When the demonic, high-pitched laughter began to emanate from the walls, Trae Young’s heart sank. This had been happening for months now, but it never got any easier. Each visit from the hair gremlins was a uniquely terrifying experience.
There was no point in running, either to another room or out of his apartment entirely. They would follow him wherever he went, and they were invisible to all but their target, so being in public wouldn’t be of any help. All he could do was sit where he was and try to pretend it wasn’t happening.
The first gremlin had emerged from behind his television. A small being with dark olive-green skin and rows of pointy teeth perpetually on display, it hopped off the TV stand and made its way over to Trae. As it used its painfully-sharp claws crawl up Trae’s leg, another gremlin peeked its head out from on top of the ceiling fan. From this advantageous position, it took a flying leap and landed directly on Trae’s head.
“No…stop…get off…” Trae whimpered, knowing full well that no amount of pleading could put an end to the gremlins’ heinous task. When the gremlin on his head grabbed a sizable chunk of hair and painfully yanked it off, Trae could only muster a feeble “Nooooo…”. More gremlins were coming out from their hiding places, and their laughter had become unbearably loud. Soon they would all take their turn in contributing to Trae’s ever-progressing baldness.
“WHY?” Trae suddenly wailed, overcome with angst at his predicament.
At this question, the activity of the gremlins ceased. They all looked at him with their beady eyes. Eventually, the one that had been scrambling up his torso spoke up. “Our king demands it.” The gremlin’s squeaky voice sounded like it had come straight out of a cartoon.
In normal circumstances, Trae would have scoffed at being told of the existence of a hair gremlin king. But the gremlins were very real, he was sure of it. Vince Carter had even confirmed it to him. So why shouldn’t they have a king? “Well, tell your king that I don’t like having my hair plucked off my head.” He nervously ran his fingers over the newest thin spot as he said this.
“You can come with us to the king’s lair and face his might directly,” said the gremlin. “If you find him in a good mood, you might even leave with some strands of hair remaining on your head.”
“This better not be a trick,” Trae grumbled as he followed the pack of foot-tall gremlins through the dark sewer. He resisted the urge to use the flashlight on his phone for fear of discovering the true nature of the water he was stepping through.
“Silence, human. We are almost there.”
There was a faint light ahead of them, growing brighter as they got closer. Then, they turned a corner, and they were there. The lair of the hair gremlin king.
The gremlins’ incessant laughter, which persisted no matter what mood they seemed to be in, had stopped once they entered the lair. All of them, save the leader who had been speaking to Trae, bowed low to the ground. The king himself was visually similar to his underlings, except slightly taller. He wore a crown made of hair on his head and sat upon a throne also made of hair, the many-colored strands woven into a thick mat. The stone ceiling was held up by pillars made of solid hair.
“Your majesty, this mortal requested an audience with you,” said the leader gremlin, and Trae didn’t feel that it would be wise to bring up the untruthfulness of this statement. He wanted to remain polite to maximize the chance that the hair thefts would stop.
The king regarded Trae for a while before speaking. “It is rare indeed that a human gets to see my hair hall in person. But I can see that you have a much greater prominence in the world of men than the average victim, so I will allow it. What do you want?”
“I want you to stop stealing my hair.”
“Hmmm,” the King replied, furrowing his brow as if the idea of not stealing people’s hair was entirely foreign to him. “I suppose it would be possible, but you would have to give up something of significant value in return.”
“I have lots of money,” Trae supplied hopefully.
The king laughed. “The currency of man holds no value in this realm. Only his hair. But I see that you are about to win the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award; since that is an award very dear to you, that can be the medium of exchange.”
“Wait, I’m going to be rookie of the year?” Trae asked. He had long ago given up hope that he would win it over Luka Doncic.
“Well, not anymore,” replied the king. “We just made a pact. Now we’ll leave your hair alone and you’ll just have to try for the award next year.”
Trae shrugged. He was fine with not winning the award as long as they would leave his hair alone. “Thank you,” he said graciously, before turning to leave. However, as he navigated the sewers, looking for a way back to the surface, he could again hear the echoing sounds of shrill laughter.