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"Beautiful Soul"

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The ground was cold. And hard. I hurt. Lying there, I could still hear their drunken steps trailing off into the night. Vulnerability was a strange thing. Every thought of insecurity I’d ever had pierced my heart as I lay unmoving. A voice in my head snarled and rage flooded through my flesh, scorching my veins. The sickening smell of rust wafted in the air. Blood. And I was lying in a pool of it. I stirred. The voice urged for me to run away, but I was too traumatised to do anything at all. Suddenly, a horn blared, tires screeched, a blinding white light flashed and I was gone.

Dawn soon broke, and the sky swirled with pinks, purples and blues. They were pretty. Just like I used to be. People had always admired me for my kindness, my compassion. A kindred spirit, they called me. I was the innocent, soft-spoken daughter who made pumpkin bread for new neighbours. But I was too soft, it turned out.

The sun’s radiance stretched over the town as I passed through. I got a waft of warm soil as I flew by a forest of trees. The moisture in the air smelt sickly sweet. Finally, the wood opened up to reveal a deep lake. The water dazzled in the sunlight, rolling rhythmically with the current. I drifted along the rocky embankment, enjoying the spray of salt. I was sure I had come here many times before as a child but I couldn’t be sure. It was as if my memory slate had been entirely erased. How frustrating it was.

The sun had moved to the centre of the sky and it was blistering. As I turned to find some shade amongst the trees, I noticed a timber bench sitting beside the road a couple hundred metres away. It seemed rather lonely, I thought. The paint had faded over the years, but it was still coloured with a deep violet. I could imagine what it would have been like when it had first been built. Sturdy and thick with gloss. As I drifted towards it, I realised it was accompanied by a grand street lamp. I imagined it would be quite a romantic place to visit during the night. A piece of Paris in the Fremantle streets. Somewhere I could sit for hours on a Sunday evening, watching the stars twinkle amongst the blanket of the sky. I frowned. Maybe it was. I sifted through my mind in a poor attempt to recall if I’d ever been here before but I could remember nothing. I sighed.

All of a sudden a strong wind came, straining the full trunks of the oaks. A newspaper slapped against the street lamp. Out of curiosity, I peered closely to see what it read. “17 YEAR OLD GIRL FOUND DEAD ON TUCKFIELD ST” the headlines read. Slowly, I lifted a trembling hand to take the paper. My eyes narrowed as I scanned through the rest of the article. “…thought to be wondering streets alone…body discovered by truck driver…beaten to death…sexually assaulted…witnessed by three men…attacker wanted…approximately six-feet tall…bearded…tattoo on left side of neck…”
I froze and let the paper fall to the ground. My head hung low. Mid-afternoon had approached, the sunset casting shadows over the street.
I suddenly noticed that there was a particularly large shadow that spread over the road. It had a peculiar shape, almost deformed. I crinkled my nose. Something smelt stale. My eyes bore into the shadow. I choked. The shadow was coloured with a dark, dark crimson. In fact, it wasn’t a shadow at all. It was a stain. I glanced to the side to see a street sign with its gleaming silver letters that read ‘Tuckfield’.

Immediately, all of my thoughts and memories came reeling back into my mind. My eyes were wild as snippets from the previous night flashed before me. “Where do you think you’re going, sweetie?”...punches…kicking...beer bottles smashing to the ground…screaming…blood everywhere…then nothing. I shuddered. How helpless they’d left me. The pain was bearable but being humiliated was another thing. It was at that moment when something inside me changed. The liquid of love that had once swirled in my heart froze. I gritted my teeth. Oh, I’d take them down one at a time, the witnesses too eventually. The drunken fools. I smirked. They wouldn’t even see me coming. My fingertips buzzed with a new energy I had never felt before. Rage.

I swept the streets, charging through the traffic of cars on the road. The crisp, autumn air was invigorating. It was as if Mother Nature was urging me on. I pressed forward, flying faster. I wasn’t even out of breath. I smiled to myself. It felt good to be strong. In control. A gust of wind swept me up towards the tree tops, leaving a trail of dry oak leaves fluttering to the ground. All of a sudden, I heard the tinkling sound of wind chimes. I whipped my head around but nothing was to be found. I listened again and realised I was mistaken. It was not the trilling of bells that I had heard, but the sound of laughter. Beneath me was a little girl, climbing the boughs of the oak trees. Her hair was a flame of wild curls amidst the burnt autumn leaves.
“There it is again!” she giggled, pointing to a silvery-blue butterfly. “Look at it!”
Standing on the ground, was her mother, staring alarmingly after her daughter. She gulped.
“That’s wonderful, sweetie,” she said faintly, “Now would you please come down now?” The girl looked down and frowned.
“But why?” she asked, tilting her head.
“Because you might fall!” her mother shrieked. At this, the little girl looked at her plainly and said, “I won’t,” and for some reason, I believed her.
A ray of light peeked out from beneath the canopy of trees and shone onto her speckled cheeks, revealing the little girl’s porcelain skin. The butterfly began to flutter away into the sun.
“No, it’s getting away!” the girl gasped.
“Laura, you stay right there, you hear me?” her mother screamed as she screened the park for help of any kind. The little girl looked up at the butterfly, and then stared down at the branch she was standing on as if she was judging the distance between them. I knew exactly what she was thinking. I swooped down and looked her right in her eyes.
“Don’t do this, Laura,” I said sternly, but she couldn’t hear me. Of course she couldn’t hear me. I cursed to myself. The little girl took a small step forward and leaped straight into the sun. Her mother screamed. The girl cupped the butterfly gently in her small hands and fell straight down to the ground. I closed my eyes, waiting for disaster to strike. I waited to hear the tragic thud of her body but there was no sound. I opened my eyes to see the girl rolling on the grass with her hands still clasped together, holding her prize. Her mother ran to her daughter, bursting into tears of relief as she hugged her tightly. I shook my head with disbelief. She must have been on God’s side today. I was mesmerised by this weird, yet wonderful creature.

For weeks and weeks, I searched the town for the four men. It was exasperatingly difficult for I had hardly any information to work with. Despite that, I was determined to hunt them down. Time was no obstacle, for I had eternity. As I swooped down to investigate any tall, bearded men, I encountered many different personalities - the grocery store manager, the post man, the fourth grade maths teacher, the AFL coach, the beggar, a father of six children and even the lifeguard on Port Beach, who happened to be swooningly handsome. However, regardless of how good-looking any of the men may have appeared to be, I never failed to forget that all of them could be capable of violently dangerous things. So I got into a routine of studying each with the finest detail but as much as I’d hoped, none of them wore a tattoo on his left neck. So I kept looking. I also kept my eye out for Laura too. I had not forgotten about her and I truly hoped that I would see her again.

One day, I was drifting through the Fremantle Hospital when I saw a doctor turning the corner. He was slim but strong, his hands gripping his clipboard tightly. His head was tilted down, analysing the papers in deep thoughts. The doctor’s chin was stubbly and rough. I let my eyes wander slowly and I stopped. What was that dark mark on his neck? He suddenly began to walk down the hallway. I followed him closely. He took the lift down two storeys and opened the first door on his right. I sped in front of him to study his face and groaned. The spot on his neck was not a tattoo but a birthmark. My shoulders sagged. Yet another disappointment.

The doctor continued to advance to the furthest bed in the room and began mumbling monotonously to the lying patient. I huffed irritably and turned to leave when I heard the metallic purl of wind chimes. The sound was faint, but clear though it came from the very back of the room. Intrigued, I whipped my head around to see only the girl that the doctor was attending to. I could just see her brittle little body, lost amongst the swaths of clean pressed sheets and hospital clothes. I frowned with sympathy and slowly drifted closer.
“I’ve had a truly wonderful day so far, thank you very much, ” the girl sang. I gazed up towards the doctor who simply nodded and continued to study the sheets on his clipboard. My eyes flitted towards the girl’s face and my hand slapped across my mouth as I saw her clearly for the first time. She was pale grey and the hollows of her eyes appeared bruised and tinged with purple. As the girl glanced out the window, she began to smile tiredly, her cheeks wrinkling at the effort it obviously took to do so. Fine lines contoured her forehead, leading from her temples to her eyes. Somehow I didn’t think they were caused by laughter. The girl seemed to have gone through so much though her exquisitely inquisitive gaze gave away her obvious youth. It was one that I had seen before. I looked outside at the oak tree she was staring out and sighed. She reached over to the bedside table for a glass of water. As she held it to her flaky lips, her hand was trembling, her skin stretched taut over her bones. I wished so much then that I could help her. Without the long blazing curls on her head, she was almost unrecognisable. She placed the glass back down and picked up a small butterfly pop-up cage. In it was a flutter of silvery-blue wings. I smiled.
“I’ll be back later, Laura, “ the doctor reassured. “Call me if you need me.”
The girl nodded, and continued to study the silvery butterfly’s movements. A dried, shrivelled up prune she was. Her body was dull and lifeless, yet she possessed the sweetest heart I’d ever known. Suddenly, a bleep of an Iphone startled me from the trance I was in. I turned my head toward the doorway and he was there. Beard, tattoo and all. He was carrying a thermos, a teddy bear and several bouquets of flowers. The girl’s father. I gritted my teeth. All sense of warmth and pity was forgotten. I stared menacingly at the hands that held his daughter’s gifts. The same hands guilty of cold-blooded murder. I could stand it no longer. I whipped out of the room, hissing under my breath, vowing that I would return that night and do what I came here for. I left the hospital and returned to the outside world, letting the cool afternoon breeze take me away.

I flew through the window of the hospital’s 7th floor the second time that day, equipped and prepared. He, however, was sprawled out on a chair beside the girl’s bed, snoring heavily. I scoffed at the simplicity of the situation. As I grasped the pistol in my hand, another bleep sounded. The man woke with a start, disorientated for the first few seconds. I grumbled. The time flashed across the screen. 8pm. I cursed. It was the end of the hospital’s visiting hours. I swallowed. It was now or never. The man slowly got to his feet, and softly kissed his sleeping daughter on her head.

As he turned around, I clicked my silver pistol into place, pointing it towards him. He froze. The girl’s father wheeled around very slowly and his mouth opened in horror. It was a look of a convicted man. The pistol gleamed as the moonlight shone softly through the window. It would have been so easy. Just the pull of a finger and it would have been finished. I gritted my teeth, breathing heavily. All of a sudden the man collapsed to his knees, his head falling to the floor. I felt my eyes widen in surprise, but waited cautiously. Finally, he lifted up his head and looked me in the eyes.
“Please,” he whispered in a pleading voice, his lips trembling. “Not for me, but for her.”
I closed my eyes and hung my head. Laura’s face - her defiant, wild blaze of hair, and bright eyes - flashed into my mind. My chest suddenly felt very hot, as if flames were licking at my heart, softening the edges. The room was spinning and I was sinking slowly into despair. I let my hand drop down to my thigh. The man kept his eyes on me, then suddenly scrambled to his feet and sprinted out of the room. I could have chased after him. But I didn’t. And I suddenly felt very, very tired.


I visited Laura at the crack of dawn every day after that. And as I spent hours by her side, listening to her sing and laugh, I couldn’t help but wonder how or why such a beautiful soul deserved to have everything taken away from her. Laura died two nights later. And they took her body away that morning. I never saw her father again. In fact, I didn’t really care. When I saw her cold, unmoving body lying on the bed, I was neither shocked nor saddened. I felt pity, rather, for the loss of a wonderful creature and the fact that after all this time I had nothing to give to her. I scanned the room and smiled as I saw her bedside table. As I flew out of her hospital window for the last time, I slipped the butterfly cage into her hands and drifted away into the rising sun of a new day, knowing that she would be still be laughing and singing to me wherever I’d go.




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