Wednesday, May 11, 2022

“Siren” • by Gustavo Bondoni


The alarm buzzed loudly enough that I heard it over the clickety-clack of the wheels on the rails.

I swam to the surface and put my elbows on the edge of the tank. Mermaids can hear things a long way off. It was how we located sailors on the sea.

The sounds came from the rear of the train: someone had boarded from the caboose. I heard angry shouts, the sound of violence, a scuffle.

Wood splintered, and another door creaked open, and the intruder was in the animal cars. The elephants snuffled. A lion growled, but the attacker must not have found what he wanted. Footsteps on the roof told me he was getting closer.

A man opened a hatch and lowered himself into my boxcar. He was broad-shouldered, dressed in tan tactical pants and a cargo vest.

He held out his hands and said, “Don’t be scared. I’m with NatureAction. I’m here to save you.”

“NatureAction?” I said. “The animal rescue people?”

“We do more than that.”

“I’m not an animal.”

“You are a non-human creature. You’re too magnificent to be a freak in a sideshow.”

“I’m not a sideshow. I’m the main attraction,” I responded.

“You’re being exploited, held here against your will and paraded like a monster.”

“Some of us are monsters.”

“Well, I won’t let them do it. That’s why I’m a NatureAction shock trooper.”

“That’s not what you are,” I said.


“You’re dinner.”

His look of confusion disappeared when I began to sing. He jumped in the water, and swam in place, waiting.

“And I own this carnival,” I told him with a smile. “Trust me, grabbing the occasional rescuer is much better than sitting on a rock, waiting months for a boat to pass.”

I would eat well today.


Gustavo Bondoni is novelist and short story writer with over three hundred stories published in fifteen countries, in seven languages.  He is a member of Codex and an Active Member of SFWA. His latest novel is Test Site Horror (2020). He has also published two other monster books: Ice Station: Death (2019) and Jungle Lab Terror (2020), three science fiction novels: Incursion (2017), Outside (2017) and Siege (2016) and an ebook novella entitled Branch. His short fiction is collected in Pale Reflection (2020), Off the Beaten Path (2019) Tenth Orbit and Other Faraway Places (2010) and Virtuoso and Other Stories (2011).
In 2019, Gustavo was awarded second place in the Jim Baen Memorial Contest and in 2018 he received a Judges Commendation (and second place) in The James White Award. He was also a 2019 finalist in the Writers of the Future Contest.
His website is at

This month’s Pete Wood Challenge was to write a 200- to 300-word flash fiction SF/F story that takes place on Earth and involves a train, and specifically a mechanical train of some sort, not a wagon or mule train. To quote Pete: “Amtrak, boxcar, steam locomotive, post-Apocalyptic Snowpiercer type, I don’t care,” but the story must take place on a train.

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