As a Kid

Sometimes when I couldn’t sleep I would call my grandma and tell her so.

I’d call her, she’d answer, and I’d say, “Grandma, I can’t sleep.”

She’d say, “What’s wrong? Why can’t you sleep?”

“I don’t know. I just can’t.”

“Well just try to relax, close your eyes, and maybe you’ll fall asleep.”

It very rarely worked, but somehow I’ve made it to the age of thirty-five. Even while struggling to sleep almost daily time kept marching on with no one noticing as it usually does so. While I don’t remember what Little Jimmy did to sleep, especially not having access to benzodiazepines, alcohol, or antihistamines as a child, he somehow found the ability to sleep. The thirty-five years seemed to pass in an instant but only in retrospect. Grandma’s advice never seemed to help at the time — just relax — but Jimmy found a way.

My bedroom as a kid had these strange sliding accordion doors — I don’t even know what their proper name was and I’ve never decided to learn as an adult. It made my room seem fancy apparently; a few of my elementary school friends said so. The white wicker furniture on the porch also made out house seemed fancy. A few of them even mentioned that “Jimmy’s family must be rich!” but little did they know we were poor as hell. I didn’t even know how poor we were at the time. We might’ve looked rich on a superficial level, at least to other ten-year-olds, but we didn’t own much of anything. The bank owned most of the important things like our car and the house while credit card companies owned most of the remaining possessions. In fact looking back, I think my parents were perpetually in debt; they literally didn’t own anything. But as a nine-year-old you’re not aware of these things unless your parents were arguing about money, which they often did.

I had sliding doors on my room. Accordion doors. They had these slats on the bottom half of the doors, and smoked glass on the top half. Even though the glass gave some visibility into the living room, you couldn’t see much. You could see shapes through the glass, but nothing definitive. For some reason the left side — from the perspective of someone inside the room — was never moved. If you needed to get into my room you’d move the right side three-paneled accordian door. Never the left. The left panels were always as straight as could be, like they were a wooden and glass wall, and even if they could be physically moved were never actually moved. I didn’t question it: it was a rule. Well, not really a rule, just how things worked. The doors at the time were slightly cracked open. The cat named Patches (the cat I’d sometimes throw off the basement stairs) liked to sleep in the bed with me. He pushed the right-sided panels open just enough to sneak into my room. The right-sided panels were always open enough for an average-sized black and white cat to enter the room. He loved me even if I tossed him off the stairs weekly.

I couldn’t sleep at the time. I would toss and turn in my bed. But then I stopped tossing and turning. I found myself lying on my right side — facing the slightly opened accordion doors to the living room. My room was also next to the front porch with a lone window shining pale, yellow, incandescent light into my room. It almost made a welcome mat in front of the accordion doors, the pale yellow trapezoidal shape of light on carpet. And I layed there. Just existing during another night of being unable to sleep. You could see a tiny bit of the couch through the slightly-cracked door. Patches slept near my ankles.

I went to call my grandma, to complain as I sometimes did, but I felt like I wanted to be totally still this time. Perfectly still for just a little longer. It’s hard to explain. I wanted to call her, but something compelled me not to. While I could move I didn’t want to move. I stared through the tiny gap in my door and looked over the shape of the couch.

I felt dread. I felt death. I laid still and felt something so damning, terrifying, and unholy that I could only stare. I couldn’t cry and I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t do anything. I was locked in place and facing something that only I could explain years later as death: this was what it felt like to die and not to die but to actually be dead. A perfect stillness and comprehension of the darkness behind everything you see. A perpetual “thereness” of a perfect void, of an absolute nothing. Behind every object, person, color, emotion, or anything there was this nothing: this void, this color blacker than black. There was nothing scary to behold visually — just the dark living room lit up by the weak porch light — but something about it felt so ominous that it was beyond explanation. Like there was a dark shape or entity creeping just around the corner, just barely out of sight. Even if you could feel it and know it was there it wasn’t visible. I don’t know how long I laid there or what happened to release me but, as stated, I’m now thirty-five years old and whatever happened that day decades ago remains as vague as any decade-old memory can.

I’ve never experienced it since. But sometimes if I lay very still in bed and keep my eyes focused on a certain point about eight meters away I start to feel that creeping dread. The all-consuming stillness, the background darkness and void that is behind every person, object, and thing. The black shape creeping in my room just barely out of sight around the corner. Something so still and dark and permanent and real that it drills its fear deep into consciousness. If there is anything to fear it is this. I don’t know what it’s called, but that’s the only thing to fear in life…and what exactly would you call that?

If the feeling threatens to wash over me I’ll I take a sleeping pill. Or something. Drugs are a fix-fall for nearly every problem in life and Jimmy didn’t have this option. A half-milligram of xanax scares the demon away long enough for me to not worry about it. As for my grandma? Well, I can’t call her anymore. I’m thirty-five years old. My grandma isn’t around anymore.

Dream Journaling

Writing down dreams.

November 12, 2019

Dreamt I was at a fair or something. But it was inside. I’m recalling a scene from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the movie version, where Raoul and his lawyer pal are riding a merry go round inside somewhere. And there’s a monkey, isn’t there?With glasses? Well, that’s what it felt like. I was there, and I don’t recall other people being there but I wasn’t alone. If that makes sense. I was hesitant to ride but the ride operator (whom I never seen because he wore giant aviator glasses and had a moustache) told me I’d have fun. It would remind me of being a kid and everyone needs to feel like a kid periodically in life. I hopped on a horse and he started the ride.

He was also sitting in the center of the carousel. I’ve never seen a carousel operated this way.

The ride went faster and faster and I thought I’d get thrown off. But he kept laughing and telling me to hold on, hold on tight! I found myself moving to the side of the horse I was riding to counteract centripetal force. And I remember thinking about that and trying to tell the operator about it. Something about the radius squared and the rotational rate. He didn’t know anything about physics and centripetal force. The force was threatening to throw me off the ride so I positioned myself so the horse and bar would take the outward force. I kept yelling about physics. The ride eventually stopped and he was glad he got to learn something.

November 25, 2019

I dreamt that my bottom row of teeth were worn down to the enamel or whatever it’s called and was freaked out about them falling out. Wasn’t a good dream.

Then I was going to math class. Was on a subway or a bus or something. There was a guy playing a game on his phone, sorta like that Magic Piano game but where you only had to hit a few notes during the chorus or something. Like there was no challenge or anything to the game. It was pathetic and the guy loved it; he was having a blast playing it. Got to the class building and went downstairs. We took a math test, and during the exam I was nervous that I couldn’t find a vector given its terminal and initial points. I erased my answers so much I had to ask the teacher for help. He misunderstood and shown me the answer in the back of the book. I figured he wouldn’t penalize me but since I had seen the answers he said he’d just take points off from that question. Then he said something along the lines of, but in a friendly, helpful, and non-sarcastic way, “People get jumbled up sometimes. Especially if it’s been awhile and you’re just a math casual and not really into it.” I was very angry, offended, and wanted to say that I figured out how to find a 4-space cross product on my own. (I don’t even know what that is) Then I guess I woke up.

But after waking up, I realized that I had a total of three dreams that I remembered pretty well but had forgotten by the time I wrote this. I NEED to start writing ASAP when I wake up because I always forget that dreams always become fuzzy after a few hours.

December 1, 2019

Was on an island. It felt like a vacation. Had the feeling of Outset Island from the game Wind Waker. Not similar in appearance or size or anything, only similar in how it felt. It looked like a dumpy area of Rockford. The alleyways were narrow and run down. Then I merged into another dream.

I was on the west side of Rockford. Just walking around I guess. I felt I was going somewhere, or just exploring. Now I’m getting into another dream. Or not sure if it was the same one? Anyways I’ll assume so. I was near the river on the west side. I crossed the river to the bike path.

Now I know for a fact this isn’t the same dream. I just realized three or four of the “bike path dreams” I had. They just were remembered and merged into one singular “landscape.” My mind feels almost overwhelmed. I’ve been suspecting that each single dream (or most single dreams) seem to occur in some of the same “landscapes,” or “dreamscapes” I suppose. Like they’re all physically different but are the same thing. I cannot clearly explain this. I will skip the bike path part. It occurred elsewhere. It seems it always comes up.

I was walking on the west side, by a random sheriff’s building. I was worried about being shot or mugged but then realized I’m part of humanity; I’m one of them and no harm will come to me. I even seen a guy who walked past me and he said, “Hey man, what’s going on?” I replied back something like, “I’m good. How about you?” Just act cool and everything will be fine.

I made it “home” and waiting until my ex-girlfriend got home from work. She finally pulled up in her car and came inside and proceeded to tell me about a healthy fruit that she should “put inside her.” I said something like, “How about I get inside you?” and grabbed her by the waist. She didn’t seem offended, amused, or anything. Apparently we were still together but she seemed more interested in her fruits and health foods than anything else. That’s fine. That’s how I felt in the dream at least.

The Puppeteer

Meeting The Puppeteer.

It was a grey, dreary, and foggy morning and my mood reflected this. I’m not sure if all people are this way but when I wake up my mood instantly reflects the weather outside. If it’s a bright and sunny day my mood is uplifted while a grey and dreary day brings it down to the level of crippling depression. Maybe it has something to do with my vitamin D levels?

Not that the weather made me depressed, because I can do that all on my own without assistance. Once again depression with no clear reason; the past few days of my life had been standard and average, but yet my mood was awful with nothing to point at or blame for triggering it. The weather just made it worse.

When I get that way I want to get out of my head. It’s like my mind runs nonstop with negative thoughts with no way to escape, hence the alcohol abuse, sleeping medicine abuse, and anything else I can get ahold of to derail the train of thought that runs through my dysfunctional brain. I want to get away from myself even though that is the most impossible thing that anyone could ever try to do. Being hopelessly locked in my head leaves me with no escape from my worst enemy: myself and my thoughts. All you can do is temporarily distract yourself.

Hence today and my walk. I don’t know why walking helps me, and sometimes I don’t even think it does help, but it’s something to do. It passes the time and makes it more likely that when I’m done my mood will have naturally improved. I headed out around 9 a.m. looking to do something, anything, to distract myself. I didn’t even know where I was going and let my subconsciousness direct me wherever it felt like. At first I went to the end of the yard, then I went to the end of the street, and after twenty or so minutes I found myself strolling through downtown Rockford.

Something about downtown attracts me. Perhaps because it’s where my dad and mom used to take me as a kid. They used to take me to the river where I could ride my bike along the bike path. Or in-line skate. Or just walk. Sometimes we’d feed the ducks. Apparently you’re not supposed to feed the ducks/geese anymore because they breed too much and bread isn’t good for them anyways. My mind is filled with a handful of very cloudy and vague memories of being downtown next to the river on sunny, wonderful days filled with childhood positivity and naivety. Maybe I go there because I like to pretend I’m a worry-free child again. Maybe it feels like coming back home to where I’m comfortable and at peace with my life. I don’t know if this is why I always end up here when I’m in a strange mood; I’m not a therapist/psychologist.

“Hey, I know you. Yes! It’s you!

The voice startled me as I didn’t know anyone was around me. I turned and looked to my side and there was, I assumed, a homeless man standing there talking to me. I stared at him, too surprised to say anything.

“It’s you! The boy from my dream!”

This time I was able to choke out a very weak reply. “Um. What?”

“Yes, don’t you remember me? I was there!”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

I didn’t understand how this bum surprised me in the way he did. I looked around and realized where I was at: the corner of Chestnut and First Street. This bum was always here and in my introspection didn’t notice where I was. I had seen him countless times driving along this street and while never paying him much attention knew this was his usual location. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen him elsewhere than on this very corner of this very intersection. Bums always did seem to have a usual haunt for some reason. Maybe he was able to get more money from the passing vehicles here than anywhere else?

He wore an old military jacket with rips, tears, and stains all over it. I couldn’t read the name or anything to identify beside the discolored and ragged American flag patch sewn onto his sleeve. The jacket was open and underneath it he wore a dirty, ripped, and stained grey sweatshirt. His beard had food embedded in it along with what I assumed was saliva or phlegm. He was missing an eye but didn’t have a patch on or anything to cover it up. There was only an indentation in his face where an eye should’ve been. He was wearing a seemingly perpetual smile that was fractured by his rotten teeth. About half of them seemed to be missing, and the other half were a putrid color resembling pus or moldy cheese. I shuddered slightly.

He said, “Your name is…uh, well, what was it? Hmm. It started with a “J”. Jacob? No. Jeremy? No. Hmmm? Oh yeah: Jimmy. Your name is Jimmy, isn’t it? Well, you’re real name is James but your friends call you Jimmy, right?”

“How did you know that?” I asked of him. I wasn’t feeling good about the conversation anymore. Something seemed dreadfully off about it.

“I told you already! I seen you in my dreams! The dreams. You’re always there, walking around, jumping around, fluttering around like a bug. Trying to run but finding your legs are too heavy. You’re usually there with the girl, right?”

“What girl? What are you talking about?”

The girl. You know her, you’ve always known her!” The bum began whispering and held his hand next to his mouth as if to shield his voice from any listeners, which of course there were none with no one around. “You fancy her, don’t ya?” He giggled spewing the putrid scent of rotting teeth into my face. “You don’t need to answer me, friend. I already know she’s special to you. But let me tell ya a secret: she fancies you too! You’re like two cute peas-in-a-pod, ya know that? Because I do. I watch you two. She fancies you and you fancy her. Boy, you would make a cute couple. Would ya like that?”

I simply stared at him.

“You know who I’m talking about, don’t be shy! The girl with the pale white skin, the blonde hair, the braid that falls over her shoulder. The one that kissed you. You know her!” He giggled.

I still didn’t know what he was talking about.

“Do you know why I know? It’s because I’m The Puppeteer! Some people call me The Puppet Master, and I don’t have a preference really. You can call me either one you want, or you can call me Blaine. Blaine is my name, and puppeteering is my game. Ha!” He laughed a disgusting laugh punctuated by coughing up phlegm and snot. Some chunks fell into his beard while the others ended up on the sidewalk. “I know my puppets, and I know you.”

“Look, I need to go. I have to be to work soon. And I don’t have any cash to give you, I’m sorry.” I turned to walk away but Blaine, The Puppeteer, kept taking, holding me firm by the threads of conversation.

“Do you know why they call me The Puppeteer? Do ya? Take a guess!”

“You like puppets? I don’t know. I really need to go. I have to be to work by two and…”

“Yes I do! In a way. My buddies in the war gave me the name. I suppose I used to be what you’d call a ventriloquist before the war. I’d get my dummies out, they’d tell some jokes and have some fun and my friends would laugh! It was a great time. Some people laughed but others found the dummies scary. But in the war, well, war changes you. It gets into your soul and brings out the demons. The demons that are yourself. I’d see dead people all the time, dead men, dead women, and especially dead children. And that gets under your skin.” He started to scratch his arm, seemingly unaware he was doing so, and laughed another dreadful laugh. “But the war didn’t get under my skin. It didn’t change me at all. I’m still the same dummy loving dummy that I was when I was drafted.

“So I’d keep bringing the dummies out, trying to make my pals laugh when things were scary and life didn’t seem worth living, but they started to not find it funny. And the dead women and children filled my head and danced around as if on strings, sometimes in my dreams but sometimes in real life. Like marionette puppets they’d dance. I was a ventriloquist and didn’t know about marionettes, but I became curious about them! The dead people as puppets. You can always learn a new art if you really want to.”

“Well, we came across a pile of people, there were always piles of people around. And I wanted to make them dance! To talk! To come to life! To give their stolen lives back to them! So ya know what I did? I found some rope. I tossed the rope over some tree branches and strung them up! It was hard work lifting these very heavy puppets off the ground but I did it. The children were the easiest and were always the happiest to be alive again. I made puppets out of all of them, I pulled the ropes to make them dance, and they were all happy. I could see them smiling when I pulled the strings to play with them.

“I showed my friends my puppetshow and some didn’t have a sense of humor about it. Some started puking. Some told me what I was doing wasn’t right. Some of the serious ones started crying. They didn’t understand the show. But some? Some of them laughed about it, they understood the show! A few even took the ropes and made the puppets dance on their own! The ones that did understand, they started calling me The Puppeteer. They got it! They understood me! So that’s who I am. I’m The Puppeteer! I string the puppets up, make them dance, put on a show, and people laugh. Even if they don’t understand the show at first, they eventually understand. Everyone laughs eventually. The puppets just have to dance long enough for them to understand.”

“Look, sir, thanks for your service and all, but I have to go. I really need to go.”

“You can go, I suppose, but don’t go too far.” He started whispering again. “I won’t let you go too far. Remember, I’m The Puppeteer, and guess who is one of my puppets? You are! You and that girl of yours! I’ve been watching both of you, and I think you’d be great to play around with. You both can make the audience laugh, cry, and feel something. And isn’t that the point of life? To feel something? So, yes, run along with your day, I’m sure I’ll see you one of these nights. Bring your friend too! I need both of you for the play!” He held his hand up in a spidery fashion as if he was holding a marionette puppet’s strings in his hand and shook it, making his imaginary puppet dance. His lone eye sparkled with madness as he giggled.

I gave him one long and piercing look, turned, and walked away. After a few steps I started jogging. And after a few more steps I started sprinting. Eventually it felt like I was running away from a predator, my blood pumped full of adrenaline, the fight-or-flight response in full effect. I knew the so-called Puppeteer was another lonely soul left behind in a quickly changing society and was no real harm — he just needed some mental help — but…what if? And the more I ran the more I noticed a feeling I couldn’t ignore. My arms felt heavy, as if strings were attached to them and holding me back. My legs also felt the same way, as if some force was trying to stop my running. I turned around and looked at the tiny and almost imperceptible shape of a person standing next to the road far in the distance. The shape was holding his hand out as one would do to control a puppet. Spidery and threatening. It had to be all in my head. I turned and tried to forget all about The Puppeteer on the corner of Chestnut and First, still running as fast as my legs would allow.

The Demon Tree

The tree wants me dead.

The tree is a malicious menace. The tree is a dark demon. The tree is an evil entity. The tree is after me. The tree wants me dead. I don’t even know why but the tree wants my soul.

I never had these thoughts sober. I don’t like using the word “sober” here because “sober” is usually used in regards to alcohol usage/abuse. I think words like “fucked up” are more appropriate here. I don’t even remember what I was on at the time and does it really matter? With the drugs pulling apart reality, removing the facade that is always over the actual reality, I could see beyond. And the tree was a demon. It was such a simple and obvious realization that I’m surprised it took my body being loaded with chemicals to actually notice it.

Sober, as much as the word didn’t apply to the concoction within, the tree never bothered me. It was only a minor irritant in my life, nothing threatening to my very being. When it would storm or was windy I was always terrified of the bastard falling over onto the house. Somehow smashing and killing me as I was on the toilet or walking up the stairs. You know, dying one of the mundane deaths that I’m perpetually terrified of. People are killed by buses — I know they’re dead and don’t actually care about how they died — but in the moments before they die, I always wondered if they’re able to think, “Is this really how I go? A bus? Really?!” A fleeting moment of disbelief that their life is over due to such a silly chance occurrence. It has to be demeaning in a way. Or fitting. A perfectly mundane, hilarious, and chance encounter marking the end of a life filled with the mundane, hilarious, and chance encounters. Glorious deaths are only fitting for glorious lives, and to be honest there are none outside of books/film/video games.

Sometimes the tree (when it was windy, the tree couldn’t do much on its own so relied on the wind to assist in tormenting me) would shed its pine needles all over my car. It’s not that I’m one of those people that were obsessed with my vehicle, but a stray pine needle or two sticking out from the crevice between the hood and car’s body would incessantly bother me until I removed it. Sometimes they would get caught under the wiper blades and instead of a perfectly wiped window, I’d have tiny streaks due to the needles that were wedged under the blades. Stuff like that. Not threatening by any means, but still something to slightly ruin your day.

And the sap, let’s not forget the sap. The tree itself was about thirty feet from where I parked my car, but somehow sap would still find its way to my vehicle. Sap on the windows which was smeared any time I rolled the window down/up or used my wipers. And tree sap is something unique that is almost impossible to remove once it finds its way somewhere. You need to make a dedicated effort to remove pine sap from a vehicle and if this happened in the winter it was going to stay there for a long time hardening. I would also walk through the yard and have sap stuck to my foot. Once again nothing to really ruin your day, but still an annoyance.

In my drug-fueled state I seen the tree for what it was: a demon. A menace that did all of these things on purpose. It had only been gently toying with me in regular day-to-day life and I had never caught onto him until that day. It was in the evening, well after sunset where the sun lights up the upper level clouds against the darkened but still star-free sky. The clouds took on an ethereal light against the dark navy of the sky above it. And the tree? It looked not as a thing but an absence of something against the clouds. A spidery, tall, and looming presence that was black and only black. A shape that you could see only because it blocked out material things behind it. It wasn’t so much a thing or an object as a void. A huge, looming, void presiding over the porch.

I wasn’t sure if it hated me alone or people in general. Trees are generally terrifying to me, at least when I think about them for too long. Trees are so old and plants in general have been around on this planet millions (if not billions) of years before animals, let alone us shitty humans. Ever present and ever looming. Forests of them covered the planet silently for millions of years before any conscious human ever was around to think about them.

And what did us humans do once we showed up? We figured out how to fuck the planet up in ever more efficient and dangerous ways with every technical advancement we developed. Agriculture. Smelting. Metallurgy. The industrial revolution. Trains. Coal. Oil. Fossil fuels. Cars. Airplanes. Burn down the forests because we need to eat beef. We need farms. In the blink of an eye (geologically speaking) a holocaust of trees had occurred, and you can’t help but understand why this tree wanted me dead.

As the drugs ripped apart and rearranged the overlying world and universe I was able to see thing I didn’t normally see. The trees roots went deep, down hundreds of feet just like any other tree, but where the roots ended? A big black mass of void, evil, and malice. The roots entwined and fed off the darkness drawing it up into the trunk and distributing it to the rest of its limbs. The other trees weren’t like this even if they had some deep and underlying fear of humans; they were innocent trees that simply grew and enjoyed their lives, but this one was different. The rest of the trees even seemed to be slightly leaning away from this large demon I was staring at. As if even they wanted to get away from him even fixed to the ground as they were.

As for where the darkness below me came? I have no idea. I didn’t want to think about it very much, especially in my state.

The tree reached for me as a tree would try, but it was still bound by physical laws. I could see a dim reddish light glowing at the core of the tree, it was his anger for me. The branches hung listlessly and swung towards me when wind gave it a reason to do so. The branches nearest to the ground sort of bowing down and upwards like a beckoning finger.

The tree wanted me dead. Maybe it wanted everyone dead, I didn’t know for sure. But the joke was on the tree: most of the time I wanted myself dead as well but wasn’t courageous enough to go through with the task of bowing out of life. But I looked into the heart of the tree, the glowing red heart of hatred that it had, and I held my glass up to him.

“I tell you what, old sport. If I ever do decide to exit this awful realm, well, you can help me.”

The tree swayed slightly even though no obvious wind was about.

“If I ever decide to bow out, maybe I’ll use a noose, I’ll toss it right over your branch.” I pointed to one of his low-hanging and thicker limbs. “Right there. Would that make you happy?”

It swayed again.

“But I’m not sure. Maybe I’ll hang around for as long as possible. Hell, I might even chop you down. Burn you. Maybe take up paper making for a hobby? You know, do what my ancestors have done for centuries. I bet you would make good charcoal to grill with.”

It leered at me in a way that only a tree could do.

“Don’t be too upset, I’m only joking. I bet we will be best friends in the end, after everything has been said and done.”

The tree nodded in eager agreement.

The Smiling Faces

The room was white. There were no shadows. There was a line of faces, faces looking at me and smiling. All types of people, all races, female and males, mostly younger but some middle aged, all smiling at me. The row of faces was endless, but didn’t display any perspective. It was if the row of faces was two-dimensional. Even the faces far to the left and to the right were seen dead-on, no side perspectives or anything. The room was featureless, no obvious walls, corners, floors, doors, or anything. Just white. White with smiling faces.

I was a photographer for some reason. I didn’t have a camera, or a tripod, or anything but knew I was there to take pictures. Everyone looked at me with blank expressions except for their smiles. They all had that hesitant closed-mouth smile, with their lips and cheeks straining upwards as far as they could without showing their teeth. Those smiles are always strange and insincere, even the smiles that do display actual happiness and joy have an embarrassment and unwillingness to open up and let happiness be real. As if being happy is an affront to the world or something. Scowling is fine, blandness is fine, and a small grin is fine, but true happiness? No. No laughter. No real smiles. No joy. Always hide it from the world.

I looked up and down the row of faces. As a photographer you needed to be fun and lighthearted. I wasn’t good at doing that. I didn’t know why I was a photographer. I was terrible at getting people to smile. How was I to turn these hesitant half-smiles into fully fledged photograph-worthy faces of pure happiness?

I asked them with the fakest tone of enthusiasm possible to smile. “You need to smile! I want to see some teeth! We need these pictures to be good. They’ve paid a lot of money for these pictures to be good!”

The faces turned and looked at each other. There were no bodies, just faces. Not that they were beheaded or anything, I just didn’t notice any bodies being present. Just the ever present heads. The heads that seemed too scared and afraid to actually smile.

“Come on, smile!”

The face directly in front of me looked down at the ground and all around the room-that-didn’t-exist, hesitant and seemingly deep in thought and fear. Guarding something horrendous. Finally, she let her lips open and develop into a fully-fledged and joyous smile.

And her teeth. Blacked. Rotten. Pungent. I wasn’t close to her, but the smell permeated the room instantly. None of the other hesitant faces seemed to notice anything with their dumb half-smiles and their blank stares directed towards me.

“Okay. Good. That’s a good smile. Beautiful.” I held down a few coughs and heaves that my body was demanding of me. “How about everyone else? Smile like the beautiful lady right here, okay?”

They all hesitatingly opened their mouths into a multitude of hideously genuine smiles, all with rotting and wrenchingly awful smelling teeth being displayed to me and only me. The blackness and stench of their mouths seemed to suck the light out of the room. It was still white obviously, but seemed tarnished.

“Those are nice smiles…really. Nice…” I coughed a bit. The faces kept smiling with some beginning to silently and horribly laugh.

“Why, why are your teeth so rotten?” I asked. “You, you all have dental insurance. Why? Why don’t you get your teeth fixed?”

Their laughing started to become hideous and fearful.

“Get your fucking teeth fixed. What is wrong with you all? They’re rotting! Literally in your mouth?! A permanent part of you is dying inside you. Doesn’t that bother you at all?”

The faces slowly turned from laughter to crying, crossing that subtle boundary that separates the two. Ugly laughing into ugly crying. Tears streaming down their faces and into their mouths. I imagined the salty tears entering the rotten crevices of the teeth and burning like acid on skin, or alcohol on a wound. Their faces seemed to confirm my beliefs: they were all hideously crying and screaming with no sounds to be heard, tears flowing into their mouths incessantly.

“Don’t you smell that awful smell? Everytime you breathe, you don’t notice it? You don’t want to vomit every time you inhale, every time you look into a mirror? They’re rotting inside of you. They’re bones but in your mouth and rotting. Pull them out. Why don’t you pull them out? Get rid of them. Before the putrefaction spreads.”

Immediately as I said it, their teeth started falling out. Everyone of the faces’ teeth were falling out onto the white floor that wasn’t really there. But they made the floor appear. They gave it definition, shade, and color. Teeth blackened and pungent all over the floor, with yellow puss and ooze pooling around them. There was no escape from the scent. I couldn’t puke; my body wouldn’t let me. It was an affront to the white room and my body wouldn’t allow me to soil it further. I started to run along the row of faces, constantly screaming and howling in perfect silence. My feet were bare and as I ran the rotted, sharp, and jagged teeth dug into my feet. They were razors and every step I took they embedded themselves into my feet. They worked their way into the bones of my feet, as if my foot was made of putty or jelly. I could taste the awful stench of the puss as it seeped into my bloodstream. It was the odor of rotten potatoes. The white room turned a sickly off-white and yellowish color. The puss was in my eyes. The stench was in my nose. The rotting was in my brain.

I turned and saw a mirror. I opened my mouth. My teeth were rotted. My teeth stank. It was inside me and eating me away. My teeth fell into my hands. My nails were rotted. My nails stank. They fell off onto the floor. My feet were blackened and decayed. My toes fell off. I looked into the mirror once again to see a corpse without teeth staring back at me. I screamed but no sound came out. The faces reflecting in the mirror continued to scream, howl and cry — not at me but with me. I was one of them. I was one of them all along and was too terrified to see it. Our pungent howls in unison silently turned the room black.

%d bloggers like this: