It was a freezing, starless night. The moon tried feebly to reach out behind the black clouds, and the icy wind bit at my face as I trudged through the dirty snow on my way home. It had been a rather long, awful day at work. As much as I love books, working at a library was not always the best time. I especially loathed having to deal with loud, runny-nosed, sticky-handed children. The weekend had finally come though, and I was looking forward to relaxing at home with a good novel and some hot tea.
I was a block from my apartment building, too wrapped up in my thoughts to notice the patch of slick ice on the sidewalk. I felt my foot sliding all too late to catch myself and I fell forward onto my face with a loud smack that echoed through the deserted street.
I waited for the stars in front of my eyes to disappear before attempting to stand up. I hoisted myself up from the ground using a nearby postbox and was glad that no one was around to have seen me become acquainted with the pavement. I grumbled at myself and started to brush the dirt and snow from my clothes when I noticed a warmth in my mouth. I spat onto the ground and saw a crimson splotch right at my feet. When I began to feel my tongue throb I realized I must have bitten it during my trip. I sighed heavily and my irritation grew.
I made it to my apartment building without any additional incident and went in. I took off my heavy coat, glad to be away from the cold, and headed up the stairs. When I arrived on the third floor landing, I saw a small, wooden crate lying in wait for me in front of my door. I made a hum of curiosity in my throat. I was not expecting any packages. Thoughts and fancies ran through my head, wondering what was inside.
After unlocking my door and bringing the crate in, I headed to the bathroom to see what the damage was to my tongue. I examined it in the mirror and took note that it was as bad as I had feared. A good-sized, red gash ran down the right side of my tongue, where my molars had smashed it from top and bottom.
The pain, however, was soon forced from my mind and replaced with excitement over what the mystery crate contained. A smile grew on my face as I read the name of the sender, one Leonard T. Snower, my uncle. And I was his favorite niece. Uncle Leo was an adventurer, as I enjoyed calling him. He traveled all over the globe looking for forgotten relics, strange people, and weird mysteries. He delved into the dark corners of the world, or so he’d like to say. Whatever he did exactly on his wild adventures, it must be wonderful, just like I had read in so many books.
From reading the return address, it seemed that my uncle’s latest trip had taken him to Spain. My head filled with dreams of how amazing it must be over there as I set a kettle on the stove to heat water for some tea. I quickly grabbed a hammer from the closet and set about prying open the crate.
Inside, after removing all the newspaper used for packaging, I found a black metal box with a letter on it. The box was a bit weathered and rusted, but overall beautiful. There were strange markings all over it, engravings of puzzling characters and images of monstrous, grotesque creatures from long-forgotten myths. Pulling my eyes away from the thing, I picked up the letter and began to read:
I hope all is well with you. I am off playing adventurer, as you’d say, once again. One of these days you will have to come on a trip with me. Anyway, as of the moment, I am in small seafront town in Spain. It is very beautiful here and the food is delicious. A Spaniard friend of mine has asked me to be part of an expedition to explore sunken galleons off the coast here.
We have explored many wrecks already. There are many others to search, but we have already found valuable items. As is my custom when I go on a trip, I am sending you a little gift. Although, you might want to keep this one secret since I took it unofficially. We found it in what appeared to be an old pirate vessel. I hope you enjoy them, perhaps with some wine.
-much love, Uncle Leo”
I was confused at first by that last sentence, but after opening the metal box, I understood. Inside were three gorgeous and exquisite goblets. They were all three made of the darkest obsidian, at least that’s what it resembled. Whereas their container was weathered and rusted, these goblets were in perfect condition. The cups depicted the faces, if they could be called that, of grotesque creatures. There was a different engraved image on each one, images of monsters straight out of the nightmares of a madman. And I noticed that when the light shone through them and changed color, they were not pure black as I had first thought, but the first was a deep blue, the second a dark crimson, and the last a shadowy green.
I was very happy with my gift and couldn’t wait to thank my uncle when he returned. I was gently examining the blue goblet, which depicted the head of some demonic creature with many eyes and a gaping maw full of sharp teeth, when the tea kettle began to whistle. I had no wine, but figured that tea would serve just as well for breaking in one of the goblets tonight.
After thoroughly washing the blue goblet and then filling it with some chamomile, I sat down on my sofa, under a cozy blanket. I opened up the book I had been reading and took a sip of my tea. I gave out a squeak as a pain spread across the side of my tongue. I had forgotten about the gash there.
I quickly went to the bathroom to spit out the tea and to look at my tongue in the mirror. I inspected my mouth and everything appeared fine. No burns or further injury to my tongue were present. But just when I was about to close my mouth, I thought I glimpsed something strange. I opened my mouth wide and peered in. I could have sworn I saw a bump form next to the cut on my tongue and pulse, but upon second inspection I saw nothing. It must have been a spasm or something of the sort.
That night I awakened with a start. Bizarre and disturbing images from my dreams faded from my mind and back into the ether as I rubbed the sleep from my eyes. I sat up in my bed for a few seconds wondering why I had awoken when I felt my tongue throbbing painfully. It was if with each pulsation, a hot blade was digging into the right side of my tongue.
I immediately went to the bathroom and swished some cool water around in my mouth to try to alleviate some of the pain. When I spat it out in the sink though, it came out with a blackish color. I was taken aback and rapidly opened my mouth wide in front of the mirror.
The side of my tongue had turned a horrific and repulsive black.
I stepped back in shock. Had my injury been worse than I first thought? Had some infection set in? Had part of my tongue become gangrenous? I was definitely no doctor, so I could only form conjectures based on my very limited medical knowledge.
I was frightened. I did not know what to do. I could not go to the emergency room, I had no medical insurance. It was past midnight, so no pharmacies would be open at this hour. I was also alone. I had no roommates, my family lived in another state, and of course, Uncle Leo was in Spain. I had no one to go to.
My only option, it seemed, was to wait until morning. Hopefully by then the blackness would have at least lessened. Perhaps it was just a very temporary bodily reaction and all would be well when I awoke. Hope was all I could do at the moment.
The next day my anxiety turned into fearful panic. For when I awoke and looked in the mirror, my whole tongue, my gums, and my lips had turned a grotesque black. And when I watched my tongue in the mirror, I could see a stronger pulsing and throbbing all across its surface.
I felt nauseated just looking at my mouth. My stomach lurched each time I viewed myself the in the mirror. I employed all my willpower to keep myself from vomiting, for fear that becoming sick would aggravate my mouth’s condition.
I needed to go to see a doctor as soon as possible, with or without the means to pay for it. But I could not go out looking like this. I looked like something from a horror film. There was no way I could show my face in public and allow people to see me. I decided to call a doctor and ask him for a home visit. It was my only option.
I searched the phone book and called the nearest doctor’s office, but when the receptionist answered the phone, I discovered I could barely speak. As I tried to form words, searing pain shot through my entire mouth. My lips felt as if they were on fire, my jaw had an intense soreness, and my tongue spasmed in agony.
I dropped the telephone as I reeled from the hellish torment in my mouth. I could faintly hear the voice of the receptionist coming from the earpiece asking if someone was there. But I could not respond. All I could focus on was the pain and horror I was experiencing at that terrible moment.
I began to weep. How I wished Uncle Leo was here with me. He was the one who always comforted me in my youth whenever I felt sad or got injured. I would always cling to his shirt and let my tears fall onto him. But he was in Spain now and could not be here. He didn’t even know anything was happening to me.
As I thought of Uncle Leo and stumbled around my apartment in misery, my eyes fell upon the goblets – those beautiful, yet disturbing goblets with their chilling etchings. Did my current crisis have something to do with those cups? Perhaps some form of deadly bacteria had been on them, unknown to my uncle when he shipped them to me. Or maybe something more insidious was at work. I never believed in anything beyond the known and natural. But the longer I stared at those goblets, with their depictions of those monstrous, leering faces, the more I became chilled to the bone.
My jaw suddenly snapped shut of its own accord, and I could not unclench it. I ran to the mirror and saw with utter horror that the black had spread down my jaw and neck. I wept more as my jaw clenched even more tightly, and the pain from my teeth beginning to crack under the pressure filled my entire skull. I desperately clawed at my mouth trying frantically to pry it open, but to no avail.
I crumpled to the floor from the agony and tried to scream, but only a muffled moan emanated from my throat. Why was this happening to me? Was this some sort of punishment? I did not know. I just wanted it to stop. This was the worst sort of suffering I had ever experienced.
My vision became blurry and I passed out.
I do not know what time it was when I regained consciousness, but the sun had already set. I wearily got to my feet and walked towards the light switch in a stupor. I flipped the lights on and rubbed my eyes as I realized that the agony in my mouth had subsided to a dull ache.
I was afraid to open my mouth and look in the mirror again, but I gathered up my courage and went to the bathroom. I felt something hard in the back of my throat and quickly flicked on the light above the sink and coughed. Broken pieces of my teeth fell out of my mouth and clinked in the basin. I stared horrified at the sight. I slowly looked up into the mirror and felt my stomach clench. Not only was the blackness still spread all over my mouth and neck, but my teeth were all jagged and mangled, and my blackened tongue now had dark, pulsating blisters all over it.
I could not handle it any longer and upheaved the contents of my stomach into the sink. I began to cry once more, this was the most terrible experience of my life, and the pain began to grow in my mouth again. I felt my tongue spasm horrendously and I hesitantly took a chance to examine my mouth in the mirror one last time.
What happened next pains me to recollect, for it was mind-rending enough to cause any healthy person to go mad.
I reluctantly stuck my black, blistered tongue from my dark, mangled, and disfigured mouth, when I watched it suddenly split in half with a sickening tearing sound. I witnessed a fetid, dark, bloody pus splatter into the sink, and then there came a tiny, spindly limb.
Another emerged, and was used to pull a small, wriggling, obsidian-colored body out from my tongue. It fell out of my black mouth and into the sink where is squirmed in all the muck and looked up at me. It let out a screech as I looked at its face, with its many eyes and its mouth filled with needle-like teeth.
It was the same hideous, fiendish face depicted on the cup that I had drank from.