The Shrunken Head
All night she dreamt of shrunken heads. She awoke haunted and restive. In the dream a shrunken head in flames hovered over her and her cat, which was surprisingly undisturbed by the apparition but nonetheless pawed at it. She gazed at the ceiling a long while, lost in the geography of its valleys and peaks. She hated popcorn ceilings. It was in this humor that she turned toward the winter light struggling through the window when her recoil caused her to fall off the side of the bed. As she knelt over the bed she verified what she thought she had seen in that instant of a second. There, on her ex-husband’s former pillow, was the shrunken head.
The shrunken head spoke to her. It told her it knew of dark places she had never seen and of a sadness she had never known. It said it was her guardian from all things that would harm her. It said it would be with her now and forever: and, well, he (for the shrunken had once been male, but now neatly removed from its genitalia was at peace with the world)… he loved her. The cat jumped on the bed, sniffed it, and swiped it off the bed into a linty corner of the room where it came to rest face down on some cat hair dust bunnies. The cat hissed and ran out the door.
“I love you,” the shrunken head whispered, and with those words she felt a strange melange of sensations: dread, disgust, appreciation and a carnal lust that she had never known was possible. But it was the dread and disgust that drove her to find her dusty college lacrosse stick from the garage where the cat was cowering by its litter box. She scooped the shrunken head in the crosse, and despite the shrunken head’s garbled protestations of love — you see, a cross piece of netting was strung around his sewn shut mouth — she promptly shot the head into the trash bin in the driveway.
She had enough of complications.
“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.”
— Issac Asimov