He grasped his cello in one hand, like a childhood promise, and his bow in the other. The sky was anemic, the pale of a corpse. Northern gales of wind blustered around him as moans emanated deep from the bowels of the ocean. He inhaled the briny cologne of the thick air. His breathing was deep and labored as though the simple act of breathing required strenuous effort. Though the sound of his breathing was lost against the crash of the waves slapping the rock he stood upon, one could hear the deep call of his cello.
Beautiful women with hair the color of moon-water and eyes the hue of icicles rose from the depths of the water. They possessed an unearthly beauty, and their singing haunted whomever heard it, enchanting them like a hallucinogen or passion. They sang a wordless melody, taunting sailors and land-dwellers alike to abandon their posts and approach the jagged rocks.
As he sawed his bow back and forth, vibrating against the strings of his mahogany instrument, the cloaked man harmonized with the women’s song. Their spidery fingers grasped at the sickly heavens as though begging, beseeching her for some anonymous cause. These women of the sea with eyes the color of the ocean stared like thick, opaque pieces of glass. They begged the sailors to come nearer with their song.
The captain had heard of these women. As though from a great distance away from him, he listened to his men holler to one another. Thunder bellowed. They adjusted the sails, their words tumbling out of their mouths, inelegant, frantic. Yet their captain had a far-off look on his face.
He was elsewhere.
He was already coming home from a day of whaling to one of the beautiful women. She had smiled at him, and when she combed her fingers through her hair, he could taste the salt encrusted in its tangles. In his mind, his waterlogged boots were drying by a fireplace and the woman of the sea was stirring a pot on a stovetop. Making something warm and filling.
Nourishing him and putting meat on his bones.
The captain had been at sea so long he had forgotten the curves of a woman. His calloused hands reached out as though blindly accepting an offering. These women possessed scaled lower halves that shimmered like the bodies of slippery rainbow trout in the dying winter sun.
As though someone had pulled a shade over the heavens, a darkness descended. Clouds the color of seasickness billowed above, yet the midnight darkness devoured everything. Through the inky black, the men could not see inches from their faces. The haunting cello playing and mesmerizing vocals carried out to the men, ethereal, inescapable.
As the waves crashed, one by one each voice was swallowed. When lightning struck, shattering the porcelain sky, its illumination highlighted what had taken place in the deep black. A viscous, crimson liquid oozed from slashes in the women’s rib cages. Their corpses were blanched white like fish ready to filet.
Yet still the man hacked his bow against his cello like a knife dancing in the flashes of lightning. As his bow slid along the body of his cello, the sailors saw the razor-thin strings of the instrument dripped with blood.
Finally, the Captain’s eyes were opened, and he recognized the cellist as Death.