I Sing

by Anastasia Kirchoff

The men passing by, they believe that I sing for them. This is their unwavering creed, that everything exists to be conquered. A human woman’s laugh. Her smile and thoughts. That secret place between her thighs. I am not human nor a woman, even if I resemble one.

I sing because I love the sea. I love the roiling waves, the great cascading equalizer. I love the flash of the sun on the water and the glint and glimmer of it on my silver skin. The sea is home to more creatures and secrets than men can imagine. If they fear me, it’s only because they haven’t yet found anything more appropriate to fear.

The men on the ship are covered in hair and the smell of the dirt that they need to survive, and the skins of the land-dwelling animals they have slain. They sail because they believe even the sea belongs to them, suited though they are for the land. Just a bit of salt and water in their lungs and they sink like stones to a watery grave. But they will press on and invade, even people of far-off civilizations are not safe. They will seize homes, hijack crops, impose their religions. Their culture will spread like the disease of the rats I hear scuttling below decks of their ship.

Some believe that we sing for our father, because we fear his wrath. We are influenced by our parents, the same as any children. They have fear that they press upon us as expectations. We have pride and insecurity and self-righteous rebellions. My wings are inherited, but they do not mean that I have to fly. I do not sing because I must, because even a monster is not devoid of choice.

We could try to warn the sailors of their folly and bid them return to their families. But we do not. Men go to great lengths to deafen themselves. They gawk as they pass, their great wide faces seared from the sun, stocky shoulders hunched, calloused hands gripping the bow and sides of the ship to hold themselves in check. We could find the hate in their eyes offensive or amusing, but to us it is nothing. They reduce us to an obstacle on their journey, a barrier to vault which renders the prize they seek even more coveted. For us their deaths inspire new music.

Our song builds into an unhurried crescendo. The melody is grinding stones, the gale of prideful winds, the screeching of well-fed birds and the great inhalation of a receding tide. Our song is what the sea might say if given a voice that could be heard by mortal ears. And if mortals would listen.

My sisters and I watch as a sailor struggles with his companions. Intoxicated, he bloodies the nose of a friend and leaps into the churning sea. He swims towards us but already he is sinking, clothes turning to lead, lungs gasping and failing, square heavy boots kicking futilely against the icy grip of the undertow.

We are unmoved as the waves begin to crush him, the sea reasserting itself, pressing him down towards where the world turns opaque. His struggles become more frantic, primal, then transform into a paroxysm of fear born of survival instinct. With their fingers stuffed in their ears, the captain and his men look at us with a hatred that is infectious and absolute, the kind of anger that burns hot enough to survive generations, bleeding from father to sons, the kind of festering grief that can topple empires. We will be there to see all this realized, and they will not. They will be bones in the ground in the lands that they traded their lives for, scraps of moldering clothes and dust, the new generation trodding upon them, and then that generation will fall and rot alongside them. Even then, we will be here, and we will be singing. And even then, our song will not be for them.

Anastasia Kirchoff lives in the Twin Cities of Minnesota where she unsuccessfully tries to avoid being cold. She loves fantasy and hates key lime pie.
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