This week's challenge from Flash Fiction Friday was to 'bring on the flowers and candy'. It was to be a romance,
dark or light, our choice.
I was inspired by an image a friend posted online, by Wingorwing99. It shows a mermaid seducing someone, with the bones of her other victims beneath the water. Or maybe it shows something different. I tried to put a different spin on the story. I hope you like it.
Skeletons and Kisses
Parthenope had let herself be distracted just for a moment. Unfortunately, that was all Hades needed to sweep in, grab Persephone, and take her back down to the Underworld. Demeter was furious, of course. She'd charged Parthenope and her sisters to guard her daughter- a simple task they had all assured her.
"You silly, careless women," she said. "All you could think of was splashing and laughing in the water, hoping to catch the attention of some men. Fine, if that's what you want, that's what I will curse you with."
And thus they were doomed to live forever in the water as creatures of the sea, with seductive voices that could call any man to them. Call men to their deaths, as they plunged beneath waves in pursuit of the siren's song. Their victims would sometimes last up for a few hours, time enough to mate with their temptress before dying, but the offspring were all cursed too, women trapped in the sea, calling lovers to their deaths.
Year after year Parthenope and her sisters sang, year after year sailors were lured to a watery grave, until it was the hero Odysseus that sailed toward their island. Parthenope was so impressed by the tales of his heroic feats that she sent Circe to warn the adventurer of their dangerous song. Odysseus then charged his men to plug their ears with beeswax, and bind him to the mast, that he might appreciate the singing. He and his men all survived but the gods were not pleased. Demeter, of course, was angered that they had tried to avoid the curse. But the real anger came from Poseidon, as Odysseus had blinded his son the Cyclops, and the God of the Sea wanted revenge. In his rage he cursed the women even further. They would still lure all that heard their voice, but now the women would leave the water, compelled to stay on land with the men until they wasted away, like a fish out of water. Even Demeter was shocked by the change to her curse, so she persuaded Poseidon to at least let them crawl back to the sea to die.
Thus it was that Parthenope and her sisters continued to call, but now they were called themselves to their own deaths, with their own skeletons collecting in the depths. She tried to resist the curse herself, but eventually found herself at the shore, waiting for her lover, and for death. Soon a youth appeared - slender, dressed in homespun, with short dark hair tucked beneath a cloth cap.
Persephone forced a smile as she rose from the water. "I have called you to be my lover. I will cater to your every desire, for a long as I live."
The youth smiled and took her hand. "Such a beautiful woman. I would be honoured if you were to spend time with me. But are you not a creature of the sea? Can you survive out of the water?"
"I can survive for a while," said Persephone. "But no matter, I am here to serve you, as long as I live."
The youth squeezed Parthenope's hand. "I could never ask for another woman to make that sacrifice."
Parthenope shook her head. "Another woman? But our call is for men only."
The youth smiled. "Well, I admit to a preference for our fairer sex. Maybe that has something to do with it." She leaned forward, and gave Parthenope a quick kiss. "I am Odyssia."
The young woman stayed by the shore until sunset, and returned day after day. The two talked and laughed together for hours at a time, holding hands, kissing, falling in love. Parthenope wanted to leave the water, so that they could lie together, but Odyssia refused to allow it. However, eventually there came a day that she wanted more too. She gazed deeply into her lovers eyes. "You had said you can only live out here for minutes, while I can live with you in the sea for a time, right?"
Parthenope nodded. "Yes, you can. Sometimes for hours, but it varies.." She paused. "But I couldn't ask you to take the chance. As much as I would like to hold you in my arms, to shower your body with kisses, you might start to drown without warning, and then we'd lose each other for good."
"I'm willing to take that risk," said Odyssia, "even for the sake of an hour in your arms."
Demeter heard this devotion, and was moved. "Zeus, my husband, can you not remove this curse of Poseidon's? Our daughter Persephone is quite happy now as Queen of the Underworld, Odyssius has died in battle with his son, and I think the sirens have suffered enough. Please, I beseech you."
Zeus sighed, then waved a hand. "As you wish, my dear. I can't remove his curse, but I can add some hope to it. Parthenope and her sisters will still sing their seductive song, but if they attract someone - man or woman - that is as devoted as Odyssia is, then that person will be spared and can live with the sirens in their underwater home."
And so it was. Odyssia dove into the water, to be with her lover, and lived, as did many others over the years.
Poseidon was not pleased of course, but that's another story.