- Vol. 08
- Chapter 07
On a moonless night, one of my sisters whispered to me about a man in red, so I rose to the surface of the river, safely shrouded in enchantments, to find out who he was. He carried a long net, and I shuddered at the sight of its snare. The man dragged the instrument along the banks, peering across the water, and I knew he would not see me – I was made of that which the river was – but terror clawed at me when he turned his face in my direction. I saw the yearning in his eyes; the man in red was here for us.
Years had slid downstream since a man in red had travelled far enough into the thickets to find our home, but we had not forgotten about those like him, nor our lost sisters, their skin and scales torn. Indigo blood had stained the grass by the river, and glistened on the spear-tips of men in red, who thought we belonged to them.
Back then, we had been callow, and unprepared to use the river’s magic to protect ourselves. This time, we were wilder, and certainly fiercer. I braced myself to change, to elongate, and stretch myself magnificently.
Suddenly, I saw another figure on the verges of the river, a tall woman, with fuchsia flowers tucked behind her ears, vivid even in the navy gloom of that bewitched hour. She followed behind the man in red, watchful.
Mallory, he called to her, hurry, this is where they ought to be, and soon you’ll see that I was always right, and you were always wrong. Mallory did not answer the man in red, but instead turned towards the water. At first, she glanced right past me, but then her eyes found mine. How, I did not know.
The man in red shouted into the dark, raising his net high, I know you’re here, sirens, and I will catch you.
The NixiesMallory looked at the man, then at me, and her silence thrilled me to action. I reshaped myself until I was monstrous, and I soared from the river, serpentine, weaving through the air until I loomed above the man in red.
Devilish worm, cried the man in red, dropping the net, and pulling a small blade from his belt. Before he could say another word, Mallory ran toward him and pushed him to the ground. He scrambled to his feet, and lifted a hand to strike her, so I wrapped myself around her and lifted her out of his reach. As I drew Mallory into the river, I saw my sisters rush from the water towards the man in red and devour him.
We gave Mallory gills, and slippery-satin skin, and she sharpened her teeth on snail shells. The next time a man in red appeared, emerging through the nearby copse, Mallory swallowed him whole.