“Okay, Jonnathan, you ready?”
He closed his eyes as he nodded and the gas started flowing. Slowly, he lost feeling in his mouth, becoming dazed in the process. Soon he was out, and then conscious again, barely realizing that his wisdom teeth had been pulled.
“That wasn’t so bad…” he blubbered.
‘Nope. You’ll be sore in the gums for a few days. I’m giving you special permission to indulge in the ice cream.”
He rolled his eyes. “I’m not some kid, doc. I’m nearly a legal adult,” he stuttered.
“We shall see.”
Jonnathan again rolled his eyes, his head flopping off to the side. He stared out the window at the passing traffic and began to go into a trance.
“Let his Mom know that he’s ready to go. Tell her to get out her camera, she’ll want to film this.”
The nurse nodded and left for the waiting room out front.
“You want a prize, Jonny?’
“Eh… sure. I guess.”
The dentist went and rummaged through a small toy chest until he found a fidget spinner and pulled it out, handing it to Jonnathan. He took it gratefully, head bobbing as he strained himself to look at it.
“It looks funny. Like a curvy stick.”
“Yes, yes. Oh, here’s your Mom.”
“Hey, Jonny! How’d he do?”
“I did great!”
“He did fine. No issues, it was a smooth procedure.”
“I feel a little weird asking, but can I have the teeth? I’d just like to put them in his baby book.”
The dentist laughed. “Don’t feel weird. Most Moms want the teeth.”
“You can have my teeth.”
“Thank you, sweetie,” she smiled, her starry eyes shining as she looked at her son.
“Can I play with my prize?’’
“Yes, Jonnathan. Oh, thank you, doctor,” she said, taking the container with the teeth.
“Well, Jonny, until next time.”
“Until time next.”
Jonnathan and his mother headed home, the odd feeling of the gas slowly but surely wearing off. The rest of the evening went as usual, except for the fact that he had less homework today since he skipped the second half of school. Dinner, television, surfing his social media, trying to avoid his older sister. He couldn’t help himself from feeling the holes left in his gums with both his tongue and his fingers. It hurt to the touch, but it felt so interesting. Gently, gently he prodded. The human body was fascinating. If he had the discipline and grades for it, he would have been a doctor, but the commitment of such a career seemed like too much to take on. Instead he just watched the occasional online videos about weird things in the body, or feeling the quirks of it himself like he was now. Brushing his teeth that night felt strange, too. So many missing molars messed with his muscle memory, and he had to use smaller strokes so as to not agitate the regions of tenderness. He rushed through the process, heading to his room and climbing into bed. Two or so hours later, once he became bored with the mobile games on his phone, he plugged in the device and shut his eyes, all the while feeling the holes in his mouth with his tongue. Slowly, slowly, he drifted away….
He yawned as he awoke, glaring at the time on the clock. It was too early to get up. Go to school. Just pointless. He was too tired this early to focus anyways. So going to school would avail nothing. He should just sleep now and—
The lights flipped on and he squeezed his eyes tighter.
“Jonnathan, time to get up! In honor of your successful procedure yesterday, I made you a special breakfast!”
“I’d prefer to sleep than eat breakfast.”
“Well, you don’t have to eat breakfast, then. But you do need to get up.”
“Fine,” he grumbled, slowly climbing out. The footsteps of his mother grew distant, and he started to doze back off again. His mouth hurt pretty bad this morning. He didn;t want to do anything, really. But, alas, he had to. He guessed. Off to the shower he went, then the kitchen, then finally, school. He had at least one friend from each period tell him how jealous they were that he got to get “high” yesterday and that they wished their wisdom teeth had come in. Jonnathan laughed along with them, getting slightly more annoyed with each comment made to him about it. Heck, even his teacher made a comment about it:
“How’d it go yesterday?”
“It went fine.”
“Yeah? The gas feel good?”
“Ha. Yeah, it did I guess.”
He smiled. “You get all four pulled?”
Jonnathan paused, moving his tongue around his mouth to double-check. He was pretty sure that all four were removed, that was what the dentist said he’d do. Let’s see… one, two, three, four… five?
“Five,” he replied.
“You had five teeth pulled? I thought you were only supposed to have four!”
“Well, I guess that I was special.”
“I’ll say. That’s impressive. Mister Teeth, I’ll have to call you.”
He rolled his eyes again. “Whatever…” he mumbled.
All in all, though, the school day dragged on how it normally did until dismissal time finally rolled around. Jonnathan marched towards the bus as quickly as he could and smiled to himself as he prepared to head home.
Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop…
He was towards the end of the route. He sat at the back of the bus every chance he could. He didn’t like sitting up front, he felt somewhat obliged to say goodbye to everyone as they got off. Sitting at the back negated that problem. It was a bit of a walk, though, getting off and to his house. He was on the other side of the block from the bus stop.
“Alright, get out anyone who gets out here.”
Jonnathan started moving towards the front of the vehicle, nodding to some of the faces he recognized as he passed through the bus.
“Have a good one,” the pudgy man said as Jonnathan got down from the stairs.
“Yeah, you too.”
The doors closed, and he began walking back to his house. It really didn’t take that long to circle the block, it just felt like a chore simply because he was so tired by the end of it all. But, before too long, he was at his front door, stepping through.
“Hey, Jonny! How was school?”
“Eh, it was school.”
“Yeah? Anyone asking about how it went?”
“Eh, yeah, I guess. Mister Brown seemed impressed by how many teeth I got pulled, though.”
“Four is a normal number of teeth to have pulled.”
“Yeah, but I had five.”
“No you didn’t”
“Yeah I did.”
“Honey, you only have four wisdom teeth. You got four pulled.”
“Then how come I have five holes?”
She stopped what she was doing in the kitchen, coming into the front entry-way with a quizzical expression. “What do you mean you have five holes?”
“I mean I got five teeth pulled.”
He did so, a smug look on his face as he knew he was about to prove her wrong.
“One, two, three, four… huh. You’re right.”
“The dentist should’ve only pulled four. This could be a problem if he pulled more than he was supposed to.”
“Eh, I’m sure that it isn’t that big a deal.”
“It is. What was he doing pulling an extra tooth?”
“Maybe it was an accident.”
“If it was, he shouldn’t have tried to hide it. I’m gonna make a call. Stand by.”
She marched off, and Jonnathan slung his backpack over his shoulder to head up the stairs to his room. He threw the backpack on the ground, plopping down onto his bed and whipping out his phone. A few minutes had passed and his Mom came up into his room.
“He says that he only pulled four. Don’t worry, though, we’ll get this sorted out. I’ll get the police involved if I have to.”
“Mom! It’s not that big a deal!”
“Oh, but it is. This could be a sign of malpractice. That is a big no-no.”
Jonnathan shrugged. “One tooth isn’t gonna make that big of a difference in my life.”
“Well, I care about it.”
“Hey, don’t talk like that to me! I didn’t do anything to deserve that.”
“Thank you. Be ready for dinner in thirty minutes. And try to get as much homework done as you can, put your phone away.”
She left the room and he rolled up out of bed. He set the phone on the nightstand and unzipped his backpack. He had a little bit of make-up work for today, but nothing too bad. In fact, he got most of it finished before dinner (granted, it was done somewhat sloppily). He managed to complete most of his assignments from that day that night after dinner, before deciding to just do the rest during passing periods or something and climbing in bed. To his phone he went, surfing the web and social media sites until he again drifted off.
“Good news,” said his Mom as he came down the stairs.
“Your father and I got you in with the dentist again tomorrow. We’ll get this sorted out. He’ll put in an implant for us, free of charge. Pulling an extra tooth. That just isn’t okay!”
“Mom, it’s just one tooth!”
“Yeah, but it’s the principle of the thing! Here, let me see your mouth again.”
Jonnathan rolled his eyes as he dropped his jaw. His Mother grabbed his chin, looking into his mouth.
“Oh, you poor boy. Extra pain for no reason. Your gums look a little swollen, too. Only the one with the extra hole, though…”
Jonnathan raised an eyebrow as his Mother’s voice trailed off. His ears picked it up again just a few seconds later, muttering something.
“One, two, three, four, five… six?”
“Six?” he breathed, mouth still open.
“I thought that it was five.’
“We… we must’ve missed one yesterday?”
“But we both counted five!”
“But there’s six now! How could that—”
“You still freaking out about his mouth?”
Jonnathan jerked away from his Mother, turning to face Lillian. Her long, brown hair flowed behind her almost like a gown for just her neck as she gave her brother a crooked smile.
“Morning,” he spat.
“Hey, no need to be so rude, Jonny. I was just asking a question!”
He huffed and turned back to his Mother.
“There’s fresh oatmeal on the stove, Lillian,” she informed.
“It was five yesterday though, wasn’t it?”
“I could’ve sworn it was… but obviously not. But—uh. We’ll sort this all out tomorrow.”
“How bad is the swelling?”
“Noticeable, but not bad. We’ll take care of it, I promise.”
He nodded and he grabbed a bowl, filling it up with oatmeal and sitting down at the counter.
“So you’re missing another tooth?” his sister asked.
“But I thought you said it was six now.”
“It was always six.”
“It was five yesterday.”
“Huh. Well, then, don’t become an accountant.”
“Same goes for you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I mean you couldn’t ever make it as one.”
“Sure I could.”
“No. You haven’t even gotten into a college yet. How could you do accounting?”
“I could if I wanted to.”
“Right, but you’d rather be a receptionist.”
“Jonnathan, be nice to your sister.”
“Only if she’s nice to me.”
“I didn’t hear any sign of contention in her voice.”
Lillian snickered, leaving Jonnathan with a contemptuous glare. The glare faded over the course of the day, though. What didn;t fade was his double-checking and triple-checking of his mouth with his tongue. One, two, three, four, five, six. One, two, three, four, five, six. One, two, three, four, five, six. Every single time. How could he have missed that one the day before? It just seemed strange. Made no sense.
Granted, it made about as much sense as his homework so he didn’t give it too much thought. He had to focus on the homework. Then on not yelling at Lillian at the dinner table, then on the dishes, and finally social media again before falling asleep. All the while, counting the holes in his gums. One, two, three, four, five, six. One, two, three, four, five, six. One, two, three, four, five, six…
Jonnathan got to sleep-in the next day, since his appointment was earlier in the morning. Better yet, Lillian had already left for work by the time he got up to eat breakfast.
“How are you doing today?” his Mother asked as he came into the kitchen.
“Fine. But my mouth feels more sore.”
“Does it feel any more swollen?”
“I… I can’t tell.”
“Let me take another look.”
He opened his mouth, and she grabbed his chin again.
He jumped back. “Seven?”
“Seven… that’s what I count.”
Immediately he began moving his finger around inside his mouth. He counted up the holes in a flash, and… seven.
“There were six yesterday, right?”
“Yeah, there were.”
“There were six!”
“What’s going on?”
“I don’t know. Hurry up and eat breakfast, we’re getting to the office as fast as we can. We’ll make him take us early if we have to.”
“But how could there be another one?”
“There couldn’t! Just—hurry up and eat! We’re getting to the bottom of this today.”
“Say that again, Mrs Wallace?”
“He’s losing teeth!”
“I… don’t follow.”
“Open up your mouth, Jonny. Show him.”
He did so, and the dentist leaned in.”
“Uh… I only pulled four teeth on Monday.”
“That’s what we thought! Then on Tuesday we thought you had pulled an extra, then on Wednesday we thought that we had miscounted and you pulled two extra, and now today we don’t know what to make of this!”
He massaged his chin. “Neither do I.”
“There isn’t some sort of, spontaneously disappearing tooth syndrome?”
“No. That wouldn’t make sense. I mean, how could an entire tooth just vanish overnight? And leave absolutely zero trace?”
“I don’t know! That’s why we came back! Please, help my son!”
“I… I don’t think that I can, Misses Wallace. This is the strangest set of circumstances in a mouth I’ve ever seen, let alone heard of.”
“What do we do?”
“I… I don’t know!”
Jonnathan felt his heart rate rising. Would he be toothless in a month from now? How could he possibly go to school like that? And where were these teeth going?
“If you want, I can write you a doctor’s note to get him out of school for the time being until we can get this sorted out.
“I’d love that!” Jonnathan jumped in, not giving his Mother a chance for any input.
“Okay, let me get that ready.”
He nodded, looking earnestly at his Mother. He could only look, though, all words simply gone from his lungs.
“How about we go and get you some ice cream after this?” she suggested. He mouthed an acknowledgement, his spirits lifted ever so slightly.
Falling asleep that night was hard. Waking up, even harder. He had been kept awake until two in the morning fretting about what was going on. Thus he slept in until well after eleven in the morning, and only woke up when his bladder mandated it.
He climbed out of bed, holding his breath. He didn’t want to feel his teeth with his tongue at all, for fear of what he might find. Eight, nine, ten, eleven teeth missing? He didn’t have many to spare! What would he do when they were all gone?
His chest slowly constricted in on itself as he let out the built-up waste water, heart heavy. His lips was quivering, and he thought he was going to cry. He shook away the angst and went to wash his hands.
At least my smile still looks normal… for now, he thought to himself, grinning in the mirror.
He suddenly stumbled into the wall as he let out a scream. His arms were shaking, his head spinning.
“No no no no no no no no no no no…”
“Jonny? Jonny! What’s going on in there?” His Mother pounded on the bathroom door as he began wailing. “Just hang tight in there! I’m getting a quarter!”
He curled up on the floor, hugging his legs into his chest. This wasn’t okay, this wasn’t okay! What the… why… how?
The doorknob twisted and his Mother burst into the room.
“Jonnathan! Jonnathan, oh, honey, what’s wrong?”
His lips quivering, he slowly lowered his jaw again to reveal a hole where one of his two front teeth used to reside.
“What? Oh, no! Not the front ones! Jonny, we’ll get you better! I promise!” She pulled her son into her chest, tears in her starry eyes beginning to form. “I promise. We’ll, we’ll just take it easy today. When Dad gets home… we’ll… we’ll…”
She trailed off, giving way to her weeps. He couldn’t blame her, though. He didn’t know what to do either.
“Why don’t you just go and get dressed?” she suggested after a few minutes. “I’ll make you something real yummy for breakfast, huh?”
He nodded, blinking away the leftover tears. He patted him on the shoulder and left, a long, audible sigh leaving her as she paused at the door. Once she was down the stairs, Jonnathan began making his way back to his bedroom as his heart pounded. He felt dizzy, he wanted to collapse back in bed.
He was about to when he noticed something on his dresser. A little piece of paper folded up into quarters, with his scratch work on one side of it. He reached for it, slowly opening it up. He froze as he saw what was on the inside. All vitals signs fell to zero as even his brain seemed to halt in its thoughts.
“You see this?” his Mother shouted, shaking the letter at the police officer standing in her doorway. She had wasted no time calling the police when her son showed her what he’d found on his dresser, and her body similarly wasted no time entering a state of panic.
“Yes, it says ‘You shouldn’t eat ice cream. It ruins your beautiful teeth.’ So what? It’s true.”
“Me and my son ate ice cream yesterday!”
“And this offends you?”
“No! This wasn’t put in my son’s room by him or my husband or his sister or me! Someone saw us eating the ice cream, and put it there!”
“Mrs Wallace, are you feeling alright?”
“No! No, I’m not! Jonnathan, show him!”
He opened his mouth, and the officer looked into it.
“Yeah, he’s missing a few teeth. So what?”
“Someone is in our house, stealing his teeth at night!”
“Mrs Wallace, that seems highly improbable—”
“Then how else do you explain it? How has he lost all these teeth?”
“Bad hygiene? I don’t know.”
“Someone is in his room at night, taking his teeth! Please, officer, please! Send someone to be on our road tonight! Please!”
“Ma’am, we have a lot more serious things going on.”
“Someone is stealing my son’s teethI! How is that not serious?”
“It would be… if it were true. I just can’t see it being true. It doesn’t make sense.”
“I’ll talk to my captain, see what he thinks. But no promises.”
Jonnathan’s Mom fell on her knees, tears pouring from her face.
“Thank you! Oh, thank you! Thank you officer!”
He nodded, stepping away from the door and back to his patrol car. His Mother sprang to her feet and wrapped her arms around Jonnathan, rocking him back and forth.
“I’m so sorry this is happening to you! So, so sorry!”
All he could do was cry in reciprocation, not knowing what else to do.
That night felt impossible. His eyes stayed wide open, no matter how much he tried to convince his brain to close them. The shadows that the popcorn ceiling made from the electric lights outside even scared him. He couldn’t move his neck. His dresser, the closet—everything to his left looked like the figure of a man. His arms were locked at his side. He wanted badly to shift in bed, find a more comfortable way to lay down, but he simply couldn’t. He flinched with every gust of wind that blew outside his window, expecting at any moment for a ladder to hit the glass. It hadn’t yet, and he knew that there was no one in his room as of yet. His door hadn’t opened, and he had checked every place someone could hide before climbing into bed. Nobody could be here. But he still felt like eyes were on him, the horrifying make-believed eyes of his imagination. Demon eyes, they were. Demon eyes with a hunger for his teeth.
He wouldn’t lose any more teeth tonight. The police were outside, and his Dad had loaded his shotgun before going to bed so that if needed it could be quickly used. And, aside from all that, Jonnathan had placed a piece of duct tape across his mouth. Now to get to his teeth someone would have to rip it off of his face, which would for sure wake him up. Then again, though, he hadn’t woken up the previous four nights when more sets of teeth went missing.
He finally managed to force his eyes shut, breathing heavily in and out of his nose.
The sun was coming in through his windows again, and he was slowly waking up. The first thing he noticed was that the duct tape was still over his mouth, and he relaxed a little. The second thing he noticed was that he couldn’t feel a single exposed bone with his tongue and he rocketed out of bed, screaming through the adhesive covering.
His mother burst through the door within moments, a look of frantic panic on her face.
He ripped the tape from his face, taking out the peach fuzz he’d been working so hard to build up with it. His lips fell, his jaw quivering. His Mother gasped, and tears started streaming down her face.
She rushed to her son, taking hold of his shin and looking through her starry eyes at the gums without any teeth. She too began to wail as her husband came into the room wielding his shotgun, followed by Lillian.
“His teeth… they’re all gone!”
“What? All of them?”
“And you didn’t wake up at all, Jonny?”
He shook his head, still only able to cry. Unnoticed by the three of them, Lillian had made her way around her father and was standing by the nightstand. She held another slip of paper, eyes slowly widening.
“What?” her father snapped.
“What is this?”
She held up the paper, revealing yet another note. Jonnathan tried to read it through his blurry vision, blinking away the tears to make it out. It read:
It was foolhardy to try and stop me with that piece of plastic over your mouth. Haven’t you figured it out by now? I can take anything.
The room stood still, no one having the courage to even look at each other. The nervous sweat covering Jonnathan’s body seemed to vaporize—his body became utterly frigid.
He spent all day staring at the wall, moving his tongue over his gums. The police were starting to take this more seriously with the vanishing of all of Jonnathan’s teeth and the second note, but his parents still felt like they weren’t doing enough. They wanted cops inside the house monitoring everything that went on, but they had only promised a patrol car for a stake-out. Jonnathan was partially glad, as if there were policemen inside their house as his parents had suggested there be it probably would’ve freaked him out more… every movement would’ve seemed like a threat… like whoever was coming inside their house at night was right there. He just couldn’t understand how he never woke up when the intruder came. He, or she, was ripping out his teeth! And he just stayed there, silent and asleep! It made no sense. Then again, someone taking only his teeth made no sense… why were no valuables gone? If they were this stealthy, they could easily take his Mother’s ring off of her hand as she slept. That was worth a lot more than a mouthful of teeth.
Whatever their reason, Jonnathan wasn’t sleeping alone that night. His parents had invited him to sleep on the floor of their room, an invitation which he couldn’t accept fast enough. If he never stepped foot inside his own room again, that’d be fine with him. Heck, if he never saw this house again he’d be okay.
“Goodnight, Jonny,” came the soothing voice of his mother.
He looked across the room at his father, who was in the doorway holding the shotgun.
“You coming to bed, honey?” said his Mother.
“Yeah… in a bit. I just…”
“The police are outside the house, honey. They’ll catch whoever is breaking in.”
“But what if he’s already inside? What if he’s been hiding in here the whole time?”
“The cops would have found him when they searched the house.”
“But what if his hiding spot is just too good? What if—”
“Honey, come to bed. You’re freaking Jonnathan out.”
“No you’re not,” Jonnathan lied.
“You’re right. Sleep. I just need sleep.”
Jonnathan was jolted awake by the screaming of his sister.
“Lillian!” his father screamed as he threw the blankets from his body. Jonnathan watched with wide eyes as his parents ran down the hallway towards his sister’s room. He wanted to follow, but fear kept his body frozen there.
“Lillian? Who the—gosh freakin’ no! No! No!”
“Mom! I can’t go to work like this! Oh, Mom! Mo… Mo… om!”
“Oh, honey! It’s all going to be okay! Come here, let me hold you!”
“I… I… I… I…”
“Sh… it’s gonna be okay…”
Jonnathan could tell that it wasn’t simply based on the pitch of his mother’s voice.
“Those cops did nothing! Nothing!” his father screamed. “Absolutely nothing! I’m gonna head out there and give them a piece of my mind!”
Jonnathan had gotten off of his camping mat that he had slept on and was now heading down the hall. He turned to see his mother embracing someone as they cried into her chest.
“Give us a moment, will you Jonny?” she said. He just stared as the bald-headed person turned around, and he gasped as he recognized the face of his sister. Her scalp was raw, and red. Like someone had ripped her long, flowing brown hair out. It wasn’t shaven, the roots and everything were just… gone. Her tears were plentiful though, the water on her face ran like a fierce mountain stream.
“Don’t look at me!” she cried. “I’m hideous!”
He obeyed, turning away from her red face and scalp and his sobbing mother.
“We’re sleeping in a hotel tonight.”
“We don’t have money to just go and sleep in a hotel, you know that!”
“Someone is coming into our house and stealing our children’s body parts! We are not staying in this house one more night!”
“Where is that extra money for a hotel gonna come from?”
“Why are you not worried about this?”
“I am worried about this! But I’m also worried about the family budget!”
“Screw the family budget! We’re in danger, and you know that! We have to leave!”
“The cops are taking this far more seriously now. They’ll catch him tonight. However he’s getting in, they’ll catch him. We have officers that are gonna stay in the house tonight, staying up all night to catch this guy!”
“Please… let us leave…”
“We just can’t afford it.”
“Plea… ea… ease…”
“I’m so sorry. I want to, too, we just don’t have the money right now!”
Frankly, Jonnathan didn’t care if they didn’t have money for food next week. He wanted to get into a hotel too. He wanted to just get the heck out of this place, never come back. He listened to his parents’ argument with great attentiveness, praying that his mother would win out.
She exited their room, her starry eyes full of tears and she approached Jonnathan. “I’m sorry, honey. I’m so, so sorry.” She embraced him, and he reciprocated.
“Please can you try and convince Dad again?” he requested, speaking as best as he could without his teeth.
“He’s set on it. But, the police will be in here tonight. Watching for anyone. It’ll be okay. It’ll be different tonight.”
What would the police be able to do? This guy was a shadow. He came in and mutilated them while they slept without waking them up! What could police hope to accomplish, no matter how many flashlights they had?
That evening they tried to get their minds off of what was going on, as a family. Jonnathan’s father pulled out their favorite family board game. At least, it had been their favorite once. Nowadays no one really played it, it just kind of sat in the cabinet collecting dust. Everyone always just went and did their separate things now… Jonnathan on his phone, Lillian video chatting with her friends all the time… well, his parents still spent time together. But tonight, nobody wanted to be alone. Going off into separate rooms to binge television or scroll on social media was a no-go. Everyone sat at the table, ready to enjoy the family game. And no one did. It was monotonous, and low-energy. Lillian was on the verge of tears the entire time, her bald head just as red as her swollen eyes. Jonnathan had just stared at the board and in a zombie-like manner took each of his turns without any movement of the muscles around his mouth. No talking, no frowning, no grinning, no smiling, no laughing. Just deadness.
There was a rap at the door around seven o’clock that night, and Jonnathan’s father stood up to go and answer the door.
“Yes, that’s me.”
“Hi, I’m Sergeant Dan. I’m in charge of this whole operation tonight.”
“Good to meet you. And, thank you for coming. For doing this.”
“Yeah, of course. This is… this by no means is an ordinary case. It’s just so bizarre, I had to come to it.”
Jonnathan’s Father scoffed, scowling a little at the fact that this policeman seemed to take some sense of pleasure out of their suffering.
“You folks got a hotel reservation okay then?”
“Uh… no. We couldn’t fit it into the budget.”
“Oh. Well, I hope that we don’t keep you up too bad. There will be a fair amount of noise tonight.”
“We’ll be able to sleep, I’m sure.”
Now, Jonnathan scoffed. There was no way that he’d manage to sleep.
“Okay. Well, let’s hope he tries to break in again tonight. That way we can catch this son of a gun and you folks will be safe again.”
The officers began to file into the house, and the family packed up their game. Not like anyone was really enjoying it… they were all too preoccupied to do so. They began making their way into the master bedroom, where there were now two sleeping mats for both Jonnathan and Lillian. Jonnathan licked his gums as everyone else brushed their teeth, watching in silent suffering at what they had and he didn’t. Those six minutes for each of them seemed to drag on forever. Brushing his teeth had always been a chore, but now all he wanted was to be able to brush them again. At least he had hair to comb, he supposed.
Not too long after everyone was in their respective beds and pads, each trying to go to sleep and each failing miserably.
It must have happened eventually though because Jonnathan was jerked out of his dreams by the steady stream of sunlight pouring into the house. He opened his eyes, his tongue again rolling over his gums as he thought about what he once had. He heard one of his parents shift in bed, then shift again, and again, and again—
“Well, no one came in last night,” came the voice of Sergeant Dan from outside the door.
“The light of our flashlights must’ve deterred whoever—”
Jonnathan sat up straight like a bolt of lightning as the shrill scream of his Mother filled the room. The bedroom door flew open as the policeman hustled in.
“What? What’s wrong?”
“I can’t see!” his mother screamed.
“Darling, what’s going on?”
“I! Can’t! See!”
“What do you mean?”
She turned in bed to face her husband, her eyelids lifting themselves up. Jonnathan recoiled and his stomach flipped inside out as the image of the empty eye sockets of his dear Mother reached his own eyes. His intestines twisted, churning about as they began screaming at him to throw up.
“My eyes! They’re gone! He took my eyes! I can’t see! I can’t see! I can’t see…”
“Mrs Wallace, we’ll… we’ll… uh…”
“They’re gone! They’re gone! They’re gone!”
His Father took her into his arms, squeezing her tightly. “I’m so sorry… I’m so, so, sorry… we should’ve gotten a hotel room. We should’ve… we should’ve… we should’ve…”
Neighbors brought over more goodies and meals than anyone could ever eat that day.
“We’re so sorry about all this… it’s just so awful and shocking,” was just about exactly what every one of them said. They’d hand off the cookies or brownies or chicken soup to Jonnathan’s Father and then leave as soon as they saw his Mother with the bandages around her forehead. It was a disturbing sight to see, not because they were bloody or anything, because they weren’t. The wounds were clean, with almost surgical precision used to get them out. No, it was disturbing because looking at them reminded one of the horrors that were going on in that house. Well, one thing was for sure: they weren’t sleeping there that night. Jonnathan’s Father had made reservations at a hotel in town that morning while the ambulance was here to take care of his wife. There was nothing they could do, really, just give them their condolences and ask her what color of glass eyes she wanted. It hurt Jonnathan to watch her struggle around the house. His Father didn’t go to work that day, for more than obvious reasons, and simply tended to his wife. She clutched his arm everywhere she went, depending on him to simply move across the room.
The police officers started showing up that evening again, this time there were more of them. That was Jonnathan’s cue for him and his family to leave. They piled into their car as the police came into the house, two unmarked cars outside on the road for the night. He breathed a sigh of relief as they got away from that house. He wanted nothing to do with it ever again. Screw his gaming console. He didn’t need that. He needed his body parts. And he would lose more if he spent another night in that house.
The first thing into the hotel room was his Mother, unable to maneuver anywhere his Father had carried her up to the room. Jonnathan and Lillian got the bags, following close behind them. Lillian had been promised the second bed by their parents, leaving Jonnathan to sleep on the camping mattress on the floor between the beds. No one really talked, there was nothing to say. Everyone’s thoughts were the same as they drifted off, sleeping somewhat okay for the first night since Jonnathan first started losing his teeth.
Some point during the night he awoke. His bladder wasn’t full, nor was he startled by a nightmare. It was just one of those times when you wake up in the night for no reason.
Just to be sure, he began counting his fingers. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. And then, his fingernails. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. He wiggled his toes, everything seemed normal. He felt the sides of his head for his ears. Check, those were still there. He could still feel his tongue. He flared his nostrils to make sure that his nose was there as well. Finally, he opened his eyelids. While it was dark, he could still make out shadows. His eyes were still there.
He let out an exasperated sigh, slowly climbing to his feet as he realized that his bladder actually was full. He stretched, yawning as he moved towards the bathroom. The light was already on.
“Great. I have to wait for someone.”
He stood outside the door, wondering how long whoever was in there would be. Except… the door was slightly ajar. He raised an eyebrow, wondering who wouldn’t have closed it. Maybe someone had just left the light on, and he was waiting for nothing. He brought his hand to the door handle and gently pushed.
How he wished that he had lost his eyes as he did so. His jaw clenched, a cold sweat suddenly enveloping his body. He couldn’t seem to find the strength to breathe as everything left his chest. His heart seized up, he could barely stare at the thing in front of him. It was naked… it. Just bare, gray, blubbery flesh that looked like it was covered in pimples. At least from what he could see. The long, flowing brown hair of the figure covered over much of its back. Slowly, though, that hair began to move… that familiar, so familiar, hair as the thing’s head slowly turned. His eyes would have widened, had they not already been stretched to their limits. The facial profile of this creature matched that of his Father’s… and as it fully spun, he realized that the face was his Father’s. The cheeks, the nose, the wrinkles in the forehead—even down to the mole just above his right eye. It was all there. Jonnathan suddenly had feeling restored in his stomach as his gut turned over itself again and again, his breath and body feeling cold as he stared into the starry eyes of the creature.
“You humans just have such beautiful heads,” the thing said in a gravely, low voice. “And now…”
He wanted to recoil and run away as it smiled at him, smiling with such a familiar smile. The smile that Jonnathan had looked at in the mirror everyday ever since he first started losing his baby teeth. The smile that his orthodontist had worked on when fitting him with braces, the smile the dentist saw just last week when removing his wisdom teeth. The smile he one called his own, but now belonged to this… this… thing.
“…now I’m beautiful, too.”
Jonnathan somehow found the strength to step backwards, but that was all he could muster.
“And I must say,” the thing continued, “I’ve always been a fan of your bodies, too.” It placed one of its grotesquely large hands on either side of its head, still grinning at Jonnathan. “Mind if we trade?”
There was a horrific crunching noise as a gap formed between its shoulders and chin, its arms rising higher and higher with the head still between them. It took another step towards the frozen young man.
Credit: The Quiet One
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