by Brian K. Asbury
Needless to say, they wasted no time in evacuating that wing of the hospital, and I found myself helping to move bedridden patients onto trolleys or into wheelchairs. The hospital staff were obviously well-practised in the evacuation procedure, but they were grateful for the extra pair of hands. Within around ten minutes, the building was nearly empty, all of the patients having been moved into other buildings well away from the danger area. There were sirens going off all over the place as police cars and fire engines poured into the hospital precincts and took charge of what everybody seemed to be assuming was a terrorist attack situation.
I wasn’t so sure, and neither were other people who had seen the scene of the supposed bomb blast. A bomb creates a lot of heat, and there were no fires, no scorching of the walls or the inflammable materials in Tommy’s room — and in a typical hospital room there are lots of inflammable materials!
But what had caused the devastation, in that case? And where was Tommy? Nobody else seemed to have been hurt or was missing, although there were a number of people obviously pretty shaken up by it all. It was a mystery.
Meanwhile, I found myself shivering in the hospital car park, to which all the few visitors present in the place at the time had been herded, along with those outpatients who were not in any immediate need of treatment. I was still wearing just a T-shirt and jeans — I hadn’t even put my socks back on — and it was a cold morning, even for November, with a hint of mist still lingering, which suggested there had been a frost. My nice, warm leather jacket was still in my hospital room, along with my purse, the keys to the Vespa — everything, really. As I realised that my wayward hair was now past my shoulder blades and still getting longer, I cursed as I also realised that I’d left my scissors behind in the bathroom where I’d last trimmed it!
After a quarter hour or so I was starting to turn blue, and the police still weren’t letting anyone past their cordon. When I asked when I could go and retrieve my things I was told curtly that the building had to be searched thoroughly in case there were other explosive devices, and of course the forensic team had to probe every inch of Tommy’s room. It could be hours before the building was declared safe for anyone to re-enter; in fact, it would probably not be until the next day at the earliest!
That was the final straw! It was all very well for the others who had been evacuated to the car park. Most of them were sitting in comfy, warm cars or had drifted away back to their homes. The few remaining were dressed up warmly against the cold. But if I stayed here any longer I was going to develop hypothermia! I had to get away from here — but to where?
I looked around. Where could I go? Even if there was a café open nearby, I had no money even to buy a cup of tea — it was all in my purse, behind a police barrier. However, I could see the cathedral from here, poking up above the rooftops beyond the busy inner ring road. The archaeological team would still be there — maybe even Daddy, back from the airport with his VIPs. At least I’d be able to get a hot drink, if nothing else. And it would be warm inside the cathedral itself. I might even join in with the Sunday service and pray to God to do something about this crazy hair growth. It was a long shot, but you never knew.
Another thing also occurred to me. Did Godiva’s Comb have anything to do with this? OK, so it probably hadn’t really belonged to Lady Godiva, but then again perhaps it had. And perhaps those parts of the story now believed to be untrue really did have a grain of truth in them. Had she really had unbelievably long hair which had covered her nakedness? And had someone named Tom perhaps really been blinded by seeing her? Perhaps the comb was some kind of magical artefact which had caused all this to happen!
Right. It sounded crazy, I know, even to me at the time. Perhaps the cold was getting to my brain. But there were stranger things going on in the world. I’d seen Superman once, rescuing a stricken oil tanker off the Scilly Isles, where I was on holiday. If a man could fly — if other people could run at super-speed, stay underwater indefinitely, shrink, stretch their limbs, and God knows what else — then why shouldn’t Lady Godiva have had a magical comb which was the cause of my uncontrollable hair growth?
So I set off. It didn’t look far, even on foot. I didn’t know the area, though — I’d only been to Coventry once before, and that was years ago — and finding a way to get past the ring road without getting killed trying to jaywalk across it proved more difficult than I had anticipated. The walk at least warmed me up a bit, but my hair — oh, that was proving a nightmare. By the time I’d found an underpass to take me under the ring road, it was well past the middle of my back. And as I finally found myself walking across the cathedral car park to where I’d left my friend’s scooter, I could feel that it was down to my bum and still getting longer and longer! Furthermore, it kept flopping into my eyes, the two hair grips I’d found earlier proving hopelessly inadequate in controlling it.
I had visions of ending up like Cousin Itt from The Addams Family if this kept up — just a walking mass of hair. I could only thank God that the hair in my armpits wasn’t also growing — or my… well, I don’t even want to think about that!
My immediate concern was for my friend’s Vespa, which had been presumably unattended in the car park all night. My heart sank when I saw it. The wheels were gone, it was on its side, and the words MUFC rlue had been spray-painted in red across it — presumably by some dyslexic football hooligan. I sank to my knees in despair. In the words of John McEnroe, this was the pits! Could my day get any worse?
It did, of course. As I dropped down, a shaft of radiance flashed over my head, and I was thrown back as the scooter exploded into a million pieces!
As I picked myself up I realised, amazingly, that I didn’t seem to be hurt, although there were bits of tangled metal in my hair. Had this huge blonde mane somehow cushioned me from the impact? I didn’t know. All I knew was the need to throw myself flat again as a second explosion went off somewhere behind me.
“Cas? Help me… please!”
I knew that voice! I looked up to see Tommy standing there, about thirty yards behind me, still in his hospital pyjamas and looking even bluer than I felt. But his eyes were no longer bandaged. He was looking straight at me, so he could clearly see — and his eyes were glowing bright red!
“Tommy? What?” I started to get up — a task made difficult by the tangle of hair getting caught in my clothes. “How did you get here? What’s going on?”
Tommy’s hands suddenly flew up to his face as the glow became brighter. “Oh, God, man, it’s happenin’ again! Cas, ah cannat control it! Help me!”
“Help you with what? I don’t understand!” But he was running away from me blindly, his hands still covering his eyes. I could only stand there, stunned, brushing the hair from my own eyes as I tried to make sense of it all. My college friend Ravindra’s Vespa was a heap of smoking metal — oh, God, I would be so dead when she found out! — and there was a car nearby in much the same condition. Worshippers were streaming out of the cathedral doors in panic, believing a bomb had gone off. Sirens were all around and getting louder.
And across the far side of the car park, I saw my father get out of his car with two smartly dressed people and hurry them out of my field of vision towards the dig site.
What should I do? What should I do? People were screaming at me, demanding to know what had happened. How the hell should I know what had happened? I didn’t understand any of this!
I finally snapped. Shutting my eyes, I yelled, “Shut up! Shut up, all of you! Go away and leave me alone!”
And suddenly something seemed to tug on my hair, and there were bumps and bangs all around. I opened my eyes to see a circle had somehow cleared all around me. Around its perimeter, people were lying on the ground, looking dazed. My hair was up in the air, flapping in the breeze like something with a life of its own. As I took it all in, it settled down again, and I felt it hit the backs of my thighs, longer than ever!
I didn’t understand what had happened, but I seized the opportunity to make my escape. Gathering up some of my hair in my arms to prevent it tripping me, I ran for the corner where I had seen Daddy and his guests. I had to get away from this angry and confused crowd before the police arrived!
And somewhere around here was Tommy, lost and confused and with those weirdly glowing eyes. Had he somehow been responsible for the explosions? I had to help him somehow, but I didn’t have a clue what to do. After all, I couldn’t even help myself!
To my surprise, as I rounded the corner, I saw the woman I had seen getting out of Daddy’s car talking to him. There was no sign of the other man anywhere.
“Mrs. Hall,” Daddy was saying, “I can understand that your husband is feeling travel sick after such a long flight, but is he likely to be long? There seems to be some sort of crisis going on here. I don’t think this is really the time to be running off to find a toilet!”
The woman smiled at him reassuringly. “Carter doesn’t fly well, Professor. But I’m sure he won’t be long. In the meantime, please call me Shiera. Do you mind if I call you Simon?”
“No, not at all. But — Cas?”
He had seen me running towards them. Halfway, I just lost it, and I was sobbing by the time I reached him and threw myself into his arms. “Daddy, oh, thank God. Thank God…”
He extricated himself and held me at arm’s length to examine me. “Cas, good grief — your hair!”
“It’s still growing, Daddy. It won’t stop! And Tommy… we’ve got to help him…” I became pretty much incoherent after that. The woman was looking at us with a mixture of embarrassment and curiosity.
“Ah… Shiera Hall, this is my daughter, Dorcas. Cas, this is the lady I was telling you about.”
“One of the museum people from America. I remember,” I said, wiping the tears away. “Oh, I’m sorry, Daddy. But what are we going to do? Tommy’s wandering around here somewhere, and he’s…”
“Your daughter seems distraught, Simon,” said Shiera Hall. “I think you’d better take her somewhere warm. I’ll wait for Carter.”
“I couldn’t do that–”
She held up her hand. “I insist. We’ll find our way around to you.”
“With all these police around? No, I’d better stay with you. I don’t know what’s going on, but you’d better have somebody with you who holds a little authority around here, just in case they think you have something to do with it.”
She looked disappointed and bit her lip as if trying to find an argument against this. “Cas,” said Daddy, “you’d better go around to the workshop we put up in the grounds. You know where that is, don’t you?”
“I’m sorry, darling, but I really do have to wait for Mr. and Mrs. Hall. And you look half-frozen. There’s a heater in there — go and warm yourself up.”
The trouble with my father is that there’s no arguing with him when his mind is made up. I did as I was told, somehow managing to avoid the police and other emergency service people swarming into the area. When I got to the workshop — which, as I said earlier, was just a wooden hut put up temporarily in the area of the dig — I found it deserted. The rest of the archaeological team had obviously been evacuated.
The door was open, though. As I approached it, I remembered my earlier thoughts about Godiva’s Comb. It would be in there. Maybe it could somehow stem the growth of the hair now flapping around my calves.
But before I reached the door I was thrown back again as half of the hut’s roof exploded!
I turned to see Tommy standing there, sobbing from crimson-blazing eyes. “I’m sorry, Cas. I’m sorry. I cannat control it, pet! Please…”
But before he could say any more, from above us there was the sound of enormous wings, and down came swooping a hugely pinioned figure in green, red, and gold, swinging an ugly looking medieval mace towards Tommy’s head!