This weeks prompt:22. Mermaid Legend—Encyc. Britt. XVI—40.
This Week’s Research:The Siren Song
Almost fifteen years since I last was south of the border,a little envelope floats in from Uncle Guiles asking if I can come down to coastline to the shore. He needs help managing his fishing business, it says. Only descendant not to call the police on him, it says. Normally I wouldn’t give it a second thought. Living alone with a slightly paranoid septuagenarian surrounded by rotting fish was a childhood nightmare.
But there was a pressing argument to leave town at the time. I had made a few promises I couldn’t keep, and had perhaps thrown my end of them into the sea out of some instinctual spite. And while that was understandable to myself, the other end of the arrangement wasn’t too happy.
It was an opportunity, I reasoned as I packed my bags and began the thousand mile southern drive. A chance to go to a foreign country and remote location, where the only person who knew me well was a loon with a gun who trusted non-family as far as he could through him. So in my borrowed car, I parked at the nearest entrance.
Locals told me that Uncle Guiles(or Rabid Rob, as they called him) lived off between some cliffs. The place wasn’t reachable by car, sand was too wet. You had to go at low tide by foot, and carefully so as not to slip into the sea. It was a far cry from his hillside house when I was little.
It hurt the eyes to look at for starters. Big house made of cobbled together concrete blocks and sheets of metal riveted on. There were some hunks of driftwood arranged into something resembling a patio, but it looked like whoever made had heard of houses, and perhaps dimly glimpsed on through a broken telescope, and then set to work. That fool of man came hobbling out to greet me almost as soon as I rounded the corner.
“Davey! There you are. Was worried you’d gotten lost along the way. How’s the States?” he said gesturing for me to follow him through a sheet metal door that had a red circle spray-painted on it. The inside was surprisingly cool, although the entrance shook with every step. The hallways were occasionally line with “artful” bits of driftwood spray painted primary colors and with seashells hanging from them on fishing line.
“As always, tearing themselves a part. You build all this yourself?” I asked as we entered what the living room. I admit, I was surprised it had real furniture.
“You know it. Can’t let anyone know the layout who isn’t living here. When it all comes crashing down, they might break in.”
“Right, right, makes sense,” I said putting down my bags down. “So, fishing giving you trouble?”
Before he could speak, there was a groan from the floor that shook the house. It wasn’t a pleasant sound, girders grinding down. Uncle Guiles paused for a moment, listening careful to the noise, his eyes drifted up to corner. It stopped after a bit, and his eyes slowly falling back.
“Oh don’t mind that. Tides and waves, they sometimes slip under the sand near the basement, shake things around. Doesn’t break the rock and foundation just shifts it around,” he said, waving his hands to shoo away any questions. “Must just be tide changing is all. Anyway, fishing, sort of. I need someone to go into town for me, errand you know? I got a nice bit saved away, but someone needs to collect the paperwork and the groceries and the like.”
I nodded along. Simple enough it seemed.
“Anyway, that’s what I need mostly. A go between with me and the main land. But that’s enough business for now. We got until low tide comes back in the morning to work that all out. Let me show you around some.” He said, gesturing. The groaning below got louder.
The rest of the, dare I call it, house was in various states of disrepair or mid-construction. There was a thin layer of sand everywhere. But kitchen was something like clean, with clay plates and some store bought knives. The table was impressive, in that a couple hunks of scrapeyard metal resembled a proper dinning apparatus. Still, Uncle Guiles’s pride in it all was contagious.
The tour ended with the upstairs, where to my delight the bed was more than some piled together straw. I nearly collapsed on the mattress, and probably would have fallen asleep at Uncle Robinson’s chuckling if it weren’t for the still audible groaning and moaning from the walls. It seemed almost louder with more wall to resound off of.
Uncle Guiles again assured me it was just some shifting girders, nothing much to worry about. The foundation was secure and solid stone.
We stayed up a bit late that night, drinking the moonshine Uncle Guiles called beer. It was nice, for a moment, to enjoy a beer and only hear the crashing of the waves against the cliffs. In a drunken stupor, Uncle Robinson gestured for me to follow him back into the living room, to “see his treasure”.
Laughing all the way about the numerous innuendos that phrase has, I stumbled into the clattering room. It was barely lit by a lamp Uncle Guiles carried as he stumbled with the little lock. With a scrapping creak it opened up.
“What you have, some more seashell art?” I asked peering around. And then I saw them.
Behind a set of fishing nets, jewelry like you wouldn’t believe. Golden combs with inlaid pearls, necklaces with coral woven into the gold. I’ve seen lots of jewelry in my former line of work, I honestly have. But this was something else, something amazing.
“Christ, what are you doing hiding in a shack like this?” I said blinking, a moment of soberity installed by the wonder of it all.
“What, and part with it? There so beautiful, I couldn’t bear it, couldn’t bear it if they were anywhere else. Maybe when I’m gone, I’ll leave’em to someone else.” He said, reaching through and gently stroking one of the combs. The now constant hum seemed to drop in pitch a bit as he did so. Some part of me thought the sea felt him, and disliked him for it.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I could still hear the groaning, only now I faintly made out words, and pitches. A melody. I got up and paced a bit. The noise continued though, and peering through what passes for windows. The tide was going out again, seashells piling along the sides. Strange, the song was still coming from within.
It was then I realized I hadn’t seen the basement yet. Carefully stepping down the stairs, raising my foot to avoid making any more sounds. The sound grew louder and louder. But beneath it I heard someone murmuring something. I stood perfectly still on the last stair.
“That’ll do for tonight, my little fish, that’ll do. I’ll see you in the morn.”
I heard Uncle Guiles foot steps, heading into the kitchen. Quietly, I slipped around and saw the basement door open a jar. The noise, now a clear multi melody song. Deep and high, and pained. I found a lantern hanging beside the door, and gripping it, I opened the door slowly.
The flames reflection flickered back at me in a hundred eyes, a flickering multitude of pitiful forms. They resembled women of a sort, with the lower half of seals. Their teeth, needle like, showed as they made their strange song. Some had flickering blue lights along their hair and tails, some had spines like a lionfish. And …things, things like children with smooth eel skin peaked out between them. Little bits of fish and bones were scattered on the floor and hanging out of their mouths. And all their eye stared into mine.
I stumbled more than stepped back. The lantern swung and I felt it slip. As I frantically reached out to catch myself, I saw its little flame and oil splash about as it fell. The glass shattered, and the fire spread across it. The drift wood ornaments began to catch, making torches. The metal was heating up too, I could feel sweat running down my brow.
In a short while, there was shouting from the kitchen. Uncle Guiles, well, there was no saving him I decided. He’d either sort himself out or suffer the price of building such a shoddy place. That being sad, the second thought that ran through my head was the gold. I leapt over flame and between netting to get to it. The iron closet, the jewelry. Uncle Guiles was shouting something, I couldn’t make it out over the now angry song and his own constant coughing.
“Sorry it didn’t work out, I’ll meet with you later, thanks!” I shouted, pocketing all I could carry and running out. The tide had retracted, but I was exhausted. I tripped, I hate to say, I tripped and the gold fell into the see. And then came the most awful sound.
Locals will confirm this part of the story, but even without them, I know what I saw. The sea roared, roared with an angry dirge. A wave rose, over a dozen feet tall, right in front of the now blazing house. AS I pulled myself to my feet, I saw Uncle Guiles running from the house, screaming. Hundreds of hands waited for him in the waves, grabbing and tearing at his skin. A thunderous voice, a chorus coming to Holt’s Neptune the Magician came bursting from the crowd.
Later that morning, it will be found, the newspapers reported a particularly large mass of metal and concrete washed ashore without explanation. I made my peace with his few dependents, and took possession of a safe box with a little over a hundred American dollars. I decided that perhaps a remote mountain peak would serve me instead.
Well, the corpses ill gotten gains had a tale to tell. What did you find dear brothers and sisters?
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