High-pitched shrieks reverberate in the cavern of my skull, an icy cobalt pain throttling my jawbone. There is sudden quiet. I can feel my jackrabbit heart, taste the metallic brine of blood on my tongue. And then the hell choir sings once more.
“Almost done,” the dentist says as his whirring drill fills my head with impure vibrations. A tiny eternity of torment later: “That should do it.”
Fitted with a pastel bib, soaked in blood and saliva, I look like some grotesque, over-sized infant. The drill is silent, but those voices are still chattering away. I say “Thank you” and try to shake the chaos from my mind.
“With that crown, you’re going to want to avoid gum, caramel, and nuts. For the next couple days, I’d recommend eating soft foods. Yogurt, soup, pasta. Just make sure you cook it properly. Al dente or better.” Piano-key teeth are released from his mask. How can someone grin like that after inflicting such pain on another human? Some people call it professionalism; I call it sadism.
I’m on my way out of there when an aggressive rattling stops me in my tracks. It’s the hygienist, shaking a bottle of pills like a maraca. I give her a false smile.
“Wouldn’t want you to forget these,” the hygienist says. “Take them whenever you feel discomfort.”
I could pour the entire bottle down my throat right now.
Back at home, I’m famished from an afternoon of torture. I take the doc’s advice and dump a box of noodles into a boiling pot of water. Al dente. Funny guy, my dentist.
Despite my care in preparing the pasta, the first bite results in damaged-nerve agony that originates in my tooth, ultimately shooting through my entire skeletal system with lightning sharpness.
Spastic fingers unlid the pills and deposit a couple down the hatch sans liquid. Christ, I’m an electric mess. Like a shaken animal. Little by little, the pain dulls and I return to normal.
But then the voices return. Garbled and drill-like, I can’t understand a word. I think it best to get some sleep.
My dreams offer no respite. Through the yellow-orange glow of wriggling flames, I see this: a twisted pair of black horns, a woman’s blood-covered breasts dancing in violent ecstasy, and a necklace of human teeth bouncing rhythmically off a man’s chest.
The voices are chanting. This is what they say:
“Al dente, al dente, al dente, al dente, al dente, al dente…”