Odysseus had tied himself to the mast, but he had never quite gotten their song out of his head. It echoed through him still years later. On dull days, when his mind wasn’t otherwise occupied, he would float back to its’ promises of peace and pleasure and love. It was a spell that neither loving wife nor child could break.
He began to ponder and plan and apply all of his fabled genius to this uncanny desire. He had his scribes and wise men gather all the information about the infamous sirens that they could and bring it to his chambers. He neglected both sleep and food in his studies. Both family and kingly duties fell to the wayside as he worked.
(Somewhere, the goddess Aphrodite smiled- her vengeance finally underway.)
Finally, Odysseus arrived at an acceptable plan. Heedless of consequence, he stole away from his castle under the night goddess Nyx’s dark shadow. He took only a small ship and a few reliable soldiers with him.
For seven days and seven nights, the men quested in the mountains looking for Odysseus’s quarry. Clever Odysseus had his men each shout a different phrase. Each would wait a moment, listening for a a response.
Finally, he found her. “I need you!” he shouted over the mountains.
“I need you!” his own voice came back.
He sent the men in the direction of that voice. They brought back a blank eyed creature vaguely shaped like a woman. Her eyes were sad and distant, as if she could not quite focus on anything but her internal sorrow. Even her body had faded to the point where a strong grab would go right through her physical form and fingers would meet thumbs on the other side.
Odysseus got down on one knee to show respect to the creature. He asked, “Noble nymph, will you help me?”
“Help me,” the creature echoed blankly.
“I need you to accompany me on a voyage,” he said.
“A voyage,” the voice echoed. The creature continued to stare morosely ahead as if entirely unaware of her surroundings.
Odysseus boldy waved his hand in front of her face.
“Gather her and bring her along with me,” he commanded his men.
They took the nymph by the shoulders and guided her. “With me,” she forlornly echoed.
Odysseus and his crew prepared to sail near Scylla. Crew members whispered behind his back that he had gone mad. They noted his frenetic energy and his lack of sleep. Those who had seen his captain’s desk said it was full of strange drawings- those of birds with sharp claws and the heads of women. The soldiers began to avoid their king as much as possible.
On the fateful day of his plans, King Odysseus gave each soldier his instructions. He was to put wax in his ears and sail on a precharted course- regardless of what might happen or what Odysseus may otherwise indicate. Even more strangely, Odysseus demanded that he and the nymph be tied to the boat’s mast when going through the waters with their ears unplugged. The crewmen were secretly glad of this guidance- the manic light in Odysseus’s eyes had grown more and more intense and it was relieving to put him in a position where he could do no harm. The nymph, in contrast, had no expression and was led and tied to the mast with neither cry nor protest. It was unclear if she was even aware she was being tied.
As they sailed, Odysseus began to hear the first strains of the song that had haunted his mind and dreams. It spoke of warmth and love and complete understanding. He felt a tear roll down his eye as he strained against his ropes. He felt his first taste of apple and his first kiss and nostalgia for his lost youth all at once.
This time, though, the song was even more beautiful than in his memory. Not only did it come from the sea but it was echoed by the nymph besides him. Odysseus was filled with bliss- straining to touch either the siren or the nymph or anyone connected with such beautiful feelings and promises.
The ropes held. This was just as Odysseus had intended. However, clever Odysseus had been successful in his unnatural lure. The ship soldiers saw first one, then two large birds with the heads of gorgeous maidens fly and perch upon the boat. They seemed entranced in their steps- entirely ignoring the seamen’s attempts to wave them off. The bird women walked slowly towards Odysseus.
Odysseus saw the most beautiful sight. His loves were returning to him! His tears flowed even more strongly in relief and joy. He would finally be theirs. At last.
He barely felt the pain of the first tear of their claws. It was intense and sudden- like love should be. Their song reassured him that he had done the right thing- that they loved him, that they needed him, that he would forever be theirs now. That there was nothing more painfully ecstatic than being consumed and swallowed by their love.
He heard and understood. He was truly grateful.
The crewmen, stunned into silence, saw the monstrous creatures tear their smiling, laughing, and crying captain apart. Their teeth were sharp and full of sinew. Their claws were precise and stained with blood. It took mere moments for the hero of legend to become carrion. No one spoke. None dared to interfere.
The sailors continued to gaze, terrified as the monsters lovingly and carefully ripped the ropes from the woman-resembling creature and laid her gently upon their backs. It was if she was weightless. While no one was looking, light had suddenly returned to her dead-seeming eyes and joy to her lovely face. She glowed like a goddess. If they could have heard, they also would have been bewitched by the beautiful melody that passed between her and the monsters- a melody that echoed adoration and enchantment and love found anew.
With a sudden gust of air, the eerie group disappeared in flight- vanishing like a midday storm into the horizon. Like a storm, they left an almost supernatural stillness behind them.
And a body.
Well, what was left of one.
Without discussion, the soldiers unanimously prudently sailed on for a while longer. It wasn’t until they were well past any island’s rocks that they removed their wax and threw Odysseus’s remains overboard.
They swore each other then to an oath of secrecy- an oath in the sight of the gods. No others needed to know of what had happened on this day. And, to their dying breath, none spoke out about the sad fate of their once-great king.
And so- History herself has forgotten.