It’s only a minor consequence of the lockdown, but many of us are feeling the lack of a hairdresser at the moment. My hair has always been unmanageable – more than ever now I can’t have it cut – and its recent behaviour has inspired the following tale…
Suzanne’s hair had been troubling her lately.
It had never been what you’d call easy hair. It was thick, but the individual strands were fine, flyaway and hard to tame. As a child, she’d screamed with pain when her mother tried to comb out the tangles. As a teen, she’d despaired as it formed unattractive kinks and frizz mere hours after she’d straightened it. It was highly sensitive to any change in temperature, air pressure and humidity. If she went out in the wind, she would come home looking like Worzel Gummidge. She would look in the mirror and scream as loudly as she had as a child:
‘I HATE MY HAIR!!!’
It didn’t improve with age. She tried tying it back for work, but by the time she got to the office strands would be escaping and waving about in the breeze. One time she took the plunge and had it cut short. It looked fine for the rest of that day and she felt like a different person, confident and in control. But when she got up the next morning it was like she’d been visited by some malevolent goblin hairdresser in the night; her newly-shorn locks were sticking out in all directions. Unable to face the world looking like Johnny Rotten, she resorted to wearing a scarf until it grew back.
In time, she learned to live with her recalcitrant hair; after all, there were worse problems in the world. But she never learned to love it. She always had an uneasy feeling people were sniggering at it behind her back. And on very bad days she would still scream hatred at it in her mind, if not out loud.
She would sometimes fantasise that she had a lustrous waterfall of thick, glossy, dead straight hair pouring down her back. ‘But I’ve only got you,’ she would snarl at the mirror, pulling viciously at her unruly locks.
Lately, her hair had developed a new vice: it had started poking her in the eye. Strands would come from the sides and even the back of her head and insert themselves into her eyes, making them red and sore. Sometimes it happened so often, she would end up with a headache. Her eyes would stream and her nose would run and she would start to sneeze. People asked if she had a cold, or hay fever. She took to wearing an unattractive arrangement of hair grips in an attempt to keep it away from her face, but bits would always escape and resume the attack.
The situation got worse as the days went on. Her hair was in her eyes all the time, poking, poking, poking. It was also getting up her nose, in her ears and in her mouth. It seemed to have a mind of its own.
‘It’s like it’s alive!’ she said to herself in exasperation.
What was happening to her? Was she turning into some kind of gorgon? Would she wake up one morning with a head full of vipers? She told herself not to be silly. Things like that just didn’t happen.
She went to the hairdresser and had it cut as short as she could bear, in a twenties bob. But it could still reach her face, and the attacks got increasingly vicious. Worse still, it was growing at an unprecedented rate. Two days later the bob was history as her hair reached her shoulders. A week later it was halfway down her back. What was going on? She could almost see it growing!
A horrible suspicion crept into her mind. Was this her hair’s revenge for all those times she’d said she hated it?
She rushed out to the chemist and bought an arsenal of expensive hair products. Shampoos, conditioners, serums, waxes, mousses and sprays filled her bathroom shelves. She lavished loving care on her wild, rapidly-growing locks, pampering them with product and assuring her hair that she LOVED it, that it was BEAUTIFUL, but still it wouldn’t stop growing – or poking. Her eyes were constantly red and she developed a nasty rash on her face. She was also starting to hack up hairballs because she’d inadvertently swallowed so much of it in the night.
She began to feel frightened. Clearly her hair hadn’t believed her when she said she loved it. It knew deep down that she hated it more than ever.
She couldn’t go on like this; her hair was making her ill. She’d taken so much time off work, her boss was threatening to fire her. It was time for drastic action.
She was too embarrassed to go back to the hairdressers, so she got her best friend Jane to come round and shave her head. She looked awful afterwards, but it was a blessed relief to be free of that evil mop. People were used to seeing her in a scarf now and had stopped bothering to ask, in hushed tones, how the chemo was going.
The hair grew back, of course. This time it grew back so fast it was down to her feet in a week. She called Jane and asked her to come round with her clippers.
‘I can’t tonight, I’m going out,’ Jane said. ‘Will first thing in the morning do?’
It would have to. Suzanne went to bed and swallowed the sleeping pill she’d taken to using so her hair wouldn’t keep her awake.
When she woke up in the morning she thought she was having a nightmare, because the whole room was full of hair. She struggled out of bed and immediately tripped over a great skein of it that had stretched across the floor. And it was still growing, darkening the bedroom and obscuring her vision.
She crawled through the tangles to the door and pushed it open. The hair was growing out onto the landing and down the stairs, filling the house and wriggling out through the gaps around the window frames. It twisted itself into python-like ropes and wrapped itself round her body so she couldn’t move; then it reached for her neck…
Suzanne screamed for the last time.
When Jane came round with the clippers, Suzanne’s house couldn’t even be seen. It was completely encased in a vast nest of wild, frizzy, flyaway hair, which was still growing, advancing up the street at supernatural speed.
As it came for her, Jane dropped the clippers and ran for her life.
© Annabelle Franklin 2020
NB – My children’s novel Gateway to Magic is FREE to download for the rest of May!