Vagina dentata

The cottage lay a stretch back from the main road. Ivorie walked softly up the path towards it, brushing abundant foliage out of her face. Years of neglect had sweetened the shingles’ decay, the roof’s near-collapse. The house had remained uninhabited since the day of her mother’s arrest and Ivorie’s removal to foster care ten years earlier. The real estate agency had given up trying to sell it. People read their newspapers – everyone for miles around knew what had happened. No one wanted to live in those rooms.

She explored the cobwebbed interiors of the house. Surfaces, corners, and walls were positively diaphanous with the fragile nets of so many long-deceased arachnids. Ivorie had almost no memories of her first six years in this secluded place. Memories of her mother were equally dark. And there seemed to be nothing here but a few forlorn pieces of furniture. No knickknacks, no clues. She ventured upstairs. At the end of the hallway was a tiny library, sighing into the half-dark. All the shelves were bare, but she spied a large box behind the bookcase in the corner. Promising. She went to investigate.

Kneeling down gingerly in a thick mantle of dust, Ivorie scrabbled at the box flaps, which were soft with age. Everything was very quiet. The air was loaded down with must and the heavy perfume of gardenia and flowering chestnut. Flaps spread, she peered inside, but the contents were shrouded in shadows. A prickling at the nape of her neck indicated that perhaps this crate held the keys she’d recently begun to search for: keys that would slide gracefully into the locks of the solid wooden doors of her mind. Ivorie didn’t think in terms of keys and doors, though. She couldn’t know about how doors had formed and locked of their own accord that day one decade ago. She was only aware of a bizarre and troubling blankness.

The young woman had entered puberty four years before. Soon after her twelfth birthday, Ivorie experienced the typical changes: the swelling of breasts, the sprouting of small, soft hairs under her arms and around her pubic area. Ivorie’s best friend Rhonda, a born chatterbox, would discuss in detail her own adolescent developments, and since they mirrored Ivorie’s, she would be reassured that all was well. Three months before she turned thirteen, however, the break with normalcy came. Washing herself in the shower one day, she was alarmed to discover six hard and tiny white protrusions emerging along the tender inside of each labium. A couple weeks later the six enamel structures had grown and multiplied. They lined entirely the inner lips of poor Ivorie’s vagina. Their shapes were reminiscent of the molars, canines, and incisors of her mouth. She was understandably distraught. Rhonda said nothing about having a set of teeth “down there,” so Ivorie kept it to herself. It became her horrible secret.

When the whole set was fully formed, the girl would brush them daily. She slowly came to terms with her hidden deformity, and vowed that, although she was a freak, she would at least be a hygienic freak. At fourteen she started her period, and things grew much harder. Blood crusted on the enamel, and stuck in the cracks between teeth. She avoided boys at all costs. She had to ensure that no one ever found out.

The older Ivorie got, the more challenging and painful life became. Fifteen and sixteen brought her a delicate and alluring beauty; her wavy blond hair and brown eyes, her slender curves, her atypically clear and rosy skin drove male classmates wild. At first the young woman’s rebuffs only fueled their desires. Then she started losing friends – boys, stinging from numerous rejections, called her dirty names and then ignored her. Girls, fickle and jealous, excluded her from conversations, lunch tables, parties. Even Rhonda, eager to escape the halo of unpopularity surrounding Ivorie, finally left her side. High school morphed into a unique sort of personal hell.

And now here she was. It was all connected, somehow. Ivorie reached into the box and grabbed the first object her fingers brushed. A book for the very young entitled My Mythological Heroines. She pulled out volume after volume. Children’s stories, books for adults, college texts. Towards the bottom was a fat tome on Freud. She leafed through pages, stared in wonder at macabre drawings. In Legends of the Laminae: Origins and Implications she read about lustful she-demons, born of the Libyan snake-goddess Lamia. The distinction between mouths and female genitals blurred in these creatures, whose name could mean either “lecherous vaginas” or “gluttonous gullets.” Next came Yanomamo Tribes and Culture, which devoted several chapters to the Yanomamo’s “devouring mother” myths. Ivorie learned the dangerous polysemy inherent in their tribe’s word for “pregnant” (whose other meaning was “satiated”), and in their verb “to eat” (which, depending on context, also functioned as “to copulate”). She found the Greek fable, replete with watercolor illustrations, of a beautiful queen who, through Hera’s wrath, went insane and developed a penchant for gobbling children…

It all felt eerily familiar. The young woman sensed keys turning in locks, knobs twisting in doors…on the edge of a precipice of buried memory, she withdrew the last object from the box. It was a small, curious model. Ivorie crawled to where a bright sliver of light bravely wedged its way through the gloam so that she could inspect more closely. The outside of the model was salmon-colored putty, molded into a pair of thick lips comprised of multiple folds and layers. Housed within the putty was a full casting of someone’s set of teeth. The casting was spring-loaded at the back so that it could open and close in approximation of a jaw, and since the putty was not hardened, it could easily allow for such movements. Ivorie shuddered violently, and felt a secondary shudder – of revulsion, but also identification – seize that troubled place between her thighs. Just then she heard a clicking noise in her head, and memories, stained brilliant shades of pink and red, came surging to her consciousness.
Her mother, professor of feminist mythology.
Her mother, reading the perverse bedtime stories.
Her mother, demonstrating how the model was to be used.
Her mother, that day. Lying naked and smiling on the kitchen floor, blood-smeared mouth and open cunt, amidst scattered pieces of the little boy…

Ivorie relieved her disgust in the cracking sink of the bathroom. She remembered now. Remembered it all. No wonder they had taken her away. No wonder she had “forgotten” everything. Impossible for a young girl to live with the truth of that reality and remain sane. She felt her second set of teeth clench. While her mind had erased, her body had enshrined. And now she was cursed with a corporal tribute to that horrendous early childhood. She wouldn’t ever be able to fully move beyond that past. Ivorie slumped to the bathroom floor and began to sob. Through her tears she glimpsed a full-length mirror and scooted over to it. From the floor, she removed her shorts, then her underwear. She needed to look the monster in the face. Glare into its toothy grin. Ivorie spread her legs slowly and squinted at the mirror, trying to see past the copious amounts of tarnish. What was this? She squinted further and moved closer to her reflection. Fleshy pink folds presented themselves to her eyes. There was nothing in between them.

~ by kingzoko on July 8, 2011.

2 Responses to “Vagina dentata”

  1. this brings a respectable version of TEETH [that embarrassingly corny film made on the same topic] into the world, written with the necessary class, mysteriousness & dangerous magic that the story should require.

  2. my favorite so far. a weird adolescent joke come to life in well written Poe-like prose. well done Hannah!

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