Connor awoke below deck, darkness flooding his eyes. His body pressed against the damp wooden floor, his clothing soaked with salty water. The fishy scent of the sea mixed with carrion filled his nostrils, a sick mixture that made his stomach jolt in disgust. He shut his eyes and opened them again, letting them adjust to the blackness, searching for any light source that could help him discern where he might be.
The last thing that he remembered was standing on the deck, scanning the horizon for any sort of land to shelter his crew from the oncoming storm. His people may have been experienced, but they were tired. He knew that they couldn’t make it through another hurricane. He had watched as the dark clouds crawled closer, inching their deadly winds and lightning towards his defenseless ship.
Had the storm hit? Connor doubted it. His crew had gone out of their way to avoid its path. But how had he ended up here? And what was that awful smell?
His hands scrambled for some sort of a hold. A wall or something similar, anything that he could use to pull himself up. After minutes of searching, Connor became aware that he must be in the center of a room.
It seemed as if he’d have to reorient himself without the help of a handhold or support. Pulling his body upwards, he stretched his legs, preparing to force himself to stand.
His knees shook and he threw his arms out, attempting to balance. His body felt heavy and his head was spinning, it seemed as if the walls were slowly closing in with every lurch of the floor beneath him. This was the same ship that Connor had captained almost every day for the past twelve years, but something felt off—even sinister—about the room where he stood.
Once he gathered his footing, Connor stumbled towards the stairs, footsteps heavy against the wooden floor. He knew this place from memory, making it easy to find his way around, but still he was hesitant and slow. Once the tips of his boots hit the edge of the steps, Connor moved up them, slowly and carefully. He pushed the rusted metal latch to the door up, throwing it open haphazardly and rushing out onto the deck of his ship. The throbbing in his head cleared up almost instantly, finally free of the deathly stench that he had been trapped with.
The deck was barren, without traces of a single soul having been there for days. Connor tread to the edge of the ship, peering over the rail and into the water. Everything was surprisingly calm for the circumstances, but there was still no sign of his crewmates.
The water below was dark green, lapping at the sides of the boat gently. He ran to the other side of the ship, grabbing the rail again and searching the water. On this end, debris swirled lightly, banging halfheartedly against the outside of the ship. Most of it was palm fronds and garbage that was likely brought out to sea during the storm, but something else floated there. Something larger, similar to a dead animal, though it was unrecognizable and if it ever was alive, those days were long gone. It just bobbed there, pressing against the side of the ship and sinking slowly.
Connor tore his eyes away from the dead thing, scanning the water a bit further away from the ship. At first nothing seemed odd, but with further examination there were more of the masses. Some were more shredded than others, but the realization knocked the breath out of him. These, somehow, were once his crew. These messes of flesh and muscle were the men and women that he had sailed with for the past decade or so, torn apart by some completely unknown force. With that, Connor’s stomach heaved.
He fell to his knees, vomiting onto the deck in front of him. He couldn’t think of anyone, anything, that could do something like this, but the fact that something out there managed to kill upwards of twenty armed men frightened him. What frightened him just as much though, was that he was alone. Alone and on a ship that he could not get anywhere without his men.
Once he had stopped vomiting, he straightened his back and stood, slowly. His head spun, but after leaning on the rail for a few moments it stopped hurting nearly as bad. Holding his hand to his forehead, he pushed off of the rail, pacing towards the center of the ship. All he wanted was to get away from the water where those things floated. It felt awful to hate them, he knew that at some point they had been good friends to him. However, whenever he thought of those shredded corpses he was filled with fear and anger, the kind you feel when you are completely and utterly helpless.
When he reached somewhere near the center of the deck, he collapsed, half-intentionally and half not. He laid down, throwing his arms out to his side and he yelled. He yelled as loud as he could, though he knew that no one would ever hear it. He screamed until his throat felt coarse and his voice no longer carried, and even then he kept going.
Connor felt awful. His mouth tasted like bile, his body was sore and had not stopped shaking, and his voice was now only a slight groan when he shouted. Most of all, he was tired. He had once heard someone say that there is nothing more dangerous than a doomed man, but he felt quite the opposite. In knowing that he was likely going to die within the week, Connor felt an overwhelming urge to give up.
Perhaps there was the chance that another boat might spot him, or that his monster of a ship may somehow find itself pushed to land by the current, but it was not likely. He would probably go through the remaining food and drink on board, dying of dehydration before anyone would even have a chance to notice that he had not come back home in time. Or whatever had gotten to everyone else might come back and finish him off. Maybe Connor would end up just like the rest of his crew, a bloodless mess of flesh and broken bone floating on the water. He wasn’t so sure that it would be such a bad thing.
The air became silent as he took a breath, and everything was almost calm. Connor could almost believe that it was all a nightmare, almost convince himself that things were fine and his friends were still alive. But the feeling in his gut told him otherwise. A twisting, paralyzing fear that seemed to be crawling up from the bottom of his body to the top, winding around his limbs and making it impossible to move, impossible to breathe. It was the kind of terror that makes the body a prison, and he was being consumed by it.
As he struggled to break through this wall of fear, the silence was broken. Out of nowhere came an angelic humming. Connor turned his head towards the source of the sound, but there was still no one but him on the barren deck of his ship. When he had moved, however, the humming stopped.
Had he imagined it? Most likely. He no longer trusted his own thoughts. He knew that isolation would drive him insane, but this fast? It seemed as if he was not as sound of mind as he had thought.
The humming came again, this time louder. He looked up. It sounded as if the angels were coming down to greet him, welcoming him into the next life. But there were no angels. Only the endless expanse of cloudless sky. The last of his fear melted away as the humming became a song, an astonishing and hypnotising song. It was the most angelic thing that he had ever heard in all of his time on this earth, as if the heavens had become one with the sea, creating a heavenly symphony just for him. He moved onto his hands and knees, pushing himself up to a stand from there.
“Hello?” Connor called out, hoping that the owner of that wonderful voice would respond.
The singing continued, lyrics incomprehensible but beautiful regardless. The soft, feminine voice carried, seemed to be coming from all directions but none at all at the same time. It was like someone was shouting from miles away but whispering in his ear.
“Hello?” He called again, this time edging towards the side of the ship for reasons that he could not explain, even to himself. As he came closer to the water, the sound became more and more beautiful, and the urge to find this mysterious singer grew more and more. It was as if his feet were not his own as he strode towards the rails, as if someone else was pulling him towards them.
As he finally reached the rail, he gripped it with both of his hands as tightly as he could, leaning his upper body over the side.
“Hello?” He yelled again, this time desperate for some response from the creature. Surely, she must be a gift from the heavens, here to lead him back to safety.
Again there was no reply, but he saw a shape dart through the green water, almost humanoid but not fully. Something was wrong with it, the way that it moved so freely and gracefully through the water with skill that a human never could have. It then surfaced, looking to him.
And she was beautiful. The creature had a round, feminine face, all of its features placed perfectly. Her skin was pale and flawless, not a mark over it, and he could now faintly see that from the waist down, her legs became a tail, shimmering with green and blue scales. The more he stared at this perfect creature, the more alluring she became.
“Is it you?” He forced the whisper out of his mouth, almost too stunned to speak. “Were you singing?”
The creature smiled, revealing gleaming white teeth, and she nodded.
“Can you do some more?” Connor asked. He leaned forwards more, resting his chin on his palm.
She nodded and opened her mouth, singing more of her divine song. Connor swayed and tapped his foot, taking in every syllable as if it was the word of God himself. Oh how he wanted to go down to the water and meet her, speak to her, sing with her. Suddenly, she became quiet.
“Why’d you stop?”
She looked to him and frowned, crossing her arms in front of her. She was clearly upset.
“What can I do?”
She perked up at that, a faint smile pulling at her lips. She beckoned to him, reaching her hands out.
“You want me to join you?”
The creature nodded and motioned for him to join her in the water.
“Okay. Okay.” Connor muttered. He stepped onto the railing, throwing one foot over the side. His body was filled with dizziness as he looked over the side of his ship, legs dangling dangerously.
“One. Two.” He began to push off.
“Three.” Connor free fell for a moment, then felt his body hit the water. It was cold. Cold and dark. But at least he’d have her. He tried to push towards the surface, searching for the beautiful stranger, but something stopped him. His eyes opened in alarm, the saltwater stinging.
Frantically flailing, he looked for whatever was blocking his way up. Debris, most likely. He tried to push it away with his hands, but his fingertips didn’t meet driftwood or scrap metal, they were met with cold skin.
No. It couldn’t be her. She would never — could never — do something like this to him. But he turned his head and was met with her face. Well, not exactly her face. It was similar, but grotesque and twisted up close, her teeth sharp and crooked, her inhuman eyes piercing. He panicked, flailing harder, but she only pushed him down more, putting more of her weight into holding him below the water.
Connor screamed, bubbles rising from his mouth and muffled noise erupting from his lungs. The creature only looked more amused, her eyes widening as he struggled. Her nails dug into his skin, raking red lines across his body as he tried to escape.
The pain was blinding.
Or maybe it was the lack of oxygen. Perhaps both. It didn’t matter now, and Connor knew it. He knew that this was how he had lost his crew. And now he was doomed to join them, corpses floating over the water. He slowly became more and more sluggish, eventually falling limp into the siren’s arms. The light left his eyes and he made one last attempt to escape, lightly punching her, but he was already gone.