Thursday, 3 November 2011

STC - Ulysses

To quote Krisann "This is an acorn story. You're an acorn that sees everything inside itself to be a huge oak tree, but you can't will yourself to grow. You're still a little acorn and it's a wonderful thing." With that said - my vocabulary is no where close to broad enough to capture the movement and emotion I FEEL in this story, but as she is right, and I'm still just the seed of a writer beginning to grow, I'm happy with it. Oh, and even though I know you're not supposed to have to set up a story, for your sake let me say: This is my take on the Odyssey.

 It had been twenty years. Twenty years since he had pulled the life of Ithaca’s air into his lungs or filled his blood with the warmth of wine and kin. Twenty years of war and wandering. Twenty years since that fool Palamedes had called him out of his feigned stupor and gave flesh to the prophesy he had been trying with every fibre in his being to outwit, outrun. In a day it was all gone. The velvety green hills scattered with rock and beast, the musk of a morning’s hunt with his son, training the boy’s eyes and arms, and always, always upon return, the beauty of Penelope’s face... oh, her face. His eyes habitually closed at that thought to find her, but he was losing her more every day. His mind, filled with blood and metal and endless sea, was pushing her image away despite his daily struggle to keep it close. She used to call him home. He used to see her standing on the edge of the sea and singing a wordless song that ripped his heart in two and filled him with longing and hope. Now the effort to recall his wife only produced a vague shadow, blurry around the edges. Of all the horrors he had faced in the last twenty years, all the challenges, nothing had put fear in his heart... nothing except that fading image; the loss of what was keeping him sane and bringing him strength, and calling him home.
 Closing his record book, Ulysses stretched his substantial limbs to their fullest, pushing back the walls and thoughts that were closing in on him. Heavy hearted, he climbed out of his cabin and onto the deck. He always took the night-watch. The sailors thought he had assigned himself to this post because of the multiple times they had run aground or been attacked by various monster or beast under cover of darkness, but it was not. Ulysses walked the ship at night because, in the darkness, his footsteps echoing on the deck seemed to fill the air instead of drowning in it, the sound of water on wood was easier to imagine as wind in the trees behind his home. In the darkness you could pretend there was no ocean, and the stars... the stars reminded him of her. They shone with a high beauty. They twinkled, and he could almost see her eyes. They gave him hope and called him home. They were the only bit of her he had left; and he clung to that because his life depended on it.
  The night descended on his spirit like a fog. His mind, always searching for employment found nothing to occupy itself on and settled into numb recollection. Scenes of the last two decades scrolled across his consciousness and his feet paced across the boards. First was Calypso - fierce and strong. His barren heart had found a landscape of beauty when he first saw her. A stunning face and fiery eyes... Just like Penelope. He wished she had been her. He tried to make her into his wife and to renew the fading hope of love, but the longer she kept him, the more the nymph faded just as Penelope had. The ache for his love could not be soothed by another. He could not stay. The shipwrecks flashed and faded in a wave of ragged memory, and he paced still. Whirlpools, monsters, fantastic dangers and adventures all came and went and nothing stirred with their memory. It was excitement he couldn’t even have dreamed of with his young, islander imagination that longed for purpose and identity so many years ago. None of it had given any life or glory. Nothing gave satisfaction; but left only emptiness. Then came the Sirens. Here he lingered in thought for a moment. He was a wise man, and had not thought himself above their deception, but with caution and restraint he heard their song. With the first note Penelope’s face rose out of the mist. It was her song rising from beyond the railing! The wordless one that had called him home so many years ago, but since faded. He had fought against his cords and screamed for her. It had to have been her! But through the fog and melody there was no wife and sank again his hope with this reality. Just remembering it he could see her face again in the fog. That was the closest image he had to recall the one his heart could never forget. The memory of his dead Mother, with news of Ithaca’s treachery and his family’s faithfulness, did nothing but aggravate his sense of helplessness and he let it fly by quickly. Then Circe and the cannibals and the cyclops and Poseidon's storm all swirled around the steady image of his island on the horizon - the only glimpse of home in all these twenty years, stolen by greed... and greed for gold no less! What had the crew expected? That the tiny bag could hold enough to repay them all for their faithfulness? That in my joy upon return I would forget to reward them with honor and riches for their service? But no! They condemned us all to this ship, and that is their reward. Life and death at sea. Isn’t that all that’s left to us? The promise that took me away has been driving me away ever since. I’m fighting and I’m losing, but what else can I do? I have nothing left but to set my sail for home, always home. I’ve been stripped to my core and I’ve been defeated and yet I sail. I cannot cease. There is nothing left for me but to sail, sail, forever sail away from that rising sun that fades the stars as time fades her face. I hope she holds fast, for I have no strength left.
 Twenty years of trial. Twenty years alone. Twenty years of sunrises that held no promise of an end. Today was no different. Today the sun rose on a man clinging to the last hope in an empty soul. Today the sun rose and relieved him of his watch. Today the sun rose and he thanked the gods for the hours of sleep that would take him away from this, even just for a moment, and as Ulysses lowered his head into the dark cabin, the sun rose on a yet unseen speck of gold on the western horizon. 

1 comment:

  1. This is incredible. The imagery was, for lack of a more descriptive word, perfect. I could see it all but better yet I could feel it. Wow, wow, wow. More please