Return to the Island of choice

Return to the island of choice - mystery

---This is part 2 of the story "Island of choice"

This world’s sun is so bright it hurts the eyes! And yet it feels so nice when it reaches right under the cold scales with its golden rays, warming them up!

The siren yawned with pleasure, rolled over to put her other side under the sun, and noticed her silent prey again. It was a boy, about fifteen years old, a captain’s son from the ship that had sunken there several hours ago.

The boy’s pale, bloodless face was a cold mask distorted forever with pain and terror, his eyes wide open, glassy, staring at the empty skies above. He’s been dead for a while, his poor soul having fled from the mangled prison of the body, and now the ocean rocked the body gently in the waves crowned with bloody foam.

A toy. A stupid, useless little human…

Feeling bored, the siren pushed him away, and with a powerful splash of tail dove into the blue ocean depths where slanting sunlight played funny tricks on her scales and skin.

Humans… hot blood, soft bodies. Old and young, small and big... She saw a lot and yet none of them was like the human she met the day she had fled from her Choice. She had him right there, in her arms, and then lost him. Forever.

Love comes in many forms. Carnivorous, greedy, and cold blooded ones too. From a certain point of view this was it: the Siren loved Seder.

For years and years she stayed there waiting for him as an earthly wife seldom would. In every human the siren met she saw Seder. To every drowning sailor she raced, gills burning, scales flashing… just to see she’d been mistaken again… and then she tore him apart in fury.

***
“Are you unwell, captain?” Tyke, the ship surgeon, approached Seder at the deck.
“No, I’m all right,” he sighed and turned around. “How’s the wounded?”

The young doctor reported everything carefully, in his usual calm and dignified manner. Seder nodded as he listened, glad to have a chance to calm his own thoughts and feelings down.

One day, he hoped, he would stop seeing the cursed Island in his dreams and imagining the cold glint of the siren’s scales in every wave. One day he will finally be free.

“May I explore the Island once we get there, captain?” Tyke asked timidly. Seder knew well it wasn’t the money Tyke was promised as the ship surgeon that lured him into this expedition. It was the chance to explore the unknown, to say his own word in science.
“Of course.” Seder nodded. “If everything goes as planned you may explore the Island back and forth to your heart’s content while the crew is on shore leave”.
“Alone?” Tyke’s face went pale. “Just by myself?”
“I’ll come with you,” Seder reassured him. “You won’t find a better guide. I grew up on the Island of Choice”.

As Tyke’s curiosity awakened, hungrier than ever, he attacked his somber captain with questions, trying to learn something about Seder’s past, the Island, the Choice whatever it was. But, unfortunately for the young man, Seder wasn’t in the mood for telling stories.

The captain sent the garrulous doctor back to his patients and then made himself look at the waves once more. Nothing. No mirages, no flashbacks, no sirens. Just a long way and a ton of work ahead. Wonderful.

***
Warriors of Sand. Warriors of Snow. Now they stood shoulder to shoulder, listening to the Island speak, having a hard time to believe it has indeed forgiven them for what happened to the last Chosen One many years ago.

The Island said: “What is done cannot be helped. But the opportunity to make things right remains. All these years I’ve been calling my runaway child back, and now he’s coming. It is a chance for you to restore your honor and regain my trust, to repair the destiny that was shattered, to reclaim what was lost, to turn the tide. Go. And make him choose.”

Their heads bowed in gratitude, the warriors returned to their boats. Hundreds of these boats left the Island that night.

***
Seder found himself in a nightmare. There were strong, clawed fingers of the siren and her cold kiss. Nauseating rocking of waves. Darkness. And above all that - a soulless, monotonous voice like that of a Tutor, an intelligent machine that had raised Seder. The voice he always wished to forget and couldn’t…

The sharp sound of the ship’s bell slashed through the nightmare like a knife. But the reality, as Seder had found out after he left his cabin, was even worse than the dream. The messengers of the Island had come for him. Thousands of torches burned on hundreds of boats. Everywhere.

“You have to choose,” a dry, lifeless voice of the Island itself boomed in Seder’s mind, a legendary Kraken rising from the sea of memories long forsaken and cursed.
“No!” Thought Seder, terrified. But all that he said aloud was: “To arms!”

Nights drowned the ocean in utter darkness weak lights of angler fish hunting below couldn't pierce. The moon’s feeble light danced above, too weak to dive under the waves. Silence reiged over all.

No wonder the battle above was such an event, seen and heard by every living soul underwater. There was so much light, noise, and fresh blood!

***
Seawater mutes the pain because it’s as salty as blood…

Seder was wounded. Perhaps, seriously, he couldn’t tell. Or maybe it was the Island’s fault that his mind succumbed to darkness bit by bit. He fought, long and hard, and yet his strength left him and cold waters closed in above his head.

“Get up!” He heard.

Seder opened his eyes and found himself sprawled on the sand. He raised his head and saw the fruit trees above, the very trees that fed him when he was a child. And mountains, the ones he climbed as a teenager. And the Tutor temple where he looked for answers…

It was the Island of Choice. The place where everything began. The place where everything will end. No more nightmares. That’s it.

Seder stood up holding onto the wound in his side.

“The choice must be made,” the Island’s voice boomed.
“I already made my choice, decades ago!” replied Seder in a language he had’t spoken since his last day there. “Leave me be!”
“It wasn’t a choice,” retorted the Island, its voice cold. “You ran away. Just like the one who saved your life. She is there as well”.

Seder turned around and saw the siren in the dark water. The very creature he imagined in every splash of wave overboard. She was there now, staring at him, swishing her tail impatiently, swimming to and fro in the shallows.

“All these years she’s been waiting for you,” the Island said. “The moment you step into the water her teeth will be at your throat. Do you wish to die now? Now, when you are a man and not a stupid boy? Now, when you know that it’s not a quiet dreamless sleep that awaits you, but torture and agony? Or will you make your choice?”

Two groups of warriors approached Seder. They waited, in somber silence.
The chosen one looked at them… and laughed in their faces.


Then, before the Island had time to think of the reply, captain Seder took a running jump into the waves. And the siren darted to him.

“You didn’t take some changes into account,” Seder thought, with vengeful passion, totally aware that the Island can hear his thoughts. “Now I can swim and always have a knife with me”.

***
A rare girl, even when her beloved returns alive an unhurt from a war, feels so much joy as the siren felt then. She’s been waiting for him so hopelessly, for so long that now, when he was in her grasp again, she half choked on her burning, overflowing passion and was unsure what to do.

Should he tear him apart, just like the other humans she caught before? Drink his blood, revel in his pain and suffering? Yes!!! But what then…

A glimpse of a possible future without him, of a world, so empty and alien without purpose, without someone to wait for, made her shudder.

What should she do? Let him go? And then go crazy without him again, for eternity? She had a choice, but both sides of it were equally terrible. The siren’s wild, lonely soul thrashed in agony as a little fish in a flying pan would.

...She was strong and fast, and could last without air much longer than Seder, but both fought fiercely.

One precise stab of a knife would be enough for a human, but not for a siren armored in glittering scales and just built differently. Yet it hurt a lot and made her even angrier.

The siren’s body coiled and uncoiled like a snake’s and she fought with claws and teeth both. The last bite was aimed at Seder’s neck. He raised a hand to protect himself and a moment later the monster’s jaws closed upon his fingers with a loud crunch.

Blinded with pain, Seder put all the remaining strength into his last move: he wrenched his knife arm from the siren’s blue fingers and stabbed her in the chest, where humans have a heart. There came a splash of ink black blood and the siren’s body arched back in pain.

It was a mortal wound. Yet the monster had enough strength left to drag her prey deep down below.

She didn’t fight anymore, didn’t care about being stabbed again and again. She dragged Seder down, a slim plume of air bubbles following their path, to where there was no more hope for either of them.

Siren felt the human go limp in her arms. The last air bubble left his lips and ran away, his eyes closed and his fingers let go of the knife. The madness which the fight was came to an end.

Seawater mutes the pain because it’s as salty as blood… As to the pain a broken heart gives you, there is no way to mute it, at all.

Siren looked at the helpless human, ran her fingers through his flowing hair, touched his shaven cheek gently, took his hand, the one she bit, the hand with only one finger left...

Her heart overflowed with the strangest feeling she’s never known before. There was happiness, yes, but mixed with pain, and sadness, and grief, and a hollow sense of doom.

She hugged the human, the dearest and most important creature in the Universe for her. Their blood mixed - black and red. It was then that the wild, mindless creature unable of speech had made her Choice.
With what little strength she had left she held the man against her chest and carried him up, to the sunlight and air humanity is fond of so much.

***
A cold kiss.
Seder woke up with a start, recent memories burning in his feverish brain, only to find himself in a bed. The cold thing touching his lips was a metal cup filled with fresh water. Tyke held it.

“Captain!” He shouted. “Oh, I’m so glad you’re awake, sir!”
“Where am I?” asked Seder after he’d quenched the thirst.
“On your ship, captain!” Tyke explained eagerly. “We thought we were done for when we lost you, but the pirates retreated. Just like that! And…” he hesitated. “Then we found this thing clutching to you. A siren! The mate killed her…”

Seder felt his heart skip a beat. He rolled over, with a growl of pain, and made himself stand up. The world was spinning. The bandages turned red with fresh blood.

“You shouldn’t stand up yet, captain!” Tyke panicked. Seder silenced him with a glare.
“Where is she?” He asked. “I want to see her. Now”.
“She’s in my cabin, sir…”
“Take me to her”.

***
Tyke was a science enthusiast to the bone. The kind of enthusiast that wants to take everything apart to learn what makes it tick. So when he got his hands on a dead siren he couldn’t miss the chance. Everything was ready for the autopsy. It was the surgeon duties that kept Tyke away from his prize for now.

Her slender, alien body was beautiful still despite the wounds. And her face, distorted by a carnivorous grin when she was alive, now looked as calm and peaceful as a face of a sleeping child. She was so much like a human girl, a person in her death it hurt Seder to look at her…

“I thought these creatures were a legend!” Tyke exclaimed in awe. “It’s a great discovery, captain!”
“Tyke…” Whispered Seder.
“Yes, sir?”
“Return her to the sea”.
“But…”
“That’s an order”.

***
Leaning on two sailors’ shoulders for support Seder watched the funeral.

“Thank you,” he whispered in a language no one else there knew. “Thank you for your choice”.

Blue scales blinked in the sunlight one last time as the ocean embraced the siren’s body looking so gentle and fragile now.

Seder returned to his cabin to get some rest and to think of how to live from now on.

Tyke was the last to say goodbye. He stood there for a very long time, thinking of the scientific breakthrough he just let go forever, wrestling with a grief of his own.

(April, 21, 2007)

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