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Not expected by James Archie

The sand and stones bit into my knees as I was forced to the old cement floor now exposed to the outside elements through the leaking rusted roof.

The building smelt unused, damp and forgotten. The weight on my shoulder forced me to grind my knees further into the long forgotten and upswept floor.

It had been a day to escape the rush of work and deadlines. To explore the outdoors and hike the southern ridge. The season was just right allowing me to wear shorts, a light a linen shirt and hiking boots and socks. The backpack was lighter than usual only filled with food, an emergency kit, a hyperthermia blanket.

I had set out early morning when the forest floor was covered with light twirling mist and the owls had hunted one last time before sleep was required.

I felt excited to be free of the city and looked forward to my adventure. My baseball cap concealed my overgrown curly mass of brown hair that only my Mom’s side of the family were lucky to have.

The feeling of fresh air against my face and skin was refreshing and exactly what I needed as I set off on the hiking trail alongside Creek View.

The ripping of my shirt drove me from my daydream as the shirt came free from my back. My hands were numb where robes cut into my skin and reduced blood supply. I kept my eyes to the floor afraid to aggravate my aggressors.

My baseball cap was flung across the room and my hair tugged violently as I tried to evade more pulling.

The sun had been high in the sky when I sat on a rock under some shady trees. The birds were noisy and danced through the undergrowth and up onto the branches of the surrounding trees. My muscles told me I had exercised and had asked for this break. A deep sip of the water from my father’s army issue water bottle cooled my throat and created tingles in my stomach. A noise to my right sent a chill down my spine, I suddenly knew I wasn’t alone. It was a matter of seconds before I lay prostrate on the floor my hands tied behind my back. With no warning I was roughly pulled up and forced to stumble a path through the dense brush.

I found myself alone still kneeling on the floor in what I think was a barn. To nervous to move I hesitantly looked around at the dilapidated walls and roof. A meat hook hung in the middle from the rafters and on one wall I could see the remains of tools and implements.

The door to the back of me banged open and panic rose in my throat. I felt ill and could feel my heartbeat banging in my head. Hand again on my shoulder made sure I couldn’t look back while an old rusty toolbox was placed on the floor near me. The person opened the box and rummaged through its contents. From the corner of my right eye, I say manual clippers and then scissors being pulled out. I knew I was in trouble.

A knee hit my back between my tied arms and I fell on the floor grazing my chin. My hair was grabbed roughly one hand full at a time and the scissors bit deep each time severing chunks of my curly brown hair then dropped on the floor for me to see. The pain of my hair being pulled cracked through my brain. I realised that this was happening to me and I had no control over what was going on. The hacking moved around and over my head the pile buiilding quickly as more handfuls of lengthy hair was thrown on top. The hand reached the hair above my forehead and I saw steel move towards my forehead. The scissors cut against my scalp and cut quickly again.

I know my Mom had loved my hair but not my Dad who had gone bald at 19. His balding further hastened by an induction haircut in boot camp and keeping his head shaved as an officer. All my friends had been envious of my ease to grow my hair and enjoy any hairstyle. My head was now a mismatch of closely cropped and long mishappened pieces of hair.

I was forced to my knees and my head held in a vice grip. The other hand handled the manual clippers with ease and ran them through the long stray hair and short hacked bristles. I felt like a sheep being sheared just as the sheep my uncle sheared on his farm in Australia.

The iron grip pulled my head this way and that allowing the clippers access to my scalp. The coldness of the barn and dampness of the environment seeped into the skin on my head.

Again the toolbox was pulled closer and I saw a cut throat razor moving to my scalp. The scrapping against my skull pulled stray hairs and nicked the skin on my head a number of times. It felt like forever as the blade cruised purposefully and slowly over my head in a short, calculated strokes.

It was suddenly quiet and all I could hear was my breathing and the person behind me. Throughout my captivity there was no communication and no opportunity to see their face.

I woke up next to the rock where I had sat earlier. I felt disorientated and confused. The fear and anxiety gripped me and I reached up to my hair. My cap was on my head, but I could feel the difference and knew that my head had been shaved. I ripped the cap from head and ran my had over my skull. My skull was smooth in places and in parts there were patches of sandpaper. It felt tender to touch where the blade had cut close. I was completely bald and couldn’t believe what I had been through and my new reality. In my daze I noticed a brown paper bag and in it was all my hair. I also noticed my shirt lying next to the bag.

I have no recollection of anything after my time in the barn until I woke up. When I reported the incident at the nearest town I was told by the sheriff I had a vivid imagination but he promised he would look into it.

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