Friday, June 10, 2016

Flash Fiction Friday: "Heartsong" Part 4 of 7


Kellan found that resting in the water was actually quite comfortable... At about the same time he discovered that being tied by his ribs to the cage was not.
He jerked awake at the realization that most of his body hurt, yet the upper portion of his body could not move or shift his position. His legs swung over empty air; where had the water gone? Kellan groped with his feet till he found purchase in the wall behind him. Bracing with his heels, he could push up and ease the pressure on his rib cage. He glanced down. In the dark cavern it was hard to tell, but he could barely make out the subtle reflection of the water's surface deep below him. No water meant no siren; did this mean he was stranded here inside a rock somewhere, with no hope of rescue? Kellan reached forward and tested the bars of his cage. They gave just the merest bit when he applied as much pressure as he could. Perhaps there was a chance he could escape after all. He reached to the wall behind him and felt for any loose rocks among the protrusions. He found one with a particularly sharp edge. By setting the edge against one side of the crosspiece, he could scrape away at the rusted, weakened metal.
Ten minutes later, his stomach began to wrench and pull terribly; it had evidently been some time since he had eaten—but without access to his captor, he had no food. His efforts on the bar had only succeeded in marking the surface. He would be in this cage for hours before he could make any kind of progress. Kellan closed his eyes to forget his hunger, and immediately began to dream.

In his dream, he stood in the hold of the ship, watching as a storm pounded outside and the seawater seeped through the boards of the keel. Thunder pounded and water poured in as Kellan slowly sank deeper and deeper—

He awoke, coughing and spluttering, and his head connected with something hard and hollow. Kellan opened his eyes. A barrel floated up near his head, gently bumping against him as the water shifted around it. The water in the cavern had returned, and Kellan cracked open the barrel, wondering if the previous experience of hanging in midair had been some sort of hunger dream.
The first barrel held more tack, and even some twists of dried meat to gnaw on. Kellan wolfed down the food and pushed the barrel aside. Sure enough, the strange siren treaded with her face just above the water. She stared at him for several moments, as she had before, while Kellan opened a second barrel. This one contained a dry suit of clothes. Kellan glanced at the ones he now wore, what with their constant state of waterlog, and wondered aloud, "So what am I supposed to do with these?"
She dipped her head so that her mouth was underwater. She sang, and he pictured himself, hanging above the water as he had before, this time wearing the dry, fresh clothes. She also hung another barrel and a jug of water on the bars, above the water level and within arm’s reach; by her song, she made him to understand that this would be his rations for when she could not bring him food. The cavern stood on the brink of a tide, so when it went out far enough, the cave emptied and she could not come.
He stared at the creature; with her stringy hair and scaly skin, the initial effect was garish and terrifying—but underneath, he could almost sense something humanlike. She was curious, and very careful in her manner, for a malevolent man-killer.
Kellan ate the food that she gave him, saving the last few bites for after a conversation, as he often tried to do.
“Will you tell me your name?” he asked her.
The siren hesitated a moment, then sang a few long and mournful notes.
Kellan wagged his head with a rueful smile. “I thought as much; I can’t really understand what you’re trying to say.” He lifted his head and looked at her. “I am going to call you Melody, because you’re always singing; is that all right?”
She sang nothing, which Kellan took for an affirmative answer. He took a single bite, careful to leave more, and asked her, “Can you tell me what has passed since the storm?”
The siren twisted a serpentine pattern in front of him, and sang a song of the surface. Kellan beheld visions of ships and men searching the waters for something, and the sight of a long, narrow sea-casket plunging into the water—a casket with his own name carved into the lid. His family took him for dead, then; perhaps they thought him perished in the storm. Melody sang of a few other merchant ships taking his father’s route—but ships he did not know. She had witnessed a celebration of some sort, and Kellan realized he had missed the annual Carnival he enjoyed so much. Based on the date of his fateful sea voyage, he had been absent at least four days, then. Who knew how much longer the siren would detain him? What would he be made to do, when she had waited long enough?
He cast a suspicious eye over the siren as she wriggled back and forth, peering at him curiously from all angles.
“Why are you doing this?” he demanded yet again, as he had every chance he got. “When will you release me?”
Melody lunged at him, fire in her pale eyes and fury in her features. She bellowed a song that made Kellan cringe and squeeze his eyes shut as he covered his head with his arms. Her voice pierced him through the chest, and her message was clear enough for him to comprehend as actual words, though she had not spoken: “When your heart sings, you shall be free.” When he opened his eyes again, the siren was gone.

Further Reading:
-"The Glow" (A 3-Part Story)