The soft tinkling of silver bells accompanied a pink, fleshy tendril as it snaked around the glass door of Simone’s Hair and Beauty Salon. It was followed by the sharp stench of rotting fish as another latched onto the steel door frame, steadying the alien as she wobbled through on prosthetic legs.

Yasmin looked up from her scissors. “Ay dios mio,” she groaned. “¿Qué lleva esa zorra ahora?”

Simone elbowed Yasmin in her side. “Carla, what a surprise!” she called over to the creature. “How are you, dear?”

“Just grand, honey, just grand!” Carla’s slimy appendages popped when her suckers disengaged from the doorway. “I love what you’ve done with the place.”

“Yes, you can hardly see the scorch marks through the fresh paint.” Yasmin snorted and turned back to her customer.

Simone smiled uneasily and gestured to the waiting area. “Won’t you have a seat?”

There was a shuffle of movement as the other customers feigned interest in the state of their manicures, last February’s issue of Cosmo; anything to avoid eye contact with the creature.

“Oh no, darling, I’m afraid I’m in a bit of a rush.” Carla staggered inside and stopped in front of Simone’s station. “You don’t mind, do you, honey?”

The customer in Simone’s chair looked up with disdain. “I absolutely mind!”

Carla clicked her beak, her bubblegum-pink exterior turning crimson.

“It’s fine, Vera,” Simone hushed.

“Like hell it is!” Vera turned in her chair. “I had to wait three weeks for an appointment because you were too full to take new clients! I won’t be pushed aside for some alien who just wanders in off the street!”

Carla’s tendrils snaked towards the folds of her midsection. “I don’t appreciate your tone.”

“Well I don’t appreciate you stealing my appointment.” Vera raised her chin haughtily. “Ever since the cease-fire you expect us to roll over and — ”

Carla unholstered her plasma .45 and got off a shot before Simone could stop her. A flash of orange light filled the salon, followed by the sudden sickening smell of burning rubber and smoked pork. Vera’s chair was gone. So was Vera. In their place sat a small puddle of bubbling black goo.

The customer in Yasmin’s chair ran for the door, her hairstyle looking ludicrously asymmetrical in its half-finished state. The others shuffled out as discretely as possible, one of them retching into her handbag on the way.

Yasmin put down her scissors and went to fetch a mop.

“You can’t keep doing this, Carla,” Simone said. “How will I keep my business if you insist on vaporizing my customers?”

“Hmph. Disrespectful parasites.” Carla tucked the gun away. “If you served only cephalopods you’d make five times their measly patronage. I’d be happy to recommend you…” She extended an appendage with affection, which wrapped around Simone’s arm twice over.

Simone nodded at Carla’s prosthetics, hoping to change the subject. “So, those are new…”

Carla brightened. “Don’t you just love them? I’m one step closer to looking just like my idol.”

Yasmin returned with the mop and began to clean up Vera’s smoldering remains. “No quiero saber…” she muttered, “And who is that?”

“Beyoncé, of course.”

Yasmin stifled a giggle, which came out as a coughing fit.

“Is she alright?”

“She’ll manage.” Simone led Carla to an empty chair and let down the matted mass of hair clinging to the alien’s mantle. A few crabs shook loose and bounced onto the tile floor, where they skittered out of sight. “I assume you’ll be wanting the usual?”

“Oh no, honey, I’ve brought my own this time!” She whistled, prompting a young Indian woman with long, black hair to enter the shop. “Simone, this is my hairpiece, Aishwarya.”

Yasmin exchanged a horrified look with Simone.

“Carla, I can’t possibly…”

The alien clicked her beak. “I have purchased the hairpiece legally, just like my others. This one just happens to have the hair still attached. Go on, sit, child.” Aishwarya dutifully sat in the adjacent chair, waiting for her locks to be harvested.

“And what happens after you’ve collected the hair?” asked Yasmin.

“She lives with me. It’s a regenerating hairpiece, dear, they’re quite modern.” Carla reached up with a long tendril to pat Yasmin’s cheek. Yasmin tried not to shudder as she went back to mopping.

“Have you considered going natural? You have such… beautiful… cough…natural…” Simone tried not to gag as she attempted to comb through the mass of seaweed and hair extensions.

Carla spun around. “Absolutely not. Regenerating hairpieces are an investment. I intend to use her for a long while.”

“But your natural look is so… you! And besides, beauty lies not in the face, but in one’s heart.” Simone turned Carla back around, fluffing her mantle and letting the alien admire herself.

Carla blinked her black, beady eyes and surveyed herself in the mirror.

“Inner beauty is for suckers,” she concluded. “I want to look like Beyoncé.”

Two hours later Carla curled a tendril around her long, raven locks and arranged them lovingly over where her shoulders might’ve been, if she had them. “Simone, you’ve done it again.”

“She sure has,” muttered Yasmin.

Carla glanced in her direction, turning just a shade darker.

Yasmin smiled. “La mona aunque se vista de seda, mona se queda.” She blew a kiss with her hand.

Carla sighed, contented. “I must tell all my kin about the marvelous job you do; they will be knocking down your door! Come, Aishwarya.” She hobbled to the door, regenerating hairpiece in tow.

“What’d you tell her?” Simone asked Yasmin, once Carla was out of earshot.

“A monkey dressed in silk is still a monkey.”

Simone shook her head. “If she ever learns to speak Spanish you’re in trouble.”

“Ha.” Yasmin noted the scorched tiles were Vera once sat. “You’ll run out of customers before that happens.”

“Didn’t you hear? I have more of them to look forward to.”

“God help us all.”

Liz Schriftsteller hails from North Carolina but ‘home’ is anywhere the wifi automatically connects. Her work has been published in Daily Science Fiction, HAVOK magazine, and Phobos magazine. When not writing she enjoys going to the theater, petting kittens, and over-analyzing the plot elements of her favorite TV shows. Find her on twitter @LizSchriftstell or online.