Siren Song

Chloe stood on the store of a distant, unknown island, the waves lapping at the dark shore. High above her cliffs reached boldly towards the sky blocking the sun from view. She wore a ripped, green gown that hung precariously from her shoulders and pooled on the sand at her bare feet.

One the ground, at her feet was a damp, black bird. It looked like it had been washed ashore and was just coming to. It gave a weak squawk then flapped its wings spraying droplets of water as it hopped on its taloned feet.

Chloe reached down and picked up the damp bird. She smiled, “You have only yourself to blame for this.” She gently raised the bird to her shoulder and walked up the shore following a path towards a cave higher up in the cliffs, the train of her gown dragging sand along with it.

* * *

Earlier that day

Chloe sat in her parents’ kitchen running her finger along the shell in her hand.

“Are you sure you don’t need any help?” she asked Sandy, her mom, who was busy bustling about the kitchen preparing lunch.

“No offense dear, but if I need help in the kitchen I’ll ask your sister.” She paused. “Or your father.”

“I’m not that bad of cook,” Chloe muttered.

Sandy raised an eyebrow, but didn’t respond.

The shell in Chloe’s hand grew warm under her touch. Although the middle looked much like a normal clam shell, white with ridges running the length of it, the edges faded to what looked like green glass that was sharp and jagged. Since finding it earlier that morning on the beach, she had sliced her hand drawing blood twice.

“Look who I found in the driveway!” John, her father, said, beaming widely as he nearly dragged her sister Sara inside. She in turn had her arms wrapped around Clayton. Chloe stood when she saw him. Why did Sara have her arms around Clayton? Why was he here?

She instinctively stood, ready to bolt, but her feet stay rooted to floor, too confused to move.

“And she has big news!” John grinned at her Sandy.

Sandy set down the knife she was using to chop vegetables and wiped her hands on the towel hanging over her shoulder as she moved around the island to embrace her daughter.

“And you’re here too!” she said to Clayton, Chloe’s Clayton. Sandy grasped his forearms in her hands before going in for a hug. “We’ve missed you.”

Chloe’s mouth went dry. She hadn’t seen Clayton in two months, not since her high school sweetheart of five years had out of the blue told her he didn’t want to be with her anymore. She felt her brain going cloudy as he released her mom from a too-long hug, then pulled her sister back into his arms.

Sara shot her hand out in front of her, a giant ring and band on her finger. “We got married.”

A long piercing note rang through in Chloe’s brain and the air turned hot and humid, too thick to breathe. As her family celebrated, she stumbled out onto the patio for some fresh air, but once she was outside she realized the warmth had followed her. The shell still in her hand was red hot and seemed to be pulsing.

She stared it for a moment and cold clarity returned. Then she looked back at her family through the windows, unaware of her absence. She had the power to change this. The wind whipped her hair up and around her face, her long green sundress fluttering like a captive bird. Dark rain storm clouds crept in from the horizon as the ringing in her ears became a song that filled her chest and soon she was the one singing. Too late, her sister looked up and saw her. Too late she realized what Chloe was doing and dawning horror filled her eyes.

* * *

Earlier that morning

Legend has it that the Sirens lived on the islands of Sirenum scopuli where they lured sailors to their deaths. However, if they were able to bypass the Sirens without coming to harm, the Sirens would thrown themselves to their deaths. Their song however, lived on and would become locked in a shell until someone came along to release it.

One of these shells found their way to Chloe as she walked along the beach. After scrapping her foot on the top of the shell she stooped down and began to brush the sand away. As she held the shell up to the light, the sun flickered through the translucent green edges. Rather than looking like a shell, the edges looked more like the outline of an island on a map.

Her mom had told her about Siren Songs when her and Sara were kids. They used to spend hours scouring the beach looking for one. This was the first one she’d ever found one. The legend held that the holder could enact revenge against anyone they choose by locking them in a prison in the form of the body of a bird. But, it was not a free exchange. The one with the shell would be forced to release the Siren’s Song and would then become a Siren herself, condemned to the islands of Sirenum scopuli.

As kids, both Chloe and Sara had agreed you’d have to be crazy to do that. But kids rarely understand the depths adults will go to for revenge.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

­­­­­­­­This story was inspired by  a writing prompt I found in Complete the Story:

“It looked like a shell, half buried, but as she dug through the sand around its edges, she found it was something completely different, something she’d never seen before and thought only existed in stories. She had to be imagining—it simply couldn’t be a ____________.”

Crumbling Sandcastles

Sand sprayed over my legs and onto my towel as they walked by in their flip-flops kicking up sand as they marked. Towels were slung over their shoulders and they were loaded down with shovels, pails, bags of snacks, and a cooler.

The boy appeared to be about 7 with wild hair sticking out in all directions, while the girl looked like she was a couple of years younger and had already lost a shoe. Their mother flung her towel out in front of her and lay down a few metres from me fading into the background. Her kids were not so easy to ignore.

They dropped into the sand even closer to me than their mom and began digging up the sand with vigor scooping it into their brightly coloured pails.

As they scooped, my phone buzzed beside me alerting me to a text from Alicia, my roommate: “Where are you? Do you want to hang out?”

I could feel the muscles in my shoulders tighten. Alicia had become more and more clingy over the last six months of living together. Ignoring it, I through my phone back into my bag.

The girl was the first to fill her pail and slammed it upside down, then lifted it with gusto. Her eager face fell as the mound of sand crumbled into a small hill.

The boy was working more slowly. He carefully pressed the sand down with his fists compacting it, then added more to his pail. Finally, with his tongue sticking out of the side of his mouth, he flipped his pail over. His sister watched looking worried. I couldn’t tell if she looked worried because she wanted his to work or because she was worried it would work while hers didn’t.

He slowly lifted the pail and although his mound of sand had more shape and height than his sister’s, his also was decided to be a failure. The girl’s face relaxed into relief.

“We need to add water to make it sticky,” he said.

The girl’s eyes brightened. “Good idea. You get the water and I’ll build the sand castle.”

The boy frowned. “No, that’s not fair. How about we both get the water and we both build the sand castle.”

“No.” She crossed her arms and scrunched her shoulders, “Mom!” she shouted, while still glaring at her brother.

“Derek, are you being nice to your sister?” the woman asked in a tired voice, not bothering to open her eyes. “We’ll leave if you two can’t play nice.”

Derek glared at his sister as he swiped his pail. He stormed down to the shore to scoop water into his pail.

Beside me my phone buzzed again: “You left a glass in the sink,” Alicia texted. Followed by: “Where’s the remote for the TV? I can’t find it.”

I sighed and picked up my book and became engrossed in the story, everything else fading away.

About 15 minutes later, Derek’s sister began to kick up a fuss.

“No! Not there,” she yelled.

“Why not?” Derek asked. Evidently, he seemed to think he had hauled enough water for the project and had sat down again to continue building. Unfortunately, according to his sister, he had not chosen a good spot to do this.

“That’s where the stables are going. You need to build a fence for the horses.”

“What?” He looked at her incredulously. “I don’t want to build a fence for stupid horses. I want to build the castle.”

“No, that’s my job,” the girl said, her sandy hands planted firming on her hips.

“Derek!” their mom said in a warning voice.

He sighed and started to build the sand into a wall around the perimeter of the “field” his sister had indicated.

My phone started ringing. I pulled it out and saw it was Alicia. Rather than answer it, I saw I’d also missed more text from her:

“Why are you ignoring me?”

“Did you put the milk in the door of the fridge? It doesn’t go there. How many times do I have to tell you?”

“I went into your room because I thought you might be in there hiding and I accidentally spilled tea on your bedspread.”

“Arrrg!” Derek yelled in frustration. He grabbed his pail and shovel in a fury and stormed off down the beach, sand spraying up from his stomping feet as his sister threw her arms over her head and ducked for cover. Down the beach, he settled down to build his own castle, his back to his sister who was now staring open-mouthed at him.”

“Mom” she whined.

“Derek play nice,” her mother warned, her eyes still closed. But Derek was too far away to hear. His sister stuck her lip out.

Another text came through from Alicia: “Your room is messy.”

Suddenly, I realized Derek had the right idea. I through my book, towel, and phone into my bag to do my own marching. It was time to move and build my sandcastle elsewhere.

Missing Orange

Sabastian Crane was 38 years old, had greasy black hair, a droopy, thin mustache, but importantly, he was not crazy.

He was sitting at his sister’s kitchen table colouring pictures with his 5-year-old niece, Kelsey. They each had a colouring book and in the middle of the table was a pile of mis-matched markers of various shapes and sizes.

Kelsey, had been colouring a picture of a unicorn under a rainbow. She had already finished with the red on the rainbow, when she picked up a yellow marker.

“Hang on, you missed a colour,” Sebastian said. He couldn’t help it. He’d always been a stickler for order and rules and a rainbow, even one coloured by a 5-year-old, should be red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and purple. He might be willing to forgo the indigo, but orange was a must.

Kelsey frown at him. “Nu-uh! Mrs. Thompson taught us the colours of the rainbow and there’s no such thing as the colour orange.” Then, she tilted her head to the side. “I KNOW you’re joking, ‘cause orange is a fruit not a colour!” She grinned at him, obviously pleased with herself for having figured out the joke and not fallen for it.

Rather than arguing with her, he started searching for an orange marker. He counted 16 markers of various shades of blue, but not one orange. Not even an orangey yellow or a reddish-orange. Then, he started looking around kitchen for an example to show her.

Granted, he hadn’t played Eye-Spy since he was kid, but how could he not find one single example of the colour orange?

Mystified, he saw Kelsey had gone back to colouring, her rainbow slowing coming to life minus the orange.

* * *

The next day, Sebastian stood in the lunchroom at work waiting for his burrito to cook. It slowly rotated on the plate, the soft humming of the microwave buzzing through the otherwise quiet room. He was lost in thought, still perplexed about the mystery of the missing orange colour when Stacey walked in.

She hesitated at the door when she saw him, and then grudgingly came in. She sat at one of the 3 tables with her back to him and began to slowly peel her fruit.

He couldn’t see it, but it sounded the like the skin being ripped from the flesh of an orange. An orange!

“Are you eating an orange?” he asked, perhaps a bit too excitedly.

She sighed before answering. “Yes.”

“Can I see it?” he asked.

“Excuse me?” she asked, turning her head.

He didn’t wait for her answer. He was already standing beside her.

“Oh,” he said, sounding disappointed. “You’re eating a blood orange.” It was a pale red colour almost pink.

“What are you talking about?” she asked. “It’s just a regular orange.”

“But it’s red,” he said.

She stared at him, glaring. Finally, she said, “All oranges are red.”

“Then what colour is a blood orange, if they’re all red?” he asked, feeling triumphant.

“You are so weird,” she breathed, getting up from her chair. Then, she said, as though talking to a child: “Blood oranges are a deep red. Some might say, the colour of blood. Regular oranges are pale red.”

She grabbed her half-peeled, uneaten orange from the table and stomped out of the lunchroom.

“I’m not crazy,” he muttered, scratching his head. The microwave timer dinged.

* * *

Two weeks later, he still hadn’t seen a single orange item anywhere and he was starting to think maybe he was a little crazy. It was a rainy November day as he sat at the bus stop. Everyone else was hiding under the bus shelter trying to stay dry, but he’d been drenched before he’d even arrived. He’d sat down in a puddle on the bench and didn’t care.

His bus wasn’t due for another 15 minutes so he watched as other people boarded and disembarked from the buses going by. It one of the busier stops in town.

Then, one of the buses caught his eye, or rather an advertisement on the side of it did. On it, there was a photo of a smiling man walking down a path through an orchard. In bright, bold, orange letters were the words “Find What You’re Missing at Ed’s Bed and Breakfast.”

No one else around him seemed to notice the strange occurrence. After two weeks of everyone insisting that there had never been a colour orange, not a single head turned at the sight of this “new” colour.

The doors were closing when he jumped up and ran towards it. The bus driver must have seen him, because the doors flew open again.

“Good afternoon,” the bus driver smiled as Sebastian jumped aboard. The bus driver’s uniform was entirely orange. Before Sebastian had a chance to respond, the doors snapped shut behind him and the bus pulled away from the curb. It was empty save for him and the driver. That’s when he noticed the seats were orange, the poles were orange, and floor was orange.

He gave the bus driver a wary smile and sat down. The driver hummed under his breath as he steered them around the corner.

Overheard

Alison had always had a sneaking suspicion that that she was missing something. The people around her had always been able to connect on a level she couldn’t, and until today, she had never been able to figure out why. It was like she existed inside a glass bubble. She could see life happening around her, and she could interact with everything. Yet, somehow, that easy connection that everyone else seemed to have, she was missing it.

Today she figured out why.

“I have to tell you something,” Jodie, her roommate said, quietly. Her eyes were downcast suddenly the carpet. “Normal people can—oh I mean, it’s not that you aren’t normal, but well, everyone else I should say, see, they can hear each other’s thoughts.”

Alison burst out laughing. “Oh sure they can.” She gave Jodie a playful punch on the arm.

But Jodie didn’t laugh. “No seriously, nor—most people are telepathic, but there are some, like you, who are, well, handicap. That is, you can’t.” Her hands were waving animatedly in front of her as she spoke.

“So you’ve been able to hear what I’m thinking?” Alison arched her eyebrow at her.

“See, that’s the thing. Before last week, no. Most people who aren’t telepathic are also unable to project their thoughts. Which is kind of great, because it would suck if everyone could hear you thoughts, but you couldn’t hear them.” Her hands were still moving rapidly in front of her.

“Ah, I see,” Alison said. “So you can’t hear my thoughts, so none of this is provable. How convenient.” She rolled her eyes as she stood up.

“But that’s the thing, until last week, I couldn’t hear you. But today, I can.” Her voice grew quieter and quieter as she spoke.

Alison sighed as she walked to front door. “I have to get to work.” We’re not in grade school anymore. How gullible do you think I am?

“I don’t think your gullible at all. That’s why I knew this was going to be difficult.”

Alison, turned and narrowed her eyes at Jodie. Lucky guess. Obviously that’s what I’d be thinking.

“It wasn’t a lucky guess. I can hear you,” Jodie said.

Alright, why tell me know?

“Like I said, now I can hear your thoughts. I think that means so can everyone else. I had to tell you! I’m your friend. I couldn’t let you go out there without knowing the truth. I should have told you soon, but I just wasn’t sure until now.”

“Jodie, I’m sorry, but I really don’t have time for this. I have to go.” Alison huffed as she grabbed her purse and keys from the back door.

I always knew Jodie was a bit different, but now she’s going bat-shit crazy.

“I heard that!” she called from the kitchen.

Alison rolled her eyes, still not believing her. “Of course you did,” she mumbled as she closed the door behind her. “But then, you didn’t actually say what it was that you heard, now did you?”

Out on the street, she began to walk to work, when someone called out from behind: “Alison! Hi, how are you?”

She spun around and saw Edgar striding towards her looking amazing as per usual. He grinned as he approached her

You are just gorgeous. Too bad you have a girlfriend.

His easy grin flickered and he paused misstep for half a second. “Are you feeling okay?”

“Of course, why do you ask?” How bad did she look to warrant that question?

“No it’s just, um, never mind.” He grinned again.

Marry me and have my children.

His eyes widened and he started to mumble incoherently.

Suddenly, Jodie’s warning from earlier came back to her and a deep blush slowly crept up her neck.

But that’s crazy. He can’t—

“I have to go. Nice seeing you.” He tripped over his feet and nearly ran into a pole in his rush to get away from her.

Huh.

She wandered into a nearby coffee shop to grab a tea, deep in thought as she went. Jodie had certainly done a number on her brain this morning. Maybe she was gullible after all.

When she got the register, the woman at the till gave her a sympathetic smile. “My niece can’t hear either.” She patted Alison’s arm sympathetically. “I know how hard it must be.”

“I can hear just fine,” Alison said, confused.

“No, I meant, oh never mind.” She busied herself grabbing Alison’s tea.

That was weird.

She stared at the woman’s back as she poured hot water into her cup. The woman was wearing a hideous stripped shirt that clashed loudly with her purple stretch pants. It was not a flattering look in Alison’s opinion.

The woman whirled around and slammed the cup on the counter. “Well, no one asked you.” She turned to the next customer as Alison quickly grabbed some nearby napkins to wipe up the slosh from the cup.

I’m so sorry!

She fled feeling embarrassed and shameful.

What was happening?

* * *

I wrote this story based on a weird fear I sometimes have when I’m talking to people. I’ll be chatting when suddenly the thought will pop into my head of, “oh no, what if they can hear my thoughts? What if everyone is telepathic, but somehow I wasn’t born with that gene and they’ve all just agreed not to tell me.”

To be fair, I said it was weird. I didn’t say it was rational 😉

Imaginary Friends

Emma ran down the sidewalk towards her best friend Cora’s house. Her and Emma had been best friends for as long as she could remember, probably their entire lives. 12 years is a long time!

As Cora came around the corner she saw Emma standing at the end of her driveway with a couple of girls Cora didn’t recognize. The each had their bikes with them and they were huddled in a tight cluster. Cora stopped running when she saw the girls with Emma. She felt a pang of jealousy as she slowly walked towards them. Emma was her friend, but suddenly she felt like the outsider.

“Hi Emma,” she said, trying to grab her attention away from the girls.

“We should grab slushies,” one of the girls said. She had her long brown hair pulled back into a ponytail and she had both glasses and freckles. Instantly, Cora hated her. Both her and Emma had always wanted glasses and freckles. It was so unfair. “I got my allowance this morning,” she said, “And I’m dying to spend it.”

“Sure,” the other girl said. She was tall and towered above the other two.

Emma looked sad. “No thanks. You guys go ahead.” She start to pull away from the group. Finally, she would have Emma to herself.

“No way! What’s wrong?” the girl with freckles asked, pulling her back by the elbow.

Emma scuffed her toe against the pavement. “It’s just, I don’t have money.” She said.

The girls laughed. “That’s okay,” the girl freckles said. “I’ll pay for yours and you can pay me back when you get your allowance.”

Emma shrunk further away. “I don’t get an allowance,” she whispered.

Neither did Cora. They didn’t need an allowance. They had always had fun for free.

“That’s okay,” said the tall girl. “I’ll just pay for it. You have to come!”

Emma perked up. “Really?” she asked breaking into a huge grin.

“Wait,” Cora said, as the girls hopped on their bikes. “Can I come?”

They acted like they couldn’t hear her and hopped on their bikes and speed away.

Cora’s eyes welled up with tears. She let her bike drop to the pavement on the driveway and sank down into the grass. It wasn’t fair. She was so busy feeling sorry for herself that she didn’t notice old Mrs. Decker walking down the sidewalk towards her with another lady.

Cora quickly wiped her tears with the back of her hand so they wouldn’t know she’d been crying. She didn’t need to worry, however; they didn’t seem to know she was there.

“It is so nice to see Emma with some friends for a change,” Mrs. Decker said.

Cora glared at her. What was she talking about? Her and Emma had been inseparable for years.

“Oh, I know! When I think back on when her mother died. The poor dear didn’t talk to anyone for an entire year. I thought she was going to be a mute!”

“But even when she did start talking again, all she ever talked about was Cora, Cora, Cora.”

Well, of course she did. They were best friends after all.

“Who’s Cora?” the second lady asked.

“Her imaginary friend. I’d invite her over for dessert every now and then, and wouldn’t you know I always had to set out two pieces of cake. Of course, Emma would eat them both.”

Imaginary? What a load of crap! And Emma was doing her a favour! Cora didn’t like those nasty cakes so Emma would eat it for her so they wouldn’t her Mrs. Decker’s feelings. But, now Cora didn’t care a bit about her feelings. How dare she call her imaginary!

* * *

The above story I wrote from a prompt I found on the instagram page: _writing.prompts.re

“You’ve been with your best friend for as long as you can remember Earlier in her life, she used to be a very lonely kid, but recently she’s slowly begun to  become popular. Others would talk to her, but often ignore you. One day, to your shock, you finally realize that you’re actually just her imaginary friend”

I’ve always enjoyed stories where things aren’t what they seemed at first. 

Pet Dragons

Three 10 year old boys sat on the grass beneath a “No Parking” sign, taking in the last days of summer, before school started up again.

“Do you think dragons are real?” Devon asked, a tinge of hope in voice.

“Yes,” Matthew said, immediately, sitting up on his knees in excitement.

“O course not,” Tyler said, at the same time. He pushed his hair out of his eyes and looked out his friends incredulously. “They’re imaginary. Like vampires.”

“Maybe they’re more like aliens,” Devon said, “And they could be real we just haven’t seen any yet, so we have to make up what they look like.”

“No way,” Tyler said.

Matthew wrinkled his nose. “Nu-hu. There’re real. Kevin said he saw one.”

“Your brother’s an idiot,” Tyler said. “Didn’t he flunk math last year?”

“Okay, but people have seen them before,” Matthew said.

They glared at each other.

“If they are real, would you want one as a pet?” Devon asked.

“Yes,” Matthew said.

“Definitely,” Tyler agreed.

They grinned in agreement.