Confessions of a Siren Singer
Artistic Demons 3
by Irene Radford
Can a Siren switch from luring men to their deaths to healing the world before the International Guild of Demon and Vampire Hunters comes down on her pretty head?
The StormMother is unleashed, and she is angry.
Tiamat, ancient goddess of chaos and creation has decided to clear the world of human infestation–but she needs help. Only her descendant Celia Fisher, a Siren, has the magical power to aid her.
Celia is more interested in becoming a Broadway star than in her archaic Siren heritage. But when two fellow contestants in a reality TV competition drown during a freak thunderstorm and a werewolf threatens her–a Hunter from the International Guild of Demon and Vampire Hunters steps in.
Determined to prevent old demons like the StormMother from wreaking havoc in today’s world, the Guild sends Dylan McQuilleran to be Celia’s bodyguard.
Except Dylan has a problem. His last surgical and chemical augmentation has gone haywire, giving him blinding migraines. His cover story as head publicist for the TV competition keeps him close to Celia while the Guild finds a cure.
But can he resist the lure of a Siren long enough to save her life–and his own?
I held my breath, one, two, three, and gently pressed the false eyelash to my lid, felt the adhesive cling to the sensitive skin, and…
A sneeze gathered. My face twitched. The lash slid to the inside, decorating my nose with spider legs.
“Storm coming,” my back-up singers said in unison.
My insides trembled from the warning. I couldn’t hope to battle or control a big storm from the basement dressing room of a small Las Vegas nightclub.
Brittney and Joycelyn knew that those words were as much a curse as a warning. We shared this dressing room as we shared everything, from hairbrushes to clothes to sensitivity to weather changes.
The girls were really my nieces but raised with me as if we were triplets.
The one thing we hadn’t shared was our reaction to the recent plague vaccine. They’d breezed through the procedure last month while I still had a red welt on my upper left arm.
The vaccine didn’t like my siren blood any more than the plague did, but I couldn’t perform in public without proof of vaccine. As we stepped onto the stage a black light would flash across us and the light sensitive dye in the injections would flare briefly as proof to the audience.
“Another storm, Celia?” Brittney wailed. “So soon?”
“That’s three times already this winter.” Joycelyn sighed deeply, heaving her ample bosom high above the constrictions of her red spangled bodice. The men in our audience fully appreciated the moments when she needed a deeper breath. Sometimes they were rewarded. Mostly not. In Las Vegas, few cared. But they loved the anticipation.
“It’s winter. Even Las Vegas suffers from rain and wind upon occasion,” I replied, ripping the false lashes free of my nose and reapplying a few drops of glue. I needed to show my sisters calm in the face of a storm, like I always did, not the quivering mass of gelatin that my belly had become.
This storm was something more than the usual clash of air masses over the desert in late February.
“It’s called a monsoon,” Joycelyn grumbled. She shivered too, like she had caught some of my own anxiety.
“I thought we’d moved to the desert so we’d be as far from the sea as possible.” Brittney looked longingly to her blue lace woolen shawl on the rack with her street clothes.
Lately wind and rain, born of our great-grandmother, the StormMother, the goddess Tiamat of old, (we called her Mummy because the generations got confused and tangled) threw temper tantrums, that flooded the streets too often.
Call it climate change if you must. We three, born of a siren, knew better.
During a storm, water calls to water even more than usual.
Lake Mead, hundreds of thousands of gallons of water trapped behind a flimsy dam, lay to east of the city. I could feel its longing to join the storm.
The itch at the tip of my nose crept upward. I held my breath to avert another sneeze. Gradually the itch dissipated. Another deep breath and I was free of the storm portent.
A distant grumble rolled across the horizon. If lightning accompanied it, I couldn’t see or feel it in this windowless basement dressing room.
“Do we need to alert management to gear up for a power outage?” Brittney asked. “That one three weeks ago was a doozy.” She stood before her own lighted mirror and added a tiny dusting of glitter powder to her cleavage.
I checked my own chest above the sparkling white gown and the artful airbrushing that gave a visual suggestion that my own boobs were bigger than they were.
“Never hurts to be prepared,” I murmured.
“Two minutes, girls,” Gus the stage manager called. “Places.”
I took a swig of water and gargled lightly. My backup singers did the same. We each warbled our favorite warm-up vocalizations. Thirty seconds later we marched out of the dressing room, down the dimly lit cement corridor, up a set of stairs with a metal tube railing that near froze my fingers. The inefficient air conditioning was aimed incorrectly, again, to chill the railing but not the stairwell.
As I turned at the landing to climb the last half story, I felt like I walked into a wall of water. Not the soft, warm welcome of a tropical sea. No, this was the cold, unrelenting push against humidity from a different location, a different coastline, and different climate.
My nose twitched again, so aggressively I was glad I wasn’t looking into a mirror. My sisters would have crossed themselves and quit this gig, if they saw my nose pull a Samantha witch wiggle. We were all a generation, or more, removed from sea magic. Still I had the greater talent for it than the girls.
That coming storm was a big one and I was pretty sure it was going to hit directly overhead.
Time to pull out all the stops. We stood in a line, arms around each other’s waists, me in the middle, a unified trio, promising amazing harmonies.
“Plan B,” I whispered.
My girls looked at me with raised eyebrows. Then they nodded. “Just give us the pitch and the opening phrase and we’ll follow,” Brittney said.
I gave Mitch, our pianist, a two-handed Vulcan salute. He lifted his lip in a sneer. If I hadn’t worked closely with him for six weeks, I might have interpreted his expression as one of disgust. Instead, I knew he merely concentrated on a new placement of hands and calling up the muscle memory of a different set of chords and tones.
The curtain lifted before me. The black light panned across the stage highlighting our vaccination wounds. Then spotlights blazed, blinding me to the audience. Just as well. I didn’t lust after enchanting men to blindness of their own thoughts and actions.
The wind outside this nightclub whipped to a new frenzy. The storm sought me. I sent my mind wandering through the web of winds, seeking its source. The note vibrating at its core, stabbed my heart and weakened my limbs with loving languor. By force of will alone I matched the tone in a single high C#.
A piano note softly joined me, then it followed through with a third and a fifth below that. My girls joined the chord, each taking a lower note to support me. With their underpinning intact, I burst forth with an ancient sea chanty I hadn’t dared to sing for ages. It had a million verses I could adapt to the circumstances.
Water calls to water.
In Las Vegas there wasn’t a lot of water to support the storm. It had to draw power from a different source. A source I would never acknowledge again. I had no compunction against stealing a mere storm from it.
What do you do with a drunken sailor?
Tie him to the mast and let him sing to the mother…
I heard a chuckle in the back of the room, a deep masculine exhalation of mirth. “Never that much water in Vegas!” he proclaimed.
Lightning exploded outside. The building shook.
Hysterical cries as my audience cowered.
The lights flickered. A unified cry of dismay.
I pushed more force into my song, shifting easily from the perils of the sea to a song about roses blooming in the spring. The lights died. Candles in jars on each table flickered cheerily.
The calming scent of spring roses filled the room and my senses.
Even I could not channel electricity through broken wires to feed hungry lightbulbs and voracious amplifiers. But I could keep the audience from fleeing in panic, stampeding each other, and letting the storm win.
This battle was between me and the StormMother herself.
Leave these people alone!
Mortals should die. Return to me, the wind keened overhead.
I shifted the song to a recollection of hot summer days, swimming, surfing, loving in the sand.
The wind slackened in confusion. Mummy pulled it one way; I coaxed it another.
Mummy shook herself free of my spell. The windows rattled. A car alarm pierced the beauty of the tune I wove around my anxious audience. Emergency vehicle sirens ramped up in response.
I heard Brittney falter in her harmony, unnerved by the closeness of the StormMother.
Joycelyn, bless her, strengthened her own notes to fill in the gaps.
Water calls to water. It also follows the path of least resistance and there was a bloody mountain between us and the lake. How could I direct the water-laden clouds to find the only water-laden land away from the city?
My blood wanted to burst free of my skin and create channels for rainwater to drain back into the Colorado River. I couldn’t open a vein on stage, inside a cement building. I needed to be out there to fully battle this storm.
If I emerged from the building the wind would circle me, forming a tornado to lift me back into the bosom of the StormMother.
I wasn’t yet ready to make that sacrifice.
Since the time before Ulysses, all my mother’s kind had been born of a water nymph and a god, or a king, or a god-like hero.
Because of Mom and my mortal father, I had access to waters the StormMother never dreamed of. Fresh water answered me as much as the sea responded to her.
This hole-in-the-wall nightclub hadn’t renovated everything the last time a new owner came in. The water cooler between the ladies and the gents was still a glass bubble. Heavy glass to be sure. But full.
I look the last note about summer fun up and up and up again until it resonated with the glass, almost above human hearing. I urged the clouds to evaporate.
My throat grew dry, burning harshly. The top of my head threatened to lift free of my body.
I had to set that bubble of water free to attract the storm center to me and my control.
And still I held that piercing note.
Customer’s drinks slopped all over the tables as glass containers shattered.
And still the cooler resisted.
The storm wavered in confusion.
Mummy, drat her, pushed harder, forcing wind and rain to obey her.
Another octave up and finally the cooler succumbed to the irresistible power of my voice. It crumbled with a low rumble akin to the thunder circling the city.
Thunder roared closer.
Lightning struck another power pole.
Water from the cooler fled the scene, seeking out all the creeks and streams and artificial aqueducts. Down, down, down the path of least resistance it escaped, seeking to merge with all the other water and hide from my voice.
The rain followed, pulling the clouds with it.
But the wind still shrieked at the StormMother’s command, ripping the roof clear of this building, leaving me open to the sky.
I tingled from my hair to my bones from the electricity in the air. I knew what was coming and held up both hands, palms upward, pushing back with my will, my magic, and my voice.
Sleep my child and I will tend thee
All through the night.
Guardian angels God will lend thee
All through the night
Brittney and Joycelyn crooned soft and soothing notes in gentle harmony. The first lullaby we’d heard from mom, from our own guardian angel, the invisible friend of our childhood. Perhaps the first song we ever sang together, or apart.
But StormMother had wind, water, and fire. All she needed was land to combat my lullaby.
The fire of lightning mindlessly sought the fourth element, its mate and its opposite.
Three bolts hurtled downward.
I returned one of them to the sky.
The other two found my backup singers, my friends, my sisters. I watched them writhing with their death agonies as great splinters of metal and wood and glass pierced their bodies and then their skulls.