*Odysseus' Face*

A Rude Awakening

My eyes flew open. I could not tell how long I had slept, since I could still feel fatique deep into my bones. Nevertheless, I felt that something had gone astray.

I began my trek back to the grotto. Even before I could see the nature of their activities, I could in fact smell roasting fat and spices. What had they done? "Holy Zeus Kronion!" I cried out, "How could I have slept when such mischief was bound to be afoot. Sweet Mother Gaia, where were you when I lay drowsing?"

I rushed to the crew's camp site and gave them each an ear full, but the damage was already done. Their faces and hands were smeared with the delicious remnants of their handiwork. That night the hides of the eaten cattle began to crawl and the cows still hanging from the spits began lowing as if alive.

I cannot say that we faced the wrath of Helios or that Poseidon had simply engineered the deaths of my crew. They were indeed peculiar cattle and perhaps only palatable to divinities, but toxic to humans.

The next morning the sky was clear, and so we set off. We had only just travelled out of sight of Thrinakia when my crew began to heave and shake. This soon turned into vomiting and diarrhea. The agonising violence of the illness could easily be read in my people's pallid faces. But there was no turning back, we were immediately met by another storm for which none of the crew were prepared to handle.

Both forestays broke and the mast came tumbling so that it hammered the steersman in the head with a deathly blow. I could see that we were heading for a reef, but call as I might, the crew were not capable of focussing on more than trying to save their individual lives. I could only watch as the ship rose up, then came down upon the rock-like coral. The hull split in two. The jolt tossed what crew was left on deck into the waves. I alone remained with the ship since I had lashed myself to the fallen mast. My people bobbed for a while like so many crumbs of bread, then one by one disappeared into the watery depths.

At some point the squall turned northerly and I found myself being taken back toward the straits of Skylla and Kharybdis. Though I was able to tie together mast and keel, the effort wasn't enough to regain any control of what was left of that broken hulk. I passed the cave of Skylla without notice, but headed straight for the whirling maelstrom of Kharybdis.

I made a miraculous leap for the fig tree which hung from an outcrop of the island over Kharybdis' mouth. I caught at its branches. Firmly grasping them I was still dangling as the ship was swallowed wholely and completely beneath my feet.

Exhausted I could not get a greater purchase on the branches I held to pull myself up, but I dared not let myself go. I cannot say how long I strained there. But at some point, maybe hours, Kharybdis ceased sucking up the ocean, then turned and spouted great spumes of broiling water. I lost my grip. The spumes tossed me back into the strait, through which I paddled with what strength I had left. For nine days I drifted on the sea until I was washed up onto the Isle of Ogygia.


Daylight Come and Me Wan' Go Home.

Copyright © 1998 Katherine Phelps