‘Sheesh!’ Susan exclaimed ,almost spilling her coffee, ‘I didn’t realise you’d move into that street, and so close to that house!’
It was Saturday morning, the first weekend after her first week on the new job, and Lisa finally had a chance to catch up with her friend who had moved to this country town following University in Sydney and who had extolled its virtues to her as an ‘oasis of calm after the drama of the past few years for you’. The drama of course meaning the divorce, primarily, but also the way the emotions laid to waste her once flourishing career as a bureaucrat. She had been on the rise as a manager with senior executive roles in close sight. Now she was a salesperson at a bookstore.
Life never takes you where you expect, she thought, and now I’m here. I’m here too.
Lisa had always wondered why Susan came here, and even more why she remained. She was more a city girl, surely, more fire in her belly than this? But to hear Susan tell it there were many more interesting stories in a country town like this, almost large enough to be a small city. Just enough local intrigue and incestuous closeness to make for scandal and just enough breadth and size to make even local politics have some flavour.
Susan had originally come here to cut her journalist teeth in a less competitive market and then she’d just stayed. She’d tell you it was for the town itself, but Lisa had never been sure. Still, when she suggested it as a new start, albeit one that Lisa thought of as transitional only, it had made some sense. Lisa’s funds were not great, and she did need to get away from Sydney. All in all it had seemed a sensible move for a year, maybe two, and Susan was here. Her best friend really, and following the divorce it seemed she had far fewer of those than she had thought.
‘Well, it was the best value. Far bigger than the other places and in better condition,’ Lisa explained.
‘Because no-one will live in that street?’ Susan laughed.
‘It is fairly empty from what I can tell,’ Lisa agreed, ‘But we do have a new neighbour it seems, just moved in also. To that house.’
‘Sheesh” Susan said again, “Wonders will never cease!”
‘So tell me, ‘Lisa demanded, half friendly and half frustrated, ‘What is it about that house and that street? Given you didn’t give me a warning or anything and the realtor said all sorts of things about death at No 6 and a girl as part of her disclosure but kept saying she didn’t know the details. I gathered it was rather horrible and that the town still holds views about it, making it infamous, but I’m short on the facts really.’
‘I call bullshit on your realtor,’ Susan said, “Everyone round here knows about the Hanged Girl. Saddest, strangest thing the town has seen, at least as long as most living memories tell it. Happened over twenty years ago, but the memories in the town remain fresh. Young girl living with her uncle. Her mother had committed suicide for reasons unknown and the girl had come her to live with her mother’s brother. Apparently he was really wild and strange, which makes you wonder about the whole family really, and genetic madness. But of course the myth of the town is more florid than that! Lots of talk they were into dark things, rituals and the like, all that rubbish. But something odd was going on there, though something far more seamy and prosaic I’d bet. One day the uncle just disappeared and up on the tree at the back of the yard, up that hill, the girl was found hanging.’
‘She was hanged?’
‘Not exactly, she was hanging upside down, with her throat cut, though no blood to be seen, like she’d been killed and drained and then hung. But in the strangest way. Her arms were tied behind her back, and one of her legs was sort of crossed against the other, held fast by rope. Someone said it was like a tarot card, one called The Hanged Man. They said that meant sacrifice, so you can just imagine what impact that had. Town went wild. Some said the uncle killed her then left town, others said he was dead also, they just hadn’t found the body. Some even said the devil came and literally took him away.’
‘Wow,’ said Lisa, ‘People can be so imaginative.’
‘Small town,’ Susan agreed, ‘In any case, that kind of crime, with no reasonable explanation of guilt party to be sure of, caused a local myth to arise. They say the house is haunted by her, and up at the tree too. No-one has lived there since.’
‘Till now,’ Lisa commented.
‘Till now,’ Susan repeated, in deep tones that meant to be theatrical and ultimately funny. Both women laughed.
‘Glad to know there will be another sensible person in the street then,’ Lisa said, thinking of Damien and his visit to her shop.
‘Yes but be careful,’ Susan replied, sobering somewhat and looking down into her coffee.
‘You don’t seriously think the place is haunted?’ Lisa asked, shocked by this turn in her friend’s nature.
‘No, no! of course not. It’s not that. It’s…small town mentality. This place might be close to a city in size these days, but its culture is still very..provincial.. shall we say? People living in that street…I think others might be suspicious of you. I wish you’d said where you were looking there, I’d have warned you.’
‘If you don’t know a question exists, you don’t ask. But do you really think people will treat us badly?” Lisa asked, horrified.
‘Perhaps. Probably not you, though some might speculate whether you are some witch or something I suppose. It’s more Mandy I’m concerned for. You can recall what the later years of school were like, how horrible adolescent girls can be to each other?”
Lisa remembered. She and Susan had flown reasonably under the radar at school and missed the worst of the bullying, but they’d witnessed it. Anyone a bit different was always a target. And Mandy was already a bit different, a bit out of sorts since the divorce. What would her schoolmates make of that from a girl who lived so close to the Hanged Girl’s place?
‘Jesus,’ Lisa muttered, half under her breath and then continued, ‘It might already have started actually. She started school mid-week and she said the others were a bit strange, a bit hostile. I put it down to being the new girl, nothing more.’
Susan reached out and put her handover her friend’s hand, feeling guilty for raising the shadow in the first place.
‘Hopefully that’s all it is,’ she said, ‘After all, all the rest of the myth, it’s just ridiculous.’
(c) Helen M Valentina 2015, All Rights Reserved