When you shave your cat, you make a new cat, a better cat. And when you shave your son, you make a new son who emerges screaming into this world—a hair child made from your son’s hair a more compliant, more loving, less complaining version of your son.

During that first night, the hair child stirs in his sleep. He knows his origin story and it troubles him even during the first night, even more as he grows bigger and stronger. He is afraid of his brother, the human; he is afraid of himself; he is afraid of you. Yet you are lost in the awe you feel for him. He tells you his dreams but they make no sense—low whistles, he says, the curves of cold statues in the darkness, but then, the hair child can only speak in short sentences and he knows very few words so it is possible that he feels more than he can relate. It is also possible that he feels nothing.

You do not give the hair child a name because to name him might encourage him somehow. You do not know what he is capable of, your hair golem.

Your son tells the children at school about his brother who has no name and speaks haltingly like a baby. No one believes him, he says. He is crying at the dinner table saying no one believes him Please let me take him to school, he begs you. You ask the hair child if it wants to go to school with its brother. No, it says. But the hair child, like all children is resistant to change. You think school would do the hair child good, but it is stubborn and it will not go. You say that the matter is settled. The hair child will go to school. The hair child slithers away.

The next morning you find that the hair child has braided itself into a long coil and has wrapped itself around a leg of the dining room table like a python. I won’t be going anywhere today, screams the hair child. You look over and see what it has done. Fine, you say, but if you don’t go, there will be no more dinner and there will be no more talking. Fine, says the hair child, I never liked dinner and I never liked talking

When your son returns from school and finds the hair child silently wrapped around the leg of the dining room table, he begs it to come to school with him the next day. He attempts to appeal to its sense of fraternal obligation. He says that the other children have been making fun of him ever since he mentioned his brother who is made of hair. You can see your son is upset, but you are not talking, and the hair child is not talking. Your son screams, and his scream is like the sound of another hair child being born.

And alone, alone, finally alone the next day, you shave your head, and each of your hairs screams into being; your curling locks squirm across the bathroom floor like worms, each with a mind, each with a body. And you can make more. In a few months or a year, if you need to, you can make more.

Kaj Tanaka is an American fiction writer. His stories have been featured in Longform, selected for Wigleaf’s Best (Very) Short Fictions, and nominated for the Best Small Fictions Anthology and the Pushcart Prize. He is the nonfiction editor for BULL Magazine. He lives in Houston.

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