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Since I came here, I have tried to live a retiring life. I have shunned most human company and devoted my consciousness to a serious study of the many beauties of this world, which is in fact still so young and vibrant. But, as I have recounted elsewhere (see "The Human Touch"), in order to do so in the fullest way, I need to fit into your human society and experience something of what it is like to be a mortal in this world. That means earning a living. And I have chosen to make my living by aiding humans in reliving their memories. My client chooses the memory to be re-lived, and I can help him or her re-experience the entire episode, moment by moment, sensation by sensation, as though it were happening for the first time – all for a reasonable fee. In this way, I enjoy a healthy income and learn something about the human experience – but without becoming directly involved in human affairs.

Several years ago, one of my oldest clients came to me. She had already re-lived – with my help – her wedding day, her child’s first birthday, her senior prom – and any number of other mind-numbing mortal endeavors. She was always pleasant and personable, without being nosey or pushy, and I was always glad to see her. On that day, she sat down, and I took her hand in mine to begin the process. Immediately, we were in the middle of a painful memory: I/she was holding a young woman in my/our arms. The girl I held was sobbing hysterically – not speaking a word but just sobbing. I/she tried to hold her tight, but the girl’s shoulders were shaking so violently that it was impossible. I/she could barely hold on. I/she caressed the sobbing girl’s head and felt the soft fur of a short crewcut. The girl had been shorn almost to the skin. I felt an anger building in me – partly my client’s anger and just a bit of my own.

Don’t misunderstand. I had never gotten involved in mortal affairs before my experience with John Brown and his vile habits. I did not want to. Where I come from, the quiet contemplation of the glory of existence itself, of the pure light of the heavens and of the weight of the earth, is enough. But since I left (not "fell") with my compatriots and came here, I have slowly been drawn into the tangled jungle of human emotions and relationships. And I have learned about right and wrong. And what had been done to this girl and her hair was wrong.

We emerged from the memory quickly. My client was looking at me with her clear blue eyes, searching my face for something. Then she spoke: "Despite what you’ve always told me, I think you have been with me in my memories. I think you just experienced that memory too." I was silent. Of course, she was right – I experience every memory along with my client, although I always assure them otherwise. It is a necessary falsehood.

My client continued, still searching my face. "The girl is my sister. She has not spoken in three years, except to… Not since that night." She paused – I think to control her emotions as best she could. "We still don’t know exactly what happened to her. Why her hair had been cut off. She was always very highly strung. That night sent her over the edge." I still remained puzzled by this information. Why was she telling me this? There was an awkward silence between us. "I think maybe you can help us find out what happened that night – so maybe we can help her. Will you do it?"

A direct plea for help. This was new to me. I did not know how to answer at first. I tried to think rationally about it, but before I could form a coherent thought, I heard myself say, "Yes. Let’s go see her now." We left immediately.

The girl was being kept in a private institution (my client’s family was quite well off). She was pretty, petite and now had her hair in a chin-length bob – though rather ragged at the ends. The girl kept playing with her hair, pulling it gently and twirling it in her fingers. My client and I watched her as she sat in the common room, along with a dozen or so other disturbed souls.

"My sister speaks only about every six months or so. It should be any day now, in fact. You can tell by the way she’s playing with her…." My client’s whispering stopped abruptly.

"What does she say?" I asked.

"Wait." My client gripped my arm. "Watch."

The girl got up from where she had been staring out a window. She passed by us without a word or a glimmer of recognition for her sister and walked down the hallway. My client and I followed in silence. The girl turned a corner and disappeared through doorway. When we got to the doorway, we could see the sign posted outside: "Barber Shop." The girl was already seated in the barber’s chair, the cape draped over her. The barber looked to my client, who nodded to him.

"So, Miss, what are we doing today? Trim it up?" the barber asked.

Then, apparently for the first time in months, the girl spoke: "No. I would like a crewcut please. Short and very even. Not longer than 1/8" anywhere and tapered tight. Please."

My client spoke into my ear: "That’s all she says. As soon as her hair gets to be about this length – which is about what it was before the… incident… she gets it buzzed short. Like that night."

As she spoke, I watched the barber adjust a pair of large black electric clippers. When he snapped them on, my client jumped and turned. "I can’t watch her being sheared like this." But the girl in the chair remained impassive and dutifully tipped her head forward. The barber looked uncomfortable, but he still glided the buzzing machine under the bobbed blonde hair and sent a sheaf of it tumbling to the floor by his feet. I could barely see the effect of the first run of the clippers, but the second pass revealed a path of short-buzzed fur. The machine was being run up the back of the girl’s neck, baring her nape. Longer hair on her crown still flopped about. The clippers made quick work of the hair in back. Then the barber moved to clear away the sides of the bob. Lengths of hair dropped from the blades as the girl’s ears appeared, and unshorn hair from the top of her head flopped about. The barber swung the cord of the clippers to one side and raised the blades to the girl’s forehead. He pushed gently into her hairline, and the straight blond hair dropped into the girl’s face and then into her lap. Through it all, she never moved or spoke again. The barber continued running the clippers from forehead to crown, shearing away the fine hair and revealing a very short, even crewcut. The girl looked like a small lost boy sitting in the big chair. The barber finished by returning the machine to the back of the girl’s head and running it up, erasing any cowlick and blending into the shorn hair on her crown. Then he did something with the machine and began shaving into what was left of her hairline at the back. Eventually, I saw that he was cutting the hair in back even shorter, tapering it down to nothing as the girl had requested. He did the same around her ears. Then, a quick finger-full of lather was applied at the neckline, and a straight razor shaved her nape clean. Finally, the barber combed through the short-buzzed hair over and over, evening out any rough spots with his scissors and blending the area between the shaven nape and the clippered hair above. It seemed more for show than anything else – the girl’s hair had been shaved down almost to the scalp by the clippers. There was no room for error.

The barber finally removed the cape and tossed clouds of blond hair onto the floor. The girl stood up and left, without a word or a look behind her. Her clipped-short hair made her large blue eyes seem even larger and less focused on the real world.

"Well, what do you think?" my client asked me. "She does that every six months or so. And that’s the only time she speaks at all." We were standing by the girl as she sat bolt upright in her bed. She seemed oblivious to our presence. I shook my head. I didn’t know what to make of the situation or how I could help the girl. There was no guarantee that I could even access the girl’s recollections at all – much less any memory related to her current condition.

"What is her name?" I asked.

"Maggie. Margaret, actually. But we call her Maggie."

"Maggie," I repeated. Then I laid my fingers gently on Maggie’s right hand and reached into her memory.

Instantly, I was in a huge and beautiful apartment, decorated with impeccable taste and (obviously) lavish expense. This place belonged to someone very rich. There was a man with long hair – he seemed cultured and refined. A gentleman. We laughed together and drank excellent wine. Then, he leaned over and kissed me. I felt the passion rise in the girl. This was new to her, and she was being overwhelmed. The long-haired man kissed and caressed her/me, and then gently led us into his bedroom. He undressed me with soft and skillful hands. He had done this many times before. Then we were on the bed, naked together. I expected him to enter the girl, but instead he said, "Let’s play a game."

I could feel the puzzlement in the girl, but the wine and her desire to please and seem sophisticated answered for her: "Sure," she said.

The long-haired man took one of my arms and tied it to the bedpost with a silk scarf. The care that he took with the knot made it seem like more than a game that we’d be playing. But the girl felt no fear. Then the other arm. Then each leg, until I could not move off the bed at all. The man opened a drawer, and I heard a strange machine-ish sound. It was the hum of an electric hair clipper. He smiled and began trimming the girl’s pubic area, carefully and cleanly. The girl giggled. First the clippers bared sides by the labia and then the more generously haired area above, until there was only the barest stubble left. Then the man stroked me, rasping his hand over the super-sensitive clipped areas. The girl was very excited now and her hips were moving gently beneath the man. He put his hands in my hair and kissed me again, but in the middle of the kiss, I heard the machine sound again and something soft fell in my face. "Wha…", the girl tried to ask. "Shh," the man said. And he turned my head to the right, and I heard the humming machine sound loud in my ear, and more soft stuff rained onto my shoulders. Only then did the girl realize the man was shearing her. "Stop, don’t do that, let me go," she yelled. The man only laughed. "This room is very well sound-proofed. Please scream all you like. It kind of turns me on."

Then, as the girl continued to scream, the man ran the clippers up around the side of the girl’s head. The more she tossed her head about and screamed, the more the man laughed. Clipped hair flew from the girl’s head. Then the man began slapping her and grabbing her hair so he could shave up the back of her neck. The clippers hummed and hummed, and a pile of blonde hair built up in the girl’s lap and on the bed sheets. I could look down and see it covering me. Soon, the girl began to cry and hold still. The man was able to clean up his sloppy shaving, and he clipped clean lines into the girl’s scalp, shaving from forehead back to crown. I could see my/her reflection in a mirror across the room. I/she looked shaved from a distance, but I could feel some short stubbly hair under the man’s hand as he bend my head forward to clean up my/her nape. Finally, the machine sound stopped. The girl was still crying as the man untied the silk bounds. He got up, threw an envelope on the bed and said, "The envelope is for you. Just shut up and take it. You can shower before you leave." But the girl just gathered up her clothing and threw it on as she ran from the apartment. Her hands fumbled on the doorknob as she rushed into the hallway. Then the memory stopped.

So, I thought, this is the episode that she relives as her hair grows back every few months. This is what pushed her over the edge into psychosis. Not the root of all her problems, but the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back – or in this case, a young girl’s hold on reality. Luckily, this was an area I understood. Without the memory of an incident, it is – in the human mind – as though the incident never happened at all. So long as the memory is completely erased and not merely repressed, all experience associated with it vanishes. So I clasped the girl’s hand again, harder this time, and reached deeper into her mind. I broke the memory by main force and felt the power of it drain away. The girl’s body went limp. My client jumped up from where she had been sitting in silence and cried "Maggie!" But I assured her that the reaction was natural (I lied – in truth, I had never done this before) and that we should simply let the girl sleep. I left shortly after that. I did not hear from my client or see her at all. Then, several months later, a knock came at my door. There was a pretty girl standing there with clear eyes and short-cropped hair. It took me a few moments to realize that it was my client’s sister. Her eyes were bright and focused, and she moved with an energy and purpose that she lacked the last time I had seen her. I ushered her in . The girl stepped into my apartment but did not seem to want to sit down. I was about to ask what she wanted, but before I could, she looked me hard in the face with those sharp bright eyes. With her heightened sensitivity and high-strung nature, she might be able to see things or feel things that other mortals could not. I felt the weight of her gaze on me and sensed that she might somehow be piercing the veils with which I surround my real self – that she was seeing me as I look on the other side. She spoke clearly, looking me in the eye: "I know what you are. I know what you can do. Don’t let him do that to another girl. And he will, you know. It’s wrong."

This was not a plea for help. Nor was it spoken as a command. It was simply the verbalization of a moral imperative. And I knew as the girl spoke the words that the words were true and that the binding was on me and that I was trapped again in the human morass of right and wrong and justice and forced order. The girl turned and was about to leave. As she was almost out the door, she turned to me and spoke again. "Thank you," she said. And then she was gone.

I went to the apartment where the girl had been sheared. I knew where it was from the shards of her memory that I had kept. The building was lavish. The man had a great deal of money and power in the human world. As I approached the building, I saw the man himself getting out of a taxi. He was with a girl who had spectacular long blonde hair. She took his arm, and they entered the building together. I knew what was about to happen but was unsure about what to do. He would not hurt the girl physically in any permanent way. Was I justified in interfering?

I walked across the street and stood in an alleyway. Then, I opened my mind’s eye to see what was happening in the man’s apartment. Again, the sweet quiet talk. The good wine. Soft music this time. The inevitable kiss and movement to the bedroom. The silken bonds to immobilize the naked girl. The man knelt by the girl, kissing her lips and running his hands through the thickness of her hair. Then, suddenly, he slapped a piece of duct tape over the girl’s mouth. The girl’s eye’s opened wide in fear. A pair of scissors were in the man’s hand, and he tugged a handful of hair from the front of the girl’s head and cropped it as short as he could. He laid the two-foot long tress on the night table at the bedside and then cut another handful free. The girl’s hair was so thick and long that the missing tresses were impossible to detect. But the third handful – a huge mass of hair in the middle of her crown – was cropped so short that the girl’s scalp was exposed. The man seemed upset with himself at this, and he tossed the shears away. Then the clippers appeared in his hand. The girl went limp – perhaps she had fainted at the sight of the buzzer. The man was able to clipper her scalp carefully, although the shorn locks tumbled so thick about him as he worked that he had to constantly toss hair aside in order to get clear access to the unshorn hair.

With the top of the girl’s head shaved to stubble, the man then cleared off the back of her neck and head. I changed my perspective and saw the hair disappearing in thick strips from the girl’s nape. The blonde fur left behind was short and dense. The girl’s hairline was clearly defined, despite the lightness of her hair. Finally, the machine stopped. The girl had a Marine boot camp buzzcut – only the barest of stubble covered her head but that stubble was thick and dark blonde and cast a shadow over the scalp. The man rubbed his hands over the clipped head, probing the crewcut hair with his fingers and feeling it snap back into place. He pressed his lips against the buzzed head and then caressed it with the side of his face. Then the man disappeared for a second and reappeared with a can of shaving cream in his hand. Then, he seemed to be looking for something. I finally realized that, as prepared as he had been, he had no razors with which to shave the girl’s scalp clean. He stomped about and cursed and then quickly put on some clothes, grabbed his wallet and left the apartment. I saw him exit the building and walk hurriedly down the street. He was going to buy some razors and would not likely be gone long.

I decided to act. It was not an easy decision. On the one hand, I felt no duty to this girl. I was not her guardian angel. She had trusted poorly and had paid the price with her hair. Was this not a form of justice? But, on the other hand….

In fact, there was no logical "other hand". Just the binding that was on me from my making day. I am a guardian. I could not deny it that day or any day since.

I entered the apartment building unseen by any security guard and went up to the man’s apartment. I sensed the girl waking within. So I broke the door silently and hurried to the bedroom. The sheep-sheared girl was bound to the bed as I had seen her in my mind. She screamed into her gag as she saw me enter, but I quieted her and covered her nakedness with a blanket. She seemed too weak to walk, so I grabbed up her clothes and took her in my arms. I kept anyone else from wanting to use the elevator, and I put the girl on her feet as we exited the building. I summoned a cabdriver, and I told him where to take us. (A small dip into the girl’s memory gave me the address.) In the back of the cab, I helped the girl get dressed. By that time she was sobbing and rubbing her close-shorn head, so it took most of the ride for her to get fully dressed. Finally, after she had regained some composure, she looked at me and asked, "Who are you? Why did this happen to me?" By then I knew what I would do. I took the girl’s crewcut head in my hands and said, "I’m your guardian angel, Annie. Please just relax."

The girl closed her eyes, and I began stroking the clippered scalp. At the first pass of my hands, about 1/2" of hair grew under my fingers. By the second and third passes, it was over 2 inches long. I continued to stroke until her hair touched her shoulders – shorter than it had been before she was shorn, but long enough. Then, the girl opened her eyes and touched the restored hair. "I’m dreaming all this, aren’t I? This is a dream." Just then, we arrived at her building. "No," I said, "this is no dream. Please be more careful in the future." Then girl opened the cab door and stuck one foot out. Then she leaned back and kissed me full on the lips. That had never happened to me before outside of a mortal memory. I felt the beauty and brightness of her soul in that kiss, and, only at that moment and for the first time in my long existence, did I understand something of what human love is like and why the binding could be so strong on me. At that moment, I knew I was not done.

I had the cabbie return me to the man’s building. I sensed that he had not yet returned from his errand, so I waited for him. I did not know then what I would do, but I could not allow him to harm another helpless victim. As I waited, the clouds gathered in billows above the street, and the air was filled with the power of a sudden summer afternoon storm. I heard the rumbling of fast-approaching thunder in the distance. That gave me an idea. I simply needed to wait.

Finally, I saw the long-haired man returning, carrying a small brown paper bag. I watched as he broke into a run as the first raindrops fell. I waited for him to cross the street. The timing was perfect. A suitable storm charge was building a few streets away, but I was able to grab it and move it into position. Right as the man reached the middle of the broad quiet street, I eased the charge toward him, and the lightning bolt that had been building within the storm clouds joined it from above. The blast didn’t hit him directly. I placed it about 15 feet to his right. Nor was it a very big bolt as lightning bolts go.

The thunder exploded a few seconds later, shaking the sidewalk. The man was tossed about 20 yards and landed in a greengrocer’s display on the sidewalk. He wasn’t dead. But all his fine long hair was burned away to the scalp and the feeling in his hands and fingers would not return for months. I left as people gathered about his scorched body.

For a little time after, I wondered if I had done right to smite him down in that way. Then I wondered if I should have had the bolt strike him directly and blast his soul. It’s so difficult to know with you humans. Will you remain fixed in your vile and violent ways? Or will you learn and grow? Do you deserve mercy? Or should justice be fierce and fixed? So many questions…

One day, years later, I was riding on the subway. I found myself standing next to the long-haired man, both of us holding the same commuter pole. His hair wasn’t long any more and looked rather thin and fine. I wondered how the years had affected him – how he had been living his life. He looked older and more worn-out than he should have, and he had obviously come down in world. (Riding the subway was far beneath his former lifestyle.) Then I saw him looking towards a woman seated nearby. She had thick blond hair that she kept running her hand through to keep out of her face as she read her magazine. She was wearing a sleeveless dress and the harsh light of the subway car made the fair hair on her arms glow and showed the barest stubble under her arms each time she lifted her hair. I watched his eyes hungrily tracing the outline of her hair, the pupils dilating every time she ran her fingers from front to back, and focusing on the bright arm hair and shaven areas. I think she sensed his hungry gaze and kept her eyes purposely averted.

So I slid my hand down the pole and gently rested it on his. Then I dredged up from his deepest memory the long-buried shock of the lightning strike and cast it into his fore mind. I saw the wince pierce him and his knees buckle for an instant, and he quickly lowered his eyes to the floor of the car.

Some humans never learn.

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