sunny.v

United States

she/her | asian
wtw community’s official older sister
running off into the sunset with circe
est. april 27, 2020

swordwielding protector of all minority groups
satire sorceress, lady knight

she clasps peonies, allure, & love

Message to Readers

if you read this, thank you! i know short stories don’t get as much love as poems so! here’s an omen that one day you’ll return home after 20 years and slay all the suitors that were hitting on your wife

calypso: myth of the nymph and the lies

May 26, 2020

FREE WRITING

19
Nymphs cannot lie—they’re physically unable to, or they’re just poor liars. At least, that’s what the legends say.

Calypso thinks of this as she finds the limp body of a man washed up on her shores.

It is a sign, almost definitely. An omen. Nothing that raised the slightest bit of suspicion ever occurred that wasn’t an omen. The gods were funny like that, throwing down circling eagles and lightning bolts until these dull mortals got the message.

The man is toned, muscles stretching across his back, sun-kissed tan skin telling of time spent outside. Scars also mar him in numerous places, but that is common, after all, in most parts. 

Undoubtedly, he was a hero. And the gods wanted Calypso to save him.

She could leave him to die on the sand, couldn’t she? Pretend that she doesn’t see him? But then again, Calypso is a nymph, and nymphs are poor liars, and the gods ask so, so many questions. 

Calypso gently pads over to where he lies face down in the sand. She rolls him over, ever so softly, so she can see his face.

He is undoubtedly handsome. But he’s not special. So are all heroes, at least on the outside.

When he lurches, suddenly, body convulsing, sputtering out saltwater from his lungs, Calypso doesn’t so much as blink. She waits for his coughing fit to stop. He wheezes, eyelashes fluttering.

“Who is your father?” Calypso asks, in lieu of greeting. 

The hero takes a few moments to compose himself, chest heaving. He doesn’t speak, staring at her like she’s a mirage. Finally, voice hoarse, he says, “Laertes.”

“Alright,” Calypso says. The name holds no meaning for her, not in Ogygia. “Son of Laertes, why do you hail on my shores?”

“I am Odysseus, son of Laertes,” he repeats, like she should have some recognition of his name. “Of Ithaca.”

“Wonderful,” Calypso responds, bemused. “And I suppose Ithaca’s just a swim away?”

His eyebrows furrow, until he’s suddenly breaking out in laughter, a gentle, deep rumble. Calypso is startled. 

“Who are you?” Odysseus asks, head tilting to the side. His damp hair falls just right to the side.

It has been so, so long since someone has asked Calypso that. “Calypso, of Ogygia. This is my island.”

“Calypso,” Odysseus says, rolling her name around on his tongue softly. “I’m a long way from home.”

And that is where the story starts.
——
“Your singing is wonderful,” Odysseus comments one day, as Calypso sits by her loom.

Calypso’s fingers still for a moment. “Is that so?”

Odysseus hums in response, tilting his head back in the sand. He stretches his arms out above him, and Calypso fixes her gaze on her hands to stop herself from staring. “Reminds me of something.”

“Sirens?” Calypso asks, resuming her weaving. Odysseus doesn’t say much about his adventures, and she’s never been good at asking.

“No,” Odysseus says, closing his eyes. “I’ve heard sirens sing. But the way you do, well…”

Calypso chances a glance back at him. The hero stares off at the horizon, a faraway look in his eyes. Calypso wonders what waits for Odysseus back in Ithaca.

“I’m glad you like it,” Calypso breaks in, sparing him from finishing his thought. “There was never anybody to listen to me before you came.”

Odysseus smiles at that, the look in his eyes gone for a moment. He looks, Calypso dares to think, happy. “Well, I’m here now.”

And Calypso believes him.
——
“I blinded a cyclops some time ago,” Odysseus offers conversationally one day as he chops away at a bowing tree with his axe. 

“Oh?” Calypso says, unsubtly admiring his strength. 

“You know the old trick of pressing a hot weapon into your opponent’s eyes?”

Calypso hums, shaking her head. The thwack of the axe is like a nice little rhythm to her ears. “Can’t say I do.”

“Well, it’s much more effective when your opponent only has one eye,” Odysseus states. He pauses his chopping, taking a moment to wipe the sweat off his brow. “I was proud.”

“As all heroes are,” Calypso adds, not unkindly.

Odysseus turns to her with a lopsided grin at that. Something traitorous stutters in her chest. “Did you know that cyclops are children of Poseidon?”

Calypso frowns. She knows where this story must be going. “Odysseus.”

“He cursed me,” Odysseus says flippantly, voice sounding strained in an effort to come off as light, humorous. “Said I’d never make it back home.”

“What waits for you back home?” Calypso asks selfishly. “Who—who waits for you in Ithaca?”

Odysseus stares sadly at his axe, hanging uselessly at his side. He doesn’t speak, not for a long time. Calypso’s grown used to his bouts of ponderous silence. “My son’s name is Telemachus.”

“Telemachus,” Calypso repeats. She doesn’t like the way the name slips off her tongue, so she says it again. “Telemachus.”

And at last, like a killing blow, Odysseus says, “Penelope.”

Something ugly curls up in Calypso’s gut at that. She doesn’t say anything.

“Penelope, she is,” Odysseus swallows, looking across the shore to the horizon above the sea’s surface, “she’s waiting for me with him.”

“Penelope,” Calypso says, venom dripping from the name. “Your wife. Penelope.”

Neither of them say anything for a long while. Odysseus returns to chopping at the tree. Calypso stands up, feet digging into the sand, and slips away.

Penelope. Penelope, and Telemachus. Ithaca.

What a wonderful home. What a wonderful home for a hero.
——
“Apollo is no longer angry,” Calypso announces as she takes a seat on the leaves next to Odysseus. He turns to her, kissing the crown of her head in greeting. 

“It only took him so many years,” Odysseus responds, but there's not much heat behind it. There’s only so many times you can scorn the gods and expect grudges to bear anything over time. 

“A handful of years is the blink of an eye to us, darling,” Calypso consoles, gently patting his cheek. “It could have taken him centuries, really.”

Odysseus grunts. “They were cows.”

“There were his cattle,” she corrects, smiling. “You of all people know better.”

He grumbles good naturedly. “You heard this from him?”

“Down the grapevine,” Calypso shrugs. Hermes had told her, actually, who had heard it from Ares, who had heard it from Hera, who had heard it from Zeus, who had heard it from Artemis, who had spoken to Apollo, who had vaguely flicked a hand when the sun cattle incident was brought up.

“Down the grapevine,” Odysseus repeats, huffing out a laugh. “Well, what would I do without my eyes and ears?”

“Die on the sand and become a meal for the coconut crabs,” Calypso says through a smile. “I find you much more pleasing to the eye like this, though.”

“You do?” He smiles, and reaches out to tuck a stray strand of hair behind her ears. “It’s a good thing I have you, then.”

“You have me,” Calypso affirms, leaning her cheek into his hand. She places her own hand over his when he caresses her cheek. “Forget the other gods. Forget the Olympians.”

Odysseus huffs, but he doesn’t repeat it. He’s a smart man, and that’s just it: he’s a man, a mortal. No insults thrown carelessly by mortals ever went unpunished, so he says, “Just us.”

“Just us?” Calypso says, her heart racing traitorously. 

“Of course,” Odysseus smiles, eyes crinkling at their corners. “Where else would I be, if not in Ogygia with the most beautiful immortal woman to walk on such an island?”

Ithaca, Calypso thinks bitterly, but she shakes her head to dispel such thoughts. All that matters is the now, and that is Odysseus. “You’ll stay, then?”

“I’ll stay,” Odysseus affirms. Calypso throws her arms around his shoulders, and he laughs heartily, a booming sound from his chest. He spins her in the air.

Nymphs cannot lie. They’re poor at it. But humans?

Humans make very, very good liars.
——
Calypso stares at the roof of her cave at night, counting the cracks in the stone.

“You’re still awake,” Odysseus murmurs, eyes closed. He lies on his side, facing her.

Calypso sighs. “As are you.”

“You think much too loud for me to be asleep,” he parries gently. “What ails you, my love?”

Calypso presses her mouth into a thin line. Athena has been antsy, lately. Poseidon equally so. And the gods are nothing if not predictable. They need a hero, need a quest ever so often to convince themselves that they hold power over the mortal world.

“Do you remember when you washed up on my shore?” Calypso asks, suddenly. “Six years ago, or so.”

Odysseus’ eyes flutter open at that. He searches her face cautiously. “I do.”

“I didn’t think I could love a mortal before you came,” Calypso confesses, and it’s the truth. It couldn’t be anything but the truth. Nymphs cannot lie. “You changed Ogygia.”

Odysseus’ expression softens. “Did something happen?”

“Did you?” Calypso asks instead of answering.

“Did I what?”

Did you think you could grow to love me, too? Calypso thinks. She shakes her head. “Sorry—did you notice anything strange happen lately?”

“I didn’t,” Odysseus answers, eyebrows furrowing in confusion. “Is something stirring in Mount Olympus?”

Calypso grits her teeth. “Hermes has been touchy with me, lately. We’ll have to see.”

“You can see in the morning,” Odysseus rumbles gently. He reaches over and pulls her close to his chest. “Go to sleep, now.”

Calypso sighs, and closes her eyes. She braces herself for what the Fates are spinning for her. But at least she has Odysseus.
——
Hermes arrives as Calypso is picking fruits.

He makes a show of admiring her various flowers, looking in awe at her crystal pools, clapping his hands childishly at the colorful birds that rest on her shoulder.

“Get on with it, Hermes,” Calypso snaps, awaiting his message. Anxiety claws at her throat like a chimera. “What does Zeus have for me?”

Hermes raises an eyebrow. He’s never been one to soften the blow, though. Always hiding behind the shield that a messenger always holds whenever delivering. “Let Odysseus go.”

“No,” Calypso answers immediately.

“It wasn’t a question,” Hermes answers, firm, but gentle. “Zeus knows his place. Athena does, too. He’s not meant to waste away on Ogygia.”

“And what is he meant to do?” Calypso demands, baring her teeth. “Be mauled to death in battle? Drown at the hand of Poseidon, a thousand times over? No, these are much worse fates than Ogygia.”

“He is miserable,” Hermes shakes his head. “You know this just as we all do.”

Calypso scowls. But she knows. Odysseus weeps for Ithaca, these days. Weeps for his son. Weeps for his Penelope. 

“Zeus has never been kind to the goddesses with those they love,” Calypso spits out. “Leave. Tell Zeus that Odysseus will be freed, as he so commands.”

Hermes gives an impassive nod. In one moment he takes a runner’s stance in the sand, and the next, a flash of light signals his departure. 

Calypso does not allow herself to cry. She starts off in Odysseus’ direction.
——
“Penelope could never compare to you,” Odysseus says, as he slips into his raft.

Calypso wants to lash out at that. Instead, she asks, bitter, “Then why are you leaving?”

“You know why, beloved,” Odysseus answers. He doesn’t look half as sad as he sounds. “For the same reason you saved me all those years ago.”

Calypso watches him untie the ropes holding the raft. Then, in a last goodbye, he looks at her, giving that same lopsided smile.

“Thank you, Calypso,” Odysseus says. “Will you be alright?

Calypso doesn’t say anything, not for a while. Odysseus sets off eventually. He doesn’t look back once.

“I won’t be the same,” Calypso admits, ever so softly, to no one in particular. “But I don’t think it matters, in the end.”

And that is the truth. It cannot be anything but the truth. Because the truth is: Calypso cannot love a man destined to leave her. She knows this, and she says this, and she will say it for the rest of eternity.

And nymphs, well, as the legends say: nymphs cannot lie.
-i have a lot of doubts about the odyssey and a few are about my darling calypso
-in true sunny fashion, *wolf whistles* calypso, what a lady, am i right?
-calypso: noo odysseus don’t leave you’re so smexy aha

Print

See History
  • May 26, 2020 - 1:47am (Now Viewing)

Login or Signup to provide a comment.

11 Comments
  • luluwrites111

    OMG I read the odyssey and the women deserved so much better aaaa. i wrote my essay on penelope and calypso. this was great i love it


    6 months ago
  • birthdaycandles

    Woah. I am so glad I came back and read this. Now I really want to go educate myself on Greek mythology again, I recognised most of the names but forgot what they were the Gods of. I really hope you get this published some day, or I could even picture like a short film type of thing in my mind? Awh why have you made me fall in love with these characters and then have such a sad ending :(
    I think Calypso, as she was at the start when she first found the man on the shore, can be an independent person when she wants! Ah I love this so much


    6 months ago
  • Halopoet

    Replying: thanks it's so cute of you to wish me it definitely made my event better


    6 months ago
  • birthdaycandles

    replying: sunny your comments always make me smile until my face hurts. thank youuuu :) p.s I will come back and read this short story later, I'm just in the middle of an assignment, but when I finish it I'll come back and read this piece, promise <3


    6 months ago
  • joella

    why are you up?? (it’s 2:30 am here too so I probably shouldn’t talk but I’m sitting outside in the pitch black eating a lollipop while listening to music because the weather’s gorgeous...what’s ur excuse?)


    6 months ago
  • inanutshell

    I've always been more fascinated by Calypso's story & her punishment, and this definitely brought out the best (and unfortunately most heartbreaking) parts of her story. was a little daunted by the length of the story at first but glad to say it flowed very well together! definitely helped that each paragraph was only a few lines or so. also i love your footnotes every time :D


    6 months ago
  • asta

    calypso's characterisation here is so subtle and rich, and her inner turmoil contrasts wonderfully with her outer placidity. lovely, beautiful work.


    6 months ago
  • jun lei

    so right.


    6 months ago
  • chrysanthemums&ink

    oh this was so easy to read! while that might seem like a compliment well... *scratches head guiltily* i tend to avoid short stories because they seem hard to read? i don't know, i'll have to get over this someday. anyways, the dialogue was impossibly smooth, and you perfectly achieved a balance between calypso's inner thoughts and the outside world!
    footnotes... footnotes are everything.
    haha for a second i thought the washed up guy was gonna be percy jackson but then i remembered my reading class... my teacher would be disappointed....


    6 months ago
  • joella

    oh wait. I just realized you didn't ask for peer reviews. should I not write one?


    6 months ago
  • joella

    *obnoxiously loud wolf whistles as a tribute to you* your characterization and the way you tied this story neatly together at the end is just...wow. I love your fiction!! writing a peer review now :))


    6 months ago