‘My name is Lorelei’ by Phoebe Hartley

My name is Lorelei. I am their downfall. Mine is the voice in the storm.

Ever since I was young, I had always wanted to be a sailor, a profession that was not an option if you were a woman. I longed throughout my childhood for the freedom of the sea. Home carried too many responsibilities, if I stayed here I would be expected to marry and have children. I would forever be controlled by a man: first my father, then my husband, I would never find this freedom that I so desperately longed for. I felt my only option was to run away and become a sailor. So I did, at 15 years old, I was travelling alone to Portsmouth in an attempt to follow my dream. For the next year, I sailed with the crew of the great ship, Amphirite, disguised as a man with my long red hair tucked carefully into a hat and my chest bound with bandages. I dressed in men’s clothing and learned to act as they did. Finally, I was free. Finally, I was happy. Or so I thought. True freedom would come at a great price.    

One night, a storm came, rolling over the waters and engulfing everything that lay before her. None of us had ever seen anything like it before. Waves rearing higher than the masts crashed down around us and a wild wind howled, stirring up the sea, some of the crew were blown overboard, directly into the mouths of the beasts lurking beneath us. The sea was angry. I could hear faint shouting around me. The first mate was praying and begging God to grant him mercy. We were all going to die, that much was definite, it was only a matter of holding on as long as possible. The great ship lurched. All around me, the remainder of the crew grabbed onto the masts and rigging. Screams filled the air. Screams so loud I could hear them over the wind which tore at my clothes and pulled my hat from my head and let my hair loose around me.

Suddenly there were rough hands everywhere pulling me towards the edge of the boat with cries of “ she’s a witch, an ill omen, she’s brought about the storm.”  Desperately I struggled, frantically clawing at the hands that carried me ever closer to my death, tying my legs together and attaching an anchor near my feet. They were going to throw me overboard, drown me in the midst of a storm for the simple crime of daring to be a woman on board a ship. I told myself I would not cry, I would not struggle or beg for mercy. I would accept my death and may God let it come quickly. 

The cold seemed to penetrate my very bones. This brain numbing cold and the waves which tossed me around. I knew that struggling was pointless, there was no way out of this. My fate was sealed. I was going to die. Oddly, felt no panic, only a deep relief. I would not have to hide anymore. I guess I had never really lived, so why would death matter. In the distance, I was dimly aware that the ship that I had stood on moments before had finally broken, split cleanly down the middle. The sails drifted towards the eerie depths like great ghosts.  Bodies fell around me clawing desperately at the water, trying in vain to reach the air. Maybe now they realised I didn’t bring the storm, their own evil brought their doom. Then darkness crept into the edge of my vision and I was finally at peace.

Pain. My whole body was on fire. For weeks I had lain here begging for death, knowing that the end had come. I should have been dead, at times I thought I was. I couldn’t see, I couldn’t hear, the only thing I was aware of was the pain that engulfed me. During the eternity that i was stuck there, I changed. My legs gradually fused together, forming a tail not unlike that of a fish. Webs formed between my fingers and my skin became pale and took on an almost greenish hue when looked at through water. When I emerged again, I was no longer human. I was a siren, maiden of the sea. Amphitrite ( wife of Poseidon) had granted me another chance and the gift of my voice. When I sing, I let free a haunting melody, a sound that will drive men insane. The naive young girl who dared to hope is lost. I am not her, not anymore. Now I am Lorelei.  

Something inside me died during those long weeks I was trapped in myself, slowly transforming. I was no longer left with any human emotions, only a burning desire for revenge. Even though the men who had wronged me were now lying at the bottom of the ocean slowly decaying, many women before and after me have been wronged by these monsters who dare to call themselves superior. I promised myself there and then that I would take my revenge. 

Now I am destined to sing for all eternity, I sing of injustice in a language they will never know but it doesn’t matter. My voice is a gift and a curse, my weapon of mass destruction. Countless sailors have fallen victim to it and dragged their ships onto rocks in a vain attempt to reach me. All met the same end as the crew who drowned me. They fall into the depths of the ocean and are never seen again. I watch them die, over and over and yet feel no remorse, I see them clawing desperately at thin air, begging for mercy from God but they are looking for a miracle. Amphirite, wife of Poseidon, has given me another chance and I will use it to seek justice. God will not save these men who fell to temptation and lust. They are left crying like babies and failing to fight the power of the sea for none can conquer the ocean. I make sure to show them this. 

Over the years, many have seen me as a challenge and attempted to pass by me unscathed. None have succeeded. I represent all of their weaknesses. They are driven by lust, and my power is desirable. Mine is the voice they hear in the storm. A low, haunting melody which reminds them of their imminent doom. My songs are heard by the dying, all across the world. When I sing, the underworld calls. 

My name is Lorelei. I am their downfall. Mine is the voice in the storm.

Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

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