By Brian Bogart
Exclusive Halloween Fiction
If you eat all of that candy, your teeth are gonna rot out.
Craig pulled the covers up over his head, nursing his jaw as his mother’s voice taunted him in the darkened bedroom. It was the last words she had spoken to him before leaving for another late-night shift. The room was dead quiet, save for the sound of his buddy Steve blissfully snoring away in the other corner.
Craig didn’t want to sound jealous, but it really was completely unfair. Steve had eaten even more candy than him, not to mention that he didn’t even bring his toothbrush for their annual Halloween sleepover. Yet there he was, oblivious to things like pain and cavities. Heck, he was probably dreaming about scarfing down even more, judging by the puddle of drool staining the pillow beneath his chin.
He winced as another sharp pain ebbed from his back molar and the connecting gum tissue. It was going to be hard to sleep. He wondered if his mom had any chewable headache medicine in the bathroom. Normally, he would just call her and ask, but he wasn’t ready to admit that he had eaten his entire bag of candy. He would have a look for himself, maybe even brush his teeth and rinse again. The mouthwash helped to numb the pain, if only for a few minutes.
Craig took a deep breath and slid from beneath the blanket. The floor was littered with candy wrappers, clothes and comic books. The clutter was the eight-year-old equivalent of a rock star’s drunken bender in a hotel room. The wooden floor was cold on his bare feet and he fought the urge to grit his teeth with each step. It was a losing battle, thanks to an unexpected splinter when he reached the hallway. His jaw clenched when his teeth met. He swore he felt one of them move unexpectedly.
Is it going to fall out?
It didn’t seem likely. But if it did, he might be able to avoid telling his mom altogether. He might even be able to sneak it under his pillow. Just a little secret between him, his rotten tooth and the tooth fairy. Steve had once told him another name for the tooth fairy: the Cavity Collector.
Craig told him that it sounded like the name of a boss in a video game. Steve responded with a goofy snicker. He paused a moment, then snapped his fingers.
“Ha. Guess it does. Like a guy who works at a dentist’s office or somethin’. How’s this for a final boss? The PLAQUE-EATER!”
They both laughed at that, but walking down the pitch-black hallway tonight? The stupid name sent a chill up his spine. He could see some strange creature – all bent and crooked – climbing into children’s beds and rummaging under their pillows each night while they slept. He stopped at the bathroom doorway, fumbling for the light switch from the hall. As silly as it was, he still didn’t like entering dark rooms. His mom said that plenty of adults turned on lights before entering a room. Maybe they did, but it probably wasn’t because of goblins or fairies.
He let the faucet drizzle while he brushed. He was careful not to do it too harshly, but the troublesome tooth rested next to a crooked one, which made it difficult. He spits into the sink, noticing the mixture of blood in the frothy white, turning it pink. He popped open the mouthwash, gurgled and spit again. His breath may have been fresh, but his gums still stung. Shaking his head, he groaned and made his way back to bed.
Rain began to fall outside his bedside window. Craig’s tired eyes watched as the water cascaded down the glass for a few seconds before closing them. The drizzle soon became a downpour. Concentrating on the rhythm of raindrops beating down on the roof, the pain eased off enough for him to finally sleep.
Craig didn’t want to open his eyes at first. He just lay there, trying his best to ignore the pain in his jaw, instead listening to the sounds around him.
Steve was no longer snoring, but he could hear a faint groan in his direction, followed by an exasperated, sleepy sigh. The storm outside had passed, but the wind had taken its place. A steady whistle bellowed from the chimney in the front room, alongside the rustle of raked leaves blowing in the yard just outside his window. The whirring buzz of the hallway fish tank filter came and went.
Then, a sound that he could not quite place.
It reminded him of marbles when they would clank together in a bag. Or maybe even coins in a penny jar. But this was much quieter. There was a wooden thump, followed by a scraping noise, right before the first sound would start again. Craig opened his eyes, refusing to pull the covers away. He couldn’t tell where the noise was coming from, but it sounded close. With every thump, it seemed closer.
Steve groaned again, louder this time. Craig heard the familiar sound of the mattress bedsprings squeak in the dark, and listened for the other noise. He didn’t hear it. Only Steve’s heavy breathing and the gurgle of the fish tank.
At least, Craig hoped it was the aquarium.
“Steve?” Craig whispered.
Steve moaned in response.
“Steve. You awake, man?”
“Hey, numbnuts!” Craig said, trying to mask his fear by using Steve’s favourite phrase against him.
A giggle, this time.
But that wasn’t Steve.
Craig moved both of his trembling hands to the edge of the blanket, pulling it down from his face. He did so slowly, craning his head to the side to get a better view of his friend.
Steve’s eyes were closed, but he didn’t seem to be fully asleep. It was more like some kind of trance. His eyelids fluttered, and his mouth opened and closed forcefully, his chest heaving as he fought for air. Spittle foamed at the corners of his mouth as he gagged, but his eyes remained closed. Craig’s own eyes widened as he watched, taking it all in.
Resting on Steve’s chest was a small, leather sack. It was similar in size to the bags they had used to get candy. This one was filled to the brim, a drawstring pulled taut at the top. With every exhale the sack bucked, its contents bouncing and clanging together inside. It was the sound from before, minus the thud and scraping. Steve jerked in bed, his arms flailing to the side before hanging limp. The bag fell beside him, spilling out and unto the bed. With the moonlight shining in from the bedroom window, Craig could make out just enough to know exactly what he was staring at.
Dozens of tiny teeth.
Most were yellowed or rotten, some stained brown and others black. Some were stark white, save for bits of red at the gnarled roots. The aroma in the room shifted, replaced by the overwhelming scent of sour breath, withered enamel and decades of tooth decay.
Steve’s mouth opened again, but not on its own. Two small, skeletal hands appeared from the other side of his face, the long, knotted fingers reaching into his mouth. One held it open, pushing his tongue to the side as the other prodded around inside. A gurgling noise was Steve’s only response. Two yellow, narrow eyes gleamed in the dark above the bed, inching closer to inspect further.
Its head was long and gaunt, wide nostrils flaring as it worked. Wrinkled flesh pulled into a furrowed brow, wispy strands of silvery hair hanging down behind sharply pointed ears. The skin hung loose on its arms, which seemed too long and too thin to be practical. The flesh swayed like sheets on a clothesline, rippling with each motion, They moved quickly, despite an apparent lack of musculature.
An elongated neck twisted and contorted as it leaned forward. It removed its hands from Steve’s mouth, saliva trailing from sharp and jagged fingernails to its own lips. A long tongue slithered from between dry, chapped lips, licking the fingers clean and shaking its head. The hunched shoulders shrugged, revealing wings that sprung to the sides before disappearing again. The creature sniffed at the air.
Black, blistered gums and a row of alarmingly oversized and perfect teeth turned in his direction. The canines glistened as it reached for the sack, scooping up the fallen teeth into the palm of its hand.
The mouth opened even wider, tongue lolling to the side and outward. It sprinkled the teeth unto its tongue, drooling as it savoured the taste, then darted back. It began to chew, mouth open, like a child eating candy corn. The sound of it grinding the bits of bone was deafening. Splinters of what was left fell to the carpet from its open mouth. It moved closer.
Craig closed his eyes. He could smell the creature now, towering over him. It leaned closer. His own nostrils flared as the creature’s pointed nose touched his cheek. He opened his mouth to gag from the stench.
The creature grabbed his jaw, its long finger pushing his tongue aside. Wrinkled fingertips prodded, scratching the inside of his cheek like sandpaper. He felt his aching tooth wiggle in place, loosening from his tender gums with each scrape of the creature’s fingernail.
Hot breath lingered on his neck a moment, then a harsh whisper pierced his ear.
“That – belongs to me.”
Craig listened to the sounds in his bedroom one last time. Steve snoring, the creature laughing, and the sound of rattling teeth in an overfilled sack that drowned out his own scream.
Brian Bogart is an American author, residing in Northern Ireland. His love of genre fiction started at an early age, consuming every horror and fantasy book available. He has been published in various degrees online and contributed a short fiction piece, “TOCSIN”, to The One Million Project (OMP) Thriller Anthology in an effort to raise money for cancer research and the homeless. He loves to share his enthusiasm for the horror genre with others and help promote other authors.
His latest story, alongside many other authors, can be found in the pages of EPIC FANTASY SHORT STORIES, coming soon from Flame Tree Publishing.
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