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The girl blew out the dancing flames on the candles. They were the barriers between her and the cake after all. Her mom and her best friend said, "happy birthday!" as the flames extinguished. Her dad wasn't home, but she hardly saw him anyway. Twelve candles circled the rim of the cake. One candle for every year of the girl’s life. The girl’s mother smiled a warm smile and cut the cake, serving a slice to each person. Her best friend and her talked on the couch as they ate, and the girl's mother retired to her room.
Long after hours when the girl’s best friend left, the girl looked for her mother. She knocked on the door but there was no answer. She knocked again and still didn't hear any welcoming words from her mother's voice. She got impatient and opened the door.
She screamed. Her mother’s body was now a grotesque form. Legs and arms twisted in the wrong ways, one hand gone, and neck twisted to one side. Her eyes were rolled back into her head. The girl stood there in fear and horror. She looked at the the body and felt her gut twist at the ghostly pale skin and abnormally angled limbs. With tears streaming down her face, she ran to the corpse and pushed down her revulsion to her mother's unnatural state. The girl placed her hands on her mother's shoulders and shivered from the contact of ice cold skin. Her mother looked like life had been sucked out of her. Her once plump cheeks were now gaunt, so her cheekbones seemed to protrude outwards. The girl shook her mother's shoulders and didn't care that her tears spilled onto her mother's shirt.
"Mom?" She asked. It came out as a choked plea. "Mom!" She said again, this time louder while shaking the husk more violently. The girl shook her mom like she could wake her up, as if shoving all her desperation into her voice might help. She called for her mother one last time in a quiet hopeless sob.
But her mother was gone.
5 years later
You’d think I’d be happy it’s my birthday. Oh, Cynthia! It’s a day of celebration! But no. It really isn’t. Not when it’s the day you found your mother as a husk, twisted on the ground. Not when it reminds you that you’re here and she isn’t. Not when you don’t even know what maniac killed her.
Which is why I’m gonna find out.
My mom, Lila Gontro was the smiles and sun to shine out the tough times and dark days. I’ve been researching for the five years she’s been gone. There are more people that have been found like her. And there have been more of them this month.
I’m sitting by the front door putting on my sneakers when I see my ride to school. My best friend Ashiah beeps the car horn to her blue Honda and waves her hand out the window. I grab a jacket and run out into the front seat.
“Hey, what’s up?” Ashiah asks. She turns her head to back out of the driveway, and her long auburn hair splays over her shoulders.
“Not much just the same things. Dad is in and out, more weird things with my mom, and my stupid algebra test today that I should have studied more for.” I answer.
“Well it’s still your birthday!--happy birthday by the way--so we should at least have a small celebration.”
“Don’t you remember the last time we celebrated?” I ask her. “Plus it’s not much to celebrate anyway. Yay every year I’m becoming even more pessimistic and old.”
“Just one movie, Cynthia. It’ll be like any other time we see a movie.”
“Yeah sure I just don’t feel like going out. We can make popcorn and sit on the couch.”
“Perfect.” Ashiah says with an uplifting smile. She cruises into the school parking lot. “Text me later.”
“Ok I gotta run. My locker is so far from first period. Seeya!” I tell her as I jog over to school and look back to see Ashiah smile and wave to me.
When I got home I dumped my bag onto my bed and shut my door. I finished my stupid algebra homework along with social studies and a bunch of other subjects. Right now I sit on my fluffy queen sized bed, laptop on. It’s night out, the normal sound of crickets chirping outside my grey painted walls. I’m still looking into the cases for the deaths similar to my mom’s. Whenever I have the time, I look. I’m looking into a case about a boy who was found drained in an alley about a town away from mine. His hand was cut off and and his skin was marred and bloody.
I’m staring at the light of the screen when I hear footsteps outside my door. It’s my dad coming home late. Knowing him, he’ll be right back out after about five minutes. Our house is like a rest stop for him to get ready for his next job appointment.
I miss my mom. She never just ignored me. She was always there for my dad and I, she had a warm smile, and she was just...mom. And she deserves a lot more than what she got. She deserved dad coming home and smiling at her. She deserved for the person who killed her to be brought to justice. She should have lived longer, seen and done more. But she didn’t.
I open my door and peer into the shadowed hallway. I switch on the light and walk out, knocking on my dad’s door with a little force. My nerve overpowers my fear I hear his even voice say to come in.
“What do you want?” His voice evokes no emotion, and his expressionless eyes meet mine. I hardly talk to him, and I think he prefers it that way.
“You know,” I tell him. “It would be nice if for once you actually talked to me. For the last five years you still haven’t talked to me about mom.”
“Cynthia I don’t have time for this I have to been somewhere. I don’t know where this is coming from but I don’t need you having a tantrum about such a sensitive topic for both of us.” Is he serious right now? My rage boils to the top and starts to flood my thoughts out of my mouth.
“You never have time for anything! Ever since I can remember we have about one small chat a year. And once mom was gone you didn’t even come then to talk to me. We never do anything on the day she died. It’s not like I ask for anything or mess up your stupid high class rich person reputation, but you never do anything for me because you’re NEVER HERE! Maybe you don’t even know mom died today. That this hell all happened on my birthday. It’s why I’m so messed up! My dad never talks to me, my mom is dead and I need to hold myself together!”
“Cynthia we aren’t having this conversation.” He walks down the stairs and out the door, slamming it behind him.
If he thinks I’m just gonna let him leave he is so wrong. I jab my feet into my shoes and grab a jacket and my keys from the hooks on the wall. I put my arms through the jacket sleeves as I run to my dad’s fading figure. He gets into his car and starts driving. I run to my car and start the engine. I press my foot to the gas pedal and chase after my dad’s sleek, black car. What’s gotten into me? Lately I can be triggered more easily.
It’s been ten minutes and my dad has been on the highway, turning onto exits that bring us to remote areas. He probably knows I’m following him, but he hasn’t stopped me. We are driving by the ocean and I breath in the salty air from my open window. I expected my dad to just go to a job interview in a building or something and that I’d drag him out to talk. But this catches me off guard. Where is he going? My dad gets out of his car at a light house. I get out too and follow him. The lighthouse sits on a cliff overlooking inky blue waters.
“Dad!” I call out. I’m less mad now but it’s not like I’m not angry at all. He doesn’t turn around, he just keeps walking. I try to catch up to him and start to jog. He walks past the lighthouse toward the cliff and suddenly fear crashes into my gut. Is he gonna jump or something? I start to run.
“Dad what are you doing!?” He doesn’t respond. What the hell’s happening? I’m sprinting and once I get there, slowing down my pace so I don’t fall over, he has stopped by the edge. I hear a voice in the distance. Is that coming from the ocean? I grab my dad’s arm and try to tug him back but he won’t budge. The voice I heard before gets clearer and louder. I realize someone is singing. I try to go in front of my dad and hold his upper arm tight so he doesn’t try anything. I want to push my dad back but I feel glued to my spot as the singing glides into my ears. The voice is so entrancing and beautiful, it takes away all my worries and fears. I look at the waves crashing on the rocks below, and just listen to the sound of this heartfelt song painting on silence. I feel my foot take one step forward on it’s own and I ignore my gut feeling to step away.
I finally see the source of the music from a woman swimming in the curling waves. My jaw goes slack and my heart starts to go on overdrive.
The woman in the ocean is my mom. Impossible. I saw her dead on the floor five years ago. I want to run to her, and tears are streaming down my face, but something in me make me take a step back. Something isn’t right. And once I snap out of whatever trance I was in a take a second to think. Was I just about to jump? I’m about to leave this cliff and the fixating voice behind, but two hands push me forward. I go over the edge.
I think of her now. Lila. I can’t stop thinking about her. How could a mere human possibly have so much power over someone superior to her species? I’ve always wondered how without power her beauty could entrance me like a real Siren’s. Or the way her laugh would stir a light feeling in my chest. What about Lila made made me hesitate to take her life when I’ve never had a problem taking lives before?
I’m a soldier for the Yelfora Siren race. Though males do not have the power of song the way females do, I can be useful. I have been taught to take, to kill, and to have no weakness. I had to drain Lila because they told me to. I had to take what I came to take. Our power source comes from what the humans have that we do not. These feelings they endure that we cannot understand and the energy and life that powers them. This gives us strength and energy. For our hearts do not know how to feel the way humans do. We cannot fathom the burden of such complex different occurrences and feelings that humans must endure. But we take these things--their energy, feelings, and memories--and utilize them for powers such as walking on land.
I hear the sound of Cynthia screaming as she falls. I had to kill her too. She wanted to know too much information I could not give to her. She was too curious. We need more energy anyway and she reminded me of Lila. Seeing Cynthia made me feel a dark void-like feeling that I do not understand. These feeling humans have. It is so much more simple without them. Lila would tell me about these feelings. Tells me about her expressions of joy or anger. Humans act differently with these different emotions. Perhaps they are different ways of acting that can seem very similar or different at times. Lila would tell me she loved me. I did not know what she meant.
Even if Cynthia survives the fall, Syra will finish her. I do not understand how Cynthia could resist the sound of Syra’s song. You not only hear the voice of the Siren, but also see what you most desire. It is obvious that the girl would see her mother. See Lila. She has shown how she has mourned the loss of Lila. Yet what I do not understand is that Siren’s do not desire for they cannot feel or want things such as humans, so they do not see anything during a Siren song. But I saw Lila.
My scream travels in echos across the open space. I feel my gut tighten, and that feeling of falling stuck in my stomach. I’m clenching all of my muscles to brace for the part where my body strikes the water, and my eyes are shut.
When my body hits the water, a fiery stinging pain is all over my body. I scream out as I try to move my arm, but pain lances through it. I can’t move my left shoulder, and my foot protests movement with fire in my ankle. Luckily the water was deep, but the cliff was high enough to break bone. I do my best to try to swim up, but there is so much pain, that I find it impossible to kick my legs or move my arms. The current pushes me toward the side of the mountain and now there is a blazing sensation in my lungs. My will to survive helps me attempt to swim again no matter how much it hurts. The pain is making my vision fuzzy. By reaction my lungs are searching for air, forcing my body to breath in water. There is no relief or breaking the surface of the water, all that comes is more fire, more heavy water in my lungs. My vision isn’t the best, but I see a figure swimming toward me. I’m gasping now, and I can’t stop heaving in water. I see the shape of a tailed woman as a blurred shape through the water. I can’t see well, but I can make out her familiar figure and brown hair that fans out in the water. My mom looks at me. And I hope she will bring me to the surface and explain everything. I don’t even take a second to take in that she has a frickin tale.
The blurry figure starts to change. The smooth brown hair turns black and knotted. The shine of her tail now looks tarnished, and there is a dark red substance that is stuck underneath her scales. My consciousness wavers, but I feel one of her hands grab my arm. Her nails grow long and jagged, and I feel the skin of her hand turn rough and wrinkled. She bares sharp, jagged teeth with fresh blood. I open my mouth to scream but I have no air left to project sound. She yanks me with her deeper into the ocean. My body is shutting down. I hear her hiss at me with those teeth. She clamps down her jaw onto my hand without hesitation and bites down. I let out another silent scream, blood that blooms in the water covers the grotesque amputated limb that no doubt shows bone. The pain is unbearable. I can’t think or do anything. My mind goes dark.
I feel myself coming back a little. I can't see a thing, but I can feel the fire in my arm and ankle. The pain in my lungs isn't as bad and my thoughts are clearing up. Shouldn't I be dead? I think about what I experienced. So if this thing looked like my mom, tempted me with her singing, and then tried to drown me, then what is it? It had a tail. So a mermaid maybe? No. A Siren. Her song lured me just like Sirens lure sailors in myths. How is this possible? I still can’t see a thing, but I start to see some light through my eyelids. My whole body feels heavy. The light past my eyelids becomes brighter. I feel my skin shifting and stretching. My legs are stuck together.
Suddenly I let in a giant gasp of air. I breath greedily, my chest rapidly rising and falling. My eyes fly open and my face goes slack. I’m still in the water. I should be dead. I look down and shock overtakes me. There instead of my legs is one big tail formed with slightly tarnished metal scales and that has a sharp edge at the end of the fin. The same type of metal scales form a sort of bikini top. They snake up around my neck, and seem to be part of my skin, embedded partly underneath my flesh at the edges of the “top”. The siren who attacked me is gone. I’m still breathing, and realize I’m breathing through my nose, but air is also being sucked in on the sides of my face. I touch my cheeks with my only hand, and feel thin flaps of skin that come up. Gills. I can see clearly. I’m not dead. How am I not dead? I have a tail. I can move my arm when it was broken before. I look at my chomped off hand and see skin forming a nub across the top. I see it knitting together. Healing. I’m sore but ok. I start to see sharp, yellow nails growing from my gnarled fingers. My teeth are sharpening and I accidentally slid a tooth over my lip, causing it to bleed. My skin looks more grey and wrinkled. I feel more numb. As if I can’t really feel at all. I have a craving for blood. Even if I don’t know how or why I’m like this, I know what I am.
I’m not human. I’m not a nice mermaid you hear about in children’s stories. I’m a nightmare. I’m a monster who was made to drag humans suffocating down an abyss.
I’m a Siren.