Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Siren

A story

Her hair ripples when she walks. It’s dark and long and sways as she steps her way along the littered pavement, crunching coke cans and cigarette butts in her wake.

She puts her hands on her hips and stands askance, shakes her head as though to clear it, pleased by the night air. Her eyes are dark and liquid, almond-shaped and skeptical; she looks at everything as though to sum it up, to evaluate what she sees. She quirks her eyebrow in a sarcastic question; her lips are full and soft and pure.

She sticks her hands into her black jeans, hooking her thumb onto the silver belt she wears. It’s more like a chain than a belt, sprinkled with stars and other dangling charms. The spurs on her boots are also stars; she’s all in silver and black. The lids of her eyes glitter silver and her eyelashes are midnight. She walks in the dusk and the midnight; that is her hour and this is her time.

She surveys her city, the belching clouds of smoke and impure desires radiated by its inhabitants and her lips curve in a little smile as she continues walking, now stopping and resting her head against a graffitied wall, now running her smooth white fingers atop an ATM. Everything purrs when she touches it; it fulfills its purpose and is at peace. Dead machines come to life; broken beer bottles are whole again. Everything yearns to be near here but often she waves them away with one touch of her dark red nail and they stop in their tracks because she is the Queen of Darkness.

She walks her city and takes pride in its filth, its degeneration, its ugliness and its sordid nature. She arches her back, cocks her hips as though there were someone to watch but she is alone and it is only the night that guards her, the night that allows her passage through the warring groups of gang-members, through the would-be rapists. She smiles sardonically at them as she passes by, and stupefied, they stare at her, never knowing why they didn’t touch her but only felt like she was there like she belonged and they could come no nearer.

She caresses a building and her touch makes it long to stand straighter, taller. She leans her head against a lamppost and the light darkens until it is soft, intimate. She smiles into the night and the wind blowing through her hair; she continues walking.

She watches the cars speed past, their lights radiating their frenetic desire to reach their destination. She laughs at their drivers, any of whom she could destroy at a moment’s notice. She walks into the street and the cars slow though they don’t realize it; she passes through them and even smiles at one driver, who suddenly feels the strangest sense of bliss.

She loves the car-wrecks, the places where her smile or her song has stopped a man in his tracks so that he paused, entranced. Then she moved and the two swung together, crashed and broke and the little dolls inside broke, too, all blood. Often as they die she gives them a last kiss so that they have what they wanted; she robs their wives of their last thoughts; their last thoughts are always of her.

Her power doesn’t work as well on women but it still works; she has only to tell them of a better life, a different life in which they are wealthy, sophisticated, slim and beautiful. She shows them images of how they could be, images of themselves as divas, as seductresses; every woman wants to be a temptress. They deny it to themselves and they pretend they don’t want it, that they are happy with their life with their puling little baby and mewling son, but she knows better. They look at her in her black jeans and her silver chain and they long to be like her. So she tells them that it’s better to give up, to just lose control of the wheel, to rest for a moment, and then there is a crash and it is all over.

But she does not kiss the women, she simply smiles into their faces as they die and they think for a moment that they see their reflection; they think that they are as she is and this is the crowning achievement, the one that pleases her the most.

Wherever there are drunkards and stupid men in bars, she is to be found. She lies to them, allowing them to buy her drinks with sex on their minds, but all she has to do is whisper in their ears and they are completely under her spell, enslaved and caught. She could have them do anything she wished. When she’s bored, she has them amuse her. They think it’s because the alcohol went to their brain. Not so. It’s because of her voice and her delicious suggestions; they would do anything to please her.

She does not often bother with the children. The children’s innocence does not allow her to easily influence them; they are too innocent to understand the dreams with which she lures the others. Why should they bother about wealth, money and fame? Why should they care whether she can make them famous, make them completely happy? Such dreams do not occur to them; they have not yet been spoiled by their own mistakes; they still live in a dreamworld that guards them from her.

But if she tries hard enough, she can always find something, especially when the parents are lax. It works especially well in those families where the daughter is ugly; her glasses and large silver braces obscuring her beauty. Then she walks into their sleep and suggests that she can cure them, make them beautiful, make them lovely. She has them do strange things to fulfill her pleasures; some of them are simply spiteful; she’ll have one of them steal another girl’s cafeteria money, and some of them are inspired; she’ll make the girl into the cruelest snob while allowing her to feel good about herself.

Nothing can harm her; nothing can hurt her. There is no bullet that can end her life; no weapon that could kill her. She exists as they all exist, to fulfill her function. It is not wickedness but punishment; it is payment for their thoughts. She can only work off of their own desires. She lures them, she seduces them with their very own thoughts. If they want love, she gives it to them. If they want fame, she promises it to them with a whisper of a kiss. They look up into her dark dark eyes and her dancing black hair and all they see is the suggestion, the desire she can fulfill and they fall, all of them.

She wonders, sometimes, what it would be like to encounter someone who would not fall; someone impervious to her voice. She gives them a chance every night; she walks the world and allows at least one person to take her, to have power over her, to see each and every vulnerability. Sometimes she is even mute when she does this; loving and giving but silent so as not to ensnare them. She wants to find someone who can hurt her, what is more, she wants to find someone who can make her feel.

Because she cannot feel. Tall and glamorous and seductive as she is, she feels nothing. She feels no pain, no love, no joy; her work gives her no pleasure; it is merely hers. She owns this time and must therefore fulfill it, but she does not enjoy what she does, does not even know what the word means. She is as objective as any star in the sky. She cannot feel.

She has begged, tried, implored anything and everyone to inspire feeling in her. She would gladly let the person go who could inspire pity in her, but no such person exists. She has tried everything she could; she has hurt herself and allowed others to hurt her, she has given herself to others in the ugliest and most brutal way, she has allowed men full possession of her, she has done everything that brings meaning and joy to others, but she feels nothing and can never feel anything so all she is remains dull, numb.

She walks the night and wonders what she is; she exists to serve, to capture, to enslave. She flits through dreams and indulges fantasies; she sees what others desire but can never desire it herself. What, fame, for her? Glory, for her? Money? Power? She needs none of these things; these stupidly material possessions. She needs feelings. She is hungry for emotion, driven by desire to know something truly, to give of herself truly, to feel, always to feel.

And each night she takes a man and destroys him after he fails to please her; she does not do it out of malice or out of anger for how can she? She does not feel. She only destroys him because he has failed; he has received his chance and now he is dead. She always arranges him quite artistically so that it will make the most thrilling story in the morning; the newspapers are ever-grateful to her though they do not know who she is and how she helps them.

She is afraid to give herself to the only man she wants, and that is Morpheus.

Morpheus, god of dreams, god who touches her in fantasies and walks her world. She has met him at times as they walk the dark, she to lure men to death and he to expose or punish them as he sees fit. She knows him and loves him but she fears herself and him, for what if he, he too, were unable to inspire feeling in her, what if he too failed? She could not destroy Morpheus but would live always with her failure; feel as though her last hope was gone. It is better not to know than to try; it is better to hope, to think that perhaps Morpheus could make her feel than to realize that he could not.

She often wonders what he thinks of her. They meet in the dim light of the night; they pass each other by and she always looks at him, at his eerily iridescent greeny-black cape; his silver-tipped boots and his black eyes. He walks apart and deals with the dreams of the elite; he visits presidents and prime ministers and councilors. His brother Phantasos aids her in the fantasies and lures she sets before humans before trapping them but he is a weak thing, an image made entirely of color and the minds of humans, never fully there. Compare his brother with him and there is no question who is superior; Morpheus is far more attractive.

His hair is dark as are his eyes; he has a short beard and mustache. He is tall, taller than her, but he never speaks to her; he bows gravely and moves on, walking toward the White House or Parliament, walking to terrify leaders with their wrongs and misdeeds. She almost always wishes to follow him, to clutch his hand and walk alongside him but she fears lest he repulse her; worries that she has the power to entrance him, too with her voice, and so she does not. Because if her ideal were ruined then nothing would remain and she would be truly, truly alone to walk the night and to know that nothing, not even the man she most admires, could escape her.

So she refrains. She holds back and amuses herself with her petty conquests; the men who slaver at her feet, the women who give up their souls to her. She sings to them all and sings them to their deaths; they crash against the rocks over and over again. She hurts them in the night and does it again, never listless, never bored, merely dispassionate. It is strange how all things reverse themselves; under her touch everything longs to please her. All that is concrete or metal strives to become whole, but everything broken, the humans themselves, become more fractured, more broken in their vain attempt to achieve their highest fantasies.

It is almost dawn and soon she will leave; her time is almost over. The light dazzles her for a moment and then she runs, as though to seize her last chance, runs to follow Morpheus and to cast her lot in the last dregs of the night. She walks up to him and looks into his eyes and there, a jolt, electrifying, and she realizes that she was right and she can love him. He looks into hers and is confused, a mild annoyance, he thinks, and wrinkles his brow. She doesn’t care but reaches out to him with her voice and finds that she is blocked for her voice cannot penetrate his mind; his mind is a whirl of colors and dreams and she is glad, so glad, for now she can feel, now she can love him and she knows that it is true.

So she kisses Morpheus and he joins her in the kiss; they are both children of the night and this is their last hour. He is strong and she is fragile; she melts and is soft and suddenly tears spring to her eyes, tears that she could never have felt before. Her tears slips down her cheek and he places his finger to it and licks it and she looks up at him, her eyes wide and trusting, his fingers on the small butterfly that is tattooed on the side of her eye.

But now she screams for he has power over her; he is in her mind and ruthless, rifling through her fantasies, through the men she has killed, through her job and her duties. He kisses her but it is a kiss of pain and he knows and is on fire and she burns in pain. This is not love; this is torture, but she is glad that she can feel and glad that she can hurt and she braves the pain and the invasion for no one, no one has ever hurt her like this before because no one could.

He walks through her thoughts and she sees him there with her mind’s eye; he hurts her in order to help her. She cannot see though she can still feel; feel his hands and arms and mouth and lips and him as he walks through her minds and her thoughts, sees her purposeless existence. He sprinkles dreams through her mind; his very being smells of dreams and of all that is untouchable and then, suddenly, he leaves her and he is not in her mind any longer but separate, apart.

“Only once,” he says, and his voice is hoarse and gruff. “Only once, to fulfill your dream.”

And he turns away and walks into the darkness and she sobs and slides down the wall and vengefully rubs the back of her hand over the small butterfly tattoo as though to destroy it and herself with it. Her dream was to feel and now she has felt, felt both love and pain but she will never have it again and will always want it. Every night when she walks out she will think of Morpheus and how she wants what he can give her; every night as she destroys and hurts others she will long for him.

Now she can feel and she wonders what would have been better; never to have known this or to know it for only a brief moment and to lose it, for it is gone, gone, and she must continue with her existence, now knowing what they have, every insipid mortal upon this earth; they have what she cannot have, and that is feeling.

She curls her hands up and allows her nails to bite into her skin; her face is pale and beautiful as always; silver hoops swinging in her ears. She begins to sing and her song is eerie and floats into the universe, hurting everything around it, causing everything to long for her but it cannot touch him for he is impervious to her song. He is bound by duty, as is she and so the two of them cannot remain together, cannot be the silent lovers of the night.

It is day and she is forbidden to remain here; she places her hands on her hips and walks out of the city but it hurts her and for a moment her head droops and she mourns, because she has what she wanted and now she wishes as she has never wished before.

But she knows the answer to this wish and it hurts her, it cuts her like a knife and she is glad, savagely glad of that cut and that hurt; every thrust of her own mind against herself. She can remember what it felt like to feel; she can remember how it hurt.

She sleeps in the mornings when her services are not required, and it is only then that she sees that it is not as bleak as she thought, that she is not to be forever unloved and hated. For Morpheus comes to visit her in her dreams, and in her dreams, he makes her feel.

In her dreams, the two of them are one entity, bound by power and passion and love and she knows that in her dreams she can sing and it will not hurt him so she does and the two of them are together, forever.

In her dreams.


the only way i know said...

I admire your writing and the depth of emotion portrayed in the story.
It is surely something that I have experienced.
I must agree.. it is better to have 'felt' - and hurt - and lost - than to have never felt at all..

laughingwolf said...

m'dear sil...

you have shown yet another side of your multifaceted self, brava!

haKiruv said...

"Lilith Seduced" or something. Or, what if angels could choose. Interesting.

Chana said...

Yes, Laughingwolf,

This is a weird blend of Ulysses' sirens transplanted to Neil Gaiman's dark, destructive London from Neverwhere. Morpheus works with the siren imagery- also a mythological concept, but occurs in Gaiman's "Sandman." The whole piece was inspired by the first line of Byron's poem, "She Walks in Beauty."

"She walks in beauty, like the night..."

I confess that nothing else about my character fits the poem, but she certainly does walk in beauty like the night...

The silver hoops are stolen from Nikki/Jessica of the TV show "Heroes."

The tragic flaw fascinates me: what would it be like not to feel and to long to feel? Someone else once termed this the desire to desire.

Then the idea of not wanting to love Morpheus because she is frightened that she could touch him with her seductive siren/ lorelei voice has to do with an earlier post of mine where I wondered what was better, to hold to an untested ideal or to know a horrible truth.

And I enjoyed taking myths and situating them in a real-life situation (for some reason I'm envisioning the cover of "Sin City" even though I never even saw the movie.) Morpheus, who once used to visit kings, now visits presidents and prime ministers. The siren, who once used to cause shipwrecks with her voice, now causes car-crashes.

The ending is ambiguous...when Morpheus visits her in her dreams, is that because he truly walks through them (he is the god of dreams, after all) or is it her way of comforting herself?

The stange thing is how I started- I saw this woman, all in black, beautiful and alluring and very desirable, her boot placed over a coke can. Then, as I wrote, the whole thing came together. Interesting, right?

:D Thanks!

The Only Way I Know,

Glad that you felt you could relate to the story.


Well, not quite Lillith, but a Siren. The Siren who usually destroys men desperately wanting to meet her match.

laughingwolf said...

connecting the dots is always fun... especially when you add new ones as they occur to you, m'dear

you keep me thrilled with your tangents....