November Flash Fiction Draw: (S)tressed

OK, I’m late getting this posted today, so let’s skip the preamble and get right to it. This month’s prompt was for a fantasy, set on a spaceship, featuring a hairbrush. Fairy tales count as fantasy, right? Well, they do in this case. And if my spaceship from the Explorer Corps seems a little Starfleet-y, you’ll just have to forgive that.

Without further ado…

(S)tressed

It was around the time when the captain woke up with hair down to her feet that she realized something about this star system was not what it seemed.

“What the hell am I supposed to do with all this?” Captain Corona grabbed fistfuls of the wavy blond carpet and shook them at her first officer. Already, she’d tripped over the mane twice; once while getting from her bed to the comm panel and then over to her desk, where she sat rifling through drawers when Commander Rider came in.

“And it was like this when you woke up?” he asked.

She nodded, not looking up from her hunt. “I haven’t had hair past my shoulders since I was sixteen years old. This is ridiculous. Ah.”

The captain held up a pair of scissors. Rider took a step back as she headed to the bathroom. She picked up a hairbrush and ran it through one length of hair before drawing it taut near her shoulder and starting to snip away at it with the scissors. The cast-off strands floated to the floor like corn silk. “It practically strangled me when I tried to get out of bed.”

“Well, that’s not the only strange thing that’s happened, Captain. Some of the crew have been transformed.”

She stopped mid-snip. “Transformed? How?”

“Lieutenant Rhodopis in engineering reported to duty this morning in a white ballgown and glass slippers. Ensign Hood was seen running through the corridor on deck five wearing a red cape and being chased by Crewman Ursa who had apparently turned into a wolf. Security had to restrain him.”

“A wolf? How is that possible? Did you alert sickbay?”

Rider nodded. “He’s there now. According to the doctor, he seems to realize who he is and what’s happened to him. He’s… distressed, to say the least.”

“I don’t blame him. Puts this in perspective.” She held up a hank of severed hair before dropping it to the floor. She’d succeeded in cutting most of it into a ragged bob. She handed the scissors to Rider. “If you wouldn’t mind taking care of the back.”

He looked at the scissors uncertainly. “You sure about this, Captain?”

“Just try not to make it too uneven. Ouch—and maybe don’t pull it quite so taut.”

“Sorry. Lieutenant Commander White had been scanning the entire system for evidence of some kind of energy disturbance that might explain all these transformations.”

She turned to look back at him. “‘Had been’?”

“Hold still. Yes, before he was transformed into a white rabbit. A giant white talking rabbit.”

The captain lifted a hand to her forehead. “You realize what’s happening, don’t you?”

Snip, snip. Rider nodded. “Fairy tales and children’s stories. People are being transformed into characters out of the lore we were taught as kids. Which I guess makes you—”

“Rapunzel, yeah. Did Commander White offer any theories before he went furry?”

“Nothing concrete. Just some elevated background radiation levels in the system, possibly due to solar flare activity.”

“Solar flares,” she muttered. “A thousand light years from Earth and we have to worry about nursery rhymes. They didn’t mention this among the risks when I joined the Explorer Corps.”

Rider handed the scissors back and picked up her brush. He ran the bristles through her hair and frowned. “I don’t think Rollins has to worry about me taking his place as ship’s barber… you’ll probably wish you could wear a hat on duty for a while.”

The captain gathered her hair and swiped it into a ponytail. “Thanks, Commander. I’m just glad to have it out of the way.” She headed for the door. “Now, let’s see if we can figure out what’s going on before the rest of the crew turns into something like the Mad Hatter’s tea party and—what the hell.”

Commander Rider entered the corridor to find the captain standing a few paces ahead, hands grasping her once again floor-length hair.

“You have got to be kidding me with this.”

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