Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt this week is
Pearl Barley plucked at her hair with a comb. Immediately it began to scream. ‘Yes? What now?’
The quiff she had been trying to control stood erect, quivering with barely suppressed fury. ‘Why do you do that? You know I hate being raked awake.’
Exactly, thought Pearl. It’s the only way to control a double P – a personalised possession – making it suffer too. While a double P was an occupational hazard for an Exorcist like Pearl, most were of a jolly if incorrigibly jokey disposition. Not Pearl’s; hers was from a right moody strand of spectral adhesion.
Pearl dropped her comb in her bag and checked she had everything. Astral charts, suppression potions, her scream capture flask, or ‘wail pail’ as it was known in the trade.
Her hair deliberately flopped over her eyes. ‘What’s on the agenda then?’ It couldn’t sound more bored.
She felt her scalp pull back hard and grabbed her ears to stop it ripping her forehead. ‘Joke. There’s another Corvus Dementicus to capture.’
‘What’s that?’ Her hair parted, a sure sign of interest even if the tone was as flat and lifeless as her fringe.
‘A mad crow possession. We’ve had a rash this month. Bloody annoying.’ Two strands curled round her ears making Pearl squirm. ‘Stop it. You’re tickling.’
‘Surely a crow is easy to exorcise. Though it might be beyond you.’
‘The Deacon wants examples, find out the cause. So we’ve got to catch it first.’
‘Bet I can help.’
Her hair streamed back, before French plaiting itself. ‘Watch and learn, biped.’
The rogue crow in question sat in the lower branches of an old and rather depressed oak, its leaves having not so much fallen as departed for a happier existence rotting into compost.
Pearl’s locks formed an unimpressed beehive. ‘Are you sure this is the one?’
‘We’ll try a nibble test.’ Pearl rummaged in her bag and tossed a crust onto the grass straight where the crow was looking. It followed the crust’s trajectory and sighed when it landed. Then it looked at Pearl and sighed again.
Pearl felt her follicles vibrate. ‘What are you doing? Are you self-scalping?’
‘Don’t be daft. That’s like suicide. No, you’ve proved your point. Now my turn.’
Pearl wished she could see what was happening. Whatever it was it was making a right mess of things. The next thing she knew, her hair was whistling. She looked around quickly, hoping there wasn’t anyone about. This was too much. Her mother had always said her hair was untameable but she’d never had to deal with a coiffured chorus-line.
Then, reluctantly at first the crow hopped along the branch and onto Pearl’s shoulder. Before she had a chance to think the bird had nestled in her hair.
A twittering and a fibberatering broke out, which left Pearl with the distinct impression that her hair had developed an uncontrollable urge to hum the Hallelujah chorus. But when she went to ask her tresses to explain she was shushed and the bird enveloped in yet more strands. Finally a reedy voice said next to her ear. ‘It’s Jackdaw Syndrome. She’s been cursed so she only wants to collect things that sparkle. That’s why she won’t eat that bread. Seems a group of crows were on a hen do, only a group of hens were out for an evening’s crowing in the same Ash wood and, well, one thing led to another and the hens traded a few eggs for a packet of boil-in-a-bag harm-charms. It’ll be okay once it rains. Meantime she’d like to stay in the nest I’ve made, if that’s okay. ‘
Pearl gave it a moment’s thought. The Deacon would be pleased to have an answer. And while her hair might be a wingeing mop of moans, she was useful. ‘Alright.’
‘And about that perm…’