In his dream he had lost short and long term memory. It was an ordinary day at home but he did not recognise anything around him. The walls, the rooms, the carpets, the pots and pans in the kitchen were things which he saw for the first time. He spent hours picking items up, examining them, trying to work out what they were about. Finally his neck muscles began to give way involuntarily and he felt he was drifting. He got into bed hoping he would wake up and remember.
Now he lay awake, the sheets wet with sweat. There was no light. There were no shadows, no flickering tree shapes on the walls, nothing. He stretched out his right hand in slow motion, the fingers loose. It came to rest on a flat surface at the same level as the bed and beside it.
On the table, under his palm, he felt a sharp-edged oblong box, the size of an oyster shell he thought. But it was not rough like a shell. He picked it up. It was smooth and tacky under his thumb and forefinger. He felt the surface move like a skin across the more rigid face below. He squeezed the narrow edges and felt resistance. He tried to pinch the wider faces together and they gave, then sprang back as he released his pincer hold.
Towards one end of the box there was a break in the skin and, below, a thin, linear gap which opened as he pressed his thumb on one side of it and made a dull click as he flicked at it. Moving his thumb across the gap he felt the top edge of the box tilt away from him. His thumb slid into the opened mouth and he felt a row of tubular teeth, regularly packed like piano keys, rigid but slightly spongy. He lifted the box to his nostrils and sniffed inside. The smell was comforting, mellow, warm, like a cake cooking. He opened the box a bit more and extracted one of the teeth. It was longer than he expected. A thin, dry, long cylinder. He licked it. The curved side seemed to suck saliva from his tongue and he had to peel the tube off it. As he licked the end of the tube, shreds like dried grass stuck to his tongue. They were bitter and woody when he bit, and a little minty.
This box and its contents felt and smelled familiar but he had no idea what it was. He must have put it there by the bed himself because he felt quite alone where he was. He couldn’t remember. He wanted so much to be dreaming.