Read part one here
They make a habit of meeting when the full moon peaks. It’s far too short, barely a night’s length.
He talks a lot during those, enough for them both, about books and maps and compasses. Humans use the stars to find their way around the oceans, she learns, and they ink parchment with symbols to communicate.
She huffs when he tries to teach her. On the sand, she draws the sun. ‘No time.’
So speak until the seconds are filled to the brim.
It’s a little fire in her that he’s rekindled, something that the sea muffled centuries ago.
She considers men and the fleeting lives that they live. But now she craves time and another life, no matter how short, how frail and feeble. Humans burn up and down in that short little while after all.
Once, he asked what she is. She drew her kind — a hideous thing. She tried best she could for the details, angry eyes and sharp teeth. She drew the line and something emitting from the end of it.
“I get it!” He exclaimed. “You’re a shark, and a horrible artist,” he laughed because he knew he was wrong. Perhaps her kind will remain a mystery like her name. She remembers thinking that maybe, humans haven’t even got a clue that anglerfishes dwell deep beneath their ships.
“And you’re a terribly beautiful thing.”
“Give me legs.”
She’s always been infamously willful. The sea knows it, and the King of the Sea knows it best.
“I will not entertain childish whims,” he says, his deep voice resonating.
“They are not that,” she counters. ‘It is a desire to live,’ she wants to continue, but pride holds the words back, tangling them together in her throat with rage.
He scoffs. “Running off with a human! You are defying the order.”
“You have daughters,” she says, trying to keep her voice steady. “If they ever come seeking, you will remember this.” She has no mind to tame her glare, sharp as ice and branding the sight of him in her thoughts, that ancient voice – like a call from the past. Only a matter of time until the sea eats away at his flesh, down to the very bone; he’d sink and sink, and little creatures will ravage at his old, tired dignity, and live in the chambers of his marrow.
“I will see to it that they never approach you, Siren.”
“Lor,” she retorts with pride. “My name is Lor. You will hear it again, and you will regret this.”
Next they meet, she is not herself, and he is not him.
He’s quiet and tense, and she draws the symbol he taught her for “question.” A squiggly line with a dot underneath it, then she points to him.
He chuckles, exasperated and forlorn. “I think they know, Luna. They know that I’m hiding something from them.” After a beat, “Does that scare you?”
Maybe he understands her glare like he did everything, somehow. The sea king’s words resurface in her head, ignorant and oblivious even when she spoke. It angers her again, and she feels wrath stirring. He’ll live to see that rage, and the sea will carry tales of the siren who took the oceans from their King and made them hers.
“Those are not eyes that fear men,” he says in a lighter tone, and the King of the Sea disappears like fog.
“Hey,” he continues at length, his voice dropping. “Why does your hair glow?”
She owes it to him to tell. Death. But death is still and mighty, silent. She feels at loss for a moment. Then she turns and sees a sea jelly that died and washed up on shore; she digs her hands around and lifts it to him.
“Ah!” Levant exclaims. “Bioluminescence!”
She winces, but realizes that he isn’t wrong. It is illumination and she almost laughs, because all of his wrongs were still right. She wants to tell him; she wants to tell him so much that she can’t bear it. The symbols and scribbles wore her out…and her voice threatens to seep, that she’s a siren, and she’s an angler from the cold depths, and that she sings to men and they glow in her hair, and that for him, she would trade the centuries left of her life for the fleeting time of a human. She wants to tell him that her name is Lor, like the moon.
She blinks and comes to, and finds her hands on his throat. There’s sadness in his eyes and no fright. “Death?” He asks, pushing her hair out of her face. Sinking into the comfort of his discovery, she nods, her eyes on his. “I see,” he says, not shying away from touching her hair. “I see.”
She wonders if he feels for her the affection she does for him, but she looks into his face and settles. His is a presence calm like the sea on a day when the sun shines down on it, gentle and warm and bright. For one whose home is the very depths, she finds it curious that she found another, a home so different.
“I’ve been north,” he says, after a while. “They’ve got even more names for the moon, can you believe that?”
The thought of him having sought her name startles her, and when he says it, “Lor” pushed first and then pulled back, a desperately short name that sings of the moon – an ebb and flow of its own. Despite herself, her delight escapes with a gasp, and she pushes her hands against her lips to stifle the little noise that tried to escape. Her heart is filling with joy now, unapologetically, shamelessly, brimming with bliss.
His hand cups her face, and she wonders if it’s another of their odd expressions when he laughs and, “I think I’m right this time,” he says. Sunlight is pouring upon her, she muses and feels her insides warming, fluttering. She wants to live in this moment for eternity, to watch it stretch until every bit of her is permeated through and through with this serene lull, the stillness of this night.
But then it ceases, loudly. Something went through his chest, and through her. She looks behind him, and there are people, wide-eyed and shaking, and one holds a musket. She knows that, she’s heard and seen them- they kill people.
Smoke rises from the mouth of the musket, and she feels his weight as he slumped forward. He bleeds on her from a small hole in his chest, and from his mouth.
She knows it intimately, they’d been bound this whole time; but she stills as her heart finds itself detesting death now, her companion who took away the sunlight, spilled it between her fingers.
There’s a hole in her chest, too, mirroring his. Hers mended itself in an instant. It frightened them, left them stiff and baffled like cornered prey.
But there was such terror in their eyes that her racing mind wonders whether they saw her for what she is, a morbid creature of the deep. They stumble upon one another, trying to escape, whimpering injured animals. The rage building inside her is unlike anything she knows, the heat of day before a storm, and vengeance rings in her head. She draws in her breath, trembling and angry, and she’ll see to it that they die slowly, she’ll savor it, the screams and the steaming entrails in the cold night, and they’ll feel every bit of flesh that tears, every sinew breaking, every bone turning to ash.
Her wrath is beyond even her, and she thinks she can’t contain it. She’ll kill them inside out, and even that won’t sate her.
Her attention is drawn back to him in an instant, left withering away in her arms. The color drained from his face, seeping into the sand underneath them. The fire of her anger dies down, and she feels it welling in her eyes.
“Do you not think it’s due time?” He asks, faintly, “to tell me everything?”
Trapped in her sorrow, she endures, her heart sinking. She swallows that vicious song of anger and hate, then shivering, she drew in all the strength she could. It was his time to hear it and his time to go. The most tantalizing thing the seas have bore sits lodged in her throat, she knows it as the air fills her then pushes her voice out. A gentle tide takes them both with the lilt of her song alone in the very final ritual. It will entirely be his, like he will be hers.
Sing to me, Lor.