by Courtney Kaericher
It was dead.
Typical Tuesday night.
“You’re okay closing, Jenna?” Christy dug in her purse, unconcerned about my pending hours of
“Don’t make New Guy wait!” I grabbed a broom and flashed a fake smile.
She jangled her keys. “You’re the best, girl!”
Best salon bitch ever. It was the only available option for a chem major scraping for grad school.
“I’ll lock up behind me!” Her blonde bob bounced through the door.
Seattle’s autumn wind rushed in and made me sweep faster to get my blood flowing. I looked in the mirror and plucked fresh cuts of hair from my sweater before they dug into my skin.
If Christy attracted flavors-of-the-week, I attracted the living dead. My reflection was lifeless. Ashy hair, sallow skin. Studying and sun didn’t mix. I breathed and reminded myself that by this time next year, I’d be a tan grad student in Hawai‘i.
I felt revived just thinking about it and turned to empty the dust pan into the trash.
It crashed to the floor when I saw him in front of me. I hadn’t even heard the door chime. Had he entered when Christy walked out?
“W-we’re closed. No walk-ins.”
He stared through me.
My goosebumps were not from the cold. Dirt-gray skin, red-rimmed eyes, hair the color and consistency of petroleum. I wanted to run into a hazmat suit.
He gargled a request.
“Did you say Chemical Blowout?” He nodded.
Maybe he’d consider a bleach bath instead.
I wouldn’t finish until ten but the commission was too good to pass-up.
“Uh, okay. Please have a seat.”
He shuffled to the styling chair.
I grabbed the solution from the station’s cabinet and gagged at the stench of formaldehyde.
He spun around and swiped it from my hands. It was instantly clear that he hadn’t intended the treatment for his hair.
Because he chugged it. All of it. Gone.
He hurled the empty bottle across the room and rose, head cocked. A pleasured smile spread his chemically-burned lips.
I sprinted for the door but slipped on wet footprints.
Except, it wasn’t raining. And water isn’t red.
I lifted my head and saw Christy, sprawled outside the window, her white coat soaked with blood.
His hand muffled my screams. I bit his finger, it fell to the ground. He didn’t notice. I clawed his arms, he pried back my head. Chunks of gooey flesh gave way beneath my nails. He didn’t flinch.
I could only clench my eyes through the pain and picture Honolulu, knowing all too well that the wet warmth flowing down my face had nothing to do with the Pacific Ocean.