Gina Easton

The December Editor's Pick Writer is Gina Easton

Feel free to email Gina at: gina.grottke@hotmail.co.uk


by Gina Easton

Sunlight filtered through the leaves on the trees, dancing in a dappled pattern on the windows of the bus. Ellie gazed out her window, a tired but contented smile playing about her lips. She stretched her legs in the limited space between her seat and the next, sighing at the ache in her feet. That's what you get for pounding the pavement every day, she thought wryly. She couldn't wait to get home and sink her feet into that foot massage her mother gave her for her birthday. For once, Ellie's mom had given her something she could really use—maybe she’d finally noticed that Ellie never wore the clothes she gave her.

As the bus approached her stop, Ellie stood up from her seat. Her eyes caught the headline of the newspaper of the man in the next aisle. “Scalper Strikes Again” it read. And in smaller print underneath: “Sixth victim slain in bizarre fashion as police search for serial killer.” A picture of the dead woman in happier times was displayed. She was young and pretty, with hair that fell below her shoulders.

The "Scalper" was the talk of the city. Everyone was jumpy, although all the victims were female—young women in their twenties. In each instance, the woman was stabbed and then scalped with careful precision.

The police profilers maintained that some serial killers liked to take away “trophies” from their victims. A most disturbing aspect was that all the victims were murdered in their homes, prompting the authorities to suspect that the killer was somehow known to his victims. Needless to say, many young women were fearful. One of Ellie’s colleagues, a woman named Nora, even went so far as to cut her shoulder-length hair short.

“At least I’m not a potential target for this creep anymore,” Nora said. “He only goes after women with long hair.” She eyed Ellie speculatively.”You might consider that option yourself. That beautiful hair of yours definitely places you at risk, too.”

Ellie simply smiled, shrugging off Nora’s concern. “I’m not going to live in fear. Besides, I can take care of myself. Those self-defense courses I took last year help me feel a lot more secure.”

Now, as she descended the bus, Ellie was conscious of the surreptitiously admiring glances she received. My hair is my biggest asset, Ellie thought. She had an attractive enough face, her features evenly pretty, but otherwise unremarkable. Her hair was the piece-de-resistance, that extra touch that elevated her from ordinary good looks to someone special—someone striking.

She strolled along the sidewalk, her glance drawn like a magnet to her reflection in the windows of the stores she passed. Yes, she’d made the right decision to dye her hair dark this time. She was bored with the blonde, although it definitely suited her. But this new color was exciting, rich and black, gleaming like polished onyx in the clear sunlight. She loved the soft silky feel of her hair as it swung across her waist, gently tickling her wrists like smooth little tongues.

She raised her head to the sun and laughed as she drew a handful of the raven silkiness across her face, breathing in the heady aroma, the beautiful scent, like a powerful intoxicant, more stimulating than any exotic flower or blend of perfume. And it was hers, all hers. She wouldn’t give up her hair for anyone or anything.


Ellie tied the sash of her bathrobe and let her bare feet slip into the soft plush of the carpet. Her toes wiggled luxuriously in the cream-colored carpet as she padded across the bedroom to her vanity bureau. It was evening. Time to brush her hair. She was a firm believer in the ‘one hundred strokes’ ritual, and practiced it religiously every morning and evening.

Her grandmother had taught it to her when she was a little girl. She’d been very close to her grandmother, retaining vivid memories of their times together, living in the same house. Her grandmother had been so proud of Ellie’s hair. Her eyes would light up as she looked at Ellie, and she would tell her she was as beautiful as Rapunzel, the fairy princess.

But that was before her grandmother died, before…

Ellie gripped the edge of the vanity table with both hands until her knuckles grew white. She bit her lip as a single drop of blood swelled and rolled in a ruby trail down her chin. She clenched her eyes shut to stop the burning tears from forming. There was no use in crying. Tears couldn’t change her; nothing could make her the way she was before.

Slowly, trembling a little, her hand reached for her head. She patted the soft hair, stroking it, allowing the silky feel of it to soothe her pain, to erase her dark anxiety. She began quietly humming a lullaby that her grandmother used to sing to her every night. Ellie remembered lying in bed, a cool night breeze ruffling her hair as it lay spread on her pillow like a golden halo and her grandmother’s sweet, shaky voice. Old-lady voice cracking with the weight of age, old-lady hair, once vibrant with youth, now dry and brittle, all the color leached out by the passing of decades.

Ellie felt her grandmother's hair touching her, individual hairs like ancient spiders’ legs tickling her as they fell in an arid prickly storm. Handfuls of hair brushing her eyes and nose and her grandmother’s voice, whispering dusty, sandpaper rustle. “It runs in the family, child. My hair was as beautiful as yours, once. Maybe you’ll be lucky. Maybe it won’t get you.”

But it had gotten her too. And at a much younger age than her grandmother. A rare form of cancer. It was a cancer of the hair follicles called pilomatrixoma.

She opened her eyes, serene once more, and smiled at her image in the mirror. She picked up her hairbrush and ran it in long smooth strokes through her hair. She counted to one hundred and dropped the brush onto the dresser, then turned to survey the wigs on their stands. Her wigs, her prize collection. Each one was an individual to her, precious in its own way, each a unique specimen of superior quality hair, glossy and sleek. She knew hair as well as any furrier knew animal pelts, and in her collection were some of the finest specimens around.

Gingerly, Ellie removed the black wig from her head, wincing as the hair came free. She would give anything to be able to wear the hair all the time, but she could never stand it for more than twelve hours at a time. Her head hurt abominably. It was as if, having once rid itself of its own hair, her head could not tolerate the alien sensation, the pressure of the strands against her scalp. So she had to give it a rest, allow the tumors some breathing space.

She stared at her reflection, her head naked now except for the odd, misshapen lumps which covered it. Some of the lumps were red and angry-looking, others pale, almost translucent. Her lips curled in disgust at the tumors, at the foul-smelling discharge that sometimes erupted and dried, forming crusts over the nodes of hated flesh. She suppressed an urge to slam her fist against the mirror and smash it to pieces. That wouldn't help.

In the beginning, she’d broken enough mirrors to incur a lifetime of bad luck. Chemotherapy and radiation had killed the cancer cells; the illness was in remission, but nothing could make her hair grow again. It made no difference now. The mirror was a true reflection of who she was. A freak.

Ellie’s stare was drawn from her reflection to the wig on the stand before her. The new one. The one with the shimmering sun’s light. She smiled as her hand caressed the long tresses. Then a slight frown crossed her face and she bent forward to sniff the hair. An odor of blood assailed her nostrils, faint but meaty. She peered more closely at the hair. Bits of shredded skin and gore still clung to the hairline in tattered pieces.

Sighing, Ellie picked up the hair and took it to the spare bathroom. Some of the wigs were more easily processed than others. Obviously this one required another treatment. She pulled on the heavy industrial gloves, and kneeling on the floor beside the bathtub, she immersed the hair in the conditioning formula. To be followed by another bath in her own special blend of perfume and oils courtesy of Golden Girl Cosmetics. Ellie watched as bits of clotted blood and mangled tissue broke away from the scalp and dissolved in the solution. She stared for a long time.


“Hi. Come on in. Ellie, isn't it?”'

Ellie smiled and nodded as she followed the woman into the room. Her gaze wandered around the impeccable apartment. It was furnished with exquisite good taste, she noted approvingly, and was a mirror-image of the woman who stood before her.

“Your products sound very interesting,” the woman continued, motioning for Ellie to sit. “I’m not that familiar with Golden Girl Cosmetics, but getting a live, in-person demonstration in my own home is a great idea. So much more appealing to me than merely ordering online and trusting you’ll get something you like.”

The woman had such youthful, beautiful hair. Ellie squirmed in anticipation; her coveted prize just inches away. Her fingers longed to stroke the gleaming, polished surface of that hair, but she restrained herself.

Still, the woman must have noticed something in Ellie’s expression, an intensity; a hunger perhaps. Her eyes locked onto Ellie’s, a puzzled yet curious look in them.

Ellie shrugged and laughed apologetically. “I couldn’t help but admire your hair,” said. “It’s very beautiful.”

The woman flushed with pleasure. “Why, thank you,” she replied. “But you, too, have very nice hair. And an exceptional smile, I might add.” She smiled also. “Well,” she laughed, “I guess if we’ve finished complimenting each other I should look at your samples.”

“Oh, of course,” Ellie responded, a little flustered. However, her momentary discomfort was quickly forgotten as she launched into the familiar sales pitch. The woman was an obliging client, listening attentively, asking questions, trying the various creams and lotions. She even looked with interest at some of the more elegant pieces of costume jewelry.

“These look intriguing.” She picked up a pair of delicate gold-colored earrings. “You know, I have a necklace I might be able to wear with these earrings. I’ve been searching for ages for just the right ones. Hold on a minute while I go get it, will you?”

Ellie smiled politely as the woman rose from her seat and left the room. Her gaze wandered around, admiring the decor. Her attention was captured by a beautiful lacquered box of expensive ebony which rested on the coffee-table in front of her. It was about the size of a large jewelry box, with intricately carved designs swirling through the grain of the wood.

Ellie ran her fingers over the surface. It was cool and smooth, not as smooth as the silky hair she would soon caress, but pleasant enough. A shiver of anticipation ran through her at the thought that she would soon possess her coveted prize. She was acutely aware of the sharp blade that nestled in the bottom of her purse.

Her fingers restlessly played with the gold clasp on the box and before she realized it, she opened the lid and lifted it back.

At first she thought they were dried up rose petals. But the shapes were too irregular. She leaned forward and peered intently, trying to make sense of the objects.

Her eyes widened and another shiver raced through her, this time a thrill of recognition and a deeper chill of identification, like finding a kindred spirit who understood your secret obsession.

She picked up one of the not-rose petals and held it up wonderingly. No doubt about it, it was real. They were all real.

Human lips.

Lips of various sizes and shapes. All distinct and unique. Some with naturally subtle hues, some painted with lipstick. A few, undoubtedly the oldest ones, were nothing more than shriveled buds of tissue. But the majority of them were well-preserved, a shiny lacquer coating leaving them vibrant and somehow still alive. Ellie counted at least a dozen, maybe more.

“I see you’ve found my collection,” a voice whispered in her ear.

Ellie started, but too late, as the finely-honed blade thrust against her throat prevented any further movement. She’d thought her own reflexes were quick, but this woman put her to shame. Her attacker had made no sound as she crept back into the room. She must have taken advantage of Ellie’s captivation with her ‘collection’ to pounce with lightning speed.

Ellie thought fast. She knew she had only seconds to find some way to disarm her assailant. The woman’s arm was strong as a vise around her neck, the knife pressed against the delicate blood vessels of her throat. Ellie understood from the self-defense courses she’d taken that an attack from behind was one of the most difficult to overcome. She decided to try to buy some time by talking to the woman.

“I’m a…” But she got no further as the knife shoved hard against her throat, cutting off her voice and causing her to gag.

I’m a collector too! she screamed in her mind.

Her head was wrenched back with vicious force. Ellie stared at her captor’s face, and even through her upside-down gaze she saw enough to crush the small hope that still lived in her. The woman’s eyes, a cold ice-blue, reflected a passionate, all-consuming hunger. Ellie understood that expression only too well. She’d seen it mirrored from her own eyes in her victim's terrified stares.

The smooth cold edge of the blade scraped across her neck once, twice. An almost loving caress.

“Like I said, you have a lovely smile,” the woman said as she drove the blade home.         

Gina Easton is a writer who has finally decided to pursue a career as an author. After a very rewarding and interesting time in the nursing profession she now wishes to focus on her primary passion, writing. She loves the short-story format, and she’s hoping to publish her first novel (also in the horror genre) in the near future. When not creating plots and characters, she enjoys spending time with her husband, socializing with friends, and watching mystery, horror and sci-fi shows. She adores the macabre, the weird and the magical aspects of life. She currently lives in Toronto, Canada.