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Free Hair Loss Therapy

It was just two weeks after Midori’s birth. Natasha and I were happy and exhausted at the same time – Natasha certainly more of each, while for me some element of worry began to creep in. Some worry whether we would be able to protect our little girl, whether we would be able to offer her a good life.

Natasha and Midori were back from the hospital for a bit more than a week when the flyer came.

“Hair loss? – Proven treatment, FREE.”

The flyer had a few before and after pictures and honestly, the results were impressive. I thought they were fake, but Natasha still said I should check it out.

I never really minded my hair loss. Sure, it came far too early; it started in my teens and half-way through my twenties a large part of my head was already smooth enough to reflect sunlight. Still, for me it was a sign of masculinity; I read somewhere that hair loss correlated with a high testosterone level.

But Natasha would have preferred to see more hair on my head. When we still had time to watch TV – before Midori was born – my hand was usually on her pregnant belly, but Natasha’s hand far too often went to my bald spots. I think Natasha didn’t like that people thought we were years apart; in reality it was only a few months, she was 25 and I was 24 when Midori was born.

Still, with my hair loss and her youthful looks and tiny frame it wasn’t surprising that the day I met Natasha’s parents her mother took her aside and told her, point-blank that I was too old for her. That day Natasha laughed, but I think some part of that memory stayed in her mind.

In the end it doesn’t matter. I lost Natasha forever. As a young father that’s something I shouldn’t say – but losing Natasha was even harder on me than losing Midori.

The day the hair loss flyer arrived I didn’t know about any of it. I threw it in the trash; Natasha pulled it back out and placed it on my desk and a glass paperweight on top.

It sat there for a week, until it somehow moved to the sofa table. I finally took the hint and gave the agency a call.

They told me it was for a study. We talked about my family situation and my concerns that I didn’t want any chemicals in my body that could harm Midori or Natasha or me. The lady on the phone said that it would all be okay, that it was all safe and that, if I was just willing to give them some genetic material for their study, everything would be fine and the treatment would be free for me. And all of it would take less than two hours of my time.

Natasha was excited; I wasn’t. I didn’t like the idea of having my DNA in some shady database of a research team that finds their candidates through flyers. Natasha said it was likely just a corporate study; one of those studies that later provide the “100% proven” label on the product bottles.

We booked a slot for Saturday and went over. I told Natasha to stay at home, but she was excited for the opportunity to watch the study and on the phone the researchers had told me that Natasha and Midori were “more than welcome.” They even said that the two could participate; I was sure I wouldn’t let that happen.

We pulled up in front of the old hospital building. The large parking lot was nearly empty and most of the building was dark – for a Saturday in a private research center that wasn’t exactly unexpected. But the condition of the house surprised us – walls looked shabby, some windows were broken, others were barricaded with pieces of wood.

Following the instructions we stepped to the smaller side entrance and a young lady with a clipboard welcomed us. I recognized the lady’s voice from the phone. For a moment I admired her beauty; then I caught myself and pulled my eyes towards her face. I cursed at myself. I thought those urges would die with the long-distance relationship and as a father. Instead, if anything, they seemed to have grown. I reminded myself of the two loves in my life – my wife and daughter. In that moment I felt I should turn to stone. Natasha didn’t notice anything. Midori was sleeping happily in her stroller.

The lady, she introduced herself as Molly, led us through a long, bare and barely lit corridor.

“Sorry,” Molly said. “We had some power cuts. But that really is nothing to worry about.”

“So it will all work?” Natasha asked.

“Definitely.” Molly said. “You all seem like exactly the people we were looking for.”

Natasha was excited; Midori slept; I felt somewhat worried and somewhat regretful. Worried for my manliness; regretful that I had agreed to the procedure.

Molly led us into a small office room. Two older men in white coats sat at a somewhat beaten table. Shelves in the back seemed to be stuffed with documents, but the writing was only numbers.

“So, what’s the procedure?” Molly asked.

That moment I noticed that we really didn’t know much. Molly had told us it was all safe and painless for me, but not much more. “I don’t understand the procedure myself.” Molly said on the phone. “But it will be explained to you and you can still refuse it when you come.”

The two men didn’t look like they were interested in telling us anything.

“Stemcells.” One of them finally snipped.

The second man turned to Molly.

“You have the placenta?” He asked.

Molly glanced first at me, then at Natasha and Midori.

“It’s not one of those cases.” Molly said quietly.

“Oh.” Said the man. “I thought we aren’t doing that anymore?”

“Doing what?” I asked.

“Oh, nothing, nothing.” Said Molly. “It seems the doctor just didn’t read the case sheet properly.”

The building made me uneasy. The room made me feel on edge. But their secretive behavior made me feel downright alarmed.

“I think we’ll be going.” I said. “We can come back when your power is back.”

“Don’t worry about the power.” Said Molly.

“What about it?” Asked one of the men.

“You know,” Molly said. “The power cut.”

“Oh, right.” said the man.

“Right.” Said Molly.

“I really think we need to go.” I said.

“Wait.” Natasha grabbed my arm. “We haven’t heard anything yet. So what’s the procedure?”

“We take stem cells,” said one of the men. “Usually from placentas; but there are some more complicated ways we can use. And we run a metal comb over your skin –“

“What?” I said.

“Don’t worry,” Chimed the second man in. “It really is just a small tickle.”

“It opens the skin.” Said the first man. “And then we can spray stem cells on top.”

He glanced at Midori; Midori was still asleep.

“Like in the baby the stem cells can build any cell in your body. If we spray the right dosage with the right nutritional solution on your scalp the cells will become new hair follicles and they grow new hair.”

“And it doesn’t hurt?” I said.

“It won’t hurt you,” said the man. “We can promise that.”

I had more questions, but I saw Natasha’s pleading eyes.

“Okay.” I said. “I don’t really know anything about these things. But you said it only takes two hours, so why don’t we just get started with the tests or whatever you need to do?”

Natasha smiled and nodded strongly. Midori woke up.

I wanted to stay with Natasha and help her calm Midori down.

“I’m fine.” She said. “You go and get ready.”

I kissed her and Midori goodbye.

Molly and one of the men led me to another room and made me fill out a form and sign a contract. I gave them permission to take stem cells and spray them on my head as well as monitor my reaction.

They made me change clothes and lie on a stretcher.

“We’ll put you to sleep.” Molly said. “So that you don’t feel any pain.”

“I thought there wouldn’t be any pain?” I said.

“Not much.” She said. “But the comb hurts a bit. We’ll just put you out and you will wake up again in a minute or two.”

“No danger?” I asked.

Two nurses stepped into the room.

“No danger.” Molly said.

The man in the white coat nodded.

“Try the size.” He said and pushed a breathing mask on my face.

I remember thinking It fits. I remember that I was wondering what the mask was for.

Then there was just black.

The main thing I remember is the thirst. I think the thirst was what woke me up.

I tried to move my arms, but heavy, leather straps held me onto the stretcher. It was dark. I didn’t recognize the room. And I felt dizzy and incredibly thirsty.

“Help!” I called.

Nothing.

“Hello? Help! I’m in here!” I screamed.

I felt an acidic, sickening smell in my throat and nose.

I kept screaming, but there was no response. I tried to break the straps, but they were too tight.

I looked around the room, in all directions. There was an old fridge or freezer; next to it a table with a bundle of clothes on it.

Midori’s clothes.

“Natasha?” I screamed.

I tried to roll to the side, to rock the stretcher so that maybe something would get lose.

“Natasha?” I screamed even louder; my throat hurt.

I rocked too violently; the stretcher slid to the side; I couldn’t stop the fall.

My whole back exploded in pain when the stretcher hit the floor.

Then I saw her body. Her skin was a gray-yellow color. Her eyes were sunk inwards. There was dried blood all around Natasha’s head.

“Natasha.” I whispered.

I fought against the stretcher and the straps; I even managed to bend the stretcher partly. The tears were streaming over my face; my eyes didn’t move away from Natasha.

I was fighting against the straps and stretcher. I was fighting because I wanted to save her. I didn’t even want to save myself, just her – and Midori.

I called for Midori a few times; but there were no cries. That was the only thing she had learned how to do – to cry. And I couldn’t even hear that.

I was on the floor, next to Natasha’s body, for hours. The image of every single curve of her face and every strand of her hair burned itself in my mind.

When I lie down, at night, I still see Natasha’s face. I still see it that way, in the strange gray-yellowish color.

I was exhausted. I felt like I needed to rest, to sleep a long, deep sleep. My eyes were still on Natasha, but they slowly began to close.

Just in that moment I heard the screeching sound. I called out again:

“Help!”

“Help!”

“Anybody, help!”

There was no response.

Then another screeching sound, louder than before.

“Help!” I screamed.

Voices.

“Help!”

My voice cracked; my throat ached.

“Around here.” Said a male voice from the corridor.

“Help.” I whispered.

Somebody pushed against the heavy metal door.

Another screeching sound; louder than before.

“Oh god.” Said a male voice.

“That’s them.” Said another voice.

“Help.” I whispered.

I remember them walking closer, the blue uniform; then everything was black again.

This time I woke up from a steady beep. I felt the soft blankets and the drip in my arm.

The nurse said “Welcome back to life.” She smiled when she said “We thought you wouldn’t make it.”

The police came only a few minutes later.

They introduced themselves, sat down, asked me to tell them all I knew.

My memory felt hazy.

“Where is Natasha?” I asked. “I saw her on the floor –“

“I’m really sorry.” Said the lady in blue.

It felt like she meant it.

Tears came back in my eyes.

“And my daughter?” My voice was barely audible.

The officer just averted her eyes.

“Sorry.” She finally whispered.

I wanted time alone; they didn’t let me. They said that it was urgent; that they had traces but needed more information.

I told them all I knew.

I asked them again and again what happened to Natasha and what happened to Midori. They sat Natasha had been killed with a dull object to her head. They didn’t want to say anything about Midori.

Only two days later they finally told me about Midori’s death. They said they wanted to make sure I would be able to take it.

They said she was likely stabbed; then cut open. Her blood was drained; her spine was removed.

“The spine and blood,” said one of the officers. “Contain a lot of stem cells.”

I cried.

When the officers left I cried some more.

Another two days later I was discharged; sent to a home that’s not a home anymore.

I had felt the softness earlier; I had already felt it in the hospital and I had already tried to see it in the mirror.

But when I got home I rushed past all the things that belonged to Natasha and Midori and straight to the bathroom.

For the first time I had a mirror with good light. I saw it; no doubt. There was new hair growing on my head.


This is my story, originally I published it on Reddit.

The Study Aid

YouTuber “NoahJReads” kindly narrated this story:


After nearly three years and more than $300,000 in tuition fees there is just no way to fail. You shall not, cannot, must not fail.

I still try to tell myself it wasn’t really my fault. Sure, I was lazy at some point; but then I decided to start working again, packed my books, made my way to the library, spent a day studying.

The study desks were nearly empty when I left. I packed my books in a cotton bag, stumbled with a fusion of tiredness and caffeine-hyperactivity towards and through the front door. Down the stairs – one step, second step, that’s how far I got; my bag must have caught somewhere. I stumbled, the bag ripped, the books fell; I tried instinctively to grab them; my left foot missed the step.

I don’t remember much from that day, not even the pain. I really only remember the shock of falling, the feeling of my spin hitting the steps.

I was in the hospital for nearly two months. I woke up the next day, but my vision was hazy and a droning hum went through my head. This hum hasn’t left me since then.

The broken leg kept me in the hospital. First they told me just the bone had to heal, then a foul-smelling liquid dripped out of the plaster and they wheeled me back in the OR to open it up again. They told me I was lucky that they didn’t have to take it off.

The pain was bad, the drugs helped. The drugs also helped with the hum in my head. Always around thirty minutes after my morning and evening rations the hum slowly faded away – and about four hours later it came back.

Those hours I spent studying, maybe for the first time in my life. Everything had always been easy; all my grades had come to me without any real effort. Some people hated me for that, but most of all I hated myself for it. Everything was difficult for the others – but for me it was easy.

That’s why I never learned to study. I just don’t know how. I can read books but I don’t know how to take notes. I can solve problems but I don’t know how to find solutions if I don’t know them already.

And the drum in my head didn’t help. Two months in the hospital – at least during that time, when I was still on pain medication, the hum disappeared. I felt sluggish, but I was able to talk and study. For the rest of the day I was trying to read or talk or to drown the hum in music or bad TV series. Nothing worked.

When they released me, the day everybody came to my room to welcome me back, I cried. I cried because I sat in front of my classmates’ notes and didn’t understand a thing. I opened the dusty books on my shelf and my attention didn’t last for longer than a line. Instead, my attention was confused by the hum.

The hum, all day, every day: while eating, in the lectures, in the library, while listening to music, while playing games, while talking to others.

The hum ruined everything I had been. Zero attention. Zero reading comprehension. Zero meaningful conversation.

First I lost my good grades, then my temper, then my friends.

Less than two months till the finals. A knock on my door. His name was Nikolay. I had seen him a few times on my corridor.

“I heard you might need some help.” He said.

“No, thanks.” I said.

“It’s free.” He said.

Two white pills land in my hand. Small and square. They feel light.

“One at a time.” He said. “If you need more let me know.”

“No, thanks.” I said again.

He smiled while he walked away.

I shut the door, sat down and threw the first pill in my throat.

Half an hour later I was able to read. My attention lasted longer than just a few seconds. I was able to remember things, maybe even better than ever before.

But most importantly, the hum was gone. Not weaker, not faded into the distance – gone.

I spent six hours at my desk. Then I ravished the fridge and fell exhausted into my blankets.

It was nearly noon when I woke up. And the moment I woke up the hum came back, like a train driving straight through my skull.

In my defense: I tried to last without it. I showered and ate and got my books out. But again my eyes didn’t wander further than the first line. The night before I had managed to read 80 pages in the same book – and after waking up I didn’t get a single sentence further.

It is easy to give in when the solution is so easy. One single, square white pill was lying on my nightstand. I weighed it between my fingers, felt it slide down my throat – and half an hour later I was back to life.

This time I didn’t last as long; by 11pm I was exhausted. When I fell into bed I already felt the hum returning, but my tiredness was stronger and faster. It pulled me out of reality before the hum got to me.

I woke up around noon with a feeling like a hangover. Something sticky was stuck to my chin and fingers. And the hum was back.

I managed to go for the shower without the pill. But then I threw the bread into the toaster – and I knew I didn’t have a choice. Three hundred thousand dollars and even more in the currency of hope and dreams – you can’t just throw that away because of a hum. You have to make sacrifices, like the one not to get addicted or not to do anything illegal.

I knocked on his door; Nikolay smiled as if he expected me. The curly, red hair on his head and the round cheeks contrasted a fit body.

“Welcome back.” He said.

“How much?” I asked.

“Fifteen dollar apiece.”

I bought five. If I had known that Nikolay would increase the price I would have run straight to the cash machine to withdraw the last of my savings.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Experimental.” He said. “Don’t ask me for the details.”

“Side effects?”

“You sleep well.” He said. “And you might be very hungry.” He said that last part quietly.

On my way to the kitchen I threw the first pill in my throat.

Making breakfast was still a pain, with the hum and my aching head I wasn’t even able to find my jam or peanut butter. I ended up eating the toast on its own.

The rest of the day went perfectly. I studied for hours, then made an effort to write to some friends I had alienated. I felt like celebrating but most weren’t available – or maybe they just didn’t want to meet me and my hum.

Only Robyn and Aidan agreed, but Robyn was busy that night.

Aidan and I went to the pub around 9. We drank and talked, but everything after 10pm is a blur. There was more drinking, I talked to some girls and at some point I sat in a cab. That’s all I remember.

Then I woke up, freezing and with a stinging headache in a small alley off Fifth Avenue. My watch said 10am.

The hum accompanied me on my walk home. It gave my steps melody, like a parrot constantly repeating the same bad jokes or insults over and over.

The first thing I did when I got back to the apartment was to find another pill. While grabbing the pill I noticed that my hands were covered in dirt. I still first threw the pill in my mouth, and then went over to the bathroom to shower. When I looked in the mirror I saw the brown stuff smeared all across my face.

With the lack of memory in my mind I rescheduled the meeting with Robyn to the next week. First work, then leisure.

That day and the next two went well. I caught up on most of the things I had missed while in the hospital; I went to two lectures and understood most of what happened. I got used to the strange, foul-smelling sticky mass on my chin.

The hum was gone, except for the time form around 10:30pm when it slowly came back – which I took as a sign that I needed to sleep – and the mornings, before the pill took effect.

Contrary to Nikolay’s words I felt less hungry. I ate only crackers for lunch and stopped breakfast and dinner altogether.

Four days after my drunken night I threw the last pill in my body and walked over to Nikolay’s door. He grinned wide. $30 apiece. I bought another ten.

Two more days went perfectly. There was a smell in my room that I couldn’t quite place.

Then my night with Robyn came. She dressed up nicely; we had a fancy dinner. Before I met her at the restaurant I hadn’t fully realized that it was a date.

I made jokes; she laughed and told stories. The color of the wine matched her dark lipstick. At 10:30pm I felt the hum coming back.

I remember paying, walking her to the cab and opening a door.

I woke up naked in a strange bed. The hum was at full force, giving me a headache before I even woke up fully. I craved for my square, white pill.

The bed was empty except for me; but there were dark red wine stains on the pillows and blanket.

I stepped out of the bed and saw my reflection in the full-size mirror. My whole body was covered in a sticky, dark red liquid.

Not wine.

I ran out of the room in a panic; stumbled over her body and fell.

The floor was drenched in blood. Her eyes and mouth were wide open. There were pieces missing from her chest and stomach.

I washed my face, threw my clothes on and ran home. I didn’t know what else to do.

I ran for five minutes, then my muscles began to ache and I switched to a fast walk.

By the time I arrived home I saw the police outside the building. My exhaustion and headache and hum had prevented any conscious thought, but at this point I was sure that I would be caught – and I felt that I should be.

I walked past the car, towards the policeman that stood in the entrance.

“You live here?” He asked.

“Yes.” I said and gave him my personal details and room number.

His eyes widened while I spoke.

“Would you mind to answer a few questions?” He asked.

“Of course not.” I said. “Can I get changed first?”

The officer shook his head.

“I fear I can’t let you in your room right now.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Murder.” He said. “That’s why we need to ask you a few questions

We sat down in a police van. Another officer described that there had been a particularly brutal murder with signs of cannibalism.

I nodded and internally resigned. I knew there were just trying to get me to lower my defenses; to lie or to say details they didn’t know yet, maybe even to confess.

The hum was on their side. It kept droning on, made it hard for me to follow the officer’s words.

“The victim.” He said. “Lived right next to you.”

Suddenly my attention was back.

“She must have been dead for several days.” The officer said. “Have you noticed any strange sounds or smells?”

And I thought the whole week that I was eating only crackers.


This is my story, originally I published it on Reddit.