The Follice Chronicles - Pt.6: The Rations of Toast That Haunt My Dreams

Submitted into Contest #186 in response to: Write a story within a story within a story within a ...... view prompt

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Adventure Funny Speculative

In addressing every man, woman, and child at Follicle Farm, I assuage their concerns about our safety following a recent raid by the pluck squad. 


‘Fleeing Follicle Farm is the coward’s way out! We will stand our ground and use the additional manpower we’ve accrued to fortify our defences. We will dig pits! We will lay traps!’


The campfire collective concurs with whoops and hollers. We celebrate our resolution to remain by dancing rings around the fire. I have a feeling that later, more carnal forms of merriment will follow, once the children are tucked safely away in their sleeping bags. 


There have been new additions to the group, including an arborist, a carpenter, and a wilderness survival expert—who are the same person. Juke is quite the woodsman. He has gifted me an invaluable black market book on how to construct all manner of traps, including snares, pits, and nets. With his skills, expanding our community and fortifying our defences will be a breeze.


Using my own non-violent way of doing things, we will hold our opponents captive until their hatred of hair has vanished. Our well concealed pits and net traps are baited with bewigged dummies, or haircrows. These will send the pluckies into a blind rage; they’ll charge the haircrows and plunge themselves into one of our residential ditches, where they’ll be counselled out of their prejudices and undergo exposure therapy where they will be showered with wigs. Being exposed to hair so frequently will wear their rancorous faculties down and soften their hardened personas. I don’t blame them for the fascistic brainwashing they’ve been subjected to. It has become their default programming. They have been wired to respond to hair with contempt. But, with shrewd persuasion, we will be able to convert them. My hope is that a skilled hypnotist, or psychotherapist will join our ranks and work alongside Tove and her neurological healing abilities. If we can restore the pluck squad officer’s neutrality, maybe we can elevate them to a place of hair love. Hair love will be the lynchpin of societal change that spreads through the populace, ridding us of government oppression. The empowering effect of unfettered follicles cannot, and will not, be denied. 


≈≈≈ 


The morning after the fire dancing and carnal entanglements is refreshingly free of hangovers. Alcohol is difficult to obtain these days, and when it is, it’s too scarce to binge on. I’m glad—it makes for fresher, pluckier workers at Follicle Farm.


A handful of the great unwashed—as I lovingly refer to them—line up to help bait the traps. Setting up haircrows is usually Mace’s job, except that he’s absent from the camp with no explanation. He could have gotten a harebrained idea and rushed off to execute it with minimal thought, as he is wont to do. So if he’s ‘off on one’ right now, I hope that he returns with both gonads intact. Many of the overly disenfranchised refugees are fond of him in the way that toddlers are comforted by big, dumb mascots.


‘Ok, gang,’ I say, doing a head count before we set off. ‘Let’s head to the perimeter of the woods.’


‘Lux!’ Tove runs over from the cabin, yelling. ‘Lux, there’s something you need to see. It’s Siva, she—’


‘What is it? We’re baiting traps here.’


‘It’s serious! Just come.’


I hand my satchel full of gear to Juke and tell him to lead the group into the woods. I may join them later, depending on how long this detour takes. 


Tove impatiently takes me by the hand and whisks me off to the cabin. She leads me down the hall to the bathroom. 


‘Go in,’ she says, both her hands on my shoulders. ‘But remember—be considerate.’ 


I wriggle into our small bathroom, and am stifled by the hot steam choking the atmosphere. Siva stands at the fogged-up mirror, wiping circular patches clear so she can stare at her reflection and massage her scalp. 


Her bare scalp.


‘Siva,’ I say. ‘Your hair…’


She slouches, as if annoyed at my pointing out the obvious, her thin arms hanging almost to her knees. ‘Everything was laid on my pillow this morning.’ 


‘I’m so sorry,’ I say. ‘Are you trying to stimulate the follicles to get them growing again?’


‘Uh-huh.’ 


‘Do you think the keratin supplement you took at Scanlon’s factory has anything to do with your hair, um, deciding to leave you?’


‘Maybe.’


‘How long has it been since you first took Special K? Two months?’


‘Roughly.’


A keratin-based hair growth enhancer having such a paradoxical effect is cruelly ironic. It looks as though the stuff has a half life, and that if you swallow the pill on a regular enough basis, your hair will fall out after eight weeks or so. 


‘So, artificially ramping up fibrous protein isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,’ I say.


‘No duh.’ 


‘Could this have happened to Scanlon? She was taking the stuff too, wasn’t she?’


‘I hope that wench’s hair rots!’


Siva places her hands on the washbasin unit, leans over the sink, and laughs manically. She heaves mirthful air out of her ribcage like a skinny bellows filled with nitrous and resumes massaging her bare head, which is my cue to scarper. 


I find Tove waiting in the hallway. ‘Is she okay?’


‘She’ll get used to it. It’s been the norm for most of us for generations…’


‘One of the refugees brought this.’ Tove hands me an austere looking government pamphlet. ‘You’d better keep abreast of enemy propaganda,’ she says, winking.


‘Thank you, madam secretary. Some reading material worthy of being skimmed on the toilet, I’m sure.’ 


I take it through to the kitchen and sit at the table, opening up the three-panelled leaflet. 


≈≈≈ The truth about hair ≈≈≈ 


The following story illustrates the effects of meddling with the natural order of things, i.e, tampering with honourable hairlessness. 


This is the story of Kora, a man who sought keratin supplements on the black market. Why, you ask? Simply put, people do stupid things. There is no need for a working class man of modest means like Kora to try and imitate members of the elite who have legitimately earned hair status. The same goes for you, reader. You will get locked up if you seek to purchase wigs or keratin supplements. DO NOT be tempted by the increasing ease and availability of these illegal goods. 


Do not fear, though, reader. Thankfully, Kora’s wife talked him out of buying anything he shouldn’t. After a long discussion on honour and morals, it was her telling of a feline-based fable that righted Kora’s mind and kept him out of trouble. The fable went like this:


Toko was a Sphinx cat. All her life, she felt as though something was missing. That something was fur. All of the other cats pranced about in thick, lustrous coats, and Toko was so consumed with jealousy and loneliness that she would do anything to fit in with them.


One day, Toko was strolling by a well, and a spirit rose from its depths. It whispered to her that if she drank the water that her bare, wrinkly skin would sprout a healthy coat in no time. ‘Really? I’m so sick of looking like a brain,’ she said. Following the spirit’s instructions, she hopped into the bucket at the top of the well. 


The spirit lowered her down into the darkness. When Toko reached the bottom of the well, she was determined to make her dreams of having fur come true. So she climbed up onto the rim of the bucket, and lowered her head to sip the well-water, but her paws slipped out from under her. As she plunged into the frigid water, laughter from above echoed down the well. The spirit reeled the empty bucket back into position at the top of the pulley, and Toko was left treading water. She meowed piteously for weeks, but no one came to the use the well, and she passed on to the other side. At least her fur didn’t get wet. Because she didn’t have any.’


I fling the pamphlet onto the table in disgust, pondering the lesson of the ‘fable’. I see what they’re getting at, but as with all bureaucrat authored government drivel, it’s a heavy-handed metaphor filled with scare tactics. Proletariats, beware! If you act on your desire for hair, you will drown in the dank waters of the fabled well at the hands of a government-invented ghost. 


≈≈≈


Eeeeeeeeeeeek!


The screech of brakes awakens me from a slumber. A mid afternoon slumber as rare as the smear of margarine on the rations of toast we endure. The rations of toast that haunt my dreams. That also exist in reality. 


Afternoon naps have become more common of late, or more accurately, hovering between consciousness and sleep as Tove potters around looking for busywork because there is no hair to make wigs with.


I dash to the front door and peer through its small, glass pane. A strange truck has arrived—the kind big enough to possess air brakes that vent with a monolithic hiss.


Tssssssshhhhhhh


‘Who’s that?’ Tove asks, pulling the kitchen curtain aside.


‘They look familiar,’ I say, watching two passengers climb down from the cab, and loosen the ropes tying a large load to the cargo bed. ‘These are part of our gang, aren’t they? I’m struggling to keep track of everyone as the community grows.’


‘They must be. They don’t seem hostile,’ Tove says. ‘Oh, good, here’s your friend, Mace.’


Mace hops out of the driver’s seat and ambles around the perimeter of the truck, whipping the freight’s cover off. He stands back with his arms folded and whistles approvingly. I can see why he looks so pleased with himself; there are massive quantities of valuable cargo stacked on the truck bed, fastened with twine. Hairbales


Before I can delay or distract Tove, she is out the door, rushing over and groping at the bales. She pulls out big handfuls, probably checking its authenticity. 


‘Where did you get this much real hair?’ She demands of Mace, her mouth hanging open as if she’s already figured out the shady origin of the goods.


‘Boosted it from Scanlon’s factory,’ Mace brags. ‘Her P.A’s got the hookup.’


I curl my toes. Honestly, Mace’s lack of discretion makes me want to pull my hair out. He certainly knows how to rip the bandage off, but this was not—I repeat not—the way I wanted to bring Tove in on our exploits.


‘Good haul, eh, kiddo?’ He calls out to me. ‘Even got some fertiliser here. Special K, baby.’


Tove squares up to Mace, and shoves his shoulders with her palms. ‘We should be growing free-range organic hair, not stealing quick-growing product from factory farms with squalid conditions. It’s unethical, not to mention illegal.’


‘In case you’ve forgotten, Tove, growin’ yer own hair is breakin’ the law too. What’s wrong with skimming a bit from the bigwigs to top up our supply and ensure our survival?’


‘So many things! What if someone followed you back here?’


‘Nuh-uh. There was no one around at the factory; they were all attending some weird ceremony off campus. Phillip loaded the truck for us beforehand. All we had to do was gun it out of the compound.’


Tove throws her hands up and pivots away from Mace. She trots past me into the cabin with wet eyes. I purse my lips and give Mace a thumbs up, mouthing, ‘Great job.’ 


‘She was gonna figure it out somehow…’ I hear Mace calling after me.


It’s damage control time; beg for forgiveness time


Tove slams our bedroom door. I make to follow her and get halfway down the hall when a rumble reminiscent of a truck firing up stops me in my tracks. I dash back outside and see Mace lying face down on the ground. A hair nanny is sitting in the cab of the truck, her head barely above the steering wheel, grinding the gears and making a godawful racket. Her monobrow, an epileptic caterpillar, is having a fit, contorting into frustrated glyphs and symbols. It returns to a resting position once she finally presses the clutch down hard enough with her stumpy legs to slide the gearstick into reverse. 


The hair nanny backs up, gives it way too much gas, and almost flattens Mace. She sees me staring, and hoists her middle finger as she roars away in the truck. As she belts away, a few hairbales tumble off the cargo bed onto the track—a consolation prize, at best—and the vehicle vamooses around the corner.


Crêppity!


I fetch a wet cloth from the kitchen and dab Mace’s forehead. He groans and comes around.


'Better check for stowaways next time,’ I say.


‘I got judo-chopped…’ he whispers horsely. 


≈≈≈


‘A hair nanny drove off with the truck,’ I confess.


I wait for the I told you so from Tove, but she just sits on the edge of our bed with her hands in her lap, facing the window. 


I come in and close the door gently in its frame.


‘Mace raided Scanlon’s factory without my permission. You know what he’s like…’


She stares ahead at the bare ash boughs swaying, silhouetted against the overcast sky. 


‘Are you upset that Mace and I have been lifting wigs?’ I ask. ‘I know it’s not ideal, it’s just that, hair takes way too long to grow organically.’


‘Think back for a moment,’ Tove says, ‘why did we move out here?’


‘We wanted to be hairy, live in peace, and be in harmony with nature. I still do—and I know that this is far from that.’


Tove folds her arms. ‘Mace is only interested in one thing—wealth. He doesn’t give a hoot about effecting societal change like you do; his vlog is just a masquerade, an advertisement for his wig deals.’


‘Absolutely. But he’s helped us get to where we are with his sizeable cojones.’


‘You joke, but we can’t keep going on like this. If you really want to make a difference in people’s lives and end the lie they’re living, then you need to target the water board and put a stop to the contamination. The same with food production, too. Whoever controls these controls the populace.’


‘Oh… Yeah… remove the contaminants. Genius. It’s like a coup d’état without all the bloodshed…’


Tove’s diamond-cutting, paradigm-shifting wisdom never fails to register. Her vision of reaching out to other guerrillas with a view to conquering the water pumping stations and food facilities sounds top banana.


I park myself next to her on the edge of the bed and plant a kiss on her forehead. ‘Astute, as ever, my love. That is precisely what we will do…’

February 23, 2023 11:39

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7 comments

Michał Przywara
21:36 Mar 06, 2023

Everything keeps getting bigger, and feels like we're building up to something :) By the end, we have an idea what it might be - a daring raid on food and water - but it seems like the enemy is onto them too. "haircrows" :) "What’s wrong with skimming a bit from the bigwigs" - excellent. Looking forward to seeing how this plays out.

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Jim Firth
19:15 Mar 08, 2023

Cheers, Michał! Thanks for reading. I'm also looking forward to seeing how it plays out, because I've got an ending planned, but it will undoubtedly morph as I write it. The surprises are always the fun bit, aren't they? :)

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Mike Panasitti
00:38 Mar 03, 2023

I still believe that with some thick revision, The Follicle Chronicles could be a stylish longer short story or allegorical novella.

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Jim Firth
16:27 Mar 03, 2023

THICK REVISION. HUHH! Sounds like a job for a REAL MAN. You're absolutely right. I am hoping to get it all whipped into shape/cohesive after finishing up the ten parts and maybe self publishing (I am a total newbie at all that stuff, so it will be a learning experience). I like the sound of it being a novella.

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Wendy Kaminski
23:32 Feb 23, 2023

Hey, I am liking where this is going! You are weaving a pretty good book here, Jim! The humor is icing on the cake, but with their lair now discovered by the nanny, and their blowing out matches while Rome burns, something's gotta give. So many great funnies, though...! - Haircrows LOL!! - These will send the pluckies into a blind rage ... they’ll be counselled out of their prejudices and undergo daily exposure therapy involving being showered with wigs - whooo stop, stop! lolol ≈≈≈ The truth about hair ≈≈≈ - the flowing shortlocks were t...

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Jim Firth
10:25 Feb 24, 2023

Thanks, Wendy :) Burly fascists trapped in ditches being counselled out of hating hair is not something I imagined I'd be writing about when I started, haha. I'm planning for Pt.10 to be the final episode, so I've got four more parts to write, but I'm already thinking of ideas and ways to wrap things up. I'd like to hear your thoughts on that (if you've got the time and inclination) because you really seem to get what TFC is all about. I'll send you an email once I've organised my ideas. Thanks for reading :)

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Wendy Kaminski
15:58 Feb 24, 2023

Oh gosh yes please! I'd love to read it! :)

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