Mamie tapped the heel of her boot against the baked tile floor. She nodded as though she were listening to music, but she wasn’t. She simply stared ahead at a beige cinder block wall, ignoring all the posters and flyers on the bulletin board mounted there. Abruptly she chewed savagely at a cuticle, then pursed her lips, swore, and pulled out her phone.
The screen glowed white, she swiped her code, and she went straight into messaging. She found the conversation with Alyssa Nichols and opened it.
“Dude, I’m freaking out. This is stupid.”
She set her phone down and smoothed her jeans over her thighs. Her palms were clammy and damp, an unfortunate side-effect to being nervous in the face of the unknown. She looked around the room, at the dust accumulating on the plastic grids over the fluorescent fixtures in the ceiling, at the soda vending machine with one flickering light behind the button for Mr. Pibb. She glanced at her friend, swore, and ran her tongue over her lips, looking for chapped skin.
Her phone vibrated and she snatched it up in a nanosecond. “Calm down!” Alyssa told her, with a row of smiley faces. “Nothing to worry about. Super easy and the money’s good.”
“It sounds gross. Can’t believe this is legal,” Mamie typed back.
“Ever had a chicken butt?”
Mamie was staring at her screen in confusion when a door swung open and her name was called. In one stroke she powered her phone down and stashed it, springing to her feet. There was a large and kindly woman standing between the swinging doors. She grinned at Mamie and waved her forward. Mamie patted her pockets and checked how her jacket hung before slowly creeping to the attendant.
“Right through here,” the large woman said, smiling. It seemed as though she had ushered Mamie into an entirely different world: where the waiting lobby had been cold, strictly functional, and devoid of personality, this room was comparatively festive. A large cardboard stand-up depicting the latest version of the food pyramid was propped behind a cornucopia of fresh fruits. Music was playing, something like pleasant jazz, two saxophones recounting their day. The attendant guided her to a large folding table covered in more or less organized piles of paper. A large, sleepy-looking woman sat behind it and the attendant slipped off somewhere else.
“Student ID,” the woman said drowsily. Mamie gave her Fairview University email address. The woman made opening a three-ring binder look like a Herculean labor. She ran a pudgy finger down a column. “Mamie Burton?” Mamie nodded, the woman nodded and checked off another column. “Please look over this waiver and, when you’re done, give me your verbal consent.”
Mamie reviewed the document. There was nothing challenging or questionable in it. It just reviewed the exercise: she’d be given three samples that she had to estimate on a few criteria, totally up to her own subjective judgment. The lab outlined how they would use this data, assuring her that no personal information would be shared or sold with any third-party vendors. This was strictly in-house, exclusive entirely to the Sensory Lab and the Department of Food and Nutrition. Shrugging, Mamie let the sheet fall to the table.
The large woman shoved a laminated tag at her. “This is your participant ID,” she droned almost without breaking between words. “Choose a cubicle, enter your ID on the monitor, and slide this tag through the window to begin the test.”
Window? Monitor? Mamie’s thoughts began to swirl. Was this a mistake? Is this going to be gross? She never waited for my verbal consent. Her boots carried her to the next door, which had a code-lock on the brushed steel handle. She almost asked the sleepy woman for the code but discovered it opened freely. Oh, of course. Testing today.
The next room was silent. Back to the clinical, vaguely vintage beige lab setting. There was a row of eight cubicles, behind which a lab assistant was silently stalking back and forth. On the far right sat a man and a woman with one empty cube between them; Mamie took a seat on the far left.
There was a small window flush with her desk, and above this was a computer monitor. Her hand unconsciously went to the mouse and she clicked in her participant ID, slid the tag through the window. The lab attendant sauntered up—nothing visible except her round thighs and bulging crotch in black stretch pants—and slid a tray through the window, with a plastic cup of water. The only thing that could snap Mamie’s attention from the unusually formed crotch was the contents of the tray.
It was a long, narrow steel rack with foam bedding. Six holes were drilled into the foam, but only three held small plastic cups with lids on them. On the side of each milky, nearly opaque cup was a label like a supermarket price tag on produce, bearing a three-digit code. A dark shape scrabbled inside the first cup, causing Mamie to flinch.
The round thighs glided away so Mamie looked up at the monitor. There was a three-digit code in the upper left of the screen. A window in the middle of the screen told her to take the lid off the cup with this code, consume the contents (“chewing slowly” it specified), and click Next.
The code corresponded to the first cup. Taking a deep breath, she picked at a corner of the lid until it popped off. Inside there was a tiny, naked man. He screamed, looked up at Mamie, screamed again, and sprang over the lip of the cup, sprinting toward the window.
Beyond thought, Mamie’s hand shot out and plucked the little being up between thumb and forefinger. His body was exceptionally warm, she noted. His ribs were solid but pliant, and his stomach was a mushy gap between her fingertips. His arms waved and his legs kicked.
“No no no no no no!” he screamed.
Mamie’s shoulders stiffened. What should I do? Is this right? Is this legal? She studied the little man. His hair was longish and messy, and he had a little beard. His body was clean. He had reasonable muscles and very little fat on him. He wouldn’t look at her, only planted his minuscule hands upon her forefinger and struggled to push it away. Her skin crawled with feeling his body kicking and writhing, and in a panic she opened her mouth and popped him inside.
He screamed all the way inside, his voice rising to a shrill pitch. It actually echoed inside her mouth; there was actually enough space for his little voice to echo. When his limbs flailed and wriggled over her tongue, she panicked again and shoved him to the side, right between her molars. She held her breath and bit down, hard.
All the motion stopped. There was no resistance of muscle or bone or anything. Only his limbs were solid, lying on her tongue and against her gums. Seriously creeped out, she shoved his limbs onto her teeth and gnashed down again, trying so hard not to think about what he looked like, what was in her mouth now.
Her brown eyes drifted back to the clinical computer monitor. Chewing slowly, it said, and she zeroed in on those words. Very slowly she worked her jaw forward, down, back; forward, down, back. The morsel released a variety of flavors, gooshing over her tongue, nearly flooding into her cheeks. Hot grease, salt, something savory like marinated beef, and… citrus. She blinked rapidly. Alyssa’s last text message came inexorably to mind: He tastes like lemon-pepper chicken. Fatty chicken, like the nub of a chicken’s butt.
Wow. Wow! Her eyes went large and round. It was easier to push out of her mind how very like a regular person he looked. She chewed thoughtfully, suddenly curious as to whether he had a little penis and everything. The flavor was incredible. Juices ran down her throat, and the matter was so tender, it practically fell apart like really good slow-roasted BBQ. She realized she was smiling, slightly.
Her hand went to the mouse and she clicked Next. There were three ten-point scales: Juiciness, Tenderness, and Flavor. The first two were obvious but the third one wanted to distinguish between truly delicious and very off-putting flavors. She sucked at her teeth and sipped at the water, giving the little guy an 8, another 8, and a 10. “Huh,” she said to herself.
She clicked Next and opened the next cup. A tiny man lay on his side, hugging his knees. Picking up the cup, she tilted her head and regarded him. He wouldn’t acknowledge her, and he didn’t respond when she rocked the cup back and forth, rolling him around like a large pill.
“Open up, there,” she said quietly. Why did I say that? What do I want him to open up? Does he even understand me? Before she got as far as wondering whether she should eat something that could understand her communication, she reached inside with her slender index finger and poked at him. He still wouldn’t react, so she plucked him up carefully and lay him in her palm.
The tiny man stared blankly before him. Mamie stroked his spine and rubbed his little butt, but none of these gestures had any effect. She snorted in frustration, then smiled when he blinked at that. Licking her upper lip, she plucked at one arm between her large and clumsy fingertips, easily prising it away from his body. She thought she heard a little grunt as he fought her. Smiling, she tugged at his other arm with her other hand, and he hung unsupported between her fingertips. Only then did he glance at her, tiny dark eyes flickering. He looked concerned about something. She thought he wasn’t bad-looking.
“Come on, show me,” she murmured, as much to herself as to him. He stared at her for a moment, then shook his head. Most of her was delighted to discover he understood her, only a slim, quiet fraction wondering why that should please her. “I just want to see what you got.” Her huge, dark eyes flicked at his crotch for a second. He shook his head again. “Fine, let’s do this the hard way.”
She tucked her thumb beneath his tiny jaw, pinning his chest between her fingertips, and carefully she clamped down on his ankles and drew him out. Wow, he’s really fighting me! He couldn’t resist her pulling, but she couldn’t straighten him out entirely, either.
Yes, he did in fact have a tiny little penis! That quiet fraction of her mind wondered why this should delight her as well. But delighted she was, and she brought the nude man up to her lips. Her kiss covered everything from his ribs to his knees. She poked out the tip of her tongue and ran it over his bare body, searching for his penis, finding it only when it grew to an erect state.
I’m giving this little guy a blow-job, she thought. This struck her as hilarious. She wondered if he was enjoying it, being overwhelmed by a cute college student, and then she realized where she was. Were there cameras? What if the lab assistant wondered what was taking so long? Without so much as an apology, she slipped her tongue under his butt and sucked him into her mouth. He didn’t fight, only started to wail when she trapped him between her teeth, but she chewed him up immediately and that was that. He was about as juicy and tasty as the first sample, she decided, giving him similar scores on the monitor.
There was only one sample left, but Mamie made sure its code matched the number on the screen. Science, after all. She popped the lid off and reached for the contents without hesitation. She almost didn’t look at this one, almost tossed him right into her jaws out of guilt for taking so long. This was supposed to be a ten-minute assessment, she recalled, and she wedged it during a brief break between classes, right before a boring-ass civics prereq for her major. She was taking far too long and she was going to be late, so she needed to hurry.
Except he had a look on his face, a certain look. Mamie looked back at him, squinting. He was… he was blushing! She reared back, turned him over and back again, then drew him very close to her face. It was almost difficult to pick out, but he had a shy smile, and he was blushing as he attempted to cover his crotch with one hand. The other hand had too far to reach over Mamie’s painted thumbnail.
“Hi,” the tiny man said, then he flinched.
Mamie boggled at him. “What’s wrong?”
He murmured something, so she tucked her thick, black hair behind her ear and held him in her aural canal. “We’re not supposed to talk to you,” he whispered, almost conspiratorially.
Her eyebrows raised and she brought him to her face again. “Why?”
The little man glanced at the window, still cupping his cock and balls in one minuscule palm. “Some people find it uncomfortable to eat something that looks like them and talks to them.” He waggled his head and pulled a face.
Mamie giggled. “Well, when you say it like that…” She drew a long breath and licked her lips theatrically. “But you know, you guys are incredibly delicious.”
“That’s what I hear. What a cruel twist of fate, huh?” He shook his tiny head. “I guess that’s proof of a God that hates tiny people. Or Goddess.”
Mamie looked up at the computer screen, checking the time. “Fuck,” she whispered. She really wanted to talk to this guy more, before she ate him. Biting her lip, she tugged her shirt down, fished her fingers into her bra, and made space to drop him inside. “Don’t fuck me over, okay? I have a really boring class up next. Can you just be cool?”
The tiny man had slid behind her mound. In the shadows, his handsome little face popped up over her nipple. “I can be anything you want me to.” He gave her the smallest, cutest thumbs-up she’d ever seen in her life.
Fixing her clothes, she rated him three 10s, closed the program, and pushed the tray back through the window. She had another sip of water as the attendant took the tray away and slid her a fairly aged $20 bill. Swiftly she left the assessment room, thanked the sleepy fat woman behind the check-in table, and trotted down the institutional corridors, bursting into the sunshine with new elation. She could barely feel the slender mass of man curled up perfectly against the underside of her breast.
Hustling on her way to class, she tugged open her shirt and whispered into her bra, “Hey, my name’s Mamie. What’s yours?”
Over the noise of birds and distant traffic and a hundred other students, she heard him call up: “Lloyd!”
And if civics were difficult to stay awake through on their own merit, they were downright impossible to pay attention to with a tiny, nude man pressing gently into her boob. She wondered if he could feel how hard her heart was pounding, how hard it kept pounding for the next 90 minutes until she could talk to him again.