Zalon the Hairdresser
by Nik Perring
Once Tom’s hair was washed and rinsed, Zalon led him to her hairdressing station and sat him in a chocolate-coloured chair in front of a large, well-lit mirror. She rested her hands on his neck as he told her what he wanted. Her fingers tingled as though little electrical impulses were running through them.
And then the haircut began.
It felt more like a massage than a haircut. It felt as though she was running fingers over his scalp, smoothly and tenderly. But he could see her in the mirror and she was definitely cutting: he saw the scissors snipping and flashing in the lights in her hand, and he could see his hair falling to the floor around him. And every so often he shut his eyes. Relaxed. Enjoying it. He would have struck up a conversation because he liked her, but her hands, her fingers, the way it felt, was wonderful. He could do nothing but enjoy it.
I suppose when one has four hands one can disguise what one’s doing quite easily. Four arms and two brains; that’s how their species evolved. That’s what it was to be a Chilp. That and the ability to master other languages and customs and skills and to temporarily change shape.
While one pair of hands was busy cutting and combing and chopping, the other was testing his skin, seeking the position where she would enter him.
It didn’t take long to find it.
The perfect point of entry, where the skin was thin and the flesh just the right density, was on his neck, right at the base of his hair line. Still cutting, she pressed the thumbs of her other hands gently to it, one on either side and then from the gap between the buttons of her blouse came her ovipositor.
It was slim and long and blue and serpentine. It curved and it pulsed and it meandered, its tiny teeth, the size of pollen, chattering. And then came the connection, the splitting of skin and ejaculation. He didn’t even flinch and she didn’t stop cutting. A few seconds later, and with a small, jubilant sigh, it was over. The egg expelled and lodged in flesh, her ovipositor retracted, tucked and hidden safely under her blouse.
And a few seconds after that she set down the scissors and picked up the electric trimmer to finish the job.
‘How’s that?’ she asked, her voice nasal and brittle.
‘It’s great,’ said Tom. ‘You’re good. I’ll make sure I ask for you next time.’ He smiled at her in the mirror.
‘I’m not sure I’ll be here,’ she said.
Tom took off the grey jacket and followed Zalon to the counter. ‘You’re moving away?’ he asked as he pulled out his wallet.
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Thirty-six pounds please.’
He pulled out four ten-pound notes. ‘Where to?’ he asked, handing her the cash.
She took it. ‘Home,’ she said. ‘We’re expecting a birth in the family. First one in a long time.’
‘Congratulations,’ he said. ‘You must be excited.’
‘More than anything,’ she told him. ‘See you.’
* * *
Tom spent the afternoon reading in his garden, sitting in the sun, being warmed by it. He was pleased with his haircut and after an hour or so decided to go inside to the mirror in his bathroom to admire it. And while he was inside he would look for some insect lotion. It felt as though something had bitten him for there was a spot on his neck which stung and felt red and angry.
He’d also look for some milk of magnesia because something wasn’t quite right with his stomach; it was distended, it gurgled and it needed settling. He felt quite sick. Might have been the sausage roll he’d picked up from the baker’s on the high street; pastry didn’t always sit well with him.
* * *
And back at the ship the aliens stood and talked in a language only those from their world can understand. Zalon’s partner examined the flashing screens on the console.
‘All is ready,’ she said. ‘How long will it be before it is ready to hatch?’
‘We’ve not used this species in millennia,’ replied Zalon. ‘Last time it took six hours.’
* * *
Tom never thought mush could be beautiful, but this mush was different. It was green and warm and smelled like burning creosote. And its eyes — oh, those eyes! — black and round as eight-balls, looking up at him as he cradled it in his arms. Those eyes said one thing: “Daddy.”
Copyright © 2008 by Nik Perring