Colyn trudged over the rocky outcrop towards the Lookout, hands jammed in pockets and head bowed against the wailing coastal winds. The sea looked bleak and lifeless, mirroring the dull skies. Hardly a scintillating view to entertain him over the next few hours.
“About time too.”
The watchman on duty eyed Colyn as he entered the cold stone hut. Colyn shrugged.
“If you’re late again, I have no doubt the Commander will have something to say about it. Perhaps he’ll double your hours.”
The man rose from his perch on the bench and handed Colyn his spear.
“As if I’ll need this,” Colyn scoffed, “The sea is just as tame today as always.”
The older man shot him a reproachful glare.
“Underestimate the ocean at your peril, boy. Keep your eyes open or they’ll be plucked from their very sockets before you can say ‘sea savage’.”
Colyn rolled his eyes as his fellow watchman shuffled out of the Lookout, leaving him alone to scrutinise the muddy grey seas for their most dreaded enemy: the Sirens.
It had been decades since the last sighting, but everyone in the town knew the stories. A few centuries previous, the ocean waters had writhed and boiled, and the Sirens of the sea had emerged to mount an attack on the peoples occupying the coastal stronghold of Cragshead. The air had been thick with the solemn sound of Sirensong, and the overwhelming scent of blood. The massacre was brutal, unprecedented. The men were lured to their deaths by the Sirens’ irresistible beauty, leaving the unarmed women and children to be slaughtered where they stood. Only an intervention by the King’s army put an end to the bloodshed of innocents, and the remainder of the Sirens were driven back into the watery depths of the ocean. The King posted a permanent battalion of soldiers in Cragshead, and built a lookout on the craggy outcrop to ensure that the bloodthirsty ‘sea savages’ remained underwater. Since then, there had been a few minor skirmishes, but ultimately the Sirens were always defeated. Now, Sirens were very seldom seen at all, many sightings were dismissed as drunken illusions, and the number of soldiers manning the Lookout had dwindled down to one.
As far as Colyn was concerned, the Sirens were gone, never to return, and his three hours in the freezing hut every week were a considerable waste of time. Besides, he knew the tales, everybody did – who could possibly be so stupid as to fall victim to a little sing-song and a strange creature emerging from the waves?
Two hours into his shift, and Colyn found himself dozing off at his post, battle spear tucked unceremoniously between his armoured legs. A small sound caused him to stir. At first he thought that maybe he had dreamt it, but then he heard it again – a soft, melodious strain carried on the breeze. An unusual hour for music to be playing in the fort, he mused, sleepily. He yawned and stretched and blinked. And started. There. Out in the middle of the sea, he could have sworn he’d seen a head of golden hair bobbing between the waves. Surely it wasn’t-? Perhaps he was still asleep, or hallucinating from boredom and tiredness. All the while, the song hovered in the air around him, slowly but steadily getting louder. The voices were beautiful, lilting, harmonious; the tune simultaneously sweet and melancholy, but seemingly without source. The sky was darkening and yet the sea was calming, the gentle waves easing to an eerie and uneasy silence, broken only by the song, and then, suddenly, a splash to his left. Colyn leapt to his feet, spear clattering to the ground, and ran to the water’s edge. Despite the stories, he was not prepared for what he saw.
A semi-submerged woman with pale olive skin and long, lustrous, golden hair stared back at him with iridescent aquamarine eyes. She was fully naked, her velveteen skin glittering with droplets, her plump raspberry lips open, serenading Colyn with the unceasing, wordless, haunting melody. She held his gaze intently, never blinking. As Colyn looked closer, he noticed water-slicked feathers on her shoulders, and her raking, claw-like fingernails drawing ripples in the ocean.
He knew that he should raise the alarm. Light the beacon. Warn the soldiers and the townsfolk of the imminent danger. But the Sirensong was invading his thoughts, muffling their urgency, and her radiant beauty was all that he could focus on. How could she possibly pose a threat?
“You’re no monster,” he purred aloud.
The woman stopped singing and smiled, an alluring and attractive smile that made Colyn’s heart ache with longing. He could resist no longer. He leaned over the sea, reaching out for the seductress. With only eyes for her, he saw not the other dozens of heads popping up above the water. He saw not the once-calm sea broiling and bubbling. He saw not the Siren’s eyes flash crimson, her claws elongating, her toothy smile growing razor sharp fangs.
The angelic music stopped. Talons shot out of the sea, grabbed Colyn by the neck, and dragged him into the murky depths before he even had time to scream.
Licking bloodied fingernails, the army of Sirens rose from the ocean, their silver-scaled legs hoisting them onto the rocky shore. Hundreds of years they had patiently waited to take Cragshead and the entire kingdom from the hold of weak, stupid men. And this time, all the swords in the land would not stop them.
They turned towards the fort, and resumed their song.
Emma H, age 26, 29/11/2017
A new short story for Sue Vincent’s “bleak” #writephoto challenge.
This week’s eerie photo could have inspired many different stories, but I eventually opted for the creepy fantasy route. Let me know your thoughts! 🙂