Island of Hair by Nathan Leslie
On the Island of hair—or the Hairy Island as it is otherwise known—visitors find their hair follicles unusually active. Hair sprouts from areas usually devoid of hair. Hair already in place grows with rapid force. Scientists on Loaf Island have studied this phenomenon, and though they know of its existence, they do not understand the cause.
The Island of Hair is also called such as a result of the hair-like vines that droop from trees, bushes, houses, and anything ascending into the sky. These vines are called Phosi and though they look somewhat like Spanish moss, they are closer in species to Kudzu. Phosi droops everywhere on the island, often snagging birds, bats, and large insects with its hairy expanse.
Few residents live on the Island of Hair for obvious hygiene and comfort issues. Those who do either shave twice a day or simply let the hair take over and revert to a kind of wooly Neanderthal state. For some, more hair is a comfort—as if they enjoy being wrapped in additional layers, a kind of follicle safety blanket.
Rycha Zyrobi attempted to live on the island while maintaining normal hair follicle growth. She did this by encapsulating herself within a house made entirely of glass, believing that something about the humid air was the root of the problem. Though it did seem to her neighbors—also Loaf Island emigres—that Rycha’s hair growth was slower than others living on the island, after several weeks, she too was still wrapped in hair.
But Rycha was not satisfied. She wanted to see what would happen if she returned to Loaf Island. Would the hair remain or would it dissolve, a mere memory? She canoed the ten miles back to Loaf Island and even in the boat she knew what the answer would be, as her layer of hair began growing brittle and falling off. By the time she reached Loaf Island, her hair had sloughed off entirely.
Scientists took Rycha Zyrobi into the laboratory in the city and analyzed her skin, her metabolism, her heart rate, her blood pressure. Nothing about Rycha’s body seemed abnormal in any way. When Rycha reclined on the examination table she closed her eyes and thought of the Island of Hair, to which she had become quite partial and to which she would return. She loved its raggedy character, its lack of pretense (the city on the other hand….), and its quaint edge-of-the-worldliness. The sky seemed bluer there. The wind seemed balmier, devoid of evil spirits.
Home, she thought. Home sweet home.
Nathan Leslie’s eleven books of fiction include Three Men, Root and Shoot, Sibs and Drivers, among others. His latest books are The Invisible Hand (Hamilton Stone Editions) and the forthcoming A Fly in the Ointment (Apprentice House). He is also the author of The Tall Tale of Tommy Twice, a novel, and the poetry collection Night Sweat. His work has appeared in hundreds of literary magazines including Boulevard, Shenandoah, North American Review, Hotel Amerika, and Cimarron Review. Leslie was series editor for Best of the Web anthology 2008 and 2009 (Dzanc Books) and edited fiction for Pedestal Magazine for many years. He currently serves as the series editor for Best Small Fictions and edits Maryland Literary Review, which he founded.