Grey Hair :
Gertrude was the 18-year old daughter and only child of Mr and Mrs Wentworth. She was an attractive girl with smooth skin, pretty features and a pleasant physique. Her parents were very shocked when she came down to breakfast one morning and announced that she was getting married. After all, she had only just finished school.
The object of her affections was a young man named Walter. He was 20 years old and quite handsome and athletic. Gertrude had met him at a football game and took an immediate shine to him.
When her parents tried to talk her out of marriage, Gertrude brushed off their concerns and assured them that everything would be fine. She said Walter had recently inherited a large sum of money from his uncle. Gertrude found rich men very attractive and she was eager to help him spend it. No matter how hard they tried, her parents were unable to change her mind.
Gertrude was soon showing off her new diamond engagement ring and telling her parents that the wedding would take place in three months time. She invited Walter over to the house to meet her parents. Mr and Mrs Wentworth were anxious to find out all about him.
He appeared to be a nice and decent young man and seemed so utterly devoted to Gertrude that her parents began to warm to the idea of the marriage. When they found out exactly how much money he had inherited, they became even more enthusiastic and invited Walter to stay with them for a few days.
However, that very evening, Gertrude began to feel very tired and exhausted. The next day, in the middle of dinner, she burst into tears for no apparent reason. A day after that, she suddenly started shaking and ran up to her bedroom, locking the door behind her. She refused to talk to anyone, but Walter finally managed to coax her out.
She eventually broke down and told her parents what was going on. She was suffering from a recurring nightmare that was driving her crazy.
“It always starts the same way,” she whined. “In the dream, I am standing in a room. In the corner, there is a big bed and lying on it, is an ugly old man with a long, grey beard. He begins writhing as if he’s in a lot of pain. Then, all of a sudden, he rolls over and falls off the bed. he lands in a black coffin.”
“Good Lord!” said her mother. “That is very odd indeed.”
Walter went pale every detail of Gertrude’s nightmare seemed to make him more and more distressed.
“That’s when it happens,” Gertrude continued. “As I watch in horror, cracks start appearing in the coffin and I can see big clumps of long grey hair streaming through them. The hair creeps over the lid and completely engulfs the coffin. It starts moving towards me, slithering across the floor like a gigantic, wooly snake. Then, the room is suddenly plunged into darkness and I can feel something spreading across my face. It’s the grey hair. It starts wrapping itself around my head, forcing itself down my throat, suffocating me… I can’t breathe… I can’t see… I can’t scream… It’s horrible!”
“My God!” cried Mr Wentworth. “That is dreadful! You poor little girl! What a terrifying experience!”
“Yes,” agreed Walter. “It’s one of the most disgusting and unnerving dreams I have ever heard of.”
“It’s so bad that I’m terrified to go to sleep at night,” said Gertrude. “There must be some explanation for it…”
Just then, as Gertrude was absently staring out the window, a man with a grey beard happened to pass by on the street. She flew into hysterics and started screaming uncontrollably. Her parents had to carry her upstairs and calm her down.
That night, they decided that she shouldn’t be left alone and asked Walter to watch over her. He stayed up all night, sitting by her bedside, listening to her snore.
A little after midnight, Gertrude suddenly sat up in bed and started clawing at her face. It seemed like she was trying to free herself from something.
Walter jumped out of his chair and started gently stroking her forehead. After a few minutes, she woke up. Her eyes were staring blankly, her body was trembling and she burst into tears. Walter comforted her, speaking to her in soothing tones until she calmed down. Soon, her sobbing subsided and she fell into an exhausted sleep.
The next day, Mr and Mrs Wentworth were in the living room, watching TV, while Walter was outside, washing their car and mowing their lawn. Gertrude was in the kitchen, reading a book, when she felt something tickling her neck. At first, she didn’t pay any attention, but then she looked around.
To her horror, she saw clumps of long grey hair streaming out of the kitchen sink and coiling around her neck.
Walter came running into the kitchen, followed closely by Gertrude’s parents. They found the poor girl sprawled on the floor. Her sweater was wrapped around her head and her book lay on the ground beside her.
Walter pulled back the sweater and was horrified to find Gertrude’s face was almost completely white. She was unconscious. Her parents soaked a towel in water and put it over Gertrude’s forehead. Together, they carried her upstairs and lay her gently on her bed.
She stayed there for the rest of the evening, slowly recovering. She thought she heard the sound of whispering and soft mutterings. Now and then there was an eerie snigger or a chuckle. She couldn’t tell where the noises were coming from.
The next day, she wasn’t much better. She begged her mother to remove anything that was remotely grey from her room. She had also developed a terrible fear of hair, so much so that she asked Walter and her mother and father to wear scarves over their heads.
Walter spent the entire day with her, chatting quietly to her and reassuring her. It was a full week before Gertrude was well enough to come downstairs. Even then, her eyes were gaunt and she seemed to move around like a zombie.
Gertrude’s parents were very worried and they decided that a short break might ease her nerves. That weekend, they brought their daughter to a holiday resort by the sea. Of course, they invited Walter to accompany them.
At the hotel, Gertrude spoke very little and ignored everyone else. She spent her time sitting in a deckchair on the beach and staring out to sea.
However, the next morning she seemed much better. She came down to breakfast in her bikini and seemed eager to go down to the beach and take a swim. Walter was delighted and together they walked down to the water’s edge. The beach was crowded and Walter jumped into the sea and swam around, encouraging his girlfriend to come in and join him.
Gertrude began to step delicately into the water. She turned to wave to her parents, who were lying on the beach, then walked forward again. The water had just reached her neck when she suddenly started screaming in terror. Her head disappeared beheath the waves.
Walter swam furiously towards the spot where he had last her and dived down to look for her. As her parents watched from the beach, it seemed like an eternity until he appeared holding Gertrude in his arms. He dragged her to the shore and performed artificial respiration on her. After a while, she began coughing and threw up sea-water.
Walter helped her parents carry the girl back to their hotel room and sat by her bedside. The moment she recovered consciousness, she stared at the ceiling with cold vacant eyes and hissed, “There was someone in the water.”
“What? Who?” cried her father.
“I put my foot on a face,” Gertrude whispered. “I could feel it. Then I felt the hair. It began to crawl up my legs and wrapped around me, pulling me down.”
Then she began to scream and scream and scream, and it took all of their strength to hold her down and stop her from hurting herself. Soon, her struggles became less violent and she passed out. An ambulance arrived to take her to hospital.
When they took his daughter away, Mr Wentworth went back to his hotel room and lay down on his bed. His wife was weeping quietly in the bathroom. He was wondering what would become of his beautiful daughter.
Just then, he happened to notice a small note lying on the floor. Picking it up, he discovered it was from Walter.
“Dear Mr Wentworth,” it read. “When you read this, I will already be dead. I have finally made up my mind to end it all and drown myself. You see, I have a horrible secret that makes it impossible for me to marry your daughter and, without her, life would be unbearable.
I have a confession to make. The fact is, I murdered my uncle. I poisoned him and made it look like he died from heart attack. I was his only heir and he was going to leave his entire fortune to me. I couldn’t wait until he died of natural causes. I killed him so I could collect the inheritance right now.
I know now that it was a disgusting and despicable crime, but I felt like I had no choice. I wanted Gertrude to fall in love with me. I was sure that she would never be interested in me unless I had a lot of money. Now I have gone and wrecked my life and hers.
The moment I heard about Gertrude’s nightmares, I knew what was going on. I am certain that her attacks will stop when I am dead. Her sanity depends on what I am about to do. When she is well again I’ll just seem like part of a horrible memory. With time, she will forget me.
You are probably very confused by now, but it will all make sense to you when I tell you this one fact: My uncle had a long grey beard.”
Mr Wentworth immediately rushed to the phone and called the police, but it was too late. By the time they arrived, they found Walter floating face-down in the ocean.
The following day, Gertrude made a complete recovery. However, she never really got over the death of her beloved boyfriend and she was left with a morbid fear of men with long grey beards.