My Face

On January 10th, I went to see my dentist for a very small cavity filling. I was in and out of his office in under 30 minutes, including waiting time; the actual procedure, from injection of the anesthetic to Dr. White ushering me out of his chair, was probably 15 or 20 minutes.

Two hours later, I was sitting in front of the TV, watching Dragon Prince on Netflix and waiting for the local anesthesia to wear off. I was a little sniffly from the cold weather, so I tried to blow my nose. With the left side of my face was numb, my nose-blowing was not terribly successful. No matter; that was to be expected after a dental procedure. So I blew my nose harder and hoped for the best.

Between the numbness and my distractedness, it took me a moment to realize something was wrong. I reached up to touch my numb cheek and realized that the left half of my face had inflated like a balloon. My cheek was bulging and my eye was swollen half shut. To my horror, gently prodding the skin around my eye and nose produced a clearly audible crackling sound.

I panicked. I’d had a couple cavity fillings in the past, and I’d gotten my wisdom teeth removed six months prior, but my face had never swollen like this before. Was I having a sudden allergic reaction to the anesthetic?
Google told me I probably had subcutaneous emphysema, which is when air gets trapped under your skin. It’s a rare condition that can sometimes happen after dental procedures. That made sense to me.

My dentist was kind enough to see me the next day, though it was his day off. He came into the office wearing flannel and hiking pants. It was a five minute meeting.

“Sorry,” he said, “I just came off the mountain. Sorry about your face.”

He prodded my face and confirmed that it was subcutaneous emphysema. “I agree that it’s probably from blowing your nose too hard,” he said. “Nothing we did yesterday could have caused this; it was just a tiny cavity. I’ve never seen anything like this.” But he did offer a more substantial hypothesis: “Your upper wisdom tooth on this side grew very close to your sinuses. Maybe you blew a sinus. Just don’t sneeze or blow your nose again. You should see your oral surgeon. Can I take a picture? If you wear these sunglasses it’ll hide your identity.”

The soonest I could see Dr. Savage was a week later; we scheduled a check-up in between his other surgeries.
Over the course of that week, the swelling went down drastically. After only a couple days, I looked fairly normal, albeit slightly lopsided. A couple days after that, my face had completely returned to its typical shape and size. My jaw muscles on that side were incredibly sore for a little while, but beyond that, I had no pain.

When I finally saw Dr. Savage, the first thing he did was check my wisdom tooth extraction sites.

“They’ve healed perfectly,” he said. “They look great. You think your face is swollen?” I showed him pictures I’d taken on the 10th. He seemed surprised. “I only see injuries like this when people break bones,” he said, and asked to take an x-ray of my face.

He checked my sinuses on the x-ray scans.

“Wow,” he said. “Look, there’s air!” And then he laughed in my face. “You have the thinnest, most delicate sinus bones I’ve ever seen. They’re always supposed to be thin and delicate, but yours, yours are super extra thin. You’re no brute – you’re a delicate flower!” Ouch.

Dr. Savage proceeded to tell me what he thought happened – I’d blown my nose so hard that I broke a bone in my face.
“So, what do I do now?” I asked.

He shrugged. “It fixed itself. Just be careful for a couple weeks. And, well, if it happens again… don’t worry about it. Or you can give me a call – I’d love to get an x-ray of that!”

My face has since returned to full functionality (I have successfully sneezed with no ill effects). It aches sometimes, though I can’t tell if that’s psychological or not. My only lasting injury is my bruised ego from being diagnosed “a delicate flower” by Dr. Savage.

This Dream Made Me Mad

You can still faintly recall the event that shifted your world from one of peace and comfort to one of war, famine, and fear. It was 11 years ago – you were a mere child of 10 summers. But though it was long ago, you will never forget.

The young queen had just given birth to a baby boy. He was called Golden, a name that represented all the prosperity and good fortune the kingdom had enjoyed those past years. The king and queen were overjoyed.

Then, three weeks after his birth, the infant vanished. It was thought that he was stolen away by the fae – an assumption that prompted the grieving king to declare war on the fair folk. Furious at the king’s actions, the fae struck back with equal ferocity, decisively marking the end of a peaceful era.

Your life has been difficult and frustrating ever since. At age 15, you took up work as hired muscle. Now, at 21, you are completing the job that has taken the last three years of your life.

You discovered that disorganized, clustered attacks in the north are somehow linked to the elves, families responding to the sudden disappearances of their children. It took you far too long, but you finally traced the missing elf children back to a specific boggart in the northeastern marshes. Initially, the pixie clans seemed the obvious culprits, but there were no changeling children left behind, and elves are rarely the victims of such crimes.
You spent weeks planning your next move. Catching a boggart is tricky. But with patience, there’s nothing you can’t do.

Somehow, it all goes wrong.

Through careful observation, you learned the boggart’s daily schedule. But as you approach silently, you hear someone stumbling through the marshes. A young boy tumbles past, water splashing, grasses rustling around him. The boggart looks up and sees you. There’s a moment where you stare at each other – somehow, there’s recognition in the creature’s eyes. Then it is gone, and you are alone with the boy.

You curse softly. The boggart will be wary now. You won’t be able to try again for a long time.

Finally, you turn to look at the boy. He’s young, still a child. He watches you with wide, expectant eyes.

“What’s your name?” you ask.

He simply stares at you; the silence stretches uncomfortably.

“Alright,” you say. “Maybe you don’t speak Common.” You repeat your question in several other languages, to no avail.

You turn to walk away, but are stopped by a gentle tug on your sleeve.

“You… want to come with me?” you guess. The boy nods.

“So you do understand Common,” you mutter under your breath. But you prepare a mule for the boy and ready your own mount.

The child accompanies you on your journey back to the kingdom. He never complains, or even speaks at all. You take to calling him Silence because in your one-sided conversations with him, it feels strange to grow attached to an unnamed boy.

At last, after a few weeks of blessedly uneventful travel, you find yourself kneeling before the king.
“Your Majesty,” you begin.

But the king’s eyes are not focused on you, but on the young boy who has been shadowing you for so long. Silence stands, unkneeling, before the king. His face is upturned, his expression more peaceful than you have ever seen it.
The king rises from his throne. His face is unreadable; you cannot quite pinpoint the emotion behind his eyes. Anger at Silence’s gesture of insubordination? Or something else?

“I do not care,” the King says tremulously, “for you have brought me something much more valuable: My lost son. My Golden.” He rushes forward and embraces the boy.

“Ohhhh,” you say, standing there stupidly as the touching reunion unfolds. “Silence is Golden.” And then you facepalm into the next century.