The Test of the Siren's Song
It had been a couple of hours since the start of their journey. Ally and Katie swam and explored the great ocean while marveling at its magnificent wonders. The ocean world made them at ease, like it was their true home. Everything about the it felt amazing—the way the salty water softened their skin, how the scaled on their tails shimmered, and the occasional brushing of swimming school fish. Still, they didn’t talk all too much. Their communication consisted more of gestures and backflips than words. But when they did talk, they got along more than fine. The more they conversed the more they learned about each other.
“So where are we now?” Ally asked. She really hoped that Katie would know. The only things she noticed were the subtle changes in geography like the staggering rocks.
“Let me check.” Katie held a finger up as to say that Ally should stay. She kicked her green tail and swam towards the surface. It took a few minutes but she came back.
“We’re just shy from the Cape of Good Hope. We might get to the Arabian sea by late night if we don’t rest.”
Ally mouthed wow. “How did you figure that out without a map?”
Katie continued swimming and gestured Ally to follow. They swam around a staggering rock and underneath the next. It was tedious work but they conversed. “I’m a spy.” She paused and shrugged. “Well, was. We travel a lot, you know, missions, stuff like that.”
“What happened?” Ally asked.
“I had to resign. Monster hunting and the missions were just too much for me.”
They swam a little longer until they came across an underwater cave. Ally found it creepy looking. The entrance was rimmed with deadly pointy stalagmites. And the deeper Ally tried to look through it, the darker and eerier it became.
“It’s a secret passage,” Katie said casually as it was like an everyday thing for her. She entered and Ally watched her green tail disappear. Ally gulped in seawater. She really hoped Katie knew what she was doing. On a count of three, she entered the cave as well and she propelled her tail as hard as she could to catch up. She swam and swam but when the light from outside of the entrance began to dim, she stopped. Ally was scared of the dark. It was a childhood fear she never overcame.
“Katie?” Ally called. The waters were cold and the water smelled funny. She shivered.
“Kaitie?” Ally called again. “Where are you?” She turned around in all directions to find the entrance they came in but it was gone. She was alone in the pitch cold darkness of the cave. Her heart began to pound wildly, her hands clenched up, and her body stiffened. “Kaitie?” she said, weakly. “HELPPPP!” she shouted. “Please?” Ally whimpered and she cried. She sobbed in her hands until she felt something tapping on her shoulder. She screamed.
“WHOA! WHOA! IT’S ME!” The voice said. It was Katie. Ally couldn’t respond back. She was still crying. Katie’s voice softened and she put her hand around Ally’s shoulders, or at least she thought they were her shoulders. That was how dark it was. “Hey...Ally, I’m right here. You’re not alone.”
“I—I thought you—you were gone,” Ally said and sniffed.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Katie said. Although Ally couldn’t see, she could tell that Katie was smiling. “C’mon,” Katie said and took Ally’s hand in hers. “This cave cave isn’t as big as you think.”
They swam for a while in silence and in the darkness. Finally, Ally’s laugh broke through. “Uh...I’m kind of embarrassed.” Crying because of the dark made her feel childish.
“Don’t be,” Katie said, still holding her hand. “Everyone has fears.”
“What’s yours?” Ally asked.
Katie paused and then admitted, “Letting my loved ones down. And yet I’ve done it so many times. “The truth is, I’m not a very good monster hunter, it was my fault my partner was almost killed, and I’m probably not going to be able to claim the prize since I’m here with you for my redemption to Alima. I was hoping to ask the queen for wisdom, if you were wondering.”
“You don’t need a wish to gain wisdom.” Ally said. “A good man once said that you make mistakes to learn from them. It’s what makes us human.”
“But we’re not human, if you haven’t noticed.” Katie’s tail slapped her fluke and in return, Ally playfully punched Katie’s arm.
“Human or not, there’s always a part of us that’s human-like, no matter what creature we may be. We are perfectly unperfect.”
“Or unperfectly perfect,” Katie joked. They both laughed and Ally heard Katie sigh. “You remind me of my old partner. You even look like her too.”
“Shut up,” Ally said but she secretly wanted to hear more.
“It’s true. She was the best partner I could ever have.” In the dark, Katie’s smile faded. “Her name was Cleo. She was the most courageous and selfless blonde I’d ever met. And she had a fear too, the fear of heights. Oh, and water.”
“Sounds just like a cat.”
“Yeah, she does sound like a cat. Cleo’s just her name cut in half. Her real name was Cleopatra.”
“Like the Pharaoh Cleopatra? That’s pretty fancy.”
“Exactly. Anyway, because of my monster hunting duties, I was always late to the missions. And one day when I was running late to the mission...she was outnumbered by a gang we were supposed to take out. It was then when I realized that I couldn’t handle two jobs. I had to turn in my badge.”
“I’m really sorry,” Ally said and squeezed Katie’s hand to support her. And almost out of nowhere, the entire cave lit up in a silver glow. Ally twisted her neck side to side, awed by the sights. Along the sides of the cave’s walls were speckled silver gems. They acted like light bulbs, illuminating the entire cave.
“We’re almost out,” said Katie. Ally was able to see her face now and she appeared brighter and happier than before. “It’s magical, isn’t it?”
“How?” Ally asked, her eyes were opened wide to take in all the magnificent beauty.
“The cave reacts to strong emotion,” Katie said and blushed.
Katie nodded and they swam further. A beam of light shined into their eyes. “It’s the exit!” Ally said and they swam as fast as they could. The small beam of light grew until they were face to face with the opening and finally, they were out. They were exhilarated from their success and high-fived their tails in celebration. It was going great until they noticed a swarm of mer-people in the distance. Sounds of their faint screaming were getting louder by the second.
“What’s happening?” Ally asked Katie, hoping for an answer but Katie just stared at the hoard in confusion. The screams finally got so loud that both girls had to cover their ears. It was a bit surprising how loud the sound was. After all, sound traveled faster in water than air. A young merman bumped chest first into Katie and they both fell onto the seafloor.
“I am so sorry my friend!” The merman said and helped Katie back on her tail. He was regal in a way with his messy sea-anemone hair and his slick facial features. His dress made him seem like he was from the undersea military with his sunfish bone shield in one hand and a knapsack in the other. When he spoke, his tone was harsh and full of anxiety. “But you and your friend must go.”
“Why?” Katie asked.
“The sirens are back after centuries of hiding.” A new sound broke through, it was singing. A song composed of diverse haunting harmonies echoed throughout the waters, the words comprised of different languages. The young merman groaned in pain. “Swim, SWIM!” His eyes widened in horror and he jolted past them, fast as a torpedo.
“We should head towards the sound.” Ally said and tilted her head in the direction of eerie music.
“Are you crazy?” Katie said and plugged up her ears with her fingers. The sounds were becoming more painful to hear by the minute. It was almost like the song had trapped itself in their heads and began hammering the inside of their skulls with a mallet. “The song will destroy us!”
“Alima’s there!” Ally argued. “And besides, you said you wanted redemption. How badly do you want it?” Ally said, her voice softening.
Katie hesitated for a moment and then her face lit up with determination. “If you’re going, I’m going with you.” Ally nodded and they both swam towards the music together. It didn’t take long before both girls began regretting their decision. The song toyed with their minds, tempting their hearts, and gave each girl a reflection of their deepest and most secret desires.
Ally’s vision consisted of a simple diner with her family. Freddy was there, but most importantly, her parents were there too. She felt her chest tighten. Her parents were traveling the world for two years. She had missed them dearly. In the vision, her they all looked so happy. Her father—whom she inherited her traits—blond hair, bright attitude, and heart, was happily chatting with her.
“You’re too slow, Ally! By the time you finish your first slice, I’ll eat all of the pizza!” He joked.
“Herold!” Her mother scolded, and her expression relaxed and she had a good laugh.
She’d missed her mother too. Her mother, in the vision, remained unchanged since the time Ally had last seen her—dark hair, serious, and still her looking her best like always—she seemed happy as well. A haunting voice broke through her vision and it said:
This could’ve been true if you’d just stayed home.
“But...But I was just having an adventure. They won’t mind.” She said, her voice dripping in worry. The voice continued to mess with her.
You’ve destroyed your family, dear Ally. Your grandmom took the blame. They knew she was lying.
“Noooo!” The tears that dribbled from Ally’s eyes merged with the sea. Her heart broke and she crumpled to the sea floor. Sand rubbed against her cheek as she sobbed.
Your parents no longer love each other. They blame each other for the lost of their children.
Ally continued to listen to the taunts of the voice.
Your brother is dead. You left him with those heartless mermaids. They didn’t care about him. They let him die!
Ally’s heart couldn’t take it anymore. Everything in her body ached: her heart, her head, her mind was torn. She wanted to die. She couldn’t live with herself. This whole adventure was a mistake.
You wish to die? The voice said, suddenly speaking with a tone of false sympathy.
Ally nodded. A beautiful dagger appeared before her. It was small. The blade was clean silver and was shiny enough for her to see her reflection in it. Her reflection was ghastly. She saw that her eyes were red from tears and her face was pale from guilt and fear. Her hair was tangled. The handle of the dagger was a glowing gold, embedded with precious colorful gems. It was as if the blade was inviting her to kill herself.
You should do it, the voice tempted. You will be doing justice to your broken family.
Her grip on the handle tightened and she took a deep breath of seawater. I’m sorry Katie, she apologized in her thoughts and extended her arm before her chest and dragged the dagger forward in a plunging motion. But suddenly, in the last minute, a cry broke through Ally’s vision and she stopped. The dagger was only an inch from her chest. The vision cleared and Ally saw that in her hand was broken piece of wooden plank. She turned around to see Katie with her eyes shut and screaming, “Come back! I’m sorry!”
Ally swam to her, took her by the shoulders, and shook her awake. But it didn’t work. Katie was still stuck in her hallucination. Ally listened to Katie’s cries.
“I can do better! Cleo!” Katie turned in all sorts of directions, as if facing other people. “Dad, take me back! You can’t leave me!” Then, she turned to Ally’s face and barked, “Freddy, I can changed. Just...just listen to me.”
Ally held her in a tight embrace and petted her head. “You don’t have to change, Katie. Don’t change.” Katie’s body shook and Ally shushed her. “Shhhh. I won’t leave you. Friends don’t leave each other.”
Slowly, Katie opened her eyes and Ally smiled and said, “Welcome back to reality.”
Ally let go and let Katie catch her breath. When she calmed down enough, she said, “Thanks.”
“Any day.” Ally said and looked forward. She saw a pod of murky silhouettes in the distance, strange forms of women arriving. Some had wings, others with bird’s feet, and many with tails. They were the sirens. “Hopefully, Queen Alima still remembers us.”