Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The cold smile

-Yeah, I don't know when I originally got fixated with pinnacles in hell, but it did happen to me back when I was a kid.

And there he was. Standing on some sort of rock. This rock was part of a pedestal, and this pedestal went down to what looked like forever.

He couldn't see how far down the pedestal went mainly because of the flames. But the flames were not hot. They were cold, and the flames were bluish. The air was cold. It snapped at him with mild breezes that were colder than the general atmosphere. He remembered hearing that hell was actually a cold place, and this must have been it. Satan must be halfway frozen in ice somewhere near. Dante...what a prick. Looking around he saw other people in the far distance, standing on similar pedestals. They were alone. He could have yelled at that volume that states that the voice gets no louder and they wouldn't have heard him. There was something in the air, a feeling of static, and a low rushing of some sort of flutter. The flutter might have been the flames, he couldn't tell. Whatever it was, it brought the cold. And he stood there, aware that he might have to stand there until the end of time, shivering.

But the ground under him shifted somehow. The rock was cracking. The sound was made more punctual by the cold. The pedestal couldn't have been more that five feet across, but something was happening in the center of it. The surface of the rock was powderizing. He looked down, and soon squatted. He reached down and began to wipe away the dust. It rose and made puffs of smoke as he brushed it away. The center of the platform was soft and getting softer still. The level of powder was going deeper. The rock was turning into dirt, from the center. With both hands, he pulled the excess dirt and gravel, throwing it feverishly over the side. The center of the rock platform became more and more like a funnel and he pulled more dirt out. He was feverish with his task. It was as if he was clearing out the center of a flower, working into the stem. And then he heard something. A snap. Suddenly all of the excess dust and gravel began sliding into the hole that he was clearing. He stood up and backed to the edge of the platform. The sliding continued. The funnel in the center was guzzling the dirt, dust and gravel as if a lid two feet across had slid open somewhere beneath it all. The hole was becoming larger, and the platform was falling into the hole. Then he realized that the area that he had been digging out barely left him with any room to stand on the edge. The way the gravel was pouring down the center, it seemed that the edge would be consumed soon. His footing slipped. His right leg shot towards the center of the hole, slipping on the dirt, which had now turned red as clay. The rumbling of the sliding dirt was all he could hear. The sound of sand being poured onto paper. The steady plash of a billion small things rubbing against each other. And the cold air tormented the edges of his ears, gnawing at them until they felt hot.

He scrambled backwards, towards the edge, but the funnel of moving gravel pulled him in. He heard the snap again. Everything stopped. Silent.He was able to pull his leg back and squat, looking down the funnel into its center. What he saw was white. Pearly white like piano keys. Leaning forward he saw that they were teeth. Fangs that interlocked. With dirt and dust around the pointed, jagged edges, and around what appeared to be the gums. There was a top and a bottom. They were curved and streaked. He could see the angles of their curvature, as if they had been sharpened by some sort of file. He couldn't see where the gumline ended. This whole thing made no sense. The mouth that was grinning at him seemed to be bigger in circumference than the actual stem of the platform he was lodged on. If he could climb out of this funnel and look down the outside, he knew that he would see no jaw muscles and nothing that would support the apparatus that he saw beneath his feet. As he attempted to comprehend what was beneath him, he slipped. The slipping continued until he was resting directly outside of the teeth. The opening was the size of a manhole, except there were teeth there, and a grimace. The fangs weren't a flush floor either, they actually were rounded and looked like horns. Shaped well. He was positive that they had been filed into their menacing shapes. No two fangs were the same size, but they all interlocked perfectly; keeping him out. They looked like porcelain horns, fitting into each other like some sort of sadistic puzzle. The cold worked its way up his arms and around his chest, finding routes through his clothing that he didn't know existed. It billowed against his flesh in what seemed to be hundreds of individual zephyrs, all bent on making him realize the lack of warmth.

And then the mouth opened. Only slightly, but it opened. As if it was considering saying something. That pause before the flow of a recently born sentence in the brain riding electricity to the tongue. The opening was perhaps just a half of a foot. Six mere inches. The size of the maw made six inches seem minuscule. He was very aware that he would never open his mouth this wide. It was wide enough for him to dip his toe into. He could probably fit his whole foot in there. If he'd had a crowbar, he could probably jimmy it in there and shoehorn the thing open. But what was beyond? Was this a living mouth? If he broke a tooth and exposed nerves, what would the repercussions be? The gravel poured into the cracks. The mouth wasn't completely open, just enough to show that it existed and it was aware that someone was right above it.
And he slipped again, violently. It was a tumble, and his hands went forward. Towards the choppers. His left hand landed against one of the fangs to steady his fall. Is was wet and hard, like a painted cement wall. It was cool. A soothing coolness that was pleasant compared to the general temperature around him. His hand was able to wrap around what seemed to be the edge of the fang. His fingers were precariously inside the mouth of this thing. The edge was sharp. Sharp like a well-used kitchen knife. Not enough to cut on the touch, but with force behind it, the edge was very capable of chopping. He pushed against it, in order to steady his positioning outside of this lipless smile. As he shifted, his right hand slipped forward, to the top of another fang. His fingers wrapped around the point, and he felt the subtle serrated edge. He felt again with his left and determined that one edge was smooth while the other was not. He filed this horrible notation far back, because his main purpose was to get his hands away from these teeth before something awful happened. Shuffling hard now, kicking dirt down the mystery throat, he attempted to stand. he had to get out of the position he was in. He had to get his hands out of the mouth of this thing. He felt the air around his hands as he gripped the potential blades. The backs of his hands felt stretched and dry. This air was sucking the moisture out of him. His eyes were making it obvious every time he blinked. His face felt stiff, and he settled into a carapace, unable to truly express emotion, because of the cold.

Then something awful did indeed happen.As his whole body yanked and slid into the center of the pit the mouth snapped shut, severing the fingers on both of his hands. It was a final severing. The fingers were gone. The force of the slamming teeth had shunted his digits completely off. With nothing to hold onto, he fell backwards onto his ass, and his feet shot forward. The teeth opened again. Holding his bloodied stumps at his chest, he kicked and scrambled, trying to keep his feet clear of this trap. His right heel dug into the gap, and his boot-heel was braced against the edge of a tooth. He felt the corresponding tooth on the other side of the jaw against his Achilles tendon. Thrashing with his left foot, he tried to find purchase in the gravel and dirt. He needed to get his foot out of there. For balance, he shoved his fingerless, weeping hands into the dirt behind him. The dirt, dust and gravel dug and tore into his open flesh, beckoning a level of infection that we just cannot comprehend in this day of age.
The jaw shut, slowly. He felt his ankle tested and buckling. He felt his tendon snap, and suddenly, his foot felt like a loose shoe as his entire heel now dangled freely underneath the compressing pressure of the teeth. Then, the test-biting was over, and the teeth clacked shut. His heel was gone, and because of his boots, he couldn't tell how much of his foot was still attached.

The liquid began to pour from the wound, streaming over the teeth. Causing them to be flushed with red. His blood mixed with the grime and pooled up between the teeth. Looking over his flailing legs, he felt like an insect in the mouth of someone how had just been punched there.
The blood caused him to slip, and his hands could find nothing to hang on to. He still had his thumbs and he dug with them, but the pain had hit levels that made his actions exaggerated and wrong for the time being.

His feet were now safe at what appeared to be the gumline and his hands were behind him at the other gumline. The only thing in danger was his ass, and he was holding it up, crab-soccer style to keep it from resting on the center of the grimace.
The mouth opened suddenly, and he pushed his sheared foot and his good one firmly into what seemed to be the gums, he pushed his cold, frothing hand stubs behind him and lifted. The mouth slammed shut.

Then there was an explosion of physics and dirt. The tube that he had worked his way into could no longer support itself and it shattered around him, like a balloon filled with dry dirt. Like a pinata with no purpose. Now, the teeth were the platform. Dirt, grime and filth rained down upon him as the new properties of the platform were revealed. Down his shirt, into his ears, clouding his squinting eyes. He made a similar grimace with his own teeth in an attempt to breathe through his mouth. the cold worked in his favor now, and the numbing helped dull the pain. But even though the nerve endings were slowed down, the blood still flowed. It was warm, and it misted lightly as it worked its way through the grime.

And now the whole organism was apparent. The teeth and mouth were the face of this thing. The throat went down and he was perched right on the most dangerous part of the creature. The blue flames licked about and the mouth opened. It opened wider and wider. The flexibility of the mouth was something that he hadn't initially considered. He was being drawn into it by default. It was going to keep on expanding until he dropped into it. His bloody foot kicked out and streams of coagulated chunks of his own mud spattered about. His hands, numb with pain slipped and gurgled in their own much and dirt. The widening continued, and soon his center wight dropped into the mouth. He attempted to roll to the side, but with no fingers to work with, his hands slicked across the teeth and he hung, like a hammock, across the teeth that were surely going to snap shut.

He realized the option of falling over the side and escaping this digestion, but it was too late.
The mouth stopped expanding, and once again all was quiet. The air was cold and his breath hung in the air like in a meat locker. He was sweating the panic sweat of stress. And there he hung, wounded, dripping in pain looking for that last bit of strength to hold him up before the inevitable. he wished it would close on him, and violently fold, sever and kill him, but this thing was obviously patient. This thing obviously had the rest of time.