Prompt: When they finally found, her hair had turned white, huddling in a corner she kept chanting… Teeth… Teeth… Teeth.
Detective Morgan and I found her in the basement of an abandoned house out near the slums. Shit and dirt caked her body, her clothes were soaked through with piss, her clumpy, mangled hair stuck to her face as if it were mud. She was huddled in a corner, holding her bony knees up to her chest, her pale thin arms wrapped her legs. At first she refused to speak, refused to even move from the puddle of urine she sat in. But slowly, ever so slowly, we managed to get out from the corner, get her into a warm blanket we brought in, and into a patrol car. We tried figuring out what happened to her, but all she ever said was, “Teeth. . . Teeth. . . Teeth.”
We brought her into the station, and a few of the female officers brought her to the shower and helped her get cleaned up. They gave her fresh underwear and clothing, and a cup of coffee. An officer escorted her into the interrogation room and sat with her until I arrived. I sat down in the other chair and looked at her from across the metal table. Her hair was now straight and pulled back in a ponytail, and the hot water made her pale skin splotchy. The hazel eyes underneath her thick brows seemed to glimmer below from the light.
“Hello, I’m Detective Fred Gretz. What’s your name?” I asked.
She just stared at the table with her arms at her side. I don’t think she even heard the question. So I tried again.
“I’m Detective Fred Gretz, what’s your name?”
I sat back and tapped on the table and as if she was a deer caught in the headlights, she looked up at me. Maybe she’s deaf?
“Can you hear me?” I said to her.
She shook her head.
“Are you deaf?”
Well, I’ll be damned. I put my finger up and mouthed, “one minute” and left the room. When I returned about, I had a notebook and a pen. I scribbled down my name and the original question, then slid it over to her. She pushed it back a moment later. In childish handwriting, she wrote: Hello. I’m Paige.
Nice to meet you Paige. I wrote. Do you have anyone we could call to let them know you’re here and safe? Like a parent or sibling?
No. She wrote back.
Okay, well, is there maybe a friend we can talk to? Maybe a buddy from school?
I sighed and rubbed my eyes. The clock said it was about two in the morning and I hadn’t slept in awhile. I felt bad for her but I was getting nowhere. So I threw caution to the wind and jumped straight into it, hoping that she wouldn’t lose her shit.
So Paige, why were you down in the cellar?
I was hiding.
Hiding? From what?
The Mouth. I noticed she capitalized mouth, which I thought was weird at the time.
The Mouth? Is that a person or. . ?
No? So is it like a nickname or a place, or some kind of drug?
I caught myself before habitually furrowing my brow in frustration, instead I kept my cool and smiled at her.
I’m sorry for my stupidity, Paige, but what is The Mouth?
It’s what took my hearing away.
You weren’t born deaf? I asked.
No. The Mouth and its Teeth took it away. Weird again, now capitalizing teeth too.
Did The Mouth and its Teeth do anything else?
Took away my family too. Ate them.
What do you mean, “ate them?”
It seemed I finally found the right question to ask, because when she took the notebook away from me and put the pen to paper, she feverishly went into her story. She covered each page, front to back, with words, from the margin all the way down to the last line. Sweat broke out her on face and her muscles stood out underneath her skin. The white knuckled hand that gripped the pen moved as it were a knife and she was slashing someone and cutting them vertically. When she finished she chucked the pen across the room and shoved the notebook across the table. Paige sat back into her chair, pulled her knees up to her chest and closed her eyes, breathed heavily and slowly swayed to a sound that she could only hear.
I didn’t even look at the notebook at first. I paged a female officer and had Paige carefully escorted to a spare room we had in the station. I made sure she had new sheets, blankets, pillows, and anything else she might want. Then I returned to the interrogation room and picked up the notebook.
Most of it was gibberish. I could hardly make out the words with the jutting lines and swirling letters. . . But what I did figure out told a hellish story.
We summoned it. The Mouth and its Teeth. [A squiggly line.] The walls, the floors, the ceiling black gums, stretching and peeling. Wet with greasy saliva and blood. [Incomprehensible words.] The gigantic Teeth tore through the world, opened reality and revealed the Ether.
They’re gone! We were promised safety to pass by [Some kind of symbols, like hieroglyphs.], but the leaders, my friends, were taken! Bitten into two in front of my very eyes! [Swirling lines.]
I ran home, left the house in a pool of innards and blood. When I entered, my house turned into what I had just left. I couldn’t escape it! [Strange, jutting symbols.] Before I could make it to my parents, they were taken through the lipless gums into a place I cannot get to!
We should’ve left it alone, should’ve left The Gray Writ be. God. . . [Black slashing lines, crisscrossing across the remainder of the page.]
The cellar was safe briefly. Then The Mouth enveloped the entire structure of the house. Tar dripping black tendrils slithered out from the Ether beyond the Opening, from the other side. [More slashing lines, though they twist and swirl at their ends.] They corkscrewed in the air, passing through my hands that held my trembling head, and entered my ears.
I couldn’t hear. [Black bar, like a censorship bar.] I couldn’t hear The Mouth open and close, open and close. It was so dark, so very dark. [Thick, filled in diagonal lines stretching across the paper.] There was no light anywhere, no matter where I went or looked. Was I blind?
Had it been a year? two? ten? [Overlapping numbers. Some could partially be made out, like 50, 70 and 1,000.]
Vibrations upstairs, coming down. [Large, empty circle in center of page. Words around it.] Although I had been deaf for God knew how long, I still could hear the sounds of my parent’s creaky basement stairs in my head.
Then I was taken here. [A crudely drawn shield.]
“Jesus Christ. . .” I whispered, setting down the notebook.
When I returned to my desk, I hid the notebook in one of the locked cabinets. Detective Morgan came over and asked about Paige. I told him she was just a poor deaf girl that got lost years ago, and that she had been homeless for quite some time. Then I said I would figure out something for her, call a couple of the shelters and see if they had a spare bed. He slapped my shoulder and told me I was a good guy, and an even better cop. He glanced at my eyes, saw the black bags underneath, and told me to get some sleep. I nodded, then got my jacket from the back of my chair and left the station.
The rain pelted the hood of my car as I left the station. Thankfully it was late into the evening and hardly anyone was driving around. A trip that usually took me around ten minutes only took about six. I pulled into my driveway, killed the engine, then ran from my car into the house, shielding myself with my coat.
I hung the jacket up as I walked down the hallway, into the kitchen. I flicked the light switch but no lights came on. I tried again, nothing. Then I moved into the dining room, tried the switch there, to find that also didn’t work. The power must’ve went out, I thought. Damn.
The water was still running, so I went up into the bathroom and took a quick, hot shower. When I came into my bedroom, a towel covering my lower half, I opened up a drawer and rifled through the mess of unfolded clothes.
Something creaked behind me and instinctively I whipped around and knelt, as if I was carrying a gun and preparing to shoot. Out of the gloom in the corner walked Paige. She no longer wore the new clothing the station provided, no longer did her hair look clean and washed. Blood and grime matted her hair to her face, black liquid dribbled down the sides of her mouth, dirt and mud caked her fingers and feet.
“The Mouth. . . The Teeth. . . We cannot escape, we are bound.” She said, her words like a whisper.
I strode over to her and sat her onto the bed. I picked up the phone on the nightstand to find it also was out.
“Paige,” I said, turning to her and rubbing her arms. “We have to go back to the station. I don’t know how you got here, or how you got into my house, but we have to go back. We’ll get you some new clothes — don’t worry about these ones — and a nice, warm ba—” I stopped mid-sentence, remembering she was deaf.
“The Teeth. . . They come.”
A flash of lightning filled the room, sending long shadows across the floor and wall. The sky grumbled and shook the house. The pitter-patter rain now turned into stones pummeling the roof.
“I’ll just take you now. Hold on.” I ran over to the dresser, got clothes and put them on quickly, then went back to over her and got her onto her feet.
I gently took her hand and escorted her to the stairs. One by one, as if she were a child just now learning how to traverse a stairwell, she went. We reached the bottom and I held up a finger, then ran into the kitchen for my keys. When I returned to the entryway, she had vanished.
“What the fuck. . .” I seethed, furrowing my brow.
“Paige!” I ran into the living room, the dining room, then back into the kitchen. “Paige! Where are you?” Screaming as if it would do any good, but doing so anyway. I took the stairs by two and checked the second story, to find it as vacant as before. “Paige, c’mon! We have to get to the station! You can’t be here!” I threw open the basement door and hurriedly went down the creaky, wooden stairs, grabbing a flashlight dangling from a hook in the wood paneling.
The dull light illuminated the cellar, revealing Paige in the corner, crouching, trembling, weeping. I knelt down next to her, rubbing her back. “Hey, it’s going to be okay; everything will be fine. C’mon, let’s just go and get you cleaned up, okay?”
“It’s not going to be okay. It’s not going to be fine. Its here.”
“You can hear m—?”
The house shook, but not from the thunder. It felt like an earthquake tore through the structure, from the basement all the way up to the crawl space. An eerie violet light filtered in through the small windows near the ceiling, and thick, black spider webbing lines spread across the walls. The door to the upstairs slammed shut.
The lines crisscrossed and zigzagged down the walls, over the floor, stretching across the ceiling. Like a broken mirror, the space in between the intersecting lines broke free but instead of falling out into the room, they fell inward, into a swirling void. A deep purple hue replaced the violet, sending the room into even more darkness.
“What’s happening? What’s going on?” I asked, moving closer to Paige in the corner.
Everything surrounding us gave way at once.
“The Opening.” She whispered.
Pin-points formed in the far wall, tiny lines of white light pierced the gloom. The points rotated in the void, like dancing stars in space, then collided together, dropping to the floor.
Kaleidoscopic colors exploded from the point where the stars fell, covering every inch of the cellar — though it was no longer a cellar, just an endless space of swirling, colorful nothingness.
A multicolored, horizontal line shot across the sides flanking us and began splitting into two, diagonally stretching apart; like watching lips open from inside a mouth. Beyond the lines were rows upon rows upon rows of long, deep valleys, and large, cloud piercing mountains. . . But as the seconds passed, this awe-inspiring place transitioned into a place of hellish imagination. The valleys were in actuality deep-seated crevices lining the black, oily gums of an world-sized mouth. The mountains were the teeth, enormous, crude, jagged, and blunt.
The lines spread entirely, leaving us in a place of oily darkness. The sky replicated what laid below, and the mountain-sized teeth chomped down, sending big pieces of decayed enamel into the bleeding gums below.
“The Mouth. . . The Teeth.”
Swirling, vine-like things with ever-peeling mouths lined with razor sharp, jagged teeth rose out of the blackened gums. They slithered in the air like snakes in water, drifting towards us. I scrambled backwards, warding them off with my hand, but slipped on a patch of greasy blood and fell onto my backside. They attacked immediately, entering the palm of my raised hand, shooting up through my veins, and quickly devoured my innards and brain.
When I came to I huddled in a corner of a cellar, nude and trembling. Debris and trash littered the floor, piles of it nearly touching the ceiling. There was a sudden flash of bright light. I covered my eyes until they stopped hurting. A man in a tan jacket walked down into the cellar, covering his mouth. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, but from his lips I think he asked, “Gretz? Is that you?”
I dumbly nodded.
In a blur I could hardly recognize, I was taken to the station, washed and given new clothes, and placed in an interrogation room, with the lights dimmed. Detective Morgan came in, sat and asked something. I shook my head.
“You deaf?” I made out from his lips.
He said something, then got up and left. He returned soon with a pen and paper.
Tell me what happened. He wrote.
I took the pen in my shaking hand, and began telling him the story of Paige, The Ether, The Opening, and The Mouth and The Teeth.