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The Siren's Mistress [Prologue, Chapter 1-2] PREVIEW

Prologue: Bride of The Sea

91 Days Till Winter

The warm, sultry days are over; the sea breezes have turned cold much like tonight. They whisk through my hair, creasing my dress, the light mist leaving behind salty kisses on my flesh. It feels like a cleansing, the gust washing over me, just like the moonlight on the black waters surrounding me. The crash of the small waves against my boat and the larger sprays against the rocky shoreline feel relentless and drown my ears of the subtle sounds.

My body yields to the reverberation, a slight tremor starting in my muscles and shivers caressing my spine. I do not fight but welcome it. I’ve always felt one with the island like I belong to these waters ever since I was a little girl. The golden sands, the turquoise waters sparkling in the sun’s rays, and then the stars that dance upon the waters at night. It does not matter if it were night or day. I belong to them just like they belong to me.

Though the other villages from nearby islands do not feel the same nor do they honor our Gods, the Sirens. They are ignorant of the old ways, choosing to forget our origins, how we too once came from the seas. Instead, they mock the teachings and are cursed, lacking the protection of the Gods.

As far as I know, we are the only ones to accept and worship them, but I have never ventured away from the island, not even to fish. But the stories of our Gods are ingrained in me so much so that I could retell them from memory, much like our storytellers. From a very young age, we have been told the Sirens own the sea, ruling all marine life. To not pay homage is sacrilege, and those who don’t will be banished from the village to live all eternity in shame.

I do not understand why one would do such things, as in my eyes our island is a paradise. All of it is beautiful as is dangerous.

And I suppose it is in that way, the best I can describe Gimgar.

A loud crash against the boat brings me back to my daunting reality, and with the waves getting larger by the second, my boat wobbles and sways, scaring me. At this moment, I feel so alone in the darkness, disconnected from everything, more of a sacrifice than a bride.

The villagers feel far away at the moment. I can barely hear their drums and singing which normally echo across the open waters, but the huge waves hitting the shore have quieted them since I started my journey

The bonfire on the shore too is distant, looking like an angry red ant, from where I am bobbling in my boat as the sea steals me farther away. The comforts of human life have been abandoned, as all I can see around me is darkness and what lies beneath. I wait, my eyes combing the water’s surface, the candle I hold barely casting any light into the depths of the sea.

The melted wax slowly slides down, past its holder, dripping and cooling instantly when it hits the wet boat. If He doesn’t show up, it means He hasn’t accepted me. I hold the candle over the edge, peering down into the waters. Praying and hoping I would be accepted as His bride. I would bring shame to my family and dishonor to the entire village if I returned home without acceptance.

A scary thought crosses my mind. Will I be banished? Where will I go?

Suddenly a loud noise and a crash at the bow causes the boat to tilt heavily on the side I was leaning over. It frightens me and I jerk back, hitting the other side. My action rocks the boat back and forth violently, nearly making me fall into the water. Only my tight grip on the stern prevented it.

My heart pounds as I try to find my balance, still holding on to the candle firmly. I don’t want to be without any light in this inky blackness that my world has turned into. The moon and stars seem to have disappeared as the sky is cast with dark shadows.

I frantically look ahead where the sounds originated, unsteadily crawling forward, with the candle outstretched. I then hear a splash to my right, and I swing the candle in that direction. Then another disturbance in the water, and my hand jerks toward that, the little light creating a small arc of illumination on the surface of the sea.

Another noise from behind the boat startles me, and I turn around sharply. This time, I see something, my eyes follow it, refusing to give up the chase. A long tail breaks the cacophony of waves, bathed in silvery shimmer before it is swallowed by the dark. The only evidence left behind is the small ripples joining the waves.

Did I imagine it?

I know the sea likes to play tricks. I have heard enough tales from the fishermen on how the sea likes to make you see things that are not real. My breath hitches in my throat.

Or He could be here…

I turn my head in all directions, searching for the elusive Siren. I grip the plank of my seat only for my fingers to tangle in the spider webs, making me pull back in fright with a yelp. I shake my hand, the silken webs sticking to me, making me forget the sea’s guiles. Immediately I wipe my hands on my white dress, anything to make the feeling of spiders crawling over me go. Then I hear the trickle of water coming directly from behind me. Something has surfaced, and it is behind me.

Thump thump thump

My heart begins to beat rhythmically in tune with my rising fear, but I know I have to look.

I slowly turn on the seat and at first, see a long tail raised out of the sea. It reminds me of the end of a fish. Water flows down its smooth shiny surface on either side, including the long frilly flukes, with droplets pattering the surface. Then I see a long-gnarled hand reaching for me. Grim remnants of the sea bottom darken its nails, more like claws, and my breath stops in my throat.

He is here… is all I think, looking up into the dark brown orbs with flecks of shimmering gold in them. Eyes that remind me of soil and sand. They are so animalistic, like an eel’s eyes, zoning in on me automatically when I turn to face him, watching me like I am nothing but prey.

He cocks his head, his nostrils flare, taking in my scent, and I see the smallest flicker of movement in his neck with each inhale and exhale. His claws touch my cheek, just the tips, before he drags them down my face. The feeling is ticklish, and I squeeze close my right eye, the feeling odd, his hands cold and wet and the webbing in between his fingers even odder. A trail of slime streaks all where he touches.

I hold myself in place letting the Siren study my face and learn my features, but I couldn’t hold back the shudders coursing down my body, some due to cold air but mostly it is him.

He must like me so far… the elders have told me if a God is unhappy, he will let me know instantly. I start to wonder what happens to unwanted brides. I’ve never heard of tales explaining that.

His claws traverse lower, down to my neck, and his eyes too slip from my face to follow his hand. A sudden burst of pain like that of a prick makes me flinch and drop the candle I have held onto so well. Although it bounces, the flame continues to burn by some miracle, illuminating the hulk of the boat. His hand withdraws to his side, more precisely to his mouth, and before he darts one finger into his mouth, I see a dark liquid coating it.

I swipe my hand on my neck, checking my skin where the pain continues to flare. I feel wetness under my fingertips and pull them up to my eyes. My finger comes away coated with streaks of bright red like the color of my hair.

He must have nicked me with his claws!

Completely horrified, I look at him with utter shock as he sucks the finger smeared with my blood. He stares up at me as he slowly moves back and lets the waters draw him away. I see another movement, his other hand rising from the sea, followed by the sound of water hitting the surface, alerting me and drawing my attention to his wrist.

There is something coiled loosely, bunched up around his wrist. Something red.

He gives it one swift yank and throws it in an arc, dropping it inside my boat. The thing slides with a thud, stopping at the center of the hull by my feet.

A necklace. That’s what he has given me.

The candle’s flame makes it glow crimson, what is potentially coral strung on a dark cord. I look back at him and do not miss him drawing his finger slowly out of his mouth, his bluish tongue wrapping around it one last time. And instead of a smile that I would expect, I am greeted by a line of long and jagged shark teeth, almost in a grimace.

I gasp, the sight bewildering, and I couldn’t prevent the startled sound from escaping my lips. The elders have never once mentioned our Gods have such teeth.

"I accept," he says to me in English, the words falling bizarrely from his lips, rumbling in its tenor, echoing in the air around us, before he sinks beneath the waters.

His tail is the last thing I see, the long muscle flexing before that too disappears under the surface. The color is unusual, a ruddy red, like that of rusted metal.

Once he is gone, I exhale several times, a cumulation of all breaths I held in bravely. I then realize, as I reach for the necklace he has gifted me, how badly my hands and legs are trembling. They must have been like that the entire time he was gazing at me.

Picking up the necklace and bringing it closer to my face, I can smell the sea strongly on it, something I thought I was immune to by now. It is wet and cold, much more frigid than the Siren’s skin.

I am still getting over the realization he’s accepted me... At least that is a good thing. It's better than being denied, but I am so frightened. How can this man become my husband when I am so scared of him from the start?

My fingers clench around the red coral, relief along with worry washing over me. I can't disappoint my elders or my family. I then tie the wet cord around my neck, the coral falling in between my breasts and draped over my shoulders, the color of the necklace nearly matching my hair. I have promised to honor my family. I cannot be afraid. I need to be strong, and by putting the worn cord around my neck, I too accept his offer of marriage.

I will be the next bride of the sea, but if only I had known the dangers of accepting such an offer…

Chapter One: Ghostevil

90 Days Till Winter

I vaguely remember a time before I knew of Sirens and their existence. Those moments of innocence during childhood, where I looked at the sea differently too. I saw fish as fish and man as man. I did not know there existed beings between the two worlds. I was a kid then, and as nature intended, most visions and thoughts of a child fade with the passage of time, leaving behind the eyes of an adult too damaged by the truth. I had, like the rest, once stared at the sea, witnessing the purity in it that I would never perceive again in my life. Today, knowing what I do, I see a mix of emotions, rage under the mask of cold beauty, the waters gray and chilly, with an underlying cruelty to them. The frigid winds that blow across them, churning these waters, are the ones from different lands, and I could almost taste on my tongue the foreign soil from where they originated. I wish I could breathe in more to bask in it and fantasize about these strange worlds, but I feel discomfited by the way the others now stare at me. When the people of Gimgar first saw the gift around my neck, it caused quite a stir. The elders were most delighted when they pulled me back to the docks by the rope tied to the boat, it being my only lifeline to land. I knew not how to use oars or maneuver the boat, nor had they given me one, insisting I did not need them, the rope being strong enough to keep me anchored. But what if it wasn’t? Many thoughts had come to me, much like that one, when I undulated back and forth in the waters long after the Siren had gone, waiting for them to pull me in. I could have tugged on the rope, which was below the dark surface of the water, but fear held me back. What if he had still been lurking or if something else entirely was hanging around to prey on me. So, I waited. Now everyone back home stares at me and most importantly at his gift that falls just above the crevice between the valley of my breasts. As I walk through the village, it is a heavy reminder of the night before and my future. The red coral, as the elders had explained, is precious to the Gods. The Sirens believe it to be one of the many hearts of the sea, and by giving me such a necklace, he is thought to have shown me not only his heart but also his generosity, large enough to give up one from his home. To think he would give me something so special during the first ceremony. I cannot meet the eyes of those who stare at me; instead, I look at my sandaled feet and the path I traverse. All are so curious about me, or perhaps it is the Siren who holds their interest, as not once have they gazed at me like this. I usually tried to blend in with the crowd, my red hair the only thing marking me different. I can hear their gossip; some don’t even make an attempt to hide their words. “She’s nothing special… just a fisherman’s daughter,” an older woman whispers, her voice not hushed enough when I pass by her. “Her hair is her only redeeming quality.” “Perhaps that is why Pamela chose her to be our next bride. But it seems he liked her, and that is all that matters,” the person standing next to her replies, a woman seeming to be younger and full of life. Pamela is the current leader of the elders. A woman well respected. I frown at their words. My red hair has always been special to the people in the village, especially to the elders. I did not think it was, but my opinion did not matter. I am forced to keep it long, so I have only ever known it as such. It falls below my shoulders, in many waves and curling trestles. I want to cut it short, but perhaps my reason lies in my memories. As a child, the other girls always pulled it in fits of jealousy while the boys, young and old, liked reaching out and running their fingers through it in awe and fascination. And because of that, I was nicknamed the ‘sea witch.’ I do not remember who had first deemed me as that, but I do remember the bullying did not end with name-calling or hair tugging. I would get stones pelted at me, though that ended when I became an adult. As I grew up, the torments became more ruthless, and nothing stopped these girls. The only difference was that they discovered they did not need to throw stones to wound me anymore, their words did the trick, sharper and deeper, scraping me raw. When I turned a woman, the men wanted nothing more than to lay with me, but again the elders forbade it. To date, they are adamant I must remain pure for my husband, the Siren, who would then take me as his wife. They use the word sully many times during our talks. It is frustrating, seeing as everything is practically forbidden to me. But their warnings did not stop me from stealing kisses or small caresses from time to time. My lips know another set very well, a certain boy I have grown up with. However, this is done in secret, and no one can ever find out. His name is Laki, a dark-haired, olive-skinned boy with green eyes much like my own, except mine are darker than his. He is also a fisherman's son, a friend of my father. Recently Laki has begun to go out on fishing trips with the two, learning to become a man. Our parents do not know we sneak off together to kiss and take small pleasures in private. If my father knew, he probably wouldn’t be too happy with me. I have never rebelled, never argued about being a woman and not a child. I eventually make my way to my mother's hut, ignoring the whispers and talks amongst the villagers. However nice or cruel their words may be, I have just come to visit her and that is all, else I wouldn’t have ever gone through the heart of the village. Opening the door to the hut, I place a woven basket full of fruit on the table, a gift given to me earlier this morning by the elders. They had left it at my doorstep, the basket containing all kinds of exotic foods that have come from other islands. There were some I had seen the elders eating during celebrations but never once sharing the delicacy with anyone else. The fruit is tempting, but I ignore the empty pit in my stomach and find my mother's room. I stare at the wooden door and raise my closed fist before rapping softly on it. It should have been Uncle Krill's turn to watch over her, but I don’t see him. He must be running late. “Mother, it's me… Mayme,” I say, but I don’t hear anybody on the other side of the door. I know she is there, her body casting its shadow, moving to and from underneath the door. “There is fruit on the table if you want any. The elders gave it to me as a gift.” “Ma, last night…” I stumble over my words, my eyes downcast, watching the reaction of the shadow, “I met a Siren for the first time. He was scary…scarier than what the Elders said he would be.” My parents knew the elders had selected me to be the next bride, and as much as I was elated at the honor, my mother was not. She screamed and protested, refusing their choice of making me the next bride of the sea. I was confused and scared. My father stood helplessly and ultimately, had to lift mother off her feet and half-drag her back to the house, kicking and screeching, with the elders glaring at her from across their plushy cushions on the beach. My father later told me it was because she didn’t want to let me go as I was her only child. So the coming days would be hard on her, her mind and heart weakening as a result and allowing the ghostevil to possess her more easily. Even in the beginning mother was not to be trusted even more so now. In the past it was father or uncle who constantly watched her until I was old enough to understand the ghostevil that took over her soul. On many occasions, when father made the poor mistake of leaving her alone, thinking she had overcome her malevolent spirit, she had attempted to drown herself in the sea while muttering the name “Tzvi.” Tzvi is a word I have only heard once when I was all but a child, but I had thought she was playing and didn’t think anything of it since I was so little. According to the elders, Tzvi is the name of the ghostevil that possessed her when she was pregnant with me. Apparently, she had ventured too close to the sea, when it had turned red like my hair and that is when it took hold of her soul. Though it is not her fault, the evil spirit lulled her in. Now the foul thing causes her to behave strangely and erratically most times. Unfortunately, the elders told me they could not expel the ghostevil from her since it is so strong. The best we can do, in these circumstances, is to supervise her and keep her away from the ocean where its power is the strongest. I then hear her speak from the other side of the door, her voice strained, “Did you accept his offer of marriage...?” She doesn’t sound well... I am hesitant as I run my fingers over the necklace he left for me and mutter softly, “I did, mother.” A hitch of breath… then silence… I hear a creak on the floor. “Ma?” I question when even more silence follows and before long, the door is whipped open, smacking against the wall harshly, causing pictures to fall. My heart drops when she puts her hands on my shoulders and shoves me against a wall. She screams madly, “Are you crazy?! You accepted that monster when you should have just thrown his vile gift back in the ocean where it belongs! That he would have understood! Now you’re stuck with him like seaweed coiled around your ankles. Those creatures, those things are obsessive, in water and on land! They are no gods! They're sea devils.” I stare at her with eyes wide as her fingers curl into my shoulder, nails biting in. I try to pull away, the shock fading, my body beginning to register the pain. “Ma, let go of me! You’re hurting me!” I holler, but she doesn't seem to have heard. Then the front door opens, and I see my uncle. He drops his fishing gear and rushes over to us, pulling my mother off me. My uncle is a tall man, standing well over 6 feet with dark curly hair coming to his shoulders, seemingly wet from the sea. “Renad, calm down!” he yells into her ear as he lifts her up. I have never seen mother act so wildly with me before as she rushes forward and scratches the air around me. Her ghostevil must hate the Sirens. They are, after all, Gods, and it is an abomination. “Take it off!” she screams. “Maybe it's not too late to refuse him! Marry Laki. He's a good man, and you like each other! I can see it in both your eyes!” I can only stare at her, bewildered, as my uncle yells, “Mayme, just leave! I can take it from here. Your presence is only going to make it worse!” I nod, not wanting to be here anymore than I have to be, before swiftly exiting and shutting the door behind me. I can still hear her screams coming from the house, “Let go of me, you stupid prick!! I bet you were with him! Weren’t you?” Him? Mother is talking crazy again… “LET GO!” she screams louder, and I travel further and further away until I can no longer hear her screams but still feel the remnants of the pain she inflicted on me. I sigh heavily, sitting down on the hot sand, staring at the sea waves lapping the shoreline calmly, my heart heavy with rough emotions. I then untie the cord from around my neck, and I am tempted to throw the necklace back into the sea, but as I raise my arm above my head, an invisible force stops me, making my eyes well up with tears. I can’t… I would bring dishonor to my family. I would be dishonored….and banished. My bottom lip trembles, and I drop it in the sand, a frustrated growl leaving my throat. I would be marrying the Siren. I have already decided; he and I have accepted. There is nothing I can do. Mother cannot help it. I’m sure even if I choose to reject the Siren and marry Laki, she will scream and hurt me about that too. Her ghostevil hating happiness and everything that is love. I stare at the necklace in the sand and pick it up, tying it around my neck once more. I am to wed the Siren, and I will be a dutiful wife. I cannot see Laki anymore. That much I know for sure.

Chapter Two: Drowning

89 Days Till Winter

I have been avoiding Laki ever since he came home from fishing with his father last night. I know it isn't right after all the hours we spent kissing and claiming our love for one another, but in the span of one night, I had accepted the Siren. Laki will soon know there can be no going back for me. And even if I want to, I can’t. The elders will never allow it, especially Pamela. But it is going to be a shock to him, as I don't think he ever imagined I would be chosen… Never. During the selection time, too, he had left for fishing late in the evening and stayed overnight on the seas. He used to joke as we lay on the warm sands of the beach that it could be possible I would be chosen as the bride because of my inherent beauty, but then he dismissed the idea as soon as he put it forth, saying I had a large forehead like the Belukha fish. Now I’m sure he is eating his words somewhere. I know he would have asked around about me by now, probably with the other big-breasted woman in the village, Asoese. I know Laki has a fondness for large breasts. He made it apparent he loved mine as he groped a feel every single time during our heated make-out sessions. My breasts are ample and succulent, and I even went as far as to stop wearing a bra for him. I enjoyed how his eyes would look at me with lust. And his desire sent delicious chills down my spine. He made me feel like a woman. On cold nights, like tonight, he always enjoyed how my nipples strained against the fabric of my dress. I always thought doing this made me a pervert, but luckily, I found many women in the village went without a bra, usually the married ones. It was thought to be more natural. I sigh as my thoughts go back and forth in time, mixing the memories of Laki with my present situation. Sitting on the dock with my legs dangling off the edge, I swing them in the water, gently allowing the swells to lap them. It is nighttime, and the only thing I can hear is the sound of the waves and the crackling of the torches that were lit around the dock and along the beach. I then hear a creak from behind me, and I know who it is from the soft padding of the footsteps. I don’t even have to look, and I keep my eyes trained on the water. Laki. “Is it true you were selected?” I don’t respond, hoping he would judge my silence to be a Yes. "So, it's true then…" mutters Laki, almost to himself, as if crushed. "Why did you accept when you had me?!" he lashes out at me. I turn around and hiss, "Because I could not dishonor my family, Laki, or take the chance of being exiled. I would never survive!" He exhales loudly, sounding exasperated as he kneels behind me, saying, "So I'm supposed to just accept that some fucking fish is going to take you away from me?" "Yes. That is the only thing you can do at the moment. And be careful of what you say. They are our Gods," I warn him, slowly turning my attention back to the water, unable to look at him. "We weren't meant to be one…" "I can't accept that, Mayme. Not after I worked so hard to get you." His voice carried forth his anger, and he turns my face toward him roughly. He lays a kiss on my lips, and I immediately pull away. "Laki, we can't do this anymore. I'm to be married." “To that fish man.” His green eyes turn cold then speculative. “Then let me have you…just this once. Spread your legs for me. I don’t want that damn creature to steal that privilege. He won't even know if you’re a virgin or not…trust me. Let me be your first. I deserve it.” I look at him skeptically, disgust making my eyes turn cold. “That’s your worst concern right now? Whether or not you can take my virginity? You want to be my first? Get out of here, Laki! I don’t even want to look at you.” "I didn't mean it like that," he protests, and my mood starts to turn sour more. "I just want to have you. I waited two years for you patiently, listening to all your excuses. I could have had any other woman. But I have been lenient enough to wait until you are ready. But you never were. And now you are going to give it up to this thing.” "Do I need to remind you, Laki? It isn't just a thing; he is one of our Gods!" I yell at him. "And I wasn't saving it. The elders said I couldn't lay with another. They made it clear, almost adamant about it. I'm not going to break that rule after all this time." "As I said, your fucking husband won't even know the difference," he argues. "I don't even think one of those things can have sex. I mean, you have legs, and he doesn't." "If you know anything about our Gods, then you should know they can shapeshift, Laki," I inform, my voice coming across as haughty, which wasn’t my original intention. "Depending on the Siren, some males will mate in the water during the summer and some in the fall on land." "Well, I'm glad you know all about their mating times," he mocks me in a deliberate tone. "I don't think even the elders know shit about them. My dad says they're Sea Devils." Sea Devils… "My mother told me they can shapeshift…and I read some books in the village library to know the rest..." I announce. My mother had also called them Sea Devils, but I would not tell him this or how they are just as dangerous on land as in the water because anything, to them, is perceived as a threat... How many of the others thought the same and still think they are Sea Devils? "So, you believe your crazy mother and some books written by ancient cunts?" he questions me. I glare at him, not saying another word before he mutters, "Sorry." He then leans toward me once there is silence and says, "But think about what I asked of you tonight…" He then captures my lips with his, and one of his hands gropes my breast, making my face red, all the heat in my body gathering in my cheeks. "You still don't wear a bra," he observes, pulling away and rubbing the hardened nipple through the fabric. "No," I murmur. "Doesn't it get cold?" He leans in for another kiss. "Yes…" I whisper. He takes advantage of my softened lips and presses a hard kiss. And even though I shouldn’t allow it, I do. A part of me still likes Laki and will probably always like him. My first love… We kiss for a few minutes, and Laki's hands, never once leaving my breasts, continue to grope them as his tongue slides along my lower lip, snaking into my mouth, trying to find mine. I am about to grant him access, but before I can part my lips, I hear something in the water. I turn my head to the sea, which has been calm so far today, my thoughts automatically going to the Siren. "Laki…" I say, once regaining my breath. "I am promised to one of our Gods. I cannot live with myself if I sleep with you now. Respect my decision and go." From the corner of my eyes, I catch ripples of movement, a slight disturbance to the surface, and an eerie feeling washes over me. The tiny hairs on the back of my arms stand up. Is he watching…? Laki gets up, and even without looking back, I can feel he is glaring at me in irritation, knowing about my stubbornness. Once I set my mind on something, I don’t back out. "So, this is it then?" he questions me. "You're going to completely ignore me, marry someone or something you don't know shit about except from books and rumors, and never once look at me, like… like nothing happened between us?" "Yes... now… leave," I say as I feel my eyes water once I speak these words, my mouth becoming dry, and the words barely leaving my lips. I then feel Laki grab my arm, pulling me up with a force that startles me. He looks me in the eye critically with something akin to hatred. "You know, Mayme…" he leans in close before continuing, "I only liked you for your tits anyway." My eyes widen, and he lets go of my arm before shoving me back and off the dock, the last thing I hear from him is, "Have your fish man." Sights blend in the speed with which I fall back before splashing into the water loudly, my entire body sinking fast. My dress absorbs the water and weighs me down. Panic seizes my chest as I find myself under the pressures of water from all sides which seems to want to hold me in its arms forever. My heart thunders in my chest as I try to get to the surface by thrashing my arms and legs wildly, but fail. I don’t seem to be getting anywhere close to the top. I don’t know how to swim! Laki knows this… The air in my lungs gets exhausted, and I begin to choke. Everything in the water becomes much darker and creepier. The movement of my arms and legs becomes sluggish as the water pulls me into its depths. The last remaining air in my lungs is expelled, turning to bubbles and racing to the surface where I can't seem to get to. I feel an intense burn in my chest and a need to breathe. So, I do. Water rushes into my nose and lungs as I continue to sink to the bottom. I am drowning. I open my mouth to scream for help, but at that depths, it is too late. Water finds its way in, wanting to kill me faster. My brain works slower than my limbs, perhaps fear has clouded it, making me take stupid decisions. I feel hurt and most of all, betrayed by Laki, and I know I am going to die because no one ever taught me to swim. It is ironic I live on an island surrounded by water, yet I couldn’t seem to go into it to learn. My father never bothered and my mother’s near-drowning attempts made me more scared to venture into the sea. How naïve and stupid was I?! The dark waters swirl around me, encasing me within it like a prison. I’m not sure how much time has passed. It is hard to keep my eyes open; my vision has narrowed to a pinpoint of darkness. My feet touch the ocean floor, sand kicks up as I land, creating a murky cloud. This is going to be my watery grave, where no one but Laki will know the truth of my death. I let go and move to a place deep in my mind where nothing can affect me. Death is closer than life here now. Just when I am about to close my eyes, perhaps for the final time, I see a movement. A quick flash of a maroon-colored tail and I feel hands skimming along my back and across my middle, before the creature circles around me again, examining my face and body with fascination. I frown, unable to believe my eyes. It is hard to tell if this is reality or if I am delusional. Am I imagining him? He stares at me with unblinking brown eyes that are dark except for the flecks of gold, which look as if they're constantly moving. A small light within the darkness, which are his eyes. My father used to say, eyes are the window to one's soul, but with him, it seems like a very cloudy window I am staring into. Do Gods or these Sirens have a soul? Or are they only for humans…? He picks up the necklace around my neck, seeming proud that I’d accepted his offer in marriage, as a grin blooms across his face, revealing those horrible and gruesome teeth once again. At first, he doesn't seem to understand I am dying, being more animal than human, until he moves toward me, getting closer. The grin disappears, and he presses the side of his head against my chest, appearing to be listening to my lungs struggle. His ears are different than ours, pointed, sharp, and frill like. As if knowing what I needed, he quickly grabs me, yanking me up to the surface, his tail fin propelling us and sweeping the bottom, the sand blown outward in a circle. Once he breaks through the water’s surface, I gag, coughing and trying to expel all that I was never meant to take into my lungs, but my muscles stiffen up. For support, I use his shoulders to rise high above the water level, trying to take in big gulps of air, my body shivering, my vision still blurred. He makes an odd sound, a sound I’ve never heard from a human, a chortle of some sort. I would say this is cute, but this sound has come from him, and he is more deadly than cute. Or this is how I feel anyway…why did I think deadly? I feel his tail brush up against my legs under the water. His scales are smooth, and I jerk away at the feeling. However, I can't let go of him, or I will slip back under the water. It is just strange and odd but not frightening. After a staccato of coughs, I am able to take a deep breath, the cool air soothing to the burning sensation in my throat and lungs. I am desperate and greedy for air and so thankful for it. I look at the Siren. I am envious of his ability to breathe underwater and also above it. They are lucky to have their bodies adapted to both land and water. I wished I had that ability, too. I croak, my throat bruised after this near-drowning, “Land… take me to land.” He stares at me blankly, and it takes him some time and repeated actions from me to process my words. I think his knowledge of the English language is limited to very few words. Perhaps he understood my actions or he knew the word “land” because his eyes dart to the beach quickly. "Land," he repeats the word, his eyes returning to mine, and his nostrils flare before he leans in and smells me again, going back to his animalistic behavior. The next thing I feel is his tongue sliding along my neck, which causes me to shiver. "No, take me to land…please," I beseech him, closing my eyes shut, and his tongue slides all the way up to my jaw and my cheek. "No. Land," he replies in the same tone as if mocking me and my words as he pulls away. I reopen my eyes to see that grin of his, a mouthful of teeth that installs fear in me, no matter how many times I have seen it. Does he understand me, or is he trying to figure out what I mean? From the way he is smiling at me, I assume he knows more than he lets on, or he is smart enough to figure out what I mean just by repeating a couple of words. "Please," I beg, my fingers curling into his shoulder. He then takes one of his fingers and pushes his clawed hand to my lips, "Please..." "I don't want to be in the water anymore," I say, still shivering, hating how my legs are dangling in what feels like a bottomless pit. "Water... is...good," he says slowly as if having to think about the words he wanted. "Water hurts me... please just take me to land," I ask of him, tears beginning to fall from my eyes as I stare at him. Through the tears, I see how his face appears to become human-like except for his ears. Even his eyes change shape, the huge eel-like iris and pupils becoming smaller. He stares at me as if bewildered by my tears, confused, like he has never cried before. Maybe he hasn't... how exactly can you cry in the water? "Water…" he says, scooping up a tear with his finger. Examining it before bringing it to his mouth and tasting it. "Land, please," I whisper, weakening as strength drains from my body. I wrap my arms around him tighter, becoming desperate. He makes another sound, a growl followed by a clicking noise, which is creepier. "Land," he says before lazily swimming toward the beach, finally accepting what I want. His movements are awkward from the way I cling to him, but he makes no attempt to adjust me. When the water becomes shallow enough and my feet are able to touch the bottom, he stops, refusing to come any closer to the beach. His arms slide from mine, and he stares, waiting for me to let go of him. I am hesitant, my body feeling fatigued, but I slowly lessen my grip, finding it in me to stand by myself. I feel comforted that he stays with me. His tail is so close to my body that I feel the little patters of his frills with each lull of the waves. Relief washes over me, knowing I am safe, and I wiggle my toes in the sand before taking a step closer to land. I trudge along, my legs feeling heavy and my arms too. It is a chore to move. I collapse once I reach the beach, and now the only water touching me is the gentle wave that approaches the shore, kissing the soles of my feet. I glance back to see the one who watches me from the sea but is further out in the water than before, and it isn't long before he dives below the surface again, not liking being watched. My fingers curl into the wet sand, and I look back at my hands, but all I can think is how Laki left me to die…even after professing his love for me and all those kisses and small touches. It was all a lie. How dare he! He would pay. And some part of me is glad I would be marrying the Siren, as I cannot imagine marrying Laki now. Never would I think of him or even want to touch him again.

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