She, was the one that lived amongst the uppermost branches of the hanging tree, twirling strands of hair around and around, fresh with little gemstones of dew, just like bubblegum made of crystals and diamonds. She trampolines with millipedes, polishing tinkling twilight, smoothing over the surface of the soil and tickling sparrows until they drift off to sleep. She stands on one leg and scratches at the back of her knee, gazing up at all those infinite points of twinkling white light. The heavens perpetuate her simple beauty, her face glowing with a halo of a million sparkling jewels, as she runs her fingers through the stratosphere, smudging the face of the universe and she counts up undulating planets and shooting stars streaking across the arc of the world. She was the one, that coaxed the bad men with a voice like velvet into darkness underneath the stairs of a fire escape and teased them behind moss-speckled gravestones to meet their demise.
And now, she stands there, enshrined in light, holding hands with the butcher’s daughter, the one that they thought had run away with the Sunday school teacher, all lost in a haze of newfound love and promises, all filled up with fiery breath and whisky and cigarettes bummed from a stranger at a rainy bus depot.
They found her remains underneath the old librarian’s summerhouse, all of those ragged bones and soft white cotton, all bound up together: ravaged and covered in his toothmarks. The butcher’s daughter is the truth behind those whispered secrets and salacious newspaper headlines and housewives, festooned with curlers and painted red claws, procrastinating over pastries and postulating of atrocity. All those lost faces printed on milk cartons and public press conferences with ruined, broken women, as these stories unravel on the back of breakfast cereal boxes and TV screens display countless images of theatrical weeping. Scribblings carved into barroom bathroom walls, scraped into church confessionals and etched into courthouse jail cells: every single one of those little bones, all ground up, hidden from view, hiding in plain sight, eternally imperfect, enraged and betrayed.
She, was the one that led them all here, all of the forgotten little girls, to make daisy chains out of the layers of leftover skin, decaying, made into something beautiful. She, was the one that took them away from those glittering promises and unwrapped candy bars and oaths and sordid predilections and secret polaroid photographs: the scent of chemicals and developing fluid and chaos: the thick pervasive scent of rotting meat. She led them away from agony and darkness and into the encompassing embrace of the hanging tree and towards purest white light. She wipes away tears and makes the girls forget about all of the bad men that brought them to the edge of insanity and suicide and those rough textured hands, all prying and clasping at flesh.
Now they all sing ring a roses and dance merry go rounds as they strip skin from the hands of the bad men. The forgotten girls make the other bad men watch as they pluck out eyelashes and juggle kidneys under the silver light of a waning moon. They inflict redemption with every single strike and rejoice at spurts of arterial silliness and confetti and glitter splashing on pretty patent leather shoes.
The pharmacist’s daughter takes the first swing and she delights as the sharpened shin bone of the big ugly one splits open the jugular of the old librarian as he pleads for mercy from these crushed origami hearts. Her cotton summer dress resplendent in white, speckled with red. The bad men can no longer hide in court rooms and social work offices and schoolhouses and playparks, they will be dragged from smoke filled rooms, as the lost girls slice and hack away their incandescent disgust.
She reposes in the arms of the hanging tree and whispers to caterpillars. She strokes them on the belly, until they wriggle with delight at this scene of perfect obliteration. She dances marionettes made from tendons and bone and the other girls giggle as they play jumprope with the ragged remains smelling of gasoline and sweat. Then she watches the bad men slowly dissolve in iron cast bathtubs, and the lost girls are fizzing and whooshing explosions of light as they sparkle off into the darkness like kaleidoscopic, pick and mix liquorice fireflies.
All the secrets carved into butcher’s slabs and secreted inside incinerators, she was the one that exposed the true horror sliding and slithering underneath the surface of this ugly little town. She was the one that freed these lost girls from the cold embrace of wet dirt and concrete under town hall gardens and from shoeboxes hidden in the nursery school sandpit. She watches, with a wistful smile, as the shiny bad men are wrenched from opulent offices of mahogany and brass. Clumsy plywood walls are broken down to reveal the red velvet rooms with cameras and tripods and tarpaulins and plastic sheeting stretched out in the centre of the floor.
The bad men will feel the icy kiss of justice as their throats are filled with carcasses of glowworms and their skulls are adorned with congealed raven’s feathers, as the wind rattles the leaves of the hanging tree. She, was the one that watched the chrysalis dangling at the end of her toe split open and anguish evaporates into swirling flurries of new born snow. The darkness within dissipates and leaves rumours of honey and cinnamon, as delicate petals of butterfly wings unfurl. The unforgotten girls disperse into the endless oblivion of the stars, like angels made of rainbows, as they leave behind all the memories of bindings and uncaring hands in dusty greenhouses and swimming pool shower rooms.
She, was the one that brought all of this together, and now she chuckles to herself and makes snowangels in infinite layers of lacy white that drape around the foot of the handing tree, as she knows that the unforgotten girls will be, forever free.