Fiction · 09/30/2020

Beanstalk Girl

A wild strand of hair sprouts from Erin’s head, aiming vertically but with a sharp kink, as though it suddenly changed its mind. She attempts to brush it down, wetting it even in the bathroom at work, but it continues to spring back and point upwards. In meetings, she notices colleagues’ eyes navigating above her head, curiously surveying the rogue stem. It has grown, she is sure, in the last few hours.

When she gets home, the first thing her girlfriend does is try to flatten it down, asking, What’s wrong with your hair?

I don’t know. Should we order Chinese tonight?

Why won’t it stay down? What if you straighten it?

Can we forget about it until tomorrow?

The next day even more hair has levitated upwards. More than simply a windswept look, it has become a problem. Erin tries straightening, curling, gelling, and pinning. She yowls in pain as her girlfriend scrapes it all back into an excruciating ponytail, only for the determined shoot to spring back to attention; her girlfriend’s face turns purple in frustration at its lack of compliance. In the end, Erin just shrugs and grabs her tiny backpack, catching the train to work and ignoring the bemused looks from strangers and the pack of school uniform-clad children who point and squawk. By the time she’s arrived, running ten minutes late, she has to crouch to fit through the revolving door.

Erin’s manager, a pinwheel of a man with a ball bearing head, calls her into his office to discuss her new “style choices.” As she explains through reddening cheeks her morning of trying to tame this new appendage, it continues to elongate, now brushing the ceiling tiles. She is ejected from the room, told to come back tomorrow once she’s restored her usual composure. Erin hurries out of the office, bending over and backing out in order to fit through doors. At least the hair is somewhat flexible, but still cumbersome enough to require her to crawl down the stairs backwards.

She bursts onto the street below and feels her hair, her open sighs, the whirling sky above her, all joining together and curling into a single vine that climbs above the offices she’s been dragging herself to every day for over a year. So high, you could see her home from the top and look through the windows to an accumulation of twenty-seven years on this earth.

Tentatively, Erin reaches up and takes hold of the stalk, giving it an inquisitive tug. She feels herself rising easily, seemingly weightless. Hand over hand, she climbs a rope of her own making, rising over the buildings, over her life before. Pedestrians below shield their eyes from the sun as they look up to see a girl disappearing into the clouds.

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Charlotte Fong is training to become an English Teacher, whilst experimenting with writing poetry, flash fiction, and short stories. She has recently been longlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Prize and had poetry featured in Young Ravens Literary Review. She lives in Lancaster, UK with her husband and an overflow of books.