calm sea during golden hour


Siren Song {ChapterTwo}

The second chapter of my book, Siren Song, The Daylight Robbery


dihaan k~

7/15/202313 min read

Chapter Two

The Daylight Robbery

“Welcome back, Sirens. Er, Decima, Morta, Nona.” Vienna says, recognizing the three as her habitual visitors. How she discerned them from others was not unlike how humans recognized each other- their features. Decima had larger, rounder blank eyes than the rest, Morta a more distorted, bonier jaw (they prided themselves on the largest gape), and Nona a sweeping, majestic ebony cloak, and porcelain skin. All of these features were only the slightest bit distinct, but after months of seeing them, Vienna knew.

“Vienna Alcestis, we must leave, right away. You have received a summons from our Queen herself.” They reply in unison, somberly. Then it hits Vienna.

“Su-summoned?” she stammers, the force of the summon hitting her with all the intensity of fire. “Have I done something wrong? And, and, semi-mortal? I’m human! And I swear, I didn’t mean to offend you ever, please.”

“I apologize, Vienna Alcestis, we have no time to explain.” Decima says. She nods her head to Morta. “Notify someone,” she says to the bonier jawed, and the spirits grasp each others’ hands, creating a black vortex between them, which circles Vienna and feels oddly diaphanous on her skin, devoid of light or texture. Nona holds out a hand and she touches it, with one last thought of bewilderment, and then she dies.

Or at least, that’s what it feels like at once, and even after it seems impossible that she would survive. All at once, she’s spiraling through time and depth, breathless, no air to siphon into the lungs, her blood stops pumping for one brief second, her head’s throbbing mercilessly, and then she’s arrived, and everything’s back to ordinary.

She lands in Niflheim rather ungracefully, flopping onto her back and then picking herself up abruptly, feeling utterly embarrassed. All around her, the spirits stand tall, magnificent, completely composed, and Nona once more extends a smooth black sleeve, which Vienna grabs only apprehensively, very tentative.

“You are alright, Vienna Alcestis?” Decima says calmly.

“Yes, thanks, Decima.” She replied, dusting off her dress and standing up, feeling small. Decima turns to her parade and at once began issuing orders in that strange language, whatever it is. Sibilant hisses, every letter, every word like sighs, exhalations. Sentences were abrupt, and every tone of every sentence was different somehow.

Vienna herself had mastered English, French, Spanish, German, and Latin, but found herself buggered at the conversation. Even though both her parents were been English majors, and she herself was a bit of an English genius herself, she stood like a patient toddler, waiting for the grownups to cease talking. After a while, the spirits straightened up from their cultish circle and spoke her name.

“Vienna Alcestis Hawthorne.”

She rectified her posture and looked them in the eye.

“Yes, Sirens.”

“You are in Nifleim, in the realm of the Guardians, the Perimeter Guards, the Entity Elites, the Acerbic Anomalies, the Paradox Palavers, the Grandeurs, and The Royals, our Doyenne, Queen Elswyth, and her brother, Prince Elliot.”

They seemed to be beaming, their mouths were stretched across their face, and for the first time, Vienna saw them joyful with pride. As they backed off and started shooting off comments on their speech in that strange language, she took the chance to look around.

It was a bit of a strain on the minces, she thought like a true Brit. Everything was either grey, black, or charcoal. The landscape was a long stretch, much like a British countryside, but black and outlined in neon white. Some strange blobs she assumed were houses had sloping roofs and a few straggly shapes that might be trees shedded violet petals. The sky was a perpetual neon bluish purple, the way normal Earth sky looked when a flash of lightning lit it up, Vienna thought it was gorgeous. When she looked into the horizon, far away, she could see the beginnings of a tall, grand empire rising out of a Prussian, roaring sea, myth like and majestic.

She took a step forward, and her sandals grazing the ground, almost stumbled. The ground was gel-like and soft, like Jello, but also slightly gritty. It was such a strange texture, she didn’t think she’d ever felt it on Earth.

“Where are we going now, Sirens?” she asked, toeing the ground once she’d gotten disinterested in the landscape, strange as it was.

“Well, we’re going to my abode, Vienna Alcestis.” Nona says, looking at Decima and Morta for affirmation. “We can’t have Vienna Alcestis visit the queen wearing litore vestis.”

Vienna had no idea what that meant. She looked down at her cobalt blue sundress- she thought it was gorgeous, but opinions differed, apparently.

“Oh, no, Vienna Alcestis, you look absolutely gorgeous, but to meet the royals, you’ll need to wear something a bit more formal, something long, sweeping, and violet, or Prussian.” Nona said adroitly. “And we want to impress Doyenne Elswyth and Prince Elliot, don’t we?”

Decima nodded slowly. “Well, if you think, Nona…”

“It sounds alright, much more of a plan than just teleporting there.” Morta says.

Once more they grasped hands, once more Vienna was thrown through a void, but this time she felt the slightest bit more accustomed. They landed in a fishbowl shaped little chalet, with walls covered with crepe black silk. It looked odd, with the windows siphoning in the dusky violet light, and the walls filtered by vantablack wallpaper. The floor was velvet black. Looking around, most of the walls had been covered with huge, designer wardrobes and closets, with clothes and dresses hanging on iron hangers all around the room. It’s so strange, Vienna has to look around twice to confirm what she’s seeing is true.

“I collect attire, it’s a hobby.” Nona says, her mouth stretching in a grin. She floats over to one of the un-wardrobe-covered walls and tugs a part of the wallpaper, black crepe silk coiling on the floor in smooth folds. Her eyes are instantly glazed with the brightest light she’s ever seen.

“Dang it, it’s so bright!” she cries, throwing a hand over her eyes.

Nona starts snickering, and Vienna wonders if she’s just in the clutches of cold blooded spirits spinning out an intricate rumination to suck out her soul for a ritual or something of that sort. Alarmed, she opens her eyes and it’s nothing like that, only reflective. Mirrors, silver-backed, reflective walls.

She sees herself wherever she turns, and it’s not a bad view. For the first time, she admires her own Asian-British beauty. With the wavy, shoulder length black hair, and dark eyes with curved, long eyelashes, the straight nose, the pale-ish skin, tanned forearms, the moderate figure, and above-average height, it strikes her that she’s not that bad looking. She had always doubted her own appearance, doubt glossed over with self-love, because she believed that her own mother was much more prettier than she was, but now she felt true acceptance seeping in like honey, and she couldn’t help thinking, Gosh, I must be the prettiest girl in the world, and in Niflheim. The fairest girl in all the land.

“Mirrored walls are a nice touch.” She says distractedly, absorbed in narcissism.

“Yes, mirrors.” Morta says wearily. Nona grins at her.

“I’m glad you like them, Vienna Alcestis.” Nona says, and pokes her head into a closet. “Let me just take your measurements, then we can pick one out for you.”

Vienna noticed Decima and Morta exchanging amused glances, and guessed that they had already gotten used to their colleague’s quirky behavior. She stared rather awkwardly at herself in the walls as Nona floated around her, grasping a measuring tape.

“It must be confidential,” she told Decima and Morta, “but why was I summoned to Niflheim (Ni-val-heim) in the first place? Was it an irreparable crime? Not offending, but if I’m dying, I want to be informed.”

She’s standing on her toes now, as Nona measures her ankles, expecting the spirits to directly deny answering, or to frown, or to do a Krasue and swoop down on her, eating her organs or something, but they exchange bewildered glances themselves.

“It must be confidential, Vienna Alcestis, because we haven’t been told ourselves.” Decima pipes up finally, for the first time looking unsure, “I suspect it must be between Doyenne Elswyth and Prince Elliot, and you surely haven’t done anything wrong, because we’ve been following you for months and you’re…well, a goody-two-shoes.”

Vienna only smiles. It was a well-known fact that she was one for sticking to the rules, and she had gone years with being called a ‘nerd’ and a ‘goody-two-shoes’, some good and some bad, but she had always taken it as a compliment, because hey, you’re only calling me a nerd because I’m smarter than you, and I’m only a goody-two-shoes because I did the homework and you didn’t, kids.

“You haven’t got into any trouble, Vienna Alcestis.” Morta repeats, and Vienna nods simply, she believes these strange spirits.

“Your hair is gorgeous, Vienna Alcestis, this will be a breeze to work with!” Nona said excitably, now putting away the measurement tape and dive-bombing into a closet. Vienna’s lips are trembling with the effort of not laughing.

Morta and Decima are now engaged in a conversation regarding palace regulations, swapping a scroll between them, and laughing at the contents. Behind them, on a small mahogany table, stood a cage of ebony. It was half covered with a glossy cloak Nona had thrown over it in her closet frenzy. From inside the cage came a soft crooning sound, somewhat like what a raccoon would make in the absolute misery of Vienna’s brother Asher trying to pet it.

It might be a pet, Vienna thought. I wonder what pets Sirens keep. Wendigos? Ammits? Typhons?

She shuddered at the thought.

“What’s that noise, Nona?” she asked with as much casual attitude as she could muster. “Is it a pet?”

“Yes, Vienna Alcestis?” Nona asked nonchalantly, searching away.

Morta straightened up and passed the scroll to Decima.

“No, Vienna Alcestis, it is her syndicate.” Morta said enigmatically. Nona nodded without turning around.

Vienna had no idea what that meant. She kept quiet and nodded slowly.

“Her syndicate and syndicata.” Morta repeated, clearly thinking Vienna didn’t hear.

Decima, seeing the look of bewilderment on Vienna’s wan face, tossed the scroll into the air, where it burned and disappeared into thin air, leaving sparks which dissipated after a while.

“They are basically spirit guardians, Vienna Alcestis, like your parents on Terra. We have a pair , but as luck would have it, we three, the Parcae, have lost all of ours, and are now what you call orphans.” She imparted wistfully.

Vienna nodded morbidly, and Decima slowly pulled the cloak off the cage like a magician. The bars were made of solidified crude oil, black as night and hard to the touch. In it, on a stubby vantablack corral, sat a tiny furry creature entirely navy blue. Teeny eyes like stars twinkled from deepset circles. It was making that crooning sound Vienna had heard earlier, and was doing fervent cartwheels.

“Your…your parent?” Vienna stammered. It seemed more like a Pygmy Puff from Harry Potter rather than someone’s parent. Or something fluffy you’d attach to your keychain.

“Stefan of the Paradox Palavers.” Nona said wistfully. “A most strange Palaver. It was an unfortunate passing.”

“They transform into these…these balls of fluff when they pass, if they wish to. It is believed they pass on from age, but I believe differently.” Decima’s dark brows furrowed and she looked quite haughty for a second.

“Let us move on, Decima, Nona.” Morta said, an edge of wariness in her voice.

They nodded in sync.

“Anyhow,” Nona said. “Come with me, Vienna Alcestis, and I’ll make you glitter like the Entity Elites themselves!”

Vienna tailed Nona into a room which had black walls and a couple of vanity mirrors lined up along the walls, wondering what this was about now.

“Please, do wear this.” Nona said and exited the room. The door shut soundlessly behind her, and Vienna turned to the object in her hands.

Vienna zipped open the bag and found a silky gown like dress, sparkling with spirit dust. Without further ado, she slipped on the gown, it tingled. It was so cool it felt smooth on her skin. All her life, she’d seen her mother wear expensive silk gowns and dresses, but this was a whole different breed of Gucci.

She turned in the mirror to find something else. The cloth looked identical to the night sky, shining with stars, putting Vienna’s hair to shame. It had an illusion neckline, with tiny gems settled arbitrarily, the colour is a dark English Violet, and Vienna thinks, this is my colour, how have I not known that before? It has a fitted waist, and a drawn hem, coming down to mid-calf.

It feels like perfection, though she doesn’t normally wear dresses. It’s not just a gown, but a shroud of personality.

She loves it. Her 14 year old self loves it. Just one thing- her calves sticking out makes her a bit self- conscious.

Someone knocks and Nona’s head pops in.

“Marvelous, Vienna Alcestis, marvelous!” Nona exclaimed. She’s wringing her sleeves in joy. She’s grinning with joy, quite terrifying, her work pridens her.

“Just a few hair adjustments, a little gloss, and you’ll be prettier than any mortal OR Siren ever!” Nona squeals.

“Thanks, Nona, but my mum is the prettiest.”

Nona smiles simply. “You are not that bad yourself, Vienna Alcestis. But now, perhaps some eyeliner, as your people call it, is in order?”

She sits down at a vanity mirror and lets Nona apply some dark tinged eyeliner to her eyes, shimmery highlighter, and the slightest amount of lip gloss.

A portion of her hair is braided and the rest put under a type of straightener, after which her hair becomes so sleek that she stares in shock. Her curls, which she’s always despised, became so beautiful, like she’s always wanted.

“We want you to look natural, Vienna Alcestis.” Nona says, slipping a set of silver rings onto Vienna’s fingers, silver studs on her ears, a pretty black bracelet on her hand, and handing her platform heels, which she put on only nervously.

Then Nona stands back and smiles once more.

“I must say, Vienna Alcestis, you look wonderful. I’ll miss you when you leave Niflheim.”

Vienna smiles back.

“And I you, Nona. Thank you.”

She checked her reflection. She could recognize herself, but she looked beautified to the proper extent- minimally. It was perfect.

She tailed Nona once again to the main room, where Decima and Morta looked up, slight smiles curving their pale lips.

“You look wonderful, Vienna Alcestis.” Morta says.

“Agreeance.” Decima says.

“Thank you, folks.” She says, bowing, suddenly overcome with nostalgia. Suddenly, she was back home, trying on the new clothes she had bought with her mother and her friends, her mother beaming, Emilie, Faye clapping, and her brother sneering, jokingly, her father smiling encouragingly.

“Are you alright?” Morta said, for Vienna had bowed and not straightened, her hair sleek and falling down her shoulders.

“Yeah!” she exclaimed, standing straight. “Say, do you Sirens have any water?”

“Wootah?” Nona said, confused. .

“Waa-ter.” She said, barbarically.

“Sorry, Vienna Alcestis, we don’t.” Morta said. “We, do, however, have, er, Campaniae?”

“Champagne.” Decima promptly translated.

Vienna looked around, smiling uncomfortably. She was 14. She had never tasted alcohol before, no matter how light it was.

“We also have cumin soda.” Morta said.

“Don’t worry, it doesn’t have alcohol in it.” Nona said. “Here, we feed our young a mild version of the champagne, but for the intolerant we make a non-alcohol cumin soda.”

A bottle with dark amber liquid materialized out of nowhere, and she found a glass in her cup. Gingerly, she took a sip.

It was fizzy, sweet, and had a slight ting to it. It rather reminded her of a traditional drink in South East Asia, very similar, sold in tiny bottles, cumin soda.

“You may have the bottle, Vienna Alcestis.” Decima says. “But now we have to go. Doyenne Elswyth worships timeliness.”

Morta, Nona, and Vienna nodded meekly.

Decima, seemingly the leader of this misfit quartet, rose into the air.

“Let us go and make our visit.” She said, unaware that she was quoting a poem etched in history deep. Her mother, an university professor, taught at the nearby university and sometimes Vienna would be allowed to sit in on her lessons after she finished high school. Days of looking out the window, at the vibrant azure sky, lush grass and dawdling university students in the dazzling English sunshower came back to her now. The rhythmic cadence of the poem being recited by first her mother, then the students played in her mind as Nona led them to the back exit of the cottage.

Outside Nona’s house, there was a small backyard filled with coarse dark grass and dotted with moonshine marigolds and dusk daisies, in the words of Morta. Guarding the perimeter were haphazard, rough bushes, springing up carelessly. The surrounding neighbourhood seemed just like a casual suburban neighborhood in America or Britain, except toilfully black, and inhabited by spirits, who were now ambling in the air nonchalantly, some gaping at Vienna as if she was three eyed or human, the latter of which she was, of course.

They trudged towards an empty lot with springs bubbling up cumin soda. The lot was absolutely isolated. It seemed like an awfully secluded place for a rest stop.

“Where are we, Sirens?” Vienna asked casually. The sky stretched wide and impossible above, and to a person who had always feared and worshipped the gorgeousness, the godliness and infeasibility of the sky, it seemed even more terrifying now. She stood there, self conscious, on the charcoal gray asphalt, in her pretty princess dress, which five years old fantasized about nearly all the damn time, except they didn’t know how life wasn’t glitter, rainbows and knights in shining armour, you also realized, mostly from firsthand experience, unfortunately, that unexpected stuff happened, in the words of angsty, emotion-riddled teens, like the death of loved ones, a sterile, deserted birthday party, the betrayal of a best friend, and the innocent abduction by impassive, abstract spirits to a parallel dimension in broad daylight. You realized, you experienced, and you kept quiet, because there was nothing you could do about this shitty situation, except lash out, or slip into a quiet depression, like most did, or exit life, and for Vienna that was never an option.

She had always been her own knight in shining armor, she had never needed affirmation for her actions. She had brought out her real personality, her confidence, and taken comfort in writing. She didn’t have a million friends, but the ones she did have were genuine. She ranked top in her class, she made her mother proud. She was a daughter to brag about. Her family was glued together now, everything went well now. She no longer had to retreat into the fictitious world to take refuge from reality. Characters she still adored, but life had taught her to love herself and not her story characters so much. She mostly kept away from the deep end now. She had mostly everything, what more did she want?

No, she had never wanted to off herself.

Meanwhile, the Misfit Trio was huddled over a rusty, overturned bucket gushing out cumin soda. Decima gazed at it with wistful longing, Nona with mere disinterest, and Morta in deep thought. Vienna stood waiting. Minutes passed, 10. Vienna was counting under her breath.

“It’s this one, I’m sure of it.” Morta said finally.

Decima and Nona nodded, still staring.

“Little subtext question, are the eyes just white, or, er, actually blind…” she asked, trailing off, feeling embarrassed.

The spirits turned their gazes, and she smiled slightly, feeling infuriated with herself for slipping in that inconsiderate question.

“No, Vienna Alcestis,” Decima said, unoffended, in the tone people used for slightly immature cousins. “We are not blind, but born this way. We see as well as you do, albeit a tad differently.”

Vienna nodded, distracted by Morta saying, “I’m opening the portal.”

Morta rose a bit, into the air, and she was holding a pearl in her hands, it looked rather strange. The pearl was pulsing like a human heart, and shot through with bluish sheen.

“Careful with that, Morta.” Decima said warningly and grabbed onto Morta.

“Hold on tight, Vienna Alcestis.” Nona said cheerfully and grabbed onto Decima. The Sirens rose into the air, and swirled in a graceful arabesque as they formed a triangular formation. The pearl object marked long, thin white spidery lines between their linked, pale hands (they had hands?) and a vortex, violet this time, opened up in the middle of the triangle, pulsing softly. It smoothened the air fervently, containing stars, moons, galaxies, and everything in between.

Having no choice, she stepped in.