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WARNING: Contains Disturbing Imagery and Themes. Discretion is advised.

She used to be beautiful. Beautiful inside and out in its truest form. She and her sisters would bask on the rocks, bathe in the sea spray, and rule their diamond tides. When man eventually came, they came in large ships with even larger sails. They may have captured the winds, but they were still vulnerable to the sea. At first, she and her sisters would call the men over so they could talk and laugh and love these humans, then send them away happier than ever. But men harbor evil flames in their hearts, and selfishness digs into their minds like maggots. After some time, men came with lewd and monstrous intentions. These men did not sail for the love of the sea, for the joy of the beauty of the sun, wind, and waves. They came for the women of the waves. The first time it happened, they called the men over as innocent as could be. When the men finished with them, they laughed as they climbed on their ship, bragging about their conquest of the maidens of the rock. The waves crashed over the rock, and washed away the tears. And the blood. 


The next time it happened, the women had doubts as the ship, larger than before, approached. But the men on board were young, handsome, and seemed to gaze on them in awe and wonder as before. But youth does not guarantee anything it promises. This time, there were more of them. And the energy of youth made the men stronger and more violent. As the women lay on the rock, they watched helpless as one of their sisters was dragged on board. As the ships sailed away, her pained screams echoed over the water like a lamb at the slaughter. And again, the waves washed away their tears and blood. And it carried away their cries, and pain, and their prayers for protection and mercy. 


It wasn’t long before another ship came. The women tried to hide their beauty with seashells and seagrass. They prayed to the sea, their father, to protect them from these men. And around them the waves began to churn and bubble, with swirling crests as the sky darkened with low, black clouds. Wind rose from the east, and ripped the men’s sails from their masts. Shouts rose in frightened cries as the men stuck oars in to try and control the tides around them. In the middle of the violent hurricane was the women. Their rock sat in a beam of clear sunlight and still water. The men rowed hard against the storm, toward the women. In the ebbs of the waves around them, the women saw dark, craggy rocks hidden just below the surface; sharp and too close together for any ship to pass through safely. An idea sparked in their minds. 


They began to sing. An echoing, ethereal chorus, calling the sailors over. They promised safety, love, food, laughter, and happiness. Words describing their faces and bodies, complimenting the manliness of the sailors and ideas of what they could do together floated through the hurricane to the ship. And the men’s efforts were doubled, tripled, strengthened to god-like power and they pushed to the rock. 


The rocks under the waves shredded the ship’s hull like a shark’s teeth into a seal. The storm was too fierce to change course and at full speed, the ship collided. Wood planks flew into the ocean air like so much confetti, and the water soon began to swallow the vessel. The men cried in shock, fear, and anger. Some blindly jumped into the sea, hoping for safety, and the water turned red where they dove into the rocks below. Others scrambled on deck, trying to make a plan to escape, grabbing ropes and anything they could. The women knew it was futile. And in jeering malice, they sang of hope and survival. The men looked into them and trance-like, they pushed their way off the ship. Some died in the waves. The rest took caution, their nerves wavering. But the song of the women of the sea cleared their minds and the men dove. By luck, they landed in the open water and began to swim to the rock. Their faces were alight with hope. 


The song was a beautiful, echoing melody and when the men reached the calmness around the rock, their feet and worry faded from their faces and their true intentions returned. Lust, greed for flesh, darkened their faces and their smiles widened. The sea born maidens looked at their faces and one man seemed familiar. The captain of the first ship of lustful men. A fire arose in the women and their song rose to a piercing scream, like an eagle or a vulture’s shriek. They began to change. Smooth, white skin turned scabby and erupted in black urchin like spines. The deep ocean blue of their eyes became burning white coals as their graceful hands became bronze nailed claws. Lust died in the men as they realized their hands could not move from the rock as they began to climb it. Their screams filled the air as the women rose like lions on their clawed hands and feet and stalked to the water’s edge. Mouths filled with rows of dagger-sharp teeth opened wider and wider with each step. 


They were beautiful once more as the waves washed away the blood. She and her sisters lounged on the rock. When more ships came, braving the hurricane, they sang and the men would come. And die. It wasn’t until many years later that someone escaped. He’d jumped ship before it crashed and on a wooden plank, he floated away. He looked back as the screaming started and saw it all. Ships came fewer and further in between after that. The women didn’t know, but stories of the beautiful, naked women of the sea became warnings to avoid the rock in the middle of the storm. They had a name now, too. And tales of the Sirens spread around. Some ships that strayed too near didn’t turn to them, did not heed their songs. Men with waxed cotton in their ears and blindfolds over their eyes rowed past and the Sirens fell silent. 


Many ages later, a boat with a lone sailor rowed by. He struggled against the waves and in the chaos, the cotton fell from his ears. He heard them. Their songs were beautiful, full of promises and love. He furiously rowed with the strength of a god through the storm. His boat, able to slide between the crags, reached the rock safe. He looked on her in awe and then fear as she turned from maiden into monster. She and her twin sister tore him apart, his blood was sweeter than any other before. 


A flashing bolt of lightning hit the rock, and where it struck stood a tall man. He wore armor of leather and gold and carried curved swords of heavy steel. Gold rings plated a beard, black and grey as thunderclouds and as long as a century. He stood silent, his sandals soaking in the ocean spray and the blood. The Sirens roared and screeched at the stranger. Armor was hard to get through, but they’d done it before. She and her sister tensed on their haunches, and with gaping mouths, they pounced. 


The man’s eyes glowed like twin suns and light crackled around his sword and his arms. He raised the sword and swung it in a wide arc, catching each Siren in midair. Forked bolts of lightning surrounded the leaping Sirens as the blade sliced at them and, with a force like the winds surrounding them, fired them into the blue ocean. Their shrieks of pain and surprise came out in trails of bubbles as they were pulled deeper into the depths. Down, deeper than light could reach, they hit the bottom of the abyss. Burned by the lightning and crushed by the ocean, the two Sirens died. 


After a century at the bottom of the sea, she and her sister rose up through the water. The pressure around them lessened and the waters went from black to blue and then they breached the waves. They gasped with life and found themselves between two cliffs. The left had an alcove at water level carved into it. On the right was a tall cliff with a large cave halfway up. No more than an arrow’s distance from each other, they swam for the cave, they felt their bodies grow heavier in the water. When they tried to pull themselves onto the cliffs to climb up, they saw. And they screamed. 


“‘City of Angels,’” Ceilia scoffed as she side-stepped over a used condom and cracked red solo cups. It was Sunday night and the remains of the weekend parties filled the beach, boardwalk, and tide. If this was the city of angels, she thought, then Heaven is filled with rats. Back home the beaches were pristine with white and grey sand, and the people respected the coast and sea. Of course, she hadn’t seen the Mediterranean sands for some time now. She’s seen all the unrest, the tourism, the crowds on the internet, and it wasn’t home anymore. She leaned against the pier’s railing and watched the sun set into the waves. Her phone buzzed in the back pocket of her shorts. The first time she put a pair on, she thought they were no more than underwear. With how short they were, she thought, she might as well be as naked as she was on that rock. The screen lit up when she pulled it out. 


-Hey, are you here? I’m at the boardwalk. 


-Yeah, hun. I’m at the end of the pier xoxo




She turned around and watched the man walk up. He was handsome, square jawline with a five o’clock shadow, hair trimmed and styled. He wore a salmon pink button down open over a white t-shirt and tan shorts. She got a little jealous at the shorts men were allowed. Down to the knees with pockets that could swallow a forearm whole. But, if she was to do her job right, survive right, she had to show as much skin as possible. No matter what. The guy smiled with white teeth. 


“Why’d you want to meet out here,” he asked. “You into fucking on the beach?”


“No,” she said. “I just enjoy the water.” Celia turned back to the setting Sun. “Is it not beautiful?”


“Yeah…” he said. “Pretty. Can we get to a room?” She took a deep breath, smelling the brine and fresh air. Then she turned and led him back to the street. It was a couple blocks to the Nightstand Motel and the sun was completely down when they unlocked room 12. He made a beeline for the bed as she walked to the bathroom. “Uh, bed’s here.”


“I’m going to get a little more comfortable. I’ll just be a minute.”


“You’re undressing in there? That’s like getting a gift unwrapped on Christmas,” he joked. 


“You’re still getting a surprise,” she said, stopping at the door. “Don’t worry. There’ll be plenty of unwrapping in a minute.” He shrugged and started to undress as she closed the bathroom door behind her. She looked at the small bathroom. Everything was yellowed with age and excessive chemical cleanings despite the motel being less than a year old. Small pockets of grey dust and slimy black mold above the plastic shower wall reeked of mildew. The toilet clicked and flushed itself from its broken system. Ceilia watched the water swirl around, creating a miniature whirlpool before disappearing down the drain. She hated it. When she and her sister came to America, they did well on the piers of Coney Island. Then, when the business dried up, they followed the coast down to Florida. That place was perfect. Every summer and spring was flooded with thousands of young people partying and lowering their guards and inhibitions. But the kids that went down came from rich families and get noticed when they don’t come home. Investigations are opened, and the first to be suspected are the girls on the corners. 


So Ceilia and her sister had to move on. They followed the Gulf of Mexico, through New Orleans, and hit the Texas state line in late June. Neither of them had a car, and their lack of citizenship and all cash occupation didn’t exactly make dealerships jump at selling them one. So they kept hitchhiking. Two pretty girls on the side of the road get offered a ride rather quickly, after all. But as they stood in a gas station and looked at the mile count from Houston to San Diego, their hearts dropped. “That’s too far,” Ceilia had said. “We can’t make it. Let’s just stay here. Or better, Louisiana. I liked it there.”


“No,” her sister had said. “We stand out too much there. Come on. It will only take a few days. I can make it that long,” she took a long draft from her 2-liter sized water bottle and wiped her forehead. “Come on, let’s try. California is bigger and I want to see the sun set on the water again.”


Ceilia looked at Carrie apprehensively. Her sister was as stubborn as a hurricane and her deep blue eyes were filled with determinism. Ceilia sighed, closed the road map, and put it back on the display rack. The cashier was glaring at them as they stood there. “Come on, sister,” Ceilia said, “let’s pay and get going then.” They left and hitched out west. 


The next few days went okay; Carrie’s thirst being satiated by water bottles refilled every few stops. But as they got to El Paso, things were getting difficult. A long, dry heat wave had hit the southwest and made the air dance in the sun. Kids would take videos on their phones frying eggs on the pavement, and heat advisories blared from every television screen. The shade was sweltering and the two sea nymphs yearned for the coast. Hitching rides grew more difficult too as people became more suspicious of strangers on the side of the roads. So, it took two days for them to get a ride out of El Paso; only to get as far as Las Cruces. 


Carrie spent three nights trapped in the bathroom of a motel in Deming. She clutched at the toilet bowl, her skin clammy and tongue like sandpaper, while her sister spent almost all their money in gas stations and pharmacies for anything that could help. She cursed the gods for their cruelty and cursed the minds that brought the two of them to this hellish land. One night, Ceilia came into their room to silence. Carrie’s gasps, her cries, and the sound of the shower were gone. Ceilia dropped the heavy blue jugs and bags of epsom salt cartons and ran into the bathroom. Her sister was sprawled, naked, on the floor. The toilet bowl was empty and a mere inch of water was stagnant in the tub. Ceilia screamed and grabbed her limp sister and hauled her into the tub. Carrie was barely breathing, what came out were dry, rasping heaves. Her lips were a cracked, bloody mess. Ceilia twisted the knobs, but no water came out. She ran back and grabbed the water jugs, confused and scared. Then, she spied the note on the front door. 




Due to the current heat advisory, and extremely high water usage, all water usage must be approved of by management. Water intake has been shut off until further notice. We apologize for any inconvenience. 

Sunnydale Inn Management


Her heart sank. Their only oasis was truck stop bathrooms and this place. All around them was miles and miles of desert sands and blistering heat. She slammed the door and hauled back to the bathroom. Carrie labored to breathe, the water barely visible beneath her cramped, bloated body. How long ago did the water stop? Ceilia thought as her fingers slipped on the water jug cap. The things weighed a hundred pounds in her trembling arms. She forced some stillness and strength into her hands and twisted the cap off. She knelt down and tipped the water over her sister. She poured the first two bottles over her sister, then pulled Carrie into a sitting position. Carrie’s groans cracked in her throat and Ceilia trembled as she brought the third bottle to Carrie’s broken lips. The awkwardness of the position, and her sister’s limpness, made the water splash over Carrie’s face and fall into the tub. Ceilia’s tears fell on her sister’s still face. 


“Pl…please, sister. Drink. It’ll…it’ll be okay. It’ll be okay. C…come on. You can do it.” Carrie’s eyes stared unblinkingly and blindly up as the water poured over her. Ceilia cradled her sister for hours in that bathroom. 


Ceilia sniffed and stood up, looking away from the toilet. She undressed and wrapped the ocean blue towel around her torso. She took one more look in the mirror, then opened the door. He was sitting, naked, on the edge of the bed.


“About time,” he said, standing up. He casually stroked his half-hard cock as she smiled and sauntered toward him. 


“All good things,” she said, taking hold of him. He grabbed the towel and pulled it apart. The towel fell to their feet. Then he fell back, screaming in horror. 

Her belly and waist contorted, stretched and opened, taking the form of three dog-like heads. The flesh was torn and raw around the jagged broken-bone-like teeth in the lipless snouts as they snapped and growled. Her silky legs came together and fused into the thick tail of a sea serpent. Scabs erupted and crusted her once smooth skin like scales as she grew and morphed. Her head and arms became dragon-like heads on long serpentine necks. The heads writhed and hissed with mouths like venus fly traps, and acid dripped and sizzled into the carpet. The woman who was beautiful, a sea born Siren, arced over the man on the bed. Her nine heads bellowed a mournful and terrible roar. As blood splattered the room and soaked the bedsheets, the words of the lightning eyed god’s curse echoed in Scylla’s mind.


You and your sister will die west of the sunset. When the ocean has deserted your throats, and no one will remember your beauty. Forever more, you will be a monster.

art by Kim Holm (@denungeherrholm)

Text Copyright © Maximillion Almgren-Bersie 2023

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