Jameson awoke with a start, checked the clock, saw that it was 3:37am. His mouth was throbbing; he reckoned that was what had stirred him from slumber. Cautiously, he probed with his tongue, hoping to find whatever was causing him pain. Delicately, he found a soft, tender spot on the roof of his mouth, along the right side. He pushed the spot tenderly, and was repaid with a dull ache; whatever it was, it appeared to be subsiding. He shoved the sheets aside and padded to the bathroom, swallowed a couple aspirin, went back to bed, and forgot all about it.

Two nights later, he was again awakened by the phantom pain in his mouth. Poking around with his tongue, the tip settled on the same spot as before. This time, however, he felt something shift, as though trying to move away from him. Cautiously, he opened his mouth and inserted a finger, and applied light pressure to the spot. Again, it felt as though there were something just beneath the flesh, trying to shy away from the attention it was receiving. This time though, he felt a sharp prick on the tip of his finger, almost as if it had been stung. It hurt for a moment, then went numb.

“Bloody fucking hell,” he said to the empty bedroom, his voice ringing loudly in the darkness, much louder than it should have. He jammed another finger into his mouth, this time stabbing blindly at the roof of his mouth in search of whatever was in there. Feeling a slight, shifting bump under his finger, he pushed roughly against it, and heard a faint pok as though something had burst. Instantly, his tongue was flooded with a viscous fluid, acrid and rotten tasting.

Jameson sprung from the bed, his lips clamped together even as the bile rose in his throat and he sprinted for the bathroom, flinging up the toilet lid at the last possible moment, and spat into the bowl. Successful at having not throwing up, Jameson raised his head and inspected the effluvia, a dank, clotted, amber mess floating atop the water. Recoiling at the sight and smell of it, he raised his hands to his mouth while his tongue poked bout his soft palate. This time, it found several small, stiff bristles jutting out of the tissue and almost instantly, Jameson found himself engulfed in a rage, the likes of which he’d never experienced before.

His mind raced, filled with images of incredible violence and brutality, the type of things he’d typically shy away from, but now, now, there was a phantasmagorical orgy of awfulness in his head, and he found himself enjoying it in ways that made him extremely uncomfortable. The sensation passed as quickly as it had come on, leaving Jameson tired and confused. On shaky legs, he returned to bed. “What is happening to me,” he sighed, as sleep claimed the night.

“Open wide, Mr Jameson,” Doctor Shyne said. “I can see a bit of bruising up there, but not much…oh, my.”

“Wha? Oh ma wha?” Jameson attempted to ask.

With a steel dental probe in one hand and a small mirror in the other, the dentist examined the roof of Jameson’s mouth, which now appeared to be undulating, as though many things bumped and writhed just beneath the surface of the tissue. He found the bristles that his patient had complained of, and saw that they were moving, moving in such a way that…they’re legs, he thought to himself.

The dentist took a syringe from his instrument tray, which his assistant had already filled with Novocain. As the needle neared Jameson’s mouth, however, Dr Shyne felt resistance, as if an invisible hand were pushing him away. The more he tried, the harder the resistance until, with a frustrated sigh, he put the syringe down.

“Mr Jameson, I’m afraid we’ve done what we can,” he said, whilst pulling off his latex gloves. “We’ll check the x-rays in the morning and see what we may be dealing with. I’ll be in touch tomorrow.”

*****

Jameson was back in the examination chair, Dr Shyne and his assistant attending. Jameson always felt nervous in the presence of the assistant; she was young and rather attractive, in a way that made him ashamed to have dental problems, that this pretty girl might find a man of his age appealing if it weren’t for the occasional cavity or, now, this unknown thing that was happening.

Today, he could not help but notice that she had failed to fasten the topmost buttons on her top, revealing her small breasts in a most lascivious way, cupped ever so gently in their cradle of purple lace, the lusty color mocking the austerity of her smock, as Dr Shyne settled in next to him. The dentist looked harried, like he hadn’t slept well the night before; his shirt was wrinkled and stained, his breath reeking of alcohol, cigarettes, and mouthwash. Jameson found it odd that he had been strapped into the chair, when they’d never done that before.

“Alright then, let’s see what we have,” Shyne sighed wearily, as he hooked his fingers over Jameson’s top teeth with his right hand, and the bottom teeth with his left. With a grunt, he pulled the jaws apart, the pain incomprehensible as Jameson’s facial muscles tore apart, his jaw separating from his skull with a sound of bone against bone, tendons stretching and popping, while his mouth filled with blood. Too shocked to scream, Jameson struggled against the leather restraints, blood gurgling from the remains of his ruined face, as he felt his upper palate tear open and something…something, emerged.

Jameson’s mind simply stopped working when he attempted to understand that which he was seeing, this awful, grey, alien, insect-like thing rising from within himself, its skin or shell or whatever it was glistening sickly in the fluorescent light of the dental office. Arms, so many arms, unfolded from it, the thin sticks playing over the wreckage of his face, surely and steadily finding their way toward his eyes…

*****

Jameson sat bolt upright in bed, his chest heaving with exertion, his body slicked with sweat. Never in his life had he experienced a nightmare so terrifying, so real, as this. Hesitantly, he brought his hands to his face, and found that his jaw and teeth were indeed where they ought to be, that it had been a dream, just a really bad dream, that nothing of the sort had actually happened.

In the stillness of the night, Jameson heard a rustling, wet and faint, and a tickle at the back of his throat. Absentmindedly, his tongue moved to the roof of his mouth where, instead of the familiar landscape of his mouth’s roof, he felt a writhing mass of hard objects, shells, carapaces, and the tickle of impossibly thin appendages picking away at the flesh, digging under his teeth and casting the unnecessarily aside, the pain unimaginable as whatever it was began the laborious process of the next step of its evolution. Blood, bile, pus, unthinkable fluids dripped from the corner of Jameson’s slackened jaw, while his ears dimly registered the sound of his front door being kicked in, the rough wood splintering in much the way that his sanity was splintering, his eyes registering but not quite seeing the two men wearing black suits and surgical masks approach him boldly, drawing pistols from holsters hidden beneath their jackets.

“Mr Jameson,” one of the men said, his voice strong and resonant in the near darkness, “You are in possession of something that belongs to us, and we need to take it back.”

“Bah…don’ noe…” Jameson said, his throat thick with gore while the things inside him dug their way upward, feasting on his optic nerves while his eyes sank deeper into their sockets, the pressure causing them to burst, while the bugs, if that’s what they were, fell onto the sweet jelly that had once filled Jameson’s pale blue eyes and still, he didn’t scream, not even as the things, burrowed through that last barrier and into his brain. Through the initial breach they filed, heading off into different directions, following the ancient code to their appointed places and, as they did so, Jameson’s arms and legs began to twitch, slowly and clumsily at first, but with a rapidly growing efficiency, as his legs swung over the side of the bed and his body, those things that were now in control of it, stood him up on his feet.

Throughout it all, Jameson had maintained consciousness, as if this awareness were some gift bestowed upon him by the invaders. He could feel every bite they took of him, every hole they made, every bit they took away, he felt it all but was powerless to stop it, powerless even to speak. Though his eyes were gone, he could still see but now, instead of two men in front of him, he saw two hundred, a hundred doorways, a hundred hallway lights, and it vaguely reminded him of a film he had seen as a child, about a man who could see through the compound eyes of a housefly, but still he couldn’t speak, he couldn’t ask, plead, demand, that the men, these men who had broken into his home, please kill me, just kill me, please make it stop, make me dead, happily and oh so joyously dead…

The first of the men stared at the ruins of the man jerkily approaching him and calmly raised his pistol, and gently squeezed the trigger. The small-caliber bullet entered Jameson’s skull just above the eye socket, but did not exit, instead rattling and bouncing around inside the cranium until the body fell unceremoniously to the floor. Standing over the remains of Jameson, the men both put several more rounds into Jameson’s head, their eyes unblinking, showing no expression.

The chirp of a mobile phone interrupted the stillness, and the second man fished in his pocket for the device. Bringing it to his ear he listened, nodded, and spoke to his partner.

“Drop the match and let’s get out of here. There’s more hatching down the street.”

As the men departed Jameson’s house, the fire inside was gaining power, growing in strength and purifying intensity. It was going to be a long night.

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