It was the general lack of care between one’s teeth and gums that really pushed Dan over the edge.
The whole process, of course, was a delicate thing.
First, came the impromptu trip to the nearest convenience store.
Second, came the purchase of duct tape, rope, and the addicting indecisiveness he felt when trying to choose which flavor he wanted to try next. Mint was the strong, traditional choice. But Tea? Or maybe he was in the mood for a fruitier flavor.
Third, came the giddy skip down the parking lot back to his car, placing his carefully wrapped plastic bag in the back seat before thumping his trunk and telling it to shut up.
There was an elderly woman next to his car this time, putting away her shopping cart. She looked at him a little oddly and asked if he had a dog, to which he replied no, but if you need any help with carrying your bags, I’d be more than willing.
She shook her head, a little too quickly.
But that’s okay, he thought, You’re just jealous because I’m the only one who hears the voices.
Fourth, came the long drive down a deserted road, just biding his time until it looked like even his bright lights couldn’t do much to abate the surrounding darkness.
Fifth, came the eventual stop on the side of the gravel, complete silence all around except for the occasional chirp of a brave grasshopper. Even that, however, was quickly stifled as soon as it began like another insect had forcibly held it down until it agreed to remain mute.
Sixth, came the moment he stepped out of the car, and retrieved his carefully wrapped package from the backseat before popping the trunk open.
A little terrier dog jumped from inside the trunk and knocked Dan over, in its excitement to greet its owner.
“Hey!” he laughed, “I missed you too.”
Suddenly Dan could see his silhouette as another pair of bright lights came barreling down the same road he was on.
I thought no one else would drive down here. he thought worriedly.
As soon as the other car set it’s lights on Dan’s face, it slowed down and stopped behind his car, half on the gravel, half on the grass.
Although the other car had dark tinted windows, there was an audible hacking cough behind the dashboard that made Dan guess someone of senior age.
His guess turned out to be true.
A hunched over form slowly exited the automobile and said,
“Hey, you’re that young man I met previously in the parking lot, right?”
Dan took a step closer and tried to pinpoint the older figure’s face from the still beaming headlights.
With a sudden realization, he replied,
“Oh right, yes, you’re that woman who asked me if I had a dog?”
“MmHm.” She said, notably staring at his undeniably existing dog right under his right arm.
“Well, it was none of your business, Ma’am, so what if I have a dog anyways?”
“Oh…,” she started and continued, “you see, I don’t like liars…and I had a sneaking suspicion you would be one”
The woman pulled back her lips in a wide smirk.
Dan started back in horror.
Where her teeth should have been, there was only a cavernous dark hole of pointed gums and a bloodied spliced tongue, which when unfurled to its full length, reached far below her chin. Now and then, the sensory organ would flick over her gaping mouth and ooze a horrid toxic fume in his direction.
He shivered but couldn’t bring his legs to move.
“Now, how about you set the dog down, and come to me?” the woman gestured impatiently.
Obediently, Dan set down the dog but remained stationary.
“what’s this? I’m afraid it’s too late to discover a backbone, my dear, just come quietly and…oh, how does your human expression go again? ‘It will be a quick and painless death, I believe, yes.’”
Her car had automatically cut off the head lights, and now all that was lighting their interaction was a weak half crescent floating in the sky.
He took a step forward.
“and what are you shivering about? I don’t like my meat cold, you know, you don’t often hear this but the secret to truly fresh protein is in the temperature--”
“Another thing, why did you have your dog in the trunk anyway? Not that it matters, but during one of my long preparation sessions for Earth, a travel guide discussed your species’ obsession with pets, one of them being dogs. But when I arrived here, dogs are treated with such disrespect, it’s frankly disturbing, even for an outsider.” The woman casually scratched her face, patches of wrinkled skin falling to the ground like ashes after a disturbed fire.
“Ugh, just come here alrea-!” the woman grunted, and the next moment, was body slammed into the hard gravel. Blood spurted from her head, and a huge gash in her back all through her stomach could be seen by the sudden light of a flashlight, of which Dan held above the body eagerly. A spidery blue worm wriggled on its way out of the meshed entanglement of entrails bulging like a baby out of her belly, and inched hurriedly to the roadside grass.
“But I’m already here.” Dan said, and out flicked a just as lengthy tongue, forked and ready to taste the air.
Catching the spidery worm before it could escape, he painstakingly crushed each of its six blue tentacles and then turned back to the murdered victim before him.
He sighed and produced from his jacket, minty flavored dental floss.
“You know… I was very tempted to get the fruity flavored kind, but it almost seemed sacrilegious!” he joked to the corpse.
Seventh, came the ride back to a back roads motel, sitting in the commons area watching the latest news. The TV report came on about a deceased elderly woman on a deserted road, tied up with rope and duct tape, found with the help of an abandoned little terrier dog, that by the way, just happened to find its way to the local police station. The alarmed reactions around him never failed to get old, and in fact, as he sipped his hot coffee, nor did he.