PseudoPod 834: To the Tooth
To The Tooth
by Amy Nagopaleen
I just wanted breakfast. Coffee, maybe an egg with spinach. But before I even stumbled over to the coffeemaker, a sprawling net of pasta stopped me. It stretched from the ceiling to the cabinets to the floor; its many strands twining like a starchy spider web across the narrow galley kitchen.
This wasn’t normal. This wasn’t a normal, 6:45, no coffee yet situation. Had my roommate thought this would be a fun prank? I looked at the taupe crisscrosses of dry noodles between me and the sink. If Jonas had made this, he’d done an incredible job hiding his joinery; it seemed like a real spun web with no visible glue or tape holding it together. Empty boxes littered the floor in ragged shreds, and I wondered what recreational substances had inspired this mayhem.
“Jonas! Get in here!”
The muffled morning noises of 30th Avenue came from the window past the web, but were not answered by the opening of a door, or even a grunt of acknowledgement. I moved down the hall and banged.
“C’mon, fun is fun but, coffee.”
The door creaked open and Jonas slouched into view. “Yo, what gives?”
“You tell me. The kitchen?”
“What?” He shuffled forward and stopped at the kitchen door. “What the fuck?”
“That’s what I want to know. How did you do this?”
“Me? No.” He slowly swung his head from me to the web and back. “This is super bizarre, yo.”
“Ok, if you didn’t make it…” There wasn’t an obvious end to that sentence.
“Fuck it, I’m up. What’s for breakfast?” He looked at me with the wide eyed wonder of someone who usually slept until lunch.
I rolled my eyes and grabbed the broom from beside the refrigerator. “I’ll make eggs, but clean this up.”
I stepped back and he choked up on the broom like a Louisville Slugger, taking a couple practice swings. His narrow chest and stringy gamer arms flexed pitifully as the broomhead wafted in uneven arcs. Then pulling it back over his head, he drove the straw bristles straight into the web where two strands formed an arc from the ceiling.
I lifted my arm to shade my eyes from the dry pasta I anticipated would fly in my direction, but dropped it when I heard Jonas’ grunt of frustration.
The broom was stuck in the web. Jonas pulled back, and rolled the handle in his hands, sending cursing questions off the appliances.
“What the fuck? What kind of spaghetti are you buying?” He wrestled and I saw the handle jerk in his hands; drawing closer, I watched the web. The broom wasn’t passively stuck, it was being held, and as I watched, the web was wrapping the straw and handle into itself.
“Oh my god, Jonas. Let go.”
But it was too late, as he half turned, asking with his still sleep-sticky eyes what I was talking about, strands of pasta whipped off the cupboard doors and grabbed him. I watched in horror as the strangely flexible bands of pasta yanked him across the linoleum into the center of the web, and wrapped him up, spinning him into a huge human rotini.
He was screaming and begging as the toothlike points of pasta pierced him, but to my shame I drew back. I watched as his feet came up off the floor and heard the horrifying snaps of his bones as he disappeared into my kitchen’s alimentary hellmouth. Watery blood and bits of gore fell out; wet noises replaced his whimpering cries.
I backed away. My heels and head hit the wall behind me and I froze. I watched the inexplicable monstrosity open the cupboard, letting all the remaining pasta boxes fall out in waves. I cursed my mother’s lightweight-hoarding impulses at Costco and her refusal to acknowledge my new low-carb regimen; monthly visit after monthly visit she’d filled my upper cabinets with extra-large boxes of fettuccine. It had been my favorite, but no one could consume that much Alfredo.
The boxes exploded on impact and the now free bundles of pasta seemed magnetized to the bloody mass pulsing in the open air of my kitchen. It unfolded, stretching, releasing shards of bone and splinters of broom.
I kept my eyes on it, walking my pinky toe toward the front door. The rest of my foot slid imperceptibly after it, edging my ankle, shin, and knee to the left with glacial slowness.
While I shifted, it kept growing, braiding ribbons of pasta into an expanding and hideous net of murderous noodles. I held my breath, hoping it was too distracted by its own action to notice me.
My hope was misplaced.
It exploded in tendrils of starchy hostility, slamming into the wall next to my shoulder, punching a hole in the sheetrock. I spun away and dove into the apartment while it attempted to extricate itself from the wall. Jonas’ bedroom was a sudden wave of sickness as his permanent absence flashed in my mind; nothing to use in there so I plunged ahead. Nothing in my bedroom either, so I dove into the only room with a functioning lock.
I slammed the bathroom door shut and the knob shook as I struggled to push the lock button in. I backed away, yelping when the bulk of the pasta slammed into the paneled door, sending the towels and Jonas’ dirty robe swinging into the space between us. I kept stepping back until my calves hit the enameled edge of the tub, and I stepped in.
I glanced around for something useful, remembering a movie from my teen years where a trapped woman makes a flamethrower out of hairspray and a lighter. But as a short-haired nonsmoker, I was out of luck.
My eyes were still frantically searching for a weapon when the first fingers of fettuccine reached under the door.
I leaned away; in my retreat my trembling body knocked the faucet lever on. Frigid water blasted past me and I yelped. The pasta snapped to attention, a dozen sharp ribbons pivoting toward me. It couldn’t see me, but it could hear me? I covered my mouth, letting the noise of the water filled the room. The pitter-pat seemed to disorient it, so I shoved the drain down. The pooling water amplified the sound, hiding my muffled breaths.
Shaking from fear and the freezing water, I reflexively reached to turn the knob. An idea emerged out of the fog of my terror as my fingers met the chrome dial. I spun it all the way into the red with a burst of desperate hope, praying the neighbors had not already emptied the boiler. To my relief, my pajamas went from icy to steaming in a few jerky heartbeats.
Meanwhile, pasta was coming in steady waves under the door, thin wriggling sheets that massed into a ball between myself and the only exit. They came relentlessly until a huge mound of fettuccine roiled just feet from me, twice what it had been in the kitchen. I shrank as it rose above the edge of the tub, towering over the sink, and finally eye to sightless semolina eye with me.
The water was beginning to burn, but I still shook as the web unfurled in my direction, snapping out strands to buttress itself against tile on either side. And in its center: a great sharklike maw, row after row of dry rigate teeth visible through the steam.
I pressed my hands to my own mouth, and my back to the tile, protected by nothing more than the spray of hot water between us.
It struck. Wrist-thick ropes of fettuccine punched toward me, cracking tiles where they hammered the wall. They pinned my arms to my side, gripping and slithering around me in a crushing cocoon. They wrung me out, twisting tighter until my breath gasped away and the grinding knife of a broken rib stabbed my side. I struggled and splashed, floundering hopelessly against the restraints. But it wasn’t enough; in a few seconds I was all but motionless, caught in its trap.
Then to my horror, that murderous mouth came, bearing down on me as I slipped against the slick tiles. I felt a shoulder dislocate and the room darkened as the huge thing blotted out the overhead light. The piercing edge of hundreds of ribbons of pasta began to slide into my flesh.
I couldn’t even scream.
But dying wasn’t an option. I couldn’t let this thing that devoured Jonas loose on the world. My strength was nothing, but my weight might save me yet.
So I surrendered to gravity, pulling my predator with me into the now-scalding bath. Water flooded my nose and mouth as we sank together into the foul broth. Pressure burned in my throat and lungs. I thrashed and jerked, tasting my own blood. The water grew dark with it, mixing with the wheaty residue of our struggle.
My breath was almost gone and most of my hope, too, when finally my limbs came loose. The weight lessened and I kicked free.
My face breached the surface of the deadly soup and I drew a choking breath.
As I watched, the hateful noodles grew flaccid and still, losing their grip on my perforated skin. Their slithering violence was replaced with the steady rain of the shower, a calming dance of drops among the harmless curves of noodles.
I eased myself out of the tub, one tortured movement at a time.
The floor was a slaughter house of pasta; twisted in limp knots where water pooled around the tub.
As my bare feet came down on the lifeless fettuccini, I found that I was crying, in rage and relief and horror. I pushed open the door, following the flood of water out into the common area, where a few waterlogged strands struggled toward the dry floor. I smashed them to paste under my heels, the force ricocheting up my body, igniting every break and tear I’d suffered. Sobbing and screaming I ground them into the wood, and the rug, and finally the tile that flowed from the hall toward the kitchen.
I stopped, listening. The silence of the ruined apartment was disturbed by nothing more than the still-running shower.
I didn’t trust it.
I hobbled back to the bathroom, and found the plastic trash bin. I filled it in the tub and then returned, struggling, to the kitchen. I doused the room without looking, loosing the steaming assault on any would-be predator within. It met no resistance; I didn’t see a single noodle on the floor or counter. The only evidence of the brutal start of my day was the pieces of broom, snapped on the floor and a few now-soaked shreds of box.
I slid down the wall, my legs across the hall, feet in the kitchen. Tears ran down my face as I stared at the missing evidence of Jonas’ ghoulish end. Would I ever be able to explain what had happened here? An answer would have to wait; every movement told me I needed an ambulance.
I wiped my face and turned onto my hands and knees, readying myself for the painful return to my feet. But I froze when my eyes made sense of the patterns on the floor.
Where the morning sun bounced off the unswept surface, faint marks undulated across the tile. Evidence of dozens or hundreds of snake-like travelers ran from where I huddled to the front door. The line of Boric Acid across the threshold was violated by a multitude of slicing breaks; not from an invasion of roaches, but the escape of something much worse.
I painfully rose and found my phone. I called 911. Then with one arm cradled against my body, I dragged myself back to the bathroom. I pushed myself over the edge of the tub and welcomed the burning embrace of the water.
I heard the ambulance’s whine, closed my eyes, and said a little prayer for the Fiorentino family on the first floor.
PseudoPod, Episode 834 for October 25th, 2022.
To The Tooth by Amy Nagopaleen
Narrated by Bryce Dahle [doll-e]; hosted by Kat Day audio by Chelsea Davis
Hey everyone, hope you’re all doing okay. I’m Kat, assistant editor at PseudoPod, your host for… this special EXTRA episode! Yes, the Tower is so happy that Halloween is coming that it’s feeding you a delicious bonus. Eat up, now!
So, for today we have To The Tooth by Amy Nagopaleen
This story is a PseudoPod original, and was our author’s first speculative fiction sale. Since then, she’s sold three stories which have all been published. On which note…
Amy Nagopaleen writes fiction from Queens, NY, where she has been a union and social justice activist for over twenty years. When not making up stories fuelled by coffee and weird experiences at work, she is drawing pictures, parenting, and complaining about capitalism. Her writing can be found in Newtown Literary, Prismatica, The Wondrous Real, The Fusion Fragment and Solarpunk Magazine.
Your reader this week is Bryce Dahle [doll-e]. Bryce is a voice actor who’s recorded multiple stories for the tales to terrify podcast, along with a character voice in monsters out of the closet episode 33 and a previous story for pseudopod. When he’s not working or hanging out with his wife, he uploads some of his own recordings to his YouTube channel “awkward mammal”
And now we have a story for you, and we promise you, it’s true.
Well done, you’ve survived another story.
Now, there are several references I need to mention here. Forgive me if you thought they were obvious, but since the senior editorial team missed them first time round, I’m going to run through them just in case….
Let’s start at the beginning with the phrase “copypasta”. You’ve probably heard it: it applies to chunks of text with questionable authenticity that spread around the internet. It comes, of course, from “copy paste”, but with an added starchy-but-with-limited-nutritional-value connotation. It seems to have started in the gaming community but has become more generalised since. For example, a copypasta that turned up on one of my feeds the other day was the idea that the Apple logo was created to honour Alan Turing. A nice idea, but it wasn’t. Steve Jobs just really, really liked apples.
And then, from copypasta to creepypasta. That’s a phrase the horror community uses to describe creepy campfire-type stories. The sort of thing teenagers, especially, sit around telling each other. And then they tell other friends, and THEY tell more people, and so it spreads. Of course, all the more easily with the help of the internet. Such stories usually feature murderous monsters. One famous example is Slender Man, which of course went on to spawn the 2018 film of the same name.
And finally, of course, there’s the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster which – Wikipedia tells me, but should I be trusting that, should I? Oh well never mind. Can’t check everything – originated in opposition to the teaching of intelligent design in American schools. The “church” promotes a light-hearted view of religion and usually features images, and this is key, of a monster that, being composed of a meatball body and spaghetti tentacles, looks somewhat… Lovecraftian.
Stew all this up… forgive me… in a giant pasta sauce pot, bear in mind that the cooking term “al dente” literally means “to the tooth,” and what do you get? You get this story, To The Tooth, by Amy Nagopaleen.
It’s brilliant, isn’t it? Absolutely brilliant. This is exactly the sort of galaxy brain weirdness that I really appreciate. Beautifully done.
Pseudopod is funded by you, our listeners. We pay everyone: our writers, our readers and all our staff. It’s not a fortune – none of us are, sadly, sleeping on mattresses filled with cash – but it’s something and, in an industry that often runs on pure goodwill, that’s to be proud of. But we can only continue if you keep donating, so, please, if you love our work and want to keep hearing our stories week after week, go to pseudopod.org and click on “feed the pod”. You can donate to our Patreon, which gets you access to lots of cool stuff, including extra CatsCast episodes, or make one-off or regular payments via Ko-fi or PayPal. It’s very easy. Do it, go on, you know you want to…
But if you can’t afford to do that – and we get it, in this increasingly chaotic world, just keeping the lights on is difficult enough – please consider leaving reviews of our episodes, tweeting about them, retweeting our tweets about them, and generally making a noise on your social media of choice. It all helps.
And… while you’re online, why not take a look at our Voidmerch store? We have a huge range of hoodies, t-shirts and other goodies. I got my new PseudoPod hoody the other day and I LOVE it. You can find the link at escapeartists.net, or check out our currently pinned tweet on Twitter at PseudoPod_org.
Pseudopod is part of Escape Artists incorporated and is distributed under a creative commons attribution non-commercial no derivatives 4.0 international licence. Download and listen to the episode on any device you like, but don’t change it or sell it. Theme music is by permission of Anders Manga.
Next week is Trickin’ by Nicole Givens Kurtz, narrated by Devante Johnson, hosted by Tonia Ransom from NightLight, with audio production from the fabulous Chelsea Davis. Ooh, that’s gonna be good. I can’t wait. Take care, everyone, and stay as safe as you possibly can. We leave you with a closing quote from the founder of Pastafarianism, Bobby Henderson:
“I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; One third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.”
I’d better go, I think I’m having spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. Did…. Did you hear something just then?
About the Author
Amy Nagopaleen (she/her) writes fiction from Queens, NY, where she has been a union and social justice activist for over twenty years. When not making up stories fueled by coffee and weird experiences at work, she is drawing pictures, parenting, and complaining about capitalism. Her writing can be found in Newtown Literary, Prismatica in Print, The Wondrous Real, The Fusion Fragment and Solarpunk Magazine.
About the Narrator
Bryce Dahle is a beginner voice actor who’s recorded multiple stories for the tales to terrify podcast, along with a character voice in monsters out of the closet episode 33. When he’s not working or hanging out with his wife, he uploads some of his own recordings to his youtube channel “awkward mammal”