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88_ym_slayingsiren_wjsavage.jpg
Art by W. Jack Savage 2021

Slaying The Siren

 

By

 

Dionisio “Don” Traverso Jr.

 

 

 

Sirens blaring, the vehicle carrying Inspector Jacqueline Juve weaves through the evening traffic, racing against murder. She focuses on the streets, mind projecting and magnifying the urgency the sirens should convey to the drivers ahead of her. A life is at stake, and they need to know it and get out of her way. In spite of this, she still has to steer around dawdlers.

It has been a puzzling case, one that would be strange in another city, but not in Crystal, the first psykopolis. Five deaths, the victims all drained of life. Not blood, but life, the essential energy that fuels the human machine, that naturally dissipates throughout the years unless the machine is damaged or diseased. In a typical murder, Juve can, for the first few hours, read the fading electrical impulses in the victims’ brains, piece together the final fragmentary thoughts to gain clues as to why, how, and who. The more freshly dead, the stronger the impulses. That wasn’t true of the victims of these particular deaths. They all were devoid of any kind of spark. Their life force, down to the cellular level, had been completely drained.

Vampirism and parasitism are nothing new in Crystal. The psychetecture used for most of the city’s buildings enhance the natural psychic inclinations of most of the city’s inhabitants. Some become geniuses, healers, prophets. Others become madmen, succubae, saboteurs. New marvels are invented every day, as are new crimes. In this case, it’s a new variation of the new crime of vampirism. Never has Juve seen energy drained so completely from the victims, their bodies rotting so quickly autopsies were almost impossible. They were all male, and, Juve discovered through her investigation, all connected to Alicia Bayton.

A woman of robust body and red hair that literally shimmers, Bayton had been intimate with each victim. At first she was the main suspect, but her fellow members of the commune she lives in accounted for her presence during each murder. One of them mentioned another paramour, Ronald Daughtry, with whom Bayton had broken up before the murders. Bayton gave Juve a mental image of Daughtry, a thin dark man with angry eyes, but Juve asked for a physical photograph instead. She had learned in this job that you can’t trust how others see a person because of the biases that color their perception. The photograph matched the image, except for the eyes. This led Juve to Daughtry’s apartment, earlier today.

He lived in a studio in Regent Park, a growing neighborhood of new structures showcasing the latest advances in psychetecture. The buildings gave off bright subliminals, impressions of serenity that belied the presence of a possible killer. Juve and her partner, Jerome Rambert, were searching Daughtry’s room, scanning for any psychic traces. In the bathroom, she felt a chill in the air. Her breath steamed. A compulsion brought her to the bathroom mirror. She breathed upon it. The steam settled on the mirror, then words were spelled out on the condensation as by an invisible finger:

THE SIREN WILL BE SLAIN TONIGHT

“Jerry!” she called, sending him a snapshot of the message to his mind, in case it disappeared before he entered the room. He saw it just before it faded. “Scan this room, inch by inch! I’m going to Bayton’s place! Hopefully I’ll get there first!”

She now drives into Franklin Heights, an older neighborhood of first and second generation psychetecture. Bayton’s commune is a large two-story house, with many bedrooms. Juve pulls up and runs out toward the front door, using her mind to pick the lock, as she had learned from a thief who is now one of her confidential informants. She enters the house, hears the voices.

You’re dead! You can’t be here!

“I am now, thanks to you. I told you I’d end this.”

Juve recognizes the first voice as Bayton’s. The second is a man’s voice. It has to be Daughtry’s. She rushes up the stairs, gun out, to Bayton’s bedroom, yelling, “Police! Don’t move!”

What she sees inside the room burns into her memory till her dying day.

Bayton’s hair is gone, replaced by red tentacles wrapping around Daughtry’s face, pulling it closer to her open mouth, from which extruded a tenacled tongue.

“Not this time, bitch!” Daughtry says through clenched teeth as he brings up the knife to her throat. Blood splatters on him as he hacks away at her, the tentacles sliding off him as she falls. She coughs more blood as half the tentacles change back to hair, then softly gurgles as she dies.

“She killed them all,” Daughtry says to a still stunned Juve. “I know, because she tried to kill me too. When she kisses you, you get lost in the sensation. It feels good as she drains you. I would’ve been her fourth victim, but I fought back. I knew somehow that it wasn’t good. Something felt…off. I escaped, barely. Pulled away from her at the last moment, but she had taken much from me. I lay in my bed for four days. Then she killed again. I heard it on the newscast. I thought about going to the police, but I guess the energy she stole also connected my mind to hers. She found out somehow and told her commune I was coming to kill her. She convinced them to kill me at my home. That way, you’d think I’d done her murders.”

Juve shakes herself out of her shock, points her gun at Daughtry. “You have to come with me. Put the knife down. We’ll go to the station and get your statement, settle all this.”

“I’m afraid you have to do that by yourself. Thanks for the boost you gave me at my apartment. Believing I was alive made me so, for a while. You’ll find me in the Regent Park Lagoon.”

He vanishes, the knife dropping to the ground.

The commune members are arrested for killing him in his bathroom, then dumping the body. Later, Daughtry’s corpse is found in the lagoon. Watching it being put in the coroner’s wagon, Juve can’t help but think of how much life force he must’ve had. Maybe Bayton wouldn’t have needed to kill anyone at all if she had realized this. 

THE END

Copyright September 25, 2021 by Dionisio “Don” Traverso Jr. - All rights reserved.


Dionisio “Don” Traverso Jr. currently lives in middle-of-nowhere Wisconsin with his partner and muse, two children, and a cat. His stories have been published with the byline of Don Traverso, in Rod Serling's Twilight Zone Magazine, Aberations, Midnight Zoo, Aphelion Webzine, and Armageddon Buffet. Most recently his stories have appeared in Cheapjack Pulp and Black Petals. He currently has a weird horror collection out, Tales From Walken County. He also makes rhythmic noise as Mekano 46. 


W. Jack Savage is a retired broadcaster and educator. He is the author of eight books including Imagination: The Art of W. Jack Savage (wjacksavage.com).  To date, more than fifty of Jack’s short stories and over a thousand of his paintings and drawings have been published worldwide. Jack and his wife Kathy live in Monrovia, California.




In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2021