Estimated reading time — 5 minutes
“Did you hear about Sal?”
Jimmy lifted his eyes from his work, looked at George’s reflection and replied, “Sal, no, what’s up with him?” He probably spent more time hovering over people, talking to their reflections in the large mirror on the wall than he did conversing with them face to face. This unique perspective of people in his profession never failed to make him feel more like a fly on the wall than an actual participant in a conversation.
Jimmy looked at people like he did puzzle pieces. Sure, most of them seemed the same or quite similar, but if you picked one piece out of the pile you could see its own unique shape. It amazed him how all these singular pieces somehow managed to fit together. Sure, every now and again you’d have a piece that needed to be pressed into place with a little more force than the others, or a piece that went missing, but no picture was perfect. All the one-on-one conversations he’d had with most of the male inhabitants in town over the past 40-odd years made him feel like a kind of counselor or advisor to the town.
“Oh, you haven’t heard? Sal’s in the hospital, some sort of coma.” George hoped his enthusiasm for delivering this juicy bit of gossip didn’t come off as uncaring.
“Coma? He was just in here last week.” He lowered his scissors, and looked right at George’s reflection with a stunned look on his face. “Come to think of it, he said he had a doctor’s appointment later that day. He wasn’t looking too good either.”
“Yeah, according to Sue the doctors don’t know what’s wrong with him. He just collapsed last night while playing bingo at the church. Oh, and get this; Carl’s son Kevin, the one with the exterminator business, disappeared the other day. Nobody’s seen hide nor hair of him in a few days.”
Jimmy stood there thinking about his conversation with Sal the other day. “Hmm, That seems normal enough to me. Doesn’t Kevin have a girlfriend who lives out of town? He’s probably just shacked up with her.”
“He does, but he’s missed appointments, and nobody has heard from him,” answered George with an air of certainty. He loved to be the guy with all the answers.
Jimmy scratched his head. “You know, now that I think about it; Sal mentioned having Kevin spray his attic last week. Said he had some sort of infestation up there. Get this, according to him his entire attic was covered in some sort of webbing, and it was all squirming with what looked like thin, short strands of string.”
George turned his head to look at Jimmy, his expression a big question mark. “What, like silk worms? I’ve never heard of an infestation like that before.”
Jimmy spun George around in the barber chair and looked straight at him. “Me neither, but that’s what he said; little white strands hanging from webs. It was strange the other day. Sal comes in here for a haircut every two weeks like clockwork. I don’t recall him ever going longer than two weeks without one, but when he came in here the last time he looked like he hadn’t been in the shop in a couple of months. His hair was a lot longer than it should have been and it was stark white.”
George didn’t seem too impressed. “Eh, he’s an old white hair, has been for years.”
“No, his hair used to be gray, there’s a difference. Trust me, I notice these things. Who else but me knows about that dent on the back of your head?”
George defensively reached back and rubbed the back of his head. “Okay, okay, you’re the expert but…”
“And another thing,” Jimmy said, cutting George off. “He had the wildest werewolf ears I’ve ever seen.” Georges puzzled expression beckoned Jimmy to elaborate. “Oh, it’s something my father used to say to customers with hair in or on their ears. Sal never had much ear hair before, but the other day his ears were a damn jungle.” Jimmy decided not to mention that he thought he’d seen some of the werewolf hairs twitching when he was sweeping them up later on. He had blamed it on drinking two more cups of coffee than usual that day.
George settled back in his chair. “Well, it seems to me like we’re carrying on three different conversations here. I don’t see what any of this has to do with Sal being in the hospital. I’m going to check in on him later when I pick up Sue from there.” Jimmy absentmindedly brushed a white hair off of his arm, spun George back around, and returned to the task at hand.
Jimmy didn’t have another customer after George left. He’d had plenty of boring days like today. Waiting for people to drag themselves into the barbershop for a haircut was just part of the job. He tossed back three aspirin, and washed them down with a swig of old, burnt coffee. He decided to go see Sal if he could just get his headache to subside a bit. He’d been feeling it slowly ramping up all day, and now it was making it hard to think straight.
“That’s it!” he said aloud to the empty shop. He was tired and just wanted to go home, and sleep off whatever he was coming down with. He shut off the lights, grabbed his coat, and locked up. As he stepped out of sight of the front display window something about the size of a child’s fist slipped down from the ceiling on a thin strand of filament. It landed on the counter littered with the tools of the barber trade, and swiftly headed towards the back room.
It came across a stray white hair, attached it to a strand of silk hanging from it’s spinneret, and dragged it along behind it as it crawled down the counter to the floor, and entered the back room. It approached a garbage bag laying in front of the back door; easily slit the plastic bag of hair open, and began to emit a shrill sound reminiscent of a whistling kettle. Slowly over the next several minutes little white hairs slipped out of the bag, and slinked towards the source of the noise.
It then attached them one-by-one to the ever lengthening strand of silk trailing behind it. It crawled back to the place in the ceiling it originally came through with its collection of twitching white things in tow, and slipped out of sight. The laden silk strand quickly followed, and vanished into the ceiling as well.
A cargo van was haphazardly parked about ten feet off of an old dirt road in the middle of the forest. Its sides were emblazoned with identical logos that read, “K-Pow Extermination.” A pale skinned man sat stiffly in the front seat. The top of his skull was ripped open like the top of a pan of Jiffy Pop. Chubby, white worms, engorged with brain matter, squirmed inside of the man’s exposed skull. They wiggled here and there all over his lap, and the front seats of the van.
A spider about the size of a baseball sat in the passenger seat. Its silvery sheen gave it an almost mechanical appearance. It had a worm pinned to the seat by its pedipalps. Emaciated little husks of worms lay all around it. The back seat was covered in a glistening, almost translucent pattern of silk. Little white strands were woven into the pattern like some sort of twitching tapestry.