He heard Penelope call to him, and urge him to rise, “Odysseus…”
Odysseus coughed up the saltwater, and while relieved, was puzzled as to how he was lived. He was fortunate some doldrum washed into the small and remote lagoon, and upon the soft red sand, and had not been dashed him into the nearby and perpetual rocks. Because of this, he suspected he was the only survivor. There was no sign of his men. There was no sign of wreckage. He assumed they all found a watery grave at the bottom of the Ionian Sea.
Standing now, he learned he was also in one piece. By all accounts, Zeus wanted him to live to see his wife again, and return to his home of Ithaca. Even if it took a decade to do so.
“Poseidon ought to try harder if he wishes to be rid of me,” Odysseus forced a grin.
Once he scaled the beach, he took an eye over the island, and saw neither dwelling nor farm, nor people to alive and toiling. And while there were no others to call the isle home, he was not alone.
An unkind wind brought the smell of smoke to his nostrils. Somewhere on the opposite side of the island, a great fire burned, leaving him with the fragrance of cedar and juniper.
Immediately, he set out to find the inhabitant of the island, in the hopes that he or she would direct him home. He wandered rock and field, and lo and behold, the smoke led him to a sea cave in a cove, nested by many a gull, cormorant, or chough. And surrounding the top of the cavern were tall, but thin poplars and alders, and luxuriant cypresses, where owls and falcons made a roost. However, an aviary does not an arson make.
So, keen Odysseus climbed down the sheer cliff face of the unknown cay, until there no longer were handholds with which to grasp, and he was low enough to drop. He jumped down to the entrance, where the sea was exactly level with the floor. Remarkably it was high tide, so there was no chance he would drown whilst exploring the grotto.
Inside, the large walls and vaulted ceiling were ornately carved, and Odysseus pondered if this place was an abandoned mine, and therefore unsafe to reconnoitre. Yet as he advanced, Odysseus saw and felt the sun hit him where the ceiling had collapsed in places, and it was a miracle he hadn’t fallen in. Everywhere the light touched, shrubs and vines grew lush, and bloomed crocus and lilies and narcissus too.
Up and down the halls of the runes dusted clusters of parley and violet, while at the end of it all basked full in sun, were four large godly fountains, putting out a fire. And there he saw her.
In a simple white gown was a divine beauty. A nymph, clad with flowers and feathersome blond curls. At first, Odysseus believed her to be Penelope, but that could not be possible.
As he considered the woman to be Penelope, however unlikely that was, she glanced upon the man, having felt him nearly burn holes in her, he stared with such passion and longing. Yet when he saw her little nose, her pouty lips, and her eyes, deeply brown as umber burned, he knew he was mistaken. Though this woman’s eyes were desirous and desired him more so, she was not his Penelope.
With her ivory goddess smile, she called to him, and the echo reached Odysseus’ ears, “Welcome, King of Ithaca. Welcome.”
“Who are you?” asked he, “and where am I?”
“This is Ogygia, my island. And I am Calypso, daughter of Atlas.” She wandered over to him, “It is good to finally meet you, Odysseus.”
“A pleasure, I’m sure,” Odysseus replied, offering his hand to shake, “but I’m afraid it is of utmost importance that I return home. My home is under siege, and my wife is plagued by suitors.”
“But why leave, Odysseus? Everything you could ever want is here on this island. Food, wine, shelter, and above all, immortality. All I ask is your love.”
“What?” asked Odysseus incredulously.
“Please. Love me and marry me, and we can live forever.”
“No, I’m sorry Calypso. But I must go.”
A powerful breeze then swept into the cave, putting out the last of the flames the fountain jets had yet to douse. Calypso closed her eyes, and cried, listening to what words carried in the wind. It was a message from Hermes.
Calypso answered tearfully, “My love, I am tragically sorry. But you cannot now. Even on the requests of Athena, and Zeus and Hermes, there is nothing I can do to help. I thought if I saved you from drowning you would love me.”
Odysseus sighed, “Why? Why can you not help?”
“My dear Odysseus… You see, I have burnt the last of the cedars and junipers on the island. And it would take but seven years to fashion a ship of the cypresses or alders or poplars above the cave.”
As Odysseus looked on, Calypso fell to her knees grasped his hands and wept.
“Please forgive me, my darling Odysseus!”
Although reluctant, he hadn’t seen any suitable trees left on the isle, so would have no choice but wait seven years. It would take a decade to see his beloved Penelope after all.
“Well done, Poseidon. Well done.”
Odysseus took pity on his naïve, lonely and lovestruck captor, and he knelt beside her, and took her in his warm embrace.