Plucked Hair

When I was in junior high, scary stories were all the rage, and I really enjoyed them as well. I always used to pester one of my cousins on my mum’s side to tell me some scary stories.

My cousin really liked new things. He had long hair with streaks, which wasn’t very common at the time, and he often told me various stories about his many friends as well.

So my cousin secured a job after graduating university, and my grandfather got all excited for him as well. I remember he had long white hair down to about the middle of his back that he tied up. It was a rather strange fashion choice at the time.

My cousin started worked, my grandfather was a fisherman, my grandmother worked in the fields, my aunt also had a job, and my cousin’s sister was still in school, so during the day there was never anybody home, and my number of visits there decreased.

Before long, my cousin contacted me on my pager. “You like scary stories, right? Grandpa heard a scary story from one of his fishing friends, so I’ll tell you about it next time you come over.”

But barely any time had passed before our grandfather passed away, and I completely forgot about hearing the story.

Inside the coffin, our grandfather’s long white hair was nowhere to be seen. It was completely gone and he was bald, like a monk.

I got a cell phone after I started high school, so I started speaking to my cousin over the phone more and more. He worked for a rather large department store, so he always had all sorts of interesting stories to tell me.

When I was in the second grade of high school, I returned home from school one day to find my cousin was over. I hadn’t seen him since the funeral, and he looked even more like a regular businessman. He’d cut his long hair short and dyed it black again.

I thought I could use this opportunity to finally heard the scary story he said he heard from Granpda, but my mother stopped me before I could ask. Later that night he sent me a message saying that next time we could go out to have dinner and he’d tell me then, so I was really looking forward to it.

Yet just a few days later he died. It was a heart attack. It happened suddenly while he was at work, so there was a big fuss over it, but they said it was probably due to stress or something like that.

The department store he worked for sent a large bouquet of flowers for his funeral, and even the individual companies inside the building sent flowers as well. I was proud of my cousin, but at the same time, realising the flowers for for his death made me incredibly sad as well.

His body was to remain in the family home for 49 days with his mother.

At the funeral I got to speaking with one of his colleagues, and he told me a story about my cousin.

“Your cousin really liked scary stories, and this is one of the stories he told me. Apparently he heard it from your grandfather, a story from during the war.

“Apparently there was a man from an affluent, noble family. He was good at sports and ready to fight for his country, but he got tuberculosis and was unable to become a soldier.

“He stayed behind in the village, and the women loathed him because he was sick. In the end, even his friends and girlfriend stayed far, far away from him.

“Angry and annoyed, he wanted to get back at the other villagers, but his illness showed no signs of recovery, and he became weaker and weaker.

“Realising the end was near, he invited his girlfriend into the mountains where he then attacked her. She ran away, but he, too weak to return to the village alone, was forced to stay where he was.

“The next day, his girlfriend grew worried when she realised he hadn’t returned, so she went up the mountain again. When he saw her, he ran after her, screaming about something or other.

“Afraid, the woman ran again, but the man plucked a strand of hair from the back of her head.

“The woman later gave birth to a child, and then died from insanity. And they say that anyone who hears this particular story will be cursed by that man well.

“But that’s not all. The curse is as follows. In your dream, everything will be pitch black. You’ll be in a room, and you have to find the morning light. You might think that you could just sit and wait, but you need to find that light, because in the darkness he will chase you. While you’re running around in the dark, he’ll grab your head and pluck a hair from it. Then, as soon as you find the light, you wake up. At this point, everyone gets scared of having their hair plucked out, so they go and cut it short.”

When I heard his story, I didn’t think much more of it other than “man, things sure must have been scary during the war.” But before long, we returned to his house for the burial of his bones. His mother had cut her hair short.

I haven’t had any dreams. My mother is healthy too. But day by day, her hair is getting whiter. Scared, I contacted my cousin’s colleague again.

“You’ll be fine. I heard that the shrine dealt with that curse, and I haven’t had any dreams either,” he said. But I couldn’t let go of it, and I tried looking into which shrine he spoke of. I was unable to find my grandfather’s friend, the man the story came from, however.

When I spoke to one of my friends at school about it, he said he knew of the story too.

It wasn’t long until the summer holidays. I planned to use that time to visit the shrine. It wasn’t easy getting there (I had no license, so I had to take the train, taxi, and then walk), so it was evening by the time I arrived.

I asked the old guy who looked like a priest about the story, and he chased me out of the shrine with incredible speed. “You’re just here to hear about the rumours, huh? Get outta here!”

In the end, I didn’t get anything out of him, but neither myself nor my friend have had any dreams either.

Still, to the best of my knowledge, only three years have passed since my mother cut her usually long hair short, and that’s still a short amount of time. I’ve tried talking to her about it, fearing she’s in danger, but she won’t listen to me.

I haven’t been able to get in contact with my cousin’s colleague recently either, so all leads have dried up.

When I think about how I might one day have that dream where the man plucks the hair from my head, well…

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