Memento Mori

Prompt Day #297: Bind a book in something dastardly…but avoid the obvious (let me guess: skin, right?)


Memento Mori

                The year I turned three, a number of children were found murdered in my home town. The media called the killer The Tooth Fairy because when the bodies were found they were all missing their front teeth. I suppose it wasn’t hard to get them out of the jaws after bashing the rest of their heads in with a ball bat. My grandmother begged my parents to move back to their hometown. She said if anything ever happened to me, her only grandchild, she’d never forgive them. I thought the idea was a good one. I missed my grandma, I only saw her once a month when she would drive the three hours to see me.

The killer wasn’t caught and so, each year, several children went missing and were later found dead and toothless. Families moved away, soon the school shut down. My mother, for whatever stubborn reason refused to give in and my father threatened to leave her if she ever did. I was a lonely, homeschooled kid. The only time in my early life that I was happy, was the times I spent with my grandmother.

The tooth fairy had never killed an adult before but then, one Sunday morning, I awoke to an oddly quiet house. I called for my parents, but they didn’t answer. I searched the house. I found them in their room; their heads had been bashed to a pulp. That’s the vision I have in my head to this day. The fact that their teeth were also missing was lost on my six year old observations. It was in the coroner’s report.

I finally got to go live with my grandma. She was lonely too. Granddad had passed away the year I was born. He’d fallen from the barn loft. He was up stacking hay bales and lost his balance. I think that’s why my gram wanted her family to move closer. She was sad. She was better after I moved in with her. We had tea parties and picnics. We went to all the church pot lucks and bingo games. It was all fun and games until I turned sixteen.

Grandma needed me around because she was older and couldn’t get around as well as she’d used to. I needed to date and be young. It was hard. In fact, I chose not to go to college because Grandma was in such bad shape by then, I knew I couldn’t leave her alone. I chose an on line degree program and stayed with her to the bitter end.

After she passed, I moved away. I couldn’t bare staying in the house without her. I sold the farm and made enough money on that with my inheritance that I was able to open my own business. Since then, I met a wonderful man and have a daughter of my own.

Last week, I received a phone call. My grandmother’s home burnt down. It was completely destroyed. During the cleanup, a small fire safe was found. The new owners knew it was not theirs and so went to the trouble to find me. They didn’t know if there was anything inside it but wanted me to have a say in what happened to it. I decided to take my husband and daughter home. I would visit Grandma’s grave and show my family the farm land I grew up on.

We took the box to Grandma’s grave. I decided I would open it there. My husband, Jeff, brought a drill. He insisted it would open the locked unit. We had a picnic at Grandma’s grave and then Jeff opened the lock. He was right, the drill worked. It popped open without a problem. I looked down into it. There was a soft, velvet sack with something inside it. I lifted it out. I reached inside the sack and felt a bumpy rectangular object. The bumps were smooth and something about them was familiar. I pulled out a large book bound with what appeared to be hundreds of human teeth. Woven between the teeth was hair. Hair in all different colors wound through the teeth also different sizes, colors and types.

“The tooth fairy” I said “Please no.”

“Your grandma was the Tooth Fairy?” My daughter, Sophie asked in awe. I looked at Jeff. I know he could see the fear in my eyes. He’d heard the story of the child killer who killed my parents too.

“No. I think that’s just a story about the Tooth Fairy that someone glued teeth too. They probably aren’t even real teeth.” Jeff said to Sophie. And then to me “You don’t need to look at that now. Honey, put it away.”

I ignored him. I had to know. I opened the book. On the first page was a newspaper cut out picture of the first child found. A little boy named Henry Dillan. There was a description of him, what he was wearing, where his body was left. There was even a lock of hair stuck to the page. I turned page after page, staring into all the lost children’s eyes. Each page with handwritten notes in my grandmother’s handwriting. The last three pages though, was what finally took my breath away.

I saw my parents’ faces smiling at me. I touched their locks of hair. Saw the note with a date followed by “Jenny comes to stay with me.” The last page was my grandma and grandpa’s wedding picture. The note beneath it says “Margaret would not move home to help me.”

That was it. My Grandmother, the woman I loved and idolized, the woman I chose over college, was a killer. And not just a killer, a child killer. Not just a child killer, but the killer of her own daughter, my mother. This woman had ruined my life and taken my mother’s, my father’s and my grandfather’s life. Everything I knew was a lie. My whole childhood was a lie.

I began to tear at the ground over her grave. I dug until I had no fingernails left. The soil clumped to the blood on my fingers but still I dug. Jeff tried to stop me. Sophie was crying but I blocked it out. I would not stop until I found that evil bitch. When my bloodied stumps hit the concrete of the vault. I threw the scrapbook of death on top of it and spit on it. Then, sobbing, I pushed the dirt back over the grave.

Jeff and Sophie took me back to the hotel. I washed up while they went for takeout. As I rinsed out the sink, a clump of dirt slowly revealed a small child’s tooth. I picked it up and inspected it. This would be the only thing left of my Grandmother; a memento mori. I heard the door open and Sophie called out to me. I turned the faucet back on and washed the tooth down the drain.

“Hi, Beautiful, what did you bring for dinner?” I asked.