Blood & Water
The scroll lay on the kitchen table, weighted down with coffee grounds and a two-liter bottle of cola to keep from rolling up. Any fluid that Gemma could find in the fridge, she’d tried on it, before moving on to cleaning supplies. Now chicken broth and bleach sat puddled together on the papyrus, and the iridescent ink glowed dully through the liquid, taunting her.
With her arms crossed over her chest, Gemma bounced on the balls of her feet, as if that would somehow knock an idea free, and she’d realize how to break the stupid curse.
She kept thinking back to the night she had become a siren, certain that there must be some sort of clue there. Gemma had been in the bay, enjoying a night swim, and the sirens had been dancing around a fire in the cove.
This was before Gemma knew what they really were, and Lexi sang to her, calling to her. When she swam toward them, the siren song blocked out all fear and reason, and her body moved on its own.
When Gemma reached the shore, Lexi held out her hand and pulled her to her feet.
Penn had been dancing with a shawl around her. It was made of some kind of gauzy gold material, and she placed it over Gemma’s shoulders. “Here. To keep you warm.”
Then Lexi had put an arm around her, and at her touch the hairs on the back of Gemma’s neck stood up. Instinctively, Gemma pulled away, but then Lexi began singing again, and the siren song trapped her there.
“Come join us.” Penn had kept her eyes on Gemma and stepped backwards, toward the fire.
Lexi reached into the front of her dress and pulled out a small copper flask. “Let’s have a drink.”
“Sorry, I don’t drink.”
“Gemma,” Lexi said, her voice a song again. She held out the flask, but Gemma hesitated. “Drink.”
Then Gemma didn’t seem to have a choice. She couldn’t even consider refusing. Her hands moved on their own, taking the flask from Lexi, unscrewing the top, and putting it to her lips. It seemed involuntary, like breathing.
The liquid was thick, and it tasted bitter and salty on her tongue. It burned going down her throat. It felt too heavy and hot to swallow, and she gagged.
Much later, Penn would tell her what the liquid had really been made of—blood of a siren, blood of a mortal, and blood of the sea. When Gemma had found out, she’d nearly thrown up.
The cove had seemed to pitch to the side after she’d managed to swallow the mixture, and Gemma grabbed on to Lexi to keep from falling. Everything was swayed. She tried to stand up and nearly tipped forward into the fire, but Penn caught her, and then the world faded to black.
After she’d passed out, Penn had wrapped her in the shawl completely and then tossed her into the ocean. If the curse worked, Gemma would awaken as a siren the next morning. And if it didn’t, she would drown.
Fortunately—or unfortunately, depending on how she looked at it—the curse had worked, and Gemma had woken up on the rocky shore a siren.
“What am I missing?” Gemma whispered to herself now in her kitchen. “There has to be something that made the curse that will also help break it.” Then it hit her. “Blood.”
The instant she said it, she was reminded of a text that Harper had sent her on Monday after she’d visited with her professor. He hadn’t been able to translate much of the scroll, and he wasn’t certain about what little he had. But a phrase he’d guessed at stood out.
“The blood can’t become water,” she recited, repeating what Harper had messaged her.
When she’d woken up this morning, Gemma had run down to the bay and filled up a jar with saltwater from the ocean. She’d tried it on the scroll, and other than glowing a little, nothing much had happened, and the mason jar sat on the kitchen table, still half full of seawater.
“It can’t be that simple,” she said as she eyed the jar, but she went over to the kitchen drawer and pulled out a sharp steak knife.
Biting her lip to steel herself against the pain, she sliced the blade down her finger. As soon as the blood started flowing, she held her finger over the scroll and squeezed it, dripping it down on the words.
Quickly, she picked up the jar and poured a little bit of water over the blood. The words began to glow brighter than she’d seen them before, and using her cut finger, she smeared the blood and water together, pushing it deeper into the paper.
The words continued to glow for a few more seconds, but then they just faded back to normal. Truthfully, Gemma hadn’t expected anything much different. The mixture that Penn had used to turn Gemma into a siren had been the blood of a siren, the blood of a mortal, and the blood of the ocean.
She had the siren and ocean part covered. Now all she needed was a mortal, and, fortunately, she thought she knew of one who would be eager to give up her blood. Gemma pulled out her phone and quickly wrote a text.
Within ten minutes of sending Marcy the message, her friend was knocking at the front door. While she’d been waiting for her, Gemma had tried an experiment with just her blood, and although she hadn’t expected it to work, she had to give it a shot.
When Gemma answered the front door, Marcy was standing on the front step, and Kirby stood on the step below her, offering her a sheepish smile when Gemma looked at him in surprise.
“Oh. I didn’t realize you were bringing Kirby,” Gemma said.
“We were hanging out, so I thought he’d tag along,” Marcy explained. “Besides, you said it was an emergency.”
“I never said it was an emergency. I asked if you could come over real quick,” Gemma corrected her. “But thanks for being so speedy.”
“Is it a problem that I’m here?” Kirby asked. “I can leave or go wait in Marcy’s car or something.”
“Normally, I wouldn’t mind, but I had kind of a … personal favor for Marcy,” Gemma tried to explain, and gave him an apologetic smile.
“Is this about feminine hygiene?” Marcy asked.
“What? No. Ew.” Gemma shook her head. “No, this is about the … scroll.”
“You’re talking about the whole siren thing?” Kirby asked.
Gemma was taken aback. “You told him?”
Marcy shrugged. “Yeah, Kirb’s cool. If he can’t handle the stuff I’m into, then we couldn’t hang out. So I had to tell him about it, and he passed the test.”
“Are you sure you’re really cool with the whole siren thing?” Gemma asked Kirby, ignoring Marcy’s assurances that he could handle all things supernatural. “Because it’s gonna get even weirder.”