 
  I ran my fingers through Hinata`s tangled hair. "Listen, we have to get out of here. We can`t survive here, they`ll find us eventually. If we work together, we might be able to get out of here."
 
  "And go where?!" Hina snapped. "Those monsters are everywhere! They`re going to get us, and then they`ll kill us both!" I squeezed her tightly. "We`ll find a place, I know we will. The world is a huge place. There`s got to be somewhere where the Giants won`t find us. I promise. Now, Hinata, let`s-"
 
  I was cut off by a massive noise, almost like an explosion. The bushes we hid in were suddenly ripped back, and gusts of wind swirled around us as we were left open and exposed. A gigantic humanoid figure beckoned us. I couldn`t make out any features, but it surely was a Giant. "There you are," its voice rumbled. "Minako!" Hinata screeched. Before we could even run, the Giant swooped down, catching us both in his clutches. I couldn`t see anything. The whole world turned black.
 
  Hinata and I clutched onto each other tightly as the Giant carried us in his closed fist. It was so dark, I couldn`t even see who had taken us. But he seemed familiar, somehow. That foreign accent...
 
  "Mina...what`s going to happen to us?" Hinata asked, shivering. "I don`t know," I answered. I couldn`t say anything other than that. I desperately prayed for Suzuki to come and rescue me.
But that wouldn`t happen. He didn`t care. He only used me, from the very beginning. At the same time, I didn`t have a clue why I wanted Suzuki to save me anyway. Could I have been...falling in love with him? No, that would be ridiculous. He was a monster. All he wanted was to eat me. That was it.
 
  Less than ten minutes later, the phantom Giant finally released Hinata and I. We tumbled unceremoniously onto a massive coffee table, alongside a spread of milk tea and butter cookies. An overwhelming sweet scent assailed my nostrils. It made me want to pass out. But when a huge, ink-black shadow cast over my friend and I, my mind snapped back into total terror. I strained myself to look up.
 
  The monster beckoning me was none other than Seishirou, the overlord of Cordon 27. "I knew I`d find you eventually," he snickered, in that sharp, distinct English accent. "You smelled so sweet, it`s irresistible." I gasped so hard I almost fainted. "Mina...who is that?" Hinata whispered. "Seishirou," I spat. "He rules the Cordon...and he`s the one who ate Ritsuko. He`s here to kill me." Hinata covered her mouth in shock. "But...but why?"
 
  "Quiet down, now," Seishirou announced in a voice like rolling thunder. "What did I ever say about killing anyone? I am not a murderer, I am a gentleman. You two should be thankful I invited you into my home as honored guests. Trust me, you wouldn`t have survived the night. So, Ms. Tomoka, would you mind introducing me to your little friend? I must say, she smells almost as sweet as you."
 
  Hinata stepped foward and bowed until she nearly tipped over, introducing herself. "M-my name is Hinata Fujisaki," she stammered. "No need to be afraid, I`m not going to bite you," Seishirou chuckled. "Why don`t you have some tea and cookies? I made them just for this occasion. Feel free to relax and make yourself at home." He even had tiny cups of milk tea set out for Hinata and I.
I sniffed it suspiciously. Had it been spiked? Then again, Seishirou was drinking the tea himself, but that didn`t dispel my fears. I drank it anyway, mostly because I was so thirsty. It was probably the most delicious drink I`d ever tasted. So warm and sweet...I could barely describe it. "Wow," I gasped. "This is amazing."
 
  "I`m pleased you enjoy it," Seishirou grinned, taking a bite out of a butter cookie. The thought that he could eat me just as easily as a cookie made me feel even more unnerved. "Umm...Mr. Seishirou, why are you doing this?" Hinata muttered. "You`re just going to eat us, right?" The blue-haired Giant burst into rumbling laughter. "Eat you, eh? Now what kind of host eats his honored guests? I can understand your concern, but you have nothing to fear."
 
  This was bizarre. I felt so confused. Just about six or seven hours ago, he ruthlessly stabbed Ms. Ritsuko and devoured her while she was still alive. His intimidating majesty even made other Giants quiver in fear. Now, he seemed like a completely different person. It made no sense. I couldn`t understand it, but I did know that whatever this little tea party meant, he had some kind of ulterior motive.
 
  Then, the next time he spoke, all of my suspicions were confirmed. A sly smile crossed his face. "Don`t worry one bit, little ones, I promise not to hurt you...that is, as long as you do as I tell you." I knew it. He had trapped us, and now that we were in his snare, he would never let us go. "What do you mean?" Hinata asked, her voice cracking. "Minako Tomoka," Seishirou announced, completely ignoring Hina, "I have decided against your execution for now. That is, I will spare your life...if you choose to work for us and become a human representative of the State. A beautiful young girl such as yourself, and a child, no less, could assist in swaying the humans to our will."
 
  "You see, we`ve had a bit of a problem recently. The Giant population of Hakutai City has grown exponentially in the past few years, and in order to keep up with demand, many of the humans` annual medical examinations have been forged with a negative result, much like yours was, but for a different reason. Not because of the fear of a revolutionary, but rather to increase our food supply. With someone like you at our side, we can convince the humans to do away with the annual exams and instead opt for a randomized lottery, to fairly determine who will be sacrificed to us.
As of now, the humans have been conditioned to the exams. Simply swapping out their determination of death without warning could result in riots and chaos within the Cordon, which results in more deaths, and in turn leaves less blood for us. I trust you understand?"
 
  His sudden drop of information made me feel dizzy. He wanted to turn us all into complete livestock? It was bad enough that they were forging the medical exams, but now a random lottery?
It could only be described as diabolical. I was so shocked I could hardly breathe. "Y-you can`t be serious!" Hinata gaped. "But that`s wrong! You can`t just treat people like food!"
 
  "I can do whatever I please," Seishirou replied, sipping his tea. "In case Ms. Tomoka hadn`t already made it clear enough, I control Hakutai City and Cordon 27. I am simply trying to conceive the most logical and rational way to solve a problem. It is my job, after all." His blood-red eyes shifted to me. "So, do we have a hand in agreement, Ms. Tomoka? Will you become the first human representative of the State? If you do, you will be treated on an equal level with my kind. You will never have to fear being eaten again. For the first time in your miniscule life, you can do something important, to have a real purpose for your existence other than food."
 
  "No!" I screamed. "Absolutely not! There`s no way I`d sell my soul to a monster like you! I don`t believe a word you say! I`m not stupid, I know your only goal is to use me and lose me! Do you really think I`d fall for something like that?!" Seishirou shook his head. "No, I didn`t think you would. I thought you`d feel that way. That`s why I took your friend as well." Hinata looked up. "What?" Seishirou sneered, picking up a gigantic silver fork from the coffee table. "I`ve been feeling rather hungry tonight, but tea and cookies just won`t do. Perhaps your blood will!"
 
  "Seishirou, stop it!" I shrieked. "Please, don`t kill Hinata!"
 
  "Sorry, no can do!" Seishirou cackled. "I still haven`t satisfied my appetite for a little girl quite yet!" Hinata took off running, and I didn`t know what to do. What could I do? Fight that monster? With what? I had no weapons, and even if I did, they`d be totally useless against such a huge creature. I had no way of protecting Hina, other than running off after her. But by then, it was too late.
 
  Seishirou drove down the fork, stabbing it directly through Hinata`s legs. She fell face-first onto the table, and let out an agonizing shriek as the prongs pierced her thighs. There was an awful crunching sound, like snapping twigs. Blood splattered across the wood, making the blue-haired beast even more excited. My pink eyes grew huge. My own legs gave out, and I collapsed, trying not to puke at the sight of my friend`s limbs so horribly mangled, they should have been severed. Split bone shards were exposed to open air. Blood poured out from her wounds like a river, and she couldn`t stop screaming.
 
  Seishirou grinned, delighted by her agony. "Mmm...I`m going to enjoy this!" He removed the bloody fork, then plucked Hinata by the back of her stained dress, dangling her above his open mouth. She was still screeching, weakly flailing like a limp fish, crying out for help. I clenched my teeth, tears running down my face. "Please, stop!" I sobbed. "She`s going to die, just leave her alone!" Seishirou tilted his head at me. "You know what? I`m not going to. Burn this moment into your memory. This is what happens to those who defy the State. And remember that your friend will die a slow, painful death...all because of you."
 
  He dropped Hinata into his mouth, then sealed his lips, closing the girl inside his maw. He savored her for a few moments, and my heart sank into my chest as he gulped her down in just one swallow. I saw her as a bulge in the center of his throat before she disappeared entirely, falling all the way down into his stomach. The worst part was that she was still alive inside of him. She had to be. I didn`t hear her bones crunch, so he clearly swallowed her whole. That meant she would suffer unimaginable pain as she was slowly digested.
 
  It felt like I had taken a bullet to the heart. I remained still, kneeling, consumed by horror. Seishirou leaned back, sighing contentedly. "I must admit, she was quite tasty. I suppose all of the rumors were right." He took a deep breath and patted his belly. I realized he wasn`t doing it to settle his stomach, but to stop Hinata- or what was left of Hinata- from writhing within him.
"It`s always a hassle to devour live prey," he said. "I prefer them dead first, at least they don`t give me an odd ticklish feeling in my belly. Well then, Ms. Tomoka, would you like to join your friend, or listen to my orders for once?"
 
  I had no choice. I wasn`t about to be brutally mutilated and eaten alive like Hinata. "F-fine," I stuttered, finally regaining my voice. "I will become your representative. I swear to obey your orders, Mr. Seishirou." The Giant sprawled himself out on the futon, likely feeling satisfied after his meal. He picked me up in his fingers and dropped me onto his chest. He felt very soft and warm, much like Suzuki, but I had no plans on sleeping on top of him. He`d have no qualms about swallowing me in my sleep.
 
  "I knew you`d see things my way," he commented. "Your work begins tomorrow. Your mind will have to be rewired, but that won`t be a large deal. It`s mandatory." I blinked. "Rewired? Wha...what does that mean?"
 
  "It`s none of your concern," Seishirou replied. "After that, you shall be outfitted in your new uniform, and you will travel to Cordon 27 with Suzuki and I for a public devouring. This will be your first test to sway the minds of the humans. You needn`t worry, everything will come naturally." He yawned loudly, showing the inside of his fang-lined mouth. "I believe it`s time to settle in for the night. I`ve prepared something special just for you, Ms. Tomoka."
 
  I didn`t ask what it was. I just allowed him to carry me deeper into his lair, until he took me to a huge birdcage. "Wait, you`re going to put me in a cage?" I asked. "Yes," Seishirou answered. "I can`t have you escaping, now can I? I suggest you hold your tongue. Your life is in my hands now. I still have room for one more midnight snack before bed." A pulse of ice crawled down my spine. I didn`t argue anymore.
 
  The Giant carelessly tossed me inside the cold iron cage, then closed the door shut with a padlock placed up high, too high for me to reach or climb. Even the bars were too narrow for me to squeeze through. "I bid you good night, Ms. Tomoka," Seishirou said, before turning and walking away, leaving me alone in darkness. I curled up in the center of the cage, trying to keep warm on its metal floor. I would have given anything to sleep on Suzuki`s warm, soft body again. Why couldn`t I stop thinking about him?
 
  Not only that, but Hinata was still occupying my mind. Her mangled legs, her gushing blood, her distorted screams- the horrible images replayed in my head over and over again, along with Seishirou`s words. '"Your friend will die a slow, painful death...all because of you."' He was right. If I had accepted, Hinata wouldn`t have died. He did it purposely, to carve that guilt into my soul forever. It was a cruel game, psychological warfare at its finest. And he had won. All I could do was ball up in a fetal position, my legs pressed against my chest, and try to block out the frightening images, before I passed out at last.
 
 
Chapter Four: Hangman in the Gallows
 
  I don`t know how I managed to fall asleep that night, but I made it happen somehow. I couldn`t say it was a nice sleep, though, not with horrific nightmares of being eaten alive by Seishirou to torment me through the night. It felt so real, like it was actually happening. All the while, I couldn`t get Hinata out of my head. She was my best friend, ever since I was three years old. She stayed by my side during my first few annual exams, when I was so frightened of being eaten by a Giant. She did so many things for me, and I never got a chance to thank her for any of it. We were friends for so many years, and that monster stole her life away just as easily as he would eat a butter cookie.
 
  I remember when kids misbehaved, their parents would sometimes say things like, 'The Giants will come and take you away at night to eat you up if you don`t stop that,' or things like that.
And hey, it worked. It scared the crap out of us young ones, because we knew it could happen. We`d already seen a public devouring by the time we were five years old, so we knew what our tall overlords were capable of. Instead of worrying about monsters under the bed, I was more afraid of a Giant reaching into my window and dragging me out to kill me. My mother`s comments didn`t help either, when she constantly taunted that I`d be so tender and sweet when they ate me. But in reality, no one was safe. An adult was just as vulnerable as a child. I guessed that was just an adult`s way of distracting themselves from their own inevitable demise.
 
  I woke up, slowly stirring out of sleep. I yawned, rolled on my side, then inadvertently dropped my hand in a puddle of warm liquid. My eyes flashed open. Shooting cramps sliced into my gut like a knife. I sat up, looked at my hand, then gaped in horror. My palm was covered in blood. I glanced down, realizing I was sitting in a puddle of my own blood. And I knew exactly where it was coming from. I wasn`t stupid. It was my period. When your mom`s a prostitute, you get to understand the nature of the human reproductive system pretty quickly. Unfortunately, this was the worst place in the world to have a period, next to a pool of hungry sharks.
 
  I heard movement from upstairs. Seishirou was awake, and he would find breakfast already made for him. My brain cranked into panic mode. I tore a piece of fabric from my petticoat and hurriedly stuffed it into my panties, but it was no use. Streams of blood dribbled down between my legs. I found myself hyperventilating, about to pass out. No matter how much I tried to shove my bloody clothing into me, it did nothing to stop the river-like flow of fluid. Seishirou`s loud footsteps grew ever closer. He had probably already smelled my blood. Oh, my God, I thought. I am so dead. No Giant could resist the taste of blood. He`d gulp me down headfirst. I whimpered pathetically, tears welling up in my eyes. Memories of Hinata crept into my subconscious. No, please! I thought. I don`t want to end up like her!
 
  When Seishirou entered my line of sight, all I could do was collapse, crumpled up in a ball of pure fear. I couldn`t hide it from him. There was a puddle of his favorite food right beneath me. He deeply inhaled, and his stomach growled in response. He swiveled his head in my direction. "Well, what do we have here?" he snickered. "It seems as though you`re not barren after all! What a surprise!" I just sat there, shaking uncontrollably. I could not believe I was lying in a pool of my own blood, right in front of this carnivorous monster.
 
  "Please forgive me for being so insensitive to the needs of a woman," Seishirou went on. "Admittedly, that smell is making me very hungry, but I will try my best to maintain control, for your sake. Be thankful I took the opportunity to eat the night before, or else you`d be the one in my mouth right now." He opened the cage and reached his hand out to me. "I suppose I`ll have to clean you up before I take you in today." He cradled me in his hands and forcefully stripped me of my clothes, then began washing me in his sink. For a bloodthirsty monster, he was surprisingly gentle. But I couldn`t allow him to charm me with his fake kindness, or I`d find myself in Hinata`s place.
 
  His long, snake-like fingers slithered over every part of my wet, naked body. My face was bright red the whole way through. "What are you blushing about?" Seishirou asked. "It`s not like I`m enjoying taking care of a human I would eat any other time. You may be attracted by me, but I do not find myself attracted by you."
 
  I couldn`t help but wonder if he was lying. He dried me off, then stuck something into me to stop the blood flowing out of me. He handed me a tiny uniform, all black, with a plaid-patterned skirt, long black stockings, ankle-high ebony boots, and a gray ribbon around the collar. I slipped into the outfit before I died of shame. "This wasn`t as difficult as I thought," Seishirou mused. "You look adorable, Ms. Tomoka." He snatched me up, carelessly dropped me into the breast pocket of his red dress shirt, then went strolling off to a place I didn`t care to see.
 
  When I was dumped onto my destination, I sprawled out on a huge steel table, right in front of Seishirou and Suzuki. Once I met eyes with the blue-haired, green-eyed Giant, I couldn`t have been happier to see him. I didn`t know why. I ran over to him, wrapping my arms around a tiny part of his midsection. "Oh, Suzuki...I thought I`d never see you again," I sighed. Suzuki looked confused, but he smiled and patted my head. "So, how has my little strawberry been doing?" he asked. "I hope Seishirou wasn`t too rough, he just tends to eat any human he sees."
 
  "Bite your tongue," Seishirou growled. "You still aren`t off the hook for this. I`ve had enough with playing mother to a human. Now, if you don`t mind, I have other business I must attend to. Take care of her, Suzuki. Oh, and by the way...she is indeed fertile. She`s begun her first menstrual cycle this morning. I know it may be difficult for a simple-minded fool like yourself, but we need this girl, so take care not to eat her. Am I clear?"
 
  Suzuki quickly nodded. "Y-yes, very clear." Seishirou then turned away and walked off, leaving Suzuki and I alone. "I don`t know how much longer I can take this," I sighed. "I`ve sold my soul to a bunch of man-eating beasts. And why? So I won`t be killed? I`ve turned against my own species. Maybe I deserve to die after all." Suzuki`s face fell. "Listen, I`m sorry about before. I just didn`t expect to become so endeared by a mere human. I mean, I`ve devoured countless humans through the years without a second thought, but you...I just couldn`t do it. At least I`m glad Seishirou decided not to kill you. I don`t think you`re a revolutionary, even if you were an adult. You`re just a little girl. Seishirou is paranoid, and the people of Hakutai City expect much from him. That`s why he acts the way he does, without remorse. He`ll make up any excuse to get what he wants."
 
  My shoulders slumped. "Yeah, I guess so. But...what are we doing here?"
 
  "It`s difficult to explain," Suzuki replied. "You see, as of now, you still possess independent thought. Your thoughts of defiance against the State remain. This process will clear all of that, and then you will be fully ours." A pang of worry curled in my gut. "Fully yours? What...what does that mean?" Suzuki coiled his fingers around my tiny body, lifting me into the air. He forced me into a bizarre machine that fed wires into my back. I thrashed about. "What are you doing?!" I shrieked. "Calm yourself," Suzuki answered. "It won`t take long."
 
  As soon as he said that, a sudden, blunt force shoved itself into my head, and I blacked out instantly. I woke up without the slightest clue as to where I was. I stood in the middle of Cordon 27, but something wasn`t quite right. All of the surrounding houses and buildings appeared tiny compared to my own size. Granted, the dramatic change in scale during my time with the Giants really screwed up my perspective, but this was a complete reversal. Instead of everything else being bigger than me, it was vice versa.
 
  I looked down, gaping in shock at my massive body. I didn`t know what happened to me, but from the looks of things, I had transformed into a Giantess. And I was hungry. Very hungry. The intense craving seared its way into every part of me, like a burning flame. I hunched over, trying to silence the rumbling of my oversized belly. I hugged my sides, attempting to keep a grip on my sanity. This must have been how Suzuki and Seishirou felt when they craved human blood. I had no idea it was so painful. I felt like I was dying.
 
  I couldn`t control myself any longer. In the city`s ensuing panic, I managed to pin down one human out of the crowd- a little girl that looked nearly identical to me. She was screaming and crying, flailing about, begging to be let go. But I couldn`t let her go. My brain commanded me to eat her. I felt like a puppet on strings. I tossed her into my mouth, then began to savor her frail form, before I forced her down my throat in a single gulp. I felt her slide down my throat and fall into my stomach. At last, my hunger had been satiated. I felt an overwhelming feeling of relief, almost like ecstacy. I could feel the little girl moving about inside me, but it was something I could easily ignore, until she gave up or thrashed herself to death.
 
  Then, the weight of the atrocity I had committed came down on me. I murdered this child, devoured her without mercy. I was no better than Seishirou, or any of the Giants. After all these years of fearing monsters, I had finally become a monster myself. Then...it all ended.
 
  I snapped out of my trance, breathing like I had just been rescued from drowning. I laid on my back, with Suzuki and Seishirou looming over me, grinning strangely. I couldn`t remember the horrific dream I just had. It was like a black hole in my memory that I couldn`t find, no matter how much I scratched around for it. "What...what happened?" I mumbled. "No need to worry, you just fell asleep for a while," Suzuki said. "Yes, that`s right," Seishirou agreed. "Shall we head to Cordon 27 now? The devouring will commence soon." I nodded slowly. "Oh, yes...of course. Let`s go, then." I was not in my right mind. I wasn`t in my wrong mind, either. I didn`t know what mind I was in.
 
  The journey to the Cordon took almost two hours. The whole time, I sat atop Suzuki`s shoulder, while Seishirou watched me intently. Both of them kept looking at me suspiciously. But I didn`t mind. I wasn`t afraid of them at all. One of them could toss me into his mouth, and I probably wouldn`t have cared. What happened to me? "The human to be executed is in betrayal of the State," Suzuki explained. "You, Minako, will act as judge and jury, to decide this person`s guilt or innocence. And if you prove them guilty, I will be executioner."
 
  "I`m feeling a little nervous," I said. "I`ve never spoken to a crowd before."
 
  "Have no fear," Seishirou chimed in. "As I said, it will all come naturally."
 
  When we arrived at our destination, we stood at the threshold between Cordon 27 and Hakutai City. A crowd of humans were gathered, and from the view of Suzuki`s shoulder, they looked utterly small and insignificant. No wonder they were seen as livestock. Seishirou cleared his throat and made his announcement in a voice loud enough to shake my bones. "Dear Citizens of Cordon 27, I am pleased that you have all arrived here for this public devouring. Today, things will be a bit different. The guilt of the accused will be determined by this girl, the first human representative of the State, Ms. Minako Tomoka!"
 
  He gestured to me in a theatrical fashion, and the crowd below burst into fanfare. It felt pleasing to be honored like a queen. "Now, let us present the accused!" Seishirou boomed. There was a large, intricate mechanism below us that began to raise up, showing the faint outline of a person tied to it, with their limbs spread out in an X-shape. Once I laid eyes upon the accused, my heart skipped a beat.
 
  It was my mother. She had her arms and legs stretched out, exposing her bare, naked body for all to see. Oh, I forgot to mention that. When you were publicly devoured, your clothes were stripped away, to inflict more shame onto you before death. "This is Kyouko Tomoka, mother of Minako Tomoka," Suzuki explained. "She has been presented to us today for the unforgivable crime of prostitution! As you know, prostitution has been outlawed in the State, and all prostitutes must suffer the greatest punishment by the fullest extent of the law! On top of that, Ms. Tomoka has given birth to an illegitimate daughter, the girl before you right now. Her crimes are inexcuseable, but perhaps her guilt should be judged fairly, by her own daughter. What do you have to say, Minako?"
 
  Seeing my mother spread out naked over 30 feet in the air was surreal. Her long, jagged golden hair now resembled straw. Her pink eyes were wide with fear. "Minako, please have mercy!" she pleaded. "I don`t want to die! You wouldn`t want your poor mother to be eaten, would you? My dear daughter, please forgive me! I`m sorry for everything I`ve done!" Her entire demeanor had changed. She didn`t even seem like the same person. But the more I watched her, the angrier I became. "After all the torment and abuse you put me through as a child, you dare to beg me for mercy now? You`re pathetic. You wouldn`t know how many times I`ve wanted to see you die. I think you`ll also be pleased to know that I am in fact not infertile. My first period started today."
 
  Kyouko looked stunned. "Wh-what?! How can that be!?" I sneered at her. "You wanted me dead ever since I was born. You never wanted to have me in the first place. You let me be thrown into the den of hungry Giants, forced to fight for my life and watch the only two people I ever cared about die in front of me, and now that you`re in my position, you`re going to ask me to save you?! It won`t happen. Suzuki, this woman is guilty. Kill her. Swallow her whole. I want her to melt inside your belly, and then I want her to be devoured by Giants in Hell for all eternity!" I burst into a wild cackle.
 
  Suzuki grinned, licking his lips. "As you wish." He pried the pathetic woman from her binds and lifted her up to his maw. "No!" Kyouko shrieked. "Minako, forgive me! Please, don`t let him kill me!" I snorted. "Sorry, no can do. Goodbye, dear mother!" Suzuki clamped his jaws around Kyouko`s midsection, crushing her ribs in his teeth. Bone crunched like snapping wood. Blood flowed from his mouth, and I heard Kyouko scream in agony before she was shoved down his throat. The crowd below exploded into wild, chaotic noise. I had never felt so satisfied in my life. For the first time ever, I had accomplished something worthwhile, by ridding the Earth of the slime that was Kyouko Tomoka. And just like that, it was all over.
 
  After the execution was finished, Suzuki took me back to his home. It felt good to finally be alone with him again. Being near Seishirou was not a pleasant experience. He acted kind and polite on the surface, but underneath, I knew he wanted to tear me to shreds.
 
  I laid on top of Suzuki, sprawled out upon his chest. He was just as soft and warm as ever. I should have felt satisfied. I had become an ally of the Giants, so I didn`t have to fear being eaten anymore, and I finally watched my mother die the miserable death I always wanted to see. But something dark sat within me, tugging at my soul. Something about what I had become felt so...wrong. I just couldn`t put my finger on it. I had to address my feelings somehow.
 
  After a long night of silence, I finally spoke. "Suzuki," I piped up, "why do Giants have to eat humans? I mean, I know you`ll die if you don`t, but why? You were human at one time, so why would some gene therapy turn you into a huge creature with an appetite for human blood?" Suzuki sighed deeply. "I expected to hear this question at some point. I suppose I really should tell you. But it`s going to be a long story, so bear with me. First, have you ever heard of a disease called porphyria?" I shook my head. "Can`t say I have."
 
  "I didn`t think you would," Suzuki replied. "Porphyria is a very rare genetic disease in which a person`s body cannot produce sufficient amounts of hemoglobin and oxygen in their blood, so they need to have transfusions to supplement it. An individual with porphyria does not actually crave blood, however. In its usual state, a person with the disease cannot extract the needed enzymes from simply consuming blood. It would just be digested like any other food."
 
  "However, we Giants have been genetically altered so greatly that our human-like bodies are the only thing that shows you and I were once part of the same kind. On a genetic level, we are an almost entirely different species. For decades, scientists tried to crack the human genetic code to strengthen the species` frail bodies. But when science went too far, beings such as I were the result." I shook my head. "I don`t understand. If you`re not human anymore, than what are you?"
 
  Suzuki sat up and placed me in his lap, scratching his chin. "Well...I suppose you could say we Giants are a human sub-species, much like a Neanderthal. You see, in order for a human to become a Giant, their genetic code is changed so much that it becomes almost unrecognizable. Specific genes for certain traits are edited, added, or knocked out altogether. In a Giant, the gene that controls aging has been cleaved significantly. That`s why I`ll live to 200 years, perhaps even longer. Genes that control growth are usually shut off by the time an individual reaches adult age, but in someone like myself, they are reactivated, which results in my rather prodigious size. The genetic splicing that I underwent allowed me to overcome nearly all issues controlled by my chromosomes, but the scientists in charge of the project didn`t realize that their gene-altering caused severe mutations. By then, though, it was too late. Over 200 people were used as guinea pigs for this experiment, and all of them possessed the mutations."
 
  I nodded slowly. "I get that, but what does this have to do with porphyria? You said someone with the disease wouldn`t crave blood anyway, right?" Suzuki tilted his head. "You`re right, they wouldn`t. Under normal circumstances, that is. Which these were not. The scientists weren`t prepared for all of these dramatic mutations. They didn`t expect us to grow until we were 30 feet tall. Porphyria is a genetic disease, and all of the gene changes made to optimize our bodies caused it to mutate into a very rare, very different condition. It adapted so that we could absorb the needed enzymes from human blood through merely consuming it."
 
  "We developed a taste for it, a heavy craving for it, and our inhuman size made satisfying those cravings very difficult. We could still eat regular food like usual, although we now required much more of it, but if we did not consume blood within a certain period of time, we would go into shock and suffer extreme pain, and eventually death. For a Giant, being hungry is a very painful experience, even more than that of a human. So we had to feed somehow. We devoured the scientists who had turned us into this, escaped the facility they kept us locked in, and went about subduing the world for our survival. That`s how the State was born. After we established our own civilizations, we began to reproduce, and as of now, we Giants make up 20% of the country`s population."
 
  Nothing but a hollow sigh escaped my lungs. It all made sense now. That was how this happened. I ended up in this position, and thousands of people were sacrificed as food to the Giants, all because science went too far. I stood up and crawled out of Suzuki`s lap, staring him straight in the eye. "Are you hungry right now?" He seemed taken aback by my question. He was silent for a good minute, until he finally answered, "Yes, in fact, I am. But I won`t eat you, I swear! I`ll find something else!"
 
  I reached into my pocket, pulling out a slim blade that I had improvised from one of the Giants` surgical knives. It wasn`t big enough to kill them, but it was better than being totally defenseless. Suzuki gasped as I pulled up my black blouse and thinly ran the blade down my side, causing a steady stream of blood to leak out. "Wha-what are you doing?!" he gaped. "You said you were hungry, right?" I asked. "Then drink my blood."
 
  Suzuki`s lips quivered. His mouth was probably watering. "A-are you sure? You may be a human, but you still have the body of a child. If I`m not careful, I could drain you in just one slurp." I didn`t know what I was thinking. My rational mind was in a totally different place. Something happened to me after I blacked out that day. "I trust you," I said. "We had a wager, right? You promise not to eat me, and I`ll do whatever you want. I`m not about to watch you take the life of another innocent person again. I`m yours now, so if you`re going to eat anyone, it`ll be me."
 
  Suzuki couldn`t control himself any longer. He snatched me up in his hands and raised me to his mouth, biting down on my side. He didn`t bite hard enough to break skin, but I felt the tips of his teeth pressing into me, clamping me in place so I couldn`t move. There was a strong suction between my body and his lips as he sucked on me like a piece of candy, drawing out large amounts of blood. I bit my tongue at the intense pain surging through me. I clenched my fists, trying not to cry. Suzuki rubbed his tongue over the cut on my side, numbing the pain. I took in deep breaths so I wouldn`t go insane and start screaming, since I was essentially letting him eat me alive. As he consumed me, I saw tears in his eyes. "You taste so good...so sweet...like a flower..."
 
  After a long time of struggling to speak, I forced the words out of me. "Why...why are you...crying?" I muttered. A huge gasp escaped me as Suzuki removed the grip of his teeth from my body, licked my wound clean, then gently settled me down in his lap. "I...I hate this," he spat. "At first...I spared you because I thought you`d be fun to play with...but I never expected to grow so attached to you. You`re a human, you`re just prey...so why do I feel so awful? I`ve killed more people than a mass murderer, and yet, I felt nothing for all of it until now. You...remind me of what it was like when I was human. Every time I look at you...I can`t help but see myself."
 
  "Before I became this...monster, I was a lot like you. I was born into a family of wealth and high social status, but my parents were nothing but scum. My father was a severe alcoholic, prone to domestic violence, and my mother was abusive and extremely haughty. They treated me like trash, like I was just some tool to be used. I never felt like I was alive living with them. That`s why my whole life, I wanted nothing but to be rid of them. I wanted to have power over them, to make them cower and grovel at my feet."
 
  "That was the reason I became a lab rat for the gene therapy. I thought if I became perfect, I could get back at them, punish them for everything they did to me. But I never got that chance. They died shortly after I turned into a Giant. By then, I could have cared less, but I just couldn`t make myself eat humans. I had to force myself to do it, or wait until my hunger got the best of me. Over the years, I grew numb to it, and soon enough, I was just like my father- a sadistic, degenerate beast. I`ve seen a new perspective after meeting you, Minako. Humans are not food, or anyone`s property. They know pain, suffering, and sadness just as real as my own. I suppose I have you to thank for showing me that."
 
  The pain of my self-inflicted wound began to subside, but I was so drained. I slumped over, resting on Suzuki`s thigh. "I...I`m scared," I sniffed, trying to control my tears. Suzuki raised an eyebrow. "Scared? Of what? Is it me?"
 
  "I`m scared of myself," I said. "What I`m becoming. I may look fine on the outside...but my mind is shattered. I don`t know what`s right and wrong anymore. I`ve turned on my own kind just to stay alive. What else am I going to sacrifice to survive? I`m like a chocolate Easter bunny. My outer sheen is perfect, but if I`m pressed too hard...I`ll crack. I`m completely broken."
 
  "It isn`t your fault," Suzuki replied. "You didn`t have a choice. Since the State was established, both humans and Giants have been through horrific strife. Everyone has sacrificed at least some morals to survive. I suppose it is the nature of life, an eternal struggle between predator and prey. You may be broken, but that doesn`t matter to me. You`re mine...my broken sweetheart."
I sat up, reaching out to him. "Suzuki..."
 
  He scooped me up, brought me to his lips, and gave me a real kiss, a true, proper one, a kiss that truly felt like love. A shiver pulsed down my back. A warm, fuzzy feeling swelled in my abdomen. "Suzuki...I love you." That was the last thing I said, before a wave of extreme exhaustion swept over me. I yawned deeply, and I passed out, right in the palm of his hand.
 
 
Chapter Five: Revolutionary Girl Minako
 
  The next day, Suzuki and Seishirou dragged me back to the Cordon, as their obedient little puppet. They didn`t inform me beforehand of what this announcement to the humans of Cordon 27 was all about, but I didn`t bother to ask. I was their pet. Pets weren`t supposed to ask questions. I sat perched on Suzuki`s shoulder, gazing over the petrified crowds in the exact same spot where my mother had been devoured the day before, on the threshold between our realms.
 
  Seishirou then announced in his booming, bone-rattling voice, "Greetings, Citizens of Cordon 27! I have a very important announcement to make!" The people bowed down, slightly quivering. They were all well aware that just one step out of line could turn them into lunch. Seishirou looked delighted to have so many people groveling beneath him in such a state. "Now, as of today, I have proposed that the annual medical examinations be done away with," he went on. "We have determined that they are not entirely accurate of proving whether or not an individual is unfit to live. This means that several citizens beneficial to society through their abilities, genetics, or other traits have been wrongfully sacrificed to us, while many others refusing to pull their weight continue to leech off the productive in our great city. As such, I have devised a new method of population control in place of the examinations. I propose a random lottery of several chosen individuals, to fairly determine who shall be sacrificed, and who shall live on."
 
  The denizens of the Cordon blindly nodded, gleefully swallowing every word he said, even though it meant their own demise. It wasn`t like they could disagree in front of a Giant, or else Seishirou would be having quite a large breakfast this morning. In the meantime, I couldn`t help but notice a contradiction in his speech. Wouldn`t a random lottery, well, randomly pick citizens from the population? Granted, it would give everyone a fair chance at death or survival, regardless of their health issues or social status, but wasn`t that the reason behind the exams? To weed out the unnecessary in society, to keep the bloodlines pure? If a lottery were to replace the exams, that would mean some people who were unneeded would live, while some who were needed would be eaten. I couldn`t understand what Seishirou was trying to accomplish here. It made no sense. Suzuki looked just as confused, but neither of us spoke.
 
  When the Giant overlord continued his speech, I quickly realized what he was chasing after. "Rather than the medical examinations being held several seperate times throughout the months, the lottery will begin on the 15th of every month, and out of the 100 citizens chosen to attend, 50 of them will be sacrificed, no matter their age, health, or social standing," Seishirou continued.
"I believe it is a fair trade for both humans and Giants, and it shall be of great benefit to both of our species."
 
  Then, it clicked. Everything fell into place. Currently, Cordon 27 had a population of approximately one million humans. Taking one half out of 100 people each month would deplete the city`s population far faster than they could reproduce. But that didn`t matter to Seishirou. We humans were food to him. Back when Hinata was still alive, he mentioned that the Giant population of Hakutai City had significantly increased. A larger population required a larger food supply, and that was why he conceived this idea, to harvest more humans than the exams permitted, but not enough to make the Giants go into a free-for-all and consider Cordon 27 as their all-you-can-eat buffet.
 
  My little heart pittered in my chest. If Seishirou set this into action, the city`s human population would be devoured in less than a year. The annual examinations were cruel enough, especially after I learned they were being forged, but this- this was nothing less than diabolical. And meanwhile, the citizens below just obediently took it all in. On the inside, though, I knew they had to be horrified. The Giants were going to eat them all, and they could do nothing about it. My mind snapped out of its fuzzy, submissive, half-dead trance. I couldn`t let this happen.
I had to do something. But what?
 
  Seishirou tilted his head to face me and announced, "Ms. Minako Tomoka, as the State`s first and only human representative, may I receive your opinion on this matter? Do you accept my proposal for Cordon 27`s annual medical exams to be replaced with a monthly random lottery?" I stood up atop Suzuki`s shoulder, my muscles taut as strings. My thighs tightened. I gulped down the nervous lump in my dry throat and declared flatly, "No, I do not."
 
  Seishirou looked like he had been slapped in the face. He was expecting me to blindly agree, just like all the helpless sheep below me. But I was not going to be anyone`s puppet. Not anymore. His once-blank expression morphed into a scowl. "Pardon me, may you repeat that?" he growled. "Did I not speak clearly enough?" I asked. "I said no. I do not accept your proposal." Suzuki`s evergreen eyes widened. "Minako, what are you doing?! You`re going to be killed!"
 
  I ignored him. "Then so be it." I turned to the terrified masses below and said, "This proposal is nothing more than a ploy to force more of you into becoming food for these monsters! You are not sacrifices, you are livestock! My name is Minako Tomoka, and I was sacrificed to the Giants. I watched dozens of people just like you and me being eaten alive, and I was going to be one of them. But I was spared, only to be used as a puppet for these beasts. The Giants did more than torture and torment me. They crushed my mind and shattered my soul. But no more! We are not cattle, we feel pain and suffering just as much as the Giants do! They have no right to decide who should live and die! So stop acting like a bunch of sheep, stand up to your tall overlords, and declare that we will no longer be squashed beneath their boots! Fight back against your oppressors, and take back your lives! I declare a revolution!"
 
  The citizens were stunned by my bold announcement. I knew I`d just signed my death note, but I didn`t care. I couldn`t betray my people anymore, just so I could barely survive. I didn`t want to survive. I wanted to live. And if I had to die to accomplish that, then I`d accept it wholeheartedly. In that moment, for the first time in my life, I felt like I was truly alive, that I lived for myself and no one else. The masses gazed up at me, a dim light shining in their once-dark eyes. For once, they had someone to tell them the truth, to stand up for them.
 
  Suzuki sighed deeply. "I suppose you are a revolutionary girl after all." A sudden pressure clamped around my body, and I was ripped from Suzuki`s shoulder. The crowd gasped as Seishirou crushed me in his fist, squeezing the life out of me. "Just who do you think you are, pathetic girl!? You dare to humiliate me in front of a horde of worthless humans?!" His voice was so loud, my insides quivered. "Let her go, Seishirou!" Suzuki snapped. He lunged for the red-eyed Giant, but Seishirou swept him off his feet, knocking him to the ground with a single kick to the gut.
He crashed to his knees and hunched over, coughing heavily.
 
  "I am finished bargaining with mere humans," Seishirou hissed. Venom seeped through his voice. "Their existence is lower than worms to be stomped! They shall do as I say or die!" I squirmed around in his clenched fist, trying to put distance between his grip and my frail body. "I...don`t...care," I spat. "Say or do whatever you want...but you won`t stop us! We won`t lay back...and be helpless prey forever! Don`t...underestimate...humanity!"
 
  Seishirou`s scowl suddenly turned into a wicked grin. "Oh, is that so? Would you rather I ate you, then?" he asked sweetly. "Sugar and spice and everything nice...if that`s what little girls are made of...it sounds rather tasty to me!" Before I could move or even scream, he raised me up and dropped me into his mouth. "Seishirou, no!" Suzuki shouted. That was the last thing I heard before I was sealed in complete darkness. Saliva pooled up beneath me, submerging me up to chest level. There was no other way about it. I was drowning in saliva, and I would soon be eaten.
 
  As I slid backward, Seishirou`s throat muscles latched hold of my legs. Try as I might, I couldn`t escape the sheer force of his body. I was gulped down, and I started panicking as I ended up fully within his throat. An insidious rumbling echoed below me. I had to hurry up and figure something out, or I`d fall into his stomach very, very soon. And once that happened, I was done for. Even with hot saliva soaking me to the skin and rippling walls of muscle tugging at my tiny form, I tore my improvised blade from my skirt and stuck it into the back of Seishirou`s throat, jamming it in as deep as I could manage. Blood spilled out, staining my drenched black uniform.
 
  My stomach lurched as everything around me began to contract. I was propelled out of Seishirou`s throat and spat up onto the street. I slammed on the hard concrete, rolling over on my side.
My lungs heaved, raspily whistling with each inhale. I shivered so much, I thought I`d die of shaking. The people surrounding me backed up, gasping loudly. They weren`t going to help me, but that was fine. I didn`t want them to. The last thing I wanted was for anyone else to die because of me.
 
  Seishirou`s lips curled, blood dripping from the corner of his mouth. His blood-red eyes seemed to burn like fiery hot coals. The anger he emanated was palpable, hanging in the air like a suffocating haze. "You," he bellowed, "I should have squashed you when I had the chance. I`ll just do it now, then!" He brought his foot down on me, and my entire body clenched up. I expected to be crushed in a single stomp.
 
  But I wasn`t. Seishirou stepped on me, grinding his shoe into my lower back just hard enough to pin me down. He pressed down even harder, and I yelped out in pain. The intense pressure squeezed my bones and organs like a vice. "Behold!" Seishirou bellowed. "This is what happens to revolutionaries, and all who defy me! Dare to revolt against me, and you will be crushed underfoot! Sear this sight into your minds, citizens of Cordon 27!" Suzuki looked horrified. "Stop it!" he screamed. "You`re going to kill her!"
 
  "That is exactly what I want!" Seishirou snapped. "I want this stupid human girl to die a slow, miserable death, crushed until she is nothing but a bloody stain on the bottom of my boots!"
I couldn`t handle much more. My limbs grew numb and tingly as my blood flow was cut off. My vision blurred. I began to fade in and out of consciousness. I guess this is the best way it could have ended for me, I thought. At least I`m not in his stomach.
 
  While I clung to my last threads of life, Suzuki finally decided to fight back. "Get off of her!" he roared. He flung himself at Seishirou, tackling him to the ground. The two Giants crashed down, destroying a nearby building in the process. When the dust settled, they were wrestling around, trying to strangle each other. The crushing pressure was lifted from my body, and I took in deep, heavy breaths, weakly crawling to my feet. I watched Suzuki and Seishirou struggle against each other with the intent to kill. Seishirou tore out the same silver knife he used to kill Ritsuko and drove it foward, aiming for Suzuki`s heart. Fortunately, he jerked to the side, and the knife speared him through the shoulder. He clenched his fangs in pain, then slugged his opponent in the jaw.
 
  Seishirou retaliated, wrenching his knife back and kicking Suzuki in the chest with both feet. He was sent sprawling backward. Seishirou staggered upright. "Foolish imbecile. How dare you raise your hand against me? I`ll ensure you`re properly punished." Suzuki coughed, spitting up blood. "Shut...up." Seishirou lunged down for me. I whirled around, but the tip of his knife caught my skirt. It sliced right into my clothing. I nearly vomited at the nauseating lift-up to the Giant`s eye level. I dangled from his blade.
 
  He plucked me from his knife, then unsettlingly waved it in my face. "I should slice open every part of your body and allow your blood to drain out," he mused. "Then, I should place you into my mouth and slurp out every last drop of blood in that tiny body of yours. I`ll pierce my teeth into your limbs, snapping them so you`ll be rendered unable to struggle, and then I`ll gulp you down, so you can suffer just like your little friend did, all while you`re still alive. All while you can still feel it. That sounds like a brilliant idea, wouldn`t you say?"
 
  I just laid there in the palm of his hand, shaking uncontrollably. Begging for my life was pointless. I wished he had just hurried up and crushed me. At least it wouldn`t have hurt as much. Seishirou drew his knife closer to me, placing its tip on my nose. The cold metal sent shivers down my spine. Hot tears streaked down my face. I tensed up, praying that it`d end quickly.
 
  Just then, Suzuki pounced onto the Giant, tearing the silver blade from his grasp. "What are you doing?!" Seishirou roared. "Die, you beast!" Suzuki bellowed. Time itself seemed to slow to a crawl. He plunged the knife directly into the blue-haired Giant, piercing his heart. Blood splattered across his spotless white uniform. Seishirou gasped hollowly, grabbing at his chest. He went stiff, and he toppled over, releasing me from his iron grip. I latched onto his bloodstained clothing as he fell, rapidly sliding down the length of his huge body. I clutched onto the closest thing in reach- the gold chain hanging from his waist. I shoved my arms between the links and held on with all my might.
 
  The whole world around me seemed to be spinning as Seishirou`s limp corpse crashed to the ground. The impact made the earth tremble. The masses of Cordon 27 scattered off into different directions, fraught with terror. I laid on top of Seishirou`s body, taking heavy breaths. Even though I was safely on the ground, I didn`t loosen my grip from the chain I clutched. Suzuki squatted down, taking me into his hands. He held me close to his chest. I could hear his steady heartbeat. "It`s okay now," he assured me. "Don`t worry. No one`s going to hurt you anymore. It`s alright."
 
  His words weren`t very reassuring, because things were not all right. A group of Giants from the other side of the wall emerged, surrounding Suzuki with gigantic spears in hand, ready to stab him at a moment`s notice. They took one glance at Seishirou`s body and said, "Suzuki, you are under arrest for the murder of the overlord of Cordon 27! Stand up and don`t move!" I started laughing at the series of unfortunate events my life had become. No matter what I did to try and change things, I was destined to never have a happy ending.
 
  I dwelled in darkness, lying in Suzuki`s lap. He had been apprehended by the State authorities and locked away in solitary confinement in Hakutai City`s prison. But in truth, 'prison' wasn`t exactly an appropriate name. It was more like a cold, dark, cramped dungeon. And it wasn`t like Suzuki and I would be staying here forever. Here in the State, traitors didn`t go to prison.
Humans were banished from the Cordon and eaten by Giants, while the Giants were hanged for whatever crimes they committed. It didn`t happen very often, but it still occurred. Murder of the overlord was a crime punishable by the fullest extent of the law.
 
  The worst part was, he did it to save me. Even now, as he sat curled up in the corner of the dungeon with me in his lap, he still smiled weakly. How could someone about to die have the capacity to smile like that? I crawled to my knees, inhaling stale air that reeked of old, wet clothes. The only light in the tiny chamber was a few small sunbeams shining through a little window in the back wall, lined with electrified bars. They dimly illuminated the room, giving the area a lurid reddish glow. It felt like I was trapped in a freezer. The icy-cold air made my skin bristle.
 
  In response, I burrowed into Suzuki`s coat, trying to keep warm. "Are you afraid, Minako?" Suzuki asked. The dungeon had been silent for hours on end, so his sudden huge voice made me flinch. I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to block off the flood of tears about to pour out of me. "Of course I`m afraid," I sniffled. "I`m going to die. I don`t get it. You`re going to die too...so how can you just sit there and smile like that?"
 
  Suzuki sighed. "Well...I suppose it`s because justice will finally be served. I`ve killed more people than a murderous dictator just to feed myself, and I recieved no punishment for any of it. When your actions have no consequences, how is it possible to be good or evil? I`ve lived a long, dull life doing nothing but following everyone else`s orders. I wanted to experience life in its fullest, to feel truly alive. I thought becoming a Giant would give that to me, but it didn`t really give me anything at all. What good is being powerful if your power is always quashed by others? Hakutai City is just as monotonous as Cordon 27. The people there don`t feel anything. They have no hopes, dreams, or aspirations toward anything. They just live out their days in sloth, doing nothing but hanging in limbo until they die. In many ways, that`s the problem with being an apex predator. Once you`ve dominated everything that could threaten you, life becomes a dull chore, rather than something truly worth living."
 
  I snorted. "That must be nice. As long as you`re loyal to the State, you have nothing to worry about. The entire world bends to your whims out of pure fear. As for a human like me, life is never guaranteed. It`s always a struggle to survive. It`s painful, having to wake up every day and know that it could be your last, well aware that your only fate is to become someone else`s prey. We may not have any dreams to strive for either, but at least your lives are promised. You can live out that existence fully, without fear. We humans were marked for death the day we were born. Including me."
 
  Suzuki chuckled lowly, gently petting my head. "That is where you and I will never see eye-to-eye. You could never truly understand my existence, and I certainly could never understand yours. Our perspectives are as different as night and day. I don`t envy human beings, but I don`t enjoy the life of a Giant, either. As long as the State heaves its iron fist over us, neither of our kind will ever know what feels like to live a happy, free life. I could try to explain it somewhat. When I first met you, your wager really didn`t mean anything. You held no power over me. I could have easily eaten you either way. But I chose not to, because I was bored. I thought keeping you around would be fun. I really didn`t feel anything for you until we began spending time together. I never knew what it felt like to be beside someone who cared about me and accepted me for who I was. This entire journey gave me a feeling of purpose. I have lived a long, boring, dull life, and yet, you have managed to spice it up a bit. I never thought I could feel love for anyone, let alone a human, but I`m pleased it was you, Minako."
 
  I looked away. "Well, I guess I really couldn`t understand it unless I was like you, right? But I do think I kind of get it. I felt the same way. No one ever really loved or cared about me, except for Hinata and Ms. Ritsuko. My life was dull and lonely too, until I met you. In that way, I guess we`re the same. But still...aren`t you afraid to die?"
 
  Suzuki shook his head. "Not particularly. Most people fear the pain of death, but I really don`t. After all, for a being as large and powerful as myself, it`s pleasing to have something that can actually hurt me. It`s much like those old tales about vampires who grow weary of their own existence after living for centuries. They`ve become so impervious to pain, suffering, and death, that when they encounter something that can inflict those things upon them, they grow excited and take it as a challenge. I suppose you could say I am much like that."
 
  "At least it`ll end quickly for you," I grumbled. "Not me. In this world, a little girl like me is nothing but a coveted snack. I`ll be tortured, ripped to shreds...and then finally devoured. Just like Ritsuko...and Hinata. I can hardly breathe...when I think about the pain they suffered. It makes me want to choke." Suzuki`s dark green eyes met mine, possessing a serious glare.
"You don`t have to die like they did," he said. "You won`t have to suffer...if you sacrifice yourself to me now." My heart thumped in my chest. "You...you want to eat me?"
 
  "Not if you don`t want me to," Suzuki replied. "I will not force you to do anything. I`ve had enough of tormenting the helpless." My body was as heavy as lead. I felt like I had been thrown in the ocean with a chain tied to my feet, dragging me down into the depths. What should I say to him? I didn`t want him to kill me. But at the same time, the thought of what the other Giants would do to me made me break down in terror.
 
  Either way, I was going to die. There would be no escape this time. I had to make a choice. Did I want to die by the hand of the person I considered my best friend- or a monstrous stranger?
I had no good options to choose. It was one or the other. Suzuki himself would be killed soon anyway, so it wasn`t like I had time to decide. And I knew it was all my fault. If I had just kept my mouth shut and remained a silent little puppet for the State, neither of us would be here now. But what would that accomplish? Just being an obedient little pet, whilst my own people were slaughtered like livestock? What kind of life was that? I didn`t want to live that way. So now, I had to make a decision.
 
  I stood up as tall and straight as my tiny little legs would allow me to. I gazed deep into Suzuki`s emerald eyes, as if I were attempting to stare into his soul. I took a deep breath and answered, "I choose to sacrifice myself to you. You know, I swore to myself I`d never become food, but...if it`s you, then I don`t mind being eaten." I swallowed hard, my throat parched. I waited impatiently for his reply.
 
  He remained silent for what seemed like forever. A small smile crossed his face. "If that`s what you want, then I won`t refuse. I`ll do my best to be as gentle as possible. I don`t want you to suffer or be in pain. That`s why you chose me, right?" I nodded slowly. "Yeah, I guess so." Suzuki closed his hands around me, scooping me up into his palms. He lifted me up to his face, eyeing me hungrily. "This way, you`ll become part of my body," he mused. "Then, we will be inseperable. It`s rather romantic, wouldn`t you say?" He licked my cheek, sending chills throughout my body.
His stomach growled loudly. "Oh, my," he chuckled. "It seems I really am quite hungry for you. I do apologize, Minako. You`ll have to excuse my poor manners."
 
  "Don`t apologize," I said. Even in the face of death, I gave him a tiny smile. "It just shows how excited you are to eat me, that`s all." Although I tried to act calm and composed, on the inside, I was terrified beyond words. I was really going to be eaten. I would slide down his throat and fall into his stomach, where I would soon be digested, and become nothing more than a part of his blood. But still, this was the ending I chose. I wasn`t about to back down now. "I`m ready whenever you are," I said, my voice cracking.
 
  Suzuki frowned a little. "Don`t be scared, Minako. I`m not going to hurt you. I promise I`ll be gentle." With me still in his hands, he craned his head foward, opening his mouth as he did so. He grabbed hold of me with his teeth, taking care not to press down too hard. In just one slurp, he sucked me into his mouth, and my body lurched as I sprawled out on his tongue. The large, powerful appendage slithered over every part of my body, drenching me in saliva. My clothes were so sopping wet, I couldn`t even move. Not that I really bothered to.
 
  Suzuki took a great deal of effort in savoring me slowly and carefully, making sure not even one inch of me was left untouched. My heart raced, utterly horrified at the sheer, brute force controlling my every movement. My breathing turned heavy and raspy. Sweat dripped down my face, but at this point, I wasn`t sure if it was sweat or saliva. I thought I would be lying in his mouth forever, but that didn`t happen.
 
  Finally, Suzuki decided he had toyed with me long enough, and he tilted his head back, making me slide down to the base of his throat. A rippling wall of slick muscle latched onto me, and then...he swallowed hard.
 
  I bit my tongue to contain a scream as I fell backwards, trapped within a tight, narrow chamber of pulsating flesh that squeezed and tugged at my small form. The descent was agonizingly slow, as the perstaltic movements of Suzuki`s throat shoved me down a few inches at a time. Suddenly, the whole chamber smoothed out, and I found myself sliding down rapidly. I was so frightened, I didn`t know what to do. There was nothing to do in the first place, other than allow myself to fall. I slid all the way through, until I felt no solid surface beneath me. This time, I couldn`t control myself.
 
  I let out a piercing scream as I fell out of Suzuki`s throat and crashed face-first into a shallow pool of noxious fluids. My surroundings rippled about for a good while, but once everything settled down, I sat up to look around at the place I had landed in. My skin clenched up, turning cold and clammy as I realized where I was- Suzuki`s stomach. It was far more tight and cramped than I had imagined. The air was rank with the scent of death, akin to rotting flesh. This was the place where so many others had lost their lives, including my mother. I would be losing mine here, too, but the only difference was that I chose to end this way.
 
  I leaned over, stroking at the slime-covered walls of Suzuki`s belly. "Well, I`m here," I said, although I was certain he couldn`t hear me. "I hope you enjoyed me. For your sake, I hope I was the most delicious thing you`ve ever eaten." I squirmed about, trying to extend my body to its full length as the walls of his stomach began to contract. Amazingly, Suzuki answered me, but it was more of a distant echo than anything. Still, it was comforting to hear his voice in my final moments. "My, my, calm down, will you? You`re wriggling about inside me. There`s no need to be frightened. You are about to become one with my body. We are best friends, after all. Isn`t it natural for best friends to want to be closer together? This is the closest we can possibly grow, since you`ll always be a part of me. Now, just lay back and relax. You won`t be in much pain. It will all be over soon."
 
  I smiled weakly. "Yeah, I guess you`re right. It looks like this is the end, then. From the start, my life was nothing but a long string of fear and pain, but it was mine, and I`m glad I got to live out my last days of it with you. Goodbye, Suzuki."
 
  A sinister rumble filled the tight chamber. The pool of gastric fluid around me began to rise. It wouldn`t be long now. I slumped over, sealing my eyes shut. A swirl of emotions churned inside me, from anger, to fear, to pain, but they were all washed out. Above all, I felt exhausted. After this, I wouldn`t have to suffer anymore. In that sense, I guessed what Suzuki said was right. Feelings like fear and suffering make us feel alive. They`re what make us feel real. In a world where the only thing we truly owned was the narrow space within our own skulls, such emotions should be cherished, because it won`t be long before they`re all wiped out forever.
 
  The State would always say things like, 'If you can`t justify your existence, then your life has no meaning to us, and it can`t be of much use to yourself.' But it`s all nonsense. Life doesn`t need to be justified. You don`t have to come up with a valid reason for simply being alive. No one asks the trees or animals to prove their purpose for living, so why should we? Whether we are human or Giant, our lives cannot be judged by others. They cannot choose whether our existence is purposeful or not. We and we alone are the only ones who can make that decision for ourselves.
 
  So I laid back, sprawled out in the pit of Suzuki`s belly, as pools of gastric juices rose up around me. I closed my eyes and drifted off into a deep sleep, an eternal sleep- one I would never wake from. In truth, it was what I wanted all along.
 
 
The End...
 
March 24th, 2017.
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Broken Sweetheart By minakotomoka14

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In a dystopian future not far from our own, the people of the world live in utter fear and terror of the Giants, a sub-race of humans mutated by genetic engineering, which resulted in a powerful select few of the population to become gigantic, man-eating monsters who rule with an iron fist over the much smaller, less powerful humans. Minako Tomoka, who was abandoned by her mother to become food for the Giants, is entangled in a web of conspiracy as she learns the secrets of her current dystopia alongside Suzuki, the Giant who was originally meant to devour her.

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