Okay, that’s out of the way.
So, I did a thing. I wrote a short story.
It’s almost 2,500 words long. It took me 4 and a half hours to write (I started at 11 PM… you do the math). And now, as the New Year’s Short Story Challenge rules state, I have until 11 PM tonight to post that story.
I’m not going to wait that long. I’m going to post now to avoid doing this with editing:
(I actually did edit a little, but it was at 3:30AM. There may be typos…)
So without further ado, I offer up my short story for your welcome critique and hopeful enjoyment. Please enjoy Nothing But the Tooth.
~ ~ ~
The Tooth Fairy filed for bankruptcy.
A year later, children began to lose their teeth. The teeth didn’t just fall out. The children literally lost their teeth. They would go to bed normally and then wake up in the morning with a tooth missing.
At first, it only happened in the children who already had loose teeth and the missing tooth would be the one about to fall out. But then panic would ensue in parents and children alike. The tooth could not be found on or under the bed so it was assumed then that the tooth had been accidently swallowed.
Then teeth that weren’t loose went missing. That caused widespread panic across the globe. No country was untouched by what the United Nations called an “epidemic”. It was thought that there was a virus that caused children’s teeth to rot. The germ would disintegrate an entire tooth in one night, leaving nothing but a space in the gums. There were several problems with that theory, though. Medical tests could find no evidence of a virus or bacteria. There were no other symptoms besides a missing tooth, some swelling, and a little bit of extra sleepiness the morning after the tooth disappeared. Sometimes, though most dentists and doctors were reluctant to confirm it, there appeared to be tiny, tiny stitches in the gums where the tooth had been, almost as if the tooth had been surgically removed.
Another problem with the germ theory was that it was just not true.
No one suspected that the children were kidnapped from their beds, their teeth stolen from them, and then put back into bed with absolutely no memory of any of it happening. That was so far-fetched that no one even thought of it.
But that was the truth. And that was what Noah had been assigned to do.
Noah stared up at a window of a two-story house. Breaking and entering was the easy part of this sort of heist. Going through a closed window worked when you had magic Dust. He began to stretch his feathery wings, psyching himself for his very first mission.
Then, he faltered. His stomach started turning. Once he flew up there and went through the glass, there would be no turning back. Miss Gliselle was watching him with a secret camera somewhere, watching him, waiting for him.
Without thinking about it anymore, Noah spread his wings and flew up to the window. He reached into the leather pouch at his waist, took a handful of Dust, and threw it at the window. It created a pink portal—oh how he despised pink! He leapt through the portal, into the room of a small child, and right on top of a Kiss Me Kallie.
“I WUV YOU!”
In a panic, Noah jumped off the top of the toy and dashed into the dark corner. He listened. There was the sound of covers rustling and a soft, sleepy moan. Then silence. Noah exhaled and then carefully came out of the corner.
He crept around the edge of the bed. Quiet breathing came from the bed’s inhabitant. Why was there this pink ruffle all around the edge of the bed? The child here was supposed to be a boy. And the Kiss Me Kallie…
Suddenly, it hit him. He was in the wrong room.
But how could he be in the wrong room? He had calculated everything perfectly! Every problem had been accounted for! Every part of the plan had been searched diligently for holes! Where had he gone wrong?
“Apprentice Parsnip.” Miss Gliselle’s voice came clear, terrible, and beautiful over Noah’s earpiece. “Why are you not at your destination? You are not supposed to be at Number 18, Fischer Road.”
Number 18? He wasn’t at Number 18; he was at Number 20! Unless…
Noah flew to the window and looked out. That confirmed it. The layout of the next house, though similar to this one, was different and closer to the one he had so carefully scouted.
Miss Gliselle continued to demand answers. Noah could only sigh. He was never going to get a job with such a mistake as this on his first heist. He would be fired before he was even employed. Moreover, being fired by the Tooth Fairy herself… that had a scarring reputation. There was no way to fix this mistake. Not without using more Dust and Dust was precious, so that would come out of his paycheck… not that he would ever actually get a paycheck.
On the bed, the child turned over again with a contented sigh.
Maybe there was a way for Noah to redeem himself.
What if he brought back a different child? Quietly, he flew to the bed and hovered beside it. As he suspected, a little girl was under the blankets. She had honey curls and was sucking loudly at her thumb, despite looking like she was about seven or eight years old. But even though seven or eight was really a bit old to be sucking one’s thumb, it was a perfectly normal age for losing teeth.
Without another thought, Noah grabbed another handful of Dust out of his pouch and flung it on top of the little girl and him. The little girl sneezed and woke up, just as the two were magically transported elsewhere.
* * *
The little girl looked around in wonder at the pink, glittery room she was in. A few other children were there, looking sleepily around them. None of them were as wide-awake as this girl.
“This is a Fairy Palace!” she had exclaimed when she first saw the castle, as she stood on a hill overlooking it. Noah had grimaced beside her. In the first place, this little girl wasn’t supposed to be awake yet or at least not this perky. Secondly, the castle, which was indeed truly a fairy palace, was in sorry shape. It was in a sorry state of disrepair and the Tooth Fairy couldn’t afford to fix it. However, Noah supposed, any bright pink castle probably looked magical to a little girl, no matter how decrepit it was becoming.
“Are you a fairy?” the little girl asked.
Noah liked to think he wasn’t a fairy, with his black, feathery wings, strong and majestic like a raven’s. He was about the size of a bird, too. Nevertheless, he was a fairy. There was just no other term for it, no matter how girly it sounded.
“Are you… are you the Tooth Fairy?”
Nick smiled wryly. Who knew this girl could be so inquisitive? “No, I’m not,” he said. And he wasn’t. A few years ago, though, before Miss Gliselle had lost all her money, he would’ve been able to say he was the Tooth Fairy. In a sense.
What humans around the world had never realized was that “the Tooth Fairy” had been more than one person. Though Miss Gliselle had started the entire company and was the original Tooth Fairy, the one everyone thought of, there was no way she could’ve done everything on her own. No indeed. There were the ones that went on missions to retrieve the teeth, ones that helped determine the amount of money each child received per tooth, ones that ground the teeth into Dust…
“What do you do with the teeth? And… my brother says you don’t exist because you haven’t come to anybody for a long time. He says Mama is the Tooth Fairy.”
It was true that some parents had taken over giving money to the children in exchange for teeth. They occasionally proved to be a potential complication in teeth heists. But the Tooth Fairy hadn’t visited any children in over a year. Not in the way everyone expected her to. The only reason she still did that was for the magic. Fairy teeth could be corrupted and dangerous but human children’s teeth had good magic. When The Tooth Fairy had realized that, she began buying the teeth from the children.
When she could no longer buy them, she began to steal them.
That had always made Noah’s stomach form into knots. It seemed dishonest. And sadistic.
Before the little girl could ask any more questions, the door of the room swung open. Miss Gliselle stood there, almost as tall as a human, in a long pink dress with her large pink winks extended behind her, looking almost savage as she scanned the room. Her eyes rested on Noah and she frowned deeper.
“Apprentice Parsnip, a word with you.” It was not a suggestion.
Noah stood up a little straighter and walked forward. Without a word, Miss Gliselle turned and began to walk away from the room. He followed her to an extraction room and the door was shut.
A shiver went up Noah’s spine. The extraction room was for pulling the teeth that they stole from the children. It looked remarkably like a mortal dentist’s office except that there were straps on the chair, the tools were the better suited to a fairy wielding them, and like the rest of the castle, the room was pink and glittery. It smelled like antiseptic in here.
“What happened in your performance tonight, Noah Parsnip?” Miss Gliselle asked. She didn’t look at him but instead fingered the straps on the chair.
Noah gulped. “I accidentally went into the wrong house.”
Miss Gliselle seemed to consider. She was scarily calm as she inspected the instruments on the table. “I see. Your mistake has cost us. Wasted Dust. And this child that you have brought instead of your intended target has no loose teeth.”
For a moment, Noah was confused. What did it matter whether a child had loose teeth or not?
“I see you do not understand,” Miss Giselle said. “What you have not realized is the age of those whose teeth are extracted when they have no loose ones. They are usually teenagers, Apprentice.” She picked up a dental mirror and looked at her reflection. “I’m afraid we cannot allow this trip to go without a tooth. It would be a terrible deficit in our expenses and you know how terrible our expenses are at this time.”
Just then, the door was opened and the little girl was lead in by a couple of fairies who were almost as tall as Miss Gliselle was. She didn’t look perky anymore. She looked as if she might cry. Her curls were a terrible mess, as if she had been struggling. The fairies shoved her down into the seat and held her still until Miss Giselle had her strapped in. Then the Tooth Fairy took a pinch of Dust and sprinkled it on the little girl’s face. The girl was asleep in seconds.
“Apprentice Noah Parsnip,” Miss Gliselle said, “I’m going to give you one chance to make up for the mess you’ve made.” She held out a pair of dental forceps to him. “Get one of the girl’s teeth.”
Noah looked at the forceps. They glinted a bit in the light, looking almost evil in and of themselves. What tooth was he supposed to pull? Every piece of information on the human mouth that he had ever studied suddenly evaded him.
“Apprentice!” Miss Gliselle snapped. “The Dust will not last forever!”
Quickly, Noah took hold of the forceps with shaking hands. He took a wobbly step forward.
The little girl slept with no expression on her face. Her curls had been pushed out of her face. She was just a child, right? She wouldn’t miss just one tooth. A new one would grow back anyway. He took another step forward.
The little girl put her thumb into her mouth and started to suck it.
No. This wasn’t just a girl. She was the little girl who had been so fascinated with the castle. She was the little girl who asked too many questions. She was the little girl with that annoying Kiss Me Kallie doll. And the teeth in her mouth belonged to her.
“Noah Parsnip!” Miss Gliselle shouted. “You have ten minutes to extract that tooth before…”
Noah didn’t give her a chance to finish. He reached into his pouch, pulled out all the dust he could grab in one handful, and flung it at the Tooth Fairy.
Miss Gliselle coughed and sneezed and coughed some more. The Dust had little effect on her, but it still wasn’t breathable. Noah took the forceps, opened his mouth, and with a cry of pain, jerked out one of his own back molars. He dropped both tooth and tool onto the table, unstrapped the little girl from the chair, and put some Dust on her. He and she were both transported back to the little girl’s room.
The little girl opened her eyes just as they entered her room. She looked at Noah, who was busy trying to stop the bleeding in his mouth with a handkerchief.
“What was that?” she asked. “What happened?”
Noah looked at her and gave a painful smile. Then he reached into his pouch again. He was almost out of Dust. He took just a pinch and blew it into the little girl’s eyes. She fell asleep. When she woke up, she would not remember anything.
Avoiding Kiss Me Kallie in the middle of the floor, Noah carefully went to the window. With a sigh, he tried to decide whether or not he would go back to the castle. If Miss Gliselle found him, she would probably press charges. If she found his tooth first… maybe that one tooth would be corrupt enough to shut down this whole teeth-stealing operation. It was a fairy tooth and Noah was certain it had a cavity in it, too.
Noah opened the window, deciding to conserve his Dust. Who could say if he would ever get more?
He slid out onto the roof. Who could say if he could ever go home?
Then he saw a light in the house next door. Number 20. He flew to the window, the window he should’ve gone through just hours before, and peered in. Sure enough, a little boy was sound asleep in his bed. The boy’s mother came into the room carrying a flashlight in one hand. Noah watched as the woman walked to her son’s bed, then reached into her pocket and pulled out a quarter. She slipped the quarter under the boy’s pillow and pulled out a tooth.
Noah sighed. Maybe it was better this way. Maybe it was better for a child’s parents to exchange teeth for money. Yeah, the parents usually throw the teeth away. They had no idea of the magic. But… at least this was honest.
Honesty felt better than stealing.
Maybe Noah could get a job working for Santa Claus.