The Golden Nightmare
by John W. Steele
Being bald sucks, Curly thought, as he gazed at his shiny chrome dome in the bathroom mirror. He’d started losing his hair in his early teens. By his twenty-fifth birthday the crown of his head resembled a polished melon.
Curly’s life revolved around his missing hair. He’d become so obsessed with his baldness everything he experienced now centered on his inability to grow a mane. When Curly failed at anything he blamed it on his alopecia, his rationalization always being the same. If he lost a girlfriend, it was because he had no hair. If he lost a job, same reason. If people were laughing when he walked down the street, Curly felt they were snickering at him, even when they weren’t aware of his presence.
Trying every cure and remedy imaginable, Curly spent a fortune in an attempt to restore his absent locks. But at best all that ever appeared on the smooth surface of his crown were a few pathetic sprouts or a scant dot of peach fuzz. He’d finally given up and wore a baseball cap most of the time.
For a while, Curly tried wearing a hairpiece, but it found it uncomfortable and unreliable. One day while working out at the health club his wig got tangled up in the pulleys of an exercise machine. People began snickering as Curly frantically tried to remove the hairpiece from the cables. The cute blonde babe Curly struggled to impress with his strength burst out laughing. Curly blushed, and stormed out of the gym, leaving the tattered rug hopelessly snarled in the device. He hadn’t returned since.
* * *
Feeling like a total loser, Curly started spending his free time traveling the back country roads looking for antiques. He found peace and security in small towns and villages where he hunted for old farmhouses to buy vintage treasures from the inhabitants. He discovered the pickings could be very rewarding. Antiquing got him away from city people, whom he considered crude and heartless.
Driving down a back road one day he spotted a sign in front of an old Victorian farmhouse.
Ball & Claw Apothecary
Potions of all kinds
Figuring he had nothing to lose, Curly pulled his truck into the driveway and ascended the porch. Before him stood an enormous solid oak door, embellished with a brass lion’s head door knocker. He rapped sharply on the door three times.
Eventually an old lady appeared, opening the door a crack, she smiled. She wore round dabs of deep red rouge on each cheek. Curly noticed some of her teeth were missing. Her face was wrinkled with many lines and furrows. Silver gray hair flowed like combed flax from her head and lay softly on her hunched shoulders. Her eyes were a dark gray and clouded over as if by cataracts, but even behind the translucent shadow in her eyes, a fine light burned.
“Hi, are you the potion lady?”
“That’s me sonny,” she said in a raspy high-pitched voice. “My name is Grendel, what kin’ I do fer ya.”
“Well... your sign says you have all kinds of remedies.”
“That I do, Sonny. Wha’ cha’ lookin’ fer?”
“Ya got anything for baldness?”
Slapping her hand on the door, she said, “Do I got anything for baldness! By golly, today’s you’re lucky day Sonny, come on in. I ain’t afraid of ya, nobody wants an old hag like me anyway. Especially a big strappin’ young fella’ like yerself.”
“Well uh... yeah.” Curly said.
“Lets go out in the kitchen and see what I got.”
They entered a huge, tidy, country kitchen. Curly marveled at the enormous open cupboards along the walls. Each shelf filled to capacity with hundreds of colorful bottles some big, some little.
“I got a special goin’ this week on ‘Lover’s Milk’. Guaranteed to getcha’ the gal of your dreams; course after the spell wears off its your job to keep her.” The old hag laughed hysterically.
“No. I don’t need Lovers milk, I want hair. If I had hair, all my problems would disappear.”
“Zat so?” The old crone said.
“Well... people wouldn’t laugh at me. I’d have more confidence. I wouldn’t be such a flop with women. Everything would change.”
“You think so Buster? A lot of folks got notions like that, but I sell remedies, not miracles.”
Curly measured Grendel’s words for a moment. “Let me ask you something ma’am. Name one leading man now, or in your time that didn’t have a great head of hair?”
Without missing a beat the old lady said. “Kojack! He always got my heart a-pumpin’.”
“Kojack! I don’t want to be a bald-headed pig like that idiot. I want my own hair.”
“Well Sonny. I got good news, and I got bad news. The good news is I can give you more hair than Rasputin. The bad news is it won’t amount to nothin’ if you think it’s gonna’ change what you are. But I ain’t Sigmoid Frued so let’s see what we got for ya.”
Picking up a heavy steel step stool as though it were a feather, the old lady carried it over to a large cupboard in the rear of the kitchen. As quick as a cat she nimbly jumped about three feet in the air, and landed perfectly poised on the top of the stool.
Curly marveled at her and could not believe a woman her age could have such strength and agility.
Reaching deep within the shelf she pulled out a small green bottle, holding it up to the light she said. “Yeah, this is it. I been savin’ this one fer a special occasion... but it’ll cost ya.”
Curly felt a lump like an iron ball in his throat, thinking he didn’t have enough money to pay her.
“How much is it?”
“Well lets see... I don’t rightly know.”
Curly watched as Grendel muttered to herself, measuring the ingredients.
“Sanicle, toad eyes, possum snoot’s, guar gum, a little potassium sorbate as a preservative, plus my own secret additives hmmm... It’ll be around three dollars.”
Curly let out a sigh, and reached into his pocket for the money.
“This is the last bottle I have. I won’t be able to make another batch till next year when the dogwoods bloom. This one will last ya fer a while, but once it’s gone things change fast.”
Curly handed her the money, grabbed the bottle, and ran out the door.
Arriving home around midnight, he poured a small amount of the concoction in his hand and massaged it thoroughly into his scalp; then went to bed.
Upon awakening next morning he ran into the bathroom. When he looked in the mirror he couldn’t believe his eyes. Long beautiful strands of luxurious golden hair now covered his entire scalp. Dense, vibrant, lustrous, hair that would rival that of a Breck girl now hung down to his shoulders. Curly felt as if he’d died and gone to heaven. His magnificent hair shimmered like that of a god.
Now filled with confidence, Curly felt wonderful, exciting, and indomitable. He became intoxicated with his looks. Like Narcissus, he’d stare into the mirror for hours at a time admiring himself. A life-long wish came true.
* * *
Curly returned once again to the gym and quickly became the reigning stud. His reputation as a lover grew and every woman had to have him at least once. One day while working out at the club a man approached him. The man wore an expensive sky blue jogging suit; thick heavy gold chains adorned his neck.
“Hi, I’m Ned Hargrove,” the man said, flashing a toothy Hollywood smile. “I’m a talent scout for a modeling agency. Have you ever thought about being a male model? Renaissance Musk is looking for a man of your stature to represent their new line of male cologne. I think you would be perfect.
“I’ve been in this business almost twenty years now and I have never seen such a fine head of hair on a man. Meet me here tomorrow and we’ll do a photo shoot. I’m almost certain you’re the character for this role.”
Feeling stunned and elated, Curly said, “I’ll be here tomorrow.”
Curly’s success was galvanic.
A week later Curly found himself crowned as the new ‘Renaissance Man’. The giant cosmetic firm provided him with a lavish retainer and he now had more money than he could spend. The first thing he did was to buy a new red Porsche 911, and a diamond earring. Ned became his publicity agent and convinced Curly to change his name to Adonis.
* * *
Driving down the interstate in his new Porsche, Adonis wondered how he ever tolerated his world without hair. His new life as a male model seemed to be a continuous festival of delights; and he now found nothing but pleasure in everything he did.
Spotting his image on a billboard at the edge of town Adonis pulled over to admire the icon of himself. There he stood, naked from the waist up, wearing a pair of buckskin trousers. In his arms he held a gorgeous blonde model, in a skimpy leather two-piece outfit. They looked like they had both just stepped out of the Pleistocene age. His glorious golden yellow hair blew wildly in the wind like the mane of a lion. Behind the couple a volcano erupted far off on the horizon.
Embellished over his image, in Gothic lettering were the words.
Renaissance Musk... for a man with ideas
The sexy, half-naked female in his arms appeared to be swooning over his masculinity and looked like she’d been turned to putty by his embrace. Beneath her ample cleavage was written.
What is it about ... a Renaissance man
Staring at the billboard, Adonis marveled at how quickly his life changed. He reveled in the idea that in a few days Renaissance would offer him a seven-figure contract because of the enormous popularity he’d generated.
The events surrounding his life happened so quickly Adonis failed to notice that he’d used up all the contents in the green vial of his hair potion. For some reason this didn’t alarm him; he felt invincible. Now being too wrapped up in his fabulous success to remember what, Grendel told him. Adonis went to bed that night thinking his golden locks belonged to him forever.
Upon awakening the next day, Adonis ran over to the mirror to admire himself as he did first thing every morning. Looking in the mirror he became horrified, unable to believe the stark image staring from the mirror was him. His glorious shimmering mane had wilted away. There were only a few scrawny strands of hair left on his barren scalp, replaced once again by open patches of shiny skin.
Adonis fell to the floor feeling as if he’d been clobbered with a baseball bat. He began to scream as he pounded his fists on the imported tiles. “Why, why, why? My promo is in two days,” he lamented, as he lay on the floor, sobbing.
Eventually he slipped into his jeans and sped back out in the country in an attempt to find Grendel’s farm house. By the time he found it again the sun had began to sink below the horizon.
Adonis barged onto the witches porch and without knocking stormed into the house; kicking several cats out of the way as he flew into the kitchen.
Grendel, stood at the stove brewing something in a large copper kettle.
“I need more hair potion,” he yelled. His eyes filled with fire and his hands trembling.
“Oh, it’s you, Sonny. Haven’t you ever heard of knocking?”
“I haven’t got time for that. I need more hair tonic. Now!”
“I told you last time, Sonny, I won’t have any more till next year.”
Frantic, Adonis screamed, “Listen, you old hag, I gotta have that stuff.”
Pushing past, Grendel like a runaway locomotive he headed for the shelves and began throwing bottles on the floor; breaking them to pieces as he searched deliriously for the little vial. Foam formed in the corners of his mouth, and he craved the potion like a junkie craves a fix.
“Where’s the little green one?” he screamed.
Grendel sensed her life was in danger.
“Wait! wait, maybe I can help ya.”
Walking over to a locked pantry she pulled out a key, which hung on a silver chain around her neck. Unlocking the door, she reached inside; pulling out a red skull-bottle with the word ‘Poison’ embossed on the shoulder.
“This will likely work, but it must be diluted with Mandrake root first. It’s far too potent now. I can’t give it to ya in good conscience the way it is.”
Glaring at the little red skull with a wild look in his eyes, Adonis rushed the old lady like a Sumo wrestler, knocking her to the ground. Grendel clutched the little skull-bottle to her breast, but Adonis tore it from her hands.
“I haven’t got time for games witch. I need it now.”
Throwing a wad of money on the floor, Adonis ran out of the house.
* * *
Arriving back home Adonis stood once again facing the mirror. Grasping the little red bottle carefully in his hand as if it were pure nitroglycerin, he dumped a tiny amount of the poison in his palm, then massaged it deeply into his scalp.
In a while his head began to tingle, and he watched in astonishment as tiny strands of hair pushed their way through his shiny crown. Like magic the open areas of his gleaming scalp became resplendent with thick lustrous golden hair.
His hair continued to grow at an impossible rate and in a short time the vibrant locks completely returned to him. Raising the tiny bottle over his head like a sacred idol, Adonis began to laugh hysterically. “I am the Renascence man for eternity,” he said. As he blew kisses at the reflection in the mirror. He went to bed feeling confident and secure and soon fell asleep.
His slumber became agitated, and Adonis had a dream. In his dream he stood before the mirror brushing his long golden locks, totally infatuated with his image. As he admired himself he noticed that his torso and face were becoming sheer and tenuous. The change was subtle and gradual. He watched in astonishment as his body seemed to turn to mist. His image remained in the mirror but he had become transparent like that of a ghost.
One Day later
Ned paced back and forth at the entrance to Adonis’s house. Pounding on the door again he yelled. “Where the hell are you dude? We’re late, we’ve got a flight to catch.”
Frustrated, Ned twisted the doorknob and the door sprung open, nearly knocking Ned over. A torrent of golden hair crashed through the entrance like a flash flood and flowed out into the yard.
Bewildered, Ned began to pull on the gobs of hair. He pulled and pulled for a long time until a stack of golden hair the size of a bus filled the street behind him.
Eventually, Ned was able to enter the house. Once again he called out for Adonis. “Where the hell are you man; what’s going on here?”
Ned’s words were absorbed and muffled in the bulging stacks of hair. Ned followed the river of golden locks into Adonis’s bedroom. He started pawing through the gobs of hair which lay piled like scads of yarn on the bed.
Eventually he found the source of the river of fibers. Attached at the end of the mountain of locks appeared a dehydrated scalp. A desiccated ear hung defiantly from one side of the dried patch of skin. Impaled through the wrinkled ear, glimmered a diamond earring.
Copyright © 2006 by John W. Steele