Originally written for a friend. There’s a crick in my neck, and I think that’s what wakes me—the discomf ...
I was drifting when she came to me. Four days alone in an empty sea, the wreckage of my ship the only break in a monotony of blue. At first I thought she wasn’t real. That sun, starvation, and dehydration had rendered me senseless and seeing things. Eyes in the debris. A face in the water. She appeared and vanished like a dream, sinking below the surface only to rise again like a bubble. Each time, she moved closer.
Eventually, exposure drove me from consciousness.
She was there when I woke. Impossible. Beautiful. She watched me, and in my near-delirium, I watched her back. Her eyes, darker than a stormy ocean and slit like a cat’s, stared down at me with a hunger that both scared and confused me. Her head tipped slowly to the side, gaze flickering over me, curiosity joining the hungry look. Her dark eyes blinked, sideways, not up and down, then came closer.
I closed my eyes, ready for the end. But it never came, and when I opened them again, she was gone. All I could see was the harsh sun and the unending sea. I let my eyes fall shut again, and waited for the ocean to take me.
I woke again to moonlight and the sound of thunder. I longed for rain, for water I could drink, but the storm, wherever it was, was distant. The rumbling faded as I listened, wishing I could cry. I had no water to spare for them, and no energy left to try. But as the thunder vanished into silence, something else rose in its place. At first it was so soft, I thought I was going mad. Quiet notes drifting through the darkness. I had to be hearing things. The longer I lay drifting, the louder it grew, more beautiful than anything I had heard before. A sound to make the stars weep, to make the underworld give up its dead, to make the heavens surrender their secrets. Music to lure sailors to the deep.
I knew what it was.
I didn’t care.
The tears came then, conjured by a song sent to drive me mad, while the stars spun overhead. I listened and wept tears I couldn’t spare until oblivion claimed me once again.
“What are you?”
Dark eyes stared down at me, teeth sharper than my own showed in a mouth that spoke questions in a voice like angels weeping. I blinked slowly, unable to answer when my tongue and throat were drier than the Great Desert of home. My beautiful angel of death frowned.
“You are dying.”
In my delirium, I nodded. Surely she knew. Surely she had been sent for me. Surely, the Goddess of the Seas had called me home.
But I blinked, and she was gone.
My eyes drifted closed, shutting out the glaring sun that bakes my skin, its reds and purples reminding me of fire and fighting, battles won and the one we lost.
Death will be a mercy.
The sudden cold came as a shock. It burned worse after so long in the sun. My eyes were slow to adjust, my brain slow to understand. All I knew was cold and pain.
Until a different kind of burning brought understanding.
The burning of lungs desperate for air. The burn of saltwater stinging my eyes, claws digging into my forearm as she dragged me down and down and down. As the blackness swarmed at the edges of my vision I could see her below me, her dark body barely visible in the deep. But her eyes glowed brighter the deeper we sank, teeth gleamed, while around me echoed a song so pure it drove into my air-deprived mind and pulled me down more surely than the grip on my arm.
Her song. The song of a siren that every sailor and pirate knows to beware. But even though the darkness closed in around me and my lungs screamed to breathe, I didn’t care. It was beautiful, her song. She was beautiful.
And above or below water, I was good as dead.
Though under water, I fade quickly. Blackness pulled at the edges of my vision. My lungs screamed, beg for air. And no matter how I clung to the pain of her claws in my arm, or how her song wound through my mind, drawing me deeper, my own death followed, hovered just past my shoulder. Pawed at me. Gripped me with claws tighter than my siren’s.
Cold and dark claimed me once more, and I knew this time would be the last.
Below the deep and storm-tossed waves there is only darkness and cold. Endless depths. Endless cold. No sun to burn and break, no cruel waves to tease and torment. There is darkness, and there is her.
And for me, that is all there will ever be. Below the waves, I am hers for eternity. Bound by her song, caught drifting forever between life and death, drowning but not dying. Some might say I was trapped, held prisoner, but I have always been free in the sea.
Better than burning. Better surely than hanging. I am hers. And I am the sea’s.
And here, below, I will stay.