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The fate of men -- A retelling of the Odyssey
Foolish, to think that he would not be abandoned by the gods.
No one can escape their fate, that fate that comes down on the head
of every mortal, when the world turns its back on him
and the once-hero receives most painful death.
Yes, Odysseus, slain by these very hands, the hands of I,
Antinous, the leader of the suitors.
A cunning plan Odysseus devised, disguised as a beggar,
Son of Pain, the great teller of tales—
but to me transparent as the surface of a lake untarnished with salt,
a lake housing a serpent who makes its home in water,
poised, waiting to strike with venom that brings a swift end to
those that imbibe it, but unable to conceal itself, visible to
the hunter that skewers it with a spear of hardened oak—
so I killed Odysseus who failed to deceive me!
I saw right through his plan, made preparations for his attack, and
good Eurymachus stored away arms of all manner to use.
When he revealed himself at last, great Odysseus,
we set upon him, brandished our lethal steel carefully hidden in our clothes.
No bright-eyed Pallas came to aid him, no stroke of luck did Odysseus turn
as he bled to death in his very halls, the boy and queen watching, helpless.
Now I shall lord it over Ithaca, vast wealth at my disposal
wielding power that no god can take away.
This is my realm, here only I hold power
and that power I shall savor for the rest of my days.
Of course, this calls for celebration!
A great feast, exceeding all others that have past and those still to come—
food and drink of every kind, bought by the wealth of late Odysseus;
we’ll carry on our revels throughout the night, until Dawn with
her rosy fingers rises once more. I then called out,
“Eurymachus! Amphinomous! Set about immediately
making preparations for the feast,
this feast that rivals all others, surpassing even those of the gods.”
So I commanded, and we soon began the feast,
drinking fine wine and eating roast meat,
but as the night went on and darkness slowly took over the red light of dusk,
the suitors succumbed to the heady drink,
toppling over drunk one by one. Soon, it was only me
and Eurymachus remaining, the latter stepping outside
to cleanse his body of intoxication with fresh air.
But it was not long after Eurymachus exited these halls
when he returned, bringing news—
Eurymachus had come from the courtyard where we left Odysseus’ corpse to rot,
for the crows to feed on and the maggots to wither away.
An enemy defeated deserves no burial, no honor in death.
But did Eurymachus disagree, or what else worried him?
He looked so hurried, panicked, running urgently toward me
when at last he proclaimed, “The scar is gone!
That scar that a boar left on Odysseus’ leg when he was but a child,
now has vanished completely from his body,
and when I looked more closely, I realized—
it was not Odysseus we killed, but Arnaeus the beggar!
What’s more, owls’ feathers are scattered around the corpse,
bird of the night, symbol of Athena who watches on from above.
What does it mean, Antinous? Are we at last doomed?
Did Athena with her great power addle our brains,
making us kill our loyal messenger, Irus? Be wary, Antinous,
stay your bravado; I fear we are dealing with a power much greater than our’s.”
Even as I tried to calm myself, my face blanched with terror,
my body froze in place. But I reassured Eurymachus nonetheless,
saying, “What nonsense you let slip through your teeth!
Did we not confirm the identity of our victim when we killed him?
The scar was present at the time of death, and it is present now.
And why else would this man proclaim himself Odysseus
if not the king himself? You saw wrong, you must have,
your eyesight is going off—even now, Irus lays just next to us,
passed out from the wine!”
Eurymachus, seeing my good sense, calmed down
and soon welcome sleep sealed his eyes.
I was just about to rest myself when I was sharply jolted to alertness
by a fierce pain in my midsection and saw
a blade protruding from my torso, the edge honed sharp.
Then a voice spoke, one even more chilling than the metal
piercing my gut. “Eurymachus was right—no man can challenge
the gods who deliver every one of us grief. You are no exception.
Throughout my journeys, I’ve endured much suffering and now you shall too.”
The sword withdrew from my body and as the world faded to black,
I glimpsed, barely visible under beggars’ rags,
the edge of a scar on the leg of this man.