“What the fuck? Who is that?”
Gaunt put his face in his hands , rubbing his temples, having obviously looked at [the photograph] for long enough. “Well,” Ryan said. “It looks like a child.”
The still black-and-white picture from the security camera wasn’t a hundred percent clear, quite grainy, but even through thick bars the figure, not quite facing away— rising awkwardly, bottom first from its hands and knees— was undeniably a little girl, one dressed in a jumper, tiny kilt and Wellington boots. Though the best part of her head was obscured, her hair looked to be curly. Looking closer, Superintendent Osbourne visibly recoiled, as had the two detectives shortly before she came into the office. The child’s head was wrong: far too big, and sprouting—around the section of jawline that could be seen— what looked like coarse, dark hair.
Excerpt from ‘Damned Rite: MELT’ by Janine-Langley Wood
Starting with the cutesy little shoes or wellington boots, then that pretty little dress, we think we’re looking at a little girl. But is it? And if it isn’t a little girl, what exactly is that descending our staircase? Or, as with one example here, ascending it?
Right, hands up, young ladies: who started all this shenanigans? And what is it about you – all of you little girls gone wrong – that creeps us out so horribly; you distorted anomalies who turn up in the dead of night to capitalise on our deepest, darkest fears?
Well, consider it: what could possibly be more grotesque than that ultimate symbol of innocence and purity, our sweet, darling little cherub, suddenly, unthinkably corrupted? For example, didn’t we just quake in our boots when darling little Carol-Anne turned to us with a wry smile to announce tunefully, ‘They’re he-yer.’ Doesn’t she know we don’t want ‘them’ to be here?
We could say it all started with Regan. That foul-mouthed, pea-soup squirting, head-twirling, priest punching epitome of every parent’s prepubescent nightmare; a little girl that two full-grown, God-fearing men were impotent to deal with.
To some degree, I’m pretty sure our little-girl-aphobia did start with William Friedkin’s 1973 film, The Exorcist – a story which has no doubt inspired countless possession themes since – but then Talkie Tina, the synthetic embodiment of girlhood innocence, made her appearance in the ‘Living Doll’ episode of The Twighlight Zone, way back in 1963 (Not so tough now, are we, Kojak?), so this particular sweet & sour phenomena was already underway to some extent.
Later, of course, Annabel, following in Tina’s dainty footsteps, really rocked that pigtailed girl-next-door thing.
Maybe little girls have always been quite scary. Perhaps the most simple explanation is that we treasure their perfection so much that we can’t bear to consider their flaws, especially flaws induced by dark forces. Take that little Addams girl (the brilliant Christina Ricci) – she’d drop an anvil on your head as soon as look at you.
And it’s not all fiction. Parthenophobia is an actual fear of young girls, those still in a virginal state. ‘Phobia’, in Greek, meaning ‘fear’. ‘Partheno’ meaning ‘younger girl’.
“In many cases the fear that accompanies a phobia of young girls is crippling. People may become paranoid, irrational, or irritable due to the effect of the crippling and horrible fear they feel of virgins. There are a variety of ways this fear manifests. Some sufferers, ones who have a more intense phobia of pre adolescents, have a constant or ongoing feeling of fear over virgins. Some people who suffer from this will have severe anxiety attacks because of it.”
I can understand this, in a way. Once, when I was about twelve and on holiday with a friend the same age, we tickled her older sister’s new boyfriend, a total stranger to us, until he farted loudly, then we rolled about the floor laughing at him until he sank so low into his chair that he might have been mistaken for a flat, rather pink-faced cushion.
Another time, around the same age, me and a few friends went and predated the private boys’ school in a posh part of town. We didn’t really know what to do with or about them, so when one foolishly questioned our presence, we launched into a relentless tirade of name calling – chiefly based around pooh and bogies – that amused us for the remainder of the evening. Any feeble retort simply spurred us on.
So while some might claim such a phobia to be irrational, hmmm, I sort of get it.
And then, of course, there are those little girl ghosts to contend with. Perhaps the worst kind of all, for they cannot be redeemed, having already passed from anywhere humanly reachable…
… unless, like Sadako of The Ring (Hideo Nakata, Japan, 1998), they can still reach us through a well-placed curse. I’ll take a rough guess (and this may well’ve been the case with Poltergeist too) that house-fires saw a steep decline after this film became popular, due to people religiously unplugging their TV sets at night.
And then, as if the little girl ghosts weren’t enough, we’re now seeing the odd cutypie zombie pop up at our car windows, leaving all those bloody claw marks that no amount of ‘streak-free’ will ever truly erase from our consciousness (No More Room in Hell, 2011).
Not scared enough yet? Well, how about this for some truly creepy digital art: Rosemary, a child possessed, by Liam Liberty. ‘Back up to bed now, Rosemary. Rosemary?’
But however we visualize little girls and to whatever horrific extreme, one thing is for certain – they haven’t finished with us yet.
Bearing that in mind, here, I present to you, the outfit of a brutal killer, as devised by myself for my novel ‘Damned Rite: MELT’. A pair of cute orange wellies, a woolly jumper and, perhaps the epitome of girlhood sweetness, the tiny kilt.
Just don’t picture what’s wearing them. You might not sleep so easily in your beds.
So, all considered, which of the little girls gone wrong featured here would you least like to see on your staircase tonight?
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