It was warm and stuffy in the laundry room, the air ripe with the scent of detergent and fabric softener. Laurie flipped through a book without paying attention. She already regretted putting off laundry until the last-minute. There was a ding. She transferred her clothes from the washer to the dryer and set the dial to forty minutes. The soft clink-clink from the dryer was the only sound in the room. Laurie looked at the clock over the door and groaned. It was nearing midnight and she had morning classes the next day. Never again, she promised herself. Her attention shifted to the book in her hands.
Wind knocked at the tiny window high on the wall above the machines. A storm was brewing. Cold air drifted in through the cracks in the walls dispelling the heat emanating from the dryer. Laurie shivered and hunched into herself to keep warm.
She looked up from her book. It sounded as if someone were coming down the stairs. Perhaps it was the grad student from 3B. Laurie’s spirits rose. She had been meaning to talk to him again. There was the sound of pacing, then all was quiet once more. Something stirred in her mind, a piece of news from the morning paper: released convict, slew of murders, possible curfew. Laurie shifted uncomfortably. The noise was nothing, she thought. She closed her eyes and waited for the dryer to buzz.
Clink-clink, thump, clink-clink, thump.
The sound of footsteps was unmistakable. Laurie hurried to the door and peeked outside. A single light fell on a figure half obscured by shadow. Whoever it was stood silently on the middle of the staircase.
“Hello?” said Laurie. The person did not answer. Laurie searched for the second light switch. She flicked it on. Above her was a large man with rubbery lips stretched in a grin, a pair of sharp scissors clasped in his left hand.
Laurie felt the air being sucked out of the room. She and the man stared at each other for several seconds, then Laurie jumped back into the laundry room just as the man charged at her. She slammed the door shut, but was unable to bar it as it had no lock. The man launched himself against the door and Laurie screamed. She cast her eyes around for a weapon, but there weren’t any. A sob escaped her as the man yelled gibberish and kicked the door. The impact of the kick sent her flying across the room. She crashed against a line of chairs opposite the door, her left elbow connecting with the concrete floor. Pain jolted through the whole left side.
The man marched inside, his rectangular body blocking the only exit. In the seconds it took for the man to lumber over to her, Laurie contemplated her own demise. The realization she would exist no more froze her to the core. The man bent down and grabbed a fistful of her hair. “Such pretty hair.” His sour breath was the last thing she’d know. There was the squeak of the scissors and Laurie felt her head become lighter. Footsteps fell heavy on the concrete and shook the staircase as the man ran off. Laurie let go of the breath she’d been holding. Her hand went to the back of her head. Nearly all of her hair was gone.
“My hair,” shrieked Laurie. “He took my fucking hair.”
The dryer buzzed.