The sea is loud tonight; storm battering the shores, waves whipping around the lighthouse in the distance, wind shaking the very foundations of the house by the beach.
Jongdae pays it no mind, warm and safe inside, fire roaring and upbeat classical music playing from an old record player. He’s lounging, lips curved up and feet hanging over the edge of his sofa, soaking up the warmth of the flames, toes illuminated by the orange and yellow light they cast.
The only downfall to the storm is that the siren won’t be out tonight.
Jongdae hums along to a tune other than the music that sings quietly around him, instead of focusing on the key, the tone, the mood. He can never figure out what the siren is singing, does not speak the gorgeous language that pours from his gorgeous lips, but Jongdae can hum, can play the tune on his piano, etched into memory just as the face of the siren is.
And Jongdae isn’t by any means immune to the siren’s song, to the fullness of his lips and the playful way his tail flicks against the rocks, eyes locking across the vastness of the sand, the dangerous waters separating them. He always listens from far away, safety of the sandy treeline saving him from diving into the waves, from following the beautiful voice of mourning to his death.
Instead he dances -- poorly -- and sings back -- not poorly -- just to see the playful curve of the siren’s lips, the glint in his eye as he beckons Jongdae to come closer, to sing into the sea and hear it sing back, sorrowful and inviting, death nothing with the beauty of the siren and his territory.
Jongdae sometimes walks forward, towards the waves, caught by the voice and by the magic of it, feet stumbling, head shaking in his haste to rid himself of it, to dance back and away; his feet tapping out an almost rhythm as the siren laughs, sings a different song that sounds like that of a waltz, one that Jongdae imitates later, fingers dancing across the keys and toes curling from the pleasure that the music brings him.
Jongdae could play tonight, wind a howl as he watches leaves slide down the window, sad in their descent to rocky ground. The piano stands in the corner near the window, black and gorgeous against a backdrop of lightning, of heavy curtains thrown open that match its colour.
He’s lazy, dreary from the weight of the sandbags he’d carried earlier, sore muscles of his back tense, in need of hands to knead the skin, to ease the stress of his labour job. Jongdae yawns, louder than the wind outside, stretching on his sofa, easily resembling a cat, back arched and eyes tired, mischievous.
The book in his lap falls to the floor with a sudden noise as he falls asleep, crashing against the wood of his floor with a noise akin to that of someone slamming the keys of an organ. Its pages lie open, filled with songs and secrets, unfinished messages and finished ones, notes to be wrapped up and placed carefully into glass bottles.
Things that the sea catches and doesn’t return.
Jongdae joins his fallen book on the floor the next morning, rolling off the sofa in his sleep and knocking his head painfully off the marble coffee table strategically placed as to not match anything else in the room. He groans, palm pressed to his forehead and kitten smile a confused frown, eyes meeting with the frayed pages of his book.
In his half-asleep state, pained and perplexed, he can only think of how messy his handwriting is, frown deepening to something that resembles a scowl; “annoyingly cute” as Baekhyun would say.
The sun is just rising, and its that which leads Jongdae to scamper, to his feet and towards the door, book tucked under an arm and shoes messily tossed on his feet. The sun is bright as it teases the horizon, a cloudless morning following the rage of the night before; beach a mess of sticks and leaves, painful under Jongdae’s feet.
He should have worn better shoes.
Jongdae sits near the waves, shoes off and toes digging into the damp sand, eyes wavering back at the tree line and at the mess of the storm. Normally he’d be on the cleaning committee, but its his day off and he nearly snickers aloud at those that do need to clean, a tedious job to keep his precious town’s beaches shining, beautiful.
Though Jongdae too, enjoys the beauty of his town’s prideful beach, enjoys the softness of the sand and the colours of the trees. Everything must be kept gorgeous for his siren.
He won’t be sending any messages today, but reading one, a response to a question asked by Baekhyun.
Why are you so obsessed with the sea?
“The sea never lies,” Jongdae answers, not to Baekhyun but to the waves that calmly ebb, to the rocks that are silky from water, bare of the sirens flickering grey tail; at least for now. “It never keeps secrets, just washes over and caresses the things that poke at its shores.”
He pauses, mostly to decipher the disaster that is his writing, a messy scrawl that often brought much frustration to his teachers in high school. His lips quirk at the memory, smile bright as the sun becomes blinding, soft glow dancing across Jongdae’s tanned legs.
“The siren -- you --” Jongdae continues, and he can hear the song in his mind, can hear the violins that would sound beautiful accompanying it, the soft and sad mood it brings upon his very soul. “You are all of these things, you are just like the sea. You tease me, and you play with me, and I am in love with your song, and with your magic, but you do not lie. Your purpose is to lure me to my death, no matter how long it takes you or as slow, and perhaps one day you will catch me, but for now I want to catch you.”
Another pause, mostly to catch his breath, to wipe at a tear that threatens to fall, oddly moved by his own words, written in a haste of restless energy during the calm before the wicked storm.
“But the thing about the sea is that the tide always changes,” Jongdae says, and his lips are smiling again, enthusiasm pouring from him even with the melancholy of his thoughts, masked by the way the brightness of the sun reflects from the waves. “It changes, falls back, and the thing about the sea is you can never quite catch it and make it stay.”
His words die out as the sun finishes rising, proud and too-bright in the sky as he squints out at the sea, as if hoping for a glimpse of the siren in the waves. He never appears during this time, too exposed in the busy-busy of small town daytime, but he listens. Jongdae is sure of this.
He stands, stretches against the light of the morning, shirt riding up to expose a flat stomach, one that he knows from many compliments, many lips whispering against the skin that its soft, perfect, just right.
Jongdae will sing today, play the piano by the window and compose, lyrics to suit a melody he cannot understand or comprehend. The Song Of The Siren, he calls it.
Jongdae tucks away the newest lyrics, the newest bits of his lonely soul into a glass bottle, adorns it with seashells and thread, seals it with a press of his lips; gentle with hopes the siren will catch his true feeling. He’s played all day, fingers sore from smashing against keys, wrists aching from the flurry of which his pen had flown across paper, knees stiff from his sitting position, bent and screaming for him to stretch them out.
Its nearly dusk, the colourless time of day while the sun is attempting to set, preparing itself to explode into a flurry of dark light, casting shadows across Jongdae’s precious beach. He puts on the heavier shoes this time, slips into a windbreaker he’d ordered online, chilliness of a near Autumn beach whispering through the thin layer.
Jongdae doesn’t have long to wash his message into the waves before the siren should appear, and he rushes, steps quick but spirits high, stopping short by the seaside. Should he throw the bottle today? Should he cast it gently into the tide and watch as it dances, rides the waves as if it has learned surfing from a professional?
He goes for the latter option, laying the bottle down as one does to a dead lover, seashell glinting, teasing him as the bottle is washed away, for the siren to catch beneath the waves and read. Jongdae isn’t sure if the siren can even read Korean, isn’t sure if his mouth can form the words Jongdae has written beneath the surface, but he doesn’t care as much as he should.
Jongdae is happy just knowing the simple fact that many bottles have washed back to shore, empty and with their seashells taken, a sign that the siren is indeed, finding them, cherishing them maybe, or perhaps teasing Jongdae; a new rule to his game.
There’s something eerie about the sunset, more purple than citrus as it washes over Jongdae’s retreating figure. Jongdae leans against the trunk of a larger tree, mental clock ticking, the sound of gears annoying in his head as he waits for the siren, hoping he’ll be right on time.
He is, body graceful as strong arms push a small torso from the waves and onto the rock by the lighthouse, gaze piercing from wide eyes that Jongdae can see even in the growing dark from this far away. They regard him as they always do, unwavering and curious before the siren curls his tail around the rest of his body, fingers curled around the wetness of the rocks as he begins to sing.
Its a different song tonight, sad and befitting of the sea, slow building and absolutely gorgeous, drawing Jongdae in more than usual, knees buckling against the trunk, back scraping against its unforgiving surface as he struggles to keep himself upright.
There’s nothing playful in the way the siren stares him down tonight, posture rigid and serious, eyes never leaving his as the siren finishes his song, retreating back into the waves without as much as a wave or a flick of his tail.
It leaves Jongdae breathless, confused, palm bleeding from the force in which he’d held onto the tree, bark digging into his life line and leaving it jagged and dead. He all but staggers back to his house, ornately beautiful doors daunting, body heavy as he collapses at his kitchen table, stares at the deep red of his own blood as it trickles; quiet and haunting down his wrist.
Jongdae curses, wraps a bandage around the fraying skin, frustrated groan leaving him when he realizes that he cannot play now, cannot strike the keys to mimic the new siren song, the beautiful and foreboding one sung to the sea and to him.
He composes, hums and sings and stays up until the sun he’d watched set rises through his windows, breaches the dark curtains and lands atop his golden brown hair. Jongdae heaves out a sigh, presses his cheek to the cold surface of the marble table, gold colour an ugly yellow to him in his haze of frustration and tired rage. It doesn’t match, and it no longer pleases him, but angers him.
He’s tired, limbs weighed down by bricks as he shucks his windbreaker on, slips on the light shoes, hand numb from the tightly wound bandage as the doorknob turns with an obnoxious creak. Its cloudy today, sun disappearing behind low lying clouds, only to peek out at him, beams of light mocking as they laugh upon his weary skin.
There's something not quite right about the morning, just as there was something not quite right about the night before; shoulders heavy, heart heavy, clouds heavy. Its humid, and Jongdae finds himself wanting to just collapse into the sand, let it blow over top him and bury him beneath its blanketing embrace forever.
He wonders briefly if this is the true purpose of the sirens game, a song meant not to lure Jongdae, but to wear him down slowly, pull emotions from within him that he never knew existed; he feels as if he's been thrown into the deepest of depressions, breaths coming out ragged as he seats himself in the sand.
Jongdae leaves his shoes on today, no longer wishing to enjoy the feel of sand between his toes, jacket tugged tighter around his shoulders against the biting breeze of the sea wind. The tide is close today, water licking right near his feet, and Jongdae knows that he needs to speak quickly.
He's at a loss for words however, dry croak sounding where his poetry should be, where his philosophy of the sea and its lies should pour out, a continuation of a story he's been telling since the siren first appeared at the rock, singing a falsetto of dog and desperation.
Jongdae does the next best thing he can think of besides spill his secrets, and that is to sing, voice clear and high despite the dryness of his throat or the shaking of his fingers. He repeats the sirens song back to him; not the crashing sorrow of the one from last night, but the quiet mournful build of the one he's been working on, Korean lyrics fitting into place perfectly. In a way, the lyrics are his feelings, his wants, his words to the siren himself, crying out, screaming, yet quiet and sad, a yearning in his voice that Jongdae wasn't aware he could produce.
And perhaps this is yet another layer of the sirens game; not to lure him but to bring about in him an obsession, a love that is more desperate, longing, sadness ripping itself from deep within and crying to the waves.
Jongdae thinks that maybe he would go willingly into the waves, arms outstretched and grin wide, even without the lull of a layered voice sending him to a death he welcomes.
Jongdae doesn't toss himself to the waves, instead turns sadly back towards the trees and into his lonely seaside home, landing face first into the pillows of his bed and not waking until the sun has long set. He doesn't listen to the sirens song that night for the first time in a long time.
Jongdae feet drag heavy beneath him as he makes his way to the edge of the sea, mood muted by the lack of sun, bright colours hidden behind a thick fog. It weighs down more than his body, arms sticky as the air touches his skin, jacket left behind in the haze of his thick thoughts.
There's a bottle on the shore, seashell gone but paper in tact, soggy and dripping. Jongdae holds it in his hands and feels overcome with a need to shed tears, to cry by the water and let the fog consume him. He's about to scream, about to throw the bottle into the sea and ask the waves why the siren hadn't read his latest message when he notices a corner of the paper, the part where he'd scrawled into a margin, a declaration of loyalty to the siren, torn off and gone.
It brings a strange type of calm, one that crawls across Jongdae’s veins and ignites a sense of purpose within him. The siren is still here, and the siren knows of what Jongdae wishes, knows that he will soon give himself up to the sea and the soft fingers of a sirens touch, a deadly caress before death.
Jongdae has nothing by the seaside but himself, job done away from the group of workers, days spent locked inside rather than seated in town at a diner with Baekhyun. His life is in the siren’s hands, and so he bows to the sea, thanks it for staying true to him, walks back to his house with the knowledge that his time is running out, that the siren will claim him.
He finishes The Song of The Siren that night, fingers a flurry across keys, voice a high crescendo as he sings the notes as they are meant to be sung by him, but nowhere as they are meant to be sung by the ones that first let them out, a sirens song in a language so beautiful that Jongdae will never comprehend it.
There’s another storm that night, calmer than the last but still windy. It sounds almost like a song in itself, the drumbeats of thunder and whale song of the wind battering his home’s crumbling exterior. It calms him, fire once again roaring as Jongdae curls himself into the cushions of the sofa, once again pleased by the marble table and its blatant refusal to conform to his dreary living room.
He stares at his piano, commends himself on the way it matches the drapes and the hutch shelving behind it, lips curved into his signature grin, lyric book not in his hands, but near the door, wound shut with rope and adorned with a message, compositions clear and concise, a symphony meant to be sung by many but be remembered by those who knew him.
Jongdae belongs to the waves now. Not tonight, but soon, bones aching to be filled with water, lungs too empty as his eyes flutter closed, eyelashes long and gorgeous in the dull light of the fire, its warmth doing nothing to calm the shivering anticipation that burns through his very core.
The final night Jongdae spends on the beach near his home, the sea calm as the sun disappear over the horizon, is calm.
Deafeningly so, hands shaking and lips twitching in anticipation, confusion when the siren does not appear near the lighthouse, does not sing even while Jongdae stands with water lapping at his feet. Confession in hand, wound tight and inside a bottle, tied this time with a gold chain rather than a seashell, pure and expensive, sacrificed in the way Jongdae’s wishes to sacrifice himself.
He stares towards the lighthouse, watches the way its hollowed form catches the rays of the light it casts, beams singing into the ocean. He doesn’t hear the sound of the waves near him sloshing, disrupted by a silvery tail, a torso that extends from the shallow shore waters, full lips that open to call out to him, to grasp his attention as Jongdae turns with a start.
The siren is beautiful, more lovely up close than Jongdae had ever expected, eyes deep rather than wide, hair damp but already drying, mussed by the waves, looking silky to the touch. His skin glistens, darker than Jongdae’s own. Around his waist he wears a belt; fastened to it are seashells, dangling and sliding across the scales of his gorgeous tails, familiar and shocking to Jongdae, who can nothing other than stare, goosebumps rising on his arms, toes numb in the freezing sea water.
The siren doesn’t speak, simply beckons, small and rather unremarkable fingers beautiful to Jongdae who has never been anything but entranced by the creature before him, a creature that seems small, innocent, not the dangerous sea beast he’s heard it to be, not the creature that had sprung from the waves to sing a mournful song to Jongdae’s susceptible ears.
Jongdae goes willingly; without a song to guide him and stands before the siren, eyes locking in the darkness that one can only find by the sea. The siren still says nothing, but he brings his hands to Jongdae’s shoulders, seeming to smirk at the way Jongdae shivers at the touch, overwhelmed at the siren before him, eyes glazing over as the siren leans in close, slides a hand down to curl fingers around his wrist, speaks in clear yet accented Korean.
“To the rocks.”
Jongdae doesn’t have a chance to speak, to feel before he’s sputtering, dragged forward by the immense power of a creature much stronger than himself, lungs filled with water as his body follows the siren’s grip helplessly, underneath the ocean and moving fast, blurry vision filled with flecks of silver, a powerful tail bring them forward, surging towards the light of the rocks.
He’s choking, palms bleeding and knees scraping against rock, unable to breathe or see as his body thrashes half drowned and yet still alive, siren hovering over top him, soft hands running along his chest as if amazed, curious by the human thing that he has watched, sung to, observed for months from his safe place.
Jongdae feels his lungs clear, breathing evening through harsh, panting, eyes filled with tears as his chest rises and falls, heaves as if he’s still drowning. He writhes when the siren leans in close to his face, hands still placed atop his heart, primal survival instincts kicking in even after Jongdae’s decided drowning is his fate. Take me, Oh Siren.
“You’re not dying,” The siren says, voice matter of fact, smooth like chocolate just as his singing is. “Calm down.”
Jongdae calms, stills against the rocks, afraid to sit up; his arms hang limp by his side, energy lost and thoughts swirling. He feels hands guiding him into a sitting position, a pair of eyes that never blink, never leave him boring into the side of his skull.
Jongdae buries his head in his bleeding hands, chokes on the air that fills his lungs as if it doesn’t belong there, pain against rock. He says the first thing that comes to mind.
“You speak Korean?”
"Of course," The siren says softly, and he smiles at Jongdae, laces their fingers together, ignores the blood that screams at Jongdae's skin. Jongdae can feel something oddly soft slide against his leg, and he starts, only to realize that its the sirens tail, thick and feeling like that of a snake's body. "We're in Korea, aren't we?"
"That we are," Jongdae agrees shakily, eyes watery, hands shaking in the hold of the siren's. "I'm alive."
"Yes, you are."
"Why haven't you killed me?" Jongdae asks, and he thinks of his marble table, thinks of the piano by the window and the book that he hopes Baekhyun finds, the composition he hopes will touch the hearts of many like a true siren song.
"You gave yourself up to the sea and to me," The siren says, nearly a laugh as his features light up in a human like way. "You belong to me now, and your time for death will come."
"And when will that be?"
"When I'm done with you," The siren says, and he's leaning forward, brushing lips against Jongdae's in a way that feels both romantic, and not. A kiss of death, one that Jongdae accepts, willingly as he has with all other things of the siren's. "You're curious."
"How so?" Jongdae asks, and his enthusiasm, his energy has returned as he sits up straight without the calming touch of the creature's hand on his back.
"Most men, upon hearing the first notes of my song, fling themselves into the sea immediately, but you resisted," The siren speaks slowly, as if speaking Korean takes an unfathomable amount of effort. Jongdae supposes it must. "Not only did you resist, but you sent me gifts, wrote your own renditions of a century old Mermish sung spell, and you sang back."
Jongdae stays silent, watches the siren through tear-filled eyes. The magic of the being washing over him in waves larger than that of the sea's when they sit this close.
"What's your name?" He blurts out, leaning forward slightly. Jongdae isn't afraid of the siren; he never has been.
"In your language I would be called Kyungsoo," The siren tells him, tail flicking against the rock, scales drying from the sea wind. "Sing with me."
"Sing with you?"
"Before I take your soul fully," Kyungsoo speaks like the wind itself, voice layered, siren sound an undercurrent, drawing Jongdae closer into his arms, legs nearly thrown across his tail. "Sing with me. A duet of The Song Of The Siren, as you call it."
Kyungsoo the siren holds Jongdae as one holds a lover, singing into his ear and to the sky as Jongdae joins him, vision blurring and mind blank, full devotion to the song, to the siren and to the sea.
They sing for what seems like hours, Jongdae's throat running dry and his voice failing to escape, limbs once again weak, weary, slumping into Kyungsoo's side, wishing to stay forever.
"You're almost gone," Kyungsoo informs him, leaning back comfortably on the black and dampened sea rocks, sun rising behind them, trees swaying calm; there's not much of a wind, and it feels like the kind of morning Jongdae has always dreamed of. "I think I might keep your seashells and your letters. Its always nice to have memorable meals."
Jongdae tries to answer, tries to murmur words, but he's pushed onto his back, Kyungsoo kissing him once again, singing as Jongdae drifts out of consciousness, taken by the sea. He drifts away forever with a smile on his lips, at peace by the sea which he loves in a life he has not given that same privilege to.
Kyungsoo brings him under the waves with him, places him carefully on the seabed, deep eyes nearly sad as a single finger strokes the skin of Jongdae's cheek.
The sea never lies. It never keeps secrets, just washes over and caresses the things that poke at its shores. Kyungsoo is all of these things; Kyungsoo is like the sea. But the thing about the sea is that the tide always changes, falls back, and the thing about the sea is you can never quite catch it and make it stay.
But the sea can catch you, quietly envelop you in its song, ensnare the very way your mind thinks, loves. It does not manipulate, and it does not lie. It does not steal. It only answers to those who call out to it, those who wish to become one with the waves that crash from its shores.
The sea is quiet that night, weather near perfect as a leaf floats serenely to the ground; the last one of the season. The house is quiet; fire unlit and piano covered by the window, closed against the darkness of night, heavy drapes that match.
Placed carefully on a table near the door; the ornate ones with the creaky doorknob, rests a book of song, wound tightly and left with a message.
Make me known, for the sever lies, and the sirens song changes with the very wind itself.