I was told that I was born without a heart, that Darkness herself had kissed my soul with lips of onyx and whispers of the things that nightmares bloomed from.
Darkness favored me like shadows favored sinners. I was born atop a cliff at the edge of the world, its peak highlighted with the moon’s gauzy light. When I was born, my mother who was born of darkness too, laughed with glee and held me triumphantly to the skies, her sable blood spilling to the wind from the wounds my birth had inflicted- a new queen. She kissed me once before Death. She died smiling, her body melting like black ore into the earth. And I fell over the edge of the world into the black sea.
Alone I had entered the world, and alone I would rule it.
Today I would listen to requests from my subjects. A day of boredom that would call for unwanted thoughts and ponderings.
Beside me, my mentor, Seren, watched the door with blue black eyes. She had raised and trained each queen. She had coaxed darkness from us and taught us that we were here to rule a kingdom and rule the way Darkness demanded.
As my eyes found my reflection in the porcelain floor, I met my own gaze. My eyes were the color of obsidian, cold and cruel. My blood red lips were unsmiling, painting me as the queen I was bred to be. A face made of sin, my kingdom declared. With sharp features that had been crafted with the hands of Darkness, I was beautiful. My hair was the color of ebony, stark against ivory skin. Brushing against the floor of the throne room was my tail, six feet of onyx scales.
A rustle sounded as a small siren - Physadeia swam into the room, her fingers clutching a cut on her arm.
“Bow,” I demanded,
Physadeia threw her body to the floor, showing her loyalty.
“Pirates!” She cried, rising. Pirates. Sirens were creatures birthed from the womb of Darkness, for a man to dare harm one of my people - he would feel the teeth of hell against the flesh of his neck.
“Why haven’t you killed them?” I insisted, eyes alight with that thing that dark, nebulous thing that burned inside of me.
“There’s too many for me, they bring weapons.”
“Gather whoever would like to hunt today,” I ordered, the kiss of chaos sweet and consuming on my lips. “Tell them that we have a feast in store.”
It took minutes for fifty sirens to gather, their teeth gnashing in lust for mortal blood.
“Sirens,” I announced. They stilled at my words, bodies thrumming with apprehension, clinging to each word.
“The beasts have hurt our kind. Today, give yourself to Darkness and feed until blood stains the skin of your breasts and their bones become flutes for our lips.”
Beside me, Seren’s pandemonium shrieked from her mouth like the cry of a gull. So I lifted my spear and unleashed them upon the world.
We descended upon our island like smoke, quiet and dreadful. Drawn by our song, the sailors would soon fall upon death.
As the sun touched its lips to the horizon, the men's boats dipped into view.
I swiveled towards Seren who was perched atop a large rock, eyes severe in their murderous calm, painting her as the predator she was.
“Ready, my Queen?”
In answer, I opened my mouth and Darkness spilled out like honeyed dreams. The sound was born of night skies and the gentle brushing of two lovers lips. It was the promise of happiness and the taste of ambrosia upon a yearning, starving tongue.
Obediently, my sirens sang along, coaxing the world into our jaws.
The strokes of the small boats quickened, the men's minds clouded with the need to attain our voices. As our song fully latched its phantom fingers into their mortal minds, some of us took to the waters and blithely began the hunt.
I was a creature of Hades and I felt his everlasting, echoing hand upon my shoulder as I cut through the water. Physadeia was making a sharp line, and by the ceaseless inferno in her eyes, I knew she had found her mark. My tail took me to the nearest boat where I slid my hands up to the edge of the craft in a single fluid motion.
The men's eyes glazed as they beheld the bleeding darkness of my eyes, as if they were shining only for them.
I gave them a saccharine smile as they leaned closer to their eternity. My nail caught a pirate under the chin, his soul belonging to where we touched.
Their helpless mortality was in the noose of my existence. Maybe they hadn’t done anything wrong except for being here. For just a moment, I wanted to rid myself of this darkness. I wanted to see what their eyes had seen. But they belonged to the darkness now, and I would lead them there.
“I wish you happiness, wherever you go,” I said, and then released myself upon them.
I treaded the water long after my subjects had left, telling Seren that I wished to slay stray men, but I silently felt something that I thought might be sadness as I soaked in their death.
Quietly, the human smell of smalt and citrus began to swirl in my nose and anger, red and savage struck me as I sought after the remaining human hiding from death.
I found him easily, tucked inside a cave, face engulfed in shadow. I could see the tall form, browned from the suns kisses, peppered with small white scars, feet bare and shirt torn to expose a lean chest.
The mortal startled as his eyes marked me, but to my surprise he did not run. He angled himself slightly, long fingers choking a dagger.
He was going to fight me.
A laugh fell from my lips, and the man's body jerked in surprise and maybe even offense.
“A century,” I chuckled, the sound moving oddly in my mouth.
“A century since a human has dared fight me.”
The mortal moved into the light, jaw set stubbornly, and for the first time in my cold existence, my heart beat. Once, hard and brutal against my ribs, thudding painfully throughout my body.
He was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. With a face meticulously sculpted into strong planes, he was analogous to an angel. His full mouth was set in a grim line, white hair curling wildly around his head. But his eyes were what caught me. Molten gold eyes full of the sun's flame. Staring into me.
“A century passes slow for those like you, doesn’t it?” He spat, velvet voice striking harshly from rosebud lips. “I imagine every minute creeps by slow as death until you attain your next soul.”
Surprises, he was full of surprises and I couldn’t tell if he was foolish or brave for testing me.
“Death.” I tasted the syllable. “That brings me to wonder why you, dear mortal boy, are alive. My sirens are excellent huntresses, so tell me, how did you manage to escape them?”
The pirates molten eyes flared with pain.
“Your sirens?” He lilted, ignoring the question as uncertainty over his valiant stance snuck in.
I moved languidly into the sun, allowing it to cast over me and showed my teeth in a grin.
The boy, no older than nineteen, paled as fear stuck its knife home.
The pirate watched me with a sort of tenebrosity that hung from his form like the weight of a sealed fate. He knew that it would be only moments until my talons found a residence in his heart.
“My name is Echo.”
I don’t know if my mouth opened in surprise, but the mortal, Echo, marked me with condemning eyes and continued to speak.
“You’re going to take my life in a moment, I know that. But do not think me irrelevant enough to vanquish into Hades’ darkness without knowing my name. You will keep me alive by knowing my name, so if my men ever come searching, I ask you to tell them I am between worlds and to keep my name alive.”
I had never met a mortal this foolish, but I could not find it in me to cease his life. So I settled upon a rock and sighed.
“How would you like to die?” I asked, wanting this to go quickly. “I can make it quiet in the waves where you will see the wonders of my ocean.”
Echo swung to face me, and a strange, beautiful sound floated from his mouth, light and full of the dreams I had spent so long trying to push away.
“You’re asking me how I would prefer to die?” He laughed, amused. “By the god's, you may be the only somewhat kind siren to ever curse this world.”
He thought I was kind. Heat spread over my cheeks and neck like the shy beginning of a flame, and I felt the dire need to cover myself in a desperate attempt to hide whatever he had kindled.
“Are you all like this?” He pondered softly, eyes void of judgement and full of a gentle awe.
“No,” I admitted, the word stumbling from my vocal cords and leaving me feeling as if I had just rid myself of something. I had never dared to speak this truth. “I am the only siren who feels.”
“Who feels what?”
“Who feels,” I lamented, knowing that the deep isolation that kept its noose tight around my neck was shining through my eyes.
He was looking into me, not just at me, and I couldn’t figure out where my breath had gone.
“Why Echo? It’s the name of that silly nymph who pined after Narcissus until she died.”
I don’t know why I asked, but I found myself wanting to keep the both of us here, seeing each other.
“I chose it,” he explained. “My parents let me choose my name when I was ten. But Echo wasn’t silly. She loved so greatly that the world could not rid itself of her name. I decided that I would do the same. I will make sure the world keeps me alive among its winds and whispers.”
He was beautiful.
“Maybe she’s not so silly, but I will never understand her longing for that Narcissus, he was too terrible for even us to kill.”
Echo flicked his brows up, waiting anxiously for me to explain as the scent of him turned my cheeks into the pallet of a rose.
“He ventured to our voices long ago, desperate to find something as beautiful as himself. When he found us, he threw himself at my feet and begged for my hand, for he had found the one worthy of himself. But where his heart should have been, he was hollow. We sent him away despite his pleading. He wailed so horribly that the eardrums of nearby animals burst.”
Echo’s mouth sang its sacchariferous laughter, thick with bewilderment.
“He deserved it,” he shrugged. “There are many beautiful things in this world worth love.”
“Hm? What is the most beautiful thing your mortal eyes have touched?”
He blinked once, as if the question surprised him.
“You,” he murmured, voice trailing into the open air between us, unsure of the honesty he had spilled. Like the beat of a thousand doves, something beat mercilessly against my ribs, leaving me dazed as my heart began to beat.
Through the moon’s silver blanket, our voices entangled as our stories floated from our open lips into the others awaiting mind. We shared the beauties and fears of our world's that we held fast to and crumbled to one another, afraid to admit that we had waited our whole lives to do so.
Echo had grown untamed, wild and unloved by his parents, grinning slyly at a few memories. But quickly, grief watered his eyes as he told me about his young sister Agapi who burned alive in a fire during the riots in his village. After his parents beat him an inch from death, blaming him for Agapi’s fate, Echo escaped into the night and crawled miles out of the village where a crew of pirates saw his broken body and aided him back to health. Since then, he had been a pirate and never looked back. His crew was his family, and they lived off the sea and chased adventure.
In return, I told him of my destiny as Darkness’ child, and that I had never wanted this life. When sorrow ran from my eyes, Echo slipped his fingers through mine. Fingers that had touched the world, now between the fingers that had ended the world's of many.
“You were meant to be human,” he declared. “This is some trick of the gods.”
Maybe, maybe the gods were laughing from their mountain. But didn’t care as I rested my head upon Echo’s shoulder, and smiled.
Before the sun greeted the morning, I appeared to my people briefly before I returned to Echo, smuggling him goods to keep him well. We bared ourselves to one another and when liquid salt made its track down our cheeks, we comforted one another, and when laughter stained our world pink, we held our bellies. This continued for a month and I cast a current to repel any sailors. Echo’s crew had assembled itself far away, deeming their son as dead and wallowing in his absence.
“Do you wish to return to those you love?” I asked one night, legs strewn over Echo’s.
He furrowed his brows in soft contemplation.
“No,” he admitted tenderly, “I am with the one I love.”
With lips of honey, he kissed me. When we fell into love, I reached out to touch Echo, and touched everything I had been missing my entire existence.
Floating in the dreamscape love had brought me, I was light.
“Run away with me.”
His voice wrenched me into reality.
“Run away with me. We could go anywhere. We could have children. We could experience the life we deserve life together.”
“I am a queen, Echo, I am not made for mortal life.”
He waved his hand in dismissal.
“You are made for any life that you choose. When we leave you can be anything you desire.”
I could see it, verdant green grass nestling a small home. We would bask idly in the days star, our only worry the life that was budding from my stomach. The child would bear the gold of Echo’s eyes and the obsidian of my hair and they would explore the world knowing they were free to choose. At night we would take to the sea and I would teach them to hunt. That is the place where I would exist. The very thought of losing the life I wanted so desperately struck up such fear that my heart faltered. If I didn’t go, my eternity would end only when Darkness planted another queen inside of me, leaving the child to the same fate.
“Yes,” I gasped, the choice sealing something within me.
Echo whooped and shouted of how he loved me and laughter floated from our smiling mouths like the sound of blooming dreams as our lips found one another in elation.
“I must go now,” I said happily, the promise of freedom brighter than any sun. “Tomorrow we live.”
When the sun painted my eyelids pink, I rose. I packed nothing, the siren I was died here. The guilt I felt at leaving my sirens gnawed at me, but when I thought of Echo waiting for me above the surface of the sea, I calmed. They would have Seren, they deserved her.
Silently, I slipped from my chambers, watching my castle slumber one last time before I left. My subjects would rise soon and search for me when they realized was gone, so as quickly as I entered this world, I left it.
The island was doused in light, welcoming me to freedom.
A few more steps and the soul I loved would be waiting and together we would build a life.
“Echo!” I called out, stepping into the cave.
Everything halted as I came face to face with Echo, his eyes full of a terrible, terrible love.
Behind him, Seren held his arms, her other hand holding a dagger against his jugular.
Echo knew he had no chance against her, and kept his eyes trained on me. No fear, only love.
His name slid off my tongue and into the world and it was then that he smiled.
“I love you.”
And before I could throw myself at Seren, her dagger spilled scarlet.
I wasn’t breathing as I caught his lifeless body.
Scarlet everywhere. The shade covered me.
The one who had seen me.
He was living sunshine.
But he was not living, and the sun had no place here.
“What did you do?” I wailed, the pain of my shredding soul a thief to the breath in my lungs.
Seren’s eyes were steely as she watched me.
“He was nothing,” she hissed.
The world exploded.
Darkness tore from my being as grief devoured me.
My dreamer would never dream again.
My skin contorted as my agony became a living thing and I screamed his name until my voice was only a roar.
A horrible pain laced me as six terrible serpents sprang from my legs, greater than any mountain. From my chest, monsters spilled out into the skies and seas, black with my blood.
No god could stop me as I shattered and became the mother of monsters and the very thing nightmares hide from. I was all things dark and infinite, and my existence shuddered through the world as I was reborn.
And I became Scylla.