Excerpt from "We Are Sirens" by L.S. Johnson
We roll into town on a bright sunny morning, steering the Caddy around the half-dozen streets that make up “downtown,”. Three of us in the back dozing and the other two up front with our arms hanging out the windows, letting our fingers ride on the fall air.
We love autumn. Autumn is football and soccer and tennis season, it’s harvest festivals and Oktoberfests and the last round of carnivals and fairs. We can still get away with tank tops and shorts, or we can wear our tight wool suits with their snug skirts, or our sweaters with the necklines way, way down.
It just depends on what there is to do around here.
We roll the Caddy into two parking spaces and we pile out, lounging against the car and sizing up the people, reading the flyers posted on windows and utility poles. Free movie nights, a potluck, two spaghetti feeds, a reading at the library. When we find the town fair poster we groan in disappointment: it’s two weeks away.
“Hey,” we call out to a passing kid. “What’s there to do around here?”
The kid looks us over, his round little face intrigued and suspicious.
“Big game’s tonight, over at the high school,” he says, scratching at the back of his calf.
The big game. We sigh with pleasure. We love big games, and their parties afterwards. Big games are easy; we’ll be spoiled for choices.
The kid squints at us. “Where’re you from?” he asks.
We crouch down to study his rocket ship t-shirt and his cargo pants with bulging pockets, his oversized sneakers, his rosy-cheeked face. These boys, they’re a blur to us until their voices break, nothing but sticks and snails and puppy dog’s tails; we love them because of what they’ll become.
“We’re sirens,” we say, smiling at him. “We’re from everywhere.”
Big games mean guys from other towns, with two, maybe three parties afterwards. Big games mean the red suitcase, not the blue or the grey. In the red suitcase we have the high school clothes: the miniskirts and tennis shoes, the t-shirts and the lipstick as red as the cherry slurpees we grab on our way to the field. In the red suitcase we have five denim jackets with a patch on the back that says SIRENS, because for the big game we’re always an out-of-town gang, tough girls from some generic City that turn heads and make the adults scowl and whisper, make the mothers especially suck their teeth in disapproval and the fathers agree though with a gleam in their eye, a gleam that remembers what it was like to be a teenage boy watching the tough girls and wondering if it was all true, what they said about tough girls.
We take our slurpees and we climb up to the top of the bleachers and sprawl there, our bare legs loose and splayed on the warm metal, the wind ruffling at our skirts. We slurp our slurpees with our pursed red lips and we hum, just loud enough for the wind to hear.
We hum the call of Hades, so he’ll be ready for his new arrivals.
And as always we pause and listen. Sometimes we’ll hear an answering melody, like a shepherd’s pipes, a farmer suddenly bursting into song, a radio starting from out of nowhere. But though we strain to hear there is only the rumbling of the crowd and the blaring loudspeaker announcing names.
It’s been a long, long time since we heard an answer.
Sirens are beautiful, dangerous, and musical, whether they come from the sea or the sky. Greek sirens were described as part-bird, part-woman, and Roman sirens more like mermaids, but both had a voice that could captivate and destroy the strongest man. The pages of this book contain the stories of the Sirens of old, but also allow for modern re-imaginings, plucking the sirens out of their natural elements and placing them at a high school football game, or in wartime London, or even into outer space.
Featuring stories by Kelly Sandoval, Amanda Kespohl, L.S. Johnson, Pat Flewwelling, Gabriel F. Cuellar, Randall G. Arnold, Michael Leonberger, V. F. LeSann, Tamsin Showbrook, Simon Kewin, Cat McDonald, Sandra Wickham, K.T. Ivanrest, Adam L. Bealby, Eliza Chan, and Tabitha Lord, these siren songs will both exemplify and defy your expectations.
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