“Headless,” by Laerke Olsvig

Dec 20th, 2022 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

“There’s something different about you today,” said Jane as she poured herself a coffee using the coffee machine at the coffee place in the office. The line was longer than usual.

“I agree,” said Beth. “Did you get a new haircut or something?”

“No,” I answered. “Maybe it’s because I’m not wearing any makeup.”

“Oh, dear, I see what it is,” said Jane and leaned forward, uncomfortably close to me. “It’s your head,” she said and studied me carefully. “Your head is gone.”

“That’s it!” Beth agreed. “Your head is gone.”

A few moments later, I looked myself in the mirror in the bathroom, and it was true—my head was gone! I wondered where I could have lost it. Where does one lose their head? I did not remember ever losing my head before, or even hearing about other people losing their heads. I had never really considered this to be something that could happen. For obvious reasons, I needed to find my head again. However, I could probably find a temporary solution to last me for the rest of the day—at least until after work.


“I’m afraid that’s all we have,” said the woman behind the counter. She had a resting-friendly face. I looked at my options, and they were not as varied as I would have liked them to be, but I needed to choose something as I had a meeting coming up in a few minutes.

“I understand,” I said and pointed towards the pink scream mask. I did not really wish to wear a scary mask as I did not find it suitable for work, however, this was the least scary one of them all, and I also figured that the pink colour made it slightly more approachable—almost soft.

“You could also try Party Queens down the end of the street,” the woman said, with a relaxed and therefore friendly face.

“I appreciate your help, but I need a mask immediately, and it’s just temporary anyway.”

The woman shrugged. “That’ll be twelve pounds,”

“I don’t need a bag,” I said and paid.

The mask came with a little stick that I stuck into my neck.

“It works,” said the woman triumphantly. “Good luck finding your head.”


“Don’t worry, no one will notice,” Beth lied as we entered the meeting room.

“Thank you,” I said and adjusted my mask—a new habit I had taken up since walking out from the store a few moments earlier. The small room was already warm from all the people inside it. I found a chair amidst the sweaty crowd and noticed Anne from Design wasn’t in today. Odd, she had never missed a meeting before.

“I’m happy we can all finally put our heads together,” said Mike. He glanced at me, his face turning slightly red—or pink. A bit like my mask. There was a silence. “I mean,” Mike pulled his tie and corrected himself, “It’s good that we can get together to sort this out.” Mike had had a few complaints over the past year. Some people thought he had discriminated against them, so I guessed that was why he was anxious after having said that thing about heads getting together. From his perspective, I could say I had felt excluded in this meeting due to his choice of words. Had I? I adjusted my mask, and Mike swallowed.

“Without further ado, let’s commence,” said Mike and put on a colourful PowerPoint presentation on the screen behind him. The first slide featured three different-coloured heads, so Mike rapidly clicked onto the next slide.

“There have been some complaints due to contracts not being fully completed before we begin delivering,” he made a grimace, “and from our side of the table, we’re trying to be as transparent as possible—we’re trying to make it clear to all of you that we are not trying to mask—” Mike glanced at me quickly again, “—cover anything up.” His face turned into an aggressive pink—not soft like my mask—and he seemed to have frozen because he was not saying anything.

“It’s okay,” I said, feeling a bit sorry for him. “Let’s address the elephant in the room. I’ve lost my head, and I’m determined to find it again.”

“Oh, it’s hardly noticeable,” said Mike and looked around the room to receive confirmation. People nodded in agreement.

“True,” said Beth. “I didn’t even notice it until you told me this morning.”

That was, of course, a lie. But maybe it was not too noticeable after all since I, myself, had not realised it either until Jane had pointed it out. Jane was a person known for her exceptional attention to detail.

“I would even go so far as to say it even suits you,” Mike said, obviously becoming a bit too frisky due to the team supporting him.

“Thank you,” I said, wishing to move on from this topic.

“But it’s true!” he pronounced. “You look great today.”

“Absolutely,” Kenny from Marketing joined in. “Stunning.”

Although I knew they were lying—they were only trying to make me feel comfortable—I tried not to get angry.

“Thanks everyone,” I said. “But to be honest, I would really like to find my head again, so if anyone-“

“Not necessary,” Kenny interrupted. “In this day and age, I can’t believe that we are forcing people into thinking they need heads. Some have heads, and some don’t.”

“Exactly,” Mike agreed. “Head or no head, it doesn’t and should never matter.”

“But,” I tried, “I’d really like to have my head back, so—”

“Sorry,” said Kenny with annoyance in his voice, “that is a personal matter. You want your head back, fine. But there may be other people who do not wish to have their heads back, and I think that you should consider your language when thinking of them.”

“What do you mean by consider my language?” I asked.

“Perhaps be a bit more discrete about your wish as it’s a rather sensitive topic,” Mike offered.

“And that comes from you?” I said, irritated.

“I know I’ve said some insensitive things in the past,” Mike said and placed a hand on his chest. “But I’ve taken quite a few unconscious bias courses over the past couple of months, and I am happy to say that I am a new person—I do not discriminate anymore.”

“You go, bro!” said Kenny, clapping loudly, and the whole team followed by giving an enthusiastic applause, making me feel I was at the opera.

“Okay, fine, Mr Correct,” I said. “I’d still like my head back.”

Shocked gasps from the audience. Mike put his face into his hands, and Kenny got up to give him a pat on his shoulder. “It’s okay, Bro, we’ve all been there,” Kenny said soothingly, and then turned to me in aggression. “This has escalated out of proportion, so Louise, if you could please leave the room. We’ll take this up with HR later today.”

“You’re not even my manager,” I said.

“You really want to go there right now?” Kenny answered nodding towards Mike who dried his crisp-dry eyes.


I could not believe I had been kicked out of the meeting. I had not been kicked out of anywhere since that time in school when I was ten and I pulled Choe’s hair a bit too hard. I put my hand where my hair should have been. This may be the real punishment creeping up on me finally. If I could just have my head back, I could probably think clearer and know what to do. Evil thought! As if other people without heads could not think. Maybe Mike and Kenny were right, I was full of unconscious biases towards the headless. Maybe this was internalised headless-phobia?

Explaining that I had felt excluded by the language Mike had used before commencing his presentation, I got away with a warning from HR.

“We understand your feeling about wanting to have a head,” said the HR guy making a face of false sympathy. I wanted to tell him that I already had a head, but that I had lost it and was very keen on putting it onto my neck again. But I figured it was not the right time and place for that kind of conversation, so I nodded in agreement.

“Yes,” I said, “I guess a bit of jealousy towards Mike’s head took over in that moment. I am deeply sorry.”

“Very brave of you to admit that,” said HR guy and handed me a handkerchief, but quickly took it back as he realised that I did not need one.


Where could my head be? I tried thinking of where I had been the night before, but my memories were all clouded due my lack of head. I decided it was okay to feel this way. This was my individual and private experience, so I was not claiming that anyone else without a head could not think by concluding that I could not.

I tried the most obvious place: The Departed, a bar I often went to.

“I’m sorry, hun,” said the bartender. He was new. “We haven’t seen or heard of any lost heads around here. I’ll keep an eye out for you.”

“I’m sorry, we haven’t seen any heads lying around here,” said the woman behind the counter at Tesco’s.

“No lost heads here,” they told me at the lost and found.

“No heads no.”

“I’ll put it aside if I see it.”

“Absolutely not. Have never seen any heads around here.”



It was useless. There was no point in looking anymore. Maybe someone had taken it? I sat down on a bench in Victoria Embankment Gardens. Dusk began darkening the trees.

“Oh my God, you scared me,” said a woman. She was sitting on the same bench as me. Had she been sitting there before I sat down?

“I’m sorry,” I said. “If it’s the mask, it’s supposed to be temporary.”

“No, it wasn’t the mask,” she said with hesitation.

“Ah, come on,” I said. “We’ve all seen Scream. Of course, it was the mask.”

She laughed. “Okay, it was the mask, but then I quickly realised it’s pink. So, it really isn’t scary at all. I just couldn’t see that well in this darkness.”

“It’s okay,” I said. “I would have reacted the same way. This mask,” I shook my mask, “was supposed to be temporary. You see, I lost my head and I have no idea where to find it, so I guess I’ll have to live with this a little longer. Or maybe get another mask. An animal—maybe a rabbit?”

“Don’t get another mask,” she answered determined. “If you go down that path, you’ll never find your head again.”

I could not believe she had just suggested that I may not find my head again. Firstly, because I was scared of not finding it. Secondly, because it was discriminatory to assume I wanted to find my head again. What if I had no wish of finding it and was fine with being headless?

“I know what you’re thinking,” she said. “I once too lost it.”

I could not believe my non-ears. She had lost her head, too?

“It was years ago. It was a different time. But I know what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling. You need your head back. Don’t let them bully you into not finding your head again.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Trust me, I knew someone who lost their head. It started with the head. Then it sort of just spiralled from there. Arms, then legs, then feet. In the end, the person was completely gone.” Her words gave me an odd feeling inside. I had never even considered that it was possible to lose more than one’s head. Then again, that very morning I had no idea that losing one’s head was a possibility either. “Promise me, you’ll find that head of yours,” she said. And that’s when I realised there was no one next to me! She, herself, had been that ‘someone’ who was losing it all.


When I arrived home that evening, I could not believe what met me in the corridor. My head! There it was looking all sleepy and a bit confused. I immediately threw off my pink Scream mask and put on my head. Everything seemed so clear now. I had taken it off for a moment the night before just to test if it was needed or not. I definitely needed it and I would never take it off again—not even to shower, I promised myself.


“There’s something different about you today,” said Jane as she poured herself a coffee using the coffee machine at the coffee place in the office. The line was shorter than usual.

“I agree,” said Beth. “Did you have a new haircut or something?”

“No,” I answered. “Today I’m finally myself again.”

“Oh, dear, I see what it is,” said Jane. “It’s your body,” she said and studied me carefully. “You have a new body.”

“That’s it!” Beth agreed. “A new body.”

I ran to the mirror in the bathroom, and that was when I realised it. I was wearing Anne from the Design Team’s head!


Laerke Olsvig writes short films and stories and has co-created a comedy web-series in Madrid, Spain. She lives in London and is from Denmark. Not Copenhagen.

Tags: , , , ,

Comments are closed.