Rogue Mutt Doghouse of Horror, Part 1
Author’s Note: This is a silly little thing I wrote around Halloween in 2004 for a writing critique group I was running at the time. I was inspired by a visit to the dentist–one of the most horrible things I can think of. This mixes the old cliche of car breaking down near creepy house with the “Twilight Zone” motif of random time traveling with no explanation.
Naomi Henderson found herself on an unfamiliar Louisiana dirt road, surrounded by a dense fog. Rain came down so fiercely that the wipers couldn’t keep up and Naomi squinted, searching for somewhere to stop and ask for directions. The digital clock on the dashboard of her Ford Explorer read midnight just as she heard a loud hiss, like the air being let out of a balloon. The SUV began to quake and she cursed as she pulled over onto the gravel shoulder.
She was soaked before she could get around to the rear tire on the passenger’s side. A dime-sized hole had formed in the rubber and she pressed her forehead against the wet exterior of the Explorer. After retrieving the jack and spare tire, she knelt on the muddy shoulder, chestnut hair falling into her eyes as she tried in vain to loosen the lug nuts. With an exasperated sigh, she threw the lug wrench into the mud and staggered down the road in search of help.
No cars came up the road and she saw or heard no signs of life through the fog. The hazard lights of the Explorer faded from view and she hugged herself to ward off the loneliness. She hadn’t slept for more than two hours at a time since the beginning of Mardi Gras and yearned for a dry bed where she could sleep for a month.
Through the fog she saw a rundown house devoured by ivy. The grass in the yard had grown to knee-high and an uprooted tree blocked the empty driveway. She paused at the edge of the driveway, suppressing a shiver before starting towards the house.
Naomi knocked on the rotted door and waited for someone to answer. She waited a full five minutes in the rain before trying the corroded brass knob. The door creaked open and she found the interior of the house dark. “Hello? Is anyone here?” she called as she stepped through the door. She got no answer and closed the door behind her.
Broken remains of furniture lay scattered about the dusty floor of the living room. The floorboards creaked dangerously beneath her feet as she searched the room for a telephone. It dawned on her that even if she did find a phone, she didn’t know where she was. She made her way through the dining room, the round table resting on three legs, and then into a bedroom.
The bed still had a lace-fringed comforter stretched across the mattress and faded posters of David Cassidy and The Beatles hung on the walls. A pink telephone rested on a dresser, but she heard no dial tone when she picked up the receiver. “I guess they stopped paying the bill,” she said to herself.
The rain continued to beat down on the roof and she sat down on the bed, deciding to wait until morning to look for help. She sunk into the mattress, laying down to rest after the long journey. Sleep came quickly upon her, the sound of the rain like music.
She awoke to the sound of a scream and sat upright in the bed. She heard the scream again, the sound louder this time and followed by footsteps racing across the creaking floor. Naomi pulled back into a ball on the mattress as the sound of footsteps approached the bedroom. The footsteps stopped at the foot of the bed, and then Naomi heard only the rain.
After a few minutes, she gathered the courage to uncurl and explore the abandoned bedroom for the source of the noise. She saw only her own footprints in the dust along the floor and collapsed back onto the bed. Then, in a mirror mounted above the dresser, she saw someone looking back at her.
The girl in the mirror was no more than thirteen, with mousy brown hair parted down the middle and acne dotting her pale cheeks. She wore a white peasant top and green bellbottoms that had faded from too much wear. Blood stained the flesh around her lips, a trickle of it running down her chin. When the girl opened her mouth to speak, she had only a bloody canyon of gums. Her words made no sound and Naomi crossed the room to listen closer.
Tears came to the girl’s brown eyes and her fists pounded against the mirror, but made no sound. Naomi reached out with one hand to touch the surface of the glass, to reassure the girl she was not alone. As her hand touched the mirror, Naomi felt an electric shock and the dusty room brightened, the sound of the rain disappearing. The posters on the wall came to life with color and she no longer saw her footprints on the floor.
The girl in the mirror had disappeared, replaced by Naomi’s image. As she ran her hand along the mirror, her reflection following suit, she heard the buzzing of an electric drill coming from downstairs. Naomi crept through the kitchen and listened at the top of the stairway as the sound of the drill stopped. She began down the darkened stairs and, one step before she reached the end, something heavy smashed into the back of her head. She collapsed to the cold cement floor, her world going dark.
When she awoke, she found herself strapped into a dentist’s chair, an array of dental tools spread around the chair. “You’re awake,” a voice wheezed. A man with a chubby face and a widow’s peak of dark hair bent forward to fill Naomi’s vision. He wore a white lab coat, a black bowtie, and rubber gloves. “Open wide.”
Naomi shook her head and turned away to look around the room. In jars along the wall, she saw rows of teeth preserved in formaldehyde. She threw up onto the dentist’s shoes and tears began to run down her cheeks. “What do you want?”
“I only want to examine that beautiful smile of yours.”
“Let me go. Please.”
“Not until I’ve complete my examination.” The dentist took a tongue depressor from his pocket and jammed it into Naomi’s mouth. She tried to close her mouth, but he forced it open with his fingers. He made a clucking sound and shook his head. “Just as I thought, your mouth is full of cavities. You kids, all you do is drink soda and eat candy. And then you forget to brush. Just like my daughter.”
Naomi struggled against the straps holding her to the chair as she thought of the girl’s empty, bloody mouth. “No! You can’t do this.”
“I’m afraid I have no choice. I can’t let you walk out of here with a mouth full of disease. No, we’d better get those out of there now.” From a counter behind him, the dentist took a pair of rusty pliers. Then he pressed a black mask over Naomi’s face, the mask hissing with air. “Don’t worry, it will feel just like a dream.”
Naomi screamed into the mask before darkness took her.
Sunday I’ll post my other spooky story, “Tartarus,” which is included as part of my short story collection The Carnival Papers–on sale NOW!!!