Lester was really starting to feel the effects of the alcohol when the lounge singer caught his attention.
He didn’t know why a dive bar like this had hired a singer, nor did he know why, but he couldn’t help being drawn to the stage when she began her set. She was accompanied by nothing more than a karaoke track in an old, scratchy-sounding stereo set into the wall, and yet her singing was nothing less than enchanting. It sounded mysterious, almost otherworldly, and it drew him from his perch on the barstool and towards the stage where she stood.
Her hair was long and vibrantly red, cascading down her shoulders and seeming to be in constant motion—always flowing or waving in some sort of invisible wind. Her skin was as pale as porcelain and glowed like it was lit from within. Her ripe, red lips nearly grazed the microphone as she sang her slow ballad about some long-lost woman taken by the devil.
Lester stood before her, eye-level with her navel, his hands itching at his sides to grab her by the waist of her low-hanging jeans. He swayed only a little, either due to the alcohol or the spell that the music seemed to have taken over him. She looked down over the crowd and caught his eye, and he was spellbound to see her slow, deliberate wink in his direction.
Lester remained there for the next few songs. Every few moments, she would cast her gaze over to him to see if he was still listening, and each subsequent stare felt more and more like an eye-fucking that made his drunken haze of a smile wider. And to think his wife had told him time and again he’d let himself go. Clearly his beer belly and receding hairline were having no ill effects on his charms, for this lusty young lounge singer was continuing to stare at him like he was a piece of meat to be devoured.
He had no qualms with that.
Eventually, after what felt like hours, the singer finished her mournful set. There was a small smattering of applause that Lester felt did no justice to the spell she’d cast with her song. She exited the stage, descending a small staircase next to the wall and turning off her stereo.
Then, much to Lester’s delight, she walked right up to him. Up close, he was treated to the sight of how closely her blouse hugged her curves and just how little skin it covered, and that upon closer examination, her eyes were an unnaturally bright shade of turquoise. Perhaps she was wearing colored contacts.
“I see that you liked my set,” she purred once they were within speaking range. Her voice was low and husky, and it hinted at a slight accent that Lester didn’t recognize in his drunken state.
“Yeah, you’re pretty good,” he replied, his voice slurring only slightly. She smiled at him.
“What might you be doing for the rest of the night?” she asked, putting her hands on her hips and tapping her fingers in what seemed to be a deliberate attempt to draw his eye to the space between her legs.
“Uh…I got nothin’ goin’ on,” he chuckled, resisting the urge to lick his lips. “What about you?”
“Nothing. My set is over now. I’m free to go home.” Her smile widened, and she pulled at the collar of her blouse in such a way that her bra was nearly exposed. “Would you like to escort me?”
Lester nodded very enthusiastically. He didn’t need to be home anytime soon; he’d told his wife that he was out on business. And this seemed like business that needed to be attended to very urgently.
The singer offered him her arm, and despite the fact that she’d been the one who’d asked for an escort, she was very diligent in leading him out of the bar and onto the street. The night seemed unusually dark, as if the streetlights were doing less to illuminate the sidewalk in front of them. Lester blamed the city council and their inability to fix the damn bulbs.
“Where do you live?” he asked her as she began leading him deeper into downtown.
“A little apartment in the upper east side,” she explained. Her voice sounded musical even when she wasn’t singing. Lester gazed at her sideways and just wondered what that voice would sound like moaning his name.
“Do you live alone?” he continued, wanting to keep talking. “Seems like a pretty shady part of town for a girl to be livin’ in by herself.”
“No, I’m not alone. I live with several of my sisters. They’ll be excited to meet you.”
If they were anywhere near as beautiful as her, Lester knew that he’d be excited to meet him too.
“Do you often bring home people you meet at the bar?” he asked, almost jokingly.
The girl smiled. “When they approach me.”
“I bet that happens a lot.”
“Not as often as you may think. My music appeals to a very…specialized taste.”
Lester wondered what that taste was, and what that said about him.
“What’s your name, doll?”
“I am called Alkyone.”
“Al-kee-yohn-ee,” Lester repeated slowly, stumbling over the pronunciation a bit. “That’s a weird name.”
She laughed, the sound reminding him of jingle bells.
“It is a very old name,” she explained, her accent more prominent now. “It means ‘kingfisher.’”
“Where’s it from?”
“It is native to my homeland,” she said simply.
“And, uh…where’s that?”
“Nowhere that you would recognize.” She gave him a wry smile. “It was a small island in the middle of the ocean. A beautiful place to call home.”
“Then why’d you come to New Jersey?”
Her smile remained, but it seemed to turn a bit sour. “My work was failing there,” she explained in a quieter voice. “My sisters and I have a very important job that we were no longer able to fulfill. So we came here.”
“And what job is that?”
She remained silent, her lips pursed into a fine line. “Turn here,” she said, and suddenly Lester was being led down a very dark alley.
Alkyone mounted the steps of a small apartment complex set tightly into a space between two other shoddy-looking buildings. She opened the door and led Lester up a set of stairs and to a weathered-looking door. Wordlessly, she unlocked it and strode inside an equally dimly-lit room. Lester could only see the vague shapes of what he assumed to be furniture.
Alkyone closed the door behind him as Lester walked further in, searching for a light switch. “Are your sisters home?”
“I think so,” she replied, moving further into the room. She didn’t seem very interested in turning on a light. “Cymone? Eumelia? We have a guest!”
From a side hall, two more women entered the room, both of which were holding candles that offered a yellow circle of illumination on their faces. While one had a long blonde ponytail and the other a black bob, they both looked incredibly similar to Alkyone.
“Uh, hi there,” Lester said, feeling both awkward and aroused. He stepped a little bit closer to the two sisters, and they rewarded him with smiles. “I’m Lester.”
“Hello, Lester,” the blonde one said. “You may call me Eumelia. Welcome to our home.”
“All three of you live in this tiny apartment?”
“There are nine of us, actually,” the black-haired one—Cymone, presumably—elaborated, sashaying forward and setting her candle down on a small table. “Most of the other girls are working late tonight.”
“Oh yeah?” he asked, and he laughed nervously as Cymone’s eyes raked over him. “What do you all do for a living?”
“We’re singers,” Eumelia murmured alluringly, moving closer to him with one hand slightly outstretched. She let it run across Lester’s bare arm, and her long fingernails left goosebumps in their wake.
“You…you’re all singers?” he asked faintly. Eumelia continued to stroke his arm, making it harder for him to concentrate on talking.
“Yes. All of us,” Cymone replied, her hand finding its way to his other arm. “We were all born with the same gift of song.”
“Oh, that’s, uh…neat.” He glanced around the room for Alkyone, or possibly an exit.
He spied her coming out of what appeared to be a kitchen, but it was unlit as well and he couldn’t make out much besides the impression of countertops. She stepped into the candlelight no longer wearing the blouse and jeans she’d had on at the bar, but a large black cloak that reached her ankles.
Her sisters gave her a glance and stepped aside. “Will you be doing the honors tonight?” Eumelia asked her, sounding just a little irritated.
She nodded. Her eyes were flat now, devoid of any of the sultriness she’d shown Lester at the bar.
“I found him, didn’t I?” she said, almost challengingly. “He is mine to claim. Back away.”
Lester didn’t know if she was talking about sex or not, but he didn’t feel safe anymore. He began to back towards the door.
“Actually, I’ve, uh…I gotta go.”
“So soon?” Cymone asked, her eyes wide with innocence. Alkyone took a step towards him.
“Yeah. My wife, see, she’ll be wonderin’ where I am.” He stumbled on the end table and fell back, his shoulder hitting the wall with a burst of pain.
Alkyone was by his side in less than a moment, her hand cupping the back of his head. It might have been a romantic gesture if her nails weren’t digging into his skin.
“What’re you doin’?” Lester demanded, feeling immediately soberer and far more alarmed. “Let go of me, please!”
“What sort of work do you think I left my homeland to do, Lester?” she asked in a low voice that closely resembled a growl.
“Uh, I dunno! Singin’? Workin’ corners? I dunno! Let me go!”
“My sisters and I were once guardians of a powerful goddess,” she hissed, her fingers tightening evermore. “Now we are cursed to lure away the scum of the Earth, so that they may not harm she whom we have lost.”
“The fuck is wrong with you?! Let me go, please!” He tried to shove her off, or kick her, or do anything at all, but it was like she was made of stone. She tightened her fingers more, and he felt her draw blood as it ran down his neck.
“Your species used to pass us by on boats, so that we had no need to leave our beaches. But for each of you that we eliminate, two more are born. You forced us to leave the holy grounds of our ancestors to pursue you. You are truly the lowest of the low.”
“You are taking too long,” Eumelia barked from across the room. Alkyone’s gaze didn’t leave Lester’s face, but her eyes tightened in annoyance.
“I am doing my job. Leave me.” With her free hand, she untied the cloak that was fastened around her neck, and Lester went numb at the sight of the long, raven wings that now sprouted from her back.
“Please…,” he said weakly, feeling his pants darken with urine. “My wife, she’ll know I’m gone. She’ll call the police.”
“I am sure that your wife would not miss you if she knew you were pursuing a young woman in the dead of night,” Alkyone said cuttingly, raising her other hand to his throat. Her long fingernails felt as sharp as razors. “I assure you that no woman will miss your absence when—”
“Hurry!” Eumelia snapped. “The longer you wait, the more risk you run of him being discovered!”
Alkyone scowled, revealing sharp pointed fangs, and Lester nearly fainted.
“Fine. As you wish.” With that, she slit his throat with her fingernail, so cleanly and expediently that Lester felt no pain. Warm liquid washed over his chest, and when Alkyone released her grip, he collapsed on the floor.
* * *
It was Eumelia’s turn the next night. She chose her venue, convinced the owner to allow her to perform with only a few enchantment-laden words, and mounted the stage to sing her songs.
She leaned into the microphone and began her melody, laced with the luring charm that she had spent centuries perfecting and teaching to the other fledglings that roosted in her nest. It was a well-refined talent to both sing the luring song and also continue to mentally recite the spell to keep her wings hidden.
As she sang, she thought of the incident of the previous night. Alkyone was still such a young siren; still so controlled by her anger and desire for vengeance against the men who had ceased sailing across the sea and forced their roost to come out of hiding and live out in the open, always at risk of being discovered and killed. Still, that did not excuse her from making such a spectacle of killing the balding man. She would have to be more carefully taught.
Like tonight. Eumelia would be sure to show her how a clean killing went. She cast her gaze around the room and spied a man in a tatty jacket sitting at the bar, clutching a glass of brown liquor in his hand. She smiled and cast her spell out to him and him alone, going on instinct that he was just the type of flotsam that would be lured by such a melody.
Within moments, he spun on the stool and walked up to her stage, almost as if in a trance. His boozy, unfocused eyes locked on hers, and she rewarded him with a slow wink.
This would be too easy.