I remember the man with the soft teeth. He’d come into my room at night and bite me over and over. The bites didn’t hurt and they left no marks. All I felt was pressure. The first time I saw his face, I was terrified. His eyes were different. Instead of two eye sockets, he had nine. They were clustered in front of his face and up his forehead like a honeycomb. Two on top, four in the middle, three on the bottom. The sockets didn’t house eyeballs. There was a single, thin eyestalk growing from the center of each hole. Each stalk swayed in front of his face like long grass in the breeze.
When he’d visit me, I’d lose the ability to move or scream. All I could do was watch. After a week of visits and my parents not believing a word that came out of my mouth, I thought sleeping with the light on might keep him away. That was the night he started biting my face.
The man would always move slowly and with great care. Every motion seemed calculated and precise; I didn’t know what he was doing, but I had no doubt he did. The first time he got close to my head, I saw the inside of his mouth. Like his eyes, his teeth were unlike any I’d seen. There were three rows of bulbous growths pushing from an array of holes in his gumline. They looked as soft as they felt. Each one was covered in fine, downy hairs. They reminded me of the fat bodies of moths.
He’d open my mouth with his index finger and thumb. Then he’d get close. I felt his eyestalks brushing against my face and forehead and eyes as he pressed his upper teeth against my lower ones. He’d close his mouth around my chin, locking my lower jaw in his mouth. It was uncomfortable, but it didn’t hurt. The man would stay there for ten minutes at a time, gradually modulating the pressure of his jaw against mine.
On the last night he visited me, he performed the same steps. Once my jaw was in his mouth, though, he applied more pressure than he’d used in the past. His eyestalks straightened out and felt like firm cables against my face. As the pressure increased, I felt his teeth start to burst against my own. One by one, the thick, insectile bodies inside his mouth succumbed to the pressure and coated my tongue and gums with thick, bitter paste. I felt his tongue, which had never been involved in our interactions before, extending over my teeth and massaging the paste into my gums. I tried to retch, but even that had been taken from me.
The man did the same with my upper teeth and palate. When he left and I could move again, I rushed to the bathroom, threw up, and brushed my teeth more times than I could count. I never saw the man again.
It’s been 25 years. I’ve been plagued by dental issues my entire adult life. Every visit brings worse news; it’s gotten to the point where I’m dealing with irreversible bone loss. Eventually, my teeth will fall out. The foundation to which they’re attached is simply deteriorating. It’s not uncommon, but it’s rare for someone my age who is otherwise in perfect health.
As if on cue, the day after my most recent trip to the dentist, I lost my first tooth. I’d felt it loosening and the dentist said it was only a matter of time. And more will follow. I scheduled an appointment to see him in three months. It was as frequently as my insurance would allow. More of my teeth started to wiggle when I poked at them with my tongue. I started to accept their fate.
Recently, my resignation has developed flickers of fear and disbelief. The tooth that fell out started to grow back. I’d never heard of such a thing. But I can see something grayish-white pushing through the raw socket. When I touch it with my tongue, it’s soft. And I can feel my tongue brushing against it, almost as if it has nerves of its own. I’m trying not to think back to the memories of the man in my room, but it’s impossible not to. Not when more of my teeth grow looser by the day. And especially not when I have seven painful spots near my eyes and forehead that feel softer than they should.