Called by the Siren


Art by LEANNE VILOG/ The Flame


Editor’s Note: This piece is one of the works in a six-part series in line with the Dapitan 2021 theme Captured. All works are written by the Flame‘s Letters staffers.

As Nena grew up from her father’s stories about mermaids, she was warned ever since to never trust them. “Sirens are deceitful,” he always said. 

This time, however, Nena neglects her father’s warning as she tip-toes in the middle of the night to reach the shore. 

Not far from their house, she spots the sharp fins of the mermaid rising from the shallow surface of the water. 

The mermaid looks at her, tilting its head as Nena walks towards her. 

Holding up the hem of her skirt, Nena dips her foot to the water, but as she takes one more step, she looks back into their house. She remembers her drunken mother snoozing with her face pressed against the table; laying on her own purged dinner, gin, and tears. 

Then, as Nena faces the mermaid, the image of her father comes to her mind. She remembers its promise to her the first time they met; it would help her find her father. 

Not long ago, Nena woke up hearing her mother cry out in agony. Outside their house, the tanod breaks the news that her father’s boat was found early in the morning without him in it. As Nena stands by the door, her mother looks at her and shouts, “Wala na ang tatay mo!

No investigation took place. It was clear that her father was taken by the sea monsters who always proclaim that the sea is theirs. With that, Nena imagines her father with bruises on his face as the sea monsters torture him. Some nights, Nena dreamt of his lifeless body sinking in the ocean; rotting with tiny fishes entering all the holes in his body. 

As the image of her dead father stabs through her chest, Nena collapses on her knees, making a big splash in the water. She digs her fingers through the sand in an attempt to hold back her tears. 

Nena looks at the mermaid and says, “Take me to Tatay.”  Immediately, the mermaid offers her hand to her. 

‘No going back,’ Nena thinks. Either she stays and mourns with her miserable mother, or does her best in searching for her father. In her mind, she could hear her father stopping her from coming with the mermaid. Yet, she wraps her fingers around the mermaid’s hand—

The pull was too hard. Nena’s body gets dragged into the water, feeling the limb of her arm as if it is separating from her body. 

Nena looks up to see the moon glaring bright on her. The ocean is not as scary as it usually looks, she thinks. Yet, as she looks down to see a dark abyss of nothingness, her body freezes. Her chest tightens and realizes how she is running out of air. 

She grasps the mermaid’s hand tightly, signaling her suffocation. The mermaid came closer to Nena and pressed its mouth onto hers. Nena tastes the metallic pungent of the mermaid’s mouth, but she could not complain as air is being passed onto her lungs. After a few seconds, Nena’s chest loosens up. 

To Nena’s attention, the sky lets out a web of lightning which steals her gaze—

She sees light coming through her. 

‘It was true,’ she thinks as fear creeps over her. Her life flashes before her as her body freezes from the lightning’s strike. For a while, Nena feels the hot kiss of fire against her forehead; like a cigarette being pressed against it. 

From the gaze of light, Nena closes her eyes as her body softens. This time, the mermaid’s grasp on her loosens as she sinks deeper into the ocean. 

The moon has cursed Nena. That is what happens when a mortal being comes with a mermaid. After all, the moon has cursed the mermaids an eternal solitude. 

As Nena sinks deeper, the mermaid swims to grab her hands. However, the mermaid felt a big block of forcefield push her away from Nena. 

Nena never accomplished her promise to rescue her father from the brute hands of the sea monsters. Her tears immediately mix with seawater as it exits through her closed lids, still consciously feeling the heavyweight upon her chest. 

In her mind, she dreams of an everlasting memory with her father. She imagines both of them sitting by the shore as the golden hour casts orange hues on their skin. All this time, Nena has been cherishing that moment, and forever, she will carry it with her. 

For eternity, Nena will carry the burden of being the fool who hastily dived with a mermaid. Now cursed with an everlasting solitude, she sinks to the deepest and darkest abyss of the ocean; alone for that night and for the coming years until the water erases her completely. F

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