I put my earmuffs on and step outside into the cold morning air.
The salty spray hits me in the face as soon as the door opens. The wind tears the handle from my grasp and sends it slamming back into the inside wall. I wince, turning to check that my family still slept soundly.
The lights remain off upstairs. I'm safe.
I step outside and pull the door closed. My short hair whips against my face. Hugging my coat tighter around myself, I squint into the winds trudge through the empty streets.
I'm at the cliff's edge in a matter of minutes. Our town lay so close to the edge that officials had said we were in danger of slipping off into the rocky waters below. Some people, like the Tilman family, grew scared and moved away. Some, the wealthy Jenkins, knocked down their old house and rebuilt it further inland. Others, like my own family, didn’t believe it.
Because in our little town, there are other things to worry about.
I stop a metre from the edge and shade my eyes against the glare reflecting off the water.
Gulls circle overhead, but I can’t hear their squawks of protest at my presence near their nests. The water beats the rocks, all those miles below, but I can’t hear their thunderous fists. The brave fishermen in the bay to my left are fixing their nets, but I can’t hear their calls.
Most who lived by the sea longed for peace and quiet that they could never get. But I had always longed to rip off my earmuffs and hear the sounds.
But I can't. The officials came to town and declared the songs were dangerous. That they were meant to kill.
The song. The call. The temptation to hear what few had.
The old men told tales. They said that the song was the most beautiful music in the world. They said it would make you feel joy beyond belief, or sadness that was incomprehensible to those young enough to only know earmuffs.
Not me. I remember the sounds. And I missed them.
As I look out to sea, I imagine them. Beautiful and deadly, lurking below the murky water.
I raise my hands to my earmuffs. I wonder what it would sound like, what would happen. I wonder how much trouble I would be in, if I allow myself the simple pleasure of listening to the siren’s song.
I lift the fabric off my ears.
I'm awash with noise. I could now hear the gulls’ squawks of protest, the water’s thunderous fist, the fishermen calling to one another.
But over all of that, I heard the song.
The old man's right. It's the most beautiful sound I had ever heard, high pitched and lilting, sounding like the tinkling of bells.
I can picture them, the beautiful maidens with their hair so long they didn’t need clothes, their smiles so perfect, their teeth so white.
I feel a pull at my naval and I step forward.
The cliff edge is close now, so close the grass and dirt crumble under my feet and drop down into oblivion. I can’t see the rocks at the bottom anymore, or hear the waves crashing, threatening me to retreat.
All I can hear was the song.
All I can see was the siren’s beautiful faces.
My foot lifts and hovers in mid-air. The wind’s firm hands try to push me backwards. But I can’t be contained anymore.
Come to us.
They are calling me and I grin, letting the wind tear at my cheeks and rip the breath from my lungs.
Come to us.
“Yes,” I say.
Come to us.
“I will.” I breathe, and shut my eyes. “I’m coming.”
I let my foot fall.
I am falling and tumbling over the edge of the cliff.
My other foot catches the edge as I go and pain sears through me. It clears my head. My imagined beautiful sirens turn dark, their hair strands of dead seaweed, their smiles filled with sharp teeth, their hands tipped with claws that snatch at me and pull me into the depths.
Come to us.
I open my eyes and see the rocks rushing up to meet me. The seaweed on the rocky surface looks like hair.