Siren Seeking Sailor
The following was found within a glass bottle sealed with wax, floating in the southern Aegean Sea in 2016. Carbon dating and linguistic analysis estimates the document to have been written circa 400 BC, and the conditions within the bottle combined with its careful sealing have ensured its survival. The document is currently held in the archive of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and was translated from the ancient Greek by Dr. Barak Papadopoulos.
I consider my profession an important one, although there are many misconceptions about what we do. Our primary function is to keep the ecosystem of the isles in balance (humans populate so readily these days) while upholding certain artistic traditions.
Our job is that of a scale and a timekeep. We detail and document the days gone by: how the shoreline changes with each rising tide and the way each crying infant adds to the cacophony of breath in the atmosphere. The waves can tell you a lot on any given day. The way in which the surf bubbles and sprays tells you the mood of the gods. The light on the horizon illuminates the silhouettes of passing ships: their directions and patterns indicate the winds and seasons. Just as the stars map the sky, ships map the sea. We bear witness to these events.
Sirens are truly pillars of the community. Don't believe what they say.
And when we call - do you listen? Surely you will. So many do. Our songs are passed down to us from our mothers: never written, only sung. And as I sit on this rocky beach, I think of all of the songs I hold in my chest. There are many. Stringing them end to end would surely stretch to the ocean's greatest cerulean depths and back again a thousand times.
I am unsure I can tell you precisely where I am. On a clear day, I can see what I believe is Astypalaia, though I cannot be sure. I do know that my island rests at the end of a current. Bodies wash up on the shore at high tide. Men and women with little clothing left clinging to their pale bodies, bleached from the salt and sun. I glean what I can from them. Coins. Jewelry. Sandals. And the firm wax which men stuff their ears with when they are at sea. I keep them for my own, but I do not defile those which come ashore.
You may hear that us sirens eat the bodies of the shipwrecked. Many do. I've simply never found it appealing. The way which men appear hard and angular seems too bony, and the way women have soft curves seems too chewy. Nothing luscious to sink teeth into. Nothing which tastes of home. I gather their forms, limp and waterlogged, and bury them in the chalky cliffs.
It is me and the ghosts of thousands of others which inhabit this island. But ghosts are so poor at talking, and the birds only know one song. The waves speak much, but so seldom listen. I have no one with which I keep any true company. I sing my songs as regimented by the hours and seasons, I prepare the rites and rituals as taught to us by those who came before. I glean and bury, tend to the shore and plants, and map the sky and sea.
And yet, no sailers haphazardly turn the noses of their ships toward the jagged rocks jutting out from my island. Perhaps there is a wind which dulls my songs. Perhaps I am too far aloft of a trade route. Perhaps the sailors have learned to thwart our songs (or perhaps, only my songs). Which, if any, of these things are true, I do not know.
Sometimes I simply watch ships drift by if they appear too far away.
If you are reading this, I believe I am somewhere south of Astypalaia. I seek a live sailor. It is so tiring to be the only one singing.