Okay, the Illusion is, I'm not actually here today. It's a trick of smoke and mirrors. :) I actually posted at TeenShiver yesterday, so that's my post for the week. If you are on submission w/publishers, or plan to be in the future, hop over and find out the six steps a MS goes through and has to pass before the actual OFFER is offered.
Onto the Fusion part of my title. A very sweet angelic pal (with a halo of lovely ringlets to prove it) has an awesome series going on at her adorable blog, The Inner Owlet. It's called Fusion. A.M.'s description of the project: "Tell me what you want your story to be about. Together we'll create a short story combining your idea and my words."
I tried to challenge A.M. with a different concept for our story. I thought I was being tricky, because I didn't give her an idea. I just gave her three pictures, and four nouns.
What she gave birth to is both lovely and morbid. Which makes it the perfect candidate for hanging out at my blog. ;)
A.M., take it away, my dear!
~by A.M. Springer
Rocks cracked and crumbled as they screeched at one another. Deadened plants already withered by winters cruel touch disintegrated and dusted the clean snow with ashes.
Anita, eldest sister of the remaining sirens, looked around at her squabbling siblings. Each had black feathers tucked in their hair, and their noses all looked rather beakish. Disgust curled her lips. “Silence,” she hissed. The forest quieted. Nine pairs of eyes turned to her, and Anita waited until she’d looked each creature in the eye before continuing. “We cannot afford to stand here and debate. We only have until moonrise to find a human, sisters. Let me make this choice simple: west or west. Choose.”
Defiance clouded each girls gaze, but Anita ignored that and turned west, towards the closest human town. They would follow. She let her arms spread, her body change. The magic cast upon her by a blighted human of centuries past seized her, and feathers sprouted from her once-pristine skin. A beak grew where her delicate nose had been. Claws crippled her hands.
As a raven, a black beast of dark omen, she swept toward the crowded city. Night fell like a curtain across the forest she’d called home for most of her life. Animals scurried away from her shadow, sensing her sinister nature. Squawks and croaks caught the wind, and Anita glanced over her shoulder in time to see her sisters swoop through the air in looping whirls. The silly creatures didn’t have the sense to be afraid. They didn’t realize how weak they were becoming.
A mewling howl wrenched Anita’s attention away from her siblings. A baby… it was a baby. Someone had ventured into the park near their home! A black baby carriage with old-fashioned wheels was parked near the lake.
Using her compact body, Anita careened toward her victim’s child. No parent would leave such a helpless creature alone! How easy this trip had turned out to be! A loud caw ripped free of her beak, and victory arched her wings as she dramatically descended upon the ancient carriage.
Anita spread her talons and glared around, daring the baby’s parents to scream and shoo her away. Come save your precious offspring, mortals! Come and let me sing to you…
But no one emerged from the snow-laden bushes. No shrieks or howls of outrage reached her. Only a soft gurgle. Anita cawed again, and then screeched up at her sisters to fly around the area. Surely the wayward parents were near.
The sirens needed to feed. Only the soul of a mortal, sucked out and consumed with the siren’s song, would sustain them, and they only had one evening a year in which to find their food. They had unwisely fed from a witch’s husband many years ago, and she, wretched woman, had cursed them.
Cruel creatures, your voices are as rotten as the hearts of scavengers and thus you will become. Ancient Gods formed you and claim your deaths as their own, yet I will bind your appetites to one short evening. Feed beyond that and condemn your bodies to resemble your ashen souls.
Blasted curse. Growling as no normal raven could, Anita glanced down into the baby’s carriage.
Surprise loosened her grip on the iron frame, and she almost plummeted to the icy ground. A porcelain doll with a cracked face leered at her. One glass eye was missing, and the other was encircled with soot or dirt. The toy’s tiny face reflected the age of the carriage, yet a newborn infant lay nestled into the contraption. A grimy blanket swaddled the baby, its color mirroring crushed rose petals. Anita squawked. Poor kid. The parents obviously had no taste…not that it would matter soon.
Humming in anticipation, Anita glanced to the sky. Her sisters flew overheard and croaked disappointing news; no other humans were near. Their voices split the air and then softened back into oblivion as the moon’s face peeked over the horizon, proving their time was short. Defeat and anguish plucked at her heart. She, eldest of the sirens, had failed. She’d doomed her sisters to a slow death.
A caw of sadness clogged her throat and a ragged half-sob broke the frozen silence of the forest. Her sisters all murmured their love, their forgiveness, but death clung to their raven tongues. They’d not live out the year without sustenance.
Laughter swirled on the wind.
Anita felt nine pairs of eyes turn toward her, and she, in turn, looked to the baby. No longer cushioned between the hideous doll and the plush blanket, now it stared up at her with a smile.
Had it…heard them? Could human children hear a siren’s voice? Did such small creatures have souls?
Anita let one long breath warm her chest before crooning to the infant. Hope fluttered beneath the ebony wings protruding from her body, bushing them out like a scared cat’s tail. The child dribbled drool down its chin, then giggled. Miniature hands reached up and tried to clutch at Anita’s clawed toes.
Pushing into the air proved challenging, but, once aloft, Anita let her feathers retract. Ice formed diamonds on her skin and her breath clouded around her face. Her human eyes detected a blue tinge to the baby’s face.
Croaking timidly, Anita sang tunelessly for the abandoned child. Her cursed throat stumbled over the notes of a lullaby, but the baby didn’t seem to notice. Happy gurgling washed over the snowy forest and filled Anita’s soul with the nourishment she’d been so long denied.
Her sisters dropped to the ground and huddled close. Each girl joined in the erratic humming, all trying to please the infant. Anita watched lines of hunger fade from around their eyes. She watched the beakish noses slim, returning every face to its former glory. Each girl outshone the next in an endless circle of beauty.
Faint moonlight glittered on their skin.
Spinning in alarm, Anita watched the luminous globe inch toward its zenith. If caught outside at the peak of its trip across the sky, the sirens would crack and whither to dust, much like the rocks and plants they’d encountered upon leaving their cave. No one would mourn their passing from legend to myth.
Anita shoved her sisters roughly back into the sky and turned to grab the baby. Its laughter wobbled, then stopped. Small sniffles protruded from the blanket-wrapped bundle, but Anita didn’t think to comfort her newest obligation. She ran back toward home, wheezing as ice formed in her lungs. How the infant was still alive in this cruel cold, she had no idea.
It was lucky that the horrible parents of this mortal had left it so near Anita’s home. The caves she haunted most of the year were the reason the forest was deserted – toxic gas had been excavated while miners had searched for coal. The noxious poisons had long-since evaporated, yet still humans avoided the area. It made feeding difficult every year. But, somehow, this baby was a meager distance from their home.
A black hole in a snowy hill up ahead resonated with the wretched voices of her siblings. They were singing for her! Anita clutched her bundle and stretched her legs, but as the cave came closer, a tingling sensation tickled the back of her head.
Her body lurched into the darkness of the cave. Cool air whipped around, but the icy death of winter stayed beyond the cave’s entrance. Anita gently set the infant down and watched the creepy doll slide to the floor. She reached down to pick it up but gasped before her fingers touched the horrid thing. Cracks lined her hands. The porcelain face mocked her with its disfigured beauty in comparison.
Anita reached her trembling fingers to her face and dug her nails into the crevices deepening there. Her sisters screeched and screamed, but Anita just looked at the baby. Its smooth face had lost the blue tinge of cold and its eyes watched her with too much sadness.
As her skin crumbled, Anita crooned for the infant one last time…
I shiver in delight each time I read that last line!
If any of you are interested in A.M. writing a Fusion for you, please hop over here for her email addy.
Thank you for coming by today, and have a fabulous rest of the week and weekend!