Midnight Echo Issue 8 Preview – Kathryn Horeon October 21, 2012 at 8:15 am
The Midnight Goblins are at it again, only this time they’re corralled Midnight Echo Issue 8 contributor Kathryn Hore. Despite dire warnings from the editors not to send in stories about dentists, Kathryn just had a tale that needed to be told, and we needed to read. It’s one that has only reinforced our terror of these devious doctors and their wily ways…
Don’t forget, pre-orders are now being taken for what’s gonna be a wild issue. Just click here for details.
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Midnight Echo: What is your favourite short story and why?
Kathryn Hore: Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper has stayed with me for years, ever since I first read it as a teenager. It has a gothic sense of creeping doom and is a finely wrought depiction of a woman’s descent into madness, right to giving the narrator a final dubious ‘victory’ at the cost of her own sanity. And because it’s impossible to pick just one, the story of more recent years which has affected me most is, without question, Margo Lanagan’s Singing My Sister Down. It is beautiful and truly devastating and it made me cry, something no other short story has done.
Midnight Echo: What was the inspiration behind Tooth?
Kathryn: Will it surprise anyone to learn I wrote ‘Tooth’ after a trip to the dentist? Plagued with a chronic abscess, the tooth in question was so painful it felt like a foreign object stuck in my mouth. By the time the dentist got to it, the root was already dead, ‘black and withered’ she said. At which point I immediately pictured cavernous black hollows leading back inside the tooth, which in turn led me to wonder just where such caverns would go, or just what might live in them…
Midnight Echo: What scares Kathryn Hore?
Kathryn: When I was six, I was scared by Vincent Price. That abominable Dr Phibes freaked me out completely. By twelve, it was Freddy Kruger I was screaming at – the cut version on television with ads every fifteen minutes and all. Fast forward a decade or three and what scares me most these days is more mundane, if more powerful; health issues of family, danger to my son. Real life terrifies in a way fiction cannot. But perhaps that’s why I’m still obsessed with fictional scares, in love with ghost stories, atmospheric horror flicks, spooky psychological tales. Anything that gets the skin crawling. That way I get to embrace the darkness and explore the nasty underside of life, but all within the safe, comfortable surrounds of my lounge room, with a nice cup of tea in hand.
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By Kathryn Hore
David Malloy watched the young woman walk hesitantly through his surgery doorway. She had long brown hair that fell to hide her eyes, biting at her lip and moving slowly, as if unsure of her physical place in the world. He did not smile, but made his face into something kind, paternal, something he considered she might find comforting. He knew this type of girl, the shy and the naive. He knew what they needed. She was young, couldn’t have been more than twenty-two or three, but didn’t have that brash confidence so common of young women today. He was glad. He didn’t like the coarseness of modern women. This one was nice. She reminded him of the women of his youth, a kind of déjà vu, a fond nostalgia. She was a wee, timid thing, not wanting to offend, all nerves and insecurity. A special client. Just the type he’d always liked—although after a while they all looked the same.
“Janey,” she nodded quickly. “And you are … Dr Malloy? The dentist?”
“Call me David.” He tapped the faux-leather dental chair in the middle of the gleaming white surgery. “Take a seat and tell me what the problem is.”
A toothache. Of course. A dreadful toothache. She confessed she was scared of dentists. She’d had a bad experience with one once, a long, long time ago. It had left her with a terror of dentistry; it had left her with scars, if only psychological. She had put off coming here for as long as she could, but the toothache was now so bad she just had to do something.
She needed fixing.
She told him her tooth was sensitive to touch, to heat, to cold. Even her tongue moving in her mouth would occasionally brush past it with agonising consequences. She was desperate for help. Could he help her?
Of course he could.
He snapped on disposable latex gloves while calling the nurse to assist. Nurse Osman was a large, stern woman with grey hair pulled back in severe neatness; she would not tolerate a strand being out of place. When she strode in she stood over the girl, peering down without smile or word. Judging, appraising. He was never sure what private criteria Nurse Osman judged the patients against, but he didn’t believe she had ever found one she deemed worthy.
The girl shrank back in the face of Nurse Osman’s stare. He barked a command and the nurse turned away to busy herself with the preparation of three big, long needles, all sharp and metallic. He positioned the equipment tray not quite out of the girl’s sight, so its sinister gleam would hover in her peripheral vision, then watched her body tense as the nurse laid the needles down, one, two, three.
He smiled his most comforting smile and told her not to be scared. He would take care of everything. She would not feel a thing.
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Biography – Kathryn Hore
Kathryn Hore is a writer and photographer with a love of dark and speculative fiction. As a fiction writer her short stories have been published in several anthologies, while in her other life as a business writer she has produced a number of business publications. When not writing, she dabbles in research and information organisation in the corporate world, and runs a wedding photography business. She lives among the gum trees on the outskirts of Melbourne.