Death on the Boat
Henry wanted to cover his ears in an attempt to block out the screams that were coming from the fifth of the Nine Sisters but he had to show strength for the crew despite the fact that the wails were sending chills down his spine and filling him with a certain dread. But a dread of what, he didn’t know. All he knew was that he was responsible for causing those screams and he wished to heaven that he could stop it. The first Siren that he had killed had the face of a monster and he had not cared. The second one that he had gutted to save Graham, he didn’t really see. Those moments of fear and desperation had been nothing but blurred images of chaotic waters, the taste of blood and salt in his mouth, the sharp bite of pain and a sudden freedom. But the third; the one he had stabbed in the chest with the oar. Her face still loomed up before him along with soft plead for her life from the fourth. A monster begging for the life of her fellow monster. He had been filled with so much rage and hate that she would even have the audacity to beg for life after they had attacked with the intention to take his life and the lives of his crewmates. He had spared no thought as he had driven home that spike of wood. Then the monster changed and it no longer bore the face of horror but was a young girl. Not much younger that his own Anna, when he had first fallen in love with her all those years ago. Yet it wasn’t that alone that made him feel so guilty now; it was the scream. That scream was more than just anger or fear or sorrow. It meant something much worst; he felt it then as he could feel it now as the screams continued. It was scream of someone dying inside. The Fate that spelt things worst that death.
“Blessed Saints help me,” he whispered to himself, as he crossed over to where Graham lay huddled against the side of ship. His crewmate’s skin was ashen but the man was breathing. Thick wads of cloths were stacked up against his side where the Siren had shredded his flesh and exposed white bone with just one slash of wicked claws. Graham’s eyes were closed but behind those lids his eyeballs moved sporadically and occasionally soft moans of pain and fear escaped from his lips. He knelt down slowly and touched the man’s shoulder. Graham jerked awake with a scream and began to flay his arms at Henry.
“Easy man,” Henry commanded despite the sad churn of his stomach, “It’s just me. It’s me Graham!” Graham grabbed onto his arms with an iron vise until his wandering eyes focused on Henry.
“Henry,” he gasped. Henry nodded his throat suddenly tight. Graham sagged against the boat side with a sob. “I’m sorry. I just…I thought it was….” He trailed of clearly unable to say the word ‘Siren.’
“I know,” Henry said, “It is alright. I know what you mean.” He glanced around at the other silent men that lay huddled in various positions and locations on their small boat. Despite the apparent randomness of their positions there was one thing that was not random. All their backs were to the small outcrop of rock where their Captain, Silas Ornly lay dead. He motioned that he wanted to check Graham’s makeshift bandages and the man lifted his hand away from a groan.
“Doesn’t it need to take a breath?” Graham asked, his voice laced with tiredness as he leaned his head back and closed his eyes. Henry had no answer to the question. He pealed back the bandages to see that the edges of the ragged wounds were oozing and the skin edges were already tinging black. The surrounding skin was read and puffy. Henry felt his heart sink and he forced a stiff grin onto his face.
“You’ll be fine,” he lied. Graham cracked open an eye.
“You lie badly,” the older sailor said, “”it’s bad isn’t it? It would be. I felt my bones when I grabbed a hold of those cuts after she tried to gut me.”
“I’m not sure how long you can stay like this without real help Graham,” Henry said as soft as he could so that he could still be heard over the Siren’s screams but not heard by the others.
“If it’s my time lad, it’s my time,” Graham said, “I would rather go out like this than be food for some sea monster. No matter how pretty it is.” They shared a tense smile as Henry replaced the bandages.
He felt more than heard the thumping of footsteps on the board floor of the boat. He looked up to see Rick Johnson, grabbing up a net float and tossing it out towards the island.
“Shut up!” he screamed, “Shut your damn mouth, you filthy man eater! Shut up or I’ll make you shut up!” The bluster behind his words fell short as his voice went shrill with fear. There was no change to the screaming.
“We’re all going to die,” Ferny moaned, “It’s gonna come back and take all of us.” The other men began to murmur while Rick took up another float and tossed it over board again. Henry grit his teeth against the harsh words that wanted to come out. This was not the time to show that he was caving in no matter how much he wanted to give in. If he wasn’t strong, he would never get home to Anna. All at once the thought of his wife filled his chest with a soft warmth and he inhaled deeply drawing the courage he needed form her memory.
“No we are not!” he said turning to stare down Fenry. The man’s eyes were wild and his hands were clamped over his ears so tight that his fingers were white and digging into his skull. He strode over to Ferny and pried his hands away. The man trashed in his grip.
“Listen to me!” Henry both commanded and pleaded, “We are not going to die here. The wind is going to change and we are going to get out of here!”
“How do you know?” Fenry shouted at him, yanking his hands away viciously, “We were supposed to be dead! They were supposed to kill us but instead we killed them. All of them but that one!” He pointed out to island.
“You think those screams are screams of sorrow? You think it’s crying? Can’t you feel it?” his tone was pleading now. “It ain’t crying. It ain’t crying! Oh God. Oh God. It’s gonna come for us. Mark my words. As soon as those screams stop. It’s gonna come. And we’re all gonna die!” As if on cue, the screams from the island went high into a long haunted wail. Fenry let out a low moan and crushed his hands against his ears. Henry felt the pores on his skin raise so tightly that it hurt. His breath felt like it had been sucked out of his chest. Then it suddenly stopped.
The silence felt deafening. Rick had paused with a float in his hand, mouth open in mid shout. Henry walked slowly to stand beside him. Rick turned to look at him, the surprise clear on his face when there was a loud splashing noise coming from the island. Rick’s head snapped back towards the island and Henry watched with a terrible sinking feeling in his stomach. From behind him he heard the others get up and he turned to see them all making their way to him as if they were all being guided from by some unseen force. They lined up along the boat side except for Graham and Ferny.
“Ferny’s right,” young Phillip Wiles whispered, speaking for the first time since they had been attacked. “We’re all going to die.” His voice sounded abnormally loud in the silence. Henry was about to answer when the boy extended a shaking arm.
“There it is,” he intoned, his voice shaking.
At first there was nothing, then the water on the left rippled out and a pale slender form emerged, crawling out of the water. The hair was slicked down and fell across the face of the creatures as it moved up and onto the rocky outcrop where Silas’ body lay. It came astride the corpse and sat up straight, flipped the hair behind it to reveal a young woman. There was gasps and murmurs from the men beside him. The young woman smiled with a mouthful of sharp pointed teeth and then without warning began to tear out handfuls of flesh and shove it into her mouth. Henry heard himself scream and he instinctively stepped back from the water. He heard her laugh echo across the water as she fell forward, her body convulsing as she began to eat vigorously.
The men scattered, huddling against the opposite side of the boat, hands around their ears and eyes, prayers being said loudly. But he didn’t follow. He could not move his legs no matter how much he wanted to tear himself away from the scene. It was as if he had been rooted to the spot and his senses had become sharpened. He could hear the soft tearing of flesh, the breaking of bones and the sick slurping noises as she swallowed. He felt the grains of the wood pressing against his fingertips were he had unknowing gripped the side of the boat. Her scent came along with the gentle wind that was blowing against his cold, sweaty forehead; a strange, fresh smell unlike anything he had ever smelled before. It made him feel sick to his stomach and yet was strangely compelling at the same time. It was a scent that he knew he would never forget.
He lifted his head and felt the wind caress his forehead again, this time a little bit stronger. Then it hit him. Wind! It was coming from the right direction to get them out but it was still too gentle for them to make a move. He stood there watching the Siren consume his Captain. She was so concentrated on the task that he didn’t think she noticed that the wind was picking back up. He made a move to step back and her head snapped up; thick deep red blood stained her bare chest. He froze and they gazed at each other for what felt like an eternity before she smiled, ducked back down and resumed eating. Henry felt his skin go clammy again as he realized that this display wasn’t something random. She was keeping an eye on them while she ate to regain her strength after that he was sure that she would attack them. He needed them to be ready to go as soon as she was done. Hopefully by that time the wind would be enough for them to begin to get some headway.
“Rick, get over here,” Henry hissed, “Rick!” There was no sound of movement behind him. He took a chance and turned to see that the men were curled in on themselves. He fought down the anger at their cowardice when he needed them.
“Rick!” he shouted. The man jerked and looked at him. “Get over here now!” he commanded, enunciating each word slowly and forcefully. He glanced back to see the Siren hadn’t noticed that he had turned. Still he didn’t want to take any chances.
“Crawl to me,” he said as he turned back to face her. The wind was definitely blowing now. He felt is teasing his hair and saw it tugging at the sails out of the corner of his eye. He heard Rick grumble but soon felt the man tug at his pant leg.
“What is it?” Rick asked. Henry glanced down at him in surprise.
“You don’t feel it?” he asked in return, “The wind is picking up Rick. I need you to start getting the sail out and preparing the remaining oars. We need to be ready to go as soon as we can. She’s watching us and I have a feeling that she will be attacking up very soon.” Rick rose and pocked his head over the boat edge. His face turned green and he sank back down quickly.
“I don’t know how you can look at that,” he said shrilly, “That’s our captain for Christ’s sake.”
“I can’t move from here or else she’ll see that something is up. Try and set up the sails without too much movement and we may be able to make something of a head start for ourselves,” Henry said, his voice desperate. “We need to move now Rick. This may be our only chance.” There was silence beside him.
“Yes Sir,” Rick said, his voice now strong. He felt the man pat his leg once and then there was the passing of words in low tones and the sound of men quietly going to work. The Siren on the rock sat up and lifted her head into the air. She arched her neck gracefully and stretched her arms high into the air, twisting this way and that as if she was working the kinks out of her back. He saw the wind tug at the stands of her hair and she looked at him with a smile and winked. Then with one move slid into the water dragging the remainders of the corpse with her. Henry felt his blood run cold. The wait was up. He turned with a shout.
“Hurry up! She’s in the water!”
The men had worked quickly; the only left was to hoist the sail and be on their way. The wind had picked up well now and they had what they needed. Henry grabbed a hold of the rope and along with Rick and Phillip Wiles, hoisted the top beam up as fast as they could and began to tie down the sail in an angle to catch the wind. As they made the last tie, they felt a something pass under the boat. A loud grating noise drifted up beneath their feet. They all looked at one another and then up at the sail which had begun to fill with air.
“Please, please,” Henry begged the elements. The chant was taken up by the others, even Ferny, as their boat began to slowly but surely head out of the Nine Sisters. There was another loud grating noise beneath their feet and Henry finally realized what it was.
“She’s beneath us,” he whispered. Then out of the corner of his eye, he saw something small fly out of the water and right toward him. He tried to dodge it but failed. The round object hit him square in the face. It was cold, wet and slightly soggy and tumbled down into his lap. The face of Simon Ornly looked up at him with both eyes gone and an empty gaping mouth. The scream stuck in his throat. He looked up to see the Siren’s beautiful face just above water laughing at him. Then she dived and with a burst of ripples drove straight into the boat.
The force of the blow tossed them all off balance. Simon’s head rolled away to the bottom of the boat and came to rest facing up again. The men nearby screamed and tried to move away from it. The Siren struck the boat again driving them inwards towards the head then they scattered from it; eyes fixed in horror as it lolled about. The next blow came directly under the boat. The craft jerked violently upward and there were ominous splintering noises. When it crashed back down Henry saw small wells of water appearing.
“No!” he screamed and lunged towards the cracks trying to stop the water. The head rolled toward him and with a savage grunt, he grabbed it by the hair and tossed it back overboard. “She can’t kill us now. We’re out! We’re out!” He glared up at the traumatized men.
“Get your sorry skins over here and help me!” he bellowed. They jerked into action. The fourth hit saw floor boards puncture upward showing a brief flash of pale skin beneath. They vainly bailed and tried to staunch the inflow of water. It pooled around their feet and the craft began to sink. Henry looked at the disappointed and despairing faces of the men around him, knowing that his face mirrored the same look. Tears welled up in his eyes and his throat felt tight. He looked out towards the open sea and their freedom that was so close and now too far. A long line of wicked sharp fins broke the water and circled the boat like a shark.
“Curse you!” Henry shouted at it, “Curse you! I will get home to my wife and child! I will get home!”
A lovely laugh floated up as the Siren flipped over and they all saw her; the horrible monster of fins, fangs, claws and a thick serpentine tail. The water was lapping against their shins now. Henry stood up and glared at her, his breath coming in ragged gasps.
Then like a dream, the broad side of a ship drifted into a view and there was a puffs of white. The water danced as a flurry of bullets stuck it. The Siren screamed as deep red blood billowed out around her and dove underwater.
“Ahoy there!” a voice shouted out to them, “Need some help lads?” Henry had no words for the joy and relief. He just waved his hands and shouted back wordlessly to them. The large schooner began angling toward them. Henry could see men getting ready with ropes and floats to help them aboard while others stood guard with guns at the ready. The others were up around him, all of them reaching up towards the tossed ropes. Henry grabbed a hold of one.
“We have a seriously injured man aboard,” he shouted up to the captain of the schooner, “We’ll send him up first.” The man nodded and Henry turned to head towards Graham when the Siren burst out of the water in a deadly arch and landed in the boat. Her body transforming halfway to human; leaving her with the horrible elongated finned face and claws but the rest of her body was a young woman. There were at least three bullet holes that he could see puckering her flesh. She hissed at them with a high whine and then dove from Graham; the force of her attack splintering the side of their boat and allowing her to taken Graham down into the sea.
“Graham!” Henry yelled and dove after him. People shouted behind him but he didn’t hear their words, concentrating only on saving his friend. The water was chaotic and tasted of blood and salt. The memory of the second Siren’s attack flashed back to him however this time he was not prepared; he was unarmed and vulnerable. But this Siren was also injured.
“Graham!” he called out as he surfaced, unable to see anything under the water. He heard someone calling out his name but he ignored the call. He had saved Graham before and he would be damned if he didn’t get him back this time.
“Graham!” he called again, his voice tinting with desperation. The dark surface of the sea rolled and splashed up against him but there was no Graham to be seen. He waited a few more seconds, his heart sinking with each beat that passed. Still the sea gave him nothing. With a sob he turned and began swim back to the schooner. His men pulled him up and he sagged against the side of the ship, still looking out for any sign of Graham. There was only emptiness and their sinking ship. He sighed, turned and was about to collapse down when a faint voice called out to him. He turned back to see the Graham’s head and shoulders bobbing. He paused uncertain if he had hear Graham call or if his mind was playing tricks on him. He saw the man’s throat work sending out silent pleas.
“Look! Over there!” he yelled pointing to Graham, “He’s there!” His men and the other crew looked to where he was pointing and they began to make busy with the ropes and floats.
“I’m coming,” he shouted, pushing himself along unsteadily, “Graham hold on! I’m coming!” He began help the men with the ropes when Graham suddenly spun to face the ship and began to rush towards them at a rapid pace. Henry dropped the ropes. No one, if swimming on their own would be able to move like that. That only meant one thing. Graham stopped suddenly a few feet away from the boat. His eyes were bright with fear and pain. His mouth opened and closed like a dying fish.
“Please,” he managed to gurgle out before his head lolled back suddenly and the Siren’s face emerged from between his neck and his body. Hot tears blinded Henry as Graham’s head dropped off with a small splash. The crewmen screamed with horror and anger and guns blasted out. The Siren dived and remerged when they were reloading.
“Why?” he screamed at her, “Why!” She smiled at him with Graham’s blood smeared thickly across her face.
“You took everything from me,” she said sweetly, “I am returning the favor. Henry, isn’t it? Enjoy the safety of your kind while you can. I’ll be seeing you soon. I’ll be seeing all of you soon.” With that she sank down into the water taking Graham’s body with her.