“Please have your passport ready to show, with your ticket!” she bellowed into the line, emphasising the ‘ready’ part.
I knew it wouldn’t matter. She could yell, bellow, whisper or choke someone, and half the people in my line would be too busy on their phones or trying to reign in kids that they would have to spend five minutes digging through handbags and backpacks to find their passports. It was frustrating, but there were worse things about the constant travel to the Colonies. Delays were low on the list.
It was my turn. I flashed my passport, ticket, and a brief coffee stained smile.
“Enjoy your trip”. I walked on, down the steep stairs in front of me, past a few border guards and down into the underground dock. I waited again in a line, and boarded her. A giant steel sub known for her speed and safety- although work generally prioritised the former when they booked my trips. In general, submarine travel was a lot safer these days, and roomy, but even last year one went missing. The ocean is a big place…
It would be a three day trip until we reached the colonies, where I’d spend a week bringing the Colonial Government’s GPS systems up date. Boring IT stuff that involved clicking ‘send’ on a program rather than anything requiring actual skill. The programming was straight forward and quick, but as a consultant, paid well. The poor guys in charge of satellite launch a few years ago were the ones with the real skill; but if you break that down, really it was just finding a window of opportunity outside of the breeding season.
I found my room in the monolithic sub, and chucked my laptop in the safe, browsing the books bound to the shelf. It was mostly history, which suited me, although I had already read The Founding of the Colonies and Food Security and, Global Travel; Spreading under the Wings of the Sirens. Just under the sign stating ‘take one, leave one’ was something I hadn’t seen since University; A Biological Study into Air Sirens. It was a groundbreaking work that made me consider changing out of computer science into biology. The author, Dan Milton, had died not long after publication, but he had manged to perform a necropsy on an actual Siren, the first time ever. It was probably more of a win for humankind that knowledge, but the profession saw a recruitment and funding drive after that was more important. To be honest; the field just scared me shitless. Fair enough to enter a profession with a twenty something percent death rate- but you also have to look at how that death occurs. Who wants to be dragged out of a boat – an actual crazy, real, floating on the surface boat! and mutilated like grains of bread thrown to a piranha. I browsed a few pictures, before settling in for the night.
I was plagued with nightmares, and tainted by a tinge of hunger, that forced me to wake at three in the morning. I locked the door and wandered the mess hall to find something. Nightmares were common during sub travel, Milton believed that Sirens gave off incredibly powerful pheromones that permeated the ocean, while they flew above screeching in the darkness; trying to draw us to the surface to rape and murder. They definitely knew we were under here, and I often thought it made them angrier that we found a way to move through their vast ocean and sky territories- areas they needed to have space in to forage the ocean for whales and small eagles. Sirens weren’t stupid creatures, but they were still limited by their aggression and biological drivers. It was that night that I came the closest I ever had to one; maybe the closest anyone came to one and lived through it. At the narrow table with some fresh fruit, I felt something in the air- the kind of post-horror read that makes you turn around, or carefully walk past a dark room. Moments later, the sub shook, and turned slightly. Rocking in the ocean, and groaning to anyone who would listen. I lost my footing, and an alarm blared out. Everyone needed to return to their rooms; the emergency lights flicked on, and my ears popped and rang out, forcing me to cup them in vain. I half stumbled- half crawled, running into walls and cutting myself on something while trying to make it back to my room- essentially an emergency pod if the Captain hit the right button.
Before I could get back, I stumbled on a sailor by a bulkhead- somehow he had become speared to a wall. He stared at me blankly while alerts went off- in disbelief at his fate. I tried to get closer, to help, or maybe it was some morbid fascination in me? Before I could, the sub rocked again and I felt myself roll. The sub was surfacing. I had to get to a pod. Another thump hit the vessel, and I rolled with her, hitting something and falling unconscious. When I woke, my ears were ringing and bleeding, I couldn’t see through one eye, and through the other I noticed the skyline. Somehow I was floating in a jettisoned section of the sub. On the surface. In the ocean. I heard their screeches even through my burst ear drum, and then saw it. A massive six meter animal, a beast of a thing, floating almost gracefully down to the pinned sailor- still alive and groaning in the salt water. An almost human like hand took him by the head, and pulled him free. It let out a roar to drown out the sailors weak, probably final, whimper, and flew off. I passed out then.
When I woke up, somehow I had lived. A camouflaged and heavily scented boat about three nautical miles away had checked the site, studying Siren attacks, and quickly loaded me. They evacuated me to the Colonies for hospital care. Physically I’ll be fine but I can still smell it- not the blood and violence, but the Siren. I can smell her everywhere I go; and it doesn’t matter how much I wash, or scrub, or bleach my nose. Every time I forgot about what happened or push it away for awhile- that smell comes back to remind me.