She is bound at the wrists by skin-tight cable ties. Arms outstretched and Christlike, linked to iron hitching bolts. She feels the impact of the blow, the blunt end of a mattock against her temple but not the pain. Blood streams from her battered face forging a fateful path beneath gossamer threads of blue, emerging warm and oozing like acrylic paint, thick and glossy. Her face angelic and expressionless, she sinks to her knees and her world goes black.
The city suited Adam Croft but his wife Angelique had reservations about their baby being born amid the skyscrapers and traffic. She feared for a child so special, raised among the bustle and pollution and violence and longed for the peaceful life. She was country born and bred and craved the lushness of the hinterland, the salt air of the sea. Moving back into a rural lifestyle was for her, a natural conclusion and a sensible decision. Adam's career was 'portable' so that wasn't an issue, although he liked the city life, the noise, the madness, the convenience, he adored her and would indulge this folly, sure that it would never come to fruition.
Driving north on the Pacific Highway along Queensland's Sunshine Coast, they'd ventured off the beaten path and saw it. High in the hinterland hills of Montville, above the surf, a typical Queenslander home. Raised on piles, neatly hidden by latticework and skirted by a wide cool verandah its newly painted timbers gleamed in the morning light. It's renovated colourbond roof, sage green against an endless blue sky. As they drove up the straight gravelled driveway, both glanced at each other, recognition and resignation in their eyes as they scanned the "For Sale" sign - It was perfect. Neither saw the bedroom curtain gently pulled aside or the figure at the window.
The Queenslander was nestled among 10 acres of arable land, dotted with Avocado and Macadamia trees and a neat row of Banana palms heavy with unripened fruit. The vista from the front sloping down into the valley and out towards the sea, rolling breakers and white sand far off in the distance. It came complete with a large wooden shed, slightly dilapidated but repairable - perfect for Jim's architectural studio. Other small outhouses formed weatherproof shelter for the tractor and one had already been converted into a three car garage.
The house was spacious and on a single level. Eleven wooden steps led to the front door adorned with a large lion brass knocker and stained glass panels that streamed coloured light into a wide polished board hallway. Extending past two bedrooms on either side, then a living room, dining room all opened into a spacious and modern open kitchen with new cedar trimmed bi-fold doors opening onto a shady patio. Newly planted, the fragrance of star jasmine announced the onset of summer and Rainbow Lorikeets delved hungrily into each Grevillea blossom, heady and oblivious to company as they devoured sweet nectar.
Everything about the house felt right, from the sheer curtains billowing in the spring breeze to the smell of wood oil, lovingly rubbed into every timber surface and crevice.
Angelique's belly grew and fluttered. Flutters progressed to rolls and kicks, reminding her of the precious gift she carried. She'd miscarried twice before in her first trimester so this baby was to be nurtured, kept safe to term and was indeed a blessing as she approached her 34th week.
As Adam worked wonders with his floor plans, she wandered around the property, spending quiet moments alone. Angelique explored the outhouses. Encroaching on the larger shed, she peered through each shrunken slat into the must and dust. It had little inside other than an old washing copper and a rusted manual plough. This one was sound, appealing and begging for conversion. Slight gaps between the ship lap allowed the sunlight in. Cobwebs had been brushed away. The rusting FJ Holden hauled out for scrap metal, revealing a rammed earth floor. Its roof suspended by glorious hardwood exposed beams. With a little TLC, flooring, cladding on the wall, a small loft office and a bathroom installed in one back corner, it would be the perfect workspace for Adam.
Something drew her to the shed. It's rural charm perhaps, or the fact that the baby moved comfortingly when she approached. It had become her special place. Somewhere to walk among the shadows and dream about the future. Today is no different to any other day. She unlatches the door and wonders into the comforting space for 'quiet time' and to visualise it's charm once the renovations were complete. The baby moves and she places a tender hand upon her protruding belly to calm the little mite, secretly enjoying its lively murmers. She is startled as the door swings hard shut, the latch catching violently yet no breeze is present. She turns on a sixpence and retreats towards the closed door to unhinge the heavy iron latch before she hears it. A sob? A whisper? A sigh?
The sound is indiscernible but strange. There's no-one there but it is clearly audible yet unintelligible.
She barely utters before silently chastising herself for feeling fear.
"Save her, find me! . . "
She spins to ascertain its source.
"Save her, find me . . !"
Now sure that it's not her hormones or imagination at play, she surveys the shed. It's clear beyond some old paint tins and streaming light forming a latticework of light. For a moment she swears she sees something. A shady form, an apparition, pixelated and shimmering. A pleading hand extends before a wayward cloud obscures the sun and the beams retreat. The vision disappears. Angelique sprints to the closing door and escapes before it slams hard shut behind her.
She knows not why but she compelled to return to the shed. She visits every day. Sometimes she hears things, sometimes she sees things but says nothing of her visions to her husband. The baby stirs whenever they enter. She stands full centre and pivots 360 degrees before she feels an icy hand upon her back, pushing her towards the far left corner. She swivels and the hand desists but the urge to explore the usurps her fear as she teeters on the brink of curiosity and terror. Her cleavage sweats, her hands shake, her heart palpitates out of control but she is driven. Someone . . something . . . wants her to explore. Between the right angle of the rear shed wall are two hitching posts. Tall and solid, each bearing a single well-battened rusted iron ring. The earth is rammed, hard, firmer than the rest of floor and from it protrudes the tiniest piece of rotting blue fabric.
The baby is writhing ballistic, turning and kicking and brings her to her knees. She practices her Le Mars and breathes fast and strong before she begins to tug at the tiny piece of blue. The hard earth is unforgiving as she scrapes with hand and nail and releases sods, pulling at the fabric which reluctantly gives way and forfeits treasure. It protrudes carelessly from a large wooden box buried just four inches below the surface. Against the wall rests a mattock and with renewed vigor and tremulous hands she takes the mighty tool and smashes it hard against the weak timbers. Hands now bleeding and painted with red earth she tears at the planks and exposes what was not meant to be exposed, what should have remained undiscovered. The body of a woman, no, a child. Ravaged by two decades of neglect now bone and dried flesh, swathed only in the remnants of a bloodied blue dress.
Posted for 10th Daughter of Memory "Shafts of Grace in the Corner of A Room"