The Secret of Kancutu Valley by Sabrina S. and Sean O’Hare
Sally and Shane strolled along the main road through the small village, still giggling over the small jokes they had made regarding the nice bouncy ponytails they had just seen on the equine attendants of the local agricultural show taking place in this sleepy valley miles from the big city. Suddenly Sally slowed them down and exclaimed “There Shane, look, straight ahead!”
He did so and was confronted by a perfect crop. Not a field of wheat as might be expected in this farming community but an almost perfect short haircut that would not look out of place on a sharp, go-ahead businesswoman from the city. In unison they uttered an almost silent “Phwoar!” as they took in the sharply clippered nape which disappeared high up the back of the neck under a cap of smooth, dark layers.
Keen to take in the finer points of the cut Sally encouraged them to walk a little faster and they gradually closed the gap on this elegant woman walking purposefully ahead of them. They smiled knowingly at each other, Shane murmuring, “Recently clippered I think?” with Sally nodding in silent, eager agreement.
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They were snapped out of their study by the woman suddenly stopping, turning around and walking between them with barely a pause as she looked briefly at each of them in turn with her dark, piercing eyes. Had she perhaps heard them? If so, the closeness of their cryptic conversation would hardly be understood by ‘normal’ people. Discussion was momentarily stalled, but with no hesitation in their step they walked on.
“Wow, what did you think? A number 2?” Sally suggested, with an excited air.
“Yeah, at least and certainly much shorter at the hairline. Did you see how beautifully it graduated in?” Shane replied. As he turned towards Sally he was taken aback to see the woman now walking closely behind them! How much of their conversation had she heard? Perhaps all of it, but how much had she understood. Not much surely – after all, ‘normal’ people wouldn’t.
Aware that Sally hadn’t noticed the prey-turned-tracker and unable to say anything, he directed the conversation to a commentary on the charming architecture of the village and the large proportion of small antique and curio shops that lined the streets. However he did notice, out of the corner of his eye, the woman looking straight ahead with those dark eyes of hers. Or, as it seemed, almost staring straight through them – or more specifically through Sally. Indeed, to his practiced eye she could have even been taking in the fine lines of Sally’s neatly cropped head. A recently trimmed short style – rather polite by her standards, but a lovely interim style – while she grew out her layers before deciding on her next exciting change of style. But the woman couldn’t have been looking – ‘normal’ people don’t do that sort of thing.
“Phew, that was close,” he finally said after he saw the woman cross to the other side of the street and disappear from view. “She must have turned around again as soon as she passed. I’m not sure what she heard,” he added in response to Sally’s inquiring look.
They both giggled at this thought. They no longer felt the fear of being ‘found out’ which they experienced in the past when their interest was a lonely, solo pursuit. They were now able to fully enjoy their common interest and feel totally comfortable discussing it between themselves, following their time on the road together. And most importantly having a great deal of fun in the process.
The exciting interlude lifted their mood, for both were conscious that this was the last day of the holiday. After a lovely overnight stop in a small cottage overlooking Kancutu Valley they would soon be starting the long drive back to the city where Shane was due to catch a flight home that evening.
But they were determined to enjoy themselves to the last possible minute and were looking forward to a final pub lunch in the country which, unsurprisingly for them, would certainly be accompanied by a fine bottle of local wine.
Not expecting to see anything other than perhaps a net curtain salon in such a small village they were rather surprised, as they walked back up the other side of the street, to see a large sign and a fashionable style poster proclaiming that a salon called Over The Top Hairdressing would be found in the small parade of shops before them. As one, without even discussing it, they slowed their pace and ambled past the open doorway – there appeared to be no windows to glance through – hoping to view some action.
They both exchanged puzzled looks. From outside, the establishment seemed fairly large but inside they could only see a fairly small, rather dark room. There was no evidence of styling or indeed styling equipment. It appeared more like a comfortably furnished living room with toys scattered over the carpet, a small table near the doorway and a small number of women and children either chatting or playing. It was impossible to make out details as it was just too damn dark in contrast with the bright sun outside, although the shape of a further doorway could just be discerned at the back of the room. If it weren’t for the sign out the front Sally would have sworn it was a child-minding establishment. Their practiced eyes took all this in as they passed. In unison they shrugged and exchanged a few puzzled comments. They hadn’t expected to see much and hence weren’t too disappointed. But it was odd.
Attention was drawn to an extremely fashionable, beautifully cut and extremely short hairstyle on a young woman sipping coffee at a table outside a small cafe just ahead. She appeared to be enjoying the late summer sunshine and staring blankly down the street along which they had just walked. Sally and Shane exchanged a brief smile before returning to the matter in hand with Sally whispering “Nine!”, meaning her haircut rated nine out of ten, and Shane nodding his agreement.
As they slowly passed Shane glanced to one side and was surprised to see the young woman’s head had turned and her gaze was following the two of them. Well, more specifically Sally, and she appeared to be staring quite intently at the back of Sally’s head. She then adjusted her gaze to Shane and they made eye contact – her bright eyes, not unfriendly, were accompanied by an expression that was unfathomable and it was left to Shane to break away from her lingering stare.
“Did you see that, Sally?”
“Yeah, great wasn’t it,” she giggled. “Almost a ten.”
“No, I don’t mean that. She seemed to be staring at your hair. Almost assessing it.”
“Bloody cheek! Normal people don’t do that sort of thing!” After a brief pause, they both exploded into laughter. “And what do you think she gave me? A ten?” she asked.
“Oh, at least a ten. He was such a good stylist,” Shane replied as he surveyed that stylist’s excellent work. And they both looked at each other and burst out laughing once more.
Perhaps in an attempt to calm themselves down they wandered into one of the small antique shops and began to survey the contents – a mixture of the useful, the interesting, and the ‘why would anyone think that anyone would want to buy that’.
“Pssst!” hissed Sally. “Look there, on the shelf beside the desk.”
Shane turned his attention and saw what she did. A set of old-fashioned silver hand-operated hair clippers, shining brightly in the poorly lit shop. Shining all the brighter it seemed because of their mutual interest. Not speaking, they both knew they wanted to touch and examine them but they were under the gaze, just a few feet away, of the shop’s owner sitting at her desk. Of course she expected people to come in, examine her goods and hopefully buy them. But, despite their new-found freedom regarding their common interest, this was a tad uncomfortable and also terribly exciting for them both. What a find!
They mumbled a little to each other, keeping their voices low. They pretended to be interested in other things on the surrounding shelves but their eyes always returned to the gleaming clippers. How much were they, they both wondered but no price was visible unlike most of the other objects in the store which all appeared to have a discreet, sticky label attached. How bloody annoying! If they weren’t too expensive they could simply buy them and examine them at their leisure, although for what purpose neither really knew. It was just an urge deep inside of them – an urge driven by their interest. But neither could quite pluck up the courage to handle them or ask the price in case the owner thought they weren’t ‘normal’.
The woman looked up from behind her desk and caught Shane off guard. She smiled but said nothing and he returned her acknowledgement of their presence but took a small step back under her continued gaze.
Shane clumsily bumped into a bulky object behind him. Initially fearful that his rucksack had precipitated a chain of events similar to that of a bull in a china shop he slowly turned around. And couldn’t believe what he saw as his mouth began to gape open. Standing in the middle of this small shop, indeed occupying much of the spare space and previously unobserved by either of them, was a large and very solid old-fashioned barber’s chair.
The woman had returned her attention to the paperwork on her desk and Shane muttered to Sally to look behind her. She clearly expected to observe the hairstyle of a fellow customer but there was no one else in the shop. Then her mouth also began to open in amazement as she also took in the lines of the remarkable object.
They both studied the chair with a nonchalant air as if it was a Parker-Knoll recliner in a furniture shop but both experiencing the same feelings of wonder as they took in the solid lines of the chair. Its almost clinical white porcelain base. The worn leather on the seat, on each armrest and on the headrest. And the functional handle used to raise and lower the seat. They admired it from every angle for as long as they felt they comfortably could and then, reluctantly, left the little cluttered shop and excitedly discussed its form, its function and musing on its history.
Sally then posed a question that had been nagging at the back of her mind, as it had with Shane. “The shop owner – was that the woman we saw earlier?”
“Do you know, I think it could well have been,” replied Shane. That explained the familiar stare from those dark eyes. “It was dark in there though. I couldn’t actually see her hair in detail… and I didn’t like to stare too hard.” Sally nodded, fully understanding his concern.
Conscious that precious time was passing, they returned to the car empty-handed but terribly excited by what they had seen. Naturally they both observed the woman walking into the newsagent in front of them. She wore a flowing new age dress style dress, bangles and chains galore and the most delightful crewcut. “Ten!”
Sally turned to Shane and, with an almost mischievous smile, she said, “hmmm, there’s something extremely odd about this place… something I rather like actually.”
Shane pondered as he drove Sally’s car out of the village. All those women with short hair – in fact he hadn’t seen a long-haired woman in the entire village – and that shop with not just a pair of old-fashioned hand clippers but also a pristine, antique barber’s chair. What would have happened if he had drawn the shop owner into a conversation? If she had thought he was weird? Nothing! He was flying home tonight and Sally herself had never been to this village before and was a complete stranger there too.
He opened his mouth to suggest they go back, but Sally had been thinking too, and she got in first.
“Shane, let’s go back to that shop. It’s too much of a coincidence. She must be one of us. A fetishist. Let’s have a nice, innocent conversation about an antique chair and see what she says.”
Shane grinned. “Great minds definitely think alike.” He checked the deserted road in the rearview and swung the hatchback around in a cloud of dust. Checking his watch, he estimated that if they were to have a decent lunch and then drive back to the city, they could only afford half an hour more in the village or he was in peril of missing his flight.
“My heart’s thudding,” Sally whispered to him as they got out of the car again in the main street. She took Shane’s hand and found it as nervously clammy as her own.
The woman was deep in conversation with two middle-aged customers as Shane and Sally edged into the little shop once more, their eyes adapting to the darkness there.
The chair sat elegantly on the floor facing them. Sally swung it around gently to check the swivel action still worked, and it was then that she noticed the big red SOLD sticker on its back. “Oh!” she groaned, far more loudly than she’d meant to. “Oh, it’s sold!” The disappointment in her voice brought the shop owner to her side.
“Yes, I’m afraid it is. It’s an unusual piece, isn’t it?”
“Er, yes,” Shane agreed, “I’ve never seen one in an antique shop before.”
“I try to get unusual things in stock,” the owner replied, her dark eyes unfathomable. “I have such a small shop I try to diversify and have different items on show.” She noticed Sally’s eyes travelling the shelves and resting on the hand clippers.
“H-how much did the chair sell for?” Sally asked. “If that’s not a rude question.”
“Six fifty. And that, I understand, is very reasonable. It would cost far more in the city.”
“It’s in such good condition,” Sally agreed, running her hands over the aged but intact leather.
“Sit in it,” suggested the woman. “It’s surprisingly comfortable.”
Shane and Sally thought it a weird suggestion but there was no way they were leaving the shop this very moment. It was a chance to indulge in some personal fantasies.
Sally climbed up, giggling, and the chair let out a fart as she settled onto the cushion. She rested her hands on the armrests and her feet comfortably on the footrest, and it was almost as if the chair moulded itself to her body.
Before he could stop himself Shane grabbed the white painted lever at the side of the chair and pumped it up so Sally was sitting at an appropriate height to get her hair cut. She wasn’t a tall woman and almost looked like a young teenage boy sitting in the chair with her short layered hair. They both forgot where they were.
“Short back and sides, madam?” grinned Shane.
“Oh, I’m game for a flat top,” returned Sally.
A polite cough from the side made Sally blush and Shane release the lever as if it were burning his hand. Sally scrambled from the chair.
“Er,” she began, “Yes, it is very comfy, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it make a very eclectic statement in a living room?”
The woman’s eyebrows ventured skywards. “Well, I suppose it would,” she said in a surprised voice as if she hadn’t thought of it before.
Really, Sally wondered, where else are you going to put an antique barber’s chair if you buy one? Unless you own a salon, then putting it on display and having it as a talking piece in your living room seems obvious. And maybe even more than a talking piece, she thought delightedly, especially if you bought the antique clippers to go with it.
The woman assessed Sally and Shane for a moment. “I may have something else to interest you in the back room if you like the barber’s chair. I did buy some other barbers’ chairs in a job lot but they aren’t in quite such good condition.”
Turning the key in the door behind her and locking a surprised Shane and Sally in the shop, the woman motioned them to follow her out a discreet door behind the cash register which they hadn’t noticed before.
“Curiouser and curiouser,” muttered Sally to Shane. But Alice in Wonderland had only drunk tea with playing cards, not sat in a barber’s chair and suggested a flat top.
The woman led them to a brick paved courtyard and unlocked a door in a building that, if their geography was correct, Sally and Shane interpreted as being part of the peculiar salon they had passed earlier. Their hostess ushered them in ahead of her.
The room was windowless, and rather gloomy, but even in the half light Sally could make out six barbers’ chairs sitting in a row in front of a mirrored wall. Six antique barbers’ chairs, their white porcelain bases catching the little light that there was.
Shane and Sally exchanged glances and, as they did so, heard the key turn in the lock behind them. Sally’s heart began to thud. This had gone from weird to just a little too weird. She squeezed Shane’s hand, and he looked at her with concern.
The woman flicked a switch and the room glowed in a bath of modern downlights, which showed up the imperfections in the leather seats and highlighted a pile of long, cut hair in one corner. Shane’s eyes bulged at the sight of it and he nudged Sally and discreetly pointed it out to her.
Another door to the side opened and the slim, dark woman with the almost-perfect 10 haircut, who’d been sipping coffee earlier, peeked though. Behind her, Sally caught a glimpse of toddlers playing with brightly coloured plastic toys, their short-haired mothers watching with doting smiles.
“Ah, Carmel,” Ms Almost-Perfect Ten said warmly to the woman. “Do I have a customer?”
“I believe you do, Stephanie.” They exchanged glances in a way that made Sally wish she’d never suggested coming back to the village. She had a nasty feeling things were about to get out of control, if they weren’t already.
Stephanie locked the door behind her and pocketed the key. Shane felt strangely powerless. He could probably manhandle her and get the key back if necessary, but he felt hypnotised, as if his own will was not his any more.
“I saw you outside,” she said flatly to her abducted customers. “Carmel heard you, talking about her hair. Yes, her nape is a number two. I cut it for her. Like all the women in the Valley, she likes her hair short. And I saw you looking at my hair too. Like short hair, do you?”
Sally and Shane could only nod dumbly. Shane’s own hair was shorn to a number two at the back and sides, and textured on top.
“So do I,” said Stephanie in a voice of molten honey. “I was born in this Valley. So was Carmel. Every woman born in this Valley grows up to wear her hair short. She wants to. She HAS to. It’s bred in her. You’ll see the teenaged girls here with long hair. On their eighteenth birthday they come to me and I clip it all off.” She pointed to the mound of hair in one corner of the room. “It gives them intense pleasure and gives me intense pleasure also. And I’d say that if I sat you down, lady, and cut your hair a lot shorter than it is right now you’d feel intense pleasure too.”
Sally nodded dumbly. She could hardly breathe. Those words, intense pleasure, coupled with the word haircut, made her heart rate shoot off to the stars. They’d been right… Carmel WAS a fetishist, in fact the town was full of them if Stephanie was to be believed. Sally was suddenly very nervous. Laughing with Shane about haircuts was one thing, having her hair cut by a rampant short hair fetishist was another.
“Try out this chair,” said Stephanie, still with those silken tones in her voice. She swung a chair around and ushered her prey into it. The leather felt cool even through Sally’s jeans, but the chair was comfortable. Stephanie pumped her up until she felt a long way off the ground.
Before she was ready for it, a cape settled around her neck, and her body was covered anonymously by silvery nylon.
“She was joking about a flat top,” supplied Carmel, watching every movement with her almost black eyes.
“Oh, one shouldn’t joke about things so serious,” said Stephanie lightly, but her hands reached for the electric clippers and switched them on.
Shane felt the stirrings of an erection, watching his dear friend sit in the chair with the humming clippers about to shear away her already short hair. Unsure what to do, he sat in the chair next to Sally’s and crossed his legs, unable to take his eyes away from the scene in front of him.
“Head down,” suggested Stephanie, pushing Sally’s head forward and exposing her vulnerable, neatly trimmed nape.
Sally gasped as she felt the clippers slide into her hair and along her skin. There was a guard on them, of that she was certain, but she guessed it wasn’t a big one. Her neck and nape felt cold where Stephanie had nuzzled the blades.
Eyes closed, she submitted herself to her fate. The clippers rode the bump at the back of her head, and when she opened her eyes briefly Sally saw her own blonde locks fall onto her knees as the lady barber buzzed all the way to her crown. Her hair looked very long when it was cut from her head; heaven only knew how much – or little! – was left.
Stephanie steaded Sally’s head straight and began to clip the sides. Sally watched as chunky tufts of her thick fair hair tumbled down, leaving wheat coloured stubble on the sides of her head. Despite her thirty something years, she looked as young as a teenager with her hair shaved to almost nothing. Never before had she dared have her hair clipped so short. Convention and a conservative job had seen polite or messy crops. The feeling of the clipper blades travelling relentlessly through her hair was something Sally had only ever fantasised about.
She watched her fantasy come true, feeling the tickle of the blades around her ears and up the side near her temple. One side of her head was clipped, the other looked ridiculously long with its inch and a half of hair.
Stephanie moved around, buzzing efficiently up the other side. Sally caught Shane’s eye and managed a nervous smile. She was both exhilarated and terrified, not knowing for sure how short her hair was going to be when it was finished.
Shane, meanwhile, was wishing with all his heart he had a camcorder. This was amazing, watching Sally watching her haircut. The expression on her face, the joy, mingled with fear, as the clippers buzzed her neat head. And oh, the sight of that falling hair, and Sally’s shorn scalp. Shane could barely stop himself from walking over to touch Sally’s neck to see if it really DID feel like the velvet it resembled.
“Right,” said Stephanie, “that’s the sides.” She hunted around for a comb.
Sally surveyed herself. The sides were so short she was sure she could barely hold a hair between her thumb and forefinger. In contrast, thick locks of hair still hung beguilingly over her forehead, making the resemblance to a sweet-faced small boy complete.
Stephanie swung the chair so she could work on the top, and Sally could no longer see herself in the mirror. The comb lifted up her thick fringe, and the clippers bit into it. Sally’s forehead felt very naked and her soft fringe landed on her right knee. She felt the comb and clippers move back through her hair, getting closer to the skin the further back they travelled. By the time Stephanie had reached the back of the crown Sally felt almost shaved to the bone.
Still unable to watch, Sally heard the swift snick-snick of scissors as Stephanie gave her the most expert scissor-over-comb all through the top, blending it with the sides. Outrageously tiny clippings floated through the air.
Stephanie swung the chair around and Sally gasped when she saw herself, her hair clipped into a perfect, geometric flat top, not a soft angle in sight. Her sideburns had been trimmed to an evilly sharp point. When she bent her head forward and looked up under her brows, her hair had been clipped so short on top her scalp shone in the lights.
“I haven’t finished yet,” Stephanie said gently, pulling an object out of her pocket.
Shane’s eyes were out on stalks as he recognised a pair of old fashioned silver hand clippers, twin to the pair in Carmel’s shop.
Sally didn’t know what Stephanie was holding, but she let out a delighted, confused, “Ahh,” as the cold steel met the skin low on her neck. Gently, tenderly, the clippers moved up her neck, shaving off all the hairs with a soft click. They felt both warm and cold on her skin, efficient and wonderful. From time to time there was a tug as the clippers caught on a stray longer hair, but it was the nicest neck shaving Sally had ever had.
But it didn’t stop there. She felt the clippers move up into her hair, still reasonably close to her skin. Sally gulped. Was she to be shaved, then?
The comb slid under the clippers half way up Sally’s nape and she realised Stephanie was tapering her cut as close as possible at the hairline. Stubble, Sally thought with a mixture of fear and delight. The slight difference between a clipper shave and razor shave. She succumbed to the feeling with total abandonment, savouring every second of the clippers’ slow, languorous path and Stephanie’s breath warm on her shaven neck.
When Sally finally thought she had no hair on her nape left to cut, and Shane was so aroused he appeared to be in physical pain, Stephanie declared the haircut complete, dusting Sally’s naked neck with a big brush and whisking the cape away.
She showed Sally the back of her head in the inevitable mirror. Sally ran her fingers over the tiny hairs that were all that was left of her polite crop. It was wonderful, and she said so. “I knew you’d enjoy it,” Stephanie said with a secret smile.
Sally stood up. With her boy’s haircut and unisex clothes, she looked every inch an attractive, sexy woman.
“Can you stand?” she said mockingly to Shane.
“If I touch your hair, I don’t think I’ll be able to, no,” Shane grinned.
“How much do I owe you?” Sally asked Stephanie.
“Oh, it’s free,” Stephanie assured her, “It was definitely my pleasure. You’ll be drawn to the Valley forever now. If you don’t move here, I hope you visit often.”
Visit! Shane gulped when he saw the time. It was as if some omnipotent being had pinched a wrinkle in the clock. Sally’s haircut had taken almost an hour. Admittedly an hour he wouldn’t change for anything in the world and he realised he really didn’t care if he missed his flight….
“You’ll miss the flight,” Sally muttered, “You’ll miss the flight.”
Shane shook her. “Sally! Wake up!”
Sunshine streamed though the cottage window and the cows in the field outside chomped noisily on the verdant grass that was a feature of Kancutu Valley.
“What time is it?” yawned Sally. ” And what day? Did you miss your flight?”
“It’s eight o’clock,” replied Shane, amused. “And it’s Friday, and no, I haven’t missed my flight! You must have had one hell of a dream.”
“Oh, I did,” Sally assured him, remembering with a flash the flat top she’d got. Her hands leapt to her head and she discovered that a dream was all it had been. Her hair was still cut in its polite crop. “I’ll tell you over breakfast.”
She did, and Shane enjoyed her description so much he was very glad he was sitting with his lower half hidden by the table.
“We haven’t explored the village yet,” he mused. “Wouldn’t it be funny if we DID see an antique shop with a barber’s chair in it?”
Sally giggled. “Or a pair of hand clippers.” She finished her coffee. “Let’s go exploring, then.”
They packed all their belongings in Sally’s car and decided to explore the village on the way out. Kancutu Valley was known for its historic buildings, most of which were shops, antique and tourist.
Shane pulled the car into the first parking place he could find. It was only when he’d turned the ignition off he realised Sally was very quiet.
She was looking out of the window. Shane had parked in front of an antique store. It was a small shop, but inside, in the dimly lit darkness, they could both make out a familiar looking chair with a white porcelain base and arms, and a footrest that looked tantalisingly inviting.
As one, they got out of the car.