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Beacon of Nope

Improbable Paradise challenge submission

By AphoticPublished about a year ago 13 min read
Top Story - January 2023
Beacon of Nope
Photo by Nikko Balanial on Unsplash

When Damien arrived at his beachfront Airbnb, he was met with open doors and overly friendly smiles. The house he would be spending the next week of his life in was simultaneously the cheapest place on the site and the most immaculate. The link had been sent to him by his internet girlfriend of two months, Miranda. It was such a steal, he had booked it immediately(before the host had the chance to notice their obvious mistake and correct the price).

The place was smack-dab in the middle of a long row of homes housing permanent residents of the beach. Locals.

He expected to be treated like the outsider he was, but either the permanents made a great effort to hide their distaste for his arrival or they were actually happy to have a tourist in their midst. Damien found it a bit odd, but not enough to sound any kind of alarm bells his head. He had dealings with many locals in his travels so he had met his fair share of both the welcoming and the shunning types. He wasn’t sure whether he was relieved or bothered by their inviting demeanor.

As he unpacked his rental car, he was approached by an older couple that offered to assist with his luggage. He politely declined, but instead of leaving him to it the pair took turns gushing about the area, giving Damien an unsolicited rundown on the place.

The woman boasted that the lighthouse behind the Airbnb was built in the 1600s, when the island was first settled. “The keeper used to live in this exact spot where we’re standing until the whole strip was washed away in the tropical storm of 1832. Everything had to be rebuilt. The lighthouse is the only original structure still standing. Of course, it’s not operational anymore. Still a marvelous sight.” Damien could see the tip of it poking out over the top of his Airbnb.

“And at night, you must listen to the swallows. They sing a song so beautiful it makes grown men cry like babies.” The old man added gleefully. Damien was only half listening. He wasn’t really there for the birds or history lessons.

When he finished retrieving his luggage from the rental, he politely excused himself from the boring conversation and hurried inside, slightly unsettled by the overzealous smiles that followed him. No wonder the place had been so cheap. He decided he would prefer pissed off locals that minded their business to the overbearing, pestering kind. When he was finished unpacking inside, he headed toward the back door that led out to the beach, hopeful that there weren’t too many eyes and noses on that side of the house.

The sky was overcast, like it would start pouring rain any second. He hoped not, it was already humid enough. His flight had been fourteen hours, and the drive to his Airbnb another two. It was quite far from the touristy areas, which were practically on top of the airport for the most part. It was also two digits less in cost per night than the tourist hot-spots, though, so he couldn’t complain too much about the long drive.

He was about to head outside with his beach chair and a beer to relax and unwind for the rest of the day, but as he was reaching for the door handle he spotted a woman standing outside, staring at the house. Her arms were folded over her chest, eyes a million miles away. She was wearing an ankle-length sundress that flowed in the light breeze and her long, dark hair blew gently in tandem, partially obscuring her face. Damien suddenly felt unwell and lost his desire to go to the beach. He resigned to just spend the rest of the day inside. It was cloudy and drab out there anyway.

In the living room, he reclined all the way back in the easy chair with a beer in one hand and his phone in the other. He found the wifi password in his email and connected his phone to it. He proceeded to browse Netflix until his eyes ached, exited the app, called Miranda—the reason he was here to begin with.

“Hey, handsome” She answered after the first ring.

“Hey, gorgeous.” He replied. “Just got to the Airbnb. Can’t wait to see you tomorrow.”

“Me neither.” She said, sounding a little off.

“Is something wrong?” He asked, straightening himself in the chair.

“No, I’m just antsy to finally be with you is all.”

“Less than twenty four hours. I can’t believe we’re finally going to meet in person. It feels like a dream.”

The conversation was cut short as Miranda’s flight was about to take off and she had to turn off her device. Jet-lagged and exhausted, Damien made his way to the bedroom and stripped down to his boxer shorts, collapsed on the bed.

A heavy pounding at the door tore Damien from his sleep. Disoriented, he scrambled out of bed, becoming entangled in the sheets which twisted around his ankles like shackles anchoring him in place and he fell flat on the floor. The pounding stopped briefly, only to resume even harder than before. It sounded like a cop knock, which made him nervous as he fought his way out of his linen shackles. He glanced at his phone’s screen, squinting from the bright light of it against the darkness. It was just before three in the morning. That meant he had been sleeping for at least ten hours and he still felt like a walking corpse.

Angrily, he stomped to the front door, not even bothering to put on pants. Whoever had the nerve to knock like that so early in the morning would get what they got. He yanked open the door in only his underwear, baffled to find that there was nobody on the other side. He stepped outside, wrapping his arms around his body for warmth. Despite being in the upper ninety degrees during the day, the island was quite chilly after sundown.

Black waves lapped the dark shore, only slightly illuminated by the moonlight which created a reflective sheen across the top in certain places, gleaming at the tide’s peaks and edges. It didn’t smell like it had rained while he snoozed, but the air felt like it always did before a storm.

“Hey, who’s out there?” He bellowed over the roaring of the ocean. “If you don’t knock it off I’m calling the cops!” He was about to slam the door when his eyes caught something bright and white in his peripherals. He bent down to pick up the small rectangle, secured by a pair of headphones as a paperweight.

Written on the small scrap of paper was a single sentence. Put these on.

Damien had no intention of entertaining the local riffraff, so he tore up the note and threw the headphones as hard as he could toward the ocean. They landed in the sand just short of the tide’s reach. He looked around one last time, mumbled “goddamn punks,” and went back inside, locking the door behind him. He went back to bed and fell facedown onto the mattress. It didn’t take long for him to doze off again.

Damien was dreaming about seagulls delivering headphones to him in droves when he was yanked from his slumber again by the same heavy knocking at the front door. He leapt out of bed and stormed to the door, saw a shadow through the window. He quickly unlocked the door and jerked it open.

Once again he was greeted by nothing but empty beach. He hurried off the stoop into the sand, frantically searching for the person responsible for disturbing his sleep not once, but twice now. “Fuck off!” He screamed as loud as his lungs would allow. Nothing seemed to stir.

He turned to go back inside and stopped in his tracks when he saw the same headphones he had thrown into the sand earlier hanging from the door handle. He grabbed them and broke them in half, threw them onto the stoop. He went back inside and sat on the edge of the bed, took out his phone. Now it was after three. He set his phone on the bedside table and laid back down. Just as his head hit the pillow a phone started ringing somewhere in the house.

You’ve got to be fucking kidding me, He thought as he rolled off the bed and groaned vehemently. He found the landline and snatched it from the wall. “Who is this?” He griped into the receiver.

“Damien?” Whispered a female voice.

“How do you know my name?” He snapped. “Who is this?”

“You have to listen to me. You’ve been being lied to. You should’ve never come here. If you want to make it alive until morning you need to put on the headphones.”

“Look, I don’t know what kind of fucked up game you’re playing here, but I’m not going to be a part of it!”

“This isn’t a game!—“ she paused, as if waiting for something. “I’m not supposed to be talking to you. If they catch me—” There was rustling in the background accompanied by a muffled voice. “Whatever you do, don’t listen to her song.” The woman whispered urgently before hanging up. Damien kept the phone to his ear for a minute. He had a sudden chill in his bones. What the fuck, he thought. He put the phone back on its dock and made his way back to the bedroom, reeling from the strange events of the night. He couldn’t lie to himself, he was starting to freak out.

He was about to get dressed and start packing his things back up when a bright light flared through his window as if someone had parked their car right outside his window and blasted their headlights directly into his room. He squinted against the light and snatched his phone back up. He hurried to a less illuminated window. Phone in hand, poised over the touchscreen dial pad and ready to call 9-1-1, he pulled back the curtain and peered outside. The source of the light was the lighthouse the old couple he had met upon his arrival had told him was no longer operational. Someone was fucking with him and he was done being toyed with. He tapped out 9-1-1 and was about to hit send when his ears were filled with a preternaturally beautiful sound bleeding in from outside. He dropped his phone to the floor and sauntered toward the door in a daze like a mindless zombie.

It was a melody, intoxicating and enchanting. It was unlike anything he had ever heard or previously thought possible. He was hypnotized, mercilessly compelled toward the sound. As it beckoned him forth, he remembered something the old man from earlier had said. At night, you must listen to the swallows. They sing a song so beautiful it makes grown men cry. He realized then that there actually were tears prickling his eyes and rolling down his face. He laughed a bit maniacally at the absurdity of the situation as he droned toward the front door. When he swung it open, he was met by an oddly familiar face.

The woman from the beach that had been staring at the house earlier that day wore headphones covering her ears and her mouth was moving but Damien couldn’t make out what she was saying. He could hear nothing else over the hauntingly beautiful sound of the songbirds, didn’t desire to. He walked right past her toward the source of the sound, unable to resist the call. The strange woman grabbed his wrist, tried to force the pair of headphones he had broken over his ears, but he easily fought her off and strode forth. The sound was leading him directly toward the lighthouse like a moth drawn to a flame.

The melody, he realized, was coming from behind the lighthouse where he could see something on the beach just within the tide. It was hunched over itself in a heap. Its form looked almost human besides for the wings attached at its shoulder blades. He couldn’t quite see the lower half as it was obscured by the gentle waves. As he drew closer, the song became louder until it filled every fibre of his being and pulsed through him like his own blood. He was not afraid despite the unusual appearance of the creature. It wasn’t human, nor fish, nor bird, but a combination of the three. Damien found it to be peculiar yet beautiful as he moved closer, closer to the being. Its face was hidden behind long, dark hair that pooled around it, ebbing and flowing with the movement of the ocean.

Damien was just outside arms’ reach of the thing when it simultaneously stopped its song and snapped its head up to meet his gaze. In that same moment, whatever spell Damien had been under broke and he was overwhelmed with such a profound terror at what sat before him. He turned to run, but the thing shot up from its perch and grabbed him in a fraction of a second, pulling him backward with such force that his feet left the ground. As they crashed into the water, Damien’s eyes caught something strange happening on the beach. Dozens of people were gathering at the water’s edge, silently watching as Damien was pulled beneath the surface. They all wore headphones and vacant faces as they watched the thing drag him down and down and down into the surf.

He recognized two people in the gathering crowd. One of them was the strange woman who had tried to warn him. She was the only one who appeared perturbed. The other stood front and center and wore a look of pure indifference on her beautiful face. Miranda. You’ve been being lied to. He had been told by the strange woman. He hadn’t realized what she meant at the time, but as he locked eyes with the woman he had swiftly fallen for, he understood. Miranda had been the one to make the first move by messaging Damien on Facebook. She had also been the one to suggest they meet on this particular island and it was she who had sent him the link to the Airbnb. His heart shattered as she faded from view.

Soon, he could no longer see through the water’s surface. He was pulled swiftly into the dark depths, now touching the ocean’s floor. He felt the jagged edges of an underwater cavern tearing at his exposed skin as he was dragged along.

Suddenly, he was released onto what felt like a pile of sticks and stones beneath him. His lungs burned for fresh air and he thrashed uselessly in the pitch black. He knew he was lying on a bed of the skulls and bones of the many men lured to the island by Miranda before him. The bigger picture made itself clear in his final moments.

He kicked and punched futilely at the water, his fists connecting sluggishly with the sharp rock walls around him. Before long, his limbs went still.

His body had forced him to inhale and the dark water filled his lungs. The image of Miranda watching him pulled under the surface with such callous and indifference was the last thing he saw in his mind’s eye before his oxygen deprived brain cut the last thread of his consciousness.

In what would soon be his briny grave, one final ironic thought crossed his mind before he succumbed to death’s embrace. At least nothing can disturb my sleep.


About the Creator




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  1. Excellent storytelling

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Comments (18)

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  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarran11 months ago

    I never thought it would be Miranda. Poor Damian. And lol, I loved the subtle humour at the end! Fantastic story!

  • Naomi Goldabout a year ago

    I’m just now reading this, but wow! Incredible siren story. I was thinking WTF as soon as I read this: “The link had been sent to him by his internet girlfriend of two months, Miranda.” LOL. I knew that would not end well, but I had no idea what was coming.

  • Claudia Neavesabout a year ago

    Absolutely chilling! The tie in to the "swallows song" quote left me breathless, and I loved the final line. I think you would enjoy some of my "spooky shorts" if you wander over to my author page. Although I'm still practicing getting to your level, I think we have a very similar style of narration.

  • Kendrick Bakerabout a year ago

    Great read, short and to the point but not barren of details!

  • Donna Fox (HKB)about a year ago

    Well written and such a unique story!

  • Melanie Tongmarabout a year ago

    Very engaging!

  • JBazabout a year ago

    Oh boy did I like this. Wonderfully told and written. Congratulations

  • Student's dreamabout a year ago

    well written

  • Gal Muxabout a year ago

    Poor guy. Great story!

  • Madoka Moriabout a year ago

    Wow, fantastic stuff! Great work.

  • Ashley Limaabout a year ago

    Amazing story! Congrats on Top Story :)

  • J. S. Wadeabout a year ago

    Awesome story Aphotic. ❤️it. Congrats on being awarded Top Story. 🏆🥰

  • Bex Jordanabout a year ago

    This story is killer (pun intended)! I loved the build-up. Well done!

  • Testabout a year ago

    Yay! Congrats on your top story, horror sister!

  • Heather Hublerabout a year ago

    First, I loved the title! Caught my eye right away :) And wow, it was more creepy that there were so many who knew what was happening but couldn't really help. I loved how you ended it, great work!! Congratulations on Top Story!!!

  • VIDHYASAGARabout a year ago

    It's really amazing story.. excellent 🤩👍🔥

  • Sports trending about a year ago

    "School horror story " by @vocal_creators https://vocal.media/horror/school-horror-story please check my 😍

  • Testabout a year ago

    Loved this! I'm all about the siren's song! I've actually just finished a feature script about killer mermaids, complete with a quirky, complicit community, so I was excited to see a new and unique take on a similar concept! Well done!

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