My mom has always been iffy about me going to sleepovers since I was a kid. I’m 20 now, in university, but being a broke college student, still live with my parents who have never neglected to treat me like their little baby. Truth be told, I’m extremely thankful to be so loved by my parents as I infinitely love them back, but at times, it can become suffocating.
I met “Myra” last semester in my junior English class and we hit it off immediately. She was one of those people you instantly connect with and become very good friends with, very fast. She wasn’t native to my city and said she was originally from Chicago. She was beautiful and I thought she was much prettier than I was. But she disagreed, I would sometimes even catch her looking at me with this intensely focused admiration. It really did wonders to my confidence. She was sweet, very intelligent, and we shared similar tastes and hobbies.
I was majoring in kinesiology, and she, in physiology. We both loved parties, dolphins, and Malaysian food. But perhaps the oddest similarity we shared was a strong, and rather secretive, penchant for Barbie dolls. My love for Barbie dolls and their pretty faces had just stuck with me since I was a child, perhaps because I still feel like a kid sometimes. For Myra, she said it was more about the design, “the perfect intricateness of the clothes, the hair and the body parts,” as she described it. It wasn’t long before we made plans to hang out outside of school, and she invited me to a sleepover on the following Saturday and encouraged me to bring all my dolls.
“I can’t wait to meet them!” she said.
I asked my mom if I could go the next day.
“You barely know this girl!” my mom said.
“You’d like her, mom, I invited her to come over next week.”
I was convinced that Myra would become a long-term friend, one that would eventually form a bond with my parents as well. My mom hesitantly agreed to let me go, but insisted I come home immediately come Sunday morning. I nodded.
Saturday couldn’t have come sooner. I packed my four favorite dolls in a duffle bag, and my sleepover gear in another. Myra came and picked me up in a blue Sentra.
As soon as I got in she smiled warmly and offered me some Grey Goose in a water bottle. It was vodka on a Saturday night… I couldn’t say no. I ended up taking a couple of shots shots on an empty stomach, and being the lightweight I am, I quickly reached the intimidating boundary between impeded consciousness and completely blacking out. We got to her place, though I couldn’t exactly pinpoint where we had driven to. I could make out that she lived in a rented, ramshackle house on the outskirts of the city. “It was cheap, and I’m broke,” she laughed.
My vision continued to spin and wobble. She helped me up the splintery front porch and we stepped inside. It was meticulously kept; books, photos, furniture perfectly organized. “Wow, Myra. OCD much?” We both giggled. We made our way into what I think was the living room, and sat down on the musty, cherry brown rug. She brought me some bread and a glass of water to sober up. “Okay are we seriously gonna play with barbies now. I’m pretty fucked up,” I could tell I was slurring.
“Well maybe you shouldn’t have had so much, you idiot. Here, let’s just watch some TV for now, hopefully you’ll sober up soon.” Myra was strangely calm. If I invited a friend over for the night and she was too drunk to function before the night had even begun, I’d be pretty agitated, or at least a bit disappointed.
She put on an episode of Friends. I barely stumbled onto the lime green couch on the side of the room. I remember hearing the clap clap clap clap in the theme song and only staying awake for a couple more minutes after that. I slowly drifted off into darkness…
The next day, I awoke to see that I was no longer on the couch. I was laying on bare, hardwood floor with a thin pillow under my head and a wool blanket sprawled on top of me. I was hungry and exhausted. I looked up to face a single, dim lightbulb at the center of a flaking, grey ceiling and a set of stairs on the other side of the tiny, dark room. I was in a basement. My bag of clothes were beside me, but the bag of barbies was missing. My phone was beside the bag in a pool of sticky red liquid, most likely dead. I hadn’t bothered to bring my charger as I was only staying the night and didn’t care too much about the battery charge. My stiff body ached tremendously. I focused and took in my surroundings before I was blinded by a deafening headache. It didn’t stop after that. Worst hangover ever.
I held my head and felt cloth wrapped around it. “Myra?!” I struggled to call out, my voice dry and raspy. No response. The sides of my head continued to pound with agony. What the fuck happened last night? I crawled to the shiny, metal boiler in the corner of the room to catch a glimpse of what I looked like. My tired eyes sunk into dark circles. My skin was filthy, caked with a sticky grey layer of dirt. The ragged cloth covering most of my head was dark blue, coated with blotches of dried blood. Had I fallen somewhere? “MYRA!?!” I called out again even louder. The thumping inside my head grew stronger. I stumbled up the wooden stairs. All of her books and possessions were gone. The lime green couch and a couple of chairs remained. It’s like she had moved out overnight. She, and every trace of her, was gone.
My money was still in my wallet, so she hadn’t conned me as I had assumed. I gathered my belongings and hurried out of the house. My eyes narrowed. The surge of bright golden sunlight hit me like a truck and I fell to my knees. My headache was unbearable. I don’t know how long I was withering in pain before I finally regained the will to stand back up. I walked over to the narrow dirt road that passed beside the small house. Luck was on my side and I saw a rusted, silver Ford pickup truck hurling dirt behind it, driving towards me. I frantically waved, ignoring the headache, and the truck rolled to a stop. It was an elderly couple. “Hey do you…” the man stopped himself, his eyes lingering on my bandage. “Are you okay?” he asked in a concerned tone.
“To be honest, sir, I have no idea where I am and I need to get home.”
“We’re a long way from the city, sweetheart. Perhaps you’d like to get to a hospital first?” the lady looked worriedly at my head.
All I could think of was my mom. I had never gone to a doctor’s appointment, let alone the hospital without her and wasn’t planning to today.
“No, no, I’m fine. I need to get home…”
“…alright, get in.” The man said hesitantly. I threw my bag inside and we drove away from the mysterious little house.
“Where to?” he asked.
“Sheraden, Pittsburgh, please,” I said, feeling relief wash over me.
I put a hand up to my head. I had no idea what to think. Who was fuck was Myra? Why had she just left me? A medley of sadness, pain and utter confusion consumed me. It felt like I had been gone forever, completely dissociated from the present. The subtle heat of the fall afternoon became magnified through the windows of the old truck. It was probably long past the morning I promised my mom I’d be home.
“Would you mind telling me the time?” I asked.
“It is 2:44PM.” the old lady said cheerily.
“Oh no,” I groaned. “I told my mother I’d be home by Sunday…”
“Sunday? Oh no dear, it’s Wednesday,” she said.
“Wednesday?” I asked. The pain in my head stopped, paralyzed by the immense fear that suddenly engulfed me.
“Yes… October 15th…”
The plans for our sleepover were for the 28th of September. I had been unconscious and inside that house for almost two weeks. God knows what happened in that time.
The pained expression on my face startled the old woman.
“What’s wrong?!” she asked, her voice full of concern. I didn’t want to go into detail.
“It’s just this headache. It hurts so much,” I lied and broke into loud sobs.
“Let me take a look at your head, sweetheart. I was a nurse for 30 years. Jim, turn to the hospital, we’re getting this young lady some help right away.”
“No, really… It’s fine. I just want to go to my mom,” I said.
“Trust me, darling. Your parents will thank us.”
Jim briefly pulled over to let his wife climb into the back with me.
“Okay, let’s see here…”
She raised her trembling, ancient hands to my head and started to unwrap the cloth. I shrieked in anguish. I could feel raw skin ripping off the top of my head. A wound?
“So you don’t remember anything that hap—” she had unwrapped the cloth off only about a quarter of my head before she gasped and recoiled with sheer horror painted across her face.
“W-w-what’s wrong?!” I whimpered.
The lady covered her mouth with her wrinkled hands and pointed at the side of my head. In a state of panic, I pulled myself up to look in the rearview mirror. My exposed head was patterned with streaks of red and pink. A swarm of little ivory maggots feasted on the glistening, raw flesh that burned excruciatingly upon touch. My hair, completely gone. I had been scalped.
I almost fell unconscious from the shock and terror until I noticed a red gash deeper down the side of my head. I struggled to pull the cloth back more… And then I saw it. At that point, the shock of the discovery outweighed my threshold for pain. I had to see the rest to confirm my suspicion. I ripped the rest of the cloth off my head to face reality in full. Hot drips of crimson blood ran down my face, into my mouth, all over my clothes and onto the seat. The lady screamed loud enough that it caused Jim to swerve suddenly and pull over. He, too, looked back and let out a frightful cry.
Myra, that bitch.She’d taken all of my hair, and both of my ears.
The subtle rustling of the maggots continued.