The last thing I remembered was the waiting room.
I'd always prided myself in taking great care of my teeth. They'd all come in flawlessly, and I'd fastidiously kept every last one pearly and clean. This was due in no small part to a minor apprehension towards dentists. I'd never even been to one for more than a routine check-up, and I intended to keep it that way for as long as I could.
Unsurprisingly, I had never paid into any dental insurance, either.
That's how I found my idiot self in the single skeeviest waiting room I'd ever had to endure. My first toothache had struck swiftly and mercilessly. The persistent throbs of sharp, searing pain were like a small but surprisingly loud heckler in my mouth, mocking my years of confident brushing and flossing.
I'd happened upon the public clinic purely by accident, its yellowed sign advertising "No isurance?(sic) No prob em! walk ins 80$$".
It was fishy, sure, but I couldn't afford much else for at least another week, and at this point, I just wanted the damn thing pulled. How hard could that be?
Nobody was there to greet me when I entered - not even another patient - but a flickering sign near the ceiling urged me to take a seat. A chipper "be right with you" was barely audible behind the lone, unmarked office door.
The only thing more hideous than the room's plaid, green-brown carpeting was its wallpaper of tan and yellow squiggles. The tattered reading material was a good decade out of date, and the selection astoundingly haphazard. A magazine for reptile enthusiasts. A Doll Collector's monthly price guide. Two different magazines about quilting and something that looked like a Korean "Highlights." The room's sole decor was a giant, framed drawing of a smiling mouth in corrective headgear, the metal contraption forming goofy little arms and legs. "WHATEVER, GUYS! IT'S DOCTOR DEMENTIST" was printed below it in comic sans. The cheesy yet somewhat disquieting pun name was in bright red.
Fifteen minutes passed. Another cautious hello was met with the same muffled be-right-with-you.
I was just beginning to lose my patience when the door startlingly burst open, and the next thing I knew, I was strapped into a dentist's chair.
Were they supposed to do that?
I couldn't even remember how I'd gotten there. I couldn't remember anything between that door swinging open and finding myself captive. Something cold and metallic was holding my mouth open.
I craned my neck as far as I could, and grunted out a few meek cries for attention. I couldn't see or hear a soul, and the surroundings did nothing to calm me. A seemingly excessive selection of gleaming, painful-looking tools were laid out on at least a half-dozen plastic trays, and the walls were plastered with old X-rays that only seldom seemed to fall under the "dental" umbrella. Fractured ribs. Deformed skulls. Foreign objects lodged in embarrassing places. Several X-rays were quite clearly taken from animals, and there were a few pregnancy sonograms.
...What back-alley butcher was I subjecting myself to?
I was just about to call out again when I saw something moving.
Something moving that was not a person.
What had entered my rather limited field of vision was taking some time to process. It looked at first like a meaningless pile of junk, a jumbled tangle of metallic joints and hinges loosely wired and bolted together. It shambled sideways in an awkward crab-walk, knife-like "legs" adding even more scratches to the cheap-looking linoleum floor. Something about the way it moved made me uncomfortable in a very particular way, a certain unreal quality I couldn't quite place.
At the center of it all was an enormous set of false teeth, suspended in a web of gleaming wires and rubber bands. I was suddenly reminded of that artwork in the waiting room. What the hell was that thing's name?
If this was some sort of puppet show, some educational robot here to talk to me about oral hygiene, it was both far more impressive and far more terrifying than it had any right to be. Is this where they had sunk their budget? Whatever happened to a good old sock with googly eyes?
I jumped in my restraints as a harsh, gravely voice erupted from behind its fake gums.
"EXCLAMATION, YOU'VE GROWN!"
This was an odd thing for the monstrosity to say. I think I'd have remembered ever meeting Satan's dentures before.
"PLEASE BE PATIENT, PATIENT, THE ANESTHESIA WILL ARRIVE SHORTLY."
It spoke with a hollow, mechanical reverberation, like something out of Doctor Who, the teeth opening and closing completely out of synch with the dialog.
"DO NOT BE ALARMED, I HAVE YET TO RECEIVE A COMPLAINT."
The jaws chattered rapidly in what seemed like laughter at a private joke.
A set of jointed, metal arms and hands unfolded from the contraption's sides. It teetered its way to the nearest table and began to pick through the surrounding tools, carefully wiping each with a dripping, blackened rag. It only made them dirtier, trailing long, snotty strands of glistening filth.
I could feel my heart pounding as I watched the grotesque thing at work. I knew what had been bothering me; even for a giant, metal denture-crab, it simply didn't look real. It moved with the unmistakable stagger of a stop-motion special effect, and it even had a sort of enlarged, super-imposed quality, inconsistent with the lighting of everything else in the room.
I was already under. That had to be it. I was whacked out on laughing gas. I'd wake up any minute now, in a normal dentist's chair, a flesh-and-blood human being critiquing my brushing technique.
It was the only conceivable explanation that made sense...so why couldn't I believe it?
Why couldn't I shake the panic?
"ARE YOU PLEASED BY THE OUTCOME OF A SPORTING EVENT AND/OR ELECTION PROCESS OF YOUR CHOICE?"
I could only whimper pitifully in response.
"AH. I CAN RELATE WELL TO THOSE SENTIMENTS! I HOPE THAT THIS CASUAL DISCOURSE HAS PROVIDED COMFORT. IT APPEARS THAT ANNA HAS ARRIVED ON SCHEDULE."
I was hardly surprised that "Anna" appeared to be nothing but a giant, grimy gas tank, rolling of its own accord on mismatched wheels. Its plastic hose silently writhed through the air like a pale, transparent eel, landing an oily, smeared mouthpiece squarely over my face.
I didn't care anymore if I was high or dreaming or God only knows. I began to fight against my restraints with all my might, heaving and lurching with every muscle in my body. Nothing gave. The chair itself barely shook, like it was all one seamless hunk of iron.
The demon braces only waggled a steely finger. "I must request that you keep still, if you don't mind; I haven't got my eyes today."
I whimpered again.
Anna the gas-tank turned one large, shattered meter towards her cohort, and a tinny, feminine voice echoed from somewhere unseen.
The knife-legged "doctor" adjusted a large headlamp to face my mouth, apparently not noticing that it was long burnt out.
"PULLING TEETH, OF COURSE! OR DRILLING TEETH. WHATEVER, GUYS!" Another chatter-laugh.
Anna's little meter-head cocked to one side, like a confused puppy.
"...What's a... teeth?"
As the monster fired up an alarmingly large drill, I became very aware that I wasn't actually receiving any gas.
It gave a creaky, metallic little shrug.
"DAMNED IF I KNOW."
Written by Bogleech