Showering after the win, Joakim Noah enjoyed the feeling of the hot water on his sore body. His uncontrollably curly hair, weighed down by the water, clung to his shoulders. Having such a large volume of hair was a nuisance sometimes, like when it was time to wash it, but other times, it was no problem at all. Back when his ponytail had been longer and bouncier, that had been more work than he really needed, thus, the more conservative man-bun that he currently wore.
Eyes flying open, Joakim looked for the source of the whispers. “That’s not funny, guys!” he yelled, assuming that it was one of his more prank-oriented teammates joking around. “Can’t you let a guy shower in peace?”
Going back to lathering up his body, again, he heard insidious murmurs: “Joakim…Joakim…” The sound was clearer this time, and it seemed to be coming from beneath him. Looking down at the drain, he didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, but it was possible that one of his loser teammates had gone through the effort of putting some kind of audio device in the grate.
As Joakim watched, a few curly, black strands wiggled their way out of the drain. “Whoa, that’s nuts,” he said as even more hairlike objects wormed their way to the shower floor, each of them glistening with wetness. “I must have been playing too hard or something.”
“Don’t you recognize us, Joakim?” came a voice that seemed to be sourced in the mass of black fibers, despite the absence of a mouth or other sound-producing structure.
“Uh, no, I don’t,” Joakim answered.
“We’re your ponytail!” answered the hair, and Joakim could sense a little bit of aggression or malice in its tone.
“Oh, yeah, sorry for cutting you off,” Joakim apologized. “It was too much work to keep you guys clean. But why’d you come all the way to Orlando just to see me?”
There was no answer. Instead, a few of hairs lept up from the floor onto Joakim’s face and neck. “Hey, what…? Get off me!” he yelled, grabbing with his fingers at the sentient hair.
“You killed us…you killed us…” chanted the hair, more and more of them jumping to latch themselves on their former host. “And now…we’ll kill you!”
Joakim could feel the strands tightening around his neck. He again tried to pry off the attacking hair, but soon, his hands and feet were tied by his own traitorous hair. “I’m sorry!” he gasped, rolling around on the cold tiles, water still splashing from the shower head.
The feeling of constriction was growing stronger, and Joakim was finding it difficult to breathe. A large mass of hair had crawled into his mouth, preventing him from making any more noise to alert his teammates. The more he thrashed, the quicker his oxygen supply ran out, and he soon had spots dancing in front of his eyes, and the terrible scene was growing dimmer in his mind. His thoughts were a jumbled panic, struggling to comprehend what was happening to him, yet faced with the undeniable signals from his body that he was being suffocated.
Then, all at once, Joakim knew no more.