There was a tap at the window. Sarah wasn’t expecting anyone and had looked forward to some time alone - to read, to think, to eat chocolate. She decided to ignore it, but the tapping became more imperious - a thunderous rap. A voice that sounded familiar called: “cooee! It’s me! Let me in, it’s raining!” Feeling as though she had lead in her shoes, she trudged towards the door. It swung open with a creak. What stood there put her into a cold sweat, with her heart beating wildly. It was a large person with three heads.
The creature trundled into the room: “not seen you for ages! What a jolly time we’ll have! Is the kettle on? Oh dear, did the cat die? That’ll account for all the mouse turds. Gosh, you’ve put on some weight! Why don’t you arrange those books in alphabetical order? Do you really think that colour suits you?” It had huge shoulders which supported three very different heads. At first Sarah thought it might be a winsome version of Zaphod Beetlebrox from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. But it was not: on closer inspection, each of the three heads bore the face of an old friend who had become tiresome. One of them was a former lover who insisted that it was possible to remain friends (it was not, unless you were prepared to forget his post-coital smiles). One was a friend from Sarah’s youth, who was incapable of talking about anything other than health matters and who carried a miniature skeleton in her handbag, with Blue-Tac fixed to the parts which currently ailed her. And the third was an old colleague who was a stickler for economy and due procedure. He carried a rule-book and a calculator in his pocket and was convinced that all Sarah’s troubles proceeded from her zest for chaos.
As she sat there in the firelight, listening to them slurping their tea and criticising the biscuits, Sarah realised that she only had herself to blame. She had tolerated them because she had been lonely, and all three of them were now engaged in a conversation about who she had been. For years, she had not answered back when they told her what she should do. Consulting Google on her phone, she was reminded that many-headed monsters in mythology - Cerberus, Hydra, Scylla - had all been summarily dispatched by the wandering hero.
What to do? Beheading seemed the most appropriate, though it might make a mess on her new hearthrug. There was an old Samurai sword over the fireplace, which Sarah had hung up in an ironic moment. It was still sharp. Walking behind them (ostensibly to replenish the supply of cake), Sarah snatched down the sword and, with eyes a-glitter and hair aflame, sliced off the three heads with one blow. As they lay there, they squealed in unison: “why did you do that?”
But Sarah knew why. She had done it to make herself free: and a spoiled hearthrug was a price worth paying.