The golden hero Odysseus woke up gently. The Phaeacian crew stared at him openly, but he was quite used to it by now. Being a long-lost hero has its high points, and it’s low ones, and Odysseus can't decide if the fame was a high one or a low one.
The rocking of the waves that had become almost like a second heartbeat to him had slowed to a light rhythm. Sitting up, Odysseus took stock of his surroundings lazily. He didn’t recognize anything around him, and panic seized his chest. Sitting up fully, he called, “Guys, where are we?”
The Phaeacians glanced at him, unimpressed, and herded him off the boat after impatiently explaining that they’re on Ithaca.
Traipsing through the forest, Odysseus eventually started to see signs of his home. The tree he climbed for a rare apple, just to see it sacrificed to Aphrodite. The fountain where his arrow landed, earning him ten drachmas from Iobates. The shop he got his first sword from, all passing landmarks on his way home.
Home. The concept is foreign, yet so completely right. After twenty years of suffering, he’ll finally get to go home.
In the last stretch of forest that lays between his house, the trees suddenly grew quiet, and the air filled with the calming smell of books and paper he’s grown to associate with Athena.
Spinning around, he finds the goddess lounging on a fallen tree trunk, eyes trained on a scroll rather leisurely. The faint curl of her lips suggested the gray-eyed goddess wasn’t really reading, but studying him. Odysseus dropped his head politely, as ogling a virgin goddess could have fatal repercussions, and he wasn’t looking to end up like Actaeon.
The tan of her skin is tawny, a golden-brown, so unlike the Grecian beauty standards of pale and fair, that truly, Athena doesn’t look Grecian at all, rather like a people he’s only heard of in stories, in a southern land on the supposed other side of the world. Odysseus thinks that’s bigger bull than the cows his men died to eat.
Athena set the scroll down. “Well, Odysseus. It seems you’ve made it this far. Congratulations.”
“Thank you,” he murmured.
“You have two options,” she continued regally. “You can disguise yourself as a beggar and wait weeks until you kill the suitors, or you could do the smart thing and go kill them now.”
Odysseus furrowed his eyebrows, looking up. “Why would I disguise myself?”
Athena’s gray eyes filled with immortal amusement, as if to say, what a cute human. A shame they live so short. “I have not the faintest idea,” she chuckled. When Odysseus just stared at her, she gave a little wave with her hands. “Go on, then. Peace be with you, and all that jazz.” And with that, she disappeared. Odysseus stared at the place she had been, then swiveled firmly, exasperated with gods, and marched the last few miles to his house.
As he got closer, he noticed a very prevalent aura of wrong. The door of his house was laying at a very unnatural angle, off of its hinges. Abandoned swords were scattered along the courtyard, and silence pressed into his chest.
Walking inside, Odysseus surveyed the damage, mildly impressed. The carnage wasn’t near anything he’d seen during the war or on the journey back, but it was certainly destructive.
Bodies, barely recognizable, lay strewn along the floors, most of them sporting stab wounds.
Odysseus knelt to feel one. It was still warm.
Someone cleared their throat from the shadows.
There, amidst all the blood and death, sat a lone figure on an upturned barrel.
Odysseus drew his sword, cautious. “What is this?” he asked quietly.
The figure looked up and chuckled lowly. “What,” they said bitterly. “You don’t recognize your own son?”
Odysseus gasped and dropped his sword. “T-Telemachus?”
Telemachus had grown now, far bigger than the infant Odysseus had left behind. Blonde hair underlaid with black shone under the candlelight, and hard, strapping muscle bulge under the straps of his tunic. The young man now glared at his father hatefully. “Don’t call me that,” he growled. “ Twenty years you’ve been gone, Odysseus. You should’ve stayed missing.”
Recovering from the shock, Odysseus warned, “I’m your father , Telemachus. Speak with respect.”
“Too little, too late, Dad.” On the last word, Telemachus stood and hurled a golden knife at the god-like hero. Only instinct saved him from death, but the dagger pierced Odysseus’ side, and he crumpled to the ground with an agonised scream.
Telemachus knelt beside his father. He bent to whisper in Odysseus’ ear, “The only reason you’re still alive, is my mother . For the rest of your miserable life, remember that. Twenty years , for Apollo’s sake.”
Telemachus hailed two servants, and they lugged Odysseus up the stairs into Penelope’s private chamber.
Penelope sat on her throne, as queen of Ithaca, undoing her step-father’s shroud. Her eyes flickered up to the ensemble that enters her room. If she felt an emotion when her husband was carried in half-dead and moaning deliriously, she doesn’t show it. Odysseus suddenly recalled Agamemnon’s bitter warning about women, and wished dearly that he had listened.
“Odysseus,” she murmured, voice unpleased. The servants set him down on the floor, and he craned his head awkwardly to gaze up at his wife. Her black, straight hair fell in glossy waves, and angular eyes gazed at him dispassionately. The servants left the room silently, but Telemachus crossed the room to stand beside his mother’s throne, where he watched with muted fury in his eyes. The god-like hero’s side throbbed and spilled red liquid.
“Penelope,” Odysseus gasped, “please, help me, I swear by the gods-”
“Quiet,” she ordered. It was no louder than her normal tone, but the word echoed around the room like she had shouted. Odysseus’s mouth clacked shut.
When she began to talk, the words fell like lashes on his back. “My husband, Odysseus. Gods, do you know how much I cried for you? How I died a bit, every day? How I longed for my husband to return from the war? I begged Aphrodite to harden my heart. I begged Artemis to shoot and kill me. I begged Hestia to swallow me in her flames, for Tyche to let me fall upon misfortune.
“But that was the first year. I stopped crying by the second, stopped missing you by the fifth. It’s been twenty years , Odysseus. That’s longer than our marriage! You can’t possibly expect me to stay here and play the part of patient, faithful wife forever? So,” Penelope said, words flying from her mouth like hornets, “I had my son, Telemachus finally kill those wretched suitors this morning. Fitting that you’d show up now,” she sniffed. She handed the unfinished shroud off to Telemachus, who scowled and draped it over his father, and wrapped it tightly so Odysseus couldn’t move.
“But no matter,” Penelope continued, smiling coldly. “I no longer require your services, and I find I’m quite done moping. I’m glad I got to share this angry monologue with you. My therapist says I’m emotionally constipated. There is someone I’d like you to meet, however.”
A thin, dark-skinned stranger with her dark hair half shaved off strode into the room. Dressed in a typical chiton, she stood near Penelope, who then crushed her in a kiss. Odysseus struggled against the suffocating shroud. Black spots gathered in his vision.
“This is Aja,” Penelope introduced, grinning proudly. “She’s my wife, and a daughter of Athena.”
Aja gazed at him as if he were a lowly servant, not worth and iota of her time. Odysseus suspected he would’ve found it ironic, that a daughter of Athena married his wife while her mother had assisted him all this while, if he wasn’t dying.
“I’ve moved on, Odysseus. Can you truthfully say you have stayed faithful to me, husband, these long years? If you can,” Penelope said, with a golden aura surrounding her that showed the blessing of some traitor heavenly host, “I’ll let you live. Can you say that, husband?”
Odysseus hesitated, only for a second, but enough for Penelope. “That’s too bad,” she said. Coolly, she motioned to Telemachus and Aja, who both nodded. His son pressed down harder on the shroud, blocking off his air supply, while Aja, the stranger woman, grabbed Penelope’s needle. His ex wife’s wife knelt by him, and stabbed him in one eye with the needle. Fresh, hot pain rolled down Odysseus’ spine. Blood filled his airway. Odysseus choked his last breath in, staring at his old family as they sneered at his body. Then he saw no more.
Odysseus awoke to the sloshing sound of water first. The rocking of the waves. The sky was dark and unnatural. The next thing he noticed was that he didn’t have a boat.
Panicking, Odysseus swam hard. He spotted a tiny island about a half mile off. When he got within feet of the island, a man appeared on the beach.
Dark black hair and sea-green eyes seethed at him. Poseidon and Odysseus faced off.
Poseidon broke the silence first. “Odysseus, you’ve made a lot of people angry. My pathetic little brother Zeus protected your mortal life, but your afterlife was up for grabs. I found this a suitable punishment, and the rest are inclined to agree.”
“What? Who else?” Odysseus shouted over the crashing tide. Seaweed tangled in his feet and salt caked in his creases.
Poseidon simply shimmered and disappeared into sea foam. In the spot he had been, Calypso suddenly glared at him, enraged. Her wild black curls stuck up randomly, and her chocolate skin shone with an unnatural pallor. Then Calypso was gone and Circe fumed in her place, and sparks flew off of her light brown skin. She shimmered away and the blinded Cyclops hissed and cursed at him. Then all was quiet.
Odysseus broke for the beach. As soon as he made it to the shore, an invisible hand pushed him back to the start. Odysseus tried again.
Until the end of eternity.