|Influences||I don't know! I read a wide variety but my stories are primarily influenced by my own experiences.|
|Bio||I'm a biology & creative writing student at UNSW. I don't write as often as I'd like to, I usually produce visual art if I feel like doing something creative. I get stressed very easily when I have uni, so I tend to just take whatever motivation/inspiration/energy I can get! I enjoy playing video games and looking after my pet birds. I've also gotten into gardening a little bit lately, growing plants from seeds is super satisfying. :) I'm hoping one day that I can combine my creative skills with my science degree but... we'll see...|
You extend your pinkie fingers first. A herculean task, but you manage it fine, and decide to toy with the idea of freeing the rest in succession. They were clenched into fists for so long that your joints are stiff, and each movement makes you far too aware of the sensation of bone scraping against bone, although it’s hard to tell which parts you’re imagining. Your mind projects a creaking sound as each joint, one after the other, locks into its final position. This is probably better than whatever sound they would make if you were ever able to hear it, you think. You’d much rather that your body was a well-oiled machine, as people like to joke, rather than this mass of meat, string, and bone, that you are wholly unsatisfied with. You stare at your now-open palms, trying to pinpoint every vein that’s forced you to stay alive through this. You wonder how you’d look with the skin peeled back.
You feel like you have taken a beating, but where from? Who from? Are there bruises on your skin or is your ego so inflated that it’s become alive in its own sense? This feels too real to be an illusion, a magic eye picture stretched across your skin. Maybe you were wrong. The beating comes from the inside. The body, whole with the fragmented head, is a slave to the mind. A poorly played puppet in the performance of life.
Today feels oddly good. Is it reasonable to call it normal? A day that is normal for most isn’t normal for you. But who gets to decide whether “normal” is relative or not, anyway? Maybe you do. You feel like you could accomplish anything today, but the freedom of motivation and energy is starting to feel crippling. Having so much choice has become foreign to you, and your decision-making muscles are so underworked that you feel the opportunities slipping away. The paralysis doesn’t leave you until you’re already well into the night and so exhausted from disappointment that your body asks to be paralysed in a different way: sleep. It arrives somewhat easily but the feeling you get as you sink into slumber feels much too similar to that of guilt.
The clock is constantly ticking. This shouldn’t be a surprise to you, but it somehow always is. The passage of time both eludes you and manifests itself as a constant worry. It makes sense, right? To fear something so constant and unavoidable, something so far out of your control. Always running out. You just need more. If only you had more. What would you even do with more? Waste it, probably.
Microscopic waves rush along your limbs, their energies colliding in a well that makes your sternum ache with its weight. Each wave leaves a trace, as skin changes texture from smooth to rough and becomes alive with scattered sensation. A cascade of hairs standing on end, like a constant wind has suddenly stopped, having received the message that something is deeply wrong. Your skin cells agitate in succession. Unsettled, bracing for attack, as there is no choice of moving inwards into the safety and warmth of the body. A fragile armour is forced into being. To protect against… what?
Your quick breaths whistle out through gritted teeth. Your blood boils but the air being pulled and pushed out of you is an icy rapid that collects no heat to cool your head. All you want is a sense of control. You try to slow your breathing; you make yourself choke. An immense weight is crushing from all sides, enveloping and constricting you. It becomes harder to stand as your light-headedness drags you to the floor. You curl your body into a tight ball and bury your head in the middle. You block out the world and attempt to regress far into your mind, past any coherent thought and emotion to find the centre, the most innermost of inner peace. It becomes darker and darker, from quiet to silent. The only sensation you register is that of your burning clenched fists. A connection to the outside world, a recognition of reality, so that you don’t get lost.
My grandfather lost a few of his teeth recently. He’s since stopped smiling around the house.
For a man entering his late 70s, he’d had pretty good teeth up until now. A few months ago, he had only been missing a single tooth, a well-hidden premolar, which he’d had a few decades to get used to already. I’ve never asked why it was missing, I only found out about it once his teeth had started becoming a hot topic around the house. Infection forced him to go and get the second one removed, but this time it was one of the bigger ones further back, a molar. He didn’t seem to care too much about that one. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess. I don’t know if a missing molar has made it any harder for him to eat, but he was still smiling back then, despite being down two teeth, so it probably didn’t bother him much. The next tooth to go was a canine, the upper one on his left side. It split in two one day (trying to get that tooth count back up?) while he was working in the backyard. He still doesn’t know why it did that, whatever English the dentist spoke to him hadn’t gotten through, so all he came home with that night was a mystery, and another gap in his teeth. He seemed to be legitimately upset about this one. He tried to crack a few jokes at his own expense, and everyone else joined in, but not once did he open his mouth to laugh. I felt sorry for him, but within a few days he was back to his normal self.
A few days later, I was sitting in the kitchen with my grandmother when he walked in from the living room, a half-finished plate of food in his hands. He opened his mouth to speak, and before he even said a word, I could tell. He said that he thinks he swallowed one of his big front teeth while he was eating, he doesn’t know where else it could be. We couldn’t help but laugh in disbelief. Another one? But my heart still hurt for him. Now, when he spoke, it was hard not to stare. Between two dark holes a lateral incisor sat on its own, a peg out of place where it now felt like there were more gaps than teeth.
He is the constant visualisation of one of my biggest anxieties. Losing teeth as a kid was fun, but now it is the permanent destruction of a much too fragile and irreparable body. A grim reminder that the body starts to decay before death has any reason to be near. Getting wisdom teeth removed was a necessity, but it felt like a waste. What if I need these? I won’t ever get them back.
The dreams have always added another layer to this. They haven’t increased in frequency at all, they don’t need to. They’ve been coming often enough already. Twice a month now, at minimum. It’s not the exact same dream each time, however, so at the very least I don’t have to worry about ever getting bored. Instead I worry that my teeth are maybe becoming just a bit too loose, no longer firm in their places. I want to be sure, so I keep wobbling them with my fingers, and eventually they start to come out, one after the other. I’ll try to close my mouth to stop them, but when my teeth crash together, they begin to crumble. My mouth feels so full I could gag, can no longer hold onto any of these precious pearls swirling around inside. I open, and they pour across my lower lip, a seemingly endless cascade that I quickly wake up from.
I lie in bed and check each of my teeth. Running my fingers along, applying pressure to each one, but not too much (you can never be too careful). They don’t move, of course, but my heart doesn’t slow down yet. It was a dream. Dream. A dream. Nightmare. I don’t like the word nightmare, I believe that it gives the dream more power over you than it otherwise would. Admitting defeat, in a way. My chest aches, and the feeling won’t leave me for the rest of the day. My tongue moves to eat, speak, while phantom teeth rattle and roll around it, clinking against my own.