Odyssey Tale

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Chapter 33

Captain James was growing winded and frustrated by the baby-faced beanpole whose might surpassed what it should have. Initially, the captain had come to Ithaca for the fight of his life. It would be the marquee matchup he needed to send him off into the sunset, as all his mentors before him. Captain James versus the great Otis Seehus had such a nice ring to it. This boy, however, was dancing circles around the captain, toying with him the way a cat toys with a live mouse. What the captain didn’t know about, and what frustrated him the most, was the magic that Peter was now hosting. Where Captain James saw youth, arrogance, and inexperience within his green opponent, Peter was being guided by forces beyond his control.

The two didn’t have much to say to each other. As Peter pranced around, leading the captain into the castle and up the stairs, the captain’s age and lack of stamina were starting to take a toll. As a result, it was becoming more difficult for the captain to separate his emotions from this fight.

Peter, seemingly retreating, led Captain James to the very top of the stairs, backing into Mac’s bedroom and onto the concrete balcony extending from it.

“You can dance around all you want, ya dirty little bastard,” Captain James said. “But sooner or later, I’m going to catch you. And when I do, the only reason anyone’ll remember your name is because I took it from you.”

Captain James stepped forward with a few aggressive swings of his sword, all of which were successfully blocked by Peter. The captain’s right fist, however, came in unchecked. It cracked Peter in the bottom of his jaw, sending him down to the concrete.

The Captain brought his sword down for a final blow, but Peter kicked him in the knee and rolled away from the path of the incoming blade. He popped up to his feet, and the clanging of swords resumed.

“Sure you don’t wanna break?” Peter asked, dancing from side to side. “You’ve been a little winded since we got up them stairs.”

Peter attempted to fake the captain out with his next move, but James was ready, trapping Peter in a headlock and disarming him. Peter’s sword slid across the balcony as Captain James lifted his young opponent to the sky and slammed him down on the concrete. Peter winced, rendered immobile as his neck and back broke his fall on the unforgiving concrete.

“Ahhhhh,” the captain said, driving his sword deep in Peter’s belly, releasing a heavy sigh of relief. “Any last words before I twist this and send you home?”

In throbbing pain and with fuzzy vision, Peter looked toward a nearby olive tree growing on the balcony and noticed the slightest twinkle. It was the orb, cloaked by leaves deep within the cluster of branches, calling to him.

“The name’s Pan,” Peter said, each word rendering more pain than the last.

“What’s that?” the captain asked, leaning in.

“The name’s Pan,” Peter said, his tone and volume unchanged.

“Huh?” The captain leaned in closer.

Suddenly, Peter’s eyes sprang to life, and he raised his voice, proudly proclaiming, “The name is Peter Pan.” Peter did a backward summersault, removing the captain’s sword from his hands and pulling it out of his belly before stumbling toward the tree. Leaving thick gobs of blood behind, Peter climbed up into the branches, where he could hide with the shimmering orb.

Knowing his prey was fatally wounded, Captain James pulled a dagger from his belt. He wanted to finish the young man off with intimacy. This wasn’t just any dagger, however. It had been dipped in an extremely concentrated dose of Sea Witch venom. As the captain looked at the tip and grinned at its potential, he followed the crimson puddles leading to the tree’s base.

Inside the tree, Peter was just coming to the realization of how bad the wound really was. “Oh, shit,” he said, noticing more of a gush than a dribble.

The orb flashed bright three times.

“I see that,” Peter said. “I don’t know. Not really sure.” Peter swallowed a painful lump in his throat as the orb flashed three more times.

“You want me to what?” he asked through the pain and lightheadedness rapidly taking siege.

Down at the base of the tree, Captain James peeked his head up as a playful child would during a game of hide-and-seek. “Pan. Oh, Paaaaaan. Come out, come out, wherever you are.”

Peter was moments away from losing enough blood to render him unconscious, but the orb wouldn’t allow it, flashing three more times.

“If you say so,” Peter said, his dull eyes growing impossibly heavy. Captain James finally spotted his foe behind the leaves and branches and cracked a smile. He carefully positioned his venom-tipped dagger within his gentle grip and threw it up in the tree. His line of sight was open enough to hit his wounded target, but the dagger’s handle got snagged and ricocheted back toward the captain. It pierced clean through the front of his palm and out the back, bringing him to his knees.

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!” The echoes of his screams could be heard throughout the castle and surrounding area.

Side by side with the orb, and guided by its communicative flashing, Peter took a leap of faith out of the tree and dropped like a stone over the balcony’s edge. He and the orb fell at free-fall speed down the cliffside before altering trajectory and soaring over the coastline like a pair of playful eagles. Before Peter had noticed, the orb had healed the wound in his belly, leaving it unscarred, as if the incident hadn’t even taken place.

***

Down in the courtyard, Otis raised his damp hands from the fountain and rubbed them over his face. When he opened his eyes and looked toward Penelope, she was already standing next to him.

“Hi there,” he said, approaching her.

“Hi,” she said. “Otis? Is it really you?”

“Yes…yes, it’s me, Penelope.” Otis rubbed his face, hiding the shame and embarrassment. “I know I need a bath and a shave. But do you really not see that it’s me under here? Or do I really just look that different? You’re still every bit as breathtaking as the first time I ever laid eyes on you, Penelope…I’m not sure I can stand to live in a world where you don’t recognize that it’s me.”

“I do recognize you, love. But…sometimes the eyes have a way of playing tricks, especially after this many years. I believe it’s you. I want to believe it’s you. And I’m sure we’ll be able to confirm it eventually. But right now, I need some time. And I need some space. I’ve wanted for so long and prayed so many nights for this exact moment—right here. But now that I have it, it doesn’t feel like it’s supposed to. The air used to feel a certain way when we were in it together. I’m going to need a little more time to find that air.”

Mac stepped forward. “Mom. How could you say that? Of course, it’s him. Do you have any idea what he’s been through to get back here? What he’s done—for you?”

“Mac,” Otis said. “It’s OK. I understand, Penelope. Really, I do. And just knowing that you haven’t moved on means…well, it means the world.”

She paused, letting everyone catch up to their emotions. “I know you’ve been gone for a long time. And I can’t even begin to imagine what you must have gone through to get back here. So if you’d like to sleep in our bed, I can arrange for it to be moved to another room. But right now, I think we should sleep in separate quarters.”

“Penelope,” Otis said. “You know that bed can’t be moved.”

He was right, passing the second of two tests with flying colors. Their bed was permanently affixed to an olive tree that the castle had been constructed around.

“There’s another thing,” Otis said, stepping forward, glancing at an area between her eyes and lips.

“What’s that?” she asked.

“Olive you.”

It was something they used to say to one another in the privacy of their bed—an inside joke that only he would know.

“Olive you,” she replied, with a stream of tears carving brooks down both of her cheeks.

“More than all the olive oil bottles in the world,” he said.

“And all the ones yet to be made,” she added, jumping into the cocoon of his waiting arms. “Otis. It really is you.”

Penelope went on to weep with joy as the happiest of smiles overtook her face. The setting sun before twilight shone behind them as their silhouettes shared the most dramatic hug and kiss—over a decade overdue.

“You have no idea how good it feels to be home,” he said, adding his own tears to the collection she had started moments earlier. “I love you…Do you have any idea what he’s been up to? To save me?” Otis asked, nodding toward Mac.

“I do now,” she said, wiping a final tear from her eye.

“I’m proud of your boy,” Otis said.

“I’m proud of your boy,” she replied.

***

Confused and disoriented, Captain James lay still and silent on the mossy concrete, staring up at the sun and sky. He had long removed the dagger from his hand, but the damage was irreversible, and the shroud of purple skin was rapidly spreading toward his wrist. A slender silhouette joined him on the balcony, resting a sword on the captain’s throat.

“Pan?”

“I think it’s time for you to leave now. Captain.” Mac said.

***

Later that evening, Mac and Jinni sat on the castle steps and took in the sun setting on the day’s events. Tired, dirty, sweaty, and in some instances bloody, everyone involved with the fight reflected, decompressing in their own way.

“So,” Mac said, breaking the lengthy silence, “what’s next for you guys?”

“Not sure what they’re doing. But I’m thinkin’ a vacation for me.” Mac grinned as Jinni stood up and brushed the dirt from his knees.

“If you ever make it back to Ithaca, don’t be a stranger,” Mac said.

“Oh, I ain’t leavin’ yet. Not till I get paid.” Jinni spoke in a jokingly endearing tone. “But I won’t. Take care of yourself, Mac.” Jinni turned around and walked off into the sunset, never returning to collect his fee.

Neither Mac, Otis, nor Penelope ever saw or heard from Jinni again. In fact, no one really knows what happened to him. But none of them would ever forget the magic man named Jinni.

Peter Pan and the Lost Boys would go on to make use of Jinni’s magic in more ways than he ever thought possible. Stories of their bravery would go on to shock the world, despite many of them being somewhat exaggerated.

It’s uncertain what happened to every kindhearted individual who helped Otis and Mac along the way with their respective journeys, but a good many would go on to find fame telling their own life stories—most of which still hold their glory. Their tales continue to be retold and reimagined by every generation, adding more weight to the prestige of Otis’s legend.

When it comes to the matters involving individuals who attempted to hinder Otis and Mac’s progress, even less is known about what they went on to do, or where any of them ended up. However, in the words of Emperor Aladdin, there are rumors.

***

Back on Calypso Island, the aftermath of the queen’s death eventually settled, and the war-torn Ogygia Village got back to some form of normalcy. As is the case any time there’s a shift in power or royalty, certain details get lost in the shuffle, and since so few people knew about the queen’s penchant for exotic pets, no one came to the innkeeper to claim them.

Late one night on a particularly hot and rainy evening, the innkeeper of the Ogygia Village Hotel listened to one of her prisoners play a fiddle as a group of dirty, stinking, sweaty pirates entered her establishment with an arrogance suggesting that they were in charge now.

Having just endured a one-sided battle with the humid, sticky jungle, a fatigued and moody Captain James led his pirates to the innkeeper’s towering stone slab of a desk. She filed her elongated fingernails with purpose, as Captain James and his inferiors quickly lost patience with her lack of attention. He cleared his throat several times before she could be bothered to look up.

“What?” she asked, avoiding his eyes in favor of her next fingernail.

“Checking in. Please,” he said, with an attitude that contradicted any pleasantries.

“Sorry,” she said, setting her file down and leaning forward. “We don’t allow bums here.”

Captain James’s left arm raised toward the ceiling before he slammed a glossy steel hook onto the surface of her countertop.

“Was that necessary?” she asked, squinting curiously. “Wait a minute. Are you the one they keep talking about—had a run-in with some Lost Boys in Ithaca?”

“I suppose that’d be one way to put it,” he said.

“Tell me…is it true?” she asked, lowering her voice and glancing at his hook.

“Is what true?” he demanded.

“Did they feed your hand—to a crocodile?”

“What?” Captain James asked, appalled. “Oh, that’s rich. By the time the story got to you, I suppose I was crying like a little girl and pissing down my leg.”

“Well,” she said, looking at the front of his pants. “Now that you mention it. Only in the story I heard, it wasn’t piss running down your leg.”

“Look. It’s been a long day. Can we please just check in?”

“Of course. Do you have a reservation?”

“As a matter of fact, we don’t. Is that going to be a problem? Does one need a reservation to stay in this shit box?”

“Not tonight,” she said. “Just sign in here, and we’ll get this ball rollin’.”

Captain James stepped forward and signed the guest book, after which she promptly gave him a key.

“You’ll pay upon checkout. I trust you’re good for it,” she said.

He glared at her as he snagged the key with his hook and headed toward the hall.

“Room thirteen,” she said. “Last one on the left.”

“You guys hear that?” Captain James asked his men, taking those initial steps toward room thirteen. “Sounds like the attitude just got adjusted in here.”

The pirates laughed as their captain slipped farther into the hall. “Excuse me,” the innkeeper said. “Captain? I need you to sign in here.”

“I did!” he exclaimed.

“No. No. You see here? Where it says Captain? I need a name to go next to that. You know how many captains I’ve had travel through this place? How am I supposed to know who’s who?”

“Lady, I don’t give a good goddamn if you only allow ship captains to stay here. As long as I’m here and in my room, I’m the captain.”

“Be that as it may, it is my hotel. And if you want to stay in it, I’m going to need a name. So. What’s it going to be? Captain Crybaby? Captain Skid Marks?”

Captain James stepped back to her desk with heavy and hostile steps before slamming his hook down on her counter again.

“Ah,” she said, smiling and pressing the ink to paper. “Captain Hook.”

Moments later, Captain James entered the darkness of room thirteen, only to be overcome with fright. Powered by its own weight, the concrete door slammed shut, forcing a breeze to move about the room, eliminating the flicker from five of the room’s six candles.

“Hello…hello? Hey, lady. Let me outta here! Help!”

Captain James continued to waste his breath, screaming, yelling, and scratching at his door while the pirates on the other side failed to hear his desperate pleas. “Guys. It’s a trap. Help!”

Once he’d managed to calm himself down after the hysterical display that kept him company for the first two hours of captivity, the captain tucked himself in a corner. “What’s that? Who’s there?” he asked, responding to a shuffle that sounded too real to be coming from his imagination. He inched forward, taking a couple of cowardly swings in the dark with his hook.

In the room’s darkest corner, a thick yellow coil began to unravel and stand while a pair of glowing snake eyes opened at the top. Captain James screamed as he turned around and tripped over his feet. With terror saturating his senses, he drove the tip of his hook into the cold concrete floor. It screeched and scraped, excavating a violent line that divided one side of the room from the other.

His screams were said to be so loud that one could hear them beneath the surface of the coastal waters surrounding Ogygia Village. Of course, only a handful of fish and other wildlife would be able to confirm this, so it’s hard to say where this information actually came from. Perhaps it was a mermaid. Or perhaps it was the Sea Witch, who heard his desperate cries for help and passed along the story of his unfortunate stay. No one really knows for certain.

One thing that is for certain, however, is that the Sea Witch is still out there somewhere. Deep within the coldest parts of the dark abyss, her blond hair and fully extended tentacles wave with eerie grace as she looks up to the surface, waiting for her next meal and grinning at it with mossy teeth as it enters her field of vision.

***

A year or so following Otis’s return home, he toyed with the notion of traveling abroad. Penelope lovingly told him he was out of his mind, but he insisted that she keep hers more open. “OK,” she said reluctantly. “But traveling by ship is absolutely out of the question. If you want to take me anywhere overseas, it’ll have to be on a magic carpet ride.”

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