On the last day of high school, I got up earlier than usual. In the shower, I washed my long hair with lavender soap, and saw a few flower petals getting stuck at the drainage. They were pale white rose petals, almost indistinguishable amount the shampoo bubbles that gathered there. They twisted and crumpled, yellowing into an ivory white, like a few pieces of tissue paper.
I ran my fingers through my hair. Brunette, or so I hoped. The tips of some strands were turning white and felling off. I pulled slightly and a handful of hair fell right off. As I washed out the soap, a sinking feeling grew in my heart. I watched with mild horror as more and more rose petals fell at my feet.
My suspicion was true. As I wiped the fog off the mirror, dripping water from my still human skin, I looked into my reflection and found something other than myself. A few rogue flower buds were sprouting amongst my hair.
Not yet blooming but they were about to. Not yet a bouquet, but they were about to become as one. A bouquet of roses will replace my hair and my face. They are growing out of my scalp as if it was fertile soil, and bloom for all four seasons for the rest of the year. They would bloom forever—for a year. I would no longer have a face—for a year, which felt like forever.
I recognized this. I was becoming a Flowerhead.
It was not the news I enjoy waking up to. But the incident in the shower wasn’t the first sign of my transformation. It started with loose petals shaking out of my hair as I brush it into a ponytail for school, or the small, dead flower buds on my pillowcase. It started with classmates commenting on the scent in an attempt at small talks: “I like your shampoo, smell like roses”.
It was a strange sensation, having flowers growing from my skin. Nothing painful—surprisingly but thankfully. It was simply out of the blue. A bit itchy, a bit sore. And on the day of my graduation no less. I would be starting college as a Flowerhead.
Never imagined I would be the one who got inflicted. The Flowerhead Syndrome was random. I heard all about it on the news, but never paid two minds about it. Guess I never thought it’s something that would happen to me. The Flowerhead Syndrome—its scientific name I forgot. There are a few nonsensical Latin words in there. The name has a calm bizarreness to it.
That’s what it was, bizarre. No one knew the cause or the cure. It seized its victim for a year, and there it was gone. People have all sorts of theories. Maybe some kind of alien pollen, or a government brainwashing regime. The stories were countless. Mine? I agree with the aliens.
I was only slightly upset, as I downed the black robe and cap and got my diploma. People stared at my floral head, but no one commented anything.
It was illegal to discriminate, and more and more people are becoming Flowerheads nowadays. Life wasn’t going to get harder.
In the next three days, I went to my part-time job at the yogurt shop as normal. The flowers on my head were multiplying like an aesthetically pleasing cancer. I could still eat food, thank God, and I stuffed my face with frozen treats when the manager wasn’t looking. I could see perfectly fine, even as my eyes were covered by the vegetation. This syndrome must be either alien or magic, there can be no scientific explanation. Or both, or all of it.
The sixth day was when Mom noticed my new condition. She came out of her studio. Dried paint on her hands and apron as I was in the kitchen pouring myself a bowl of cereal.
“What’s wrong with your face?“ She asked, squinting her eyes. She wasn’t wearing her glasses.
“Oh, I’ve got the Flowerhead.”
I only had one chance to announce it, and I tried pulling it off casually. I said it as if I said I had a cold. If only the flu made you look like a mutated creature and last an entire year.
“I see,” she said. Her hand was reaching for my scalp, as if I was back to six years old and she liked to run her hand through my hair. “Are you still going to university?”
Back to this again. We had enough discussion about this. She didn’t like me going to the other end of the system to attend school, so this would have been a perfect excuse to keep me in the nest. I had my mind made up months ago.
“Yeah, why not?”
“It’s too far away. I always said you should go to a college on this world. It’s just more convenient, and you can come home for the weekend.”
Like she’d even notice when I was gone.
I might have to run away from home if it came to that, I thought idly. Imagine that, a runaway teenager at eighteen, who stuck out as the most floral person everywhere I went.
“Fine, fine,” I didn’t want to start this again. The subject change was abrupt. “What do you think of my flowers?”
“White rose,” she observed it from different angles, like my head was a still life piece. “Just like the community garden.”
It made me think. The greenery project in front of our apartment had dozens of flora from our home planet. The flowers bloomed in a miniature ecosystem behind glass domes. I wonder if the pollen theory had any true. I certainly didn’t inhale anything before I became…this.
“What are you going to do?” She crinkled her nose. My smell was apparently too strong for her air filtration implant in her delicate nose. Or that she wouldn’t;t want to catch what I had. Even though everyone knew it wasn’t contagious. Old fashioned like her still had a sort of phobia. They lived through plagues and viral outbreaks, after all. I understood.
“I don’t know. Keep living as normal I guess.”
“But its’ not normal. It’s far from normal. You’ve flowers for a head, for God’s sake! Now you look like one of those freaks on the news. What would the neighbors think? Are you going to see a doctor? I can find you a doctor, a proper one—“
There it was. The kind of outburst I was expecting. Mom always acted calm and collected because if she spoke all her thoughts out loud, they would flood with venom. She wouldn’t;t do that to me. She was the only one in the world who truly loved me. No, she wouldn’t/ she was one of the only few people this side of the galaxy who gave a fuck if I lived or died—but she could still scold like a boarding school nun.
That’s fine with me. She inhaled sharply, and turned to the cabinet above the oven to get self-medicated. She popped two pills and chewed on them like hard candies. I cringed. That was bitter. Trust me, I knew.
“And why white roses, of all the beautiful flowers of the great flora kingdom? There are so many. Thousands, millions. Why something so…basic.”
I had no smart comebacks. This fact bothered me as well. It didn’t reflect my individuality, or whatever Flowerheads on the online forums believed their flowers represented. White roses just weren’t colorful or exotic enough, and I hated that I was stuck with it for a year—unless some scientist somewhere found a cure within that time frame, which was highly doubtful.
There was much unknown about the Flowerhead disease, and yet most people didn’t care. We as a society had evolved to stop demanding answers from the universe. They simply accepted it as a part of life, like there wasn’t a walking vegetation next to them on the pedestrian crossing. Just indifferent, because if they obsess over it, the sheer mysterious in the world would blow their mind.
On the tenth day was when I have decided to start writing things down. Monumental changes were happening to me, and I would like to remember it for later. I seemed to change shape by the hour. There was no telling how many roses were on my head—or in my head, I couldn’t find a proper term—a few dozen, a few hundred? The flowers were everywhere. My hearing got bad because they were in my ear. They covered my eyes and my entire face, so eating was impossible. Somehow I still lived. The flowers had their photosynthesis, and I sense things so I could still see.
I walked around smelling like a kid who just got her hands on her mother’s perfume. I smelled like that all the time now. It made me want to avoid elevators so strangers wouldn’t look at me with disgust. It could have been worse.
I could’ve smelled like literal trash. I could. The thought comforted me so. A more romantic person than me could find a pleasant angle to this mutation. Wax poetic about the loss of self, of organic matters, and their contradictions. I could try. I promised myself I would never start self-hating no matter what. I could’ve been a lot worse.
Like my cross-system move to New Victoria, a city-state on Talos 2R. The flight was alright, for that was my first interstellar trip alone. I would never miss the in-flight menu. My fear of small, enclosed spaces got amplified. It felt like an eight-hour elevator ride.
When I arrived at the decent-sized college town I went to pick up my two suitcases. They weren’t there. I realized with a sinking feeling that the company lost my things. I’d just have to deal with it.
So, new in town with nothing but some allowance money, I headed toward the University of New Victoria. At least I wouldn’t be homeless after checking into the college dormitory.
A big city made me feel so much better.
There was a good amount of Flowerheads walking about, like it was the most normal thing. They acted like actual people, because they were. No one even bat an eye at them—I mean, us. I got compliments even. On the subway about my flowers. That never happened before. The elderly woman with a paper bag of grocery asked politely for a closer sniff. I didn’t see why not. I
t felt a bit weird, like someone asked to touch my arm. I stopped washing my head but still kept bathing every day. I watered my plants once I entered the bathtub. The flowers were blooming under the New Victoria suns, and they bloomed into the long, cold nights. Though on scorching hot summer days the buds drooped. That day my flowers looked below average, but not exactly sad looking.
Well, the old lady said I reminded her of her old garden back on the planet Earth. Our homeworld, where I had only heard stories about. I didn’t realize she was that old. An early generation settler. She gave me a fresh carrot as a parting gift when she left at Adela Ave. I never saw her again. She was a passing stranger, kind to me, and made me feel a bit less alone in this new town.
No matter how much I thought otherwise, I was still a perfectly average human. I still craved social connection even when I thought I was fine being vegetation. Growing up I tried so hard to isolate myself until my mutation finally gave me the reason to. But I didn’t have to, I didn’t have to starve myself off of human contact altogether. I was no plant. I could still find a place to fit in.
And what’s better than a city like New Victoria? It’s not as suffocating as a metropolis, but it’s still large enough to contain people of all walks of life and gave them enough space to grow—enough to not want to kill each other. I liked it. I didn’t care what I study at UNV as long as I got to stay.
It was a good Thursday night when I first stepped foot into the Salon. It was after a stressful study hall session, which lasted long after the second moon had climbed over the first one. The air smelled artificial, or at least it would’ve if I could still smell anything other than my own rose blossom. The thing about human-settled planets was that they all smelled like filtered oxygen. It was a pleasant night regardless.
The Salon opened all day and all night. It occupied a corner of the street crossing on my way back to the dormitory. I reeked of floral, but so did the Salon. A sort of stomach-turning monstrosity that was a mixture of too many flowers. Just looking at the signpost I could already tell what sort of establishment it was—a place for Flowerheads.
It was a hair salon, that much was obvious. It had one of those spinning striped post things. I didn’t know why, must’ve been a popular decoration from the homeworld.
This salon didn’t cut hair. They trimmed the flowers.
For a small, reasonable fee. Retro-styled ad posters covered the window display, showing all the sorts of bush they could trim our head into. I entered, entirely too intrigued to ignore this little shop.
“I’ll just get the basic Victorian pruning package,” I told the front desk, a yawning boy with hair made of drooping Brugmansia. He looked to be in the middle of the transformation. The flowers had yet to take over his face. I made sure to pronounce the full name of the packaged deal so he wouldn’t get it confused.
“First-timer, huh?” He glanced at my head. “I can get the gardener. Just wait over there for a sec.”
I went to sit at the one-legged bar stool. Realizing my overgrown head probably egged me as an inexperienced Flowerhead. Actually that night was the first time I realized the flowers could be styled and organized. So much so it became a fashion choice, not an involuntary disease I contracted. The signs were obvious.
In New Victoria, everyone looked some form of aesthetically pleasing, even when they—we—looked like literal aliens.
In the next months, my obsession with the Salon made time flew by. I was eagerly waiting for my plants to grow out so I can try the newest style of trimming. Some days I had only green bushes with sharp thorns, some days I have a head full of the proudest flowers. The gardeners were magnificent. They could make a Flowerhead look like a human with dyed green hair, or make them stand out with an old English royal garden on their head. As the gardening scissors snipped away my growth, the quiet sound drowned out all the other ambiance in the world. I could relax after a day of school. I could grow attached to this.
Except that this kind of entertainment would get stale after nine months. I was back to my old self. I was dragging my feet to find the next thing that holds my interest. Human or Flowerhead, I was always looking for excitement without trying to step out of my comfort zone.
It’s sad, really. Becoming a Flowerhead was the most exciting thing that ever happened to me. Now I only counted until the one-year time limit was up. I couldn’t wait to turn back into a human again. I kept a calendar over my bed, counting down the days. It all went downhill after that.
The calendar becomes the only thing I could think of every day. Good memories of being a Flowerhead gets replaced by the anxiety. I was born human, I could never get used to being something else.
Till then, I will be as patiently as I could, waiting for the day I become human again. For the day I could leave this behind, just a bizarre chapter of my life.