Lou Morgan was born in Wales and now lives in the south of England with her husband, son and (of course) cat. Her short stories have been published by Solaris Books, PS Publishing, Jurassic and others. Blood and Feathers, her first novel, was published by Solaris in August this year, with the follow-up, Blood and Feathers: Rebellion to follow in summer 2013.
“What?” Iris stuck her head around the shower curtain, listening.
“The toast’s jammed again – it’s getting all burnt! And there’s teeth on the lawn.”
“Oh, for crying out loud. Unplug it, then see if you can jimmy it out with a wooden spoon. A wooden one!” She stepped back under the running water. “Give me strength… wait… teeth?”
Five minutes later, Iris was wrapping a towel around her head and standing in a puddle in the kitchen, peering out at the lawn. “Teeth?”
“Look.” Jack pointed, scattering crumbs on the draining board. Sure enough, there they were – right in the middle of the lawn, a ring of sharp white points that had most definitely not been there the night before. They towered over the shrubs, standing at least as high as a man. Iris stared at them for a moment, then turned and fixed her teenage son with a frown. “Is this anything to do with you, Jack?”
“’snot me,” he said through a mouthful of toast. “Ask Addy.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Your sister’s eight years old – and use a plate, would you? You’re getting bits everywhere.”
“So what if she’s eight? Addy was the one with the cling film last year. You blamed that on me, too.”
“That isn’t the point. Clean up that mess, please. And don’t go anywhere near that… that thing.” Iris tugged at the edge of her makeshift turban. She left Jack eating his toast, and went back upstairs.
She was just picking up the hairdryer when Jack’s voice drifted up the stairs again. “Mum?”
“What is it this time?”
“You’d better come see.” Something about his tone made her heart jump, and she dropped the dryer.
When she got to the kitchen, the back door was open, and through it she could see him standing beside the ring of… whatever they were. He looked back over his shoulder at her, and even from this distance she could see how pale his face was.
It was beginning to rain, and the water was soaking into his school shirt, but he did not move.
“Jack? Jack! Whatever’s the matter? What are…”
Iris did not finish her sentence. The ground beneath her shifted and lurched, pitching her sideways. “Jack!”
And when she looked up, he wasn’t there. There was nothing there except for the rain, and those strange white things.
And where was Addy? Jack had called her downstairs, hadn’t he, said she had better come into the garden. What had he wanted her to see?
Still off-balance, she half-walked, half-scrambled closer… and all at once she realised why he had been so pale, just why he had been staring back at her.
* * *
They were teeth. You could see it, up close. They looked larger now than they had from the window. Had they grown? A little voice in her head told her that was impossible; how could they have grown? She chose to ignore it, just as carefully as she chose to ignore the other little voice – the one that was telling her there were teeth in the middle of the lawn, and that in itself was pretty bloody impossible, particularly on a Tuesday.
The jagged points, the smoothness of the sides, the ridges of earth below them, like gums. They towered over her, so much taller than she had first thought. And between them, where there had been grass and moss and flowers only yesterday, was a gaping hole leading down into… a mouth.
“Jack?” Her voice sounded weak against the rain.
She crept closer to the edge of the mouth that had opened in the middle of their dull, ordinary, suburban garden.
The ground shook again, this time knocking her flat on her face and then rolling her sideways, dangerously close to the edge. She slowly, carefully, dragged herself closer and stared down into the dark, calling her children. Not a sound came back – not even an echo. There was only the darkness within and the noise of the rain on the grass. She leaned as far out as she dared, throwing an arm around the base of a tooth for support. It was cold, slippery to the touch, but she hung on as the world around her tilted again. She might have screamed; she didn’t think so, but she couldn’t be sure.
The throat had stairs.
Sweeping around it was a narrow staircase; beginning behind the tooth to her left and ending… who knew where?
Iris lay back on the wet grass, feeling the rain on her neck, and she made a choice.
(C) Lou Morgan 2012
© Paul Kane 2003-2017. All rights reserved. Materials (including images) may not be reproduced without express permission from the author.