Everyone has their love language. I always thought I knew mine, but now…
“Please! I’m begging you! Swim back to shore!”
He didn’t flail, he didn’t surface for air, he just floated there, staring at me with lovestruck eyes and a dopey smile. He was also drowning.
He reached out to cup my cheek. Instead of letting him, I grabbed his wrist, threw him over my shoulder, and jerked my tail in a powerful burst to send us rocketing towards the surface. The man gasped as his starved lungs drew in breath after deep breath. “Oh…beauty…beyond compare, let me—"
“No, no more of that.”
Before he could finish, I dragged him underwater and clicked my mouth next to his ear powerfully enough to knock him out. His lovely eyes closed, his chiseled muscles went slack, and I dragged his unconscious body back to shore. Before leaving him on the sand I took a moment to gaze at him, running my fingers gently along his chin. I felt like crying. I might have. Its hard to tell in the ocean.
That was the last time I had ever sung to a human.
I had tried so many times in so many ways—modulating my pitch, softening or sharpening my notes, or even simply speaking without any inflection—but nothing ever worked. It always ended the same. My sisters, in their callousness, always tell me, “Iri, they last long enough to get the job done. Just lay your eggs and get on with your life.” They’ve never understood why I wanted more than that. Or maybe they’ve given up hope, as I’ve come to do. That doesn’t keep me from watching the shoreline whenever I can.
“Silly girl. Why do you do this to yourself,” I murmur.
Humans came and went, as always. Some of them were men and women I had lured into the ocean previously. I could always tell by their vacant, longing stares, gazing out at the waves as if they could find me in the breakline. It’s hard not to feel guilty. In the past I told myself that my actions were purely instinct—a siren’s song is as a part of her as a turtle’s shell. But every toothy grin leaking precious airbubbles while its owner drowned had chipped away at that excuse until it was a hollow, empty thing.
Feeling melancholic, I begin to turn away, only to stop and stare at a nondescript figure near the trees. He’s not as handsome as some of the others I’ve ensnared, nor as strong, but when he lifts his hands he makes strange signs with them, and his friend makes similar ones in return.
That puzzles me, so I stay a little longer. Long enough to realize that he uses them to communicate. Long enough to realize that, when others speak to him, he doesn’t realize it until he’s tapped on the shoulder.
He can’t hear.
Whenever I go to the beach now, I come looking for him. I study his hands. I watch his expressions. He captivates me. So much so that a familiar hope blossoms in my chest—one that I had long since believed to have drowned.
One evening, when he walks alone along the far shore away from the human dwellings, I decide to try again—one last time. His shocked face as I suddenly appear from beneath the waves is one I’m used to, but his jaw drops even further after I smile and sign at him.
His hands take a while to move, but he signs back. Hello.
I take a moment trying to think of the next signs, arranging my fingers in ugly, clumsy ways. If it had been a song it would’ve been discordant and grating, but I manage it. I think.
My name is Irina.
The man shakes his head slowly. Alejandro.
Nice to wave— “No, wait…” Nice to meet you, Alejandro.
His hands suddenly jerk in a frenzy and I stare at him with confusion. He slows down. Are you something?
I furrow my brow and repeat the sign he gave me. Something?
He wiggles his body like a fish. I laugh and lift my tail up, causing him to stumble back in shock, which makes me laugh even more. He’s blushing when he recovers—a cute quirk that I’ve noticed humans do—but he’s smiling, too.
Tentatively, he steps closer, stopping just before the waves, and signs again. It’s nice to meet you too, Irina.ns184.108.40.206da2