The Death Dealer Diaries - Science Fiction
October 29, 3077
It was the summer after my mother left me that I came across Zephora's veggie patch. It wasn't much back then. It seemed to be growing more weeds than food, but I was starving and hadn't eaten in days. Before I knew it, I was being hauled by my hair, with a mouth full of fresh carrot, before a woman that looked old enough to be my grandmother. She carried a walking staff as thick as my ankle and had a scowl that said she knew how to use it.
When she asked me what I had to say for myself, I told her the only thing that I could think of; that she needed to plant her carrots deeper. Her two young grandsons, Ephram and Garhet, the ones who had caught me, started snickering. Before I knew it, people hidden in the trees above us were laughing all around. Zephora didn't laugh, but the anger in her eyes faded.
Some days after Zephora took me in, I discovered that not all people in the group were Zephora's own blood kin. Some were like me, nomads that had no blood kin of their own left. Aleena was one of those.
I first met Aleena two days after I was accepted into the camp. I had been taken into Zephora's tent as part of a cleansing ritual, and was sitting alone in cold soapy water when I first saw her. She was being hauled into the tent by a long haired woman I later learned was called, Hashella.
Aleena screamed and fought so ardently with Hashella that I feared for what the long haired woman's intentions were. I slipped out of the small wooden barrel of soapy water and hid naked behind it to watch. Hashella, with her back to me, pulled a pair of long shears from a heavy wood table in the corner. As she yelled at Aleena, she dragged her down over her knee by some pine benches, and began cutting crude gobs of Aleena's hair off. Great tears rolled down Aleena's cheeks. Her pleas for mercy fell without impression upon the long haired woman's willfully deaf ears.
After listening for a time, I began to feel very bad for Aleena. It seemed to me that Hashella was gaining more satisfaction than was rightly just from the situation. It made me angry to watch this long haired woman being so cruel. As quietly as I could, I crept across the room. Hashella, whom was so happily transfixed by the torment she was visiting upon the poor girl, did not see or hear me take the other pair of shears off of the table from behind them. Nor did she feel or hear when I began cutting two feet of her hair off in the exact same ugly fashion as she was visiting upon Aleena.
It was only when Zephora came into the tent to check on me that Hashella found me behind her. However, I did manage to slice off the last strands of her long hair right before her eyes. That was the first and last time I ever heard Zephora laugh, and Hashella cry.
Later, I learned the importance of long hair to the group. Zephora doesn't believe in punishment through pain, she believes in punishment through shame. She once told me, “What makes a stronger memory? The one that lasts but a moment, or the one that lasts a few months or even years?” Her belief is that hair takes longer to grow back than a beating does to be forgotten. Thereby, the longer your hair is, the more respect you have earned from the group over time. A quality that others can use to both give privilege and deny it. Zephora's silver hair flows down to the lower part of her back, as is the same with all the distinguished men and women of the family. This is also possibly why Hashella cried so hard when I sliced all of hers off.
Aleena and I, however, have been closer than sisters ever since that day. Through good times and bad, we've spent the past five summers letting our hair grow shorter and shorter.