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Coil

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Her hair is thick and dark. She has a mirror hung above her dresser and every morning she finds herself before it, hair long and unbound around her face. There is a brush on her dresser, situated amongst tubes of lipstick, mascara and bottles of nail polish and body sprays. The brush is oval, flowers painted onto the back, bright against the fake-wood background. She will pick up the brush, weighing it in her hand as she follows the sweep of her hair in the mirror before her with her eyes.

She moves slowly, dragging stiff bristles through her hair. From her hairline, a slow journey atop her head, across the back of her skull, downward still. One hundred strokes, serene as she draws each number out in her mind, stretching the length of her hair. She doesn't stop before every inch of hair has been drawn through the brush, over and over until her hair floats around her face. She watches her hands move, reflected in the mirror, as she lifts dark masses of hair into heavy coils around her skull.

The scent of baked goods, smoke and the world clings to the strands. She washes her hair as often as water levels permit so that flowers surround her every time she shifts her head. She likes the smell of flowered shampoo, and even the smells of the world that catch in her hair. She remembers the strong smell of institution and conformity that once settled against hair and skin and clothes.

She doesn't let anyone touch her hair. She passes a hairdressers every morning as she jogs, a block, two, three, before heading into work. She'll look into the window, past bold blue letters printed on the glass, towards the women situated at mirrors, their hair offered up in trust to strangers. A steady pull of wet hair against combs, a snip of scissors and locks of hair tumble against cloth coverings, to be brushed to the floor with other debris.

There are scissors in the bathroom in the rooms she calls home. They hide behind the bathroom mirror until she pulls it open, fingers searching out a weapon. They are barber's scissors, long and silver and sharp. They are cool against her fingers as she carefully trims dead ends. Some strands float into a sink stained with years of use, and she'll twist the taps, cold water washing the hair away. The rest lays scattered, dark and lost against the tiled floor. She squats, brushing the hair into her hand, lets dark strands fall into the toilet and flushes.

Her hair used to be short, tight and close against her skull, mirror image to those around her. There are times, places and cultures where a woman's hair was her pride, each click of the scissors closer and closer towards her skull the sound and feel of punishment. She hasn't cut it, not for years, not since she leapt free of the fences around Manticore and found herself master of her own body. It crept past her ears, her jaw, her shoulders, marking time. Hair curls around her fingers, brushes against her face, shoulders, back, and it is freedom made tangible.

She defies the control they had over her, the constraints they placed on her body, her mind, herself. She is more than a soldier. She is more than a number and a barcode dark against her neck. She is an individual. She is a woman. She is beautiful and strong and free and her body is her own.

She wears her hair wound into a crown atop her head, a silent testament to her freedom.