Outside, the wind stirred. All was silent. In the house, the girl was lying on the sofa, one foot resting on the arm, the other flat on the floor. Her eyes were closed. But she was still dead.
She was young. She was special. She was rare. A “trainer”, they would have called her. Hers was a soul that could rival others. Hers was a soul that would have ferried others into the afterlife. Psychopomp. There could be only one. But, now, it belonged to him.
Her last breath had asked for death. Death because she was ridiculed, outcast from society—they’d said she was “weird”. In exchange for her soul, she wished to be eternally consumed.
No one would find her. He would make her body disappear in a lake or a forest. His hands had been stained with earth and blood before.
A pool of blood. Wide staring eyes. No, that was his death—the death of his body.
He flitted around the room, trying to decide his next move. A light flickered. His pulse leapt. He touched the light switch; nothing happened.
And yet, another soul.
No! He wouldn’t! Not again! Not anymore!
But that glimpse of a forgotten energy... The feeling of so much power coursing through him. He would add her soul to the ones he’d inherited already. Countless. Never-ending.
It was bittersweet. He wept. But the wondrous power overwhelmed him. Her screams would never subside. He would hear them always in his dreams.
Her body’s energy was sweet. It sustained him for hours. And when hunger was satisfied, he retired to his loneliness. What had become of him? What he had been before, he was again.
The thought nestled tightly in the gray matter of his brain. There would be more. If he didn’t want more, the other inside him would take.
And the other inside him was whispering again. Gentle, soft strokes of a voice kissed the inside of his soul. It warned him. It hated him. It was a part of him.
He sat in darkness. Waited. Drinking the black ink of eternity as though it would dampen the sensation of loss and greed. Greed. Powerful greed was more appetizing than safe logic. Logic didn’t exist in his brain any longer. Logic was dead like his body. Dead again.
A memory burst forth on the horizon like the dawning sun. Warm love. The distance of the feeling ached in his core, but the inviting emotion strengthened his resolve. In moments such as this, he thought he could beat the other inside him.
Because she made him strong. No. Not her. The memory of her made him strong. She was different than the others. Pure soul—yes. But the soul was not what drew him. Was it?
The memory took a turn. The other inside him was consuming it. No! He would not allow it to happen. He pulled the thought of her to the front of his brain. She was his. No one else was allowed to have her. The Siren.
Her song made him weak even in memory. That weakness allowed the other to devour the thought, feeling, emotion. It was too late. The memory faded with the descent of the sun. The grubby window reflected a slanted ray of light; falling over him like a judgment. He wanted no more. The other didn’t agree.
The old Éire. Another wraith. He wanted souls. Their consciousness mingled, tore apart, became two, then three, then one. The two fought; the one demanded. The demand was strong. Her soul would be his.
The Siren would die.
Something was wrong again. The morning had been fine. He had woken up to the singing of birds and the smell of fresh brewing coffee. His head had been clear, conscious, no sign of the other inside him. A good day, he would have said.
But the girl was there. She was new. No rare soul. Normal.
He had been seeing her a few nights a week. Young, slender, beautiful. She failed to see his underlying struggle whenever they were together. And he refused to see her whenever the other took control. It had been happening more and more often.
The girl came into his room bearing a cup of coffee. She looked worried when she sat next to him in bed. The sheets tangled around him, trapping him in place. Reaching out a blind arm, he swiped the mug from her. Burned his mouth. A curse flared. The girl shrank back.
He felt around for her. The softness of her thigh beneath his weary fingers. It melted into his memories. The pull of that warm love he’d once felt. The Siren again. She haunted his conscious. She was the only one he’d known. The other inside him would not have her; could not have her. He refused. The old Éire awakened. Enraged.
Hot greed and anger ripped through each muscle fiber, shredding his nerves and endurance. Without them, there was no control. Without control, there was only hate.
Choked shrieks. What had he done? The girl. He’d forgotten about her. Her slender neck was gripped between his powerful hands. She clawed at him. Nails ripped into his flesh, dragging the torn skin down to the muscle. Blood stained her fingers; dripped onto the carpet.
The fight dwindled. Her grip loosened. The body fell limp in his arms. Raw pain stung in his hands. They bled. He wept again.
Not her soul. This time, a life without purpose.
The night breathed like a labored boar. It was misting, thick with clouds and misery. The town was small, almost ancient with its quaint streets and Irish heritage. It was perfect for the other.
Under a streetlamp, the fine spray tinted the yellow light in sheets. He looked up, finding something akin to peace shading his conscious. Why the pallid beige of a hopeless lamp? How could it relieve the tremors of fear?
Because the dark encompassed. The night washed out all feelings of calm and warmth. It was nothing but black, cold, death. Throws of emotional distance.
When he found The Siren, the other would quiet and he would win. She could immobilize with her song. But only beings of other dimensions. But where could he find her?
She had moved. To get away from him? Possibly. But she had no idea he was still alive. To her, he was dead. The blood. The staring eyes. Those were his eyes. The last she’d seen of him, he had been dead.
But the Éire made sure he survived, because the Éire wasn’t finished.
Cold, boorish, he pushed his way through the mist without care. Into the blackness of night he stepped, using meticulous deduction to search the places he’d seen The Siren.
The little coffee shop where they’d shared many colorful conversations. It was closed, the windows dark. She was not there. The image of her warm smile faded the slightest bit.
Something pulled him. A thought? No, a feeling. Something new was happening. Someone was going to die. Not then, but soon.
In the dark, wet night, he turned toward the feeling, sniffing the wind like a hungry canine. It was there. He inhaled the stench of death, of sorrow, of anguish. A suicide.
In three days, a suicide.
Jesus mocked him from his perch on the cross. How long had he been sitting in the little church? Minutes? Hours? Since dawn at least.
He had followed the scent of The Siren. She was near, yet far. But what did that mean? He could only smell patterns, waves. But not the lovely smell of her skin.
And now, that piteous excuse for a human god was mocking him. It was any wonder the Romans had sacrificed him. That show of faux power and pride. The stories may have been true, but those beliefs fell short. Those who believed fell short.
“Can I help you?”
A voice as soft as wind. He looked up; came eye to eye with wisdom, intelligence, the promise of help. A surge of hope filled him with momentary ease. But then, his eyes fell to the splash of white amid a collar of pure black. A priest. The hope faded like his dreams.
The word was drenched in thick, blind hatred and sorrow. This man—this priest—could not help him.
“Are you certain? My job is to help,” the priest replied.
He looked up again, feeling the old Éire stir in his soul. What was that old wraith going on about now? The priest? What about the priest?
He looked into the caring eyes and felt it, too. Something was not right. This man was not what he appeared to be.
“You’re a hypocrite,” he spat.
The priest’s dark eyes narrowed, but the feeling of strength and warmth did not dissipate. “I beg your pardon?”
“A hypocrite. You spread words you don’t believe. You preach to hopefuls when you do not believe yourself,” he repeated, twisting on the hard, wooden bench.
A twitch of a facial muscle. He’d struck a nerve with the bringer of God. The priest stood, one hand clutched tightly to the back of the pew.
“Unless you are looking for comfort, confession, or answers, you must leave,” he said, his thick voice tight and commanding.
“I am looking for answers,” he said, meeting the stance of his enemy. “And I think you can give those answers to me.”
The priest had led him right to her. Even though the man had said nothing to help him, he still followed. And when he followed, he found the festival.
People were everywhere. He had to be careful. He had to keep the Éire away from them. It was becoming easier. But maybe that was because the old wraith new what he would get if he kept quiet.
He watched the priest greet strangers. But then, someone he recognized. The Éire stirred, acknowledging the presence of his old protégé. The Healer. He was near, which meant The Siren must have been, too.
But she was not. The Healer was accompanied by The Siren’s former friend and the psychopomp. Another memory. Hatred, revenge, greed. But it faded quickly. There was no need for revenge any longer. Only answers.
He followed them for a while, watching as they laughed and played. They were unaware. When he saw an opening, he read The Healer. Then, he turned and pushed through the crowd of people. Finding a secluded spot, he waited.
The Healer and the psychopomp approached, seeming apprehensive at first glance. But then, recognition. They knew him.
“What are you doing here?” The Healer demanded. “I thought I told you to stay away.”
Another flash of memories. Yes, he had said that. Stay away. But stay away from The Siren. He didn’t answer.
“Kevin...?” the psychopomp asked.
A name. His name? Yes. Kevin. Kevin...Carter. It gave him strength.
“Yes,” Kevin said. “Yes.”
“You’re not supposed to be here,” The Healer reiterated.
“I can...help,” Kevin said.
The Healer’s eyes narrowed. A sudden feeling prickled up Kevin’s spine. He did not recognize the feeling, but the old Éire did. He came.
“I will help,” Kevin’s voice said—the hint of an Irish accent. He hid it well.
“We don’t need help,” The Healer spat.
The feeling again. Kevin searched the crowd, spotting him in an instant. He seemed to glow—cold eyes of steel intent on him. Scars covered his face. He smiled. He knew. And just like the other became aware, so did Kevin. A jinn. But not just any jinn. This jinn had been outcast from the wraiths—from his own dimension. And he was there to protect his prize.
Kevin turned back to The Healer, suddenly interested in finding out more about this new development. Did it have something to do with The Siren? Maybe. He would have to find out.
“You all need help...” he replied, smiling.
He was jinn. What he had been, he was for hundreds, perhaps millions of years. He knew things, saw things, experienced things that no other wraith had. Ever. His face was torn apart by scars—a sacrifice he’d made. An outcast. He had to get back in somehow.
And Kevin would help him...as long as jinn returned the favor.
“I can give you The Siren,”jinn whispered in his ear. A tingle ribboned its way into Kevin’s very core. The old wraith inside heard the offer, too. A smile. A gesture. The time was coming.
“How?” Kevin asked, his voice thick with anticipation. She would be his. “Where?”
Jinn pointed across the street. The cemetery where The Siren's body had been buried. The Healer speaking with someone. A young girl. Pretty. No rare soul.
The Healer walked away. Jinn smiled.
“The Healer knows where she is. You follow The Healer, take The Siren, and I will do the rest.”
Kevin did as he was told.
The Healer stopped at a corner and called a taxi. When it came, Kevin followed in another. They sat in silence for what seemed like an hour. The freeway twisted, rising into the California Mountains. It turned and fell, waited and listened. A turnoff loomed. The other taxi took it. And Kevin still followed—this time on foot. He moved like a jungle cat through the trees.
The house was small, set off from the street with wood siding and a fresh coat of paint. In the fading light of the evening, it looked daunting. Kevin sniffed the wind. The Siren’s soul was there. But her feeling was absent. The Healer paid the driver and ascended the stairs to the house.
“Do you have The Siren?”
Kevin didn’t hear. The wind was howling in his soul, through his ears, ruffling his thick, dark hair. It lifted his heart, his hope.
The jinn’s scowling visage swam before him. “Do you have The Siren?” he demanded once again.
Kevin stepped back. “She is not The Siren,” he heard himself say.
The jinn growled and spat at his feet. “She is! Her brain is in another body! We must fix this before you can have her!”
“How?” Kevin wondered.
“How a transfer? You have no energy,” Kevin pointed out.
“No,” the jinn replied. “But I can obtain enough to fuel it.”
“The Healer?” Kevin asked.
The jinn turned a blind eye on him. “The Healer belongs to them.”
“I killed the psychopomp.”
The jinn whirled around. “You did not kill it! It cannot be killed! You abused one of its forms. It is still around us, and it can return if we do not finish this quickly.”
A heart beat swiftly inside Kevin’s chest. Had it done that before? No. The Siren was coming. All of her would be his soon.
“She is near,” he replied in a soft tone.
“Yes,” the jinn agreed. “But I need another to complete the transfer.”
The jinn’s lips curled into a smile. “A friend.”
“Find the priest.”
Kevin turned toward the jinn. His orders came harsh as he barked them with outrage. He hadn’t done was he was supposed to, but The Siren was with him. That was all that mattered.
But why find the priest? What good could the hypocrite do?
“Why?” Kevin asked.
She is mine...
He ignored the Éire’s command.
“The priest will do your work while you sit there and be insolent, wraith,” the jinn answered.
The Siren is mine...
Kevin inhaled, puffing out his chest. “I don’t know how to find the priest.”
The jinn tilted his head to the side. “You lie.”
Give her to me...
“No,” Kevin answered both, and both became enraged. The jinn’s powerful hands on The Siren’s throat, squeezing. Kevin’s mind became a blur. He reached out with a blind arm and swiped at the jinn. He was taking the property that rightfully belonged to him. The Éire would not have it.
His hands encircled the jinn’s throat until he let go of The Siren. But Kevin did not release. His grip tightened, but the jinn did not flinch. In a swift move, Kevin released when the jinn fought, slamming a hand into his chest. No more breath. He staggered backward.
“If you do not bring the priest, I will,” the jinn said.
When all was quiet and still, the jinn having left, Kevin knelt beside The Siren and wept. She would be his, but she would also belong to the wraith.
A twinge of pain. A sting of regret and sadness. At last his time had come. At last the anguish and negativity would subside.
She was there. The Siren. She supported him in body, mind, and soul. His decision was for her. He felt for her.
As he read her thoughts, he heard The Healer had broken her heart again. Anger swept through him, but he did not want to hurt anyone anymore. Instead, he offered his energy. He offered his body to save another. If he could get there in time, the old Éire would be gone once and for all.
But the pull of greed was stronger than ever. She was his. The Healer had hurt her again. The Siren was sad. She would sing no more. As she helped him cross the room, he felt the wanton need to have her.
He stopped and turned in her direction. She watched him with practiced eyes. She knew something was wrong. She began to back away, but he touched her soft cheek and she stilled. Pushing the other away with all his might and strength, he leaned forward to his beautiful Siren.
A kiss. Warm love and compassion. It flooded him, heating his every muscle fiber. She clung to him, her fingers digging into his shoulders; tugging his hair.
No breath left. He pulled away. Her soft face was flushed with rose colored passion. He admired the sweetness of her one last time. For one, long, glorious moment, she had been his. That was all he’d wanted.
The Éire stirred again. He willed himself toward the plain soul left strapped to her chair. Placing one hand on her head, he said an old wraith evocation. Then, he felt the strength leave his body. He turned toward The Siren one final time and smiled. She returned it with sadness.
He loved her.