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    Serelec
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Siren Call - 1. The Town of Wiccamore

It had been a long while since the town of Wiccamore saw any tourists. The local fishermen on the docks, seeing me disembark from the ferry that made a trip to and from the continent only once in a blue moon, said that I was the first to visit in perhaps two or three years. Other than the captain, I was the only person to have arrived on the ferry. The men promised to crack open a fresh one in my honor, yet even as they said it, they didn’t sound surprised or excited by my sudden appearance.

“Enjoy your stay, new blood.” With that, they left me to my business.

Like anyone else born after the Wiccamore disaster of 1965, I only knew a fraction of the small island's story. According to old newspaper reports I found in my home library, an underwater volcano in the Atlantic Ocean, once assumed to be dormant, had very suddenly exploded, triggering an earthquake and then a subsequent tsunami in the local region. It seemed like the only reason people even discovered the small town was due to meteorologists picking up on the phenomenon via the then recently launched NASA weather satellite, TIROS-1.

Rescue teams across the world had sent aid in droves out of pity. By some miracle, however, they discovered that most of the island’s residents had somehow survived the chaos. The town itself, on the other hand, had been utterly pancaked, leaving behind only broken remnants of what once was. More than fifty years later, the island was still too poor to restore itself to its former glory, trapped in a time long before the advent of color television, cell phones, and the internet.

From the fire blue shores littered with the obelisk remains of the old town to the pier speckled with an eclectic mix of dilapidated and well-maintained shopfronts, clues of what happened in Wiccamore were laid bare everywhere one looked. There was a certain culture of organized chaos to it all, like gazing upon a collection of scattered puzzle pieces that you couldn't help but feel belonged to different puzzles altogether.

One thing was certain. Out here in the middle of the ocean, there was only nature and man’s apparent struggle to keep pace with her.

Just like on the day the tsunami struck the island, the skies were sunless and mute of color. The humid fragrance of approaching rain hung thick in the air, clogging the atmosphere with a gossamer mist. I’d read that the weather here was fickle due to the chaotic relationship between the evergreen mountain ranges and the trade winds, but even with that warning in mind, I’d only thought to pack a single hooded jacket and umbrella with my usual traveling affects. I rarely did venture beyond my own city on the east coast of the United States and, like the spoiled American I was, assumed there would be at least one big box store I could conveniently pick up my needs from. (Hint: there wasn't.)

At some point, I paused in my journey across the pier as a tall, shadowy figure appeared in the greater distance before me, slowly revealing itself with a touch of wind. Reaching into my backpack, I pulled out a postcard from a freezer bag of important travel documents and held it up before me.

A lighthouse stood on a rocky black coast, characteristic of those built throughout the eighteenth century. The picture on the glossy postcard lined up perfectly with the scene of the lighthouse, down to the rich cobalt blue of the shores in the foreground. Seeing it match up so perfectly brought me a small sense of victory.

I’d read the back of the postcard from my fiancé a thousand times. Even now, I could recall the words from the top of my head.

The weather is dreadful, but darling, I think you’ll find it beautiful here. You always did say you loved the water!

-With all my heart, CC Milo

The card was postmarked on March 1, 2002. A year on the dot had passed since I last received that postcard. Cyrus—the first C in CC Milo—had sent so many before, but for whatever reason, they had simply stopped coming after this one. We had never been the type to send emails, seeing as Cy was a bit of a technophobe, but I tried nonetheless. He had never answered a single one, and believe me, I checked every day. Cy never did leave return addresses on his mail, either.

As the days continued to tick by without a phone call or a letter, I thought Cyrus had outright abandoned me. I thought that despite our passionate love for one another, perhaps I didn’t know the man after all. Maybe I'd been the poor victim of some narcissistic bastard who flitted from one fling to the next. Maybe I'd just been a hopeless fool in love.

But as even more days ticked by still, I couldn’t fight the growing premonition inside me. Something had gone wrong. Terribly wrong. Deep down inside, my instincts were telling me that I was sorely needed. Even now, I kept our promise ring on my finger, desperately clinging to the hope that he was waiting for me.

“Pretty as a picture, as they say,” came a voice from behind me just then.

I whisked around, my heart thumping. An older looking man with peppery gray hair and leather brown skin sat on a rocking chair near the entrance to an inn named Moors and Spirits. His arms were covered in beaded bracelets and leather straps that were likely made by hand, some of them shining with pretty sea glass. I hadn’t seen or heard him earlier. His abrupt appearance immediately unnerved me.

“It is,” I replied curtly, cautious.

“Wiccamore’s full of pretty sights, if you know where to look.”

“I'll bet.”

I glanced around. The mere idea of pretty sights brought Cyrus to my mind at once. He always used to say that wherever there was beauty, he was sure to follow. When he first used that line on me, I let him follow me right into my apartment. Looking back on it now, I should have known it was just his way of saying, “I’m a heartbreaker.” Never one to stay put, he often left me behind to satiate his wanderlust across the world, sometimes sending postcards, other times sending love letters.

Why on Earth did I propose to such a whimsical person, as if it even mattered? And why did Cy have to be crazy enough to accept and get my hopes up?

“What’s a pale-skinned kid like yourself doing in our humble little town, anyway?” asked the old stranger. His English was so perfect that even I with my white-washed speech seemed to have more of an accent than him.

“I’m thirty-six,” I corrected at once. There was no way anyone with working eyes could miss the stubble covering half my face and the wrinkles in my forehead. The pale skin part, I didn’t bother to comment on.

“Aha!” the man pointed. “So that means you’re old enough to handle your drink.”

Damn. So it was a trap. A lame one that I had fallen for, at that.

The man continued, “How about it, Mr…?”

“Victor. Beckett Victor. Either Beck or Vic is fine.”

“Last name, first name?”

“Last name first name, first name last name,” I tried to explain.

“You from the States? America, I mean.”

“I am.”

The man held up a hand, and I realized after staring at it that it was meant to be a handshake. I took his hand, and he held it more firmly than necessary. He smelled of dried fish, burned incense, and tobacco.

“My name is Hawk,” he said. “My ancestors migrated here from the states some hundred years ago. Could be we have more in common than we think. Why don’t you come on in and have some of my famous Mermaid’s Spit, Beck?”

Hawk rose from his rocking chair then, and my jaw dropped to the floor as I quickly realized he must have stood at least seven and a half feet tall. That was most definitely taller than me, and I easily stood above six feet. The petite bell on the inn’s entrance gave a soft chime as Hawk withdrew inside. Picking my jaw up, I attempted to peer through the window front, but the glass was too yellowed and dust-laden for me to see inside. Seeing as I had no idea of where to go (hotels and bed and breakfasts didn’t exactly exist on Wiccamore), I figured no harm could possibly come of it.

The Moors and Spirits was not as roomy as its exterior suggested. Much of the inn was occupied by an extensive array of seafaring artifacts ranging from strange, twisty seashells to life-sized statues of mermaids. They certainly weren’t the princess types, but those that immediately filled the viewer with a sense of dread. Wherever I walked, their fish-like eyes seemed to hound me, hinting at a world of darkness from deep within the cavities of the unexplored seafloor.

Oddly enough, crusty old books had been precariously stacked on the roof’s beams, somehow managing to maintain their delicate balance. Eager to take my mind off the mermaids, I stare at the books as I sat down on a bench, half wondering what secrets they kept and half worrying they might fall on my head at any moment like a stray coconut.

“Ran out of space to put them,” said the old man, appearing at my table with a mug of something gold and foamy. The Mermaid’s Spit he’d mentioned earlier, I supposed. Couldn’t be worse than a Jägerbomb on an empty stomach.

After my first sip, I immediately took another swig. It was surprisingly hoppy and fresh. There might have even been a hint of honey in there. If not for the taste of alcohol, I could have sworn I was drinking a well-brewed tea.

“I’m guessing you don’t get a lot of customers?” I asked absentmindedly.

“What makes you think that?”

I didn’t want to be rude, but I looked around as if it should have been obvious. Besides his mermaids, we were the only ones there.

“It’s the middle of the day,” he said, sounding offended. “Naturally, my patrons only come bump in the night after a hard day’s work.”

“Oh. Of course.” It was his inn and his town, but somehow, I still wasn’t convinced. I decided to shift subjects before I risked offending him more by mistake. “Is there any chance there’s a place to sleep around here?” I asked.

“Sleep?” Hawk repeated, as if it was the most confusing thing someone could ask for. “You planning on staying?”

I nodded without going into detail. I wanted to hear what he had to say first, but Hawk was clearly a sharp man. He leaned forward, narrowing his golden-brown eyes at me just as I gave an involuntary yawn. The ferry ride had taken no less than six hours, and in my nervous state I'd only gotten perhaps three hours of sleep the night before. My body was really starting to feel it.

“I guess this is where you answer my earlier question,” said Hawk in that perfect, accent-less English of his. “What brought you to Wiccamore, paleskin?”

I stared at him. Maybe it was the gentle brown eyes with the laugh wrinkles on the corners. Maybe it was the way he slouched his shoulders and leaned his fist against his cheek when he spoke, suggesting he was more comfortable around a stranger than a stranger was around him. Or maybe it was just the fact that I’d been hankering for some friendly company for ages now. Whatever it was, I just couldn’t bring myself to be weary of Hawk.

I said at length, “Someone special to me passed through here some time ago. Maybe a year or two. I haven’t heard back from them since.”

“Someone special, you say?” Hawk straightened his spine as he glanced at the silver ring on my finger. Suddenly, he didn’t look like the friendly old inn keeper. Now he really looked like his namesake, broad-chested and sharp-eyed in the way he studied me. “I hate to break it to you, Beck, but you’re the only real visitor we’ve had in more than a decade.”

At that, the both of us fell silent; him waiting for me to respond, me trying to register what he’d just said.

Hawk’s words should have stunned me. I knew they should have jolted my insides into overdrive and caused me to lash out in confusion. But they didn’t. Like a car stuck on neutral, my thinking mind seemed to separate from my body, leaving me to operate on whatever was left of me. And whatever was left just didn't seem to have the energy to panic.

I yawned again, covering my mouth with a fist.

“That can’t be true,” I finally said, my eyes drooping at the same time the rest of my body grew heavy. “The fishermen, they said it themselves…someone…something…was here…”

Wait. That’s not what they said. Is it? What did those fishermen say? I couldn’t remember just then. And I had a feeling that Hawk wasn’t about to help me remember, either.

“Trust me, Beck. You’ve been the only one,” Hawk said again.

If he said anything else after that, I didn’t hear.

Thank you for taking time out of your day to give this story a try! If you enjoyed it, I would very much appreciate a comment or a reaction. Your feedback helps me to improve.

©Copyright Zara Phanh, 2021; All Rights Reserved. No part of this work shall be duplicated or re-posted on any other platform without express permission from the author.

Thank you so much for reading!

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Chapter Comments

Considering a recent discussion on providing feedback to authors, I'm trying to practice what I hope my readers embrace.

Quote

Your feedback helps me to know if a story is worth continuing or not!

That statement, however, ensures I won't read the next installment. If there's even the slightest possibility the author will abandon a story, I'm not willing to invest myself in it only to be left hanging at some point. My advice to new authors has always been: Write the damn thing, then post. My attitude has not changed. Best of luck to you.

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Serelec

Posted (edited)

16 minutes ago, Carlos Hazday said:

That statement, however, ensures I won't read the next installment. If there's even the slightest possibility the author will abandon a story, I'm not willing to invest myself in it only to be left hanging at some point. My advice to new authors has always been: Write the damn thing, then post. My attitude has not changed. Best of luck to you.

I haven't thought of it that way. I figure if no one's reacted or offering comments, then no one's interested in reading, and therefore the story's either poorly written or has no appeal, thus it's no good. I take my craft very seriously and post them in the hopes that they are fulfilling someone's day, but if I see that it's only serving me and taking up valuable space, then what's the point? I'd rather change gears and work on something more engaging. That's all I meant by that comment.

Thank you for the honest feedback. I see your point of view and will remove that tidbit for future readers, so I don't scare anymore away. :)

Edited by Serelec
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@serelec

I can be painfully honest. Ruthless some people would call it. LOL

Be aware stories garner readers for years after being posted. I left a review yesterday on one published before I was a member, even though the author has since died. And my first novel, published in 2015, still gets readers and comments.

Your chapter was fine, decent writing, and a potentially interesting premise. Good luck.

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11 minutes ago, Carlos Hazday said:

@serelec

I can be painfully honest. Ruthless some people would call it. LOL

Be aware stories garner readers for years after being posted. I left a review yesterday on one published before I was a member, even though the author has since died. And my first novel, published in 2015, still gets readers and comments.

Your chapter was fine, decent writing, and a potentially interesting premise. Good luck.

 

Ruthless honesty or otherwise, I still appreciate the fact you even took your time to point that out when you could have easily just kept silent and moved on. Even now I'm milling it over in my head, wondering if I'd let a little too much of my self-esteem show without meaning to. It's a valuable lesson moving forward, especially coming from an established author.

Thanks for the feedback again, I wish you luck as well :D

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I like the mysterious tone and artful language you are using in this story. I’m laying out some thoughts as I read in an attempt to unravel some of the mystery presented. I like that you haven’t spelled everything out to the reader but at the same time I am feeling ungrounded — I want to understand Beck and Cyrus’s relationship better.

The mysterious island of Wiccamore. I tried to look it up, only to realize it’s fictional. I wonder what ocean it lies in?

I see that Beck and Cyrus are fiancés, promised to be married, but the year is 2003, prior to legalized gay marriage in the US. What a challenging time for couples who wished to be married 😞 But on the cusp of change, at least. I wonder if the social context contributes to the challenges they face.

Cyrus has mysteriously disappeared and Beck is searching for him in Wiccamore. Hawk is very tall and has some good alcohol in his wild (and awesome) creepy-mermaid themed bar. (Can I go there please? Sounds like my kind of bar.) He claims Beck is the first visitor to Wiccamore in years, but what about Cyrus? Were his letters postmarked from Wiccamore? What is Cyrus’s tie to Wiccamore and why did Beck feel convinced he’d find his fiancé on the island?

You present questions to be answered and some mysterious and intriguing scenery and characters paired with them.

Thanks so much for sharing your writing! I understand how hard it is to put yourself out there wondering who is reading and how they will respond. I agree with @Carlos Hazday above that it’s better to finish something before exposing it to the world, but motivation is a fickle beast. Whatever it is that motivates you to write, in my opinion, completing a work is better for a person’s growth as a writer.  Starting a piece and leaving it for others to decide whether or not it should survive? That will only make you good at beginnings. Compare it to a pianist who forces themselves to perfect the beginning of a song before they’re willing to move on - the middle and end will never get a chance if approached this way. Still, at the end of the day, you are the one who decides if it should live or die - it’s yours to cultivate and yours to kill :) 

Edited by headtransplant
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Serelec

Posted (edited)

@headtransplant Thank you for taking the time to share your encouraging words with me ♡

I am so glad you caught that little detail with the legalization of gay marriage. It took me a long while to decide which time period I wanted to go with (was even thinking in future tense at some point to make it "easy") but I thought these guys deciding to get tied to each other in less than accepting times, even if only by promise, coupled with the fact that Beck is willing to go so far for his fiance, was a strong hint as to the kind of relationship they share without me having to really spell it out. And sort of plays into the ending...

As for finishing this piece in particular, I don't mind after seeing the feedback. It is a bit bittersweet to me though that of all things that triggered comments on my story, it was the comment I made without a second thought, which is fine of course, I got what I asked for 😂

In my eyes, it only makes sense to put my all into things that people are actually interested in. I am pragmatic in that way. Its not really a matter of motivation so much as, well, business sense? If something's clearly not working, then something needs to change and what not. I have finished stories in the past, passion projects if you will, but this was an odd one out as I decided to write it as an escape from my other stories. All the same, I am not afraid to admit that I do need the occasional headpat...such is the state of my ego unfortunately 😅

Edited by Serelec
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