Jeff Dalkin boards Virgin's jumbo jet at LAX, takes his seat in Upper Class and drops a Xanax.
Although sleep is Dalkin's objective, the sleek bar behind him possesses a gravity that won’t quit. Soon after take-off, Dalkin stools himself, a glass of decent pinot noir.
That's when a throbbing in his lower molar escalates into acute pain.
"Oww!" Dalkin slaps his jaw. "Fuck-nuts."
"You need more nuts, Mister Willis?" says the barman.
"Nah. I need Aspirin. A double dose."
"I'm sorry," says the barman. "We're not allowed to dispense medicine."
"That’s a damn shame,” snaps Dalkin. "Because I got a goddam toothache and we got, what, ten hours to go?"
The barman turn, grabs a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label and sets it on the bar. "This we can dispense."
The irony is lost on Dalkin because, by now, the pain from a damaged nerve in his tooth has built into a crescendo. "So pour it," he hisses.
Dalkin throws back a shot in one gulp.
The barman pours another.
This time, Dalkin allows the amber potion to linger around his molar. Until it propels the nerve into an excruciating spasm.
"Holy fucking Christ! Gimme another quick!"
Dalkin downs a third and then, feeling hot and feverish, staggers to his chair, reclines and slips out of consciousness...
Looking for me? says a deep voice.
Dalkin opens one eye, looks up.
You cannot see me.
Dalkin opens both eyes, looks both ways at the jetliner's ceiling. "Fuck-nuts," he mutters and closes them again.
But I am here, at your request.
"What the fuck?" Dalkin raises the back of his seat. "Who the hell's yakkin' at me?"
The seat next to Dalkin's is empty. And the lady behind him is snoozing with a mask over her eyes and earplugs.
Dalkin re-reclines his seat.
I'm in your tooth, mortal fool.
A burst of pain explodes in Dalkin's jaw. "Oww! Fuck-nuts!"
"Teeth don't talk," hisses Dalkin. "Shut the fuck up."
I didn't say I am your tooth. I said I am in your tooth.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
I do. Your tooth has become Hell. My natural habitat. You wish to meet me? Hell-o.
"Hell is in my tooth?"
It is tonight. Having fun yet?
Dalkin feels a presence over his right shoulder. He looks up to see a female flight attendant standing over him.
"Everything okay here?" she asks nervously.
"Oh, yeah, me? Just fine. Owwww!" Dalkin slaps his jaw. "Fuck-nuts!"
The flight attendant eases herself away.
"Pssst," whispers Dalkin. "You still there?"
In your tooth? You know I am. But if you need a reminder...
"No, I, owwwwwww!" Dalkin slaps his jaw, grips it with his fingers, tries to massage the pain away. "Fuck-nuts!"
Now the barman appears at Dalkin's side. "Here." He produces two caplets. "We don't have aspirin, Mr. Willis, but we've taken a vote and decided to give you paracetamol."
"Good decision. para...what?"
"It's an English painkiller," said the barman. "Works better than aspirin."
"Thanks, chief." Dalkin washes the caps down with water, re-reclines his seat.
"Not you again," Dalkin whispers, recoiling.
Yes, me again. Hey, you were the one desirous of an audience.
"Not here, not tonight, not in my tooth... owwww! Fuck-nuts!"
That's humorous. You think you get to choose the time and place? I'm here, tonight, in your tooth. What they call the pulp. Let me tell you, it is sheer hell in here. Can you feel my pain?
"No, don't... owwwww! Fuck-nuts!"
I have a simple question: What do you want?
"Right now, a fucking dentist!" Dalkin hollers.
The flight defendant rushes to his side. "Are you all right, sir?"
Dalkin's face is flushed, radiating heat. "I think I got a fever, burning up…”
The next thing Dalkin hears is an announcement asking if there is a doctor on board.
Then a doctor appears. He points and shoots a thermometer at Dalkin's forehead, inspects the result: a temperature of 105. He barks instructions to the flight attendants for towels and a bucket of ice.
Dalkin rambles incoherently, thrashing his head around, hollering fuck-nuts every so often.
"What's he saying?" asks the barman.
The doctor applies another ice pack to Dalkin's face "Something about the devil." He pauses. "He's delirious. Or schizophrenic. You may want to notify the authorities at Heathrow."