That was the only word to describe Calypso’s home. It was perfect. An island in the middle of the sparkling blue sea, covered with warm sand, lush forest, wildflowers, and warm caves with walls veined by lapis lazuli and emerald. Dolphins leapt in the waves and birds sang pleasantly in the trees. Food was easy to gather, and fish in particular were easy to catch.
But nothing ever happened.
Every day was just like the rest, and Calypso couldn’t stand it. She wanted something to happen, but she knew it never would. The island was protected by a powerful enchantment, ensuring that no one ever came and that Calypso herself could never leave.
She wasn’t sure how long she’d been here. Day after day passing in exactly the same fashion made it hard to keep track of time. Years could’ve passed, and Calypso would never know.
Because that was the other thing about Ogygia. On her island, Calypso could never die. She’d never age. The world would continue outside of her perfect haven, but she was stuck exactly how she was.
That was what scared her the most. Her father and the Sorceress were the only ones who knew she was here. What if so much time had passed that they had died, and she would be stuck here forever? Only the Sorceress could lift the enchantment, and only Calypso’s father would ask her to.
What if she really was stuck here forever?
Sighing, Calypso let her fingers dangle into the salt water just below. She sat on a rock overhanging the sea, half bathed in sunlight and half hidden in the shade of a large, twisted olive tree. This was one of her favorite spots on the island. Staring out over the sea, she could imagine a ship coming to sweep her off on an adventure.
Calypso narrowed her gaze and peered at the position of the sun. She guessed it was probably late in the afternoon. She should get back and prepare dinner for herself.
Swinging her bare feet back on top of the rock, Calypso stood. She brushed off the sand that clung to her silky white dress and reached up to pluck an olive from the tree. Popping it in her mouth, she set off back to her cave.
In the middle of Ogygia rose a large hill, one side tapering off into a cliff dotted with caves. The stone itself was a smoky gray, lined with veins of lapis lazuli and emerald. It was during this time of the day, when the sun was in just the right place, when the caves would flood with light and sparkle with a radiance and natural beauty unseen anywhere else. That was why Calypso liked to be home at this time.
Calypso picked up speed, running through the patches of light that filtered through the trees. The branches almost seemed to move aside to let her pass, before resuming their positions. In fact, Calypso suspected that the trees contained dryads, the spirits of the trees themselves. She’d never seen one on the island, but sometimes she’d discover piles of nuts and berries near her cave. Even though she knew that tree nymphs were incredibly shy and would never reveal themselves, Calypso felt better just knowing that she wasn’t completely alone.
At last, the trees opened up into a sunny clearing dotted with wildflowers. The air smelled sweetly of the Bay Laurels that dotted the edges of the forest, and bees hummed pleasantly between the colorful heads of flowers.
At first, this place had held so much allure for Calypso. Now it just felt like a cage.
Calypso approached the cliff face that rose in front of her. At its base was the cave that she called home. It was a fairly standard cave, but Calypso loved it for its dryness and warmth.
When she had first come here, who knew how many years ago, she had brought with her a chest of clothes, a bed, some sheets and blankets, and a loom. Over time the clothes, sheets, and blankets had been soiled and torn in various ways, and she’d had to make new ones on her loom using the silk the dryads left. Somehow they always knew when she needed it. She’d fall into the sea one day and emerge covered in sand, before waking up the next morning to find a woven basket filled with spiders' silk outside her cave. She dyed her clothes sometimes, using the natural dyes she made—the red from the cochineal insect, the black from a walnut, the orange from clay— but usually she just left them their natural off-white color.
Calypso heard a giggle behind her and whirled, staring at the young laurel from which the sound had seemed to emanate. She thought she might have seen the brief swish of a leafy dress, but it was too quick to catch. Calypso smiled faintly, though it tugged at her that there were others so close and yet completely beyond her reach. If the outside world had forgotten her, then she would spend the rest of her eternity here, eternally exactly the same, unable to keep track of time, and all alone.
Trying to ignore her thoughts, Calypso entered the cave and headed towards the back, where the rock formed an alcove that served as her pantry. The light from outside didn’t reach this far back, and a vent from underground wafted cold air into the nook, allowing whatever was kept there to remain cold. It was here that she stored her food. It wasn’t perfect, but it was fairly effective.
Squinting against the change in light, Calypso reached into the pantry, only to discover that there was in fact nothing in there. Screwing up her face in a picture of annoyance, she grabbed her fishing net from within a basket and headed back outside. At least this gave her something to do.
The trees seemed to whisper as she ran back towards the sea, the net swung over her shoulder. “There she goes again!” she could imagine them saying. “There goes Calypso, racing back to the sea!”
It seemed like all she did was run around the island.
When Calypso reached the beach, she stopped and took a deep breath of fresh sea air. The waves crashed in rhythm against the shore, and seagulls cried overhead, creating a beautiful ambient background. The movement of a dolphin jumping above the waves caught Calypso’s eye, and her eyes grew sad. She wished she could be free to just swim away like them. Sometimes the dolphins would wash up on the shore, and she would have to help them, but they were always able to get away.
It seemed odd, though. They got beached quite often. It was almost like they were trying to get to her, maybe carry her away from this place, though she knew it wasn’t possible. The enchantment was too strong, the Sorceress too powerful.
Swinging the net from her shoulder, Calypso pulled off her dress and put it down on the sand. She’d only get it wet, anyway, and there wasn’t anyone to see her. Wearing only her underclothes, she ran down the beach and into the surf, shivering at the feeling of cold water against her tanned skin.
As Calypso waded deeper, the long seagrasses tickled her bare skin and fish flitted between her legs. A dogfish swam past in pursuit of a smaller fish, ignoring the girl who had invaded his habitat.
When Calypso had gone deep enough that the water lapped just below her breasts and her dark hair floated on the surface around her, she prepared her net. Standing very still, she waited for a properly sized fish to appear.
Finally a fish large enough to eat, a mullet, swam before her, and she threw the net. It missed, causing all the other fish to swim away in terror. Calypso bit back her frustration and recollected the net, then stood, poised for action, to await their return.
Above her, seagulls cried harshly as they flew in wheeling circles through the blue sky. Not a cloud was visible for miles and miles, and the sun shone brightly. Calypso squinted against the glare and looked out towards the horizon, wishing she could swim away. She’d tried, of course, but it didn’t work. Somehow, no matter what direction she swam, she’d always find the island right in front of her. If she turned and swam the other direction, it would once again appear in her path.
She’d only tried it once. She’d swam around all day, followed by chattering dolphins, but she couldn’t get away from her beautiful prison. After that she gave up. There was no point in trying. The only way she’d be able to leave was if the enchantment was lifted, and that would only happen when the war ended and her father came to get her. Unfortunately, last time she’d been out in the world, the war had shown no sign of slowing.
It was good to remember. If she didn’t think about it, she might forget. That was so easy to do on an island as perfect as this one.
Sometimes, though, she thought it might be better to forget. Forget that her kingdom, Crete, was at war with Aegea. Forget that she’d been left on Ogygia so she’d be safe. Forget that her father, who was the king and the only one who could fetch her, was in real danger of being killed by an enemy assassin. Forget that she was, in fact, a princess and therefore only truly safe in this paradise.
Maybe it would be better to just lose herself in that fantasy that this perfect life was enjoyable. If she could forget about the outside world, maybe she wouldn’t long for it so much.
But it was impossible to forget.
Heaving a sigh, Calypso returned her thoughts to the task at hand. The fish were starting to come back slowly, first the friendly and curious rainbow wrasse, then the delicate damselfish. An urchin slowly made its way at a slow crawl among the weeds, crawling up the stalk of one and beginning to feed at a snail’s pace.
At last, a mullet appeared. It was smaller than its predecessor but no less edible, and would do nicely for Calypso’s lonely dinner, especially if it was accompanied by roots and berries.
The sun was getting lower in the sky, and Calypso’s stomach was beginning to rumble. If she didn’t manage to catch a fish before it became dark, she’d have to settle for whatever she could gather in the forest. It was nearly impossible to go hungry on Ogygia, and definitely impossible for Calypso to starve to death.
Steeling herself to get it right this time, Calypso once again cast the net. This time it hit its mark, entangling the mullet. The poor animal thrashed around in the water until Calypso grabbed it and waded back up towards the beach.
Knee-deep in the surf, Calypso reached down for a rock. She was about the smash the mullet’s head and therefore end its life, but before she could something caught her eye that made her heart stop.
Calypso dropped the fish, which struggled free of the net and swam away. The waves began to take her net out to sea, but Calypso didn’t even notice.
For off to her left, lying facedown on the beach, half in and half out of the water, was a boy.