Photo © Dauvit Alexander (

This one’s for Babs – a short story in the form of a series of letters between a wee girl and her granny.  It’s also dedicated to the several people who pointed out that the epistolary novel lends itself to horror…

Dear Gran,

Hi how are you, I am OK – this is Gemma by the way.

I am writing to tell you about a weird thing that happened because I thought maybe you’d understand.

Yesterday Mum had to work late so she left us with the lady next door.  I don’t know if you met her when you came to stay last time, her name is Verity and she smells like her dog which is a greyhound called Fox.

I don’t mind staying with Verity, and Mike really likes her so that’s OK, but the last few times we’ve been round she’s told us this same story and I don’t like it.  When we get there she gives us a biscuit and tells us to sit on the couch and we do and she always goes to put the TV on and then stops and says “did I ever tell you the story about how I lost all my teeth?”

She’s told us about 250 times, but it doesn’t matter if we say yes or no because she wants to tell it again and we won’t get to watch TV until she’s done it.  Mum says she’s a bit lonely and maybe doesn’t have that many stories which is why she tells us that one over and over again but I’m not sure if that’s it.

The story starts that Verity was thirteen years old and she was about to go to the dentist on her own for the very first time.  It was meant to be for a check-up so her mum and dad said it would be OK, as long as she came straight home after.

On the night before, she had a bad dream that all her teeth had fallen out, and there were just black holes left in her gums.  She was so embarrassed in the dream that she refused to open her mouth again till they grew back, even though they were grown up teeth and you only get one set.  Everyone thought she was being really rude and horrible and they all stopped speaking to her one by one.  Also because she wouldn’t open her mouth, she wasn’t able to eat, so she got all thin and pinched looking.

She woke up at the time when she was about to die, and after that she was scared to go to the dentist on her own in case it was some sort of ominous portent.  I’ve never heard of that before but Verity says it means maybe the bad dream is to warn her something bad is going to happen.

Anyway she told her mum and her mum said not to worry, it was just a checkup and nothing to worry about, only a silly dream.  And Verity thought in the cold day of light that she was probably right.  At that age Verity says the last thing you want to do is make yourself appear babyish by being frightened of something like a dream, no matter how scary it might be.

So she went to school and then right afterwards she went to the dentist, which wasn’t very far away at all.  But when she got inside it wasn’t her usual dentist that was there, it was a strange lady who she had never seen before.

“Who are you?” Verity said, because she was something called a precoshus child.

“My name is Doctor Clark,” the stranger said, and Verity says that the sound of her voice made her spine shiver because it was all cold and hard like an icicle.  “I am your new dentist.”

Verity was a bit unsure because her mum and dad hadn’t said anything about a new dentist and normally they would warn her about things like that.

“What happened to Rhona?”

“She had to go away unexpectedly.  All her patients are mine, now.”

Then the new dentist pointed out her certificates and everything like you have to show she was a proper dentist, and there was nothing else Verity could do apart from hop up onto the chair and open her mouth up wide.

The chair was a big black leather one and it was very comfy, and Verity was tired after not sleeping well the night before and a long boring day at school with double maths at the end, so she fell asleep in it.  She thought it was only for a minute, but when she woke up her mum was shaking her and there was a policeman and Doctor Clark was nowhere to be seen.  The nice lady from reception was standing in the doorway waving her hands about in an agitated sort of way and crying a lot.  And Verity tasted blood.

She poked at the places her teeth ought to be with her tongue but there was nothing there but gummy gaps, just like the dream.

She looked at her mother.

“Doctor Clark wasn’t a real dentist,” she explained.  “Well she was once, but not anymore.  She was struck off, for…”

“Thealing theeth?” Verity asked sarcastically.  She does the lisp when she tells the story, but she isn’t laughing.

She didn’t speak again till they made her a complete new set of false teeth just like her old ones, which took a whole month because they had to order some stuff from America but I can’t remember what.

Mum says this is just a story Verity tells and it probably isn’t true because she used to be a poet and that means she’s allowed to make things up.

But I know Verity has all false teeth because I saw her take them out once to get a seed that got stuck in the back. I asked her if it hurt taking them in and out and she said not really anymore, but it did before she got used to it.

Anyway I wanted to know whether you agree with me that Verity’s story seems like proof that if you have a bad dream like that it might be a warning of something to come?  Mike agrees with me but he’s only 7 so I’m not sure if he can be trusted cause his brain isn’t full yet, it said on the news.  Mum doesn’t agree with me at all, she thinks I’m being silly.  But because you are a dentist and everything I thought maybe you would know.

Love from Gemma xxx

Dear Gemma,

Thank you for your email, it is always nice to hear from you.  I don’t think I ever have met Verity, but she sounds like an interesting lady.  Why did she call her dog Fox?

I have heard stories in the past about people dreaming their teeth might fall out, but I’ve never known it to actually happen, and I have seen a lot of teeth!

I can’t believe your friend Verity’s story about the evil dentist is completely true, it sounds like something I would have heard about before.  Maybe she is frightened of dentists and she tells this story to give people a reason why?  I think if I had lost all my own teeth at such a young age I would probably be frightened of them myself!

Love Gran xxx

Hi Gran,

The thing is I had a dream the other night where one of my eyes fell out and I had to pick it up and try to put it back in, but I was so freaked out by the squishy feel I put it the wrong way and all I could see was the inside of my brain, which was all red and throbbing and horrible.

I spent the rest of the dream trying to get my eyeball back out again even though touching it made me feel a bit sick, and eventually I got annoyed and grabbed at it and it burst.  I had to wear an eye patch forever and ever after that – when I woke up in the morning I spent about half an hour looking for it before I realised it was just a dream and I didn’t really need one.

Then the next day mum got a letter from school saying we all have to go and get our eyes tested.  What if Doctor Clark turned out to have an evil optician relation and this is my own premonishun of the test going wrong?

Love from Gemma xxx

PS Fox is called that for a joke. I don’t get it.

Dear Gemma,

I’m sure your eye test will go fine.  Maybe you should have a chat to Verity about your dream and tell her how it made you feel – I think she will set your mind at ease.

Love Gran xx

Dear Gran,

I spoke to Verity like you suggested and she said she thought the eye test would be OK too.  She said she was sorry for telling me that story too many times because it had obviously taken root and given me a fright, and she was glad I came to see her before I accused the optician of being a horrible eye thief.  I told her that you suggested it and she said you must be a very clever lady and I was lucky to have a grandma like that.

Then I showed her a picture of you that mum took on her phone, which I had because mum told me to take it so she could ring me when she needed me to come back for tea, and a funny thing happened.  Verity’s face went strange and she had to sit down, and all she could say was “is your granny a dentist?”

I said yes you used to be and then she was quiet for ages and ages.  Then she said she thought she had better take Fox for his walk, and almost at the same time mum phoned for me to go back to the house so I did because it was a bit weird.

Later on Verity phoned mum and said she was going away for a while and she was sorry but she wouldn’t be able to take us after school on Thursday.  Mum was a bit annoyed with her but it’s OK because Sheryl’s mum said she would be able to look after us for a bit which means I get to play with Sheryl all day at school.  It will be lots of fun.

Love Gemma xxx

Dear Gemma,

I hope Verity and your mum make up, and that you have a lovely time playing with your friend Sheryl.

I have a friend called Sheryl as well, we go swimming together on Friday afternoons with lots of other old ladies who don’t like getting their hair wet.  They are quite funny because they all take their false teeth out before they go into the pool because they are worried in case they come loose and choke.  They all leave their false teeth lying about the changing rooms, it must be very strange for any staff who go in.  And once we came out of the pool and all the teeth had gone missing.  It was very strange.  Still, I don’t mind too much, as I still have all my own!

Love Gran xxx