by Amaya Koss

We are both born with brown hair. Yours is light and mousey and mine is dark and ashen. The future is tapping on my window at 2am, her crooked finger curling up like a shrimp tail. She beckons me to come out and play in the knee high bramble. I do. I light miniature forest fires. The coyotes snap their beartrap jaws from inside the brush. They wear their coats in stone, like statues. 

I strip the color from your virgin hair. I am gentle. We sit on the bed in the garden of your white canopy and try to keep the dye off the sheets. Your hair sheds the brown shyly, an amateur. Your hair is orange, like the glint of coyote eyes from the fire. The pile of sticks I gathered, that I dusted the algae and insects from, shrivel up into embers, all orange. The future glows orange like a burning reflection. Like a portrait in a house that burns down. 

You strip the color from my hair. My shoulders burn from chemical bloodshed. Crescent welts inflate on my scalp where your nails dig. First it itches, then it burns. We are in my bedroom with the overhead bulb blown out and the only light is cast from the closet. Yellow. I sit on a secondhand chair in front of a spotlight. It’s dark out. You tug my hair and interrogate me. The light is the sun seen through the surface of water. Distorted. The brown disappears from my hair. I think about matter. I think about how nothing is created or destroyed, only changed. My hair comes out yellow. 

The first time you try to dye your hair pink, the dye does nothing. It slips down the drain, stains the sewer marrow like blush, like my fingers when we sit and complain about the mess and the dye that turned everything but your hair pink. We’ve put off the future just a little bit longer.

I dye my hair black, like a glossy marble. Like the eyes embedded in your stuffed animals, watching us from their net hammock. They stare at the granite stains on my neck and shoulders, where sopping hair clings to my skin. I absorb the industrial incense. I allocate my trauma to stages I can define visually. I address my changes in the mirror, ignore the changes in my limbic system. The past is a poltergeist of dust-ridden stuffed animals who haven’t been held in years but are suspended in time, toy purgatory, and kept from dying. 

You force the past to watch you change, watch you laugh at the suffering that comes at you in tidal waves. Your hair is pink when you start to hate me. My hair is blonde when I start to hate you. The past is an army behind you in our standoff. The future stands like a reaper in my corner. She’s tapping on my window, a ticking I can barely hear over your screaming. Pink, like cotton candy. The past is a spectrum of beautiful colors. It beckons me. I think about it. I dye my hair red. You lose it. You ask what’s changed. You say I only change my hair when I’ve changed. You yell because I’ve covered you up. Red strikes the walls the moment I sever you like a gangrenous limb. An aortal pattern of your misery strikes me verbally. I rest my palms on the trees outside and wish they were the parasitic wilderness of my childhood. I want to build a fire, sterilize myself inside it. I am a sword under the blacksmith's hammer, red and weak and ready to be sculpted and to be stronger.

I see you at a crossroad, when the light is red. Your hair is green, like the bulbous mold parasites on the tin roof of that random house you sent me a picture of. It is a scruff of algae in the sea. I feel it from across the street, slipping between my toes. The kelp residing in the tides to remind me of all the suffering I have survived. The grass is green on this side of suffering. I water it daily with the techniques I learned in therapy. The future and I are green with envy for the ease of how things used to be but old and wise with understanding. We accept that the past is most precious when it’s allowed to be a memory.

I see you at that crossroad frequently. You dye your hair black. I’ve never seen it so accurate. A shadow that is cast behind me. I only recognize you by your monstrous shape. You inhabit the monster beneath my bed, in the closet, between the tall trees in my yard. You dissolve into an outline. Something left behind in the back of my eyelids. A shape. A singe. A stain on my shoulders. A snapping sound. 

My hair is red. 

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Amaya L. Koss is a speculative fiction and nonfiction writer. Her work revolves around the bizarre nature of human emotion and strives to tell a story that is both absurd and relatable. Amaya is the former editor in chief of Santa Fe University of Art and Design’s literary magazine Glyph and she has been published in Capricious Magazine, Welcome to the Future Anthology, and Concis Magazine.