The drill whined and squealed as it worked, sending fragments of my last hope flying through the glare of the overhead lamp. Blue eyes enlarged to terrifying proportions peered through the tiny binoculars the dentist wore clipped to his glasses. I could feel them boring into me like the drill, searching for the remaining pieces of protection still nestled in my teeth.
My father placed them there when I was young. They were bits of darkness to protect me from creatures of darkness, he said. Even as a child, that hadn’t made sense to me, and I’d told him so. He smiled his white, perfect smile then.
“Creatures of darkness will think you are one of them,” he’d said. “They won’t bother you because they won’t know that you really aren’t.”
Content with his explanation as only a child could be, I’d opened my mouth for him, and he’d set to work. The process hurt; my mouth bled for days afterward. Still, for all the pain, it worked. I no longer saw them lurking in the corners of the back yard at night, watching me with veiled eyes. Whatever my father had done, it had worked. I was safe.
“There we go,” the dentist said, a smile peeking around the edges of his surgical mask. “All set.”
I worked my jaw. Despite the Novocaine, I could still feel a dull ache–almost an itching–in my gums. A weak smile stretched my sore lips. “Thanks.”
He launched into his post-procedure speech then. I’d heard it several times by now, but he repeated it in earnest all the same. Running my tongue over the smooth new fillings, I pretended to listen. Behind me, the dentist’s assistant was collecting the silver instruments used in the destruction of my father’s gift to me. Part of me wanted to take the drill and set to work on her for what she’d done. My fingers curled into fists as I imagined my vengeance, but I forced them to relax. She had not known any better; for her, this was just a job to helppay for school or her kids or whatever.
No, the real object of my hatred sat before me, pointing nonchalantly at a computer diagram of my teeth. Little green circles glowed around each tooth now, proclaiming that all was well. I knew better, and so did he. I could see the silent laughter dancing in his eyes as he spoke. I was defenseless now, a juicy plum waiting to be plucked from the world of light by his associates.
“And that’s about it,” he said. “Julie will set you up for your next cleaning.” A wide, white smile, an extended hand. “Have a good rest of the day.”
Bastard, I thought. You know damn well that the rest of the day will be my last in this world. I couldn’t say it aloud, though. Exposing him for what he was in front of his innocent assistants would only anger him. His anger would become my agony when they came for me. Death would be too much to hope for.
I slid out of the chair, the leather squeaking beneath me. At the front desk, Julie smiled. “All set?”
“Will February 21 work for your next visit?”
I nodded again. It didn’t matter.
Outside, I squinted against the morning sun. Raising my hand against the glare, I turned and looked through the big front windows of the dentist’s office. He stood there, a smirk floating above his bleached lab coat, hand raised in farewell.