As time passes, I find my anger at Ares increases. Why is he free to enjoy his life while I am trapped here? He has liberty, and I do not. He has memories of Aphrodite that I do not. Why is life always so easy for him?
It becomes increasingly clear to me that he has played a role in my confinement. He would not have had the power to construct this place, but he could have arranged to have it done. It makes perfect sense. He has shown his hand.
I am thinking about this, not for the first time, when I hear the buzzing again. This time, for some reason, the room does not spin. I turn around to find another pool has appeared behind me, and I do not hesitate. I walk into it, into a different scene.
It is daytime. All around me, the ground is green. There are trees, a blue sky above, mortals nearby, and iron. I concentrate and recognize guns. There is some iron within them, not formed into bullets, but small balls. I am back in time again, but why?
They are not all mortals. Someone else is here. There is a roar, some distance away, and iron begins moving through the air. That is a cannon. I walk to the top of a nearby hill. On one side, I see men forming up into a line, their bright red uniforms making them rather difficult to miss. They are holding muskets, preparing to march into battle.
On the other side, I see someone else. He is different, but dressed in the same uniform. When I look at him, he is somehow more colourful, bright, and alive against this background of greyer and less vibrant beings.
My brother. My constant companion, it seems, during my confinement.
He is here too. He is wherever there is conflict and death. The mortals believe he is the instigator, the catalyst, that he controls everything, deciding who lives and dies. I am not sure I am convinced. I have always thought my brother was more of a tourist than a leader, but I am too polite to express my thoughts on the matter.
There are females with him. He is laughing, buttoning up his uniform. They, his companions, are not mortal. I pay them little attention, but I do notice there are four of them. Two with him and two further away, giggling as if they have been caught doing something. Was someone else here?
Ares comes running towards me, a tall helmet under his arm. His uniform looks ridiculous on him, like he is a child playing dress-up. He looks slightly sheepish, perhaps irritated, as if I have caught him doing something he would rather have kept private. If so, it would not be the first time.
“Hephaestus? Why are you here? Why are you dressed like that? I don’t understand.”
When did my brother ever understand anything? “Was Father here?”
He looks at me suspiciously, “Did mother send you?”
It is not an answer, and, in truth, I do not care what he and my father have been doing. I am more interested in why I am there at all. “Are you behind this, Ares? Are you?”
He looks at me, then at the soldiers, now joined by hundreds more advancing behind them. “This? This is the Battle of Waterloo. The fate of Europe is being decided.”
He does not understand. How could he? He will not imprison me for another two hundred years. For now, he is cavorting with females, not content with corrupting my wife. It all comes so easily to Ares. Everything always has.
I manage to hold my anger, but it is not easy. I express only contempt, for now. “Napoleon will lose.”
He looks me up and down as if I am being insolent, “You may be right. We’ll see, won’t we?”
“I have already seen.”
Now he is irritated. “You are a seer now, my brother?”
“I just have a good memory. I do not forget much.” In truth, many of my memories are hazy and are only beginning to return.
He looks puzzled, which I imagine is not an uncommon state for him. He comes towards me, arms outstretched as if appealing for more information. “You should go. This is no place for you.”
No place for a cripple? Is that what he means? I suddenly wonder if my wife might be nearby somewhere, come to watch her brave lover on the battlefield. I reach out with my mind but cannot find her. Why am I here?
Ares reaches out and puts his hand on my arm.
Suddenly there is a white flash, and I awake in the hotel room.
Where am I?
Why am I here
Why am I being shown my brother again?
My concealed rage subsides, to be replaced by resentment. Is my imprisonment some form of vengeance being taken against my father? Or is it something that he and Ares arranged together? I suspect this is only Ares, but I cannot be sure. Why must I always be the pawn in their games, dragged down by my family, compromised by their intrigues and machinations? Perhaps being an outcast is preferable.
I could spend eternity here. If I cannot break free, then I cannot be found. Of course, that assumes anyone is looking for me. My family may not care, or indeed notice.
Why was I again taken to Ares? And over two hundred years ago? It makes no sense.
I spend the day thinking about this, staring at the same walls I have already stared at many times before. When the time comes, I do not wish to go to sleep. I stay up for no good reason other than I do not wish the day to begin again. I hear the device beeping and shutting down, and I open my briefcase.
I shake seven pills into my hand and swallow them, dropping the container onto the bed. I lie back and close my eyes. It feels like I am falling.
I have been falling all of my life.
I close my eyes and concentrate on the pain in my leg. The empty plastic receptacle rolls off my bed, falling to the floor. As always, it feels like I should have taken just one more of the mortal preparations. One more to finally take away the pain. Unfortunately, on this occasion, it seems Morpheus has failed me.
Pill. It is from a Roman word. I allow myself a smile.
This is not the first time I have done this since I found myself here. The doctor said I was to stop, but what does that matter now?
In any case, perhaps I only imagine that there are any effects. Why should their medicine work on me at all? I must be the least mortal being in all of creation. Twice have I lived through history. How many times more might I be called upon to serve my purpose?
Am I older than my father? The idea amuses me. Perhaps I am wiser. Perhaps I always was. Yet, I have always been cast aside.
I was never to sit by my father’s side.
I was never to be the son my mother felt she deserved.
I have always been falling.
Why does my leg trouble me so much these days? I have begun to suspect the uncomfortable truth is that the closer I am to the others, the worse it feels. What else will be undone by my proximity to my loving family? How much of what I achieved on my recent journey will be wasted by their influence?
Once again, I am falling.
It is told that I fell to Earth, and that this is the source of my pain. The truth is different. The truth is that I did not fall upon the mortal world. Instead, it was the mortal world that caught me. It was the mortal world that set me on my feet once more. It was the mortal world that accepted me. I am Hephaestus, the God on Earth.
I am falling.
Yet, the mortals do not pray to me as they do to my family. No man in the phalanx, amidst the thrust of spears and frantic terror of battle, says a prayer for Hephaestus to spare his life or strengthen his arm. They ask Ares to guide them, ensure the other man loses his life, and give them victory. It matters not that it is my iron that will pierce their bodies, my armour that will save them.
Among mortals, I am a god. Among my family, I am at best an equal but am seldom considered so. One look at me would confirm that I am different. I must ever be reminded that it is so. My family provides a mirror that I may gaze into and see myself as I should have been had I not been denied their physical perfection that was, and is, my birthright.
Had my appearance been more pleasing to him, perhaps that may have stayed my father’s hand and kept him from throwing me from Olympus. His own son! His own son, whose marriage began and continued as a joke. Yet when I appealed for their intervention, when I showed how Ares and Aphrodite had betrayed and humbled me, what was done? What justice was rendered? None but humiliation and the purifying honesty of their laughter. The restatement of the law that Hephaestus is not as others. He may be cast out, used, and cuckolded without fear of retribution.
I am still falling.
The pain troubles me, reminding me of what I am and that I am not what I should have been. Have I not suffered enough? My wife does not think so, and nobody speaks to guide her or to restrain my recalcitrant brother and his grievous behaviour. They would do well to remember that I could deal with the matter if I so chose, as I have been forced to act before. The day may come when I am left with no option.
I am Hephaestus.
I am falling.
But I may yet rise.