“A Close Shave” by Akosua Brenu.

It had been a long and busy day in town. I was exhausted and eager for some sleep. I was walking alone along the deserted path that went through the thin forest and led to the compound of my single-roomed home. I was deep into the forest, but perhaps only one kilometre from home when it began.

It started quietly, with a gentle breeze simply whistling through the leaves. But almost immediately, stronger winds came rushing through from out of nowhere. The trees began to sway from side to side, and the branches began to look like long extended arms, in the darkness. The leaves shook violently and with a dozen rustling sounds. They looked like they would all together fall off unto the ground. Fireflies blinked in and out of sight with blinding pace, at random spots in the darkness. Crickets chirped out an odd discord. It was as if someone had upset their peaceful gathering. An owl hooted a bit too audibly for comfort and I instinctively picked up my pace. A twig snapped under my feet and I shrieked.

Over and above this cacophony, I heard giggles. They were almost human, but it was hard to tell if it belonged to men or women. It was not a familiar tone. I was not a man who scared easily but I quickly broke into a trot. The sounds around me grew louder. I picked up pace and started to run. I was running, or so I thought. Surprisingly, the flickering neighbourhood lights ahead of me were not getting any larger. I kept running and running and running. But in fact, my feet were glued to the spot where I had first heard the giggles. I was not moving. I was running on the same spot.

The hands were cold. They reeked of dust and dirt. Rough fingers covered my mouth. My shouts were muffled. Then everything began to swirl around me. Everything became silent. Everything became dark.

When I awoke, there were faces and voices towering over me. I made out the familiar faces of my neighbours and friends.

“W-What is this? What am I doing here?” I asked, attempting to rise from the ground and failing.

“We don’t know Mensah. We just found you here, sleeping.”
Afi responded. She had her sleeping baby tied to her back with her waistcloth.

“Maamle thinks you are lucky. She thinks they brought you here,” Afi went on.

Hands reached down to help me stand. I was now on my feet and brushing the dust off my clothes. I was still slightly groggy. “They? Who?” I asked, turning to Maamle. She shook her head and mumbled.

“We don’t know,” Afi replied.

I rejected all escorts and walked home by myself. I locked myself in and walked to the bathroom. I didn’t know who they were. Nobody seemed to know who they were, but they were not invited to my house tonight.

As I poured the pail of cold water over my head, a sharp shriek escaped from my throat. I passed my fingers over my head. My hair was gone. All of it. I was bald. My heart was pounding now. I reached out for other parts of my body. My genitals were safe. There was no pain anywhere else. They had only shaved off my hair.

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