The Invasion

At the pool, I like to hold my breath and submerse myself as long as possible. The lights underwater lights cast thick rays in the thick chlorinated water, making every particle of dead skin and shed hair dance with endearing grace.

One thing you must understand before this story begins is that below the surface lies the loneliest of all places. There is no air, no lasting warmth, no company to be had; and the silence is so… complete.

Down here, near the bottom of the pool, a few strands of stray hair sway gently, ignored by everyone but me. They dance for me. Like so many feathers in the breeze, ever so softly. I’ve become quite proficient at holding my breath as I bear witness to this most unique of spectacles. My heart cannot get its fill of the slow, delicate motions.

And it is loneliness, you must understand, that drove me to pocket a few floating strands of hair. Not some sort of perversion. An empathetic loneliness, it was, that made me smuggle them inside my bathing suit pocket. And there they remained all the way home.

I knew a secret serenity on the bus home. A degree of peace that I could only attribute to the hairs in my pocket. All the eyes that grazed me could never suspect. To them I was but a regular swimmer, heading home.

I’m sure you can imagine my giddy impatience to arrive in the intimacy of my home and unravel my secret parcel. My excitement was such that I barely greeted my wife on the way to the upstairs bathroom. Oh, I’m sure she suspects nothing. I often rush to the washroom after a long bus ride in the cold with wet hair.

Perhaps it was my mistake, to have consumed so much of the emotion in anticipation; or perhaps it was that my expectations were misguided; for I must report the most severe of anti-climax to the whole clandestine affair.

When I retrieved my wet bathing suit from my bag and unfolded it to gain access to the pocket, I could still barely contain myself. It was when I reached a hand in the pocket that the travesty took place. What surfaced was not my secret joy, but indeed the perversion I so feared it to be. I could suddenly not understand the impulse that had come over me. My hand came out as though a plumber’s hand out of a clogged drain; the soggy long hairs sticking to my skin like mud.

And, suddenly, there I stood—I could see it all through the bathroom mirror—holding the dead dangling hair from the tips of my fingers, as far away as possible.

What had I thought would happen? The whole filthy ordeal felt so… predictable, in hindsight. Here I was, thinking I had a special sensitivity towards grace. Noting things others never did. And now… to have effectively murdered grace…

Like a cat, I had tried to preserve the joy of a living mouse by killing it. No. I could not let myself be so easily discouraged. Like my elementary teacher used to say: You are not distracted by the world, the world is just more distracting to you than to most.

Anyway. I am an adult. So I set about resolving this clumsy mess. My first idea was to restore some beauty and life to the clump of damp hair. I felt a killer on the loose. Truly. I felt an embalmer. Trying to simulate life on my lifeless victim. See she’s alright; red powder on the cheeks. She’s just sleeping; combing hair away from her face. Despite my feeling revolted still, I let the tap flow until it was warm, then lathered and rinsed the strands of hair with my wife’s shampoo. Then I lathered and rinsed again. As a woman would, perhaps. As the very woman to whom these belonged would, surely. The fact that the strands were of woman hair was so undeniable that I retired the question deep into a dark corner of my mind. Guarded against any further doubt. Indisputable.

As the clump finally dried under the heat of my wife’s hairdryer, as it acquired colour, volume; it came to bear resemblance to a proper lock of hair. Or perhaps a quarter lock of hair. Similar to one true lovers of old might have given each other upon parting indefinitely.

That night, I kept the lock under my pillow because, well, often the worst idea, turns out to be the best one. Or in my case, the only one. The first. I gave my wife a quick peck on the cheek and turned to the opposite side to shut the light. A far from subtle move, I know, but feigning tiredness is at the heart of every married couple’s arsenal. A small dignity afforded the other from time to time, to ease the day to day of married life.

The next day, at work, with the quarter lock tucked inside my chest pocket, near my heart, I spent my hours trying to muster love. Determined to see my repent fully for my murder of grace. For not only had the hairs looked alive under water, I had also felt love for them. I felt it was now my duty to love the quarter lock of pool hair, as I had then, in order to truly right my wrong.

The whole ordeal began to feel an awful lot like an affair. But my resolve was strong. I dug deep to infuse the woman, whose hair I held in my pocket, with feelings that—I’m ashamed to confess—I burrowed from those which I would otherwise reserve exclusively for my wife. Out of fairness to my wife, I tried to imagine the woman to be as ugly as a chimp, and tried associating feelings of pity-love for her, to lessen the betrayal.

Oh, it was of no use. Maybe the water was right. Maybe I was lonely after all. For, the more I thought of this mystery woman, the more caring and attentive and funny and smart she became.

To make matters worse, at the pool that evening, I found myself looking for her in the crowd of bustling bathers. My hand would come down every so often to caress the lock through my bathing suit pocket. For a while, every new woman I saw was her. And how my heart would leap! None were her, however, for none had long red hair.

To pass the time I dove and took out the lock so as to see it dance a little in the water. Just a little, see? Of course, all the while, I was hoping that I would resurface and find her there. She would have recognised her shade of hair, noticed the care with which I touched it, the way I let it dance freely underwater. And she would instantly understand my heart. I dove and dove uncountable times. Jealously shield my pearl of dancing hair from the covetous eyes of the swimmers above.

Eventually, to my heart-fluttering horror, the woman did manifest herself. From the corner of my eye, I saw a bright yellow swim cap come off, revealing beautiful long red hair. My hand instinctively reached into my pocket, for there was no doubt that this was she. The woman I sought. I swam closer with a racing heart. Panicked, but braver, if only by a small measure.

‘Excuse me…’ I said.

And there I stood staring blindly into the hairy face of a man. My hand immediately went to my mouth, and, out of utmost necessity, I hid the quarter lock there. I flushed to the soles of my feet. Embarrassed, humiliated; but mostly I felt what I felt was a strong, overwhelming nausea.

Before I knew it, before I could stop myself, I began shoving handfuls of his hair into my mouth. Trying to swallow it as deep as possible. I told myself I needed to fill the bottomless hollow that loneliness had carved inside me. After even just the first few mouthfuls, I knew that something was terribly wrong. My skin was turning blue and I felt this terrible heat arising from my chest. And anger. Anger as I could not fathom. There was simply no room for any other emotion within me. And since I could think of nothing to calm this newfound anger, I began clawing ferociously at the man’s face. Fingers and nails. And he at mine. The skin tore away with little resistance, like wet clay. Oh, the relief we felt. The solace we found in reciprocity of burning desires. Underneath the skin, we found this polished layer, hard like the shell of a snail or mollusk, and bright blue.

The invasion has begun. Just as anger had come to fill my soul, now only one thought rang through my mind. The invasion has begun. The invasion has begun. The words echoed through my mind over and over again as we reached our final incarnation. And I—oh, please lord forgive me—I had just helped the blue snail-beings reproduce. I was one of them now. And all for a lock of hair.

In my throat came this rumbling that grew into a roar. All around me, the transformation had begun. Humans shedding their skin to find a bright blue shell underneath. Oh and it was good to be alive! And amongst my brethren. Slowly, ever so slowly, we started to dance. Ever so slowly, and with underwater grace; we danced. We danced. We danced. We danced. Danced like so many delicate strands of pool hair.

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