by Brian K. Asbury
“Hawkman?” I breathed. Well, of course it was Hawkman. How many men with wings were there around, anyway, for heaven’s sake? But what was he doing here?
He was going for Tommy with a ruddy great mace, that’s what he was doing! “No!” I yelled as he swooped down. “No, don’t do it!” But it was too late. I wanted to stop him from attacking Tommy, but what could I do?
And then something totally amazing happened. My hair shot out towards Hawkman, elongating beyond belief and wrapping itself around him, literally plucking him from the air and hurling him away from Tommy!
Of course, a one-hundred-and-eighty-pound flying man carries a lot of momentum, and as he was flung to one side I was dragged along with him, literally by the roots of my hair. As he plunged into the ground, I tumbled through the air towards him and landed on top, both of us tangled in my impossibly long hair. I felt him struggling beneath me and lashing out, growling at me to let him go. I fell back, and my hair came free, unwrapping itself from around him. I looked around. Tommy was nowhere to be seen.
He sprang to his feet, brandishing his mace. “Don’t hit me!” I screamed.
“Give me one good reason!” he said angrily. “Great Polaris, who are you? Why did you prevent me from stopping that menace?” He halted, staring at my hair, which was lying all around us in golden heaps. I dreaded to think how long it was now! Incredibly, my roots didn’t hurt at all, though… “What are you?” he said.
“Please,” I began, struggling to regain my own footing. “Tommy isn’t a menace, he’s a victim…”
“He’s been destroying cars and property with those rays from his eyes,” Hawkman said, still goggling at my hair. “If I don’t stop him, people are going to get hurt.”
“He can’t help it, Hawkman. There was an accident. It did this to my hair, and Tommy… well, it’s done something to his eyes. He doesn’t mean to do any harm, but he can’t help it. He needs help, not violence done to him.”
He scratched his chin. “I see. I think I believe you, young lady, but first he has to be stopped. No one can do anything for him if he keeps running away.”
“Promise me you won’t hurt him?”
“I’ll try not to,” he said. “But a lot depends on him. Wait here. I have to find him.” And he flapped his great wings and was in the air and away before I could say another word.
I flopped down again on a huge pile of hair, trying not to burst into tears. Hawkman seemed a good man, but he was used to fighting super-villains and the like. Tommy was no villain, just an innocent boy caught up in a nightmare.
I looked at the battered remains of the shed. Well, Dorcas, I thought. You’re not going to help Tommy sitting here feeling sorry for yourself. Gathering up as much hair as I could (it must have been over twenty feet long now and still growing!), I struggled towards the shed and through the door.
Half of the roof had come down on top of the workbench. I struggled to clear the rubble away, and suddenly there it was, gleaming amid a pile of broken pottery and rusty iron — Godiva’s Comb! The cause of my troubles and, I dearly hoped, the solution!
I grabbed hold of the comb, not quite knowing what to expect. In the event, nothing actually happened — except that some of my hair got in my mouth, and I stood there, spitting frantically. “OK,” I said. “Do your stuff, magic comb. Make my hair normal again.”
Still nothing happened. “Oh, come on! I don’t deserve this!”
OK, OK, Dorcas, think! Perhaps, I wondered, it only worked out of doors. I looked up. Well, I was hardly indoors now, with the roof gone from the shed. So it couldn’t have been that. Right. So what was I doing when it did whatever it did before? I put it in my hair, that’s what. Damn, I thought. It’s so obvious. Why should it do anything just sitting in my hand?
I started to move the comb up to my hair, then hesitated. Wait! What actually happened before was that I was struck by lightning! I didn’t want that to happen again!
What choice did I have, though? This might all have been nonsense, or it might actually be that the comb really was magical, and it had caused all this. Which meant that it had to be my best chance of restoring sanity to my life. I had to take the risk.
I shoved the comb into my hair and shut my eyes tight, waiting for the lightning to strike. Nothing happened. I opened them again. There was still a mountain of hair billowing around my feet.
“Nooo!” I yelled. “Don’t do this to me! Make my hair normal again! Obey me!” I screwed my eyes up really tight and screamed at the thing.
Then I suddenly felt the same sensation I’d felt back in the car park when the people pouring out of the cathedral had been haranguing me — and there was one almighty crash from all around!
I opened my eyes. The shed had gone — burst asunder from inside! And my hair…? I was surrounded by a huge, floating golden cloud, drifting around me and writhing and rippling like a living thing. I held out my hand, made a fist, and part of that cloud formed into a similar shape. I was suddenly aware that it would obey my every command, do anything I wanted it to. I concentrated, and the whole lot stood on end, soaring nearly twenty-five feet into the air. I willed it down, and it fell, spreading out behind me like a bride’s train — except floating three feet above the ground.
“Amazing!” I breathed. But it was still insanely long. I wondered, though…
I closed my eyes again and concentrated. I felt a really strange sensation, as if my head were turning inside-out. When I opened them again, I found my hair was still long, but it now reached down only to my waist. And I could still make it obey my will. Keeping it out of my eyes now was easy!
It was true, then! Godiva’s Comb really was magical! Using it a second time hadn’t restored my hair to normal, but it had given me this incredible control over it. I experimented with it for a few minutes, discovering I could make it grow or contract at will… I could reach out and grab things with it, just like I had involuntarily grabbed Hawkman… I could make it as hard as iron or as soft as silk… I could shape it any way I wished…
The sound of another explosion brought me down to earth with a thump. I wasn’t the only one who had been changed by Godiva’s Comb — and, like me, Tommy had been given strange powers that he couldn’t control. Well, I thought, the comb has given me the control I needed. If it could do that for me, it could do it for Tommy.
I set off in the direction of the noise. I had to find him before Hawkman did!
He wasn’t difficult to find — I just had to go in the direction that everybody else was running away from. When I got back to the street, it was full of running people, but fortunately I didn’t have to fight my way through them. Within a few seconds they were gone, and I was running full-tilt towards the sound of more explosions. I could also see Hawkman now, swooping around and dodging crimson ray-blasts. I didn’t know what had happened, but he obviously hadn’t succeeded in persuading Tommy to come along quietly. If I didn’t hurry, either one or the other of them was going to get hurt.
As I’d said to Daddy on the previous day, I’d given up competitive running some time before, but I was still fit and could run pretty fast. The only problem was that I was getting a painful reminder of why I’d decided to give up running in the first place, and being bra-less was only making it worse.
Suddenly I had an idea, though. I sent some of my hair down under my T-shirt and wrapped it around my, er… source of embarrassment, hardening it and forming an instant sports bra for myself. This was amazing! Was there anything it couldn’t do?
Then I rounded a corner, and there he was, standing in the middle of the road, sending blast after blast at Hawkman but thankfully not connecting. Across the road, several police officers were running for cover behind some wrecked cars.
“Tommy!” I shouted. “Tommy, please! Stop! We’re trying to help you!”
He looked in my direction, forcing me to dive out of the way of a blast. “Tell him to stop, Cas!” he screamed. “Leave me alone!”
Hawkman seized this opportunity to swoop down at his opponent. Thankfully, he chose not to use his mace, but connected with a punch which knocked Tommy flying back. Unfortunately, it didn’t put him out cold, and a stray blast from his eyes brought down a lamppost onto his opponent as he was flying away. It didn’t hit Hawkman squarely, but it did connect a glancing impact on his wings, sending him spinning into the ground, winded.
Tommy advanced on him, eyes blazing. I picked myself up and ran forward. “Tommy, no! Don’t hurt him!”
“He wanted to hurt me, Cas!” Tommy cried. But he turned his head towards me as he did so, and this time I didn’t quite avoid the blast. I instinctively threw my hair forward, hardening it into a shield, but the blast threw up the pavement in front of me, sending me sprawling into the road.
“No, Tommy! No!” He was advancing on Hawkman again. Hawkman was getting up, but there was no way he could take to the air again before Tommy could blast him, surely?
There was only one thing I could do. I had to get Godiva’s Comb to him. Grasping it in a tendril of hair, I ripped it from my own head and hurled it towards Tommy, hoping to hit him on the head with it. He was already dazed from Hawkman’s punch — maybe this could finish the job and knock him out.
Unfortunately, he saw it coming. As it hurtled towards him, he turned his head, and another blast issued from his eyes. Godiva’s Comb exploded in a great golden fireball, hurling Tommy back into a nearby wall. At the same time, it expanded in my direction, hitting me and sending me gambolling backwards.
And then the lights all went out.
At least this time I was only out for a few minutes. I came ’round to find two paramedics easing me into a sitting position on the pavement. Daddy and Mrs. Hall were hovering in the background.
“Cas, love,” Daddy said, pushing between the paramedics, “are you all right?”
“I think so,” I said, trying to make some space for myself.
“Stay still,” said the older of the two paramedics. “We need to make sure you have no broken bones.”
“I’d know if I had,” I said. “Leave me alone. Please. I’m perfectly OK.”
Reluctantly, they backed off. Daddy helped me to my feet. “Are you absolutely certain you’re all right, darling?” he said. “Hawkman said you took a nasty jolt from some kind of energy discharge.”
“Hawkman? Where is he?” I looked around but couldn’t see him.
“He had to fly,” said Mrs. Hall, looking, it seemed to me, a little too nonchalant for some reason. “He made sure you were OK first, of course, but he’s over here working on an important mission. He had to get back to it, he said.”
“He also said that you saved his life,” said Daddy. “Is this true?”
“I suppose so — but where’s Tommy? I must see him.”
“They’ve just taken him away in an ambulance.” Daddy’s face was grim. “He seems to be in a coma, so they’ve whisked him off straight back to hospital.”
Just then, a tall, dark-haired man came walking towards us. “Shiera! Professor Leigh! At last!”
“Carter!” Mrs. Hall called to him. “Where have you been?”
“Sorry, hon — Professor — I must’ve taken a wrong turn coming out of the bathroom. This is a big place, and I couldn’t find my way back to where I’d left you.” He looked around and whistled. “What happened here? It looks like a war zone.”
“It’s a long story,” I said quickly before anyone else could speak. He looked at me oddly, almost as if he recognised me, although we’d never met before. “I’m sorry, Mr. Hall, but I must ask my father something important. Godiva’s Comb, Daddy — what happened to it?”
“According to Hawkman, when those beams from Tommy’s eyes hit it, it exploded, sending that energy discharge I told you about into Tommy and you. Tommy was obviously much nearer, so it injured him but only stunned you. You were incredibly lucky, though, love.” He hugged me. “I could have lost you.”
“Was it destroyed, then?”
He sighed. “I’m afraid so. A truly unique piece, blown to bits. I’m sorry, Carter — Shiera. We’ve photographs of it, of course, but it’s hardly the same.”
“It is a shame,” Carter Hall said, “but frankly, it sounds as if it had some pretty dangerous properties. And the important thing,” he added, looking at me strangely again, “is that no one was killed — especially your daughter, Professor.”
“By the way, honey,” said Mrs. Hall with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. “Interesting hair you’ve got. I’d swear it was shorter than when we first met. And do you always wear it under your clothes like that?”
Without thinking, I willed the hair which I’d shaped into a makeshift bra out of my shirt — and to my surprise, it obeyed me, even without Godiva’s Comb! Shiera’s eyebrow went up, but she said nothing.
“Well,” said Daddy, “if the police are satisfied and my daughter insists that she doesn’t want to go back to hospital, let’s round up the rest of my team, and I’ll show you the dig and the other artefacts we’ve unearthed. Cas, if you come with us, I’ll take you to see Tommy afterwards, if our guests don’t mind.”
“OK,” I said.
“It’s OK with us, too,” said Carter.
“That’s settled, then.” And the four of us set off. It was only when we were halfway ’round the cathedral that I remembered I’d forgotten to mention what had happened to Daddy’s workshop.