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Short Story 50



“I went to the dentist the other day and he let me pick a prize out of the prize box.” Her eyes shown as she related the story, “They said I had the best teeth they had seen in years.”


“I know, I was there.”


“But he let me take something out of the prize box.”


“Did he?”


“Yes. And I’ve never been so happy about something in my life.”


“I can tell.”


Helen hadn’t stopped smiling since yesterday. Arguably her teeth seemed whiter even though she had only gone in for a cleaning. There was a gleam in her eyes that was as distinctive as her pleasure. As if she were constantly looking into a light that shone just there, over them, like Morticia Adams.


“Well, I’m glad you had a good time. I know you were worried you would have a cavity or something.”


Helen said nothing to this, leaning back in the passenger seat, still apparently enthralled by whatever it was that had lodged itself so deeply in her head. It was strange she hadn’t acted this way yesterday when she had picked her up, rather it had begun to develop that morning when she gave her a drive to work.


“It seems odd though that they would let you take from the prize box. I didn’t think they let anyone older than thirteen reach in there. Was it still filled with sticky hands, scratch and sniff stickers, and bouncy balls, or was it all toothpaste samples, toothbrushes, and mini floss?”


“Estelle, you can just drop me off at home.” The question fell against the side of Helen’s head without successfully passing into her ear.


“I thought we were going to get something to eat when you were done.”


“Oh no. I don’t want to ruin my teeth.”


“Come on, did they give you that old lie that everything you eat will ruin your teeth again? Don’t drink juice. Don’t eat citrus. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. Doctors do that too. It’s all nonsense. You imagine with all the fluoride they practically squeeze into our mouths that our teeth should be immune by now with the way they glorify it.”


“I think I just want to relax and think about the appointment.”


“Are you serious? Was it that good? Was the Dentist single and gorgeous or something? He would have to be with your taste.”


“I just feel so good. I’m not ready to ruin this yet.”


“Ruin is a strong word, but I get it. I’ll drop you off. We can reschedule for this weekend then. How does that sound? Helen. Helen. Are you even listening to a word I’m saying?”


No answer came. The eyes of the woman in the passenger seat remained staring into whatever place was completely invisible to her companion. The rest of the drive was silent. Estelle’s companion’s disinterest in anything she said shutting the door to conversation without any need for a scathing look or being told to shut up.


Dropping her at her apartment she waited, watching Helen dreamily climb the stairs and disappear behind the door. To put her opinion as mildly as possible the whole affair struck her as weird. Even as she drove away the events in the car haunted her.


The weekend came without any contact from Helen. Estelle tried to go to her apartment, but she didn’t answer the door. Another week passed with nothing. This time she attempted to go to the salon where Helen worked, but she hadn’t come into work since the following Tuesday just after her Monday dentist appointment. No one knew where she was or what was going on. Only that she had spoken to no one.


Panicking Estelle did the only thing she could think to do and that was phone the police. When they checked the apartment they found nothing. For several months an investigation took place. Estelle spent time as a prime suspect, but then was dropped when no conclusive evidence could be found. An investigation was done on the clinic Helen had gone to that Monday, the strange thing was, no dentist’s office had ever been in that building. There was no evidence that it had ever existed in the first place, there or anywhere else.


The impossibility of all this haunted Estelle. It was a nightmare impossible to wake from. She had driven Helen there. She had read a book when she was in the office. She had driven her home. She was there. She had seen her. It had happened. And yet, it all seemed to have been a lie. No one believed her and there was nothing other than her word to prove it happened.


The idea of Helen’s disappearance slipping into some filing cabinet filled with cold cases tortured Estelle to the point where she could hardly live with herself. Every day, like clockwork, she would find herself driving there before and after work. Going to that place she had taken Helen that morning so many days ago. When she got there she would park in the vacant lot staring at the building that had no sign, a derelict memory of 1980’s construction.


‘I went to the dentist the other day and he let me pick a prize out of the prize box.’ That’s what Helen had said with that dreamy, glazed look over her eyes, and that smile that was three inches too big for her mouth, ‘I went to the dentist the other day and he let me pick a prize out of the prize box.’


What had she meant by that? What had they given her? Estelle would lean against the steering wheel peering at the dark windows tortured by that thought.


Later, when the case was closed, images were released from Helen’s phone. They were all selfies. One taken every day for seven days. In each image her smile became wider and wider, appearing to peel back her face, while the light in her eyes seemed to beam out growing in density and damaging the photo quality.


The last image just caught yellowish whiteness and after that… there was nothing.



End



Thank you so much for reading everyone!!



Prompt Sentence: I went to the dentist the other day and he let me pick a prize out of the prize box


Word Count: 1022


©DecemberKnight 2023


Special thanks to Rudi Fargo from Unsplash for the use of the image!


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