The Tell Tale Teeth

Prompt Day #100: Write a piece featuring both a skeleton and a dentist as primary characters (or as one in the same character)

 Well, I must admit I am more than excited to be on my 100th day of prompts. For the most part, I’m proud of my work and I think I have quite a few stories that after some rewrites and editing will be worthy of submission for publication. Although Edgar Allan Poe was a harsh critic of plagiarism (even of ideas/themes), I still dedicate this piece to him as he has become my spiritual mentor through this process and a bit of my muse as well. I hope to do him justice with the historical fiction/thriller novel I am working on. That being said, I wouldn’t have gotten this far without the amazing work of another mentor/coach/cheerleader; Mr. Michael Arnzen. Your Instigation book has pushed me further as a writer than I have ever gone before. It gives me a goal, ideas, pushes me beyond my comfort zone and I have become a better writer because of it. I encourage any aspiring horror/thriller/mystery/sci-fi author to take a look at his work, especially Instigation–it will inspire you. I know I have a long way to go and this sounds like a speech best saved for the end, but 100 days straight ain’t too shabby, so BACK OFF! Hehe, just kidding. Love all my precious readers. Thanks for traveling this road with me.

The Tell-Tale Teeth

 

He shouldn’t have had so many drinks. He shouldn’t have started flirting with Sharon and he shouldn’t have gotten the hotel room with her. And he shouldn’t have been speeding to get home before his wife got too suspicious. Now it was too late. He stared at the dead body lying just beneath the cone of light from his headlights. The boy couldn’t have been more than twenty. What the hell was he doing out this late on this back road anyways? Will looked around. There was no one in sight. Without thinking further he stuffed the body in his trunk and sped home.

The next morning, with his guts roiling and his head splitting, he got up early and took the car for a wash. He bought a big trash barrel, some acid wash at the hardware and stopped by his office for some tools. It turned out to be harder than he thought to remove the teeth of a dead man. Rigor mortis was hell to work around. But still, he managed to have the teeth in a small jar and the body and acid in the barrel before his wife had even made it out of bed.

Will found it difficult to concentrate on Monday. The boy’s face, pale, lips sunken, stared up at him through the acid bath. He thought he could see the skin already melting away as he lowered the lid onto the barrel but it may have been his imagination. He had no idea how long it took acid to dissolve a body or if the acid you bought at the hardware store was strong enough. But he knew he needed to remove as much identifying characteristics as possible. Now, the boy’s teeth tinkled in the pocket of his white smock as if wanting in on the memories too. He only had two extractions scheduled today but it was a start. He would switch teeth out and send his victims in the biohazard containers where they would be destroyed under someone else’s name.

“I wonder then if I could perhaps keep the teeth your switching them for.” A voice said. He snapped out of his thoughts. Surely he misheard.

“What was that Mrs. Baker?” he asked the woman whose teeth he was currently assessing for cavities and gum disease. Her mouth prised open beneath his hands.

“Uh?” she mumbled and shook her head

“Oh, I thought you said something” Will apologized. He needed to clear his head. The deed was done and now he would learn to live with it, which was better than the alternative of being caught, losing his license, his wife and his freedom all because of a couple lousy decisions at the end of a stressful week. He heard a tapping on the counter to his right.

“It was me. I said I would like to have some teeth, so if you are sending mine away to be destroyed, perhaps I could have the ones you are going to hide.” A skeleton sat on a stool in the corner behind him. He stared at its wide, gaping, toothless grin and almost screamed. His hand slipped however, cutting Mrs. Baker’s gum and she squealed instead. Reluctantly he turned his head away from the apparition in the corner of the room and quickly applied some gauze to the bleeding mucosa.

“Oh, I am so sorry” he said, holding pressure to her wound “I, I heard, I thought I heard something falling and I jumped. Are you alright?” he asked her. The poor woman’s eyes watered as she tried to smile and reassure him she was just fine.

“Mrs. Baker, your teeth look great, as always. I’m going to call it quits now, although I haven’t examined the right uppers yet. I’m not feeling my best today and now, I’ve hurt you as well. I’ll take care of your bill for today’s appointment. Let’s see you back in 6 months, ok?” He stood before she could answer and turned to where the skeleton had been just a moment before. There was nothing there though, of course.

He cancelled the rest of his cleanings and called his extractions in early. The first was a seventeen year old young lady whose wisdom teeth were giving her trouble. She was lying comfortably with her eyes closed as he worked to extract the first of two.

“She has lovely teeth. I’ll take that one and that one if you don’t mind” A skeletal finger entered his visual field and came within millimeters of touching her as it pointed out a canine and incisor as if He was picking out fish to take home as pets.

“Get away from her, you aren’t getting her teeth” Will said quietly through his own clenched jaw. The girl’s eyes opened for a moment and looked at him, she pulled her earbuds out expectantly.

“Sorry, had a tickle in my throat. Would you like something a little stronger to help you sleep?” he asked the girl. She shook her head and turned the music up.

“Well, look, you took my life, you took my teeth, and as we speak, the rest of me is slowly dissolving away. I am not angry, I am not trying to hurt you, I just want a little dignity back so if you must get rid on my teeth, then I want new ones. I’ll pick them out and you pull them and give them to me.” The skeleton said matter of factly.

“You aren’t real.” Will said a little louder now, the girls music could be heard clearly from the ear buds buried in her head, he wasn’t worried about her hearing anything. “You are a figment of my guilty conscious and I am just going to ignore you until you go away.”

“”Is that so?” The boney specter said and began to tap the girl’s teeth with his outstretched pointer finger. The girl once more opened her eyes and gave Will a slightly irritated look. Will stabbed at the skeletal hand with his scalpel. The girl furrowed her brow and closed her eyes again.

“Do not touch the patients” Will threatened.

“Or what? You’ll kill me? Tear my teeth out? Too late Dr. Beren.” The thing’s phalanges clicked and tapped on the edge of the porcelain sink. “I had a magnificent set of teeth of which I was quiet proud. You, in your method of self-preservation have removed them and now plan to send them away to be destroyed one by one. I will not rest until I have suitable replacements.”

The first wisdom tooth was out. Will dropped it on his stand beside the sink.

“Fine. Here you go. Take it and get out.” He said louder still. The skeleton picked up the molar and held it up to the dark holes where his eyes had once been.

“No. This tooth is not even completely formed. I had perfect teeth. I want a perfect set to replace them.” It dropped the bloody tooth back onto the table.

“Ok. Ok. But you can’t have her front teeth. She’s just a kid” Will said. The Osseous remains of his victim leaned its skull into Will’s face.

“So was I” It said sounding angrier now. Then it was gone. He finished up, switched out the boy’s teeth for the girl’s and deposited them in the hazardous waste container. He had almost a half an hour before his next extraction. His wife would be at work. He could run home quickly and check on the acid’s progress.

“What I really need to do is to forget about it for a while” He said to himself and then looked up and around the room searching for the bones of his memory. He was alone in the room. He sat down in his office with his head in his hands. He fell asleep and was awakened by his receptionist.

“Dr. Beren? I’m sorry to wake you but your patient just showed up. He is twenty minutes late, do you have time?” She said looking down at the chart and back up at him anxiously and then added “It’s the police chief is all.”

“Oh, yeah, sure I have time. Tell Keith I’ll meet him in the room.” Will and Keith had gone to high school together. Will knew the police chief well. He went to the bathroom to freshen up and splashed some water on his face. He felt better, more clear-headed. The skeletal visits seemed like a bad dream.

“Hey, there Keith.” He said in greeting as he walked in. “How’s that tooth been treating you?”

“Oh, you know Will it’s a bitch getting’ old, I’ll tell you that much.” Keith said and laughed. “Sorry I’m late. Got a missing college boy, parents think the worst, you know how that goes.” He leaned his head back in the exam chair. Will eased the back down.

“Oh yeah? How long’s he been missing?” Will asked trying to sound nonchalant.

“Since you ran your car over me and ripped my teeth out of my head” The skeleton said from behind him. He felt its knobby fingers on his shoulders.

“Since Friday night sometime. Guess he was out taking pictures in the middle of the night, some photography project. His parents had just given him a night vision lens. Anyways, never came home. Found his camera laying in the ditch out Meander Rd. Saturday morning.” Keith said, sighed and opened his mouth.

“I wonder if I got a pic of your car with that camera as you were cresting the hill. That would be funny, all this trouble you’ve gone to but you left a camera with your picture in it.” The skeleton squeezed his shoulders. The touch was cold and painful.

“Huh. Thinking someone picked him up? You know those college kids, especially the artsy ones; they’re into some weird stuff sometimes.” Will said prying gently for more information. Keith sat up and pulled the gauze out of his mouth.

“No Shit! That’s what I say but his parents insist he wasn’t like that. Now they’re fixated on this stain on the road about ten feet up from where we found the camera. Think its blood. That’s what I was late for. Had to meet the forensics guys out there.” He lay back again and opened wide.

“Oh, now look at those teeth!” The skeleton said coming around Will and leaning over to peer into Keith’s mouth. “Now, these are some manly teeth. I’ll take them all.” The skull turned its black face towards Will. “Now.” It said

“Uh, so, blood huh? Wow, that doesn’t sound good.” Will’s hand was shaking as he reached out for the lidocaine syringe.

“Eyuh. Id blud” Keith said nodding “Ooman or eer ‘aybe”

“Oh, it’s definitely human. Tell him, Will. Tell him how you know it’s human blood” The bone man said. The black orbit holes seemed to grow even blacker and Will imagined a scowl forming although nothing actually moved on the face

“I wouldn’t know if it’s human” Will said and then realizing that he was trying to carry on two completely opposite conversations quickly covered with “I mean, how would anyone know if it’s human blood?”

Keith shrugged “ ‘ience” he said. Will decided it was a good end to the conversation before he said something he shouldn’t. He would get this tooth out for his friend, go home, take a few Tylenol and sleep. He was going to take the rest of the week off too. Until he had himself under better control. He injected the medicine around the base of the tooth and then deeper into the jaw joint to ensure excellent anesthetic coverage.

“Good. We’ll start with this side” The skeleton said. Its two hands now sporting loose fitting rubber gloves. The thing looked preposterous standing there bone-naked except for a pair of saggy rubber gloves and a spit basin in its hands. “Put them into here.”

“You are not helping me, I am not taking his teeth out for you. Get the hell out of here.” Will said. Keith chuckled.

“ ‘Ope, ‘ust uh un oof” He assumed Will had been joking around with his assistant. That was good. Will pulled his mask up and tied it tighter to help remind himself to keep his mouth shut.

“Will Beren. I will have my teeth before anyone leaves this room. I will take yours if I have to, which will make it that much harder for you to replace them in my skull, but I will. Or, you can come up with a good story, you seem to be talented at that, and take all the man’s teeth.” The skeleton walked in a circle around Keith’s feet and up the other side so his face and Wills were now directly across from each other. Will swallowed. He closed his eyes, willing the thing to be gone. Breathing deeply several times before opening his eyes, he found the thing now just inches from his face. He shoved it instinctively and jumped up and back off his own seat. He screamed. Keith, whose right face drooped from the anesthetic sat up and turned to Will. Drool fell from Keith’s lip. Will dug his hand into the pocket of his smock.

“Keith could see Will was staring at something intently across the room from them, but for the life of him, he couldn’t see what it was. He swiveled his neck back in Will’s direction and the man now held his palm open. A pile of white healthy looking teeth sat in his palm.

“Here then. You want your teeth back, take them. I can’t do it anymore. Your blood is on the road, it’s only a matter of time before they find it on my car. Just take them” Will threw the teeth at the wall. The hit it and clattered to the floor. Keith picked a few of them up and pocketed them.

“Hey, there, Bud. What are you saying? You know what happened to that boy?” Keith asked gently, easing closer to Will.

“Tell him, Will” the skeleton said “Tell him what you did to me.” The skeleton ordered.

“Shut up! Just shut up and let me think a minute!” Will shouted. “This all would have been fine if you had left me alone for just a bit. Let me figure it out, but no. Your teeth, your Goddamn stupid perfectly white teeth. I got news for you, College Boy, I can’t put them back in your stupid skull. Without gum tissue to anchor them to, they’ll just fall out.”

“Well you better go get me out of that acid then chop, chop, Will. Because I want my teeth back in my head!” The skeleton screamed back at him

Keith stared in wide-eyed shock as Will continued to have a conversation with himself. One voice sounded like Will and the other like Will doing an impression of Hannibal Lecter. He eased his cell phone out of his pocket and texted for back up as the argument between the two Wills continued.

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