“Welcome to PYT. I’m Sura.”
The purple-haired vixen behind the counter greeted the middle-aged woman who walked through the door. Sura’s voice melded with the door chime, and lingered in a slow fade, like the hum of an old CRT television as the energy fell inward on itself in an ever decreasing circle of light. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve sat there transfixed after a Friday night session of fright night movies, willing away the monsters in your mind by the faint hum and getting lost in the chase of catching that last spark before it was completely gone. Before you had to go to your room where it was dark and your monsters waited under the bed for you.
“Have a seat Sally, and fill out this form. Make sure to answer all the questions, then Ana will come for you.” Sura smiled a crooked smile. “For your appointment, that is.”
Sally took the clipboard and retreated to one of the oversized Baroque style chairs; the one she chose covered in garish pink polka dots against a bright orange background. From the moment she walked in, her brain was in a bit of a fog—as dull as her hair—and it didn’t register at all with her how Sura (did she know her from somewhere?) had known her name when she hadn’t first given it. She tucked a lock of her dishwater blonde hair behind her ear and began filling out her contact information. She felt a little younger already, using the bright rainbow feathered pen.
Sura tapped a manicured fingernail on the counter, and appraised the woman before her. The subtle noise of her tapping was an intended hypnotic, and Sura could sense Sally sinking further into a state of superficial awareness; just slightly buzzed, enough to be unaware of any danger but retaining enough clarity for the ritual. Perfect. She’s perfect, Sura thought; just as I suspected when I invited her. Anahita will be pleased.
PYT wasn’t Sally’s typical hair salon. Typically, she would be greeted upon walking in with a “Welcome back, Mrs. Wiltshire. Can I get you a glass of wine, Mrs. Wiltshire? Just a trim again, Mrs. Wiltshire?” She was sick of it. Sick of the same haircut, the fucking twinsets and ballet flats. Sick of her tired routine. Sick of pandering to her husband’s standards, doing things his way, for him. The way he liked it. All while he lived his life the way he wanted. She was sick of just being Mrs. Wiltshire, mom to the wonder twins and wife to the local hero.
She was ready for a change and what better way to start than by changing her hairstyle. And maybe the color. But to do that she needed someplace…different; a place outside the margins of her normal routine where the weight of her name vanished. PYT was just the place.
From the outside it was a hole in the wall place in an area she never would have considered looking. It wasn’t in a bad part of town, mind you, but considering the eclectic yet trendy furniture paired with—by the looks of it—expensive, strategically placed ethnic interior design elements, it was completely out of place. There was a dry cleaner with neon signs to one side, and a mom & pop hardware store with grimy windows to the other. The street was littered with overflowing trash bins, and reeked of week-old take-out. This place should have been located anywhere but where it was.
When she first decided to look for a new stylist, this salon wasn’t even listed. In fact, it was while she was trying on some red stilettos with spikey studs along the heel Mitch wouldn’t even see her dead in, working up her courage to go as a walk-in to the swanky boutique salon across the street, when she overheard a one sided conversation mentioning PYT. The conversation was hushed, yet just loud enough, almost as if it was directed at her. Apparently, PYT was only open by appointment. Not an appointment one made for oneself though, but one that was made for you; you had to have an invitation. From the salon. What the actual fuck was that about? But the sales girl, who’d been talking on her phone about it, made it sound so alluring and the stylist a miracle-worker, Sally was already coveting an invitation. That was the kind of place that would change her life, she knew it.
After prancing about in a few other pairs, including one covered in crystals—sigh, those red soles—Sally finally decided on a pair of simple black patent Mary Janes. Least those she had enough cash on hand to pay for, without alerting the mister of her impulse buy. She’d barely paid any attention to the staff from the moment she walked in, so she didn’t notice that there was only the one, and she herself had been the only customer. When she was given a business card with her change, she didn’t realize until after she’d left and was stowing the receipt in the back of her wallet, that the card wasn’t from the shoe store. It was from PYT.
Pearlescent in color with a swath of blue running across the midpoint, like a river of water set against a cloud, the card few other adornments in addition to the PYT logo: a date, time, and address. That was almost a month ago and since then, the card and all it’s potential burned through her thoughts…until this morning. This morning she awoke and knew that today was the first day of the rest of her life. She didn’t tell anyone where she was going, or what she was doing. But Sally wasn’t even where she thought she was, because for all intents and purposes, PYT didn’t actually exist; at least not along a normal plane of awareness. PYT simply served as a doorway to a certain otherworldly realm.
To Sally though, here she sat in a chair that taunted her desire for change with a “Bitch, please” attitude, filling out a questionnaire about her hair care routine. What style she was interested in, had she ever dyed her hair. Then there was this one: “What are you hoping to change about yourself?” What kind of question is this for getting a new hairstyle, Sally wondered. Nevertheless, she felt compelled to provide an honest answer. She flicked the feather of her pen absently along her nose and peered at Sura across the way, wondering if she’d notice if she didn’t return the pen—she should have this pen—and started filling in her response.
Mere moments later, a hand appeared in front of her face. It wasn’t offered to her as a normal handshake, but palm down as if the owner was waiting for the top of her hand to be kissed. Sally, for some unknown reason, was about to do just that but before she could, the other hand appeared alongside—this one palm up—offering assistance to help her stand, the outstretched fingertips slightly moving in a come hither fashion. Sally dared look up and was met by what she could only describe as a belly-dancing princess, but in dressed in a simple white sundress, not a gaudy costume.
“Come, Sally. You’re new self awaits.”
“Are you Ana?” Already in thrall, Sally placed her hands in the naturally tanned ones before her, leaving the clipboard of questions behind in the chair.
“I am Anahita.”
To Sally, her voice flowed like warm water across her senses, and the very air around her grew thick like honey. She felt enveloped in a sense of welcome and safety.
Sally was led to another unusual chair for a salon, it looked like leather club chair, just a little higher than normal. Once seated, she faced a large, ornately framed, and obviously very old mirror.
Anahita stood behind Sally, her reflection shimmering like an illusion of an oasis in the desert amidst the mirrors own age lines. Slender fingers began to work through her hair, massaging and scraping her scalp with fingernails, lulling her into closing her eyes. Despite being separated by the low-backed chair, she could feel Anahita’s warmth radiating, seeping into her skin and flowing downward into the rest of her body. There was a hint of spice in the air that wasn’t there before and a metallic tang in her mouth, as if she had accidentally bit her tongue hard enough to cause it to bleed. But she hadn’t, as that was a pain antithesis to the absolute state of bliss in which she was currently reveling. None of her previous hair stylists had hands like this, and she vowed then and there she’d be back to PYT, if for nothing else than a scalp massage.
“Mmmm… Magic fingers.”
The massaging stopped.
“What was that you said, dear one?” The soft, dulcet tone of Anahita’s voice was like a faraway song. So sensual and alluring.
“I said you have magic fingers. I haven’t felt this… this… relaxed and yet, so alive in a very long time.” A tenor of wistfulness in Sally’s voice prompted Anahita to resume her ministrations.
“Tell me of your desire to change your look, Sally. For why do you seek my services?”
Sally closed her eyes once more, not wanting to see how she paled in comparison to the beauty standing behind her. Her head in the sand trick helped ease her self-consciousness, and she easily slipped back under the hypnosis that was Anahita’s magic touch before answering the question.
“I was beautiful once, you know. I was the envy of those who didn’t know me, and adored by those who did. I had handsome boyfriends who treated me like, well, like a princess. I even married one of them. He used to call me dollface.” Sally’s voice took on a wistful tone in remembrance then twisted in on itself, into something more regretful, as she continued. “I married one of them and once the honeymoon was over, things changed. He changed. Little by little, he changed me, and I just let it happen.”
Anahita watched closely as the images from Sally’s memories played across the mirror like flashes from a picture book. Her fingers and the mirror were indeed magic; if Sally opened her eyes, she would only see her reflection and that of Anahita behind her. “Please, continue. Your speaking of how you were changed over time will help guide me to creating your new look. Or perhaps, your old look?”
That comment drew a small smile across Sally’s face, just as images of Sally’s most prideful moments surfaced over her reflection. Moments in time from her glory days, when all her world kneeled at her feet.
“Yes. Yes, I think I would like that. I think that if maybe he saw me as more than what I’ve become, he’ll want me again. I won’t just be the mother to his children. I’ll be Sal again. Not the overlooked girl I was before puberty, and not the insufferable coward I am now. I want to be that person again, the one I once was. The one he proposed to. I wish I’d brought a picture for you.”
“I do not need to see a portrait of how you once were. It is already there, written upon your face as you speak of her, this Sal. She’s coming back to life.” Anahita lengthened her strokes through Sally’s hair and along her hairline to follow the contours of Sally’s face in a soft caress. “Do you trust me to transform you into who you wish to be?”
There was no hesitation in Sally’s answer. Everyone knew all it took was a new hairstyle to change a woman. Sally giggled in delight at the possibilities before her.
“Yes. Yes, I trust you. Transform me. Make me who I once was. But more.”
There was the key and the submission Anahita was waiting for. She smiled a wicked little smile even though Sally couldn’t see it. “Then you must continue telling stories of who you were then, and I will as you say, work magic with my fingers, yes?”
Sally exhaled her last redemptive breath with her answer. “Yes.”
“As you wish.” Anahita’s sweet, unsuspecting smile turned wicked with a slight upturn on one side, and the twinkle in her dark chocolate eyes vanished into oblivion, leaving a dark light of pure obsidian in their stead.
Sally continued to speak of how she once was, of her misspent youth during her college years; the bad decisions and mistreatment of others by her words and actions. Only she didn’t realize how horrible a person she had really been and how much more compassionate she had become after her marriage. She thought the way she once was, was perfect.
She told stories of how she lifted small items from the local corner pharmacy. Pens. Cosmetics. Cards. Gum. Things that could easily be stuffed into the oversized anorak she’d borrowed from whichever unsuspecting guy she was bedding at the time. “No one was ever the wiser.” Sally laughed conspiratorially, like she’d just gotten away with it last night and was confiding in a girlfriend.
More tales flowed easily from her mind, some she’d even forgotten until that very moment. Sleeping around behind her own boyfriends’ backs, with the boyfriends of her friends. Ensuring good grades under—and on—her professors’ desks. But, while the memories played out on Anahita’s mirror, something more sinister than a mere revitalization of Sally’s youth was beginning to happen.
Anahita was preparing to feed and Sally was Anahita’s most delicious sort of meal.
In the distance, Sura began to sing. Soft as a lullaby, her voice allowed Sally to continue in her reverie, yet also continued to dull Sally’s awareness of her surroundings. But this song wasn’t one of peaceful sleep and rest. It was of sacrifice. Sura’s words wove a spell of supplication and prayer. One of reverence to her goddess, Anahita, and also for permission to share in the bounty that would be received from the sacrifice she brought.
Anahita was ancient deity of water, of life and youth, of fertility and vitality. Over the course of her celebrated years upon earth, she grew tired of being bound; of bestowing her gifts upon the unworthy simply because they followed their prayers or made offerings of things she could not eat. They were sheep following rules. Then, there had come a time when those sheep of the world abandoned her, chose to worship a new goddess, or was it a god, she couldn’t remember. That was when she chose to adapt, to make her own rules. She would still willingly bless those who came to her, but it now came with a price. One where Anahita would finally reap all the rewards and give to those demanding peasants exactly what they deserved.
As Sally spoke and Sura sang, Anahita worked her magic, her fingers in constant contact with Sally. She took all she wanted and in return, gave Sally everything she thought she desired.
Sally’s meager sense of humanity was drawn forth and absorbed by Anahita. It wasn’t much, considering who Sally truly was in her soul, but it was enough to begin the process. It never ceased to amaze Anahita how much motherhood—even in those who weren’t so naturally inclined to the position, like Sally—contributed to that sweet essence. Like an appetizer before the feast, just a touch of humanity was all Anahita needed to whet her appetite for more. For the real Sally.
Already visible to Anahita in her mirror was Sally’s transformation. Her hair became lighter and brighter. Her skin, softer and with a youthful glow. And as Sally seemed to grow lighter, Anahita grew darker.
Lines of ancient script haltingly made their way from her fingertips in a swirl of dark colors. Pulsing around her wrists and up her forearms, the thin lines moved slowly, almost if they were weakened from a lack of sustenance.
Sura continued to sing.
Sally continued to blather on about herself.
And Anahita continued to feed.
Once Sally’s true self emerged and began to take shape, the lines inking Anahita’s skin grew bolder in both structure and in their journey across her body. The words of Sura’s prayer song etched across her skin for as long as she siphoned Sally’s soul. Anahita felt so vibrant and her body buzzed with an energy that only comes from this type of meal. Sally’s life force put Anahita on a high to rival that of any designer drug. “Aren’t you a pretty young thing?” She giggled then carefully whispered, “Open those eyes, Sal. See the old you.”
Sally’s eyes flickered open tentatively and she looked upon the reflection Anahita’s mirror provided. She gasped in amazement, not expecting such a drastic change to her old self. She turned her head back and forth, and leaned forward for a closer look in the mirror.
Sally had indeed become who she once was: a vapid, narcissistic shell of an excuse for a human being. The sharpness of her hateful words evident in her slim jawline and cupid’s bow lips. Her judgmental gaze glinted from ice blue eyes. Her skin was flawless. Her hair bouncy, and her teeth whiter. All so that she could feel more powerful and above those who didn’t possess such beauty. She smiled and let out a gleeful laugh.
“Oh Ana! How did you do it?” Sally gushed and fawned over herself. “No, don’t tell me. I don’t need to know. You are a miracle worker!” She flicked her hand in Sura’s direction, who was still singing, although more softly now. “Hon, put me down for next month! I’m definitely coming back.” She made to glance behind her to catch Anahita’s eye, but didn’t as she couldn’t tear her gaze from herself, “How much do I owe you?”
Sally couldn’t see her true reflection, only what the enchanted mirror wanted her to see, but Anahita obviously could and she smiled at her work. Leaning forward slightly to whisper to Sally, “Oh sweet child. You’ve paid me handsomely already.” And with that, she blew a short, powerful breath, snuffing out Sally’s existence like a candle, and leaving her as nothing more than a pile of dust in the salon chair.
“Sura, my sweet. Close the doorway and,” Anahita glanced at Sally’s remains on her way to the back, “put out the trash. Then come to bed, we have much to celebrate.” With one foot on the stairs leading up to their chambers, Anahita turned to look at her one true supplicant, and grinned salaciously, “and I would like very much to show my gratitude for your delicious gift.”
Sura drew the veil across the doorway and took the mini-vac from under the vanity, “As you wish, my goddess. As you wish.”
~c. 2015 Deidre Meyrick
Sidenote: Anahita is the name of an old Persian goddess of fertility and water.
This wasn’t my typical writing sphere, but the idea for a soul-sucking goddess who delighted in giving just desserts to the wicked stuck with me until I wrote it. I hope you enjoyed it, at least a little. 😉 Please be sure to let me know what you think!