Once I visited a city that was made out of keratin. Fingernails, toenails, and hair. The buildings were alive, extruding these things from a special nutrient base. Structures braided and gnarled themselves up from pits in the earth. It was very impressive how clean the city managed to keep itself; hundreds of workers scrubbed beneath the nails every third day, shampooed and
conditioned the hair, tightened the knots where they needed to be tightened and unsnarled them
where they needed to be unsnarled.
I was seduced by an aerialist who spent their weekends as a hair technician on skyscrapers.
They were long and lean, with a face like the man in the moon and an astounding ability to hold
their body one-legged, upside-down, on swaying cables of crinkly russet braid so far above the
street that, unless I used my binoculars, they just looked like a splinter-sized stick figure from the
In bed one night, I asked the aerialist if they liked their weekend job.
“Eh, it’s all right.” They wriggled and popped the numerous joints of their toes. “A job’s a job,
you know.” They were completely bald, without any body hair whatsoever. No eyebrows. No
“Is it strange to work with hair when you have none yourself?”
“Oh, I started waxing everything the month after I got the job. Got sick of it clinging all over
I glanced at my own body.
“It’s fine on you! Don’t worry—I like to feel I’m making love to a little building. A cottage,
perhaps, or a branch library.”
They kissed me with their man in the moon mouth. “Yes. I get to be the giant for once. The
I thought about that the next day, as I ascended the stairs to the third floor of an art museum. The stairs were hard, lacquered nail, with cuticles just visible at the base of each step. For a moment, I felt I was walking up the steepled, staggered fingers of a giant man or woman. I was entering their head beneath a thick sky of black hair. I was seeing their dreams: paintings on the white walls of a skull. I was seeing their blood: the other visitors coursing through arterial hallways.
Although the museum was only hair and nail and cuticle, and nutrient cement, I could have
sworn in that moment I heard its breath.
Briar Ripley Page grew up in Appalachia and currently lives in London with their spouse, cats, and a friend or two. Their favorite horror media includes the manga Uzumaki, the movie Mad God, and the novel Wilding. You can find Briar and their (prolific! acclaimed!) work online at briarripleypage.xyz and flameswallower.itch.io.