Out of the Blue
Black and Blues
Stephanie Rose Bird
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher: One Odd Bird Press
Date of Publication: March 22, 2020
Word Count: 58,500 words
Formats available: E-Book and Paperback
Cover Artist: Najla Qamber Designs and Qamber Kids
Tagline: Out of the Blue is a young-adult, coming-of-age novel that seamlessly bridges elements of African American folklore and spirituality with Greek mythology.
When two worlds collide, only one girl can unravel the mythical threads and save her father’s life. . .
Mobile, Alabama, 1947
Bobby “The Shrimp Man” Daniels, a blues singer and shrimper from Mobile, lies unconscious in a hospital bed, suffering from a mysterious illness. His daughter Tina, a sheltered sixteen year old, torn between her love for her father, and her disappointment in his relationship with Kyane, his much younger mistress, is determined to heal her father, no matter the cost.
Kyane isn’t just a mistress, she’s a Siren, obsessed with her overwhelming desire to become human and merge her otherworldly singing voice with Bobby’s incredible music. She’ll do anything to get what she wants, annihilating anything, and anyone who stands in her way.
In order to save her father, Tina will have to travel to the Kyane’s world, a world of strange and magical creatures, and figure out how to wrestle his soul from the Siren’s control. As Tina’s magical journey twists and turns, she’ll learn what it means to be a woman and what it means to save not only her father, but herself.
Out of the Blue is a young-adult, coming-of-age novel that seamlessly bridges elements of African American folklore and spirituality and Greek mythology.
Chapter 5 Aello and the Harpies
Walking along, well, hobbling really, the Sirens are in their own little world. Traipsing down the fragrant and colorful path, they leave me alone. I watch them head into the woods down a narrowing path, flanked by wildflowers of every description. They begin to chatter away, with great excitement. The trio busy themselves, going back and forth about who knows what about whom. At least a couple of minutes pass by this way. The scent and delicate beauty of the woods is enchanting, and their words weave in and out of the powerful perfume kicked up by swaying leaves and blooms.
I’m at a loss. There ain’t no way I can understand what they’re saying anyhow because it’s in a foreign tongue. What I can tell is that one of them said just a few words and her voice goes to a higher pitch as she ends.
She’s asking a question.
The others disagree or have their own ideas. . . and so it goes.
Before I tire from trying to make out what they’re saying, my mind circles back to the odd but real situation where I find myself. I’ve left my Daddy alone to fend for himself. What of Rudy and Ruby? I didn’t know when or how I’d get back to them.
As much as I hate what Daddy gone and did, running off, with that woman-child-bird thing, who I now know isn’t even human, but a Siren, I’m kind of doing the same thing. Instead of being with one of them, I’m with three.
There’s something about these Sirens. They make me feel ill-at ease. Mama wouldn’t like me being with them. No, not at all. These creatures are certainly not of this earth. Never, and I do mean that, have I felt such a longing and desire to hear singing. Not even at church with the best of the choir singers.
The trio’s songs, they touch me way down deep in my soul. Daddy’s songs do that too but he is at a disadvantage, for with him there is only one voice, as deep and mellow as it is. Now, with these creatures, they have themselves and then something else, too, from far beyond my reach or understanding. Just as their cloaks left me wondering what’s beneath, the meaning of their haunting songs is also a complete mystery.
Like a paper airplane, their voices appear, seemingly out of nowhere and pierce straight through my thoughts, precise as an arrow. Soul-soothing sounds—the ones I’ve begun to crave
with everything I am—returned. The trio begin singing, hitting impossibly high notes that set my heart a pumping, then lows that stir the darkest depths of my soul. They hit harmonies I could’ve only imagined possible before this afternoon. They could do this whenever and from whatever distance they chose.
For once in my life, I am complete. Full and satisfied, my heart is jam-packed with a tremendous, inexplicable joy. Before today, I wouldn’t have thought any of this could be possible. I begin to shutter and shake behind them. After all, the only way I knew of to show true joy was to get happy. I’d gone into this place of ecstasy a few other times at our church, following the elder’s ways of rhythmically jumping forward and backwards until you land in a kind of bliss. It isn’t just the elders, Mama does it and quite regularly, too.
But this is different.
I don’t realize it until it’s too late. My shuffles, back and forth and back again create a distance between us. You could call it a gap.
In that happy state I’ve worked myself up and into, my eyes are barely open. Intruding into my new reality comes a sharp and insistent wind. I feel it, and see it. It picks up the cloak and shawls that the Sirens wear, probably to cover whatever it is that they walk on, causing them to hobble so.
Coming back into myself, the desire to see what’s beneath those cloaks remains strong. It could prove to be a key to understanding what these things are and what the Siren, who has entranced Daddy so, is made of. I’m pretty sure it isn’t the same flesh and blood and bone as the rest of us.
I’ve been straining so hard to see, I never even notice the wind has picked up even more steam. The sky darkens, turning nearly to the black of night, though it was been bright and sunny just a few moments ago. Now it’s as though I’m back home in Alabama, taken by surprise by a violent spring storm, maybe even one of our dreaded hurricanes.
A storm must be blowing in, off the sea.
A very large shadow lingers overhead. I look up and get the shock of my life. Without warning, a most painful scratch gouges my upper back. I can hear whatever did it tearing straight through my blouse. Afterwards a sharp, stabbing pain, spreads all the way down to my behind.
The only thing I can compare it to is a fish being gutted.
How much more am I supposed to take?
Heart pounding, and running as fast as possible, I pump my legs, trying to catch up to the trio. Instead of narrowing, the gap between us has grown to an impossible length. The Siren’s haunting song vanishes completely. My back is wet with sticky blood and sweat, causing my stiff cotton blouse to stick to it, bringing about more irritation. My mind is usually filled up with day-to-day concerns, but I got to tell you, fear was sweeping over me just like the cruel, swiftly moving northern wind. Sweating and bleeding, panic takes over.
Looking up again, I can see more clearly. It ain’t just fear overtaking me. It’s a gigantic beast—part woman, from all appearances and part beast—looking much like a vulture but larger. This odd creature seems to enjoy toying with me by swooping in ever closer. Apparently, this monster has scratched me pretty hard but looking at it, I imagine it can get much worse.
She is the storm.
The odor coming from it, gets caught up in fierce winds. Rotten eggs, the foulest of chicken, left too long in the icebox? I get the dry heaves and then retch.
I bend over from the waist. Its smell nearly knocks me over.
What would win out, fear or the great stench?
This is not the time or place for such thinking, Tina. You have to pull yourself from getting happy, and run like you never have before.
Why doesn’t the trio look back? Is this beast working with them? Through them?
Another blast of foul air that smells like a trash heap, sweltering under the hot southern sun, assaults my nose. A hair-raising wind forces the foulness deeper into my lungs until I can taste the stench in the back of my throat. It picks up force, nearly lifting me up off the ground. That’s when the nasty-smelling beast swoops in. I run as fast as my legs can go, ducking and dodging all the while. In the end, it catches me. The thing grabs me up and into the air by the scruff of my neck.
Like a kitten in its mother’s mouth, I dangle in mid-air. Maybe it’s more akin to being wet clothing flapping about on a taught clothesline because I’m out of control with fear. My mind is getting fuzzy. I realized that, rather than having images flood into my confused mind, I must come to grips with being clutched up in the air by a huge pair of talons. The reality rests with me traveling along with an unfamiliar beast, kicking and screaming all the while. Thank God, after a short distance it comes close to the earth and drops me. I doubt my feeble attempts at getting free have anything to do with it. Lying on the ground I make the mistake of halfway looking up, gazing upon the beast in an attempt to figure it out.
Please Lord, don’t let it see me looking and decide to catch me up, once more.
My nose already tells me a-plenty. The beast stinks worse than any outhouse in town and I’m not talking an outhouse where the people put lime on it properly, if you know what I mean. If not, let’s just say, it has about it the most horrible smell you can think of. It reminds me of the time my favorite rabbit, Henry died. I didn’t have the heart to bury him. I waited weeks. Oh how
Henry wreaked as bugs crawled in and out of him. Finally, I took him to the seaside on a small gardening shovel. I released him into what I imagined to be eagerly waiting waters. This smell of the beast, it too has the horrible smell of death I experienced with my beloved Henry.
Whatever the thing is, a terrible wind either escapes from the beast or carries it around.
The wind and beast travel as one. The strange island of Athemoessa is sho’ nuff a mystery. Seems like the wind must’ve been an important part of this beast. Along with the wind comes its odor.
Farts from the heavens.
It’s all I can do to keep from retching up whatever’s still left in my belly. I told you about the sunny sky I encountered when I first arrived on the shore, once leaving the cave. In a short time that same kind of sky goes grey and then black, as I tilt my chin up. That’s because the monster is enormous, its body is much taller than mine. With its wings flapping about, it’s even larger than I could’ve imagined.
It wasn’t pleasant looking like the trio of sirens but it did bear a strange sort of resemblance to them.
What kind of world have I landed upon?
Are beasts allowed to mate with humans on Athemoessa? Is that how these bird-women, called Sirens, were made?
The creature is partly an old woman, with the lower part being an extremely large, powerful bird—probably five feet tall and ten feet wide from one wing tip to another. I can’t even imagined it back in the real world. It’s too outrageous, too absurd. This thing was bulky, smelly, and bald, save for a wispy ring of feathery grey hairs—not a dainty sort of graceful bird, light on its feet, like my rescuers. When I look closer, I feel another bubble of fear rise up in the back of my throat.
The creature’s talons sprouted from human feet.
It’s clear. I’ve met my match. More than my match.
Already tired to the bone and breathless from the unplanned journey here, there are yet more to come. Weary from the shocks I’ve been presented with in the strange new world, I fear I have nothing left to fight with, plus, I’m losing blood.
Wrestling in my mind with all the things that could, would or should be, I don’t even notice that the trio has completely vanished, as though in some magic act at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus—a poof and then off they go into thin air. All that’s left of them is the faint echo of their thrilling song, so faint, it well could be a figment of my feeble imagination, or a whisper between cousins under the covers at night. Still, just that little bit of it, makes my heart soar.
Did they ever really exist?
I must believe in them, for to believe is to stay sane, and you have to stay sane so that you can get back to Daddy, and Mama, and those bothersome twins.
Oh. Good. Lord. Did the Sirens rescue me from the sea so that they could use me as feed for this beast? Maybe that’s how they keep it away from their kind. I bet they thrive on bringing human offerings to soothe the hideous, smelly, winged-woman beast.
Despite the heat, I shivered.
While I’m busy letting my thoughts run all over the place, it just swoops in, headed down towards me, all over again. I come upon a thick log, with that and the sheer force of the wind it travels with, to say nothing of the wretched smell, I crash down hard on my left side. The force of the fall might possibly have broken my arm, or even worse, my ribs. While I didn’t hear a snap or crunch, the pain comes from somewhere out of this world. I could’ve peed myself, right then and there. I want to scream but the idea that screaming would attract more of these blood thirsty demons, wins over.
The overwhelming fear mixes in with the worse pain I’ve experienced in my fifteen years, and it overtakes me. My arm throbs and doesn’t want to move, no matter how many times I try to make it act right.
I’m totally alone, and terrified.
This beast is more frightening than anything I’ve ever seen—even my first time seeing the Siren materialize from out of a live oak.
No, that image can’t even compare.
The Siren is frightening in her way and even seems to bear a feeling of ill-will. Still, she didn’t harm my body. When I left her, I remained whole, though I got to traveling through space and time, ending up in this here strange place.
This here beast tells a full story just by how it travels about and smells. Like the trio, the Siren that is probably kin to them, and the Mermaid that brought me to this ghastly island, this beast doesn’t come from the world I know. In fact, I’ve got to say it must have come straight out of the bowels of hell.
It hits me again full force, while my mind meanders. I try to corral my thoughts, but I’m bone-tired and so very, very afraid. This time it grazes my flesh with its razor-sharp beak. With hands flailing about, I try to fight it off or at the very least, shield myself from its pecks. Its beak is like a gigantic pair of scissors. I have to overcome my fears and get away from it or sho’ ‘nuff, I will meet up with death. No one will know where I’ve been. Having abandoned my family in their time of need, I’ll be a disgrace. My name will never be uttered, only whispered in shame.
This truly saddens me.
Daddy might not be perfect, but he’s mine, and I don’t ever want to be a disappointment to him.
Rather than continuing to flail about aimlessly, I pull myself from the ground, paying no mind to the blood droplets moving down my back or dripping down my chest, from my busted- up lip. Crawling to the side of the path, I find me a hefty bit of wood and I grab it up with my good arm, while the beast perches high in a tree doing what seems to be scheming on what to do next. I grasp a fallen, moss-covered branch, easy enough to lift, even one-sided. This chore keeps my mind, however temporarily, off my pains from the open gashes.
Next time, when that devil-beast approaches, I’ll be ready.
I’m telling you all this as though hours went by, between my thoughts and the beast’s moves, but nothing is further from the truth. The battle is almost constant. I fall, get up, brush myself off one-armed, and find a weapon, only to be picked up, dropped and pecked by the hideous monster once more. In the end I give up. I’m already weak from my journey deep into the sea and then finally swimming to shore at Athemoessa.
Why is all this happening to me?
That is my very last thought before its wing delivers such a powerful blow, it knocks me out. The world went to black.
Sometime later, I awaken firmly held by its two, piercing talons, carrying me who knows where.
For God’s sake. Enough of this bull shit.
No longer under the spell of the trio of Sirens, a new desire sweeps over me. Fear, my stalwart friend, leaves me. In its place sprouts the will to survive. My will and desire for survival will have to be enough to outwit the evil bird-woman. Then I can return to my beloved home and family back in Alabama.
Alabama wasn’t perfect, but it ‘shore beat the hell out of this damn place.
Instead of fighting the bird, I try to relax my shoulders. We fly high over the spindly trees of the island forest. Beneath them I see colorful flecks from thick patches of flowers. Down below, smoldering fires through off sparks like the lightning bugs back home. I wonder if the fires are warming the oddball creatures thriving on Athemoessa during the night. Fighting the bird-woman can only be harmful. If I fall from this height, I’ll most certainly perish even quicker than she had plans. As it stands, my purpose, as it relates to this stinking creature, remains unbeknownst to me, so with it I fly.
From a thick fog, Ligeia, Parthenope and Thelxiepeia appear.
“Harpy! You evil Harpy, Aellopus!” They shout, dragging out every part of the strange name.
“Aello, put the girl down,” Thelxiepeia shouts up at us.
No reaction. The talons don’t loosen and we don’t return to the ground.
Parthenope, Thelxiepeia and Ligeia meld their voices together and direct the united sound skyward like a fire ball, toward what I’d just learned was a Harpy, nicknamed Aello.
“Please help me,” I scream down to them.
Almost hissing, Parthenope, Ligeia and Thelxiepeia merge their voices together into one sound. The buttery result is thrown skyward once again.
“Down, down, down, down,” the trio of Sirens chant, evenly, if not with a hint of threat, in a sing-song voice filled with woe that raises awe within me, though they aren’t directing their
words towards me.
“Wind-foot fool, wind-foot fool, wind-foot fool,” the Sirens chide, in a chant that is as alluring as it is frightening.
Aello slows her gigantic wings almost to a full stop. I wonder what she might do next.
Then, like the rest of us, she’s so taken with the haunting, enchanting harmonies that Parthenope, Thelxiepeia, and Ligeia utter, that she loosens her grip on me almost immediately.
I don’t know whether to be happy, relieved or scared half out of my wits. Guess you could say, I’m in a state that’s a mixing of all three emotions, all at once.
Falling. . . I am falling. Can this day get any worse?
Aello must have decided it didn’t want anything more to do with me, or perhaps this is exactly what it wanted to do all along--let me fall.
Sweet Jesus, save me.
I’m falling and as I do, I’m greeted by the salty brininess of the sea. I’m being returned, from whence I came.
Aello? That Harpy has no sense in her thick ‘ole head, except to harm me. When I fall from her talons, a torrent of wind pushes me violently down into the sea. I can’t even begin to guess how deep I went. The very action of it knocked all the air from my lungs and all the sense from my brain.
I surface coughing and spluttering water from my mouth. I’m snatched up and plunged back into the water. I feel pain once again, this time from salt water gushing into my open wounds. Nevertheless, a warmth spreads out and washes over me, making me relaxed, at once. Quicker than a wink, more of her disgusting kind arrived.
Here to help or cause more harm?
I sink into the turquoise waters, made choppy by a gathering of Harpies overhead.
Harpies don’t give up easily. They also gather together like a gaggle of geese, though instead of migrating anywhere in particular, they just stir up trouble wherever they decide to go. The wind they kick up is something so fierce that I think for sure I’ll drown. That’s just how violent the sea is rocking me backwards and forward in their wake.
Just this morning, when I was standing in Daddy’s room, I wouldn’t have believed there was a place like this anywhere on Earth, or anyplace else, but a girl can get used to strange, and indeed, I had.
Instinct—thank God—kicks in, and reminds me to hold my breath, saving my lungs from being flooded by the salty water. Strangely enough, I relax. Relaxed as I was, it is almost as though I was in a deep-sea boat riding the wind-swept waters that would have otherwise threatened to take my life.
Nevertheless, down and down into the warm turquoise water I go. It’s like being on the world’s fastest merry-go-round. My head begins to swirl from all the motion, so I clench my eyes tightly shut and hope that gives me some relief.
No time to think, let alone pray, I’m just like a stone, caught up in a tornado, thrown from side to side, all the while dropping lower and lower down. As a stone, I’m swirling yet plunging. The last time I plunged, I was at least saved by a fast-acting Mermaid. With no promise of a Mermaid to save me, this time I’m plunging to what will probably be the thing we all dread--a painful and lonely, violent death.
I’m figuring this is how things work around Athemoessa. After what seemed like forever, and a day what seems impossible happens. The Mermaid returns. She pushes my body with her head, and brings me back up to the surface, swiftly thumping her tail. The cave where I find myself is magnificent but at the same time, it’s tricky to make your way through it, and back to the sea. Inside, it shines and glitters like the rarest of jewels. Narrow, moist and the deepest blue- green you can imagine, it’s just about more than I can take, its beauty, I mean, yet strangely it’s also just right. You see, I always did love being in and near the water. That’s why I never want to leave the Gulf Region that I call home.
I love this Mermaid.
With her sweet manner, she’s almost like an angel, and she has the voice to match.
Are all the creatures musical? Can she sing like Thelxiepeia, Parthenope and Ligeia?
Reappearing from the depths, this time she was riding a graceful dolphin. With a fresh wave of warm water, the two came close enough to touch. Grabbing my hand gently but firmly the Mermaid pulls me toward her and the dolphin.
I ain’t never thought about riding no sea creature. I’ve ridden me a horse, mule and donkey, and that’s it. I know enough to have the good sense to let my body relax and go along with how the animal moves. I also imagine the journey ahead is going to be long, with many twists and turns because that’s how I got here. It be best if I want to live, and believe you me, I do, I’ve got to mount the dolphin and ride along with the Mermaid.
On the journey, we pass a silver school of tiny fish. They all head in the same direction, going this way and then that, just as suddenly as if they’ve heard a bell. Their movements are like a dance and it leaves me feeling dizzy because to keep up with them means moving my head
back and forth as quick as flash.
The Mermaid has somehow firmly planted herself atop the dolphin. I hold on as best I can to her waist. Her wet hair is shining, even underwater because it’s so dark, it flaps into my face, leaving me without sight at times.
We’ve apparently left the cave and it’s left behind with great relief. There are critters, great and small in there, along with masses of seaweed. I can’t see, so much as feel the critters, slithering on past me as I hold my eyes tightly closed, trusting my fate to the Mermaid and her dolphin steed.
We come out into the open seas. Again, I think about Parthenope, Ligeia and Thelxiepeia.
Why had they brought me to Athemoessa in the first place? What do they want from me?
It’s a mystery, but perhaps the Mermaid knows something.
Deep in my bones, though their song is thrilling, there’s a sense of dread when I think of the Sirens. It tightens up my guts. It isn’t just the cravings the singing brings to life within me, it’s that I also lose all grounding in space and time when I hear them, so lost am I with the desire to hear them.
No. There has to be a dark purpose within their enticements. They’re soul-suckers after all. When their song leaves me, I no longer want to live.
What type of creatures are Sirens?
Hands on the Mermaid’s hips, I realize I ain’t alone with my thoughts. I can maybe communicate with the creature, right in front of me.
“What business do you have with Thelxiepeia, Parthenope and Ligeia, and more importantly, what business do the three of them have with me?” I asked, speaking slowly and as
plain as possible. No answer.
“Mermaid, what purpose do the Sirens have? What do they want with me and my Daddy?” I tried to be clearer.
She seemed to understand perfectly.
“Let’s get one thing straight,” she speaks and it sounds sweeter than a wind chime. “Yes’m,” I half-said and half-asked.
“I’m not a Mermaid!”
“What? Um, I’m sorry. But you’re also not human. What are you?” I asked feeling embarrassed.
“I am a Nereide. We are sea spirits. There are many of us. We are good to people, at least when we want to be, and we have special powers.”
I’m held captive by her tone and way of speaking. “I do apologize ma’am.”
“No need to apologize and it’s not ma’am. My name is Galatea.”
These so-called water spirits, Nereides, I guess it was, they ain’t human, ain’t Mermaids and certainly ain’t American. As impossible as it might seem, they’re very capable of understanding English.
“Kyane, the one you think of as a vixen or red hot pepper, Kyane, is it? You have called her girl, child, woman, angel, demon, you’ve thrown it all at her. Kyane, is her name. She wants to be among the humans. In fact, she wants to become one of you.”
“What?” I gasped toward Galatea, in shock.
“Indeed, Kyane, not only wants to be human but she has fixed her sights on being with your father. Unheard of in our world. She’s attracted to his deeply resonate, soulful song and wants to live with it forever,” Galatea finishes flatly.
“Ma’am . . . I mean, Galatea, excuse me? His song?”
“Sirens are all about voice, and they express themselves through singing.”
“Across oceans, seas, and the Gulf of Mexico, through caves, waves and over the tops of cliffs, your father’s mournful song, filled with longing for life’s greatest pleasures, it touches a Siren, in a place we didn’t know existed in them. Straight in her heart.” Galatea said, as though surprised the words had escaped her lips.
“Your daddy, people call him, Bobby “the Shrimp Man” Daniels, correct?” “Yes’m,” I said out of force of habit.
“Well, the Shrimp Man, has gone and done the impossible, reversing all that we have ever known. Rather than sucking in and luring men to what would become their deaths, your daddy’s song has disturbed a Siren’s purpose, and their entire way of life. For that someone must pay,” Galatea told me, making fresh fear swell up deep down in my belly. Now, our beloved Kyane has left Athemoessa and never wants to return to be with her sisters. Remember them? Parthenope, Ligeia and Thelxiepeia?
She pauses and then carries on.
“Kyane could care less about her sisters. She no longer is she content to lure sailors as they have always done. She has set her sights, and her beautiful voice, on one thing only, actually—melding herself, and in the process, her beautiful voice, with your daddy’s.
“She wants my daddy for what? I don’t understand.”
“Look, child, Siren’s don’t really know the first thing about love. Kyane is no different.
She wants your daddy to feed her empty soul.”
About the Author:
Stephanie Rose Bird is the author of the critically acclaimed and award-winning, “Sticks, Stones, Roots and Bones: Hoodoo Mojo and Conjuring with Herbs.” Her other books include: “365 Days of Hoodoo,” and “Four Seasons of Mojo,” all three were published by Llewellyn Worldwide. Bird also contributes to Llewellyn Spell-a-Day,” “Llewellyn Herbal Almanac” and “Llewellyn Magical Almanac.” She is the author of: “Earth Mama Spiritual Guide to Weight-loss” (Green Magic Publishing), “A Healing Grove” (Lawrence Hill Books), “The Big Book of Soul,” (Red Wheel Weiser/Hampton Roads Publishers) and “Light, Bright and Damned Near White: Biracial and Triracial Culture in America and Beyond.” (ABC-Clio).
She is a novelist, published by One Odd Bird Press, in the Young Adult Fantasy and Magical Realism genres. “Out of the Blue” is her debut novel in the Black and Blues Series. One Odd Bird Press will also publish “Pine Barren Blues.” She writes and paints where she lives (Chicagoland) with her husband, near her children, and along with some very busy animal friends.
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