Senior 3rd Prize Winning Story
“The Siren” by Ayushi Roy, Podar International School, India, is the Third Prize winning story in the senior category of the first biannual Short Story Contest 2020.
Ayushi Roy was born and raised in Mumbai, India. She is an aspiring writer who also thoroughly enjoys critical reading. Other than teenage classics such as Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, she also is deeply passionate about books that discuss ethical issues, such as “Pride and Prejudice” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns”. She is also fiercely dedicated to fashion and clothing psychology, and hopes to implement and promote sustainable fashion. Currently, she has passed 3 grades of Trinity Vocal exams and 3 levels of Krav Maga. Furthermore, she plans on pursuing either writing or fashion in the future.
I wish I had believed the chief when he asked me to beware.
“You’re the only woman in this group, and I need you to be extra cautious. If things go south, you’re the only one in control,” he said, with a grim expression over his face.
“Go south?” I asked, confused.
“I’m assuming you’ve heard of sirens?”
“The women from the myths who kill men with their songs? Surely they aren’t real”
“Not exactly, but yes. They’re similar to mermaids that lure men in with their singing. I’m not superstitious, and I’m certain you aren’t either. But please, beware, and embrace the small possibility of being in charge of nine helpless men.” He leaned and whispered, “Especially Tyrone, he’s very easily manipulated.”
I obviously didn’t believe him, but I was raised to follow orders. “Yes sir,” I said.
I thought of Tyrone, the plump, scruffy man about half my height, with an ego three times his own size and temper as short as him. How he got into the army, no one knows. His name itself was an irony.
We set out at blue hour, and patrolled the same area for what felt like hours, and listening to Tyrone complain to the much larger and nicer Maxwell about mosquitoes didn’t help in the slightest. Suddenly, there was a delicate, feminine hum. It was soft in pitch, but loud enough for all of to hear. I froze. This couldn’t be happening. My first instinct was to shout, “AWAY FROM THE SOUND,” I grabbed the two closest men, Tyrone and Maxwell, by their forearms and ordered to others to follow us. This isn’t real. It’s not possible.
If only I had looked back and checked my direction, I wouldn’t have lost all those men, and we wouldn’t have run further into the forest.
Being the only woman soldier in a group with 9 other males, I hated having to strive constantly to prove my strength, but right now in this very moment, I’d give anything to not be the only one with an upper hand.
Leaves violently crunched, loud thumps that still echoed in my mind, the life and stamina draining out of me as I slowly lost every single one of my comrades to the song. I saw the light in their eyes disappear as the voice took over their subconscious, their tough, strengthened bodies loosening and their arms flailing about like jelly, all a consequence of this sweet, faint voice. Mastering every chord and shift in tone and captivating not only us but the entire forest, warming me up from the insides…
“NO!” I commanded myself, she couldn’t take control of me, surely. Can she entrance women as well? I didn’t want to know. I grabbed the forearms of the two men that remained, Tyrone and Maxwell, but I felt Maxwell restrain, not willingly, but as if being pulled backwards by a force stronger than gravity itself. I squeezed his forearm until he shrieked and snapped out of his trance. I grabbed my two-way radio and shouted into the microphone, “WE HAVE A SIREN, I REPEAT, WE HAVE A SIREN, CALL FOR FEMALE BACKUP NOW!”.
I only heard screams and pure panic from the receivers’ end.
Suddenly, I felt a weight jerk itself off me. Tyrone and I halted and spun around to see Maxwell calmly walking into the forest. We called his name, but when he turned, I knew we’d lost him. His eyes were cold and empty, worse than staring into an abyss. I wanted to run back, save him, but I still had a responsibility, and losing all was worse than saving only one.
I crouched down and grabbed Tyrone’s shoulders. The voice was growing louder, the ground began to quiver and the trees began to rustle. “Listen,” I firmly commanded.
“Focus only on my voice, not hers, remember what the chief said. She’s not her voice, if you don’t cooperate, she’ll get you. You want that?”
He violently shook his head; his face was completely extinct of color. The voice was loud enough for me to hear its base echoing throughout my body, penetrating it like venom. Tyrone started to pull away from me, I tugged at his arm but he was too strong. This wasn’t his strength, it was hers. He turned around, gazing at where the sound originated. His frightened expression dissolved into eagerness, like a child receiving his pocket money. “TYRONE!” I shook his arm vigorously. But he didn’t even hear me, much less oblige. Her song was deafening; my ears rang, but it didn’t bother Tyrone. He continued to stare at the trees, when suddenly, I saw it, a flash of white satin, it was her. It was the siren.
She was…. breathtakingly beautiful. Her eyes were a soft purple, so amazingly symmetrical. Her flawless, beaming skin gently caressed her cheekbones, jawline and collarbones. Her soft, thick hair, golden like perfectly baked cookies enveloped her upper back and arms, reflecting a light that wasn’t even there. Her faint, white, satin dress hung loosely on her dainty hourglass figure. Her voice was no longer loud, and overpowering, but instead delicate and subdued, like a summer breeze. I snapped out of my trance when I heard a whimper from beside me, Tyrone was no longer beside me. He was nowhere.
I gathered my emotions and ran, but I couldn’t. It wasn’t fear keeping me in my spot, it was her. She tenderly approached me, the air around her shimmered like glitter and smelled of lavender. She stopped in front of me, close enough for our noses to touch as I felt her feather like finger stroke my cheek.
They never write about what sirens do to the women they encounter, and I was unfortunate to find out.