by Alexandra M. Lucas
Many turns of this earth ago, there lived a solitary fisherwoman. With each rise of the sun, she greeted the dawn, gave thanks to her bait, and whispered to the lapping waters of the great sea to share its bounty with her. Some mornings, the fisherwoman could not pull the eager salmon from the water quickly enough. Others, she returned home with a dry net and an empty basket. Although loneliness swam in her shadow, as long as the fisherwoman could fill her belly, thatch the roof over her head, and keep her boat in good repair, she was happy.
On the crest of the fisherwoman’s seven-hundred-and-seventy-seventh such dawn, a hungry storm swallowed the shore. For hours, the wind howled in tones that the fisherwoman did not recognize, but the sounds themselves did not stir fear in her heart. While she worried for her boat and the creatures of the cove, she had no choice but to barricade herself in her cozy shack and hope her friend the sea would spare her livelihood.
Once the tempest had passed, the fisherwoman tiptoed down to the dock as uneasy thoughts nipped at the edges of her mind. What if my boat is lost? I am alone in this forgotten place, so who would bear witness to my sorrow? Despite her doubts, she compelled her feet to keep moving, holding back the grief that threatened to trickle down her cheeks with each step.
The moment the fisherwoman laid eyes on her pristine boat, effervescent jubilation bubbled in her throat. But before she could release it, she nearly choked on surprise at the sight of someone—or, perhaps, something—reclining from head to fin among the sturdy planks of her modest boat. The fisherwoman tried to speak, but it had been so long since she had done so that her throat ran dry with lack of practice.
Thankfully, the creature spoke first.
“Are you she who whispers every morning to the cove?” the being asked. Although the creature boasted a fish’s tail, the fisherwoman could not help but marvel at their human face, which greatly resembled the one she gazed upon in her own looking glass.
After splashing a handful of salt water over her cheeks, the fisherwoman finally found a few simple words. “Yes, I am she.”
The creature clapped their delicate human hands and giggled with delight. Their laughter gave birth to tones that the fisherwoman immediately recognized as the same ones that were on the wind during that morning’s storm. The fisherwoman took a cautious step toward the being. “And you are they who brought the rain and the sounds I had never heard before this day.”
“Sounds?” The creature wrinkled their nose in confusion and squinted at the fisherwoman with bright eyes that contained galaxies. “Do you refer to my music? My song?”
The fisherwoman lowered her head in shame. “I do not know, for the words ‘music’ and ‘song’ are new to me, friend.”
With a gentle smile on their turquoise face, the being sat upright and waved for the fisherwoman to come closer. “You know me not, and know not what I am, and yet you call me ‘friend.’ Too few of your kind call me and mine ‘friend’ in these times.”
After sitting in her usual spot in her boat, the fisherwoman flicked her sapphire eyes back to the creature. “Well, it is plain enough that you come from the sea, and my kind do as well. Why should we not be friends?”
“Why indeed.” The creature tilted their heart-shaped face and thought on the fisherwoman’s words. A few moments later, they met the woman’s gaze once more. “You are alone here, are you not?”
“Ever since my parents passed, it has been so.”
“Do you not long for companionship …friend?” With an immortal’s unhurried movement, the being slowly rested their human hand on top of that of the fisherwoman. She startled at the unusual sensation, but she did not pull away.
“What I long for matters not, for others like me do not dare come here.”
The fisherwoman paused, choosing her words carefully. “Legends say this cove is haunted. Besides, I do have one constant companion.”
Looking across the horizon at the brilliant sun, the creature nodded in understanding. “If it is loneliness you speak of, I have known this companion often in my travels. But my songs are merry company.”
The being squeezed the fisherwoman’s hand. “And my songs could stay by your side as well, if that is what you wish.”
A gasp flew from the fisherwoman’s lips, and she withdrew her hand from the being’s grasp. “I could never ask for such a gift. I do not deserve it.”
Sliding back into the water and gripping the side of her boat, the being peered up at the fisherwoman with earnest eyes. “The life of this cove tells me otherwise. The fish praise you for limiting your catch. The seagrass happily bends when you pass, for you step lightly and with care. The waves themselves shout to the stars of the tears you weep for wounded creatures you cannot save. Across endless ages, I have never met one of your kind who deserves the gift of song more.”
They closed their eyes and took a deep, ragged breath. When the being opened their eyes again, they slowly exhaled, prompting the gills on their neck to shimmer in the fading sunlight. “But our time together runs short. When the sun finishes its journey, I fear I must leave you. So. What is your heart’s desire?”
As awe and apprehension filled her chest, the fisherwoman twirled her long, dark hair around her finger. Then, she knelt in her boat so she was eye to eye with the creature. “Please, friend. Teach me your sounds. Teach me, and I shall share them so that others like me will know of your kindness.”
“So shall it be.” Pulling themselves slightly above the boat’s edge, the creature planted a rose-petal-soft kiss on the fisherwoman’s lips. Through their tender touch, every inch of the fisherwoman’s body swelled with revelation, and she soon found herself open wide to the beautiful being’s lesson.
Under the approving watch of the remaining sunlight, the creature taught the fisherwoman each radiant note of their song. Just before the sun slipped under the horizon, the two new friends sang the music together, creating such a blessed harmony that even the languid whales of the deep could not resist emerging to listen. Then, with one last, sorrowful kiss, the turquoise creature disappeared below the moonlight-touched waves.
Although she yearned to see her friend again, the fisherwoman kept her promise. She spread their gift of song far and wide, drawing compassionate dreamers to settle alongside her in the forgotten cove. Soon, a thriving coastal town emerged, providing a safe haven for those who lose their way by land or by sea.
Even now, many turns of this earth later, there are some who wake at dawn and make pilgrimage to the town founder’s cozy shack. These believers swear on their ancestors’ stones that they can still hear the fisherwoman and her friend singing together on the wind. And if you listen closely and your heart is open, you, too, can learn the siren’s beautiful harmony that at last drove loneliness from the fisherwoman’s shadow.
Alexandra M. Lucas is a narrative designer who adapts romance novels into interactive games for Crazy Maple Studio. She won the GDC Game Narrative Review Platinum Award twice, and she has delivered presentations on romance and sexuality in games at the Game Developers Conference, PAX Dev, GeekGirlCon, and Wellesley College.
Alexandra’s dark fairy tale about overcoming abuse, “Cherry,” was published in Whatcom WRITES: Reconciliation (Borderline Press, February 2021), and her short story about an unlikely reunion, “The Lighthouse Remains,” was published in Coffin Bell: Mythopoeia, Vol. 3, Issue 4 in late 2020. Professionally, Alexandra has written for digital assistants, RTS mobile games, educational MMORPGs, and more.
Alexandra’s story “The Other Side” was featured in our Winter Issue: No Man’s Land, her story “With You” was featured in our Summer Issue: Second Place, and her story “In The Deep” was featured in our Spring Issue: Alter Ego.