“Why do you address me in this way, Hades? Why are you so angry at me? If you are looking for people who hurt Hephaestus, you need to look closer to him than me. I’m just the one who clarifies things. I’m the one who sharpens the pictures of the past.”

“You must be careful. Do not engage her in unnecessary conversation. Do not respond to unsolicited statements or questions. If she does say anything unsolicited or in an answer to a question, do not think about it. Do not think about any past events. Keep your minds closed. As far as you can, keep your minds empty.”

I consider that my brother may have an unfair advantage in this regard.

Hades seems unhappy. I don’t suppose that is unusual. His job is not known to provide many opportunities for merriment.

“If you feel at any time that your thoughts are wandering, or being pulled in a particular direction, if you feel you are struggling for words, that you can’t recall events, you must let me know immediately. Do you all understand?”

We all nod and Clio hesitantly asks, “How is my mother?”

Hades takes a deep breath, considering his answer. “She is much as before.”

Clio nods.

Hades gives her a half smile. “Tell me, do you remember happy times with her? Do you feel sympathy for her?”

Clio looks towards the ground. “No. No, I don’t.”

Hades takes another deep breath. “Good. That means you are free of her influence for now. If that changes, let me know immediately.”

With a wave of Hades’ hand, a door appears in the wall beside us. He unbolts it and says, “Good luck.”

There is a woman in the corner of the room, a pathetic figure, sitting with her feet together. Her head is bowed and her hair hangs down, obscuring her face.

Hades enters first. “You have visitors.” 

There is no response. 

Clio steps forward, but Circe grabs her and pulls her back. “Mother? How are you? We need your help.”

Still silence.

Ares studies the woman and shifts restlessly, as usual, consumed by the need to act. “Mnemosyne, we wish for your help. Someone has used you, has had you act against Hephaestus.”

There is quiet laughter from behind the hair hanging across her face. It begins to rise in volume, and the sound changes until it becomes a hysterical cackle.

I hear the voice of Hades. “Mnemosyne! That’s enough!”

The laughter stops. “Enough? Am I a child, Hades? You were once a child. Do you remember?”

“No. Stop that! Stop it, or you will be punished!”

Her head rises, and her hair clings to her face as she sits back and looks up at the ceiling. “Punished? I have not done anything to warrant punishment. I have not acted against Hephaestus. I have only ever sought to help. Just like I helped my daughter, time and time again.”

Hades puts his hand on Clio’s arm. “Do not listen. Do not think about it.”

Circe steps forward. “Mnemosyne, what have you done? You have been inside his mind. What did you do there?”

“Inside his mind?” Her voice rises in pitch, and she almost sings, “In his mind, being kind, meet you there, without a care, remember all, the walls shall fall…”

Hades is losing patience, if he ever had any. “Mnemosyne! Stop!”

Her head snaps round, and she looks at him as if seeing him for the first time. “Hades? Why do you confine me? I can help all of you if you give me the chance.”

“What did you do to Hephaestus?”

“Why do you address me in this way, Hades? Why are you so angry at me? If you are looking for people who hurt Hephaestus, you need to look closer to him than me. I’m just the one who clarifies things. I’m the one who sharpens the pictures of the past.”

“You are a liar. You distort.”

“Do I? Are you sure? You are sure of your truth? Is that why I’m here? Because you are uncomfortable having your outlook challenged?”

I can see Hades is becoming angry. “You are here because you are insane!”

Clio glares at him, and he avoids her gaze. He motions to Mnemosyne. “Ares, hold her!”

Mnemosyne laughs as Ares easily wraps his arms around her, holding her still as she cackles, her head lolling from side to side.

Hades points to Circe. “You know what you have to do.”

Circe watches Clio as she raises her hand and says, “This is a very bad idea. My mother─”

Hades’ eyes seem to have darkened. “We all knew it would come to this. We know this is why you are all here. Circe, do it!”

Circe sits beside Mnemosyne and places her hands on her head. Mnemosyne smiles at her, and Circe says, “I’m sorry.”

Mnemosyne shakes her head, and Circe says, “Let me in. Please. Let me see. Why have you done this?”

Now it is Circe’s turn to shake her head. “Her mind is in chaos. There is a barrier. I cannot tell what is behind it. She needs to let me pass.”

Mnemosyne screeches in protest and lunges from side to side. Ares holds her unsympathetically, making sure her efforts are in vain. She becomes more animated until she seems to pass out, collapsing against Ares.

Circe takes her hands away and scratches her head. “This is difficult.”

Ares nods in agreement. “I know. Poor Mnemosyne.”

We all look at my brother. Hades asks, “What did you just say?”

Ares shrugs. “Well, you know, ending up here. She wasn’t always like this. I remember when she used to play with us when we were young. Do you remember, Hephaestus? But then she made some bad choices. I don’t know if this is the right place for her. It’s making things worse.”

I shake my head. “No, brother, I do not remember that. We never knew her.”

Ares looks puzzled, and Hades points at him. “Hephaestus, we need him out of here, now!”

We both grab my brother, an arm each, and guide him to the door as he protests.

Hades says to me, “Do not talk to him, do not think about what he is saying, not until we are clear of her. Circe, Clio, we must go.”

Circe touches Clio’s arm as she starts to move towards the door. “No, let’s stay. I want to keep trying. Do not worry about us. You can watch us on the camera.” She points up to the corner of the room. “We are safe.”

Hades stops but feels Ares begin to struggle. Torn between the two, he makes a decision. “Fine. If we are not back soon, you must leave.”

They agree, and we head down a corridor with my brother. I briefly return to the room to retrieve his wallet, which had fallen to the floor in the struggle. We sit him down in a chair, and Hades sets his phone on a table next to him so he can continue to observe the room. Circe and Clio stand over Mnemosyne as she lies sprawled on the floor.

Ares is outraged. “Hades, you cannot stop me from seeing her!

Hades jabs his finger in Ares’ chest. “Shut up! Shut up and listen.” I find myself beginning to warm to Hades. “This is a false memory. You remember what I said before you went in?”

“No? Wait, yes. But, no, I remember when we were young…”

His voice trails off as he sees our faces. He thinks for a moment. “Oh. I think you might be right.”

I say to Hades, “Sometimes he needs a minute to work things out.”

Ares glares at me, and I push his wallet against his chest until he takes it from me. 

Hades checks the phone. The women are still in the same positions. Safe, but for how long?

Ares seems to have the same thought, just after everyone else, as usual. “They are in there with Mnemosyne?”

Hades stares at the camera. “Yes, but they are safe. Look.”

Indeed they are. Still, we should return. Ares seems unhappy. He likely needs something explained to him. He peers at the screen. “You don’t have timestamps on these?”

Hades looks flustered. “I don’t know. What’s a timestamp?”

“It’s the white writing at the bottom. Where is it?”

Hades squints at the screen. “I think it’s usually there.”

Ares puts his hand to his helmet and points at the screen. “What’s that, on the floor there?”

He really is a dullard. He can’t even recognise his own possessions. I sigh. “That is your wallet.”

Both of them look at me, open-mouthed. Ares holds his wallet in front of him as we all stare at it.

I look at them both. “Oh, no.”

Hephaestus (Iain Houston)
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