By Dani Brown
First appeared in "Girls Rock Horror Harder" Issue 3
I shaved my pubes and glued them to my face. It didn’t help my beard come in quicker. It didn’t help my beard come in any fuller either. All I wanted to do was take a trip to the barber shop in the city with my friends. It was the one that banned women for a bit of guy-to-guy banter behind the closed shutters. The Internet said pubes and ointment would give me a beard to rival Gandalf’s. Once it had that wizard look I could shape it and braid it and be the hippest hipster on the mountain.
The only thing I could sculpt now was my arse hair. My friends weren’t interested in that. The barista at the chain in the city was rather impressed when she went to administer my espresso enema in front of all the other hipsters. She asked for a date but I had to turn her away – my hipster friends looked down on the ones who served us.
My head was nearly as bald as my face. I didn’t have enough pubes to glue to my head as well. I managed to harvest my arse hair, but I only stuck it to the top of my head to cover the shine. Beards held much more hipster cred.
I think the Internet lied. The glue dried to my skin. An unseen rash spread underneath the pubes. The temptation to scratch until I had no skin left was strong.
I reverted back to my typewriter to contemplate my next move. If I didn’t have a full face of hair my friends would desert me for pastures of curls. They were rather clear the ones on my backside didn’t count.
There were rumours in town of a mystical voodoo woman capable of offering solutions to anyone’s problem with the shake of her voluptuous arse. Resolved to see her, I placed the dust cover over my typewriter – the paper with the same word typed over and over covering both sides.
My greased bicycle ran better than the Cadillac I traded it for. It also cost a lot less so I had more money to spend on bowels of cereal and a Penny Farthing. It was the Penny Farthing I took down the mountain that fateful afternoon, lest I lose all my hipster cred on a mountain bike.
It wasn’t a big mountain to ride down. It could be described as a hill with an exclusive housing complex on top. The non-pathetic mountains could be found further to the west but would leave me in complete isolation. A tempting prospect but in the real world people have to get to work. The Penny Farthing wouldn’t be able to handle a bigger hill.
I didn’t know how to find this mystical voodoo woman; all I knew was she was somewhere at the bottom before hitting the city. There weren’t that many stores, even on the main stretch of roads criss-crossing suburbia. For all I knew, she could have been operating out of a house with a small sign or no sign at all.
My ride wasn’t so much as aimless as it was steered by the vibrations and my requirement of a full beard, so maybe I could be forgiven for saying The Cure are better than Joy Division as far as the mainstream is concerned – in truth, I don’t like either. The voodoo woman would be the one to help me. I just knew it, the vibrations told me so.
She wasn’t so difficult to find – lurking not in a back alley or house as I expected, but in the main plaza with a bright red sign minus the neon lights. I could see the city below, not small and in the distance but less than a mile away. It was with regret that I looked back on the decision to ride the Penny Farthing. It was okay for short journeys but this was stretching it.
I went in as if I was meant to be there. It seemed the voodoo woman was expecting me, or maybe she simply had the desire to unnerve me. She wasn’t what I was expecting at any rate. Her arse wasn’t round and plump - firm with hours of zombified slaves rubbing concoctions in. She was skinny. Her ribs poked through her cotton vest.
Incense devoured my entire being until it coursed through my blood, and yet I could see no smoke. It was possible she had so many in stock the store smelt like that on a permanent basis. I would probably be washing eau de cremated hippy out of my pubic hair beard for a week.
There were oddities and ritual objects spanning all mythologies. There was even a little tribute to Satan on a dusty bottom shelf – a rare sight in such places. Even witchcraft stores did not like to associate themselves with the dark lord.
Everything had a price tag, ranging from the affordable to the extravagant. At a guess, I would say even her soul could be bought. There was something for everyone; even the dirt poor teen new to Wicca.
“I’ve been expecting you.”
Her voice was slow and smoky. She spoke with purpose. I did not yet know what that purpose was. I must admit to being turned on by this strange voodoo woman.
Land then just like that she was gone. Hardly a second had passed when she reappeared with a brown paper package tied with string. She handed it to me. The conclusion I reached was it was to make my beard grow.
I pulled on the tie curious to know what she had given me and how to use whatever it was. She cupped her hand over mine.
“Open under the glare of the full moon when it is at its highest and casts shadows on the mountains.”
I hadn’t told her where I lived. For all she knew, I could have rode in from the city below. The haze protected it from knowing it is only a few miles to the wilderness. The last city in the north. I reached into my pocket for payment and she snickered.
“Oh no dear, for you, no charge.”
She cackled. It made my baby-fine body hairs stand up, reminding me that if I failed there wasn’t much of me left to shave and glue to my face. Arse hair I had in abundance. ‘Had’ being the correct tense – it, too, was now stuck to my face. If I had a girlfriend, she could knit a Christmas sweater out of it.
I hopped back on my Penny Farthing for the journey home. It was the most impractical of all vehicles; the journey back up would have been better on my mountain bike. It was friendlier towards the environment than a mountain terrain adapted Segway and purchased with the sole intention of impressing the people I hung around with – I wanted to be accepted into the inner circle (I had a crush on the Hipster King).
The impracticality of my Penny Farthing left me holding the package between my teeth. It was obvious my journey wasn’t well planned out thanks to my spur of the moment impulse. The string hung down and rubbed the pubes and superglue away until my face experienced the uncomfortable sensation of chafing. Regardless of my discomfort, I kept hold of it until I arrive home.
The temptation to open it was great, so I occupied myself with my Gameboy while the sun fell and the moon rose high over the mountains. According to my chart, luck was with me as the moon would be pregnant that night. As it crept higher my excitement combined with nervousness to the point I could no longer focus on my Gameboy (probably for the best as I was to my last few batteries).
A rut was run into my cheap floor with pacing as the shadows changed. Time seemed to stand still. Curiosity and the desire to have the bushiest beard of all were getting the better of me.
I crept outside so as to not alert the neighbours to my nocturnal fancies with brown paper packages (I knew one was awake, I could hear her vibrator in the next apartment over – damn flimsy modern walls). The blinds twitched on the ground floor – the nosey old insomniac was out of bed but not on the grassy area between the apartments and parking lot. The ritual should have been done on my balcony but I thought my bare feet touching the ground would add some significance to the affair.
Opening a package under the full glare of the pregnant moon wasn’t a crime; its contents might be. I put my back towards her. The caution was needless. The package contained one single comb. Plastic and generic, I knew the only thing special was the voodoo.
The shop owner did not instruct me on its use nor what it would do. Combs are for combing so that is what I assumed this one to be for, even though it hurt my brain to arrive at a conclusion myself (real hipsters pass off other people’s conclusions off as their own). If the comb worked I would go back for a love potion. I wanted to feel the Hipster King’s bristles against my bristles.
I ran it through what few pubes remained glued to my face as I went back inside. The nosey insomniac must have found me more interesting than whatever was on the television in the middle of the night. I offered her a smile but I could nearly hear her tuts judging me through the glass above the too-close howls of coyotes.
The package was a let-down and my body required sleep at some point. I let myself back inside and climbed the carpeted stairs to my apartment – a touch of modern luxury on the mountain top. I kept hold of the comb. It was a bit of ‘just in case’ and a bit of ‘maybe it’ll transform into something hipster as I sleep’.
My alarm never went off. It seemed there was a blackout in the middle of the night. All my friends had battery operated clocks. It was on my list of things to buy but I lacked the infinite supply of money they seemed to be in possession of, as if their bank accounts inflated by magic with each purchased instead of haemorrhaging money. I wished mine would do that but I had to work to earn my keep.
Fry cook was not a very cool profession. I kept it hidden beneath perfumed sprays and a lot of bathing. It wasn’t a very high-paying one either. And the chef was never complimented. My life full-out sucked, made worse by the constant reminder of wind hitting my bare chin.
The morning felt different somehow, even though the hour was not yet late. My face and head itched. They’ve only ever done that when I’ve rubbed tonic in before bed in hope of waking to a full face of hair. Itching wasn’t my only concern; I couldn’t put a feeling to it and had to dismiss it in favour of clocking in on time.
With a minute to spare, the other employees gave me a strange look. I wanted to believe they were impressed with my reaching for a second hairnet to wrap over my patchy pubic hair beard. It added to my surreal amusement, which was the only way to look at the morning without losing my sanity. Everything was different, yet somehow exactly the same as it was.
The hairnet over my face pubes grew tight and uncomfortable as the day wore on. An internal argument raged about the merits of a full beard. Sideburns wouldn’t be enough to fit in, and they still required a big blue hairnet wrapped around my face so I couldn’t stick my tongue in and out of my mouth like a lizard. There might be less chaffing without that little bit of glued-on stubble.
My feet ached but nowhere near as bad as my face – my head wasn’t faring much better. My feet were used to the agonising days spent in front of grease splatter. I clocked out after what seemed like an eternity trapped in Hell serving greasy offerings to obese families with IQs that might stretch into the double digits when combined.
The hairnet strangled my face. It wasn’t letting go. Cutting seemed like such a drastic action which would present too high a risk towards my face pubes. It would be at least another six to eight weeks before I could trim again and stick them to my face.
If I was to make it home on time to wash the grease away before my friends wanted to do something, I could no longer fiddle with the hairnet. I would have to cut it away stood in front of my mirror. They’ll be impressed with how much stubble I had after a week of not seeing each other.
The one covering my patchy hair was also reluctant to let go. I left on my Penny Farthing. A decision I regretted. The Penny Farthing stood out; my mountain bike didn’t but it was all the way up at the top of the mountain. I could only hope no one I knew rode past and recognised me on such a distinctive mode of transport. Bright blue hairnets could not be passed off as the latest hipster fashion. All hipster cred I built up would be lost forever.
Bright blue from the hairnets was in the corner of my eye for the duration of the journey. It was worse than if the sun were to shine in my eyes. I couldn’t ride fast; apart from my cumbersome mode of transport, the hairnets cut into me in a way to restrict my airwaves.
My insomniac neighbour was still awake and standing at the window when I arrived home – unless she’d slept for a few hours during my shift. My biggest fear was her uploading the footage of my arrival to the internet. Hipsters worldwide would watch and share. Not even non-hipsters would want to be seen with me.
The neighbour’s vibrator echoed through the entrance. Not even my key ring with hipster trinkets could drown out the sound. All that woman did was masturbate. It must have been her income source. I once typed out a letter to the super about having her apartment soundproofed to no avail.
The comb from the voodoo woman was there waiting for me to pick it up and use it right away. I didn’t recall leaving it on the dining table. That isn’t a very hygienic place for a comb. I grabbed it on my way to the bathroom.
Upon looking in the mirror, I understood why I was given such odd looks from my fellow employees in the city below the mountain. The pubes glued to my face poked through the hairnet and grew before my eyes until the hairnet could no longer be seen. It must have been doing that all day. The patchy hair on my head, likewise. It couldn’t be contained by a hairnet. I don’t know how long I stood there watching my hair grow. It couldn’t have been long – the hairnets would have killed me.
The comb grinned at me from its perch on the toilet seat as the hairnets clung to my face and head. Bright late-afternoon sunlight shone through the bathroom window and frilly curtains. The sunlight and window placement were in conspiracy with the comb. The way it looked sent a shiver up my spine. The hairnets didn’t like that and clutched tighter.
I drew the shade to sudden darkness. The plastic teeth shone even when cast in shadow. Cackling from an unseen source echoed through the small room. It liked darkness. I pulled the light switch and filled the room with bright artificial light. The electronic toothbrush hidden in the vanity came to life, buzzing in retaliation.
The door on the vanity where the toothbrush lived was awkward. The toothbrush banged against it in its quest to escape and sounded louder than it should have in the small room. There wasn’t much else in the vanity. There’d been no point in keeping an electric razor until recent events but I did need to defend myself against an array of cheap disposable blades that suddenly flew out of the drawers. Most were dull, donations from previous sexual partners – male, female and other.
Breathing became difficult as the hairnets tightened and hair grew out of my nostrils. Nostril hair was very unsexy and not very impressive to the hipster crowd. Day coyotes howled, or maybe they didn’t; it was hard to tell from the confines of my bathroom.
Quiet detachment allowed me to handle anything life threw at me, which at that very second was a pair of scissors. I intended on using them to cut away the hairnet. My reflexes are fry-cook quick. I grabbed them out of mid-air, with my hands keeping the blades closed, as if they were a crocodile’s jaw. I needed to get them under my control. With me in charge, I could cut away the hairnets. I wasn’t sure the comb would allow that. The bright artificial light really brought out the gleam on those teeth.
The comb was silent. Everything else made noise as it buzzed into life. Even things that had no right making a sound buzzed. A hovering razor hissed. The distant howls may not have been day coyotes. Come to think of it, I’d never heard a coyote in the day. I didn’t know what in my bathroom could make that sort of noise.
I caught the dusty bottle of shampoo sneaking up on me in the reflection and ducked out of the way just in time. It could have been that making the coyote sound. It shattered the glass of the medicine cabinet, releasing more sharp things to fly at my head yet nothing to free me from the dual force hairnets.
The comb didn’t move through-out the entire ordeal. I’m not sure it could do anything other than grin at me with those plastic teeth and issue commands. I was restricted by its plastic body; it wanted to hop into something else and was testing the waters with the bathroom paraphernalia and distant coyotes.
I wanted to dive out of the room but the door held me trapped there. My body wouldn’t be pleasant to live in. I had too many problems, most of them related to being a poser. I couldn’t help that – I’m a beautiful person.
One looking in would think that I was jumping to conclusions for blaming the entire affair on the comb but there could be no other source of my torment. My pubes held no supernatural properties until the comb was introduced. Unless someone cursed the hairnets. But the hairnets weren’t introduced until I arrived at work. The morning was different. Reflection told me what I felt was related to a deep sense of dread and unease I couldn’t articulate after the late night opening ritual.
There was always the possibility they were two separate entities that formed an alliance. A co-worker could have cursed the hairnets with ease and introduced a demon lower down the hierarchy into the box of bright blue. Management only cared about whether the customers were happy. Low morale and threats of rituals and suicide were a daily affair. The hairnets, lower down they may have been, held the upper hand in that they could choke me. The comb was jealous. All this would make it onto my next album.
The scissors dug into my hands, looking to taste blood. I needed them under my control to free my face. I didn’t want to cut my beard, just the hairnets. After this much trouble, the beard was not going to be lost. The hairnets needed a taste of their own nylon blood.
The scissors hissed like a pissed off alley cat, so I grabbed them tighter. The skin on my hand was as over-rated as my Penny Farthing, if not more so. My life was worth more – at least to my fan-girls.
The comb glared at me. The guilty culprit. I could feel its plastic aura. The hairnets were nylon; a different plastic with a different aura, vibrating the words “choke, choke, die, die”. The comb had the thoughts and feelings of a wasp about to move in for a sting for the sole reason it could. The hairnets didn’t.
The broken mirror took flight like one hundred wasps – the fucking comb could read my thoughts (unless that was a paranoid delusion and the mirror pieces intended attack all along). I ducked out of the way – an automatic fry cook reflex. I didn’t know if they could follow me around or only fly in one direction. I hoped for the latter.
The best refuge against airborne bathroom accessories was the shower cubicle. In there, I could cut away the hairnets with the protection of a Plexiglas screen between me and the broken mirror and cheap razors. The bottle of shower gel flew up and hit my ear on the way in. On its attempt at my face, I reached up and threw it at the comb. I missed.
Inside the shower, I threw the various bottles and bars over the top in case they tried to fly at me. Each one was aimed at the comb. Each one missed even though my aim was true under normal circumstances. The comb never once moved. Each time I missed, the cackling echoed through the small room. It sounded worse behind the Plexiglas screen.
The only threat left was the shower itself. It glistened lifeless. The trust wasn’t there. Everything else seemed to be coming to life, so why wouldn’t that. A heavy power-shower head could knock me out while the hairnets choke my life away.
The mirror glass flew at the screen. It held out. The shards seemed incapable of flying up – only across. I let it hit the Plexiglas and focused my attention on bringing the scissors under my control before the shower could whack me over the head.
The desire to sweep the mirror glass up and release it in the voodoo woman’s store was strong, but I would have to deal with it later. If I lost my grip on the scissors by giving into fantasies my arteries would be severed and my body would be found two weeks later by the insomniac downstairs.
My fingers found their way to the handle while the other hand clutched the blade. A man-bun and full face of hair seemed less important now. I could always join up with the local skin-heads. A shinny scalp and clean-shaven face would impress them. Hipsters and skin-heads shared a lot of the same fashions so I wouldn’t need to stretch my pay cheque to cover new clothes.
The biggest threat to my airways was the hairnet covering my beard. The neck contains a lot of veins. This was the dangerous part. The comb cackled from the other side of the screen, never moving from the toilet.
An idea occurred to me. I could drown the comb and flush it down to the sewer where it belonged. With the comb gone, things would stop flying around my bathroom and the scissors wouldn’t pose such a big threat to my neck.
I jumped out of the shower cubicle clutching the scissors and prepared for flying bits of mirror to attack. The scissors sensed I only held them with one hand and tried to make their escape. Dodging some glass that had yet to fly at me, I grabbed the comb. It drew blood from my palm in the few seconds I held it, before I flung it in the toilet and flushed. The scissors relaxed in my hand and all the objects fell to the floor. I let out a breath I hadn’t realised I was holding as the hairnets let go.
The hairnets were easy to cut away. I had facial hair to shape. Walking around looking like Big Foot was a sure way to put off any potential partners.
I looked good. I swept everything into a pile and dumped it in the bag. I had business to take care of on the way to the city. I opted for my mountain bike. The Penny Farthing could be sold for parts. I was done with hipsters.
The ride to the voodoo woman’s store was quick and uneventful. She seemed surprised when I walked in. Her confidence of the previous day evaporated before my eyes. The cackling became a cough.
Frail and old, she reached out to touch me with a liver-spotted hand. I jumped back, crashing into a display of dull swords. They didn’t look so new and shiny anymore. A cloud of rust coloured dust puffed up on the air. I dropped my bag of bathroom paraphernalia. It rattled but the objects remained lifeless or dying. The magic was gone.
The wood of the house that played host to the store decayed as I stood there. I ran for the door. I needed to get out. She cackled. This time, it sounded stronger as if she grew life with her store dying.
A beam fell right before the door – I should have seen that coming. It seemed normal here, a beam falling in front of the door. Just as it seemed normal for a cloaked figure to jump out of the mirror.
The best chance of escape was an open window. I dived out and onto the porch. The wooden floor was dusty with age and road dirt. I didn’t mind. I ran for my bike and pedalled as fast as I could back up the mountain.
A crash behind me told me the house had collapsed. The sirens from the fire trucks blasted. I could only hope I wouldn’t be tracked down for an interview. I hadn’t done anything wrong but that didn’t mean I wouldn’t be suspected.
My legs grew tired and I was wet with my own sweat but I pedalled onwards up the pathetic mountain. On a normal day, the smell of pine and decaying leaves would greet my nose as I put suburbia behind me. Today the scent of raw sewage danced on the air.
My neighbours were outside with bits of fabric over their faces. The odour was almost visible in the air. One neighbour was puking in the bushes. The sound of sirens climbing the mountains could be heard. My taxes were being put to good use.
It seemed the sewer had exploded leaking filth from drains and toilets into the entire complex. We were allowed in to gather a few untainted things. My phone charger was top of my mind; without that I would have to sleep in the forest. I let myself, the smell bad enough to knock out someone sensitive.
The comb sat on my table covered in slime.