It was sharp. Like a knife in my head. It was angry. It was sudden, and it was enormous.
One moment I was asleep, and the next, I shot up with pain, with a loud, `Owww!” leaping from my mouth. It hurt worse than an abscessed tooth, worse than a gaping cavity.
I tried walking it off, which is what I usually did with my headaches, but even sitting up was an agony. So I lay back down, and found myself unbearably dizzy. Raising my head just an inch or two off the pillow, I was able to ease the pain in my head, but just a bit. I laid that way for many long moments, afraid to move, for fear of bringing the pain back in full fury, but then I got a huge cramp in my neck. I laid my head down again, and was hit with the dizzying nausea.
I can’t say how long it was I tried to cope with the pain in my head – it seemed like many hours, but may have been only a few minutes. At last I gave it up.
I called through VAES ®, the Voice Activated Emergency Services, which has been required in every home built since around 2025, and for the first time ever, I was grateful to have it, even though the sound of my voice was like a hammer banging at the front of my head.
“What is the nature of your emergency, sir?’
“Pain,” was all I could say.
“Help is on the way, sir.”
And a few minutes later the Med team was there. Two of them, youngish guys in their thirties, I’d say. Seeing the pain I was in, they doped me up right away, and scanned me where they found me.
They huddled around their Med screen, blocking my view of it.
“What’s that thing?” I heard one Medtech say to the other. They both darted a glance at me, then shushed themselves.
“We’d better bring this guy in.”
And so they did. Everything after that is a bit of a blur, since they kept me pretty doped up. The next twelve or twenty hours I spent in a twilight world, half awake, half asleep, and half hallucinating.
When everything finally did come clear, I came to realize that the dozen breathing tombstones poking at me, and that I thought at first were huge teeth towering over me in a circle like the stones of Stonehenge were, in fact, a group of specialists in white coats all crowded together around my hospital gurney.
I’ve had enough experience with doctors to know the look they get when they’re perturbed, or nervous. They get stiff, and quiet, and don’t say much. Their faces become mask-like, and they set their jaws tight. One doctor looking like that is bad enough, but a whole room full of them all at once, all of them strangers, and all of them staring right at me dropped me straight into a cold pit of fear.
“What’s up, Docs?” I asked, trying to break up the glacial atmosphere with a bit of drollery.
They didn’t bite.
An officious fellow with a short reddish beard introduced himself to me quickly. He asked me a series of questions all in rapid succession, most of which I don’t remember, but the sounds of his questions pattered against my forehead like bullets from a machine gun. The pain in my head started up again, like something inside gnawing its way out, and the sound of his voice only made it worse.
“He seems to be in pain, doctor.”
“We need him conscious now.”
And then to me, “Do you have any idea what has been happening to you?”
“When did this start?”
“Have you been taking any medication?”
“Can you tell us what you’ve been taking?”
Realizing that I wasn’t in any shape to help them, the doctors all pulled away and huddled near the door. They whispered to each other with suppressed urgency, and I heard little snippets of `…more tests…’, `… the scans…’, `call in…’, `did you do the…’.
Then, without another glance at me, they all moved out through the door and into the hall. Now a nurse came in. She carefully closed the door, stepped up to my bed, and checked the tubes they’d stuck into every available bit of flesh.
“I think you’ve been in enough pain for now.”
Pretty girl, maybe thirty years old. She gave me a smile when she stuck the needle into my arm.
And the next thing I knew, it was three weeks later.
The reason I knew it was three weeks was because the officious doctor with the red beard was the next thing I remember seeing, and when he saw me open my eyes he asked me, “Do you know where you are?”
The pain was still there, I knew it. But they had me so shot up with drugs I didn’t feel it. I just knew it was there, and now it seemed to have grown. Not just in my head, but down my spine, my legs and into my knees.
The officious doctor nodded his head curtly, then he asked, “Do you know what year it is?”
I had to think on that one for a moment.
He gave his head a quick, short shake.
“2039, actually. You slept through the New Year. It’s been about three weeks.”
He gave me a moment to let that sink in, and then, “Do you know why you’re here?”
“I’ve been in a lot of pain.”
“Do you know why?”
“First case we’ve ever seen. This is completely out of the blue.”
“We’re going to have to keep you here for a while. More testing.”
“Don’t worry about that. All expenses are going to be covered.”
“GenEX ® Corporation. They have some people here who want to talk to you. “
“Don’t worry about that now. I’ll tell them you’re not ready. One question, though. Do you have any children, any next-of-kin?”
“No. I’m the last of the line.”
The officious doctor gave his head a curt nod, then marked something on the electronic pad he carried with him.
“Are you up to signing anything?”
“My head’s pretty fuzzy, yet. But what is all this?”
“You’ve been taking GenEX®?” the doctor asked.
“Yes, I have.”
“Well. You may as well hear it now. Something has gone wrong. In over twenty years of testing, and ten years on the market, we’ve never seen anything like this. We’ve don’t even have a name for it yet. You’re the first case we’ve ever seen.”
“What is it, doctor? Just tell me.”
“In over forty million cases so far, GenEX® has done just what it was supposed to do, grow new teeth to replace old ones. It grows them where they’re supposed to grow, in your mouth. In your case, though…”
My gut twisted.
“In your case, the growth has been… ah, unrestricted.”
Now he looked at me, to see how I was taking it, I suppose.
“You have teeth growing out of every bony surface in your body. They’re growing inside your skull – that was the cause of your original headache. They’re growing down your spine, your ribs, along your femur, um, well, everywhere. We have no idea how this has happened…”
“On the inside?” I remember asking.
“Inside my skin?”
The doctor cleared his throat, and now he looked really uncomfortable.
“Well, no. These teeth... uhm... these new teeth... they've... uhm,,, they've been breaking through the skin, on your head, uh, well, nearly everywhere the bone comes to within a few millimeters of the skin surface.”
Now I raised my head a bit to look down at my hands. They were covered in gauze. But they looked like a couple of pineapples wrapped in tissue.
“… yes…” the doctor said in a choked voice. “Yes.”
That was two years ago. They never have let me see myself, though I expect I must be a pretty monstrous thing. Teeth growing out of my forehead, my ankles, my elbows, my feet. They haven’t figured out how to stop it, or reverse it. The damn things keep falling out and then re-growing. The doctors keep me pretty well shot up with drugs, so I’m not in much pain, nor am I awake very often, either. Slept most the last two years away.
I do learn that they’ve come up with a name for my condition. “Unrestricted Dental Proliferation”, or `UDP’. That’s some comfort, I suppose, that it’s got a name, now. But I’m still the only case. Not another one since.
I’ve asked them just to please let me die naturally, but the doctors tell me they can’t do that, not, at least, until they’ve got to the bottom of my condition.
So they keep on testing me, night and day. Deadly serious business, if word gets out. The regeneration industry could collapse, no, would collapse, they say, if another case like mine erupts anywhere in the world.
So these doctors and researchers stick me with their needles, in my soft spots, draw blood samples and DNA and all that, and run me through tubes and scans and every other damn torture device they can think of.
I’d get up one night and walk right out of here, if I could. But those teeth that keep growing out of the bottoms of my feet. They make it impossible for me to even stand up. Got teeth growing out of my knees, too, so I can’t crawl anyplace, or drag myself, or anything.
Every chance I get, I pull my feeding tubes out, and work the respirator off my face, but someone always comes back and puts them all back into place. Then they give me another shot of Dilaudid to keep me quiet for another couple days, which is a bit of comfort.
Well, they can’t keep me alive forever, I don’t think.
But that prediction I heard the experts make, back in 2002, keeps coming back and haunting me, `The person has already been born,” they said, “who will live to be 500 years old’.