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Captain and the Siren
On the frigid pier, a siren gazed out over the waves. She thought of nothing. All she could do was wait...
A disruption in the waves alerted her; her body stiffened, and she scanned the horizon. There, lit by the hanging crescent moon, was a ship bobbing gently on the waters. The siren smirked. Boarding the ship and overtaking its crew would be a spot of bloody fun until the next unsuspecting victim came along. The game had begun.
When the ship docked, the captain cast out a rope and climbed down with deft movements. Weather-hardy boots hit the planks. She brushed off her tailored coat, sharp gaze moving to the distant town before shifting her attention to the siren. An expert at crocodile tears, the siren sniffled; quivering droplets formed in her eyes. Who could deny the effectiveness of crying? But crying alone would not seal the deal. She was about to speak, to weave a story of tragedy and plead for sympathy so she would be let aboard, but then--!
The captain offered her hand. “Would you like to come along?”
Icy waves lapped at the sides of the ship, churning fiercely as they left the docks behind. The siren sat on the mast, unbelieving. She had always been an expert at the game, but this had happened too easily; she didn’t even have to say a word! The foolish captain had reached out without hesitation.
Well, the siren thought, there was no use dwelling on it; the captain had likely never seen such a monster before, and she had decided to bring the siren along out of pity. That was all there was to it. If nothing else, the captain’s sympathy had made the task of getting aboard easier. As she sat, the clatter of the working men reached her ears. How lucky she was, she thought, for the crew followed their captain’s orders with diligence and efficiency; it could not be doubted that they would notice any missing persons or malicious characters. Oh, how challenging the game would be this time around!
One of the crewmates shouted from below, “Capt’ns calling! She’s done with ta preparation, wants ya to help cook dinner.” He then stalked off, grumbling. The siren jolted. Already? She carefully inched down the ladder one rung at a time. The difficulties of land were something she had become acquainted with early on, so although it was tedious, she accepted her fate. Such was life, she sighed. After climbing down and dragging herself painstakingly across the ship’s planks, the siren eventually came face-to-face with the door she had been shown when she first came aboard. Her knuckles rapped upon it thrice in quick succession. It opened, and the captain’s face appeared with an indecipherable expression.
“I was just about to go get you.” The door opened wide. “Come in. I’ll carry you to make it easier.” Saying this, the captain slowly leaned down and scooped up the siren, holding her close to her chest. The siren’s brow furrowed. An unexpected development, but not terrible; her hands were free for anything, now. Though, not so helpful was the sudden haze in her mind; all she could focus on was the semi-transparent strings of lilac hair hanging over the captain’s eyes. Those eyes, to be glazed over like precious gemstones once all is said and done...
Right. Focus. By now the captain is getting suspicious. Redirecting her thoughts to the present, she asked, “How can I help?” The captain viewed the siren out of the corner of her eye.
“Impatient, are we? Here.” She led the siren to a chair, its position allowing for direct access to the countertop. There was already a pot cooking on the stove, and a bowl of fish laid on a cutting board in front of her. The captain cleared her throat. The siren looked to her and saw regret etched onto the sea-farer’s face.
“Apologies. You are like a large fish. If you find it uncomfortable, you may--”
“No, no! It's fine. In fact, I am quite happy to be slicing and dicing.”
“If you say so.” The two worked in silence beside each other, the siren ensuring each fish was cut into tiny cubes and the captain preparing other ingredients.
The siren stared down at the knife in her hands. So shiny… so sharp. Her own reflection stared back, an imperfection in the knife’s surface. The siren checked to see if the captain was paying attention: she was not. The moment could not be anymore perfect. Her heartbeat quickened in thrill, and she raised the knife to swing--!
Her target turned around in the most inconvenient timing the world had ever seen. The siren was still frozen in midair, brandishing her weapon of choice. The captain, however, did not seem to find it remarkable in any way.
“I will take those if you are done.” Then, she grabbed the fish and went back to her task. How annoying! The siren thought. The captain had not suspected a thing; she would be dead next time for sure.
She was not dead next time. Or the time after that. The long voyage turned from days into weeks, and the captain repeatedly called upon the siren for menial tasks. There was a closeness between the two, the siren noticed, which seemed to be absent among any of the crewmembers; for although the captain was respected, the crew stayed far away. You could have sworn they secretly hated her.
As the captain and siren worked together, she commited multiple murder attempts, thwarted each time by impeccable timing. The siren grew more and more frustrated as months passed. She must have gotten sloppy, she decided one day; she had been alone, pouring poison into the captain's coffee, when the door creaked open without warning. One of the crew stood in the doorway, wide-eyed. Jack, she believed his name was. By the look on his face, you could have sworn she was pouring the poison into his food.
His shocked face made way to trembling words. “Oh my god. Are ya really-- ta be doin’ this to the capt’n!”
Wanting to resolve the situation, the siren spoke, “Hey, Jack.” Her hands started to shake about of their own accord, but she forced them to remain still. “The captain… the captain wanted me to poison her food so she could grow familiar with how it appears when diluted. You never know in these times, haha.” She laughed awkwardly. Jack looked unconvinced.
“That’s funny. Because the capt’n was real excited to be havin’ the coffee you brewed.”
The siren’s heart skipped a beat. Okay, everything is fine, she reassured herself. Could he possibly be bribed? Panicking, she blurted out, “Sir, you are very handsome. For only five cents, you could own this empty bottle.”
”Are ya kidding me? You’re makin’ me pay for the bottle you put the poison in?”
“Yes…?” Oh no. Her usual charm wouldn’t work, the siren realized. The captain’s crew was too loyal to betray her like that. Complications could arise if he told anyone else; she may have to call it quits.
“I’ll take it,” he replied warily. Jack laid clinking coins into the siren’s hand and closed her fingers over them. He then took the bottle and left. His retreating figure made arching shadows over the siren, and she was left dumbfounded.
In the evening, dark clouds loomed ominously in the sky, foretelling of danger. The siren sat on a pile of wooden boxes near the entranceway to the lower decks. She watched the crew busying about, following orders as the captain’s clear and direct commands spilled out over the area. How admirable, the siren swooned. Unfortunately, the captain’s voice would be lost as her soul traveled to the afterlife. A pity. But she was getting much too used to ship life, the siren decided. Her game must be finished before too long. No more stalling; not even for one more night with the captain.
Speak of the devil. While she had been entranced in her thoughts, the captain had walked up to the siren with heavy footsteps.
“The crew will be fine on their own. I doubt you are enjoying the sight of their rushing,” she spoke fondly. The siren looked up, not liking the eyebags which had made an appearance on the captain’s face recently; the preparations of the past few days had evidently taken a toll on her. The captain reached out her arms in a silent question. The siren answered, leaning forward and allowing the captain to lift her up.
“I don’t mind watching,” she replied. “It’s nice to see you in command.” The captain shifted. Was she uncomfortable? The siren wondered at this, and she rested her head against the captain, listening to quick heartbeats. The proximity made heat rush to her cheeks. Merely excitement for the kill, she convinced herself.
In the captain’s quarters, the two rested. Sure that the captain was distracted by sleep, the siren took the chance to peek at a journal laid open on a bedside table, hoping to find some way to gain an advantage. However, poring over it, she realized that she would gain nothing; the entries served as more a logistical way to record events than a personal diary. There was one detail which caught the siren’s eye: Bayette. Could this be the captain’s name? The crew only called her by her title. It seemed lonely to the siren. Was there no one the captain could talk to as a friend?
She nabbed a letter opener next to the journal, its handle sturdy. I will remember her by her name once she is gone, the siren decided. She held the fine point up to Bayette’s neck, a trickle of blood accenting the silver of the blade. The captain’s eyes fluttered open. She took the handle from the siren’s hands.
“Oh,” she said. “I see.”
“Wait,” the siren pleaded, “I can explain.”
Bayette raised an eyebrow. Stiffly, she said, “There’s nothing to explain, is there? You were admiring my letter opener. That is all.” The siren felt guilty, like she had somehow been told off. Bayette raised herself from the bed, looking exhausted despite the rest she had gotten. “Isn’t this game getting tired? After all my years of facing tempests, I no longer fear what is to come. The rest depends on you.” She set the letter opener down and left. Thunder rumbled overhead. The storm had arrived.
Shouts came from everywhere, and the sound mixed viciously with howling wind. The best option for the siren would be to hunker down; she was unable to help when her olive tail prohibited movement on land, yet she desired to know what was happening above deck. The siren dragged herself up the steps, arms shaking from constant tremors through the planks.
Muffled shouts came down through the woodwork: “Don’t slacken your grip-- Storm’ll not pa-- Careful!” At the top, the siren saw a scene she was sure she would never forget; ship tilting left and right, ropes pulling, wind tearing apart carefully secured boxes-- her racing heart would surely burst.
Bayette, at the wheel, was struggling to stay standing. The siren watched when her grip slipped. When she stumbled to the side of the ship. When the sea vessel groaned like a wounded animal, and the captain tipped over the edge.
The siren panicked, breath hitching in a painful way. Why was she so bothered? This is what she had wanted, right? The end of the game? She dragged herself to the rail, each inch a thousand miles to her. She scrambled to drag herself over the bars, breathless. In the turmoil, Bayette was unexpressive. Resigned. She didn’t make a single effort to stay afloat, the siren realized, terrified. The captain slipped beneath the waves.
“Hang on, Bayette!” the siren shouted. “You can’t leave before I allow you to!” She dropped into the sea, and her natural instincts took over. Although the ship was fighting a battle with the storm, beneath the waves all was calm. She spotted Bayette, still against the dark backdrop of nothingness. Please don’t go, the siren thought. Her arms gathered around a stiff body, and they broke the surface abruptly.
For hours or for days, the siren couldn’t tell. She rigidly held onto Bayette through the storm. Gradually the sea settled, and daylight broke through scattered clouds.
A shout came from above. “Watch out!” Beside the two companions, a life preserver hit the water. The siren bobbed over to it, and they were pulled up to the ship. The crew rushed over to the captain, checking for vitals. Seagulls cooed in the sky, and the easy rhythm of the ship had returned.
The captain woke up and promptly started coughing. After a rough fit, she blearily side-eyed the siren. “I knew--” She coughed, “you’d come around.” The siren offered a hand to Bayette, speechless. The captain continued, “May I call you Irene? It’s not fair for you to call me by name when I can’t do the same for you.” The siren nodded and lovingly tackled the captain.