\It was early morning in the Kowloon City Cortex, and a piercing whistle blew, stirring the inhabitants of the stomach out of their restless slumbers. Nguyen Duc crawled out of a puckered orifice onto the metal gangway hastily bolted to the stomach wall, standing with slimy hair and bloody fluids dripping from his malnourished figure. Three children to the left of him crawled out of their holes as well, disheveled, dirty, and starved, wearing rags that used to be clothes.

Giang, Duc's only friend, slept in the hole immediately to the left of Duc, and pried himself out of the tight orifice, his back crackling painfully as he stood up. Duc smiled faintly to reassure him, Giang meeting the smile with a hopeless gaze. Near the far-off esophagus, low-lying smog filled the air with greasy rainbows as light from bio-luminescent slime filtered through the clouds. A second whistle blew in the distance, and Duc could taste bile on his tongue. It was collection day.

Duc led his companions to join the small line of similarly shabby children from gangways above and below him walking towards the pit. Their shoeless feet met with moist, spongy ground as the metal gangways converged to a path carved into the stomach lining of the Kowloon Kaiju, irritated blood red as the trodding of dozens of feet wore the flesh raw.

"This could be a very profitable venture, for both you and your family," The man with the prim suit told Nguyen Bian. "Your skill as a pearl diver would be unmatched within our company. You'll be set to make a pretty penny, and could be set for life."

They trudged through viscera and fleshy giblets to the pier jutting over the stomach-lake, the acid steaming and bubbling, Giang getting seared by a rogue droplet splashing on his arm. Giang tried to stifle his squeal, coming out as a high-pitched whine. Duc leaned back and patted his arm, the only consolation he could afford to give.

The pier had multiple pulley systems line on the edge, rusted and aged. The pier was only six months old, and yet it looked a hundred times older, as acid flung from below eroded the sturdy steel struts supporting the structure. Duc guessed that this pier will only last a few more weeks, at best.

Three managers manned the pier, wearing an assortment of relatively new protective gear, the company logos barely visible from the corrosion sustained from work in the stomach. Each manager held a dozen suits, more resembling chain mail than scuba gear, and a bucket of tools. They walked up and down the rows, distributing the equipment.

The sharp edges of the suits reopened angry scabs and irritated open sores as the children donned their gear, gasping in pain as they did so. The managers slapped children who weren't fast enough, threatening them with an unprotected dive into the lake if they hesitated. Duc kept his eyes down, shoulders hunched, hurriedly putting on his suit. No need to get involved.

They were in a boat, speeding towards a small island, the wind forcing the clean, salty air into Duc's lungs. As they arrived to the island, their guide escorted them to a metal door, sunken into rock, and opened it. A blast of foul air smelling of waste and decay made Duc dry heave. The guide led them down a corridor, whose wall's gradually changed from smooth stone into that of pulsating flesh and muscle, the steps hewn from bone and cartilage. Duc wanted to run back, back to the fresh free air, but his father had a tight grip on his shoulder, looking grimly ahead. The tunnel opened up, allowing the three to see where they would live the rest of their lives: Kowloon Walled Cortex, the burgeoning city built into the brain of a sea monster.

The managers escorted the children in the first row to the pulleys, clipping them onto the thin wire. The children fell into the acid below, not even the sound of a splash making it to the pier. In unison, all the children on the pier unconsciously held their breath, each hoping that the divers would survive, as to not incur the managers' wrath.

They waited, and waited.

After a seeming eternity, small LEDs on the pulleys blinked from red to green, activated by the divers below, and the managers engaged the pulleys again. The divers each carrying objects, whether hurriedly stuffed in a bag or grappled onto using hooks. Large chunks of precious metal and pulsating organics were retrieved from the pit, never human in origin, but valuable nonetheless

Still steaming with acid, the retrieved objects were first appraised, still held by a child dangling over the stomach, then brought up to the pier for cleaning, the diver forced to scramble onto the pier on their own. If the item was worthless, the child would be sent back into the pit for another round. One diver, a 12 year-old, was sent back into the pit three times in a row. He didn't come back a fourth time, only a disintegrated empty suit, dripping with melted viscera and acid.

"You will be working in the stomach, of course given all the amenities you could ever want." Said the man, a smile too wide to be comfortable plastered on his face. "Your first day is tommorow, but the men upstairs told me to pay you upfront."

The man escorted Duc and his father to a small house perched on the edge of the stomach, hastily built and ramshackle. As the glowing slime faded and created a simulacra of night, Bian stayed awake, stroking the check that contained more zeroes than he had ever seen in his lifetime.

Soon, after hours of waiting, it was Duc's turn. Giang was right next to him, suited up in comically overlarge gear. As they stepped over the edge in sync, they held their breath for the dive, facemask automatically whirring into place before the plunge.

Falling, falling, then entering into the froth. The liquid cloudy, eating away at the mask. Duc frantically groping for anything to bring back. He dove farther swimming
Duc's friend gets a tear in his suit, and dissolves into the acid in front of him.
he comes up, is inconsolable.

the managers try to hit him to make him go back to work.

he tackles one as he thinks of his father, who died similarly. the man plummets off the edge and melts into the acid.

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