Art Pact 280 - Questions about living in a monsters stomach

Let me throw the floor open to questions - well, wait. Before we have the first question, let me make a little note on this piece of paper here, I'm going to fold it up, put it over here. You can - here, you, you can look at it if you like. Just to show that it isn't a magic trick. Yeah, just... no, you can look at it. Just don't show it to anyone else. You don't have a question, right? Right. Okay. No, yes, otherwise that would sort of be hard for me to predict. Okay? Okay.

Okay, we're all good. So, do we have any questions?

Oh, quiet a lot. A lot of hands, that changes the odds slightly, perhaps. Or maybe it doesn't. No, probably not, that's not how odds work . So, uh, do we have a roving microphone? No? Okay, well people are just going to have to shout their questions and I'll repeat them back. Or for the first question, I'll just show the piece of paper there. 

Oh, we can get one, but it will take a moment? Okay.

Uh, so, people in the back, forgive me! I'll get to you, but for the sake of my ears to start with I'll pick some questions from the front. Uh, yes! The lady in the grey - is that a blouse, or a shirt? I never know what clothing is what. Oh? A tank top. My mistake. Sorry. What's your name?

Madeleine. Okay, Madeleine - what's your question?

Ahh. Yes. I can see you're smiling - sorry, I forgot to ask what your name was? Rob? Rab? What is that, is that Scottish? Oh, yes, I see.

So everyone, the reason Rab is smiling is because on the inside of that piece of paper he's holding I just wrote down... could you read it please, Rab?

Exactly: What is it like living in the stomach of a giant monster?

Am I what? Oh, no - no!

For people at the back who couldn't hear, Madeleine was just asking me whether I get fed up being asked that question. No, I don't. Actually I love it, partly because I think it is a very interesting question myself, and partly because since I get asked it so much I've got a whole spiel going that I can reel off without thinking too much. Although I will tailor it to this audience a bit, so I can leave out the business about the existence of the monster.

First off, where I live is not actually in the stomach. There are coping mechanisms that can be used, but it's just more comfortable to live in the duodenum, away from the acid. I go to the stomach occasionally, Obviously I sort of prefer coming out that way when I'm let out rather than taking the back door, if you catch my drift. But mainly the stomach is just too hostile. The acid, the unpredictability of sudden flooding, it's all hard to work with. Much much better to live further back where I get some kind of warning, where I can prepare for any disruptions.

Now, I don't have to explain to any of you what or where the duodenum is, so I can skip over that part. What I'll say is that there is one major difference between a human duodenum and the monster's on, apart from the obvious question of scale. And that is that the peristaltic muscles aren't arrange in bands, but in four - let's say stripes, for want of a better word, that run the length of the digestive tract. The stripes can expand and contract, it's possible they have bands of muscles within then, but they seem pretty homogenous to me from the outside. Anyway, what this means is that there are relatively stable areas, smaller stripes, that also run the whole length of the monster's guts. They don't move a lot, they tend to end up as void spaces in which rotting food collects, they're breeding grounds for parasites, but they also provide me with somewhere that I can live without too much disruption. My little hut is on the bottom-most one of these stripes about twenty meters in from the sphincter that leads from the stomach. I can - maybe if I can put this up on a screen. Ah, there we go. Home sweet home! I'm sure you've all seen that picture before, it was the one on the cover of the Radio Times. But here's another one, taken out of my window. I think it gives a better idea of the scale of the thing.

Sorry, what's that?

Oh, yes - now, that is an interesting question. What's your name? Alison. Alison. So, what Alison's asked is what is that there, in the upper left of the- no, the upper right of the picture. It may amaze you to know that there's not much use for knowing left from right when you live in a monster's belly. Anyway - uh, yes, that! Okay, so we don't know for sure, but what we think that is is a swelling caused in opposition to a hernia. The theory is that there's a bit of the intestinal wall herniating into the monster's first dorsal lung cavity. It's not proved yet, exactly, but people who are greater experts in monster anatomy assure me that that's the most likely explanation.

What? Oh, why don't we investigate? Well, that's a good question but a simple one. We can't risk doing any damage to the monster given its current position. What we do know - well, what I know, and what I'm telling everyone - is that you have to be very careful what stimulus you apply to the inside of the monster. It's... well, ticklish isn't exactly the right word, but there are sensors or nerve endings in the monster's gut that don't respond very well to irritation. I know this because of what happened to North Pelton.

Ah, yes, I see you know about North Pelton. Well, that was pretty tragic, but it was a long time ago when towns were much smaller. I would say the estimates today are pretty good, perhaps a hundred or two hundred people killed all in all. But you can look at a map of the areas that lie above the monster now and do a little calculation based on census data and - well, a spasm the same size as the one that ended North Pelton could kill a hundred thousand people? Two hundred thousand? It's a serious business. Even at the milder end of the scale we're talking about thousands of people dead, lots more injured.

Oh, we have the microphone - good, well, I can see a lot of hands up at the back there, perhaps - yes, the gentleman in the cloth cap! And may I congratulate you on your fashion bravery. People don't wear a lot of hats nowadays. Not like when I was young. Anyway, yes, go ahead.

Well, hmmm.. So, I have ambiguous feelings about this. On the one hand, it would no doubt be much safer in the long run. But the short term problem is how do you do it? It would have to be instant - absolutely instant. If the monster so much as flinched, the effect on Pelland would be devastating.

And, I won't deny, if the monster comes to an end, what about me? That would be the end of me too, I think, although it's not one hundred percent certain. There's also a little bit of me that says - well, what right do we have to kill the monster? It was here first.

Good question, though. I'm genuinely conflicted.

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