The Call of the Nightengale
This story is based upon the following mythological being: http://www.mythicalcreatureslist.com/mythical-creature/Asin
North Cascades Forest
Asin knelt by the stream and scooped a handful of cool water into her mouth. A raspy tickle in her throat threatened to ruin the whole evening but the cold soothed the irritation well.
She’d been practicing her songs for days preparing for Halloween night. Hundreds of children would pass by the woods, happy and unsuspecting. It was the perfect night for her to sing. The perfect night to stock her pantry for the coming winter gloom.
For the past 75 years, storing children for the winter months had been easy. She only needed a few. With twelve towns arranged at various points around the wilderness she called home, she never had to sing in the same place two years in a row. Usually the towns would almost forget the horror of the missing children on Halloween night before she had to return and sing her songs once more.
The townspeople would tramp through the leaves, cutting trails, poking sticks into every dark crevice in their frantic searches for weeks and months afterward. They’d ravage every scrap of paper, every plastic bottle cap, every shank of bone They’d staple hundreds of posters with the faces of those beautiful children giving tree trunks a metal armor of thin spines.
Asin leaned against a boulder and twittered out a melody. At first, her voice whispered like the wind. Then it grew with a rush until it pierced every gnarled branch and decaying leaf as far as the meadow beyond the stream. She lilted the tone to draw it in, closer. It wouldn’t do to have parents hear her as well. She had to control it, to wield it as precisely as any hunter would his bow.
A child’s giggle trickled through the underbrush.
The sound made her drool and she wiped her chin with the back of her hand. “Ah haha!” she cackled and scurried towards the edge of the forest as the echo of her laugh died out.
A wafer-thin tot in a tiny pink tutu and ballet slippers peered into a plastic blue Halloween pumpkin. Her mother held her hand.
“One piece. I don’t want you throwing up like you did last year,” the woman said.
“I want chobolat,” the little girl said.
Asin climbed into the branches of a pine tree and slouched to get a clear view between the branches. She didn’t need little girls in tutus. She needed ones with meat on their bones. But she could use a snack.
She warbled the phrase of a tune and let it drift away into the trees.
“Birdy,” the little girl said, pointing towards the woods. Her mother snatched her close and pulled her towards a house across the street.
An hour later, Asin watched the last slip of orange sunlight burn out behind the houses. The streets were crowded now with children dressed up in all sorts of garb followed by cars creeping forward one burst at a time. Parents either leaned through the windows of the vehicles giving directions or walking in the street, snagging pieces of candy. She had crooned four or five times, but the noise of the traffic seemed to be drowning out her lullabies.
Her throat felt dessicated. She licked her lips and swallowed the hint of bile congealing on her tongue. Beyond the child in pink, no one had even approached.
She slunk out of the tree and stole toward the street.
More children laughed and she responded with a screech that rattled all the windows in sight.
Everyone ceased what they were doing, eyes wide. Someone screamed in the silence that encompassed them.
“What the hell was that?” a man asked as he climbed out of his car a few feet away.
Asin smiled and tilted her head back. A haunting trill warbled from the pit of her core.
More parents crawled out of their cars, focusing on her.
She sang it again, louder, letting the wind whip it like leaves in a dust devil.
A group of boys pushed each other towards the drone of her voice, towards the woods.
“You go first then!” one of them said.
“I’m not going first. You go first.”
Asin trilled out the phrase again, louder still, as the three slipped beyond the grasp of the streetlight into the shadow of the trees.
One more time she sang the tune, this time finishing the phrasing to the end.
A car horn shrieked, drowning out her voice. Someone laughed again and the people on the street resumed their night of greedy celebration. Parents sank back into their cars, children knocked on doors. The song, the silence, the disappearances masked by the revelry of the night.
Asin laughed long and hollow, and followed her bounty into the murkiness, spittle dripping from the corner of her mouth.