The soft radiance of the moon light glistened through the crevasse of the sky, and the rustle of the deciduous forest sung a soft melody ubiquitously across the darkness that lay beyond the tree-line. The wind had only just begun to pick up in intensity and the coming of thunder struck clouds marked the imminence of a storm in the near future. Despite it being a full moon, the forest was unusually dark and devoid of animal chatter. Had the wind not disturbed the trees it would have been dead silent.
Virginia and I sat on a make-shift seat by the flickering flame, which was nothing more than an overturned log that had been smoothed over by a hundred other campers before. The glowing eyes of the fifteen other campers through their thick eye glasses reflected back and around them. The camp guide had said that there would be a special treat for our group-a story teller from the native peoples of the Euripus Mountains.
With that, everyone had begun to collect themselves around the growing fire, anxious for the story teller to arrive. No sooner had the guide take his leave that the rumors began. And by the time it reach our ears, it may must have morphed into something entirely different. It wasn’t every day that the mysterious old man came down from his home in the mountains, old timers croaked. He was a witch doctor some whispered, casting spells and curses, and every so often turning into a coyote; no, others said, he had been sent by the U.S. Government in 1985 to find the lost city of Cibola and has been searching ever since; yet others said he had killed a man and buried his corpse in the woods, never to be found, that he was indeed a savage.
With renewed interest (though not much) we listened to the chatter.
“Omg, this guy’s like a murderer.” Virginia claimed sarcastically as she blackened a marshmallow over the fire while trying to get on Facebook on her android. Too lazy to find a branch of my own, I satisfied myself with eating the marshmallows out of the bag.
“Ughhhh. Those stories are stupid and this camping trip is lame” I said with a sigh, snatching her roasted marshmallow just as it was about to enter her mouth. A flash of annoyance then indifference crossed my friend’s face, still trying to get on Facebook.
“Hey, give it back! That one’s mine!” She said, without taking her eyes off her phone, groping around in my general direction. The marshmallow only partially slowed its trajectory before disappearing into my bowels. She did however manage to get a marshmallow from the bag and throw it at my face and upon watching it falling to the compost cried, “Comete la!”
“Okay, okay, I’ll make you another one.” I said, acknowledging my rudeness and getting a stick to cook my own marshmallows.
“Y con ganas mija!” she told me playfully, finally looking up from her android.
“Callate,” I cried, laughing at my friends wits. She could always make me laugh, though at times she could be a bit detached. But now, she was her normal self again.
So, laughing, we forgot all about the queer old man from the who-knows-what mountains. He was no doubt and interesting character, but for the moment he was only a story, a mere myth that, until we actually saw his presence, we would believe.
The sound of singing stopped us short.
“Did you hear that?” I asked Virginia, who had turned around to look into the dark forest. The wind began to howl and the rustle of pine intensified to that of falling grain. The sound, though, had vanished with the shifting wind, carried downhill from our camp site.
“Yeah, I did. It sounded like a little girl.” She said, her serious face now covering her laugh. “El cucuy, She placed a marshmallow between her teeth. “What if it’s one of the other’s daughter or something all alone in the woods!” she said, spitting out the dampened mush.
I thought this over for a minute. I let my marshmallow tumble to the compost. If I say yes, she is probably going to make me go out and search with her out in the forest, by ourselves… I shuddered and unconsciously looked down, a worried look etched on my face. Virginia took it for empathy. Now I don’t know about you, I continued, but I’m scared of the dark. I looked towards the darkened trunks of the forest. ANYTHING could be lurking out there, just waiting for the opportunity to pounce. Inadvertently, every horror film I had ever seen began to flash before my eyes. What if a zombie attacks me, or a big bear? I thought, now deprived of reason.
After what seemed like an eternity, I finally replied, “That’s true, but what if we were just hearing things?” My voice sounded strange as it came out of my mouth.
As if an answer to my question, the sound rolled through again with the shifting of the wind. “That’s not our imaginations, Devany. Let’s go, maybe she’s in trouble!” She said, lifting her thin frame from her seated position on the log and proceeding toward the forest edge. She didn’t even look back to see if I would follow.
“Virginia! Come on, how about we get the camp guide to do it!” I pleaded in vain before reluctantly following after my friend, who had now entered the woods, out of sight. I wouldn’t notice until later that no one else had heard anything.
I entered the woods at a brisk run only to stop short after the shadows engulfed my body and I found myself a midst the rustling of vegetation and tree limbs. Nothing is going to happen, I told myself, just keep walking and try to find Virginia. Call her name…Yes! Call and maybe you’ll get her attention. I raised my hands to my mouth.
“Virginia!” I called to the waving trees. “Virginia!” I called to the shaken bushes, but there was no reply. I don’t know how long I walked, maybe a mile or so, before I realized I was lost. A twig snapped to my left, and my head flung towards the direction of the sound-eyes straining to see in the pitch dark night that was already obscured with blackened clouds. Fear slithered across my chilled body and the sound of adrenaline beat in my ears. I froze unable to move for the life of me. I just caught a glimpse of a shadow taking refuge behind a tree. “Virginia? Is that you?”
A flash of lightning lit the sky and that was the last thing I remembered.
Pattering of rain on canvas. Twas the environment I woke to with the deep black eyes of a strange man shining back at me. I was in my camping tent again, a throbbing pain in the back of my head.
“Drink some of this,” the man told me, and slowly I sat up and took the cup from his hand. The drink tasted a bit bitter, but I drank it anyway. Then I looked back at the figure that sat before me. He was a plump man, oh, around medium heighth. His face was drooped at the cheeks and he wore the traditional tribe garb, you know, the ones you’d expect to see from true native.
I rubbed my head and realized it was bandaged.
“Where am I?” I finally asked.
The old man didn’t shift or blind and spoke after a brief pause, “You got lost in the woods and I found you. You’ll be alright for now.” At that he turned and began to sit up.
“Wait! Where is Virginia? Did you find her too?” I asked suddenly realizing that I had not been the only one to get lost.
The man stopped in mid air and then returned to his seat. He sighed. “Have you ever heard of the Sirens?” he asked.
“No, but what does that have to do with Virginia? Where is she?” I now had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Was my best friend still lost in the woods? Dying…
“Do not worry about your friend,” he said interrupting my thoughts, “she strayed from the camp, but not too far. They found her fairly quickly.” At that I lay back in my sleeping bag with a sigh of relief.
“I need to go see her,” I said and was getting ready to get out of bed when the old man held a hand out to stop me. His hand was firm on my shoulder.
“I’m afraid you need your rest for now,” he said, “you’ve had a rough night as it is.”
I reluctantly reclined back to lay my head on my pillow. It still had hurt. I thought for a moment and finally asked “What did you say about the Sirens?”
The old man stared into her, a deep and penetrating look. The fire in his eyes sent shivers through her body but then he told his story.
The Euripus elders often spoke of evil spirits, demons that sung beautiful songs to the hearts of men and women, drawing them ever closer, ever lost, only to snatch away their souls. Europeans call them Sirens.
It had only been with the help of the blessed Earth that we had driven them to the great waters in the old days. This had been no easy task and many warriors gave their lives to fight the Demons but fierce was our determination and resolve. Despite this, however, many moons saw blood spill over the Mountain until finally peace prevailed and the Sirens were themselves cursed to be forever lost on the great waters.
This is how it remained for my generations. That is, until the white man came over in his great canoes, what you might call galleons and caravels.
Like their steal, war horse, and pestilence they brought the Sirens back with them. The evil spirits had at last found their way back to our homeland.
For indeed, the Demons were cunning. Feigning to be beautiful women, they enticed lonely white sailors to their deaths. Throughout most of your history from the tales of Odysseus to pre-Columbus, tales of Sirens and Mermaids were common. And this is how it was until the first ships from Europe came over to our land.
Yes, the tales still passed from the lips of sailors and buccaneers, but what they did not know was that some spirits had once again returned to their native lands…our lands.
“Wait, wait, wait. So they came back to the woods?” I asked, “Why didn’t they just stay in the ocean, I mean, there is a lot more space to hide around in the ocean, right?” The rain had began to pour even harder than before and once in a while a flash of thunder lit the tents’ interior.
“Many of them did indeed stay, but some thought better to return.” he stated a little upset that he had been interrupted. “Now be still while I finish.”
Not twenty years ago, three campers took a lone hike through these very mountains. A husband and wife, along with a young woman not much older than you. It was early autumn and the leaves had all began to turn to their seasonal orange and yellow. Two days after they left camp, the young woman was the only one to return, as if she had been attacked by a savage beast. Nobody believed the story she told.
Everything had seemed beautiful and blissful, she recalled later, and the three were actually enjoying themselves until they heard what appeared to be the voice of little girl in the woods. The sound of it resonated through the forest stopping the trio dead in their tracks.
They only took a minute before the young woman and the others instinctively began calling out for the child, unaware of the dangers that lurked. If the child was lost, she surely needed to be rescued. Closer and closer they came until they ended up in front of an old boxcar that was covered in years of fallen leaves. And there in front of the corroded entrance stood a little girl in a white dress. The young woman and the others took two steps toward the little girl before falling to the floor and everything went black.
I can only imagine what the young woman thought when she woke up. According to her story she woke up with her hands tied and before her lay the tangle remains of both of her companions. She averted her eyes as the little girl she had seen before and two older male and female chewed into the husband and wife. Their teeth were razor sharp, serrated according to her police report.
“We need to save this one for the winter,” she remembered them saying.
“She’s waking up!” And then another strike to the head.
When she came about the second time, she found herself alone. She somehow managed to unbind herself according to her story and ran until she miraculously found a tour guide.
She was later taken into custody and charged with double homicide. They later acquitted her and she was released on the grounds that there was not enough evidence. Even today nobody believes her story but I do, she was deceived by the song of the Siren…I can remember everything like it was yesterday.
“You remember? You mean you remember her story, right?” I asked inquisitively.
The old man paused for a moment, then said, “No, I was there.”
“Haha very funny,” I said, now a bit amused though deep down I felt a chill rising.
The old man remained unmoved, his eyes unwavering.
“Okay, your creeping me out, I need some fresh air anyways.” I stated and got up and walked as calmly as I could out of the tent. The old man did not stop me. Instead I stopped myself.
There was no campfires, tour guide, or tents full of dusty old tourists outside. Just trees, the howling rain-soaked wind and barely visible in the low light…a boxcar.