The Siren’s Encore

When she gargled, the beach gargled with her.  The gashes in the shipwrecks, the caves with the molar rocks, the skulls she’d stacked to measure the tide in her den…they all gargled her gargle.

That’s what happens when you live someplace for the acoustics.  Sure, it’s glamorous to have a home that doubles as an opera stage, but even the smallest activities get broadcast to the horizon.

As the siren finished gargling and spat the water back into the spring, she listened as all of the mouths on the beach finished gargling and spat the water back into the spring, too.  At least she had like-minded company.

Before she could take a fresh mouthful, she paused–and suddenly arched towards the cave, where someone was disturbing the water.  Someone big–the water barely reached its thighs–walking upright, and wading inside.

She bared her teeth and flared her fins as wide as they would go.  Nothing would catch her off-guard.  Not a warrior, not a thief, not even a sailor bearing a bouquet of roses.

“Honey,” the sailor called, “I’m home!”

The siren gave him a sidelong glance.

“Remember?  You sang to me?  We’re gonna grow old together?”

The siren squinted, trying to recognize him, but it was no use.

“Sorry, it’s been a few months,” he admitted.  “I would’ve come when you first called, but my crew tied me to the mast, so I had to wait till we arrived in port, and then I had to charter a new ship.”

How considerate!  The siren blushed.

“My ship’s docked right outside, incidentally.  Had a hell of a time navigating through the rocks, but at long last, I get to see you, so it’s worth it.”

Beaming at the girl of his dreams, he added, “You’re…a lot more fish-like, up close, huh?”

At this, she realized how widely her fins were flared.  She folded them back, and shut her gills for good measure.

“No, hey, it’s pretty,” he reassured her, wading over and presenting the bouquet.  “You wear it much better than fish do.  Tails should always come with hips like yours!  Even when the tails are really, really long.  Wow.  You’re also much bigger, up close, huh?”

At this, the siren coiled her tail beneath her, and sucked in her gut.

“Anyway, yeah,” he resumed, “I’m docked outside.  Come with me, and we’ll tour the world!  That is, assuming you don’t mind leaving your cozy little–”

At last, he looked around, and politely decided not to use the word ‘hellscape.’

Dozens of corpses decorated the den:  impaled upon the rocks, mounted to the walls, floating near the spring.

Some were more rotten than others.  The fresher ones were bloated and peeling, like fat people who were wearing skin that was too small for them.

The ranker ones were infested with sea-life.  A few soggy organs were all that stood between them and reefdom.  A starfish pried itself into an eye socket, and nuzzled away at the sweet, sweet eyeball inside.

This was an absolute nightmare.  If she’d known the sailor was coming, she would’ve tidied up!

Accepting the bouquet from his inert hands, she decided to thread the stems through a nearby pelvis.  They did give the den a little color, but the sailor wasn’t assuaged.

“Look,” she croaked, “I’m sorry that I lead you on, but–”

Judging by his expression, her voice sounded even worse than her den looked.

“I have laryngitis,” she explained, wheezing through the last few syllables.

“I was gonna say!” he snapped out of it, laughing with relief.  “Because you used to have such a great voice…!”

“Yeah, I still do, it’s just this sore throat.”

“You’ve been singing a lot, huh?”

She nodded.  Singing was her specialty, after all.

“To…someone else?”

She nodded, reluctantly.

“Did he come over?”

She bit her lower lip and looked away.

“Is he still here?”

“Somewhere in here,” she admitted.

The sailor looked around.  Unable to find anyone hiding amid the corpses, he concluded, “Maybe he left.”

“Look, I feel awful.  This is a big misunderstanding.  You were supposed to meet me back when I sang to you!  Not…now!”

Ashamed, she cupped water over her tail.  A number of gelatinous pearls–which the sailor had assumed were polyps–washed away from her lap.

Suddenly he noticed hundreds of these ‘polyps,’ whirling over the spring, lapping on the shore, collecting against the corpses and the siren and his own wet slacks.

“Tell me those aren’t eggs.”

“Well, yeah,” she confessed.  “I just got off my period.”

“You’re disgusting!”

“Oh, calm down.  It’s not like they’re fertilized.”

“What?  Eww!  Why?  Is that an option?”

“Only if that school of cavefish returns in the next few days.”

The sailor slumped against the wall, wailing, “I gave up my life to be with you!”

“You can be with me,” she affirmed, “it’s just, I think you’d be happier going home.”

“I can’t.”

With a sob, the sailor brushed the eggs from his slacks–whereupon they popped, coating his hands in jelly.  So he sobbed some more.

The siren tried to console him with a pat on the back, but her webbed hand suctioned against his shirt, so she consoled him with a plunging motion on the back.

“I tell everyone they’re special,” she confided.  “That’s my song, that’s how it works.  But you’re the first person to say that I’m special.”

The sailor pouted, unmoved.

“Go home,” the siren persisted, “and make everyone feel as good as you’ve made me feel, and you’re sure to find the love that you so obviously deserve.”

“Will you at least look at the ship I got?” he begged.

She nodded, glad to get him out of her personal space, and return him to his own.

 

The sailor carried the siren out of her den, his yolk-slicked hands congealing on her flesh.

Sure, she could’ve swam outside, but he’d been eager to carry her.  That is, except when he first lifted her up, and restated how much bigger she was, up close.

When her eyes adjusted to the sunlight, she saw the ship.  The marvelous, marvelous ship.  They toured its length, from back to front, and the more she saw, the more she marveled.

“It took all my savings,” the sailor confessed.  “And I sold the family farm,” he added.  “And I took out a bunch of loans,” he added.  “But it was for you, so it was worth it.”

The wood was painted to match her scales.  The trimming matched the stripes on her back.  The sails matched her webbing.

“The first time I heard you sing…well, I didn’t hear it, at first.  But I saw you on the rocks, looking at me with such…acceptance.  I just had to unplug my ears and listen to you.  I got whipped for it, but I didn’t mind, because we had each other.”

The rudder was styled after her largest dorsal fin, spines and all.

“And now you’d rather stay here, in this hellsca–err…in your home, telling just anyone that they’re special, and squirting eggs out of this sleeping bag of a tail you’ve got, even though I toiled and suffered and burned bridges and created art for you!”

With that, they reached the prow, and she marveled up at the figurehead, and the figurehead marveled down at her.  They looked exactly alike, except one of them was a little more top-heavy, and a little less fish-like.

“To top it off,” he sulked, “you’ve got a sore throat, so you can’t even sing me a goodbye song!”

As the siren considered the figurehead’s wavy hair, she ran her fingers up her own ridged scalp.

“You should stay,” she murmured.

The sailor couldn’t believe his ears.  Did she mean it?  A small part of him hoped not, because he was almost at the part where he bemoaned all the girls–and there were a lot of ‘em–that he’d turned down in order to be with her.

“You love me for who I am,” she explained.  “I think I need that.”

They kissed, and she repeated, “You should stay.”

Dumbfounded–partly by his luck, and partly by the salmony aftertaste of her kiss–the sailor carried her back to the den.

Before they entered the cave, the figurehead and the siren exchanged smiles.  The smiles were identical, but they were worn for different reasons.

The figurehead smiled because she was proud to know that, at last, the love she represented was realized, and justice was served, and the world was right.

The siren smiled because she was gonna eat for the first time since getting laryngitis.  What’s more, she’d do it by being herself.

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Published in: on March 13, 2013 at 10:27 am  Leave a Comment