This is a short story, in 1210 words.
It was prompted by the above photo, sent to me by Ed Westen.
The first shop didn’t have any Bakewell Tarts in stock, and it took two more tries before finding some in the fourth. They had to be Mr Kipling, the only brand Mildred liked. Albert reversed the car out onto the main road, and headed for home. Why his wife wanted to eat Bakewell Tarts all of a sudden, and at nine at night, he had no idea. It wasn’t as if it was one of those pregnancy fancies. She was sixty-six last birthday, and they had been sleeping in separate rooms for nine years.
Oh well, anything for a quiet life.
When his mother died, Albert had started to feel lonely. Almost fifty years with her had become a familiar, cosy feeling. It had never bothered him that he didn’t knew who his father was, as he was never alone when she was alive. He had asked her about who his father was once, and she had just shrugged. “Can’t remember love, there were a lot of men back then. I was quite a looker, though you wouldn’t think so now”.
For two years, he muddled along. Then the house began to feel empty, and he could hear his own breathing when he was watching television. So he joined a club, a Bowls Club on the edge of town. That was where he met Mildred. It was her idea to get married. “Just for company though, Albert. None of that lovey-dovey stuff, okay?” That suited him just fine.
It took him quite a while to work out the truth. Mildred didn’t want company, she wanted a servant. And a chauffeur, and a cook, and someone to pay the bills. Albert regretted ever telling her about his inheritance, as she gave up her job the week before they got married. He had to work until he was sixty-five, coming home every day to get her dinner, do the washing and ironing, and watch her play Bejewelled on her phone for hours on end.
At least he wasn’t lonely.
The light on the road ahead looked like someone had left their full beams on, but then it got brighter and brighter until he couldn’t see anything. Scared he might crash, Albert pulled the car over and stopped on the verge. The light got closer and closer, then seemed to pass over him, showing up the blood vessels through his skin. And there was a noise too, like the drone of a million bees, right inside his head.
It stopped as soon as it had started, and the road was plunged into darkness once again.
Mildred insisted on a plate, so he brought the three Bakewell Tarts back on a nice Royal Doulton tea plate, and watched as she wolfed them down. She had been checking the Bingo numbers in the daily newspaper, and spluttered crumbs everywhere as she shook her head in disgust. “I only needed two numbers. Bugger it!”
Three days later, Albert woke up with a bad pain in his jaw. It felt like toothache, and his gums were swollen close to the pain. But it was in a spot where he had had to have two back teeth removed over three years ago, so he didn’t see how it could be toothache. He found an old bottle of tooth tincture, and rubbed some onto the area. It didn’t help much, but Mildred was asking when he was going to hang the washing on the line, so he had to forget about the pain, and get on with his chores.
Later that night, he was aware of a terrible sharp pain in his mouth, and when he went into the bathroom, he saw some blood around his lips. Gingerly touching inside, he could feel that his gum had broken open, and the pain was getting worse. Mildred came in, complaining that his putting the light on had disturbed her. When he told her what was happening, she just switched off the light, and turned to head back to bed. “Well go and see the dentist tomorrow, but don’t wake me up again”.
They said there were no appointments, but when he told them he was a private patient of Mrs Gomez, they fitted him in. She was perplexed, to say the least. “Albert, I have to tell you that I have never seen anything like it. The two teeth I took out are growing back, and seemingly very quickly too. I need to take X-rays, and do some tests”.
She showed him the X-ray on her computer screen. “No doubt about it, look here. See? They are almost fully grown again”. When Albert told her that they had only started hurting the day before, she shook her head. “Amazing, just amazing. Would you mind if I wrote about this to the Institute of Dentistry? You could become famous, Albert”.
He was given a prescription for pain killers and antibiotics, told to be careful what he ate on that side, and to come back in ten days.
When he woke up the next morning, the pain had gone, and he had two brand new teeth. But his fingernails and toenails were all over two inches long. He couldn’t get his slippers on his feet, and when he tried to use the nail clippers, it was hard to grasp them with the strangely elongated fingernails. He managed after a while, and went downstairs to tell Mildred. But she was busy with an online slots game on her phone, and waved him away.
By the afternoon, Albert had made his tongue sore, by rubbing it constantly on those new teeth. And his other teeth seemed to be bigger and stronger too, as if they were filling his mouth. He tried to eat a slice of fruit cake, but could hardly hold it with fingers that had long nails that had regrown. When he finally bit off some cake, he found he was chewing his tongue along with the cake. In a panic, he drove back to the dentist, and waited until she could see him.
Mumbling through a mouth full of fast-growing teeth, he managed to tell her his problem, and showed her his fingernails too. She looked scared, and said she would have to ask advice from the head of the practice. Meanwhile, he should go home, and she would phone him.
It was impossible to walk to the car, let alone drive it. He had to pull his shoes off there and then, on the rain-swept pavement. His toenails had ripped through his socks, and were as long as the claws on a wild animal. He just about managed to drive without hitting them on the surface above the car’s controls. Once out of the town centre, Albert had to open his mouth slightly, to allow his tongue to hang out and take the pressure off. Mildred would be angry that he had been gone so long, he knew that.
But he knew something else too. He had to go back to where he had pulled off the road onto the verge. Then he had to wait for the bright light to return.
He could only hope they would come back for him before it was too late.