Permdemic! : Chapter 1

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It was a rainy and thunderous night at the Worthington Academy’s biochemistry laboratory, and sounds of diverse chemical reactions and a few bubbling noises could be heard across the hallways. It was the product of experiments of one of the institution’s most promising young researchers, Dr. Katie Williams.

The young woman cleaned the sweat from her forehead and took off her glasses for a moment, quickly putting them back on to add one last drop of chemical to a test tube, changing its colour and letting out a small puff of gas. She let out a satisfying smile and a small tear came down from her eye.

“Finally! It’s done! It’s finally done! I have done it! Now all of my dreams will come true!” Exclaimed the scientist as she jumped in excitement. She held the test tube in front of her eyes, and memories flooded her head about how her research had begun in the first place nearly nine months ago.


It was lunchtime at the science department and Katie was having a cup of coffee while watching her favourite video for the third time that day, a tutorial for a short and tight perm, with a shaved nape, tightly clippered sides and no fringe. Her eyes were glued to her phone screen and her lips couldn’t help make a silly smile. She even giggled to herself as she played with her own shoulder length, wavy permed hair.

For all of her brilliance and achievements in her field, Katie’s true passion was traditional hairdressing, or to be more precise, traditional perms. She was infatuated with everything related to them, from bubble cuts to poodle do’s, from cute little afros to elegant Marcel waves. It was more than her hobby, it was her obsession.

As the video reached its end, a few of her colleagues took a seat at her table. This made Katie frown, as she had been hoping to rewatch the video for a fourth time today, but she put down her phone and exchanged the expected pleasantries with her coworkers. They were all quite friendly, even though they envied Katie greatly. Her brilliance in her work meant that she had recently been awarded a promotion and a sponsorship from Hathor Ltd., a large bio-chemical company. She had been given free rein over her research, she only needed to develop a suitable product in the span of a year for Hathor to manufacture in mass and sell to the public.

“Katie, you seem to have a lot of free time recently,” one of her colleagues observed.  “Shouldn’t you be working on your research?”

“Don’t worry, when the inspiration comes, so will the research. You can’t rush brilliance my dear.” She replied, with a smug tone of superiority.

“Well, then maybe you should dedicate some of your spare time into updating your appearance my dear” suggested a sassy voice.

It came from the Biochemistry Department Secretary, Stacy Preston, a very glamorous and stylish woman, always wearing the latest designer brand clothing and makeup, but her pride and glory was her hair, a huge mane of natural golden locks that fell to the bottom of her back.

“I mean, you are now a big deal in the scientific community, you’ll soon be appearing on the covers of magazines and be asked to do TV interviews.You need to seriously reconsider your current look, hun.” She added with a mischievous smile.

“What’s wrong with my current style?” Katie demanded, annoyed.

“Well, if you can call it style, no offence sweetheart but your look is like a geeky girl meets quirky librarian.” Stacy sniped back. “Perms are so old-fashioned!”. There were discreet giggles from the rest of the table. They all envied Katie’s golden girl status, and it was fun to see her brought down for once.

Katie’s face was turning red with anger, already thinking of a clever comeback, but then a curious thought came to her.

Don’t you think I know how  I look, you empty headed doll! If it was up to me I’d be sporting a cute little head of tightly permed curls! But I know I’d be ridiculed for it, called outdated, or an old lady by dumb divas like you. I wish I could live in a world full of permed ladies! Then I could freely wear my dream curls, and I’d be the one giggling at the sight of a permed Stacy!

At that moment, a lightbulb turned on brightly above Katie’s head.

“Eureka!!! I got it!” She exclaimed  triumphantly as she raced back to the lab.

“Well I hope she is on her way to a hair salon.” Stacy mocked, as the others laughed even louder.

Back in the lab, Katie began opening a new file on her research computer, and started to gather chalkboards, machinery and lots of chemicals.

“If the problem with getting permed is just the public perception, then all I have to do is change it! Make everyone else love perms as much as I do, or even more!” She smiled gleefully as she began typing her new notes.


And so, nine months later, after hundreds of trial and errors, some damaged equipment and a few explosions, Katie had done it again. She had single handedly created a new scientific achievement. It was a simple concept, but devilishly complex to make it effective and reliable.

It was a radically new type of perm solution, with all the usual chemical properties, but containing a biological element, that once applied and used on the hair would inject itself right inside the follicles’ roots, going through the scalp and the cranium and finally into the neurological system, altering its function and process.

In layman’s terms, the perm solution would get into the brain and its effects would make the subject become infatuated with perms, creating a sense of admiration and love for the hairstyle, eventually developing a psychological need to get permed themselves.

The final characteristic, though, was the most important. Once activated in the brain, the biological element would multiply like a virus, and be secreted back out of the hair follicles as a volatile liquid. Katie was confident that the diffused molecules would be contained within the curly hair, ready to be inhaled by anyone who got close enough.

Inside the nasal passage, it would be able to cross the blood-brain barrier, and another woman would find herself suddenly desiring a tight, curly perm. Katie had carefully engineered the solution so that contact with the female XX chromosomes was required to activate its effects.

So, she finally had the first batch of solution ready. There was no doubt in her mind that it would work, and she wasn’t about to let anyone else be the first recipient. All she needed was someone to help her apply it….


Elsewhere in the library of the Academy’s Science Department, Biochemistry Major, Mildred Perkins was taking notes on her computer with a dozen books around her. She was working on her thesis paper, under supervision of Dr. Katie Williams. Mildred was not only her assigned resident student, but also her lab assistant, working as her right hand woman in all of her projects and research.

Mildred was saving her last progress made on her laptop, when her phone began ringing.

“Good evening Doctor, I was just finishing my latest update on my thesis paper, I’ll send it to you right away.” She spoke with a tone of respect, as she was a deep admirer of Katie’s achievements and regarded her as a genius.

“That can wait, Mildred. Right now I need you in the lab ASAP.” Katie barked excitedly. “I have finally finished my breakthrough product and I need your help to test it.”

“O. M. G. Doctor! This is amazing news! After all the hard work you put into your research! Congratulations!” Mildred was equally excited.

“Wait, did you say you need my help? Does that mean that I’ll finally be able to learn what this revolutionary invention of yours is?” She asked incredulously, as, even though she was Katie’s right-hand woman, she never revealed the nature of the research to her, she only gathered data,  made calculations and calibrated the necessary equipment for the project.

“That’s right my dear assistant, the time has finally come, now hurry up! Time is of the essence.” Katie urged her.

“I’ll be there in a flash, Dr Williams!” Mildred was full of enthusiasm. She slipped her white lab coat on top of her simple blouse and jeans, pulled her medium length blondish brown hair into its usual ponytail and rushed to the Biochemistry laboratory.


She swiped her ID card to open the door and as she was closing it, she heard Katie’s voice.

“You’re here Mildred, now we can get started!” She declared, just as a lightning bolt flashed in the background, startling Mildred.

“Oh sorry Doctor, the lightning took me-” she stopped mid sentence as she began to pay attention to the scene before her eyes. Katie had a pair of scissors in her right hand, and a great deal of wavy brown hair lay on the floor. Dr. Katie Williams now sported a short pixie style that barely reached her neck.

“Doctor, your hair!” Those were the only words that her usually eloquent assistant could muster.

“You like it? You have no idea how long I’ve been wanting to get rid of these silly locks.” She said with pride as she arranged her now short hair.

“Don’t worry dear, it’s all part of the experiment. You’ll understand in a moment.”

Katie sounded confident as she gathered a bunch of hairstyling products around the lab. Mildred could see curlers, hairspray, lacquer and a rat tail comb.

“Uh, Doctor, what’s all this? I thought we were going to test your new product. This looks like you are opening up a hair salon!” Mildred was confused.

“Oh I wish!” Katie replied with a grin,

“These are the necessary materials to test my new creation, hun. You see my product is none other than this!” she said proudly as she presented Mildred with a bottle filled with a translucent liquid.

“What is it?” Asked Mildred as she examined the substance.

“This is the first, and only one of its kind, completely revolutionary Williams Ultimate Perm Solution!” Exclaimed Katie with pride.

“A perm solution? Really, doctor? This is your revolutionary product? No offence but I was expecting something, I don’t know, a little bit more groundbreaking?” Mildred was trying to be as polite as she could.

“I expected you would have this kind of reaction, Mildred, it’s ok, but believe me, this will be a paradigm shift in the hairdressing business, I am 100% sure of it.”

“Well, if you say so doctor, it is you after all. I suppose this is because of your interest in classic hairdressing.” Mildred was one of the very few people that were even slightly aware of Katie’s secret passion, although she had never grasped the full depth of its hold on Katie.

“So how are we going to test your Ultimate Perm Solution Dr K?” She asked, smiling.

“That’s the spirit, my loyal assistant! You’ll have seen some of the data from testing on cut off hair, but now the only way to fully prove its effectiveness is on a live subject. In this case, your’s truly.” She pointed towards her cropped hair.

“Ohhhh, so that’s why you cut your hair” said Mildred now understanding.

“Now you are getting it. I had to cut out all of my old, wavy perm to get to the virgin hair at the roots. Of course, this does mean that my new perm will be very short, and very tight.” Katie tried, with limited success, to hide how excited she was about this prospect.

“And you, my dear, will go from being my lab assistant to my hairdressing assistant for the night.” Said Katie expectantly, resting her hands on Mildred’s shoulders.

“What? Me?! But Doctor, I know nothing about hairstyling! The only thing I ever do with my own hair is put it in a ponytail. What if I ruin the experiment, and your hair in the process? And anyway, isn’t it a bit dangerous to use an untested product on yourself?” Mildred sounded very concerned.

“Don’t you worry dear, I’ll be doing most of the work. I can put my own hair in rollers, and work the dryer. All you need to do is to wash and rinse my hair thoroughly, apply the perm solution and give a hand applying a bit of hairspray and lacquer, very simple!” Katie’s complete trust in her student was clear.

“And I’ve performed all the safety tests required. The solution is perfectly safe to use.”

“All right Doctor, if you are completely sure then, where do we start?” Mildred was somewhat reassured.

“I think we’ve got everything we need. I’ll lean over the sink here, and you wash my hair. It’s kind of tricky to do myself, with the angle the taps are at.”

“Oh, OK, Sure.” Mildred ran the tap to get the water nice and warm, and soaked Katie’s new short crop. She turned the water off.

“Do we just use normal shampoo? This one?” She held up a bottle.

“Yes, the shampoo shouldn’t affect the process. I guess you won’t need much, now my hair is so short!”

Mildred squeezed a little out onto her palm, and started to massage it into Katie’s hair.

“Mmmmm…. That feels good!” Katie relaxed into the shampoo and lost herself for a few minutes.

“Er, Ok. Time to rinse you off.” Mildred ran the water again, and cleared Katie’s hair of suds. Katie sat up, and grabbed a towel to wrap her head.

“So, a quick towelling, then we start to wrap. You pass me a paper, then a rod, in turn, OK?”

Mildred nodded, and they started the process. Katie had rolled her own hair many times, at home, but only ever with setting lotion, so the tight curls could be washed out again. She’d never had her hair this short, though, and it was more fiddly than she expected.

“Hmm, I might need you to give me a bit more of a hand, Mildred. Just roll that up, nice and tight for me….. Oh, yes. That feels good.”

They made slow but steady progress, Mildred helping where needed, until Katie’s head was covered with the skinny plastic rods. Katie wrapped a strip of cotton wool around the perimeter, making sure it was snug.

“Now, I need you to take that bottle, and really carefully put some solution on each rod. Make sure the hair is fully covered, OK?”

“Er, yes, OK.” Mildred was sounding unsure again. “I’ve never done anything like this. Are you sure you want me to?”

“Yes, of course. Look, don’t worry. Just treat it like any other scientific experiment.”

“Hmmm, OK. I’ll try to pretend it’s not happening on your head!” Mildred focussed on the task, and methodically saturated each perm rod.

“Right, that’s all of them. What’s next?”

Katie picked up a clear plastic cap and put it on. “The solution needs heat to work, so I need to go under there.” She gestured across the lab where an old fashioned hood dryer was set up, incongruous amongst the high tech lab equipment.

Mildred helped to settle Katie under the dryer, and let out a nervous giggle. “Am I supposed to offer you a cup of tea, now, or something?”

Katie smiled back. “Actually, I’d love one.”

As Mildred came back with two mugs, another vivid flash of lightning lit up the room. She jumped, spilling a small amount of tea on the floor.

“That storm really is livening  up. Aren’t you worried about the lightning? I would be, if I was sitting under there!”

“Relax. I’m no more at risk under here than anywhere else. I just need another 15 minutes or so.”

There was silence for a while, then Mildred piped up.

“Er, Doctor? I was just thinking…” She paused, then carried on as Katie raised an eyebrow. “You were supposed to be creating a product for the mass market. Hathor will want to make a lot of money out of your invention.”

“Well, yes, of course. That’s how business works.” Katie shrugged.

“But, er, not that many people perm their hair, any more. Are they going to sell enough of it?”

“Funnily enough, that’s just what the product manager said. So they were very happy when I offered to give up any upfront payment, in exchange for a royalty.” She shrugged again. “Time will tell, I suppose.”

The timer on the dryer elapsed, suddenly producing a loud buzz.

“That’s me done!” Announced Katie. “Now my invention, unlike a normal perm solution, is self-neutralising. So all you need to do is rinse my hair, take the rods out and I’ll be done!”

Mildred was feeling very nervous, but Katie had total confidence. She knew that this was it. Her dream realised. She bent over the sink once more and allowed Mildred to rinse the remnants of the chemicals away.

With her hair blotted dry, Katie could hardly stop herself tearing the rods out, but she took a deep breath, and made herself slow down. Mildred helped, and in a few minutes, Katie was looking at herself in the mirror she had hung from a retort stand.

The curls were tighter than she had ever imagined, and she couldn’t stop a huge grin spreading across her face.

“I do believe that it’s worked.” She beamed at Mildred. “I suppose I’d better go under the hood again, see how they look when they’re dry.”

Her short curls dried quickly, and she could feel them pulling deliciously tighter as they did. After just ten minutes, she decided that she was done. She flicked the dryer off, crossed back to the mirror and quickly primped her curls with a wide-toothed comb.

“Don’t they look wonderful?” She demanded of Mildred.

“Oh, er, yes, really, really, er, curly.” Her assistant replied. She unconsciously ran her hand down her own long, sleek ponytail. She’d never had much interest in doing anything with her hair, but she really couldn’t imagine wanting such a tight and austere head of curls.

“So, would you be a dear, and just give me a really good coat of hairspray? It’s hard to reach around the back.”

“Oh, of course.” Mildred did as she was asked, cementing Katie’s curls in place with the extra firm hold spray.

“Oh, the other revolutionary thing about my invention,” Katie remarked, casually, “is that there is no unpleasant smell – I expect you noticed?”

“Oh, er, yes, now you mention it.” Mildred acknowledged. “I’ve never had my hair permed, but even I know it’s supposed to smell terrible.”

“Whereas the Williams Ultimate Perm Solution has a delicate, citrus fresh smell. See what I mean?” Katie thrust her curls towards her assistant. “Take a deep breath, it’s a lovely scent.”

Mildred did, inhaling a good lungful. “Oh, you’re right! That’s actually really nice.” She sniffed again. “Mmmm, well, maybe without the awful smell, more women will perm their hair.”

“Let’s hope so.” Katie smiled, enigmatically.


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5 responses to “Permdemic! : Chapter 1

  1. A scientist with a love for permed bubbles, mmmmmh lovely idea ….. now after a interesting introduction chapter, we have been witnessed the new perm solutions is a perfect treatment ….. but nothing extraordinary happen, so this is kind of a hang over ….. hopefully the next chapter will enlighten us ….. nice read

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