Homers Odyssey | Chapter 24 of 54

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CYCLOPS

 
 

ODYSSEUS

This way, but no sudden noises.

You, man, go through those rocks and peer in.

 

ELPENOS

Has he really only one eye?

 

EURYBATES

That’s what they say. So why should we fear – he’s already half blind.

What do you say, Polites?

 

POLITES

One eye only, but it’s as wide and as deep and as clear

as a barrel of rain. So he’ll see us all right, if he’s in range.

 

ELPENOS

If his eye’s so big there can’t be much room for his ears.

 

EURYBATES

So we can sneak up on him while he looks the other way,

and he won’t hear a thing!

 

POLITES

There’s room all right, because his head is as big as a boulder.

Now pipe down, before we find out.

 

SHIPMATE (from the mouth of the cave)

It’s all clear. Nobody home.

 

POLITES

Are you sure?

 

SHIPMATE

Cave’s empty – apart from the smell.

But these buckets aren’t, and neither are these stalls.

Come and feast your eyes on this lot.

 

They run over to the mouth of the cave. The bleating of lambs and kids can be heard.

EURYBATES

Cornucopia. There must be five dozen heads here.

 

ELPENOS

Lamb and goat. We’ll stuff our faces tonight.

 

ANTIPHUS

And snouters. I can hear them hissing and spitting on the fire already.

 

EURYBATES

What’s in the buckets?

 

ELPENOS

Milk, is it?

 

EURYBATES

More like cheese, or whey.

 

ELPENOS

Well, whey – hey! It’s like he knew we were coming and laid on a feast.

Let’s get everything back to the boats.

 

ODYSSEUS

No, we should wait.

 

ELPENOS

Wait for what, Odysseus? Sir?

 

ODYSSEUS

He might make us welcome here. Give us this food as a gift.

 

EURYBATES

He’s a one-eyed monster who eats people alive.

I’m not hanging around to sample his hospitality.

 

ANTIPHUS

Me neither. Here, help me herd these sheep.

 

ODYSSEUS

I SAID WE WILL WAIT.

We’re not savages. We’re Achaeans of Ithaca.

Men of our word.

We’re not rampaging from shore to shore

without cause,

we’re making the long journey home

after a just war.

Get your minds above your bellies for a minute.

Greed and gluttony

lost us half our men against the Cicones.

You, make a fire.

You, take modest portions of cheese and milk

into the cave.

We’ll wait for our host. Today we’ll be civilized.

 

The men grumble but follow his instructions.

Everyone into the cave.

 

*

 

Later. Around a crackling fire, the men sit chatting in the echoing cave, waiting the return of Cyclops.

ELPENOS

What about you?

 

EURYBATES

What about me?

 

ELPENOS

What’s the first thing you’ll do when you get home?

 

EURYBATES

Obvious, isn’t it?

 

The rest of the men laugh and whistle.

ELPENOS

All right, what’s the second thing?

 

EURYBATES

I’ll probably do it again.

 

More laughter and whistling.

ANTIPHUS

Tell you what I’ll do. I’ve got a little plot of land above the cliff. It’s not much but it feeds me and the family. It’s probably gone to seed by now. Well, first I’ll build the walls back up, make it all trim and tidy. Then I’ll put a crop in the soil … barley or wheat. Then at dusk, I’ll say a prayer to Zeus, and throw a stone in the sea, and swear on that stone never, ever, ever to set foot on a boat again. I’m going to plant myself in that field, and I’m going to take root.

 

ELPENOS

I’ll drink to that.

 

EURYBATES (proposing a toast)

To Ithaca!

 

ALL

To Ithaca!

 

ANTIPHUS

Then I’ll get off home to the wife for a bit of what you were talking about.

 

They all roar with laughter.

SHIPMATE

Something approaches.

 

ODYSSEUS

Is it him?

 

SHIPMATE

He’s … he’s enormous.

 

ODYSSEUS

Everyone right to the back of the cave,

and total silence.

 

SHIPMATE

He’s enormous. Enormous!

 

ODYSSEUS

Hold on to your thoughts, watchman,

or I’ll put my fist through your skull and hold them for you.

Now quiet everyone.

 

The Cyclops arrives at the mouth of the cave, grunting and snuffling. He babbles and mutters to himself, then snooks, clears his throat and spits out a ball of snot.

ANTIPHUS (whispering)

In heaven’s name – he’s inhuman.

 

EURYBATES

Look at those hands. He’ll mangle us.

 

ELPENOS

We’re done for, we’re pulp.

 

SHIPMATE

I told you. He’s enormous.

 

ODYSSEUS

Shut it. All of you, before he hears us.

 

CYCLOPS

Yahn,

Tayhn,

Tether,

Mether,

Mimph,

Hither,

Lither,

Danver,

Dic …

 

EURYBATES

What’s he doing? What’s he saying?

 

ODYSSEUS

He’s counting his flock into the pen.

 

EURYBATES

What language is he speaking?

 

CYCLOPS

Yahndic,

Tayhndic,

Tetherdic,

Metherdic,

Mimphit,

Yahn-a-mimphit,

Tayhn-a-mimphit,

Tether-a-mimphit,

Mether-a-mimphit …

 

ANTIPHUS

It’s baby-talk if you ask me. Gobbledygook language.

 

CYCLOPS (hearing them)

WHAT? Grokells! Infesters!

Who squatting in Cyclops’ cave?

Who dodging and skulking in shadows in Cyclops’ cave?

 

ODYSSEUS (speaking up from the back)

Pardon us.

We’re men of Ithaca, blown off course

by cruel winds, at the mercy of the sea.

We fetched up here by chance. We mean

no harm and hope you might welcome us

as strangers in a strange land. We offer

the hand of friendship and our word.

We are true men, respecters of the Gods.

 

CYCLOPS

Gods!

(He bellows with laughter.)

Cyclops farts in Gods’ faces. Cyclops pisses on Gods’ feet.

Cyclops does whatever Cyclops please.

(in a clumsy attempt at cunning)

So, er, where did Ithaca men land them ship?

 

POLITES (whispering)

Don’t tell him. He’ll find it and crush it.

 

EURYLOCHUS

Odysseus, throw him off the scent.

 

ODYSSEUS

Our ship was wrecked.

We entered the bay.

We swam for our lives.

Myself and the men that you see

are all that’s left.

 

Cyclops mumbles and muses to himself, then giggles, then mumbles and giggles some more.

CYCLOPS

Cyclops lonely. Cyclops on his own.

 

ELPENOS

Aw, look at him, he’s just a big kid.

 

EURYBATES

He’s grinning. You’re right. He’s a big soft lump really.

 

Cyclops giggles and laughs. The men begin to laugh.

ANTIPHUS

He likes us. He thinks we’re his friends – big dumb animal. Come on, let’s help ourselves to this fodder.

 

ODYSSEUS

Wait a second, let me talk to him some more.

 

ANTIPHUS

It’s fine. Hey, one-eye, how about me and you get our teeth stuck into that slab of cheese over there? I’ll have the first bite …

 

Cyclops grabs the man and devours him. The other men scream and shout as Antiphus is crushed and eaten. Cyclops slabbers and drools and burps as he gobbles his victim, crunching his bones between his teeth.

ODYSSEUS

Everyone, get right back into the crag where he can’t reach us.

 

POLITES

He’s closing the door – we’re trapped.

 

ELPENOS

We should have cut and run while we had the chance.

Now he’s going to eat us alive one by one.

 

ODYSSEUS

Get right into the crack there.

Pack down, make room for everyone.

 

ELPENOS

He’ll pluck us out with those long, gangling arms.

Where is he now?

 

POLITES

Pacing around the cave, looking this way.

 

CYCLOPS

GRRRRRNNNNNNNNAAAWWWWWW.

 

ELPENOS

He’s got us right where he wants us.

We’re dead meat. He’ll just reach in and grab us.

 

ODYSSEUS

This fissure’s too narrow for him

and we’ll guard the entrance with spears.

We’ll wait in this bolt-hole until morning.

 

ELPENOS

Why, so he can eat us for breakfast?

 

ODYSSEUS

Settle down and rest. We’re safe here.

Be quiet and let me think.

 

CYCLOPS

GGGRRRRNNNNAAAWWWWWWWW.

 

Out of breath, the men cower at the back of the cave.

EURYBATES

Poor old Antiphus.

I don’t suppose he’ll be needing that field of his any more.

 

*

 

Morning in the cave. Cyclops is snoring. Sheep are bleating.

EURYBATES

My arm’s gone to sleep.

 

ELPENOS

Move your leg. Your foot’s right in my face.

 

ODYSSEUS

Watchman, can you see anything?

 

SHIPMATE

He’s still asleep. He’s got blood on his chin and bones stuck in his teeth.

 

EURYLOCHUS

A hundred of us couldn’t move that boulder from the entrance.

He’s bunged the hole. We’re trapped like flies in a bottle.

 

ODYSSEUS

All right, listen to me.

Who has wine left in their sacks?

Pour it all into this one bag.

Let’s see if Cyclops here can handle his drink.

 

ELPENOS

He’s already scoffed poor Antiphus. Now you’re giving

him wine to whet his appetite for the rest of us.

 

EURYBATES

We should drink it ourselves – at least we’d die happy.

 

ODYSSEUS

Hand it to Polites and Eurylochus.

Trust me, this is our only means of escape.

 

Odysseus emerges from the back of the cave and approaches the stirring Cyclops.

ODYSSEUS

Wake up. Here’s a peace offering from the men of Ithaca.

 

Cyclops grumbles.

ODYSSEUS

Good wine, strong wine.

It tastes better than men’s blood.

Drink this instead, and let us go. Here, catch.

 

He throws Cyclops the wine sack.

CYCLOPS

What Ithaca man name?

 

ODYSSEUS

My name? You want my name?

Nobody, that’s what they call me.

Nobody’s my name.

 

CYCLOPS

Nobody? Huh, Nobody. Cyclops drink wine. Cyclops eat Nobody last. Cyclops save Nobody for pudding. Ha!

 

He laughs and begins guzzling the wine. Odysseus returns to his men.

ELPENOS

Well, that was a fat lot of good. Now he’s got the wine and us. If Odysseus ever goes into the bartering business he’ll be bankrupt in a week.

 

Cyclops starts gurgling and singing to himself.

ODYSSEUS

Listen to him – he’s a stranger to wine.

He doesn’t know the boozy fumes of the grape.

Wait till it floods through his veins,

wait till it loosens the knot of his brain.

 

Cyclops burps and laughs and glugs more of the wine.

Eurylochus, Polites.

And you, man, and you, and you.

See that log in the ogre’s fire – the longer one?

See its pointed end – it glows red with heat.

Come with me when I give the word, hoist it

onto my shoulder, then push from behind.

I’ll aim it into the soul of that creature’s life.

 

POLITES

Into his heart to kill him?

 

ODYSSEUS

No, comrades, into his eye.

We’ll blind him, but we need him alive.

 

Cyclops is humming to himself and laughing.

Follow me.

Hush now. More stealth.

Softly – here by the fire.

That’s the one.

See the tip – like a branding iron.

Lift it after three.

One … two … three.

(straining under the weight) Ngg …

Forward.

Steady it.

Hold it there.

 

Hey, Cyclops, over here. Are you awake? Are you open eyed?

 

CYCLOPS

Who shout Cyclops?

Nobody man. Cyclops hungry now for Nobody.

 

ODYSSEUS

Here I am, in the shadow.

(to his men)

Look how his pupil dilates. Wait till it stretches wide.

(to Cyclops)

See me now? Here by the rock. Here’s Nobody for you.

 

CYCLOPS

GGGGGGGRRRRRRRNNNAAWWWWWWWW.

 

ODYSSEUS

Do you see me? Do you see Nobody?

 

ELPENOS

He’ll smash us to pieces.

 

EURYBATES

The Gods have deserted us. He’s got the jaw of a lion.

 

ELPENOS

And the teeth of a shark.

 

POLITES

This is doomed, Odysseus.

 

ODYSSEUS

Hold your position. Here he comes.

 

CYCLOPS

Cyclops eat now,

chew Nobody’s flesh.

bite out Nobody’s heart,

tear off Nobody’s head…. GGNNNAWWWW.

 

ODYSSEUS

NOW!

 

The men run forward and drive the burning stake into Cyclops’ eye. He lets out an ear-splitting scream. The stake fizzes as his eye burns and boils.

Drive. Drive. Drive.

Ram it all the way home …

 

CYCLOPS

NNNNNAAAAARRGGHHHHHHHH …

 

ODYSSEUS

Now twist and gouge,

now heave, heave, heave, heave …

 

Comments

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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