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She screwed up the securing diagram and was overwhelmed by a sudden desire to clean her teeth. It became the be all and end all of existence for a few seconds. The desire to clean her teeth grew absolutely compulsive, she could have no more resisted it than she could have flown unaided between two planets.
Moving quickly from the radio to her living quarters, she squeezed a little water into a plastic container and put a few dabs of toothpaste on her brush. She slipped the brush into her mouth and pressed the small button in the end which activated its electric motor. The bristles-soft, gentle bristles, guaranteed not to damage the enamel or the gum-moved swiftly against the teeth. She began with the top left molars, worked round to the bicuspids, and came round again from them to the incisors, the canines, the laterals and the centrals. Once she had reached the front of her mouth, she-changed her grip on the brush so that it moved round to the top right, travelling over the bicuspids and molars as it moved. Coming down the sides of her teeth, she paused and took a deep breath, placed a little more paste upon the brush and moved it round again this time beginning with the actual chewing surface of the upper right molars, coming round and cleaning again between the crevices until she had worked round to the left-hand molars.
Once more she put paste on the brush in this same elaborate ritual and concentrated her attention now upon the inside of the upper left molars, the inside of the upper left bicuspids, round across the incisors and so back to the right-hand masticators. She rinsed the brush, reapplied the paste and repeated the whole ritualistic process with the lower teeth. She cleaned the brush very carefully and then, in a set way, put it back and moved back towards the radio set.
She had taken barely a dozen paces when she was assailed by a horrible thought that she had not cleaned the top left inside molars. She stood in an agony of uncertainty for five minutes, then went back to the bathroom area of her living quarters, recharged the brush and carefully cleaned again the top left molars on their inside surfaces. She looked at her reflection in the mirror; it foamed back at her like a rabid dog.
"This time I have done them all," she said. "What about the bottom inside molars?" asked her reflection. "I have done them all," said Marian firmly. "If you have forgotten them the bacteria responsible for dental caries will get in," said the voice in her mind. "It is no good being clean on the outside if you have forgotten the inside. Are you sure you have done the left inside?" "Yes, I have, I have." Marian picked up her toothbrush and flung it savagely across the dome; it bounced from the thick plastic glass and broke on the floor.
Dark Continuum © R. Lionel Fanthorpe.
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