Where Pirates Fear to Sail
Stop up your ears, my son, my son
Listen not to the Siren’s song
The Sea that you think your love, your love
Will never to man belong
The old song haunted him, a warning slicing down his spine like claws. The Sea had betrayed them in a sudden storm and the ship that once conquered her waves now sat unmoving in the water. He saw all the signs now, the omens that had the entire crew on edge, but they had weathered storms before, survived worse. Except these were forbidden waters, and rations were too low to turn back. The men were already thinner than men should be, their cheeks hollow and their eyes sinking into the shadows of sallow skin.
The Blood Sea lay flat and still as far as the eye could see, forcing the crew to drop oars and slowly row the ship forward. They maneuvered between wicked limbs of coral protruding up above the murky water like hands clawing for purchase, and with every creaking board, every trickle of the oars dipping into the water had the crew tensing visibly, their eyes darting to every shadow.
The Captain manned the helm, carefully guiding the ship along while the men continued to row below. Off the starboard bow, the water rippled in the distance, and something slapped the surface before it disappeared. One of the men yelped, startled, but another slapped a hand over his mouth and the sound echoed out into the stale salty air. The crew quickly took him below deck, and from the stern of the ship, another splash, louder now, broke the tension and jerked every man’s attention up.
All movement stopped, the ship and her crew unmoving as they waited with bated breath. Then a soft, low sound melted out into the air around them like wax dripping from a candle.
“Captain, there’s a face in the water!” A crewman cried out and scrambled back away from the ship railing.
The Captain waved a hand harshly and someone grabbed him and covered his mouth before he could say more, but it was too late. His alarm sparked the rest of the crew to action and every man ran for a weapon, began loading pistols and murmuring amongst themselves in their fear. With a heavy sigh, and swallowing hard, the Captain closed his eyes and his head hung low. It was a brief moment of weakness, of despair, and then it was gone.
On the wind came a song that, for a moment, robbed him of his voice.
Beware the treacherous sea, my lad, my lad
She is no beast to be had
You sail your ships in arrogance
And now in your fear go mad
“To your stations,” he bellowed, taking his eyeglass from his coat pocket. He opened it with a snap and scanned the water. “Drop oars, double time! Row for your lives!”
Even as he barked his orders, the men scrambled to obey as the water rippled around the ship. The ripples swept out before them, something shiny and sleek breaking the water and vanishing too quickly to see. The creatures sped forward and surface shivered in their wake until they finally appeared in a silver-blue line of silky hair and oval shaped faces. They stared back at the ship, treading water while their large and inhuman eyes studied the vessel.
Without fail, a handful of crewmen inched closer to the bow, leaning forward to get a better look and even from his place at the helm, the Captain saw one of the creatures smile.
“Get back, you fools!” he cried. “Get away from the side, don’t look them in the eye!” Turning to his First Mate, the Captain snarled and took him by the shoulder, shoving him forward. “Find whatever you can, have the crew plug their ears—quick now! Go!”
It was in that very moment that a sound rose up from every direction—soft and smooth and haunting. It was so beautiful that his heart clenched in pain, threatening to break with the sorrow of the song. He had to go to her, to them, he had to save them from whatever it was that made them suffer, he had to—he had to focus.
Shaking his head, the Captain blinked and snarled as he tried to clear his mind, looking around him to take stock of his crew. The cabin boy was at the port side, leaning over the rail and holding the icy blue hand of one of the creatures, his face a blank mask.
“Somebody grab him, don’t—” taking the deck steps two at a time, he ran for the boy, reaching to take hold of him and draw him away from the side. He wasn’t fast enough and the creature drew him down into the water, barely leaving a ripple behind. The Captain turned away quickly, but not before he saw red tainting the dark green of the sea.
The song grew louder, closer, and his mind began to fade, his vision hazy as he clung to his thoughts. He had to stop this, to save—he staggered and caught himself against the mast. He had to save them, those beautiful faces, those lovely voices. They were desperate, drowning and cold. Looking up, he saw his crew rushing the sides of the ship and reaching over, trying to help, to draw the women up. Somewhere inside, he knew he should say something, should stop them, but he couldn’t think why.
The lilting voices grew closer still, and distantly, the Captain thought he heard screams. They were muffled and quiet, as far away as a dream that he couldn’t quite recall. A figure rose up before him, her hands leaving wet prints against his trousers and up his chest, soaking into his white shirt until she stood nose to nose with him and curled her arms around his neck. One of her delicate hands slowly combed up the back of his neck and into his hair and his hands instinctively found her hips as he stared back into her large violet eyes.
She continued to sing the most gut wrenching melody, her gaze watery and glinting like a sky full of stars and he found he couldn’t look away.
“Tell me what you want,” he whispered, pressing close to her, drawing her body against him. “Tell me what I can do for you…”
Her sad face tilted, wet hair glistening in a heavy curtain over one shoulder and down her back. He thought he saw something move—wriggle within the dark strands, but she caught his face in a hand and drew his attention back to her eyes. His breath caught in his chest as she tilted her chin up and drew his face closer.
He never felt the teeth sink into his throat.
Beware the Sea my son, my son
She is a terrible thing
Men may seek to conquer her
But every ship can sink