My name is Tarek Hayat. I’ve been alive for thousands of years and seen many things. Through those years, I’ve kept extensive journals chronicling my life. But now, in the modern age, I’ve decided to digitize my journals so they’re easier to transport. All the conversations and events in these journals are as I remember them.
June 6, 421 BC
Athens, Attica, Greece
I landed this fishing job a few months ago. My employer, Homerikos, has taught me quite a lot about fishing. Not much about driving his boat though. I mean, I’ve watched him do it enough that I think I know how to sail, but part of me wishes he would actually teach me how to so that I wouldn’t be floundering about when he needs an extra pair of hands. Rowing it is no problem, but I can only get so far with rowing. The sea is big and we can only get out past the shore with a bit of rowing. Past that, you need the sails, you know? He’s never showed me really how to control or drive it, but he’s taught me a lot about how to fish. On the boat, I handle the nets and rods, he handles the sailing. I personally think the real situation is that he bought a boat, and his wife wanted him to bring in some money so he hired a fisherman because after we get back to the shore with the day’s catch, I’m the one out at the market selling the fish. He gets a free sailing trip every day, and gets a pretty sweet profit too. But in the end I’m a pretty good fisherman. I’ve had experience before. Personal experience. Fishing to survive, as they say. You know that old saying, “give a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime”? Well I’m the guy that got taught how to fish.
Anyway, after the day’s fishing run, selling off the catch at the market, and getting paid, I went back home to rest and work on this vase I’m painting. The idea for the painting is it’s a scene from Homer’s Odyssey. The cyclops scene. I love that scene. I’m doing the part where the cyclops gets his eye stabbed. My little house is no palace, but it’s nice enough for me to live alone in. It’s got a bedroom, a kitchen, a workroom, and a small common area. I live close to the docks, and the houses there aren’t big enough to have slave quarters.
So, around the time I started eating dinner, which was just fish I didn’t sell at the market, I had a knock at my door. Who else but my friend Kolos! Wait a second, that makes it sound like Kolos comes by a lot. I’ll give you some history on this in case you (I, future me) come back to this story at a later date and forget who Kolos was/is.
Kolos and I studied about life together with this guy named Socrates about five years ago. Studying under Socrates was actually really great. I learned a lot about how to think about life, and how to just live a good life, but I do feel his ideas could be developed. Who knows though, maybe there will be another great thinker to come around and expand on his work. Kolos and I became friends throughout our four years under Socrates. We could have gone on longer but we both decided that our passions were elsewhere. Kolos wanted to be an actor. I knew I’d be living a lot longer than any of these guys so I was really just there to learn, but since I had all the time in the world, I figured I’d pace myself; pacing in such a way that I could learn a new skill or develop an old skill. After our time with Socrates ended, Kolos took off to Thebes, the dramatic center of the world, according to him, at least. While he was out learning how to be other people, I was learning how to feed other people, and myself, but learning to feed myself better. No more sardines for me. I took a job as a baker for about a year and a half, then a farmer for another year and a half, then I took a break for a year to make vases (I like art), and then I recently took up this fisherman’s job to continue on the trend of food. Maybe I’ll be a chef one day.
Sorry, I’m getting off track here. Kolos was a tall man, about 4.25 cubits (edit: about 6’5”). He had a great beard, and a strong muscular frame. He got all the great roles because of his beard and muscles. Kolos hasn’t been in the city for almost five years, and he unexpectedly came to my door one day.
“Kolos?” I said. I could barely recognize the man.
“Hayat, how are you! It’s been so long!” Everyone called me Hayat. It sounded more Greek, than “Tarek”, which I gave to myself. I gave both names to myself. I was born around the time language started to develop.
“Great to see you. What are you doing back in Athens?” I asked Kolos.
“I’ve been in town performing Oedipus The King with my troupe and we’re shipping out to Cyprus to continue our performance there in two days. We have a day off today before we get on the trade ship bound for Cyprus,” he said.
“Isn’t Oedipus almost twenty years old now?”
“Exactly twenty years old. It’s the twentieth anniversary of the play. It was huge when it came out. Sophocles is one amazing writer. Such tragedy, oh it’s beautiful. The chorus we have with us does an amazing job of bringing the show together. Oh what tragedy!” he exclaimed. Truly Kolos is the dramatic type.
“That sounds wonderful, I remember seeing it around the time it debuted. I was in Thebes around then. By the gods it was incredible. What part do you play? Please come in, by the way. Have a seat at my table. I’m working on a vase, but I do have some bread and salted fish if you would like to eat. Have some wine too. I managed to buy a small barrel today in the market. It’s Etruscan,” I welcomed my old friend in and got a loaf of bread, some cheese, and wine.
“The Etruscans know how to make a fine wine, my friend,” Kolos said, drinking the wine.
“Oh they do. The region it comes from is renowned for its grapes. Word of it travels quickly. I managed to get the last barrel the merchant had. It was small so it wasn’t as expensive. I really hate having to pay a lot for foreign wines, and the wine around here is so standard. No innovation. They’re grown in the same place as the olives and it has almost a hint of the olive in it. The Etruscans make sure to separate the olives and the grapes, and that makes this a beautiful wine,” I said also drinking the wine.
“Yes, well, it is fantastic, I plan to leave you completely dry by the time I leave Athens,” he said.
“Great, so what part is it that you play in Oedipus. Is it your theatre troupe, or is there another who owns it?”
“Ah yes. I play Oedipus the King. It’s such a fine part. I believe Apollo himself smiles upon me whenever I perform,” he said.
“Does he really though? How do you know?”
“What do you mean, Hayat?”
“Like how do you know Apollo smiles on you when you act? Do you think he sees you acting?”
“Probably. As he flies his chariot across the sky he also probably looks down upon all of us as we go about our day, and part of my day happens to be performing the arts of which he is the chief god of.”
“Have you ever thought about how much time he has in a day?”
“Apollo,” I said.
“What do you mean?”
“If he has to fly his flaming chariot across the sky every day, when does he have time to meet with the other gods, or to watch over artists or protect the many cities that claim him as their protector? It all just seems like he doesn’t have enough time in the day. When does he sleep, even?”
“I don’t think you get it, Hayat. Apollo is a god, he exists outside of time, or maybe there are many forms he takes.”
“So he’s a spirit of some sort who happens to employ a bunch of bodies to do his jobs for him?”
“Maybe, or maybe his spirit is in all those things at the same time. Like he can control all his bodies at the same time while still being able to sit with the other gods in Olympus.”
“It just seems odd to me,” I said, scratching my head and breaking off a piece of bread.
“What’s odd about it?” Kolos asked me, also grabbing some bread and cheese.
“Just the whole godly thing. I don’t understand it. How can you be in many places at the same time?”
“You’re starting to sound like Socrates. Remember him? Always questioning everything?”
“Of course I remember him!” How could I forget the days studying under Socrates, learning to question things and question why we question things and using logic to understand why we question the things we question, oh that man will be known for his questions I guarantee it.
“Shame he took those six months off for the war, I feel almost cheated out of an education,” Kolos said.
“Well what can you do? It was our first year studying with him anyway. The war is still going on,” I said.
Yeah there’s a war still. Us against the Spartans. Those bloody Spartans don’t let up. They spend all their young days exercising and lifting stones just so when they come of age they can terrorize cities like ours. They’re good fighters, I’ll tell you that. They’ve got the support of Persia, I hear. I hope they don’t cause too much ruin to the city if they come through town. I managed to avoid being sent to fight. I just appeared as a slave. My house is small enough that I convinced the city guards that my master had already gone to war and I was here tending to his pottery business while he was away. They bought it too. I’ve been in many fights throughout my years, but war, so far it hasn’t changed. It’s always a shame. Sorry, that brought this story to a sad dead-end here.
The sun began to sink behind the mountains as Kolos and I finished up the barrel of Etruscan wine. I had more, but that was my good wine. I was hoping it would last longer.
“Shall we venture out upon the town to find ourselves some fine company for the night?” Kolos asked.
“Perchance, my thespian friend, we shall.” That wine was taking a strong hold on me.
We wandered the streets, but there wasn’t much action. We went around to my friend Delen’s, who was another guy we studied under Socrates with, but he was in with his family. We went to the public baths to relax. Taking a warm bath after a stomach full of wine is a pleasure unlike no other, let me tell you. You’re already buzzing from the wine and then as soon as you hit that water oh boy your whole soul begins to fall in love. This bathhouse we went to was very steamy. There were men from the market, and women, some of the dancers from the temples were there. Kolos went up to try to talk to them but they very much kept to themselves. A few older men came to defend their honour, four of them in fact, they came up to Kolos and told him to step away from the ladies or things might get physical. Even though Kolos was well drunk, he did decide he couldn’t take four men at the same time so he waved at the ladies and dove into the cooling pool. I sat in the warm bath watching all of this happen and it was quite an experience. The women did look lovely though. I managed to catch one’s eye. I waved at her and she waved back. A few of the other women also looked and waved. They seemed to like me, until Kolos came back and jumping into the warm pool next to me, that seemed to annoy them, that I would be associated with such a — for lack of a better word, a boor such as Kolos. In truth he was a wild character when he had some wine. He told me of the conversation he had with the four men who were “protecting the honour of divine women”, as he put it, he kept calling them the brutes of Hades, and he swore one of them had been through the fires, insisting a certain scar on his face was from a fire. I couldn’t hear the conversation as it happened because I was making eye contact with the ladies in the pool but hearing Kolos’ rendition of it was certainly a captivating tale.
“And they kept saying that a man of my stature should not be seen as a harasser but instead a protector, they kept trying to appeal to my good nature, clearly not knowing that as a thespian I have no nature at all, let alone one to define as good or bad; they told me ‘son’, they kept calling me son as if to appear as a father figure, but these brutes, builders most likely, could likely barely father children of their own because of their — and I do mean this quite literally, Hayat, they would not be able to father children because they would not have instruments long enough to facilitate the act of procreation, do you see what I mean? You may have been to far away to even see anything, but in the proximity I was to these brutes, I promise you I saw everything and everything was not what one would imagine everything to be, if you see what I mean,” Kolos went on.
We took a stop to the wine merchant I had visited earlier. His cart was packed up and he was leaving but as he was getting on his horse, Kolos and I had a wild idea; that we would steal another small barrel of wine. I had skins with me in which to pour the wine into and continue on our journey through the town reliving all the fun times we had when we were students at the academy. The academy being the stoop we gathered at when we listed and interacted with Socrates. I decided without telling Kolos that instead of stealing an entire barrel, we would just fill up the skins with wine and that way we wouldn’t have to carry anything. I uncorked the barrel and began to fill up the skins.
After grabbing more wine, I grabbed some bread cooling on the window ledge of the baker, just next to the wine merchant, and we headed for the docks.
“I promise you, I’ll show you my boat, but you must be quiet. My employer lives around here too and he will fire me for sure if we are caught snooping around his boat,” I whispered to Kolos as we approached the docks, wine sacks filled to the absolute tip. Two skins and a small barrel of wine in a night? It was going to be a rough morning tomorrow.
We walked over to the boat, drinking out wine, still laughing about the bathhouse. I found it tied up as I had left it before going home earlier in the day. I had a fun idea, since I hadn’t actually sailed the boat before, and there was a nice wind out tonight, that Kolos and I would take the boat and sail the coast for an hour or so before returning home to rest.
“Kolos, we should take the boat out for a ride. There’s a great wind, we could sail along the coast and we’d likely be back within an hour or so,” I suggested.
“I’m not sure, I don’t properly know how to swim and what about sirens or sea creatures that lurk the waters waiting for drunken sailors?” Kolos sounded nervous.
“Kolos you’ve had too much wine and spent too much time in the theatre, please oblige me, I work in these very waters, I make my living along this coast, I can assure you to Apollo, Zeus and whoever else you want me to swear an oath to that there are no sea creatures or sirens in the area. I’ve been all along the coast I’m planning to sail you on and there is absolutely nothing to worry about.”
“Do you know how to sail?”
“That’s a very good question, I have no official training however, I’ve been in this boat long enough to observe how my employer does it. I typically man the nets and the rods while he handles the sails and the steering but I’ve seen it done before, I know my way around a rope to raise and lower a simple sheet. How hard could it be? I must have watched him sail us in and out of here a dozen times.” I tried to sound my most confident, this wine really does help for that. I’m not as great an actor as Kolos was but I think he bought it because without warning Kolos decided it was okay to jump inside. The whole boat rocked around and he stumbled as he tried to get his footing back but he fell and almost dropped his wine sack over the edge.
“Not the wine!” I practically shouted. If I was going to become a thief, I wasn’t going to leave any evidence behind, I can assure you of that; no, that wine was going tonight, either emptied in the ocean or emptied into our stomachs. “Are you alright Kolos?” Kolos rolled over in the boat and gave me a thumbs up. He hiccupped and took another big drink of his wine; he seemed okay. I climbed in, being careful not to rock the boat too much; I was well drunk and the rocking of the boat made the rocking in my head even stronger. This was going to be a wicked ride, I thought to myself. I unhooked the rope from the dock and grabbed at an oar. I told Kolos to do the same but he was laughing at his reflection in the water, the drunken fool taken by his own reflection, a modern Narcissus, as they say. I began to row us out of the docks, slowly and quietly. As I was rowing I was looking around the boat for the ropes that tie up the sail and the ropes to raise and lower the sail. I wanted a quick ride down the coast, not a rowing trip; I wouldn’t be so drunk if I wanted a rowing trip, I’d have done that in the morning on a stomach of fish, bread and tomatoes.
“Kolos, help me untie the sail here,” I said standing up to start untying ropes. The mast was not too large, but the ropes had to be undone to release the sail, at least I think they did. I’d seen my employer, Homerikos do it a few times when I was casting the nets.
“What do I look for?”
“A rope, you know what a rope is right?”
“Hayat, of course I know what a rope is, I’m an actor not a fool, though I do play the fool sometimes when we don’t perform tragedies, I have a habit of playing a convincing fool and making the crowd roar with laughter,” he said. Kolos had a gift for speaking at length, probably what made him such a great actor, honestly.
“That’s all fine, but these ropes tie up the sail and if we’re to take a trip down the coast we need them undone.”
“Oh fine, but don’t sneak any of my wine, I’ve my eyes on you.”
“Why would I take any of your wine, I have plenty of my own.”
“I thought you’d only filled one skin.”
“No, I filled both, that merchant got sidetracked with someone else. We’re very lucky though.”
“You’re a fine thief, Hayat.”
“Don’t call me that while we’re still so close to the docks, I know many people who work around here,” I said.
We finally finished untying the sail and it was ready for raising. I found the rope tied up around the mast. Thankfully my employer was a very organized man who kept everything in its place. I’m very glad he did that because I had no idea where anything was kept. Kolos helped me raise the sail and when it was fully raised, a large gust of wind filled the sail immediately and the whole boat lurched forward. I thought we were going to fall off into the sea but we both managed to stay upright. I tied the rope again to the mast and sat back down with Kolos. This sailing thing seemed too simple.
“This sailing thing seems too simple,” I said.
“Doesn’t it? You’re good with the physical work, it’s suiting of you.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” I didn’t.
“Weren’t you telling me you used to be a farmer in one of your letters?”
“Years ago, when we used to write to each other, yes I was a farmer.”
“Years ago sounds so long, it’s only been five years since we last really saw each other but our letters stopped maybe two years ago,” Kolos said drinking his wine.
“Time does go by. I wonder why we ever did stop sending letters,” I said.
“Was there one exact event that stopped us, or was it one of those things that happens?”
“One of what things?” I asked.
“You know how it is right? People don’t see each other for a while and all of a sudden they become less friendly because they just get on with their lives? They move on, right? It’s happened loads of times with me with old actors I used to work with. We’d end our work together in a performance, and they’d move to somewhere else and we’d keep in touch for a few months but then the letters became less frequent and eventually stopped altogether. Distance separates people more than just physically,” Kolos said. He looked up at the sky. It’s beautiful this time of year, all the stars were out.
“You’ve got a good head on your shoulders, Kolos. That’s a really good point. I’m sorry I stopped sending letters, I feel like a fool. We were such good friends and it’s really great to see you now. I got so caught up in looking for work, and then living life out here that I just sort of forgot. It wasn’t something I put time into because we didn’t see each other. It wasn’t a constant thing in my mind, and I guess I took it for granted,” I said.
“Don’t feel bad, I also stopped sending letters. Performing became a huge part of my life and I was so busy and then tired during my time off that it never occurred to me to send another letter. Thebes and Athens were so close, I’m surprised we’ve never crossed paths until now,” he said.
I sighed, and took a long drink of wine. I looked back up at the stars. The moon was a fine crescent, it looked like a smile almost. The wind blew us through the water so calm this time of night.
“You know I haven’t left the city since I came here?” I said finally breaking the silence.
“Yeah, never left. I came in, got a place with money I had saved up, studied, got work, and that’s it. I haven’t had an adventure in a long time.”
“Don’t feel bad about that, Hayat, lots of people are like that. It’s not really easy for people to move around the world, especially with the war,” Kolos said.
“Isn’t it though? The war is only in the north. You can literally go anywhere you want. I’ve always wanted to go Crete, or Rhodes, or even Lycia.” I tossed down my wine skin.
“Yeah, Lycia would be nice. Beautiful caves there. There’s nothing great in Crete that’s not already here,” said Kolos, staring off into the distance.
“That’s not the point though. The point is that I haven’t done anything interesting in the past five years.”
“Five years isn’t a long time though.”
“Kolos, you’ve become one of the most famous actors in the state in the past five years. You rival Thespis. I’m a fisherman,” I said. I picked up my wine and took a long drink from it.
“So? What about that thin guy from when we studied under Socrates? Or Ioannis, or Stavros, or Philo, or Topas? What happened to them? Most of them got sick and died young. Ioannis, I heard, is a builder outside Athens. He doesn’t even build temples, he builds slave quarters. You’re doing alright for yourself. I was lucky, and foolish. Acting isn’t all that great. I work hours and hours a day learning lines and movements and song and dance. So many of these performances are done many times in a day. Yeah people know me, but all they get to see is me on the stage for an hour or so and then that’s it. I’m good at what I do, but I work hard at it and I’m in one of those jobs that forces you to be seen by a lot of people,” he said.
“I guess so, yeah, that’s a good point,” I said.
“Let me ask you a question, Hayat.”
“How much fish did you sell today?”
“All of it, I had to lie at the end so I could have some for myself.”
“How much did you sell yesterday?”
“Almost all of the fish I caught,” I said. I didn’t see where this was going.
“See, in just two days, you kept probably twenty, maybe even fifty families from going hungry. You saved these people from dying. Sure I entertain them, I satisfy them for an hour, but without you, they wouldn’t be satisfied at all. You’re keeping these people alive. If you suddenly missed a day of catching fish, I’m sure the area would notice,” he said. Kolos patted me on the back.
“Thank you Kolos. I really do appreciate that perspective. I don’t know what happened, this wine got me thinking all sorts of weird things,” I turned my head to get my bearings about where we were along the coast. I couldn’t see lights anymore.
“Hey Kolos, do you remember what direction we headed when we left the docks?”
He looked around, scanning the horizon for some indication of position, “No, I think we went south or west or something, but I have no idea.”
“This isn’t good. I think we’re lost,” I said, slowing swallowing that realization.
“What do you mean lost?”
“Like I have no idea where we are lost. I don’t know what direction the wind took lost. I don’t know if we’re on the other side of a mountain and can’t see the city, or we’re in the middle of the sea lost.”
“Apollo help us, Hayat what happened? I thought you knew how to sail and navigate!”
“I know how to fish, I don’t know how to sail or navigate. I’ve watched my boss sail the boat before so I know how to raise and lower the sails but I have no idea how to navigate at all, Kolos. I told you that! We’re drunk, in the middle of the sea and we’re going to get lost. We need Poseidon’s help to get us out of this mess.”
“I have a trade ship that leaves tomorrow! We need to get back so I can get out to Cyprus!” Kolos yelled.
I sighed. We were in a tough spot. The wind changed directions but it still continued to push us forward in the gods-forsaken direction we were moving in. This old boat would be the death of us, honestly. I knew old age wouldn’t kill me but I do need some sort of sustenance to survive; food, water, wine, friends, not being stabbed or burnt or trapped. I may be immortal in a sense, but only if I keep myself sustained. In a lot of cases it isn’t hard; I just go on eating and drinking as I normally would, but now, in this boat, with a sack of wine and a loaf of bread which would likely only last us a day or so, it might not end well. Plus if we do end up surviving, I’ll probably lose my job. This was just great.
“What if we turned the boat?” asked Kolos, breaking my train of thought.
“What if we what?” I asked, watching the threads of my thought-fabric trail away.
“Turn the boat around. Like just go backwards.”
“I imagine we could,” I drawled. I made my way over to the steering mechanism, which my employer called a “rudder” for the boat. I carefully climbed over the beams on the boat, maintaining my balance, still in a drunken haze, and grabbed the rudder handle. I steered the boat and the sails changed direction slightly. I could feel the boat moving in a different direction. The wind picked up, thankfully, maybe Poseidon was watching over us in his god-spirited ways. He must have heard my cries for help, my laments, and send the wind to aid us, or was it him who really controlled the wind? We continued to slice the water like a blade in our new, hopefully homeward direction. I could see dim lights off in the distance.
“Is it Poseidon who rules the winds?” I asked Kolos.
“He is the god of the sea, I imagine the wind over the sea is within his domain, but I’m not sure, I should think about this.”
“In my previous travels I’ve come across so many other sets of gods, everyone has different names for them, and I just have no idea who controls the wind in this region because I have to make an offering to them in thanks for getting us home safely.”
“Home safely?” Kolos asked, “We’re still out in the water, I wouldn’t start making praises of thanks until we hit the land.”
“Can’t you see those lights out there? Someone has a torch lit still,” I said pointing past the front of the boat towards the lights. They weren’t stars, I can assure you.
“It looks different, it doesn’t look like what we saw when we left the docks,” he said.
“Fires change, that’s their nature,” I said.
“As do the winds, Hayat. It’s in their nature to change, much like the nature of everything,” Kolos said, staring at the distant lights slowly growing upon us. “It is Poseidon, by the way. He does sent favourable winds for ships to sail in. I’ve just remembered.”
“I’ll have to make a trip to his nearest temple to thank him when we make land back home in Athens.”
“There’s one in Sunion, it’s about a day’s trip I think. At least, that’s what one of my friends in my theatre troupe told me,” Kolos said.
“I’ll bring many gifts of thanks if he can get us back home by morning,” I said. I would, I figured if these gods could here my cries of distress, they would appreciate some offerings. A deal is a deal, right? Maybe I’ll redo the vase to represent Poseidon helping out sailors or something.
After a little while of sailing towards the light, we finally got close enough to land to slowly realize that we were not back in Athens. We had found land, yes, but we were not back home. We were in some other place. The light was a large fire in the sand on the beach. I brought the boat to land slowly, so not to cause any damage to it. Kolos and I dragged it onto the shore and we got out to look for some sign of life. As we approached the fire, we saw footsteps in the sand. As we followed the footsteps, we saw a small torch moving about maybe two hundred cubits (edit: 300 ft, 100 m) away in the distance. We started to follow the light, quickening our pace so as not to catch the owner of the flame before they got too far away.
“Do you know where this is?” I asked Kolos.
“It has an air of familiarity about it, I do believe I’ve been on this beach before. If I’m correct in my guesses, I’d say it was Salamis,” he said.
“Yeah, Salamis, it’s sort of off the coast of Attica. These beaches look familiar. The air, it just feels like it. Word is that there’s a nymph who lives here, and that’s where the island got its name,” he said.
“A nymph? Are you sure? I feel like mythical things like that are really only in myths. I’ve never seen a satyr but you hear about them all the time, right?”
“Yeah, but Hayat, there are no satyrs around Athens. Look, if we meet this nymph, we need to ask her to send us a great wind so we can get home.”
“I really don’t know if nymphs exist, Kolos, I think that’s just a story the people around here tell, a folk tale, like the Odyssey or Iliad or something,” I said.
We caught up to the owner of the torch to find it was a woman, walking along the beach. She was naked, softly singing some tune.
“Excuse me, would you be able to tell us where we are?” I asked. The woman turned around, she had a young, beautiful face and an absolutely beautiful body. Truly a sight, if I hadn’t had to get to work in the morning, I promise you I’d have married her on the spot and we’d spend our lives on the beach doing whatever it was she was doing.
The woman looked at both Kolos and I, and then smiled and oh Zeus let me tell you how beautiful her smile was; wars would be fought over her smile, it was like we had met Helen of Troy. She looked at us and said “Salamis,” and turned back around to continue walking down the beach.
I called after her, “What are you doing on the beach so late? Shouldn’t you be home?”
“I’m looking for crabs,” she said. Oh and her voice was so pure, it was so soft, yet sweet. She sounded like the finest silk against your skin.
“Can you point us back towards Attica? We got lost at sea. How long is it back to Attica? Athens specifically,” I said. I had run up to walk beside her while Kolos sat down further back on the beach looking at the stars and drinking his wine.
“Attica is just there,” she pointed out across the sea. I quickly drew a line in the sand in the direction she pointed.
“How long to sail back? I’m a fisherman, but not a sailor, and I’ve no idea what I’m doing out there on that boat, honestly,” I felt a fool but I couldn’t stop explaining myself to her. Part of me was hoping she would find me charming, part of me was hoping she’d ask me to come live with her, part of me was hoping she’d just help me get home.
She giggled a little, and I could feel my heart melting, I couldn’t believe I made her laugh. “Not long,” she said with a smile.
All of a sudden the wind picked up in the direction she had pointed. The winds had changed to send us home to Athens!
“Thank you!” I called out to her as I ran back to fetch Kolos. He had walked back towards the boat. I saw his footsteps heading in that direction.
“Kolos we have to push this boat out to sea now! The wind is in our favour!” I yelled as I ran up to the boat. Kolos put down my wine sack and hopped out of the boat and began to push. We both pushed and the water around us rose lifting the boat off the sand, making it easier for us to get our boat back to sea. We hopped in and rowed like mad men for a minute or so until we were far enough to raise the sail. Once the wind caught the say, boy we flew. I zipped away from the beach and I looked back to see the fire that Salamis had made becoming smaller and smaller with every second. The wind was almost gale force, but there was no rain, and the sea was calm. It was like something out of the myths.
“Who was that?” Kolos asked.
“Her name was Salamis, she was looking for crabs out on the beach. Thankfully she knew the direction we should head to get back to Athens,” I said.
“I think she was a nymph, Hayat. Think about it,” he said.
“No, I don’t think so, nymphs aren’t real, like sirens, or the minotaur,” I said.
“You’re not thinking. She was beautiful, unbelievably beautiful, you practically fell in love, I saw you how you looked at her. She was singing, walking along nude in the exact place we happened to be. She pointed in the direction of home and all of a sudden the wind picked up with enough force to get us home incredibly fast. I can already see the old lights of Athens coming up. She’s a nymph, Hayat,” Kolos said.
“You really think so?” He was right, I practically fell in love with her.
“She’s definitely a nymph. She’s the nymph of Salamis. The island was named after her. She’s the daughter of Poseidon, Hayat. That’s why the winds picked up and the tide picked up when we were pushing the boat out. She was watching over us. You’d better give some hefty thanks to Poseidon soon. I’ll be sure to when I get to Cyprus,” Kolos said.
“I think you may be right, Kolos. I think I really did meet a nymph. But then that brings up a whole lot of questions. Are there other mythical beings that actually exist that I’ve been discounting?” I asked.
“Probably. I wouldn’t doubt it, there’s all sorts of things we don’t know about the world.”
“What a night,” I said, after a pause.
“What a night indeed. Stealing wine, getting lost at sea, meeting a nymph, sailing back home, I’m going to have to stop off in Athens again soon for another night like this. I really had a great time seeing you after all these years, catching up and all.”
“It really was a great time.”
We drifted into the same docks we left. Most of the fires in the city were extinguished for the night. It was very late, some time between midnight and morning. I tied the boat up, making sure to leave no evidence of our excursion behind. I double and triple checked all the ropes, even my knotting to the dock was the same as it was when we hijacked the boat. Kolos and I headed back to my house where we slept for a few hours until morning.
I woke up with a wicked headache, but I ate something and drank some water and things started to feel a little better. Kolos was still asleep when I left to head back to the docks. I met with my employer and he said he didn’t want to be out too long today because his daughter was going to be performing at some religious ceremony and he wanted to be there for her. I honestly put up no argument. We headed back out to sea and I paid close attention to how he drove the boat so that I could eventually master the craft myself. Sailing was a wonderful thing to do, if you knew what you were doing.
When I got home, after selling our catch in the market, which wasn’t an especially memorable catch, Kolos was gone. On the table he left a few coins and a note that said “For the wine and the good times — Kolos” He also left information on where he could be reached while he was in Cyprus. I smiled at the note. I’ll try to keep in touch more with him, he’s a great friend.