It was easiest to pull a chunk of bloodied gum out with the teeth, the roots sometimes broke but that was no matter, the dentist would sort that out in his workshop later. Guy paused only to wipe the handles of his pliers on his apron before getting on with the rest of the mouth. Several minutes later, the dead soldier’s head had empty jaws and Guy had a bag filling nicely and clinking a little as he hobbled over the legs and tussocks of the battlefield and onto the next intact face.
Old Monsieur Papier had shaken hands on the deal late last night, as the messengers raced through the town on horseback with hopeful faces and the gossip favoured heavy casualties and an end to the warfare on this particular battleground today. One full bag of pretty white teeth, whole sets where possible but front teeth always preferable, and the ancient dentist would craft Guy a pair of false teeth with the finest wood as a base, sanded till there wasn’t a splinter remaining. They’d talked briefly of ivory and bone, but since they were renowned for both nastiness of taste and breath, wood was definitely the preferred option.
Especially since he hoped to impress.
Here was a young soldier with a handsome nose and lips begging to be kissed, blue eyes to match his uniform, and nothing left but thick syrupy puddles of blood in the crater where his thighs should have lain. Pink frills of flesh and shards of bone were all that was left of his legs, and there was the sweet stink of cooked human flesh overlaying the stench of shit and urine from his body relaxing in death. From the others he’d learned it was easier and far less time consuming to simply break the jaws wide open rather than fight against the tendons and cartilage to reach the great flat teeth towards the backs of their mouths. It made a popping, wet noise, but nothing he hadn’t heard before or wouldn’t be prepared to hear again.
Pulling a molar free he inspected it for cracks, holes, or the mottling of rot which would mean its rejection by old Papier. He pulled the scraps of gum from the root, scraping the last stubborn remnants off with his thumbnail before flicking them over to the great black crows staggering about beside him, their bellies full but not yet sated.
On to the next. This one had brown eyes and a paunch, and part of his pinky-grey brain showing where the top of his skull had peeled off like the softboiled egg Guy had enjoyed for his breakfast. The odour of the dead barely registered now, but this one had the extra aroma of rancid armpits and halitosis. Guy was surprised to find the soldier had such beautiful teeth, just the set he’d been looking for. He was even more surprised when the act of wrenching the jaws apart elicited a gargling groan of pain from the body. Its eyes blinked at him, the pupils shrinking against the daylight, tears leaking down the temples, running to the mess of hair, skin, and brains nestling into the thick red mud.
The body moved under him, enough to unnerve him, but still he carried on.
Kneeling on the chest, brass buttons hard under his knees, he pinched the nose to hold the head in place and pulled the teeth as carefully as he could, pocketing them, gums and all, the body finally still below him, the eyes losing their focus as he pushed up and stepped away.
The crows seemed to skip behind Guy as he moved on to the next fallen soldier, knelt in its entrails, and prepared to mine another cooling mouth. This time, he slapped its face first.
“I didn’t think you liked me. I never saw you smile before tonight.”
They had drunk enough wine to darken their lips and make the space around them fragrant with the sweet scent of fermentation, but not enough to make them sleepy. Not before they’d gotten to know each other better in the barn, anyway.
Benoit was sturdy with able hands; Guy was discovering just how able those hands were now they were close enough to feel each other’s breaths on their cheeks. There was just enough moonlight to show off his teeth, but not enough to render the couple visible to any passers-by. Benoit licked his lips slowly, staring at Guy all the while, and Guy could feel the front of his breeches straining outwards, towards those capable hands.
His tongue was hot and sore in his mouth, the new teeth taking time to get used to after years without, nipping the sides of it and his inner cheeks hard enough to draw blood and set up a tender throbbing that he knew would lead to pain and ulceration over the next couple of days – but for now, he only wanted to focus on the tender throbbing in his crotch. Or rather, he wanted Benoit to focus on it.
Their mouths closed on each other’s, their hands fondling front and back, pressing, caressing… till the teeth slipped and nipped Benoit’s lower lip.
“You’ll have to make amends for that.”
Benoit’s hands ran through Guy’s ruff of hair, snagging in it, guiding his head down, down, down, till Guy was on his knees and sucking his cock.
He gagged a little as Benoit went too deep then clasped a hand round the base to stop it happening again, using his other hand to gently tickle Benoit’s slightly sticky balls. They shifted under his fingers like the belly of a pregnant spaniel, and he could tell Benoit was getting ready to come.
Guy rasped his tongue harder along the shaft, fluid seeping into his mouth and burning its way to the back of his throat, making him sniff as his nose ran, Benoit moaning above him, then… it happened.
Just shreds of skin and a tangle of pubic hair keeping body and cock together.
A scream rent the air.
Guy spat the mouthful out, hoping the teeth would go with it.
They didn’t. He tried pushing them out with his tongue, and the teeth snapped whenever it got near them.
Hooking his cheek away from them with a shaking finger, he attempted to hook round the edges, but they sprang apart, locking his jaw as far open as it would go.
Benoit lay moaning on the floor of the barn, clutching his crotch as blood drenched the hardpacked dirt beneath him. A rat came out of hiding to drag the seeping penis away. Guy could only gargle and flail, unable to speak, scream, or call out for help.
A shape appeared in the gloom, the pale green of marsh gas and willo’the’wisps. It was missing the top of its head, and its lower jaw dangled loose and heavy, swinging a little with every step.
It pointed a broken finger at Guy then turned and gestured towards the burial pits over the hill.
Guy’s jaw ached already.
He shook his head. Benoit lay motionless on the floor. Crouching beside him, Guy raised the other man’s bloodied hand and stuck it between the worrisome teeth before hooking his own fingers under the wooden rim and levering it out. The teeth locked onto Benoit’s hand, but he was out of it and past caring.
Free of the spectre’s teeth, Guy rubbed his jaw, and got thinking.
He tore the penis from the rat, and started walking. If folk bought up dead men’s teeth, who knew what a penis would bring. He stuffed it in his pocket, and headed out the door. The spectre shook its head, jaw quivering, and disappeared.
Guy smiled. He might feel a bit of a prick, but he was free.
By Gill Hoffs