Caliban's Tale

February 7, 2008
By Hannah Stoppel, Interlochen, MI

In the beginning my life was perfect. I had everything that I wished for, my mother’s power saw to that. She doted on me, her son, and her only companion in this place of exile. She hated the island. To her, it meant imprisonment, the loss of her home, her family and much of her power. I loved the island. From my earliest years I was given free reign of our prison, and I grew to know every inch of the land we inhabited. I knew every plant, every animal and every spirit on the island. To me, the island meant freedom and beauty. I tried to show my mother the beauty; I tried to teach her the things that I had learned over the years. She would always nod and smile indulgently, but everyday she grew more distant. I was fourteen when I came home from gathering mussels on the rocks at the southern end of the island to find that she had killed herself. At first I couldn’t understand. I couldn’t see why she had hated our home. The island was the only home I knew, and I loved it. I didn’t know how I could have failed to make her love it to. Was there some beautiful secret that I had forgotten to share? Was I responsible for her destruction?

In the time that followed, I came to understand her despair. The island without my mother was empty. It was not nearly as beautiful when I had no one to share it with. I had already discovered every secret that the island concealed. Now that I had no one to share them with, the secrets seemed pointless. I became like a wraith; I wandered the island, barely eating. I didn’t see any of the beauties that had once enthralled me, filling my soul until it seemed ready to burst. I began to understand my mother’s need to end her life. I nearly began to share that need. I was empty.

Then, they came. The man was tall and majestic; the girl was the most delicate, lovely thing I had ever seen. She giggled and cooed like a tiny angel. She loved the island as I had. In that small girl I saw everything that I had been missing since my mother’s death. I saw my chance to be whole again. Once more I had someone to share my findings with. They were kind to me. I couldn’t understand their strange speech, but I still found ways to show them all the things that made the island beautiful. Each time I showed them a new secret it was like I was discovering it again. In their wonder, the island became beautiful again, and I loved them because they had given that back to me. The years passed quickly. Every day I we went out, and I showed them more secrets, and everyday the girl grew and became lovelier. When they grew tired from wandering we would sit in the shade and the girl would teach me their strange language. She told me that her name was Miranda. It was the most beautiful word that I had ever heard. I said it over and over, rolling the word around in my mouth. It tasted sweet, like honey and pomegranates.

I told her that my mother had called me Caliban. She laughed- the most beautiful sound in the world. “What a strange name!” she said. She repeated it, “Caliban,” and hearing her say my name made me feel as if the whole world belonged to me. It was like my body could no longer contain my soul, so it escaped and went flying to every corner of the world at once. She said it again, “Caliban,” and I drank in the sound of her voice. I was happier than I had ever been in my life.

I showed them everything, every beautiful secret that the island possessed. It seemed as though this existence would go on forever, but ten years is a long time, and finally we exhausted the island’s store of secrets. Our daily walks ceased, and though they were still kind to me, and the man taught us many games to keep us amused through the long days, it wasn’t enough. I felt myself emptying out again. I needed the island, and I needed someone to share it with. I needed her.

I thought that she would understand, that she would return my love, my desire. I thought that she would say my name again, “Caliban,” and laugh that wonderful laugh. I thought that she would love me. I thought that she would see past my ugly face and twisted body, into my soul, and that in my soul she would see my adoration. But when I tried to kiss her, she turned away, disgusted. She looked at me like I was an animal, as though we had never been friends, as though all those days we had wandered the island had been nothing, a beautiful dream that she had woken from and I had not.

I couldn’t help it. I thought that somehow I could convince her that my ugliness didn’t matter. I thought I could show here that I was as beautiful as the island, for I was the island and the island was me. I reached out to touch her, my eyes pleading her to seem me, not only my face.

She screamed.

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