Flash Friday 01/07/2016: Singing in Disdain
This story was inspired by this tweet, which became the basis and inspiration of this Friday Flash. While the original tweet states the photo’s location as Finland, this story doesn’t necessarily have to feature there! Thanks to Cat Russell for the idea.
Island House, Finland https://t.co/3nP5gx4DtK—
Architecture (@archpics) June 27, 2016
“Thanks for having us, great-uncle Jack!” the two children said in unison as they left the house.
“That’s quite alright.” great-uncle Jack said, holding up a liver-spotted hand.
The parents of said children were already standing on the boardwalk, the only connection between the tiny island the house sat on and the mainland. To catch up, the children ran across the boardwalk.
“Careful!” Jack called, his tone insincere. “Your noise will anger the siren of the lake!”
When they were younger, this threat would stop the children running and begin near-tiptoeing until they were on solid land. This time, however, one of the children simply turned mid-run and yelled ‘we know stinkin’ sirens aren’t real!’.
The other members of the Carden family didn’t understand Jack. If he wasn’t so kind-hearted and good with the kids, he probably wouldn’t receive visitors at all. There was nothing wrong with him, per-se; they just wondered why he lived in the run-down shack in the middle of a lake. It was old, creaky, and smelt of damp after it rained. Every time the Cardens visited, they made their greetings, caught up with news, then got stuck into the topic of the house.
Houses are cheaper on the mainland. You can get a lovely apartment near the shops for half the price of maintaining the shack. Move out and do yourself a favour. Jack would simply fold his arms and state that the house ‘meant something’ to him. The Cardens wondered what rotting boards and black mold ‘meant to him’. He’d never say.
After waving goodbye, Jack walked back into the house. The washing up had to be done, and if he was quick, he could finish before his favourite TV show came on. The tablet sitting on the kitchen table was the only gadget he owned. He had only just learnt to download and play songs on it a few weeks ago, so he put on a relaxing song and got to work. Scrubbing the plates, he looked out the window over the sink to admire the view of the lake. That’s when he noticed her sitting on the shore just outside of the window.
“I bathe daily,” said the siren, ringing out her red hair with her hands. Her mermaid-like body from the waist down glistened in the sun.
“Sorry?” Jack said, raising his voice a little to speak over the tablet’s music.
The siren scoured over a shoulder. “I said, I don’t stink. I bathe daily.”
“You live in a lake, it’s hard for you not to.”
A sigh of disgust. “Don’t remind me.”
“What’s wrong with the lake? I think it’s a rather pretty place, myself.”
“Yes, but that’s because you weren’t a feared creature of myth, sitting upon the rocks and singing a song of sailor’s doom, watching as entire boats dashed against the rocks. Now I sing a song and some passer-by walking their dog falls in the lake. At best. And then there’s you.”
Jack gave an exaggerated shrug, pretending to not know what she meant. “What’s wrong with me?”
“Oh, I don’t know, the fact that you built a house on the lake’s island so you can listen to me more. I don’t do long-term, only one-off gigs.”
“Nonsense. It’s a shame and a waste for only dead men to hear your singing. Want some bread?”
“No,” the siren said. Regardless, a slice of bread landed beside her. She picked it up and chewed on it, pretending not to appreciate it. “I’m not a duck, you know.”
“If ducks sang like you did, they’d probably be fed whole loaves.”
A snort. “Your terrible compliments haven’t worked for seventy years; they won’t start working now. Still, if I could get back into my singing days, I’d be much happier.”
“Didn’t you join in with that lakeside Christmas carol singing that happened a few years ago?”
“Yes, the one time I tried to make my voice ‘normal’. By the time I had realised it wasn’t working, several grown men in santa costumes were already waist-deep in the lake. I can still remember the faces on their angry wives.”
“But you still enjoyed it.”
“Sure. Beats singing to the fish in this boring lake. But what can I do? The moment I show my face to sing for actual people, I’ll be snatched away in the name of science. No thank you.”
Jack was about to make a comment about putting on fake legs and a dress and getting up on stage somewhere, but then he realised he was already listening to someone singing on his tablet without knowing what they looked like. An idea formed.
Later that week, Jack hired a sound engineer to record some singing, with strict instruction that it had to be done outside. The engineer was confused as to why the recording spot was a strange shack in the middle of the lake, but by the time he had finished, all he could recall was that he heard someone singing the best song he’d ever heard, and that, for some reason, his legs were soaking wet.
The songs would eventually go up for digital purchase, where it began to shift units in droves. Nationwide reports began to spring up of interested men checking to see what all the fuss was about, and the next thing they know, they had bought all the albums. Women would claim that, yes, it’s very pretty, but to be frank, they couldn’t understand why the men made such a huge fuss over it.
In time, people (mostly men) flocked to see the face of the singer that they so loved. All they found at the end of their journey was a strange old man in a crooked shack saying he didn’t know what they were on about, but if they wanted, he’d gladly dress as a woman and try his best, which proved a very effective way of driving people away from the secret of the siren of the lake.