VIII

THE UNWANTED

 

‘I came round in a clearin’, stripped of all my clothes.

I was horrified by bloodstains on my skin from head to toes.

The sun was bearin’ down upon my naked, shiv’rin’ form,

and no matter how I welcomed it, it could not make me warm.

 

‘I could feel the pain of my abuse a-churnin’ in my gut,

and, lookin’ round, I came to see the blade they used to cut

and slash and draw my blood.

The ground was dark from the crimson flood

and shreds of my innocence lay scattered round about.

I stood up straight and raised my head and let a beastly shout

that roared through land and sky and bone.

My screams of pain were heard at home

as the wind whipped my lungs out and threw my voice.

I dropped again to the ground, given no choice

but to lay there waiting for Samaritan pity.

And I was so far from Jerusalem city.’

 

Jimmy was silent in the whisperin’ inn.

Bill was in thought of the evil of sin,

knowin’ to whatever this girl had succumbed

would not bode well for the woman she’d become.

 

‘They got me home,’ she said quietly. ‘They carried me there.

All my Mama could do was stand and stare

and weep tears of relief minglin’ in with the flood

of the tears streamin’ down like the rivers of blood

that seemed to have stained me from my head to my toes.

And to this day…what happened me…no one else knows.’

 

Now the walls were practic’ly leanin’ in,

as everyone wanted a piece of the tale.

And they all wondered at the measure of sin

that made a girl bloody and her Mama to wail.

 

Outside the inn, with Joseph Stone –

the white-haired man who was no longer alone

and even no longer had peace in his mind –

the rest of the town were gathered behind,

moving in unison like a creature of Hell.

With Joseph they listened as the truth she did tell:

 

‘It wasn’t til the moon stopped turnin’ that I knew somethin’ was wrong.

A woman starts a-worryin’ when the moon don’t sing her song.

I hid it just from Mama, cos my Papa wouldn’t dream

of questionin’ his little girl about the monthly stream.

 

‘But time did its worst on me and I got big ‘n’ round.

By then Mama and Papa wanted to keep me underground.

I tried potions from a Herbalist and runnin’ like I was crazy,

but nothin’ in this world could help me rid myself of that baby.’

 

Outside, Joseph stiffened like he’d got a world of fright.

This wasn’t what his visitor had expected of this night.

So burst he through the doors and threw his ghostly glare

at the Crimson Lady and her audience stood there:

 

‘How could you do it?

How could you dare?

How could you leave him hangin’ out there?

You were the one who was always to blame.

You…you monster...you were his shame.’

 

A blast of wicked air rushed in and shattered all ‘round.

Joseph Stone lost all control and crumpled to the ground.

Whatever or whoever had held him so in thrall

escaped like mist through his open mouth

and enveloped one and all.

 

Inside the inn and by the doors, as the people pressed their way,

a deathly chill caressed their bones and seemed intent to stay.

But the bell in the tower tolled again and the spirit was summoned back,

and the candle high in the church blew out…

 

leaving the tower bathed in black.

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