Short Story: She of the Depths (1/2)

Like her wholly-marine counterparts, the Angler siren was conceived from destruction. A vicious act brought her to life, the disintegration of another, the utter breaking of flesh and bone. Like her wholly-marine counterparts, she’s been wed to the depths since her beginning, condemned to be bound to its cold and its danger. But unlike them she rose from the breaking of spirits too, and unlike them she isn’t a creature of grotesque features, of frigid eyes, and teeth protruding, sharp and threatening.

In truth, she is the complete opposite of that. 

The feeble minds of men have never been worthy of her song, deserving of its subdued, tantalizing beginnings and the rise that follows, conquering. They’d fall; their footing dragged from beneath them by looming desire, allured and haunted by oscillations far beyond their frivolous little souls. Sometimes just a chuckle would suffice with the young ones.

But she still sings them, poor sailors longing for their lands and their innocent girls; too easily swayed into a damning lapse.

She steals their souls out of habit if nothing else, and they glow in her hair. Along with her voice it lures, gleaming strands like spoils of war, enticing humans with the deaths of their brothers. Yet maybe she does it for amusement — man craves freedom, and freedom she grants. She rips away his sense and his inhibitions, then she tears him apart.

The sky is overcast, enough to allow her to rise to the surface. She’s only meant to at night, when the sun isn’t glaring, and her hair would shine. A sea cave beckons when the winds howl through it. Chuckling softly to herself at the irony, she heeds.

Her hands languidly across the cascading colors of the walls while she hums an old song of the sea. Her voice is a tender, violent thing; harmless to all but men.

Earth is warm. It must be alive, she muses. Does it not rage and calm like the ocean? And bears upon it countless breathing things, alive and dependent? Her own depths bustle with life despite their cold and darkness, after all. She heard that humans name islands that they hadn’t infested ‘uninhabited’.

“Idiots,” she scoffs at the thought, how audacious.

She pulls her body against the sand, and holds a fistful of it then watches as it crumbles and falls. Her hands look like humans’, and the rest of her upper half is built like one. Then she considers her tail, deeper than the color of the sea cave; stronger. At the end of it, lines gleam through a transparent fin.

The siren rests her head atop her crossed arms and feels earth, the scent of it, and it’s warmth. She wonders why she holds it so dear — could it be all the men she bears in her core? But soon, sleep creeps in and takes her, heavy eyelids playfully defying her will, dragging like the ebb and flow.

She rises when she hears sand shifting. Oceans are quick and vicious like their inhabitants — there’s no room in them for those who leave their backs bare; and she’s honed her instincts for vulnerable moments. Seeking the source, she straightens her back, and before her is an expression of awe and fright. 

There was no need to seek. This time, she was found.

She smiles, and she can almost envision the coy curve of her lips. They part to let her voice out, feeling the humid air of an overcast day draw into her in a welcome intrusion.

“Shhh!” The man hisses, and she is startled now. What was that sound? He holds a finger to his lips, his eyes wide in alarm, no hostility in them.

Considering his appearance and the air around him, she swallows her song. Not too young by human years, she thinks. In his third decade, perhaps? Somewhere in the middle of that. There’s silver mixed in his hair, and circular glass pieces before his eyeballs.

“Don’t make a sound,” he tells her. “They’ll hear you..”. But then when the astonishment in his face began melting into raw disbelief, “Wait.. is this a dream?”

Dream?

She remembers before her lips part to ask what a dream is. He would be gone as soon as the words leave her mouth; he’d be lured, awareness stolen first then his ears would bleed, then he would claw out his eyes, then his flesh will fall from his bones.

The question is left bitten between her teeth, and he’s rambling now, mumbling to himself and holding his head between his hands as he paces around a small circle.

His questions came in streams, is this real’s and how could this be’s and what should I do’s?

Does she understand me?

Yes!’ she thinks, frustrated.

“Do you understand me?”

Assertively, she nods, worrying that the gesture will not be understood. When his eyes gleam she wonders how they could in the dull gray of an overcast sky.

For a blink he was a wonderous thing.

Oh, this one she wanted. She felt her own spine shudder at the glimpse she caught of the world in his eyes, of knowledge and fascination, her ribs ache to contain him, destroy him until he was nothing to the world, but entirely hers. This one, she thought, could help her find the meaning she lost in her centuries. 

But then he falls to the ground, like all his strength was sapped by earth beneath him. In her years she saw men fall, but none of them without her song. What was it that took away the might of man’s legs if it wasn’t her?

“Are you a mermaid?” He asks, and she doesn’t answer. “Or.. a siren?”

Taken aback, she nods again. It doesn’t faze her that he’s laughing now– loud, hard chortles not stirred by mirth.

Proud as she is, she decides that she was only letting him live the following few minutes.. only until he stops being amusing.

“Is that why you are not talking?”

There isn’t an answer to why she desires to communicate with him. She wonders who “they” would be, those who’d hear her, and why she was to be so scared of them. Then she points at him, exasperated, and holds her throat, ‘you’ll suffocate and die’, she tries to tell him. Running her fingers through her hair, ‘and become this.’ 

The final gesture was vague, she knew.

“You’re trying to protect me!” He laughs again, and it sounds more mad than happy because it drops low, his voice, then it breaks in half.

She senses people approaching, hushed voices and careful steps, a group. Before they arrived at the mouth of her sea cave, “You need to go,” he says, urgently. “They’re coming.”

Swiftly, she returns to the sea. There’s a part of her that wants him to say something more– she’s curious, and she’s not meant to be. He was trying to keep her away from the eyes of other men, and she wanted to know why, because she felt not the slightest bit of malice from him.

“I’ll be here!” He says, and it sounds like he blurted it out by accident. “When the full moon rises to its peak, I’ll be here.”

This time, she doesn’t assert him with a nod. A benevolent man is a completely foreign thing to her; it’s dangerous, and she would rather keep out of it. 

(at least, it’s what she tries to convince herself.)


 

She doesn’t return when the full moon rises to its peak.

After that she becomes uninterested in the surface. Her pursuits become dull in her thoughts, tedious occurrences that satisfy nothing of her curiosity, answer none of her questions, can’t challenge her the slightest. She finds prey easily, ships of men out to the sea are boisterous. They sing and they chant their old shanties, and the ocean takes their voices to her.

By then she assumes he must have dismissed her as a fragment of his imagination, or a dream, whatever that was. Unnaturally, she tries to believe that she hopes to be forgotten. The seas become turbulent when people survive to take tales from it– that is why she never leaves a deed half-finished; her stories are not meant to spread on lands. 

But there’s an itch beneath the last of her ribs and a soft call on her mind. She wants to return to that sea cave with the man who wore round glass pieces before his eyes. Maybe she wonders if he would be there when the moon rises to its next peak.

She hasn’t ever been one to deny herself, or to live with thoughts tormenting her mind. So when she finds the moon round and bright in the sky, flooding the seas with white light, she swims to see.

She lifts her face to the surface, and senses no one nearby. Sighing, she hoists herself up to that same spot in the sand beneath the gaping mouth of their cave. The minds of men truly are feeble things, and just like that, she was erased.

Maybe she’s disheartened, but she refuses it. She decides she’s only disappointed that she couldn’t ask what the round glass pieces are, or what dreams could be, or what the reason behind his resolution to protect her was, how there was no venom in it. 

Most other men call for comrades when they see her, after all. ‘We’ll hit pots of gold with this!’ they’d say, loud and merry.

She ate all of them, though.

Absentmindedly she watches the sky, dark clouds teasing the surface of the water, holding back the moon’s light when they can. Soon after she senses someone approaching, and her body tenses in response.

But it’s a familiar presence; gentle. It rekindles something tiny in her, and she looks up with something like hope.

And then he appears. It’s him, with the rims on his face, and she feels so blatantly happy. 

‘What a vain thing you’ve become’, she thinks to herself. This heart that settled in the depths for centuries, skipping in joy for a man.

His eyes gleam again, and he laughs. It’s a little less mad now, that it draws her lips into a smile. Hers was a genuine thing, too, a true smile that she hasn’t felt in long.

“You’re here!” He exclaims. “I knew I wasn’t dreaming!”

She considers the mention of it again, dream.

He continues then, “There’s no way to confirm that this isn’t a dream either, though,” he helplessly chuckles.

She sighs. Whatever a dream is, contact would surely break it. She holds a strand of her hair, and wonders if it’s too cruel to let him touch his dead brothers.

Maybe it is.

Her hair drags down strand by strand, shining like the rays of moonlight that seep between the clouds, and she puts her hand up instead.

His eyes widen in curiosity, and, “Can I hold it?” He asks, as though the invitation wasn’t clear. For a second, she dwells on his choice, “hold”.

‘Such a fool,‘ she thinks about herself, ‘so thoroughly..’

He places his fingers underneath hers, and she’s so startled by warmth she almost pulls away. She’s never felt a human so alive, so gentle, but the entire sea knows of her unyielding will, and she isn’t going to submit to the fear of a touch.

Infatuated.

But he’s warm, warmer than the earth, and so vibrant and living. He smiles, then pulls his hand back.

“You are startling,” he tells her. “A discovery, but I will not boast you. All that they’ve discovered, they destroyed.”

She takes it that he speaks of the havoc humans wreak on earth and her waters. ‘But they’ve destroyed what they haven’t discovered, too,’ she wanted to say.

“Not to say that what they haven’t discovered is safe, they’ve wrecked that too, haven’t they?”

Her laugh almost bubbles out of her, and had she been a little more careless he would have been gone now. She winced at the thought, slightly.

“What’s your name?”

‘Lor,’ she wants to say. She points up at the sky, and he meets her gaze with a confused one. ‘Lor,’ like the moon.

She scoffs. On the sand, she traces the outline of the moon. It’s a much simpler thing than she’d imagined, and his, “Is your name Halo?” forced her to give up.

She drew a crescent moon, and his guesses run along, “Moon,” and “Crescent,” and “Diana” and “Selene,” and “Phoebe,” and words she’s never heard before, names he’s drawn from the very corners of Earth.

He exhausts his ideas, and when he says, “Luna,” again, she rolls her eyes and she nods.

This would do for the time being.

He laughs because he knows he’s wrong, “Maybe I’ll get it right one day,” he tells her.

The sun is well on her way to break dawn upon the sea. The siren’s time is over, but she hurriedly points at him.

“Me?” He asks, and when she asserts, “my name?”

The sun rises behind him, then, “Levant,” he says. “My name’s Levant.”

 

10 thoughts on “Short Story: She of the Depths (1/2)

      1. That is an amazing read. Thank you for sharing. Your prose has such vivid imagery and I was particularly enthralled with the siren’s hair and it’s secret. I look forward to reading more!

        Like

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