I can hear their whispers.
It must be the sirens singing
Our town is built of stone and sorrow, holding stubbornly to the rocky clifftops. Below us is the ocean shore, where waves break against the rocks that stick out like jagged teeth. Below us are bones and seagulls and pieces of ships.
Below us are the caves where we dare not venture.
They say sirens live there, tucked away and hidden, in the dark and wet, with rock surrounding them to echo their voices. An ideal home for their kind, and I cannot blame them for settling there. If anything, we are the ones that shouldn’t belong.
Sometimes I think the cliffs are not made for humans to live on. Most of my town would probably agree, but we are too stubborn to leave. When the storms rock our houses and the winds scream past our windows, the mothers will just tuck their children deeper in their beds and tell them it must be the sirens singing.
I grew up believing that the sirens protect us with their song, and that was why my mother told me not to be scared. I still believe it, though that is not the only song they sing.
Tonight it is a terrible night, and the wind is lost and raging. Thunder cracks overhead as if it is breaking against our rooftops. I’m sitting up with my little brother, because he will not believe anyone’s assurances and he is frightened of the storm. The things that calm him are sitting with me, wide awake, an old quilt over his shoulders, and a cup of tea in his hands. I know when the cup is empty and the quilt begins to feel soft and warm, he will nod off and I will carry him to bed.
He is almost asleep when cries rise up from outside and yank him out of his drowsiness. I tell him to stay there as I put on my heavy raincoat and light the shielded lantern. The wind tears at me the moment I step outside to investigate, as though it could find a place to hide beneath my coat. Half the town is out in this terrible night, and they’re all looking past the cliff edge to the ocean beyond.
I don’t have to look for myself to know. There is a ship, and it is getting too close to the shore. Everyone is holding up lanterns, trying to keep the flames from blowing out, clumping together so the sailors can see our warning. We are shouting, but there is little we can do against this wind, this rain, this storm.
I go back inside to my little brother, and I know neither of us will be sleeping tonight. We sit close together and share the tea, listening as the shouts outside die down. Eventually, all we hear is the wind, the rain, and the thunder.
And then the song begins.
It is not one I could repeat, nor is it one a human could make. It is loud enough to muffle the storm, but soft enough to cradle anyone who listens. The words are not in a language I know, but they are familiar sounds, longing and mournful and aching.
My brother and I are silent, tears running down our cheeks. It is a song for the ship. For the sailors. For the events that could not be stopped, only mourned and honored.
I have too many memories of this. I think the cliffs were not made for humans to live on.
There is no need for me to listen to know what the mothers are whispering to their children tonight.
It must be the sirens singing