Jake was first. He woke one morning with a loose tooth. It was a baby tooth, so we didn’t think much of it at the time. A few days later, five more were in the same condition. It was time to call the dentist.
“Ah, yeah, his permanent teeth are close enough. We can pull them if he’s in too much pain, or he can let it happen naturally. There’s no decay though.”
Jake didn’t want his teeth pulled, so we adjusted his diet until they could fall out on their own.
I made soups and bought lots of soft foods like yogurt and applesauce, and made dinners of mashed potatoes and ice cream. A few days later, not only had he lost the original teeth, but three more were loose. Ken and I woke that day as well with a couple very sore and wiggling. I tongued the loose appendage in the mirror. Pain shot straight up my nose. I called the dentist back for an emergency visit.
“I’m sorry ma’am, the dentist has fallen very ill. He won’t be in at all today.”
“Well, I mean, he doesn’t have anyone on standby? I really can’t wait.” I picked at a broken nail.
“No ma’am, we only maintain relationships with specialists, and you need a referral for those.”
“Can you give me a referral?”
“No ma’am, the dentist has to do that, and he won’t…”
I hung up the phone. After an excruciatingly long conversation with my insurance company, I was calling another office. The soonest available slot was ten days out.
The next morning, I woke feeling like I’d been slammed in the mouth with a baseball bat. My right cheek was swollen and tender, and four new teeth danced in their sockets.
“Hell, I swear, all mine are loose, Mel.” Ken opened his mouth to the bathroom mirror and pushed on them, winced when they moved. “I’m getting on the internet. Some doctor has to be able to see us sooner.”
Jake was still sleeping.
I busied myself in the kitchen, attempting some form of distraction. “Alexa, play Celine Dion.”
“Playing, Sa-Leen, Dee-On.”
I tried to ignore my worried thoughts while I cracked eggs. I slid a couple slices of bread in the toaster, then remembered none of us would care to chew, so I diced some potatoes to lightly fry instead. If I left them a little soft, we could mash the bits with our tongues.
“Alexa, stop music.” Ken came in the room carrying his laptop. He had quite the scowl on his face.
“Babe, I was listening to that.” I wiped the potato juice from my knife, then went to find my headphones. It was easier than arguing with the grump. He was never in a good mood when he didn’t feel well.
“You need to hear this.” He circled the bar, then sat the computer right on top of the chopped herbs.
“Our health is at risk, and the government says they have no idea why. Thousands of Americans have been flocking to their dentists complaining of loose teeth. The doctors are saying there’s no evident reason why. Let’s go to Maurine for more details.” The newscaster in the station was swapped with one in the field, standing in front of some office.
Ken paused the video. “Something’s wrong Mel. We aren’t the only ones.”
“Well hopefully they figure something out soon.”
Four days later, I woke in the middle of the night to a tooth trying to fall down my throat. I coughed, spit, saw it bounce on the hardwood. There was almost no blood. I plucked it from the ground, then left in lying on my pillow. I stumbled to the bathroom to inspect the socket. Curious, I tugged on another loose tooth, and with no resistance, it came right out.
Eight teeth, I pulled eight of my teeth. My snaggle toothed visage no longer resembled the well, put together woman I had become. What was happening to us?
I walked back to bed, head down, rattling my teeth in my closed hand like dice.
The dark room was cold, colder than it should have been, and something reeked.
“Ken, did you open the window?”
No response. He had to be awake though, I heard shuffling.
When I reached my bedside, I twisted the hard knob on the lamp, then screamed at the woman crouched on my pillow. She was a wrinkled old hag with tattered wings on her back. Her garb, head to toe, was crafted of worn leather.
I stumbled. She was upon me before I could regain my footing. She hissed in my face, her spittle and horrible breath made me gag. That’s when she shoved a prop in my mouth, something that kept me from closing. I screamed through my open mouth; tears streamed down my cheeks. I looked for Ken, for help, but he was dead, mouth and eyes wide open. All his teeth were gone.
“Don’t worry, dear, it’ll be quick. You’ve done half the work for me.”
I couldn’t let her get Jake, I couldn’t let her kill me. She straddled my chest, dug her knees into my hands. I tugged and rotated my wrists, trying to work myself loose. My bones fractured under her weight. I yanked as hard as I could. I screamed, but my hands were free. I didn’t think. I jammed my knee into her back as hard as I could, then stuck my thumbs in her eyes.
Her wings flapped incessantly. “You bitch, what have you done?!”
I didn’t stick around. I sprang from the floor, spit the prop out of my mouth, grabbed Jake from his bed, then palmed my keys on our way out of the front door. I didn’t look back until we were at the police station.
We are in hiding now, those of us who made it. It’s going to sound crazy, but the tooth fairy is real. As it turns out, she decided she wanted more than the lost baby teeth our ancestors promised as sacrifice. She had been lacing everyone’s food and water supply with one of her concoctions. Those who survived had any remaining teeth pulled. That’s the only way to keep her at bay. It’s common practice now to take children for surgery as soon as they start teething, and no tooth anywhere is allowed near a pillow.
“Jake, it’s time for breakfast,” I call down the hall.
Jake, per usual, emerges with his big, gummy smile. His daughter, Evelina, bounces along behind him, flashing her gummy smile as well. They settle down at the table, while I dole out servings of applesauce and poached eggs.
Copyright WB Welch – All Rights Reserved
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.