Original Sin (freewrite fiction)
Inside, the siren call slacked off, to be replaced by a single note of harmony that rang across his mind until all fell silent again. Or perhaps he’d just grown accustomed to the siren by now. He flicked off the cigarette butt that still half-dangled from his nicotine-eaten fingers. Shrugged. Opened his eyes.
In passing, he stomped his foot precisely once, right above where the siren should have been. She moved, sometimes, and once, she had even attempted to catch him off-guard. But Patton was never off-guard, couldn’t afford to. If he lost his grip on reality for one split second, she might find a way to take over, might shake him off loose. So he’d caught her before she’d had time to catch him, bringing her down and cradling her in his arms until she could call out no more.
It had been the first time he’d heard the hollow hiss coming out of the siren’s throat, full of grit and hopelessness. And though he hadn’t moved an inch, that sound had frightened him far more than her little surprise attacks ever would. For inside the raspy, voiceless cry that rose out of the siren’s throat, he heard himself, his father too, the loss of all humankind. Whimpering, begging, but in truth, already lost.
These days, he didn’t hear from her all that much, so he dressed in relative silence, other than the tiny rattle of mice and the almost soundless footsteps from below. And as he pulled on his coat made of taffeta, black like his liar’s heart, Patton felt it again. Seeping cold and searing pain dart through his head, splitting his furrowed forehead into two unequal pieces. The sheering pain above his left eye, the numbness that felt like a cancer eating away at something right behind his eye.
Instinctively, his hand came up, his fingers already forming the familiar claw shape that he’d so come to despise. It was a game he played with himself, a game he sooner or later was bound to lose. Would he catch himself in time or would today be the fateful, bloody day?
What was truly ironic about Patton was that he could almost see it, fingers digging deep into the soft that was his eye, dirty gnawed-down nails sinking into the white and pulling hard. Like tying a rope around your tooth to force it come loose. One swift pull and this pain would be over. Then, he would be able to think again, then, the ringing in his ears would stop. It would only take a second, a snap at the teeny red cords that kept his eye in place, and then, a lifetime with a giant hole where his eye should have been. It wouldn’t have been that bad, he could always wear a patch. Men like him were supposed to wear patches, were they not?
Or at least, they would be, if he could for once establish what sort of man he had been. Not a good man, he knew as much as that.
But alas, he caught himself in time, rolled his fingers up into a fist and pushed it into his forehead, as if that might banish the pain from its’ place. He would have liked to leave, to go for a long drive, but he feared his eyesight on such long distance. Nowadays, all he could see before him was narrow, his eye on an invisible leash, always pulled back should it decide to stray too far.
Patton unlocked the door and walked down the stairs almost without looking. He’d come down here so many times, he knew this place like his own heart. If he’d had one.
"Yeah. Not renting saves me a bucketload of money."
It was just their little joke, or rather, just his. He’d often said he could’ve fixed up the place some, rented it out for cash. It had begun in earnest, spoken once as he stumbled drunk down the stairs, in a state of anger. He’d told her perhaps then, he wouldn’t have had to listen to her endless noise. And she’d stared back at him, expressionless, which was in itself cruel. Her face, a complex web of fine lines that just ached to be filled with emotion. Yet, through all her screaming, her pleads, her silences, her face had betrayed nothing.
Image by Enrique Meseguer from Pixabay
By God, she was beautiful, with her long, black mane and her fierce eyes, still, even after all these years spent down below, trapped on dry land, she looked as compelling as she had that first day. Except Patton had known better than to look at her. As soon as he’d heard her spells, he’d closed his eyes, letting the sounds guide him. The throw of his net had been but pure luck and not a day went by when he didn’t think of that, of how different his life might’ve been had he not trapped the siren that accursed day. Lately, he wondered if he would’ve still had this pain behind his left eye, this constant screaming confounded in his mind.
“What’s it called, d’you know,” he said, his voice mollifying, the stabbing sensation in his eye already abating, “the white bit in your eye?”
The siren looked at him, thinking thoughts of sisters long gone-by, though never forgotten, visions of the sea never to be seen again, and all for a mistake that hadn’t even been hers.
“Let me go.”
Whenever he came down here, she spoke of little else, trying in vain to catch his eye. But Patton was clever enough to avoid her. Though taken out of her natural habit, the siren was still powerful and her eyes might be enough to put sick ideas in his brain, thoughts of unwarranted freedom, perhaps, and he couldn’t risk that. By keeping the siren here, he was doing the world a favor, one that the world, in turn, would be grateful for and perennially remember. Left on her own, she would wreck havoc, as her sisters had done for ages.
To him, she was always the siren, though she’d told him her name many times. He’d refused to listen, pushing her back into the darkness whenever she tried to step out into the tiny sliver of light that made its’ way from upstairs.
Patton shook his head, already getting back a trace of his old smile. The pain was gone now, and though he’d never admit it, that’s why he came down here. He knew he’d feel better as soon as he heard her voice, that she could somehow make the demon in his eye falter.
“No, that’s not it. What do they call this?” he asked, playfully running one finger over his own eye, fearless. The storm had passed, he would not rip out his eye this day either.
He took a step into the dark, guessed at her dirty feet and spat. “You’re tiring me. With your incessant pleading and your whining. You’re here and there’s no chance you’re getting out. Because you are a disease upon the world. You kill for fun, you lure innocent men to their deaths. Not so fun now, is it? You will die here, in the dark, starved and without killing another innocent. And I’m so glad.”
With one last look into the shadows and the ache behind his eye now completely gone, he turned and began walking back up the steps. “Bye-bye now,” a mere murmur on his grinning lips. He was ready to begin his day now. As he locked the door to the basement behind him, he noticed there wasn’t a sound coming from his guest. Good, she sometimes had such moments, when she knew her place.
And in the dark, as she listened to his heavy, bear-like footsteps slowly exit the house, the siren curbed her lips.
“Sclera, you bastard.”
He was limping because of a broken toe. He wasn’t quite sure which one, they were so tightly boxed in inside the painstaking shoe, but that didn’t matter now. All would be better once he reached the water and that wasn’t long to go. It had hurt more on the drive up here, always pushing down on it, but Patton had barely felt it.
It was almost as if he was reaching the end of the road and surely, he couldn’t give up now, not because of a measly toe. He wasn’t even sure how he’d broken it. Perhaps he’d stabbed it on the living room table, he sometimes did that. Or perhaps he’d taken a wrong step going up and down the stairs to the cellar. Odd, though, he didn’t remember the moment of impact itself. Perhaps you weren’t supposed to, he told himself, dragging his foot through the sand. It was a windy day and it was too early in the year for revelers. Other than a presumably-abandoned gray tent pitched higher up on the dunes, there was not a soul in sight.
This was good, he didn’t want people watching, because people might call for help. People were helpless, weaklings, always shouting, always wishing they were somewhere else.
He stopped by the water, letting the cold, slow waves soak through the worn-down leather of his shoes. Perhaps he would’ve liked one last cigarette, but no one was asking him. He bent down, clamping his teeth against the jolt of pain that ran up his leg, and took off his shoes. Threw his jacket to the wind and proceeded to take off the rest of his clothes, until he was left standing in nothing but his underwear. Watching the bright red sun rising from beyond the horizon, Patton smiled. For the first time in months, the ache behind his eye was gone completely. No numbness drowning out his thoughts, no more searing pain, as if the disease in his brain had finally gone.
She would have liked to tell him it wasn’t gone, simply mutated. There was no more disease left in his brain, simply because there was no more brain. In his mind, just her, guiding him through the water. And the funny thing was, the siren thought, as she allowed Patton’s body to drop into the cold, she’d never asked for this. In fact, before Patton came along, she hadn’t even questioned it, why she did what she did and whether she could ever refrain from luring men to their perdition.
But now, she understood it was all in her nature. As Patton’s body sunk deep beneath the surface, she smiled. She was, once again, home.