The Mouth Drain
A tale of body horror
In the dream, he stared at the mirror. There was something wrong with his eyes. As he watched, his irises changed color, from blue to green to orange and then to gray, his pupils dilating until their blackness was all that was left. He felt himself moan with unease as they continued into the whites, finally pushing his eyelids outward. He should have been blind, but could somehow still see, as the surface of his eyes caved in and left vacuous holes. His eyelids became lips, his eyes the mouths of fish, that worked as if they were trying to draw oxygen in from the air. He tried to scream, but found his voice gone, along with his tongue, which seemed to wither into wisps of dirty smoke. His hands fumbled at his mouth, just in time to feel his teeth dropping from his gums, leaving raw bloody sockets, bouncing from his palms and landing into the sink with little chink-plink-clink noises.
Brian awoke with a cry escaping his throat like air from a burst balloon. Yanking the sheets back from his sweaty chest, he sat up, ran his hands over his face. They came back wet.
“Mmm, you okay?” Sheila was groggy, asking with her eyes closed. He could see her in the blue illumination of the digital bedside clock.
“Yeah, yeah, go back to sleep.”
Was he okay? This was the fourth night in a row with the dream. He blamed work stress, but somewhere inside him, a paranoia lurked that could not be named. Was he dying? Was he losing his mind? Was someone poisoning him? Something was going on. His mouth tasted like metal and his tongue felt bloated and dry. Sighing, he swung himself out of the bed, and stumbled to the kitchen for some water. His weighted footsteps sent tiny earthquakes through the house, jostling shelves, tinkling dishes in the cabinets.
He picked up his glass he had left on the counter earlier, and let the refrigerator dispenser piss its cool liquid into it. As he drank, he felt something weird in the roof of his mouth, moved back and forth by the current of the water, slapping near the back of his teeth. He used his tongue to probe, and panic seized him in its sterile vice grips. There was a foreign object in the hard tissue. It tasted like latex and metal, felt like a ring of some sort, inserted into a circle of rubber. Grunting in shock, he dropped the glass, where it shattered, and sprayed his feet with its former contents. Bits of glass went flying, but he paid it no mind, stumbling back out of the kitchen, and rushing to the guest bathroom. He felt ushered from one surreal dream to another, flipping on the light and trying to turn his head up so he could see the object. It was too weird to be true. It looked like a white rubber stopper, like the kind that went to the bathroom sink in his parents’ house.
He pushed at it with his fingers. The pink flesh around it shined and swelled with the pressure he placed on the stopper. The metal ring flopped lazily in its circular groove.
I’m still fucking dreaming. Have to be.
But he wasn’t. He slapped himself hard enough to leave dark pink finger marks on his cheek. His right eye watered.
“Honey, what’s going on? I heard a noise?”
Sheila was walking into the living room.
“I’m in here, babe. Broke a glass in the kitchen.”
She poked her head around the bathroom door frame, her hair flopping comically.
“What are you doing?”
“Look at this,” he said, kneeling down and opening his mouth wide so she could see.
“Um, what? What am I looking at?”
A puzzled look crossed her face, which quickly turned into alarm.
“Holy shit, what the fuck is that?”
“It looks like a drain stopper to me.”
“Yeah, but why is it in your mouth? Oh, my god, it’s gross.”
Her hands were shaking, hovering over her lips. He stood and took them in his own. She studied his face with wild eyes, as if she were trying to see clues to his true identity, as if his mind had been stolen and replaced with that of an impostor, like some kind of interchangeable floppy disc.
“I don’t know why it’s there. I woke up, and I felt it in my mouth. I just saw it myself before you walked in here. I thought I was dreaming, but we can’t both be dreaming this, can we?”
“No way. Do I have one too?”
She opened her mouth and tilted her head back. He inspected it. It was normal, dark pink flesh.
“You’re good. It’s just me.”
“Good,” she said. She jerked her hands away. “Let me go get the flashlight. Come sit on the couch.”
He did as she asked. He started feeling paranoid about his breath, blowing air into his cupped palms and sniffing them. There was no discernible odor. He remembered how the stopper in his old bathroom always filled with mold on the inside, and how the sink always smelled of mildew or rancid water, no matter how many times his mother cleaned it with bleach.
“Say, ahhhh,” Sheila said, returning with the flashlight. He opened and felt obscenely like his head was hollow, and the light from the bulb in his wife’s hand was shining out his ears.
“This is too fucking weird. We gotta pull it out.”
“What?” Brian said, “Are you crazy? We don’t know what will happen.”
He pulled back, placing his hand over the flashlight to mute it. For a moment his hand glowed orange before Sheila clicked the button.
“Well, you can’t leave it in there, can you? It isn’t natural.”
“We don’t know what it is. Or where it came from. For all we know, pulling it out could kill me. Let’s just wait a few days, and see what happens.”
“Oh, that’s just like a man. If you won’t let me pull it out, then you have to go to a doctor. I’ll make the appointment in the morning.”
“Did you hear me? We are not pulling it out. And we’re not telling ANYONE about it. You understand me?”
The tone of his voice made Sheila flinch. He rarely had reason to get angry with her, but this was not something he was willing to debate. Whatever it was, it was in his body, not hers.
“Okay. I’m going back to bed.”
Sheila stood up and stalked off to the bedroom, her body language one of a child just told to put the toy back at Walmart. Brian sighed. He stretched out on the couch and stared at the ceiling. There was a ghost image trailing like a faded strobe-light moon, dancing from left to right.
He wondered what would happen if he did pull the plug in his head. He imagined blood and brains and his eyeballs all falling out in a horrific cascade of gore. He imagined reality churning around himself into a whirlpool and being pulled up into his brain like an ethereal ocean, everything winking out into blackness, like a tube television image shrinking down to single white dot of light. He imagined his body turning itself inside-out, waking up in someone else’s skin, or being pushed back through the birth canal. All of these possibilities terrified him, and yet enthralled him. He flicked the metal ring in the stopper with his tongue, back and forth. The sound reverberated weirdly in his skull click-click-click.
What if it hurts? he thought.
How could it hurt? It’s not even organically connected to you, he told himself.
I can’t just keep walking around with this thing in my mouth. It’ll drive me nuts.
He envisioned trying to get through a day of work. Just thinking about it gave him a headache. Trying to talk in meetings without anyone noticing it would be impossible. Sheila didn’t say anything, but it affected his pronunciation a little, caused him to sound like he had a bit of a lisp, or had had corrective surgery for a cleft palate. It would only take a couple of conversations before people would start ragging on him about it, asking him if he took up sucking dicks at the gas station for extra money, if Sheila had started using a strap-on. The usual homophobic crap. His co-workers were assholes. Especially Alan. On more than one occasion, he had dreamt of putting the claw-end of a hammer through Alan’s temple just to put him out of his zombified misery.
Where did it come from anyway? Was I abducted by aliens? Was I drugged by some deranged plastic surgeon? Why me?
He stared at the ceiling for a while longer, until he was sure Sheila was most likely asleep, and the dancing ghost moon had become a new moon. Then he pushed himself to his feet, and tiptoed back into the guest bathroom. The light was still on, cutting a gold rectangle out of the shadows in the hall. He stared into the mirror. His face looked as it had always looked. His cheeks sagged. His forehead was creased and cracked with fault lines. The whiskers on his chin were checked and speckled with grays. Four days without sleep hadn’t aged him that much. It was twenty years of retail work. It was spending the majority of his twenties chasing the wrong women and patching his soul with empty beer bottles. It was watching the dreams of his youth spin down the drain of wasted opportunity.
Oh, god, fuck it, let’s pull this thing, he thought. He was glad Sheila wasn’t here to see him do it. This was his decision to make. His moment. If he died, she didn’t need to see it.
Taking a deep breath, he opened his mouth wide and leaned back so the vanity lights revealed his target. He reached with awkward fingers past his lips and hooked one finger into the metal ring. His heart thrummed painfully in his chest, nervous anxiety wringing it like a blood-soaked rag. For a moment he lost his courage, but then he thought of Alan’s smirking face, asking him how homeless people paid for blowjobs, and he released his breath, at the same time pulling the stopper out of its home.
There was a sound like PLUNK! and then a rushing of liquid, causing Brian to lean forward over the sink,
(oh, shit, it’s my brains and blood, I’m dying)
as if he were vomiting, only this wasn’t the contents of his stomach spilling out of him. He gagged anyway at the taste, like fishy brine, or stagnant water, and then felt more than liquid bouncing off his tongue, as several solid objects started being mixed in with the fluids, some large enough they scraped the edges of his teeth as they passed over his lips.
(oh, god, oh, fuck, oh, god, my eyes, my eyes)
And then it was over, except for a small dribble that dwindled down to drips, and Brian hovered there, smelling the awful odor of something like sewage water, tasting the remnants of it in his mouth, holding his eyes shut and spitting. He felt the hole in the roof of his mouth with his tongue and it seemed to go up forever, its edges raw and sore. Then he stopped suddenly, as he could hear something moving in the sink, flapping and splashing against the porcelain.
Brian opened his eyes and felt his stomach lurch. The sink was full of tiny goldfish, about twelve of them, and what looked to be human teeth. The liquid that had spilled out of his head was clear, like nothing but water, though it reeked, like an aquarium that had not been cleaned in a long time. The fish were mostly still alive, and that was what he had heard, their scaly bodies thrashing in spasms of suffocation and panic. They pushed the teeth around with hollow scraping noises. Their eyes stared blankly in all directions.
Brian felt dizzy, but also suddenly exhausted. He realized that the stopper was still hooked on the end of his finger. Not knowing what else to do with it, he leaned his head back and stuck it snugly back into place in his mouth, stopping an awful whispering tickle in his ears. He left the remnants of the bad dream in the sink and shut off the light as he trundled trance-like back to the couch, where he collapsed in a heap. He was asleep in minutes, and dreamt only the dreams of a worry-free mind.