She is perched atop a smooth rock, the one she has unofficially claimed as hers.
The harsh winter breeze sends a chill running down her spine, and she curls her wings around her body, enveloping herself in a feathery embrace that fills her with a beautiful heat. She closes her eyes and savors the moment, knowing she will only have a few minutes before she needs to spread her wings and market herself again.
The emptiness she sees is beautiful. It allows her to appreciate the salty smell of the ocean before her, the wild rustling of the trees behind her, the heavy raindrops falling against her skin, soaking through her hair. In a moment of childlike wonder, she sticks her tongue out and lets a droplet fall onto it. It tastes like nothing, and she loves it.
She keeps her eyes squeezed shut, feeling every little sensation she can, relishing it because peaceful moments like these are so painfully rare –
And then she senses a weighty movement in the water, and she knows. She can feel it like a shock running through every fiber of her being, even though her body should have become accustomed to it by now. It is hardly a surprise anymore.
Slowly, she unfurls her wings, letting the icy air wrap itself around her nude form, ignoring the goosebumps popping up onto her flesh. And slowly, she opens her eyes.
She cannot see who is in the ship, but she isn’t thinking about that for a second because the vessel is massive, with polished wood jutting out of the water and sails holding strong against the torrential weather. She leans forward a little to glean the logo on the topmost sail, and though she has no idea what it says, she can faintly recognize the Greek lettering.
They really do have such a beautiful language, the Greeks.
It’s a shame that her kind has brought them so much destruction.
She glances to her left, where her sisters sit atop their own rocky thrones, waiting. Waiting for the ship to get close enough, waiting for the right moment to open their mouths and let their melodies loose. Their faces are disarmingly sweet and inviting, as she knows hers is too, but the vulnerability shining in their eyes lets her know how they truly feel – how she feels as well. Their wings balloon out under the storm’s relentless pressure.
Her heart breaks for the millionth time as she watches them, faces carefully directed towards the ship, birdlike eyes sharp and focused. She wonders how they deal with the constant anticipation of it all. Personally, it drives her crazy, although she is careful not to show it.
You can’t really seduce someone if you look worried to death, after all.
She would ask them about it, but they’d all lost the ability to speak to each other a long time ago. They may only look.
She turns back to the ship just as it crosses the border into their territory, blissfully unaware. She squints through the rain, trying to make out who is onboard, who their next victims would have to be.
As the vessel comes further into her line of vision, she is astounded by the sight before her.
A group of Greek men prowl around on board, with sweaty faces and torn clothing. They are clearly worn and tired, their heads drooping and their backs hunched over. She wonders how long they have been traveling before reaching the home of her and her sisters, and she ignores the familiar pang of guilt that flashes through her.
One man alone is tied to the bottom of the ship’s mast, although she can’t understand how, because he looks to be the strongest of them all, muscles straining against the shredded fabric he is clothed in. He seems like he could break out of his rope bindings at any second, and yet he isn’t even putting up a struggle, sagging back against the splintered wood.
Odysseus. She knows that is his name, although she has no idea why. She glances at her sisters out of curiosity and sees that their eyes are glimmering with a faint knowing as well. She locks her eyes on Odysseus’s form, and then she and her sisters open their mouths and begin to sing.
Their song is melodic, captivating, impossible to ignore. Each note is hit to perfection and drawn out with impressive control. It is effortless for them all. They had all been cursed with heavenly voices a long time ago.
She watches as their tune is carried over to the Greek vessel by the powerful ocean breeze. She waits for the sailors to hear it, for their ears to perk up and their brains to shut off. She waits for them to whip their heads around to face her and her sisters, entranced by the Sirens’ song, and expects them to fling themselves into the murky waters below as countless innocents had done before after hearing the music. She ignores the mounting guilt and anxiety threatening to suffocate her and pours her tortured heart into her song.
To her surprise, however, the Greeks don’t flinch.
Most of them are quite unaffected, going about their tasks. The only one who is thrashing to get to her and her sisters is Odysseus, but he is more thoroughly tied up than she thought and seems to have no chance of getting free from his bindings. She intensifies her singing and peers closer at the men, quite baffled as to how this is possible. No one has ever been able to resist a Siren’s voice, and yet the majority of the sailors are blatantly ignoring them.
Upon closer inspection, she sees it.
Wads of wax have been generously shoved into the men’s ears. They had clearly come prepared, she realizes, and she is honestly surprised that no one has ever thought to plug their ears before. A clever crew, indeed.
And then she looks at Odysseus again, and she understands.
When a mortal manages to listen to the song of the Sirens without sacrificing themselves, they gain a certain kind of intellectual stimulation, an enlightenment of sorts. She’d almost forgotten about this, since it had never been done before – but here is this man, who she is starting to see is no ordinary man, who has figured out exactly how to get the coveted prize that no one else has managed to catch without death swallowing them up soon after.
She is impressed.
And then the mighty Greek vessel passes, and she throws herself into the ocean.
She cannot help it, she knows, but she doesn’t even try to resist, is simply all too happy to finally let go and end the cycle of killing by song. She turns to see her sisters, though, who are also drowning helplessly beside her, and a pang of grief rips through her as she realizes she will never see them again. She does not wish for them to die, only for them all to be free, but that is simply not the way it works. Charm every soul that crosses this island to their deaths if you want to live, and if you fail, your lives are traded for theirs. That is the rule.
The water fills her lungs, choking her, and she lets it.
She had never had the stomach for murder. None of them had. And yet all of them had found themselves trapped in this blood-soaked curse, simply because they had unintentionally angered a divinity.
It isn’t fair, she laments internally– but she does not want anger and bitterness to be the last things she ever feels, and so she pushes the thought away.
Her sisters have stopped thrashing. She is thankful, for they no longer have to feel the pain of death. They can rest easy now, and hopefully in the Underworld as well. But they are no longer hurting, no longer cursed, and that is all that matters to her as darkness begins to cloud her vision. It feels like someone is trying to fight their way out of her skull with a jackhammer, but she no longer cares.
As the last of her life drains out of her, she closes her eyes and whispers a silent goodbye to the world that had done her and her sisters so wrong.
She smiles as she is set free.