“You put us in the middle of a siren hunting ground?” Aijun screamed. It wasn’t like anyone could hear him yelling. They were all trapped in their own dreams, separate from Aijun’s and Arve’s.
“Well, if you put it that way…” Arve drifted off.
For nearly the last hour, Arve had gone around to every person on his ship. It didn’t take him long to realize what was happening in his own dream, but for others, the clues of a siren attack weren’t as easy to spot.
Emma dreamed of a dragon. Arve didn’t recognize the dragon though. And Adrik… Well Adrik’s dream was not nearly as enjoyable as everyone else's. Sirens were supposed to lure you in with your happiest memory, but Adrik’s was a terrible moment.
“We need to wake Adrik up first,” Arve started to pull Aijun from his makeshift memory. This old home was his favorite. An old wooden cabin in the northern hemisphere. It’s walls were made from cedar logs, and decorated with knitted curtains from the neighbors.
“Not really, I mean. That was just a dream- it could have been anyone…” Aijun rubbed the back of his neck and averted his eyes.
“Not because of that!” Arve’s face scrunched up in disgust. Aijun could only see Arve as a child because of that face. It didn’t matter if he were twenty three. If you make that face over having a relationship with someone, you’re still eleven no matter what.
Arve dragged him through the dark and narrow passage of the dreamscape. Winding windows and curved doorways lined the hall. Neither of them had the heart to open the shadowy doors.
The two stopped when they spotted Adrik through a window.
Through the clear barrier, Aijun and Arve watched as Adrik drowned in the ocean over and over again. It would start with Adrik yelling for help, but then he would give in to the waves and sink. And when he finally touched the seafloor, he let the remaining air out of his lungs. Over and over again, they would watch him die.
They could see the ugly sea hag forcing him to drown. But sirens weren’t vicious like this. They fed off people by using good memories, or feelings. Not by forcing them to die. Adrik began the cycle over again.
His face wasn’t angry, or scared. Adrik wasn’t upset to die again. As Adrik sunk again, the siren neared. It was time that it fed on Adrik’s life force.
“Adrik! Snap out of it! You can’t want to die!” Aijun banged on the barrier. The sea hag snarled at them, but was too concerned with the illusion around Adrik to deal with the others.
Adrik’s eyes were closed. He accepted death again and again. There was nothing more he could ask for than a peaceful death like drowning. Thoughts rushed through his mind. As he sunk, he thought about the boy he used to know when he was a kid.
Suddenly, his surroundings changed, and Adrik wasn’t drowning anymore.
He was watching as a young boy climbed up the apple tree and through the apples down to Adrik. It was harvest season in Reina, and it was Adrik’s favorite part of year. The boy, Naren, fell out of the tree a bit ungracefully.
“That man was executed in the court yesterday. Momma made me watch. He chose a firing squad over hanging.” Naren paused. “Say, Addie, if you were to die, how would you want it?” Naren took a bite out of an apple he picked from the tree. They were sitting at the base of the tree, eating apples and talking about whatever came to mind.
“I don’t know. What about you?”
“I think I would choose drowning. They say that right when you’re about to drown, it feels really good. It’s like you’re not really dying at all.” Naren was climbing up the tree again.
The memory switched again. It was back to Adrik drowning. He was at the surface, and he was calling for help. And then he would remember that question. “Say, Addie, if you were to die, how would you want it?” And then he would sink again.
“I think he hasn’t felt that part of drowning that his friend described. That’s why the siren can’t feed yet.” Arve explained. “He’s been through that cycle six times now. He thinks of that time with his friend, and then it comes back to him downing again.”
“How are we supposed to break him out of it?” Aijun banged on the barrier between them. Jonathan remained close to the surface to lend Aijun his strength. It didn’t do anything to help them though.
Arve banged hopelessly on the glass again. He had partially been at fault for getting Adrik into this mess. Well, maybe more than partially.
The memory switched from Adrik drowning to a younger version of himself walking in the snow. The other young boy, Naren ran up beside him. It was cold enough to turn their faces beat red, but the sun still showed through the clouds.
“Guess what? The lakes finally frozen solid! We can go skating on my birthday like we planned after all!” Naren told Adrik excitedly. Adrik yipped excitedly as he trudged through the cold snow. Winter wasn’t going to ruin their fun this time.
Adrik’s surroundings melted around him until he appeared in his house again. He rushed around his house for the things he needed to skate with Naren. He needed his older brothers skates, a thicker jacket, and his mother’s permission to go out on the ice so early in the season. It was late November in the northern hemisphere. It wasn’t too early, but it wasn’t the middle of winter either.
“But Mom, I promise to be careful! And it’s been snowing for days. There’s no way the ice will crack now!” Adrik moaned when his mother told him now. He was dressed in his winter coat and pants, with a knitted hat on his head, and his brothers skates tied over his shoulder. One skate dangled over his chest, and the other hung over his back.
“You know how I feel about that boy you hang out with, Adrik. He’s dangerous. That family is cursed.”
“That is nonsense, mom. Naren isn’t cursed!” Adrik took on an even more whining tone. He couldn’t stand it when his mother brought up that stupid folklore. Naren wasn’t cursed. That was ridiculous. He’s known Naren since he was three years old.
The door of the cabin was thrown open by his father. He was wearing head to toe snow gear and didn’t dare track snow into the house as he stood on the front step with his head peaking through the door.
“Lana, Adrik. Come quick. A boy has fallen through the ice!” He half-yelled.
The memory switched back to Adrik slowly drowning in the greenish blue water. Adrik wasn’t fighting against the sinking sensation he felt anymore. He just wanted to drown and be done with it. No more “life flashing before his eyes” moments.
The voice whispered in his ear again.
“Say, Addie, if you were to die, how would you want it?” But this time, the voice wasn’t right. That wasn’t Naren’s voice. It was nothing like it. The voice was raspy and old. It cut like a vicious sting across his ears.
He fought against the water. Something wasn’t right. He held his breath in for once, instead of letting it out. Nothing made any sense. Why was he drowning? Did those crazy people throw him overboard? No… he would have remembered something as absurd as that.
That last thing he remembered was falling asleep on the hardwood floor of that old ship. That’s it! He was having a dream. But how come he couldn’t wake up?
“Wake up. Wake up. Come on already, wake up!” He yelled at himself. A hand reached in and grabbed him. He fought against the hand as it tugged him through the water and into the air. He fought for the surface, and this hand was pulling him deeper and deeper in.
“Seriously! It’s me, Aijun! Stop fighting me!” the voice yelled at him. It wasn’t that scary raspy voice anymore. It was that stupid guy’s voice. He needed to get out of here though. He couldn’t follow some dumb voice again. Especially that man’s voice.
Adrik’s momentary hesitation allowed Aijun to pull him through the window with borrowed werewolf strength.
“W-what? What’s happening?” Adrik was sopping wet. His clothes and hair were soaked through and he didn’t move from his spot on the ground.
Before Arve and Aijun could answer, Emma bursts through her own dream window.
“Arve? Aijun? What is going on?”
Emma held a long, sharp-tipped sword. Blood dripped from her hand, down the hilt and along the length of the deadly sword.