Circe prepares to look into my mind. I feel her fingers pressing into my face.
“Let’s start.” She closes her eyes. “I can’t see anything. Stop concentrating.”
“How do I stop concentrating?”
Her head moves from side to side. “Think about something else. Think about your family or the weather or something.”
I think about bacon. I wonder if I can obtain any downstairs after this. I wonder if Circe will eat with me. If she has never tried bacon, I could introduce her to it.
She makes a satisfied noise. “That’s it. We’re on our way. I can see…something. It’s a barrier, like a wall. You have to let me in.”
She appears to be concentrating. I try to do the same. I think I can see her. No, not see her, feel her. I can feel her warmth inside my head. Like some kind of contentment. “How do I do that?”
“Just imagine relaxing inside your head. Stop holding back. Relax.”
I try. Her expression changes and she shifts uncomfortably. “Ow, it’s difficult. Wait, there’s a lot here. I can’t, Hephaestus, wait, don’t drop the wall too quickly! It’s like…it’s not a wall. It’s a dam. It’s a dam inside your head!”
I feel her inside my mind. I feel knowledge. An ancient knowledge. Confidence. It is interesting. I start to explore.
She sits up straighter, still holding my head. “Hephaestus, no, don’t reach to me. Let me…that hurts…wait, the wall is falling, I can’t…HEPHAESTUS!”
I feel as if my mind is pouring into hers. She stiffens and becomes rigid, and it feels like her fingers are cutting into my face.
She shakes her head. “No. No. I’m so different. I’m so ugly. So ugly. There’s nothing. There’s nothing. There’s no love here, anywhere. How is that possible? How can that be possible?”
Her eyes suddenly flick open, and there is a sadness on her face. “You. And the rest of them. You all abandoned me. You left me on that island. Why me? Everyone else is happy. I’m left here. Nobody cares. I’m excluded. Only me. It’s not fair! Why just me?” Her breathing quickens. I see her chest rising and falling, and her eyes begin to fill with tears. “I’m so lonely. I am so alone. I can’t stand it. I can’t stand it. Where is she, Hephaestus? Where is Aphrodite? It hurts. I can’t stand it. Make it stop. There’s nothing here. There’s nothing. How do you stand it? How can you survive? Oh no, no, it’s not true. It’s been so long. Always like this. I can’t. Hephaestus, you have to help me. We have to stop.”
Her eyes close, and she begins to shake. I believe she is about to lose consciousness. I feel her hands becoming limp. Remembering what she’d told me previously about this process, I grab them and press them to me. “Keep going. You have to find something. You said we would have to start again if we stopped. I am here. You are not ugly. You are not alone. That is not you. It is all fine.”
Her eyes open again, but I sense she cannot see me. “Hephaestus, it hurts so much. Betrayed! I’ve been betrayed. My own mother. My father.” Her eyes lock on mine again. She speaks with such intensity. “Hephaestus, we must kill Ares! He must die! How can he still live after what he has done? We must end his life!” Now her expression changes to terror. “Oh, Hephaestus. I am falling! Help me!”
I squeeze her hands. “You are not falling. You are here with me. You are safe.”
She shakes her head. “There is no safety. Nobody is safe. We are all falling. There is nobody with me! Oh, Hephaestus, I see her! She is in a room with no doors! Oh no, oh no, it can’t be! It can’t be! She is with us! How will we stop her, Hephaestus? How will we stop her?”
I do not understand. “Who? Who is here?”
“Wait…I can’t tell what’s real. Oh no. What has she done? What has she done? This doesn’t make sense. Such a long time. She’s been here so long. How can that be? Oh, no.”
“Tell me, Circe, who do you see?”
She looks at me. Her face contorted in terror, her mouth open. She shakes her head. “It can’t be. It can’t be.”
“Who? Circe, tell me so we can stop.”
“I see her. On the television. In her room. Speaking to me. I’m watching her. But I will forget. I know I will forget.”
She stares at me and shakes her head once more. “Mnemosyne!”
I know the name, somehow. I think I find it in Circe’s mind. “Mnemosyne? She is in Tartarus. She is imprisoned.”
“Yes. But she is here. She is here. Oh no. Hephaestus, can we stop now? I can’t stand it! I can’t stand it here. It hurts. It’s so dark. I’m falling and it hurts so much I can’t stand it!”
“Yes, we can stop.”
I let her remove her hands from my face. She collapses onto the bed, holding her head as if it might explode. I do not know what to say or do.
“Are you alright?”
She is silent. Still, I do not know what to do. I start to place my hand on her, but only let it hover over her for a moment before giving up and removing it.
I sit with her for some time. I believe it is around ten minutes, although it was some time before I thought to check the clock, so it may have been longer. I feel slightly ridiculous but am unable to think of anything I can do.
Eventually, she sits up, her back to me. She is holding her head as if she is in great pain. I hear a quiet voice. “How long?”
I do not understand. “How long what?”
“How long has it been like that? How long have you felt that way?”
What a question. “I do not know. A while.”
“Forever. That’s the answer, isn’t it? Forever.”
I feel she is intruding, although I know that is not her intention. “Some days are better than others.”
“That’s a lie.”
“It does not matter.”
“How do you bear it, Hephaestus? How do you stand it? How do you endure each minute?”
We are wasting time. “Who is Mnemosyne?” I feel like I used to know the answer to that question.
There is a pause before she speaks. “You really don’t know? That proves her involvement then. She is the Goddess of Memory. She is imprisoned in Tartarus or is supposed to be. We need to speak to Hera.”
“I understand. Would you like to go downstairs for something to eat?”
Without warning, she stands up from the bed and heads for the door. “I’m sorry, I have to go. I have to leave.”
The door closes, and she is gone.
I am alone again.
It does not matter. I suspected this would happen.
Everything is fine. As always.
I will endure.
I am Hephaestus, God of Forge and Fire.