They Will Never Find Me
Mandurah, pioneer settlement, now a zesty seaside resort in Western Australia, was in the 1950's a yawning fishing village. It used to be wriggling with family campers, propping up tents and flicking blankets on the grassy foreshore to relish the sheer laziness of crabbing and sand-garnished sandwiches. This "pirate's cove" filled scrapbooks. Awkward black and white shots, clicked with a Kodak "Brownie" camera became our childhood mementos. The Brownie swung with a casual pride over bare backs that resembled ham steaks. Sun-screen and sunglasses were sophisticated items for movie stars, though odorous tan oil gleamed over the figures of calypso-dreaming teenage girls.
I was one of those sun-struck kids, scurrying around in frilly cotton bathers, sucking technicolour icy-poles and tearing into hot bread. It was the most wonderful time ever; lost in freedom, the future quite meaningless. Everyone felt a wild release from the sweaty city. Thinking of the return trip in a cranky car (being bull-whipped in the face by searing breezes as you drooped your head out of the window) made you want to stretch out every moment. One year we were lucky enough to holiday at the creaky Brighton Hotel, which was almost as scintillating as Casablanca. A necklace of glass beads, a tumbler of ginger ale and mother's flamenco red lipstick transformed me into a Starlet. In a glissando of rapture my cousin and I ran across the moonlit beach, faking an ebb-tide romance. We revelled in clear nights unde
r weak yellow lights and genuinely hoped we would never have to go back to reality. They were undemanding times.
Much further back in Mandurah's history, we can delve into some bristling accounts of ghosts from the foundation days. Handwritten details of shipwrecks and bodies shredded on the reef send a voltage through your marrow. There are tales that fade timid cheeks, pricking you into an eerie awareness. This idyllic place is shared with vibrations unseen.
I had heard of an elderly woman boarding at the old Peninsular Hotel, who vanished from her blood-splashed room. Intriguing. The Peninsular stands on curvaceous, lawn coastline fingering into the sea. Sections have been tacked on and pulled down over the years, giving it a jokey, cardboard facade.
Toasting for adventure, I lingered over the grounds, knowing others from the departed realm desired to be noticed. A toad-faced man sat on a short, disintegrating pier, gulping wine and spitting out sea-shanties. Later, I found out he had been knifed to his end by a jealous wife in a fierce argument.
The perfume of the ocean gardens carried sweetly on the breeze. Another time is passing within, I thought, as I paused under a glorious, emerald tree. I penetrated the windows of the hotel's dining area. The ill-fated woman from the scarlet room called wordlessly to me. As if in conversation, I asked her "Yes, what must you tell me?" Grieving intensely she related back "They'll never find me."
She faded, clinging to my mind. The atmosphere withered in energy. Again, it aroused me in the bathroom. At last, in a shuttered side room, I found her essence craving beneath the stone floor. An antediluvian mangle pressed upon her like a paperweight.
Hence her form lies, bones lulled into peace. All these years she has yearned (1910), making herself visible now and again (maids ironing in the area believed they glimpsed her visage). Our haunting lady slid back into her time loop as a sad fae to re-play her life until awakened from the Dream.
Note: The Peninsular has since been demolished.
by Dianthe Bells