So, on the eve of the election, why not have a fun little story to get people into gear? This is, of course, a work of fiction, despite having a fact or two thrown in. Hope you enjoy it!
The Baldness Cure
John W. Siskar
It screams. The straight razor scrapes along my scalp. A reassuring snick as the strands sever. A small smile as the blade rasps against the skin. Getting rid of the damn thing. I can tell the world.
It would have never gotten to me if I hadn’t been vain in the first place. As my hair began to thin, I told myself, ‘it’s fine.’ I won’t really go bald. Look at my family! All full heads of hair. I won’t be the first.
But I was. As my hair receded over the years, I tried it all. The shampoos they hawk on you. The vitamin supplements. Lasers. Hell, I even tried meditation.
So, as you can imagine, I jumped at the opportunity when, in a chain of click bait articles, I came across a case study in the Big Apple. New Treatment – Hair Implant (blondes only): Just fill out our questionnaire, and be amazed by the results. Participants will receive treatment at no charge. The fine print at the bottom (this is a Clinical Trial, participate at own risk), seemed like every other warning I consistently ignored when it came to medicine. I clicked on the link, filled out the form, and a week later I was in New York.
The doctor’s office, its too bright lights and shiny gadgets a recipe for an epileptic seizure – nothing special. The nurse (blonde and dumpy) and the doctor (blonder and bloated), both friendly and welcoming. They plopped me in a chair. Asked me the normal questions (“Have you ever had…”) and a few minutes later they pulled it out.
It looked almost like a wig, long strands of light blonde hair billowing slightly in the cool air cast from the overhead vent. From the bottom sprouted a forest of nearly invisible black strands.
“So,” the doctor was saying. “It’s a very simple procedure. Almost fully automated. The filaments on the bottom attach to your scalp. They root in the hair follicles. In a matter of minutes, you should have a full head of hair again.”
I wavered for a second, the thought of black threads digging into my head made my stomach turn. But I wanted, needed hair back. I couldn’t even work up the courage to talk to women anymore. I was twenty-six. I was ugly, old, bald. I was an idiot.
I nodded at the doctor. He smiled, his eyes blazing in a triumph I couldn’t comprehend, and even as I started to open my mouth, a million last minute questions to ask, his hands were already lowering the wig onto my head. I screamed. A thousand – a million – needles stabbed into my brain. It was every migraine I had ever had, times ten, the pain of a star crashing into my brain. The world went black.
The razor rasps against my head again. Another handful of hair falls to the floor. The agony of the creature is delicious. I feel the pain just as it does. I shudder in delight. It’s pushing now, grasping, clawing – trying to exert its influence once more. I want to laugh out loud. I do.
I catch an image of myself reflected in one of the windows. I’ve put on weight. I used to be in top physical shape, compensating my lack of hair with muscle. They didn’t give a crap.
They came to Earth with hatred and spite. They found likely targets and then, bam, power and influence. God save you if you were affluent and had thin, unruly blonde hair.
I don’t know why mine didn’t ever get full control. Maybe its personality and mine clashed more than the others. Maybe I was stronger willed. Maybe it was just weak. It doesn’t matter – it may have taken me a decade and a half, but I’d won back my body.
The thing is, it worked both ways. They’d grow themselves into your brain, and you’d become one. Everything it knew, I knew. Everything it felt, I felt. Secrets of interstellar flight? Check. Unified theory? Child’s play. Time travel? Okay, that one they didn’t know. Probably for the best.
They don’t like competition. Humanity, their studies had shown, was on the cusp of some pretty amazing discoveries. We were going to be a threat (in several hundred years, but what’s that to a civilization that learned to stop aging millennia ago?), unless we destroyed ourselves first. They put that chance at about fifty/fifty, given the current state of the world. Not good enough.
I was one of the first. I was just a test, a nobody. They needed to make sure it could be done. Then they started taking politicians, businessmen. Some they managed to get into positions of power, others not so much. But by 2017, they had three high hopes. One of which succeeded beyond all belief.
he first won “politician of the year” in 2007 from the Dutch political press. His Freedom Party grew, and took more seats. His inflammatory hate speech resonated with many. The extreme right grew in power in the Netherlands. He pushed to leave the EU. He lost the election. This time.
Then we come to the mayor of London. He pushed Britain to the leave the EU. He does better than our Dutch friend – Brexit passes. He pushed anti-immigrant, anti-outsider rhetoric. Are we seeing a pattern here?
The last took place in the USA, leader of the free world and all that garbage. He was an outsider, new to politics – the crème de la crème of their plans. He promised to drain the swamps, to make America great again, but again came the anti-immigrant, anti-other policies. He won a victory that confused the world, pushed them away from America. Exactly what they wanted.
Once more I draw the razor across my head. Almost of a third of the parasite is gone now. It screams out – a desperate psychic cry of rage and agony. I’ve been hiding in an old missile silo in the Midwest. It’s tried to call for help before, but this time it was so strong…maybe it made it through the rock and metal? No, not possible. If it could have gotten through, it would have by now.
They had to destroy the world, yes, and what better way than to split the nations apart? One of the first things the American president did was promise a physical border wall with America’s southern neighbor. He said he wouldn’t honor NATO commitments. Insulted allied leaders. Pushing the world apart was a brilliant move by them.
The next part of their plan was buried in a myriad of the president’s other blunders and follies. What would have been a top news story for weeks was barely a blip in the press. It was well known he didn’t believe in climate change, but he took further steps to remove it from all government websites, causing any official record of it to disappear. He ordered the EPA to stop investigating it. He made it clear that jobs were at stake to anyone who opposed him. While the world still laughed at COFEFE. He promised more jobs for coal miners. Promised to step up the use of coal, pump even more CO2 into the air.
With the Paris Agreement not signed, they shouted out their cry of victory. Twenty, thirty years at most and climate change would be irreversible. Humanity would end itself. Oh, there were small pockets of resistance still, a few cities that promised to uphold the agreement anyway, but overall the wealthiest nation in the world smashed the first nail into our collective coffin. If the USA didn’t uphold emissions controls, others would follow. A chain reaction of biblical proportions.
Did I just feel something? A tentative connection? Impossible. Not now. I’m so close. They can’t be coming. Several quick strokes and another third of the creature is gone. I’m bleeding now too, my frantic swiping drawing blood. It drips into the hair on the floor, making a lumpy mess. I feel my grin turn manic. I will be free.
They had the secret to ending climate change once and for all, of course, so I had the secret too. Cold fusion, turning heavy water into clean energy. Extraordinarily high output solar cells. A Dyson sphere, if we survived long enough to build it. The facts stored in my brain, stolen from them, would advance us to the point where it wasn’t centuries before we were a threat, it would put us on equal footing with them in a matter of years.
How quickly would the world unite, too, knowing that an alien race had it in for us? That they wanted to exterminate us? Don’t worry about those pesky little religious differences, a few terrorists blowing up a subway station or two. The real threat of extinction would come from weapons beyond our imagining. They could wipe us out in an instant.
Why hadn’t they, then? Why take this route? Two reasons. First, why destroy a perfectly good world when it would recover from climate change after we were gone? Our loss, their gain. Bastards. The second, a small but vocal minority of their population preaching about the rights of any sentient species in the galaxy. If it looks like we wiped ourselves out, all the better.
The last strands of hair drift to the ground, the last whimpers slowly fading from my mind. There wasn’t much left of a consciousness at that point anyway, just a few shards of an intelligence that had once dominated my own. I let out a sigh. Freedom. Relief. Feeling the muscles in my back loosen for the first time in fifteen years. Climbing back up through the twisted passageways and ladders, I step outside. The sky seems bluer than ever, the air fresher. I take a deep breath—
“United States Secret Service! We are armed.” A voice shouts out.
Why am I still holding the razor, blood dripping, blood on to my hand? My head dripping more. It got the word out. But it doesn’t matter. I just need one person to listen, one person to believe. I can write the science down. Someone will use it. Someone will save us.
“Drop the weapon or we’ll shoot!” That voice again.
I go to drop the razor, but my hand refuses to respond. Confused, I try again. Nothing. What…?
I pat the back of my head with the other hand, feeling my now-smooth scalp. Nothing. It’s gone, this isn’t right. I drop to the back of neck, and there, at the top of my spine. Hair. No! I was free. I wasn’t. It held on.
“No!” I shout, meaning, ‘don’t shoot,’ but my hand raises of its own accord, my right foot taking one step forward. A thunderstorm of shots rings out. I barely feel the thudding impacts as I slip to the ground. A gloating afterimage of a thought seeps into my brain. What is left of the creature slips off my back.
“You must listen,” I try to speak, but it comes out as a gurgle. Blood bubbling from my lips. Blood in my lungs. Can’t. The world. I failed. No, not really. I’m free—