Welcome to another addition of Feed Your Monster, where we aim to deliver only the tastiest stories to satiate inner monsters everywhere. This week we bring you a well-crafted tale from Stephen Owen that will leave your skin crawling.
Stephen lives and works as a sign maker in the UK. His interest in writing stories began in the nineties when he started writing for the school nursery his children attended. When teachers advised him to think seriously about taking it further, he took a crash course in evening classes to find out what he really wanted to write about. Many years ago he finished his first short horror story. He hasn't written a child's story since.
The Tooth Fairy
By Stephen Owen
Sunday morning. Early. Jake's mouth is a desert. Tastes of barbed wire and bad pennies, and his tongue explores the gap where his tooth used to be. He checked out the wrong girl in Club Bar Rumba and got clobbered by a gorilla with concrete fists. It could have happened to anyone. Now he's drunk, the bed is cold and he thinks forty is way too old for fighting in nightclubs.
Something whines and buzzes in the bedroom, brushes against his cheek. Jake slaps into the darkness, at hummingbird wings and the smell of lavender. He doesn't see it, never even opens his eyes. It dances on his face, weaves through his hair and crawls in his ear.
Jake curses, sticks a finger in the hole and forces the creature even further inside. He's too drunk to give a shit right now. He'll deal with it later.
The sun hangs in a clear blue sky. Birds sing in April blossom trees. It's late Sunday morning. Jake gulps black coffee and smokes a cigarette, elbows rooted to the table. The small coin he found under his pillow this morning is on the table. It looks kind of rural with clipped edges. Twinkling brass in dusty sunlight.
Jake sighs, leans forward for a closer look. His tongue won't leave the gap in his teeth alone. It prods and probes like it wants to make a nest, and his eardrum purrs like a curled up cat.
If it gets much worse he'll be down the hospital.
St Luke's Emergency Department, ten past two, Sunday afternoon. Jake sits on a wooden chair in a whitewashed room, a diagram of the inner ear taped to the wall in front of him.
The doctor stands over him, a tall man with thinning hair, an e-cigarette sticking out of his shirt pocket. “And it just flew in?” He sounds like he doesn't believe Jake. He pushes something cold and metal in Jake's ear, squints and peers in the chrome tube like an astronomer looking at the surface of the moon.
“More like crawled in,” Jake says.
“It was buzzing like one, but it felt bigger when I touched it.”
The doctor huffs, leans over and frowns.
“It was flapping around.” Jake's hangover is almost passed, but now he's getting another headache and the side of his face is going numb. “Like a small bird.”
“And you think it's in your ear?” The doctor removes his metal tool for looking inside people's heads and returns to his desk. He sits down and taps away on his computer keyboard. “Do you listen to a lot of loud music?”
“Do a few clubs and stuff.”
“Bit old for that, aren't you?” The printer rattles and hums and a piece of paper scrolls out. The doctor plucks it from the jaws of the plastic machine and hands it to Jake. The doctor is clearly not interested in emergency patients with hangovers and bad breath and drunken tales of things in their ears. He says, “I can't see anything, but it could be tinnitus. All the information you need is here.”
Jake folds the leaflet, puts it in his pocket with the brass penny.
Sunday evening, still light outside. Jake's head throbs like it's going to burst. He drinks beer, swallows aspirin and jiggles a key in his itching ear.
Channel-hopping lands him on some kind of nature program for children. A smiling man wanders through a garden as if he's never seen a flower in his life. Dappled sunlight twinkles in the trees behind him. He talks of shrubs, springtime and procreation. He stops beside a small green pond and says, “When it's springtime many animals and birds have their babies.”
Jake nods and sips his beer.
“They need to have their young when there's lots of food available.” A close up of the man's face says he's older than Jake first thought. His blond hair is almost grey and he can hardly open his crowfeet eyes. “The days are getting longer,” the man says. “So the animals and birds have got more time to find food for their young.”
Jake's tongue rests in the dental void.
The smiling man walks over to a wooden gate and leaves the garden. He strolls down a track and leans on a fence, sunlight sparkling in his hair. “The warmer days and regular rainfall during springtime means the grass grows well.” He gazes at a field of grazing cows and looks back at Jake. “Lush green grass means the cows are well fed and produce lots of milk for the calves. But it's not just calves that feed off cows.”
The man's face darkens as if a cloud has drifted in front of the sun. He raises a hand and the picture changes to a bunch of alien-looking parasites squirming through a forest of rusty hair. “These lice need the cow to stay healthy because they lay their eggs on the cow's skin.”
Jake sniffs, wrinkles his nose and something warm oozes from his ear. Dribbles like hot snot down his neck. He slams a hand and examines the web of gunk in his fingers. It looks like frogspawn, but not tadpoles. More like dragonflies.
More slime pulps from Jake's ear. Sacs begin popping in his hand, winged abominations squirming between his fingers. He leans in for a closer look. Curses. Squeezes his hand into a fist.
A pincushion of spikes fans in Jake's brain. He folds to his knees, moth things oozing from his ear.
“Later, the eggs hatch to form larva.” The smiling man continues. “These grow up to be adult lice who lay even more eggs to continue the cycle of life.”
Jake is on his back gazing at the circling swarm above him. He thinks they don't look so ugly now that they can fly. In fact, from this angle, he believes they look just like fairies.
Hopefully you've enjoyed this week's instalment. As always there are plenty of other stories in our ezine section to sink those fangs into if your monster still needs more.
Until next week, may your monster never go hungry.
*The Tooth Fairy © Stephen Owen