Sirens in Greek Mythology first appeared in Homer’s the Odyssey, but there were no physical descriptions. It was not until the 3rd century BC that we began to see descriptions of sirens as part-woman, part-bird creatures. By the 8th century we were seeing sirens depicted as mermaids, but for the purposes of this story we are going with birds.
Down on Pancove beach, where the seagulls taunt the tourists brought on by the warm summer months, sat three particular birds. These were different birds than those that crowded the blue–green sky above. Their ivory wings were translucent, and their eyes darker than the darkest night. Sitting still on a flat rock, they almost were porcelain figurines, out of place, and at the mercy of Pancove’s sandy shores.
One bird in particular, the one with the darkest eyes, watched the other two with clear vexation. As much as a bird could be vexed.
“Do you think there are clouds on the moon? Why do you suppose we can’t see them?” one of the two birds asked the other.
“That’s a good question.”
The bird with the dark eyes couldn’t agree, but waited for the other bird’s response.
“I think we don’t see them because they’re on the other side of the moon, you know? The side that faces the sun.”
The answer appeared to satisfy the other bird, who then returned its gaze towards the horizon.
“That makes sense because the clouds protect us from the sun,” it added after additional reflection. “What do you make of it, Devi?” it asked the dark-eyed bird.
Devi held a wry expression as she stepped away from the two and stretched her wings.
“I think you two are morons.”
With a hard flap of her translucent wings, she dove off the rock and into the air. Away from her sisters, who were unfazed by her sharp comment. They carried on, gawking at the sky, all the while Devi scoured the immediate vicinity for intelligent life with little hope.
Before she reached her targets, she flapped her wings again, masking her figure with a stroke of white light. She transitioned into a youthful maiden striding confidently, barefooted, across the salty white sand. A ruffled white sundress flapped audibly in the sea-kissed breeze. Her long, brown hair rippled behind her in sporadic waves.
She began to hum. With time, the hum turned into a song. Her silky voice pierced the billowing wind like a needle through a carefully woven blanket.
“I’ve been waiting on what’s been owed…”
The strap of her dress slid off her shoulder, she glanced behind her and tugged it back into place.
“My mother will make just on what was once foretold…”
She faced ahead, making brief eye contact with her target.
Smile. Not too much. Stay modest.
She averted her eyes, faking her attention elsewhere, perhaps the marbled waves, perhaps the pink clouds, or perhaps a boat in the distance.
“What a pretty little lady, wouldn’t she be a little prettier if she smiled, boys?” a voice called out from the shadows.
She could picture the man without glancing back at him. After a while, they all look the same.
“What do you say, young lady? Can you spare an old man a smile?” he said, taking a long drag of his cigarette.
Morons… both sirens and mortals alike, thought Devi keeping her gaze forward and shortening her stride. It wouldn’t have to be like this if… Ignore me old man, I’ll let you be…
Justifying her own actions to herself was part of the routine. She wouldn’t hurt them had they not acted so predictably.
“Hey,” he reached out and grabbed her by the elbow. “It’s rude to ignore—”
She turned sharply towards the three men smoking in the shadows of an abandoned dock.
“Excuse me?” she exclaimed, pulling her arm back.
“—your elders.” The man who had grabbed her arm grinned. What was it about mortals that made them think that an age disparity robbed young women of their agency?
Her jaw relaxed and she smiled. “My apologies sir. I didn’t hear you.”
“That’s much better.” He raised his brows knowingly. “Now, where are you off to in such a hurry?”
“I’m just passing through.”
The man’s friend let out a breathy, low, whistle. “Your legs go on for days, young lady. Has anyone ever told you that?”
She feigned bashfulness, tucking her hair behind her ear. “No, I—”
“Seriously!” The third man cut her off, not bothering to hide his eyes scanning her over. “How old are you, miss?”
“You don’t look a day over sixteen!” exclaimed the first man.
“Is that so?” Her practiced smile faltered, and she muttered, “Yet you thought it was appropriate to comment on my appearance.”
“What was that—”
At this point, Devi couldn’t keep up the charade. This was enough to justify her actions for today, and with this many men, her mother would be proud. Perhaps even earned Devi a day off.
She act unraveled, and in another burst of white light her large white wings flared up around her. A gust of wind forced her hair behind her into the shape of a dark halo. The men’s wide eyes saw the creature before them as an angel, only that wasn’t the case.
The siren wished she were an angel.
Accepting the cards that had been dealt to her, her eyes flashed a blinding white light, and with a crack of electricity the men vanished into thin air.
When it came to the technicalities of her ruse, it was more power heavy than she desired, and she wasn’t proud of it. Other sirens were subtle in their techniques, but as old as Devi was (older than she cared to admit) she hadn’t gotten any better at it.
The violent wind died down. Devi rested her eyes, then leaned forward into her bird guise, diving straight through the breeze. Flying up into the clouds then plunging downwards towards the earth. She corrected herself before she got too close to the ground. Often she thought about what would happen if she ever made the decision not to.
Self-loathing isn’t cute or funny Devi, she reminded herself with a sour look on her face.
A lone figure in the distance caught her eye, a well-timed distraction. Sitting on a short cliff that overlooked the beach, was a boy—rather—a young man. Different from the men she sent into the void moments earlier. He was one of those pretty boys. Some sirens preferred the sort because they were simple and easy to lure. Devi on the other hand, not only disliked taking young men because she was lousy at it, but because in her opinion they were too young. That was what she told herself anyway.
Devi was not very good at being a siren, mostly because she hated being a siren.
But… she had a great start this morning, and if she bagged another soul—a young one at that—she could likely talk Felicitas into giving her the whole week off.
Fine, she made her landing and walked into her mortal appearance. She would be less flashy this time around and put effort into the voice. The younger ones were not as forward, this required actual skill.
Out of the air, she pulled a sun hat and placed it on her head. She resumed her song.
“The skies are starved, and they thirst the final word,”
She wandered down the sandy path, the young man was lost in a book and hadn’t noticed her yet. She was a few yards out and her words reached him with a slight delay. The winds fought the siren’s song as it twisted through the curves of the wind. The song would win however, it always did.
“I can count the times this tale’s been told,”
At last, the young man glanced in her direction. He squinted at the day’s brightness, then returned to his book.
Alright, he’s blind, Devi decided. She waited until she was a few feet closer and made her next attempt.
“It will turn around…. I’ve sung this song,”
Her sweet voice reached his ears then. With his attention held, she released her hat, allowing it to dance with the wind. The young man’s eyes followed the whirling hat through the air.
“I’ve walked so far, don’t tell me it’s wrong.” She let the note hang, and watched the boy snatch the hat out of the wind’s grasp.
Devi approached the short cliff shyly, and leaned over, holding the hat towards her. The sun was behind him, making it difficult for Devi to see his face. His frame was lean and elongated by the angle she studied him from.
She took the hat and thanked him. He didn’t respond, merely saluted her and returned to his seat.
Devi frowned at this, she turned away, and her voice rang even louder.
“I’ve watched crowned kings fall on their knees,”
She walked away, in her mind she heard the music, the drums whose beats she matched with the strides of her feet.
“And they ask, ’Who is that in the light?’”
There were many factors that could affect her power on any given day. His lack of response was not unheard of. The young man could be too young, or he might have a partner that he is loyal to. The second was rare, but it did happen. She had a warped understanding of the mortal realm, good men had to exist.
The more plausible reason for her ineptitude was that her heart simply wasn’t in it. It never had been and would never be.
Or perhaps she was wrong, perhaps she lucked out this time. She turned around beaming, her smile genuine.
“You might not want to walk that way, or you might want to put on shoes. The northern part of the beach has a lot of broken glass,” the boy didn’t look up from his book.
Devi raised her eyebrows in near disbelief. “Thanks,” she said flatly, and the young man nodded.
Heeding his advice, she pivoted and returned to where she came from.
“I’ve turned palaces into rubble…” she hummed to herself, “I’ve left them nothing to find.”