I could recall the first time I ever set eyes on Clymene.
I was driving my chariot across Egypt, pulling the sun behind me, when I heard a voice singing a tune, rhythmic and smooth, like the running of a cool stream. I looked over the edge of my chariot, and her beauty captured me instantly. She was slender with a pale complexion that came with living beneath the waves. Her hair was dark, and her eyes were the same blue as the river she stood by. I gave my four steeds the instruction to stick to their usual route and then return straight home afterwards where I would meet them. I dove off of my chariot and hurtled towards the Earth at immense speed.
I landed by her side, my skin, eyes, and hair glowing with the light of the sun and radiating my own self-confident energy. Clymene ceased her song for a moment and smiled at me courteously, her teeth like pearls. She then took her gaze from me and continued singing, her voice as enchanting as that of her siren cousins.
“Good afternoon, almah.” I greeted her as a young woman, for I did not yet know her.
She glanced back over her shoulder at me and bowed her head. “Lord Helios,” she spoke formally. Evidently, she knew of me, but then, who didn’t?
“May I know you, almah?” I asked politely. I had learnt over the years that the best way to attract any partner was not through ignorance, power, and force as that oaf Zeus believed, but rather through manners, formality, and confidence.
She chuckled lightly and tucked a strand of loose, wet hair behind her ear. “My father is your cousin, Okeanos. I have been seated in your halls many a time.”
I tried to think back to the last time I had invited others into my home for a feast or party. It must have been at least a hundred years ago, after the Centauromachy. I had no memory of the girl before me being present. It was likely some other nymph had caught my eye that evening. “I have held many gatherings, and your father has over three thousand daughters. Surely, I cannot be expected to recall all the Okeanides.” I grinned and, watching as pink ran into her pale cheeks and she averted her eyes. “Your name?” Even I couldn’t tell if that was a request or a command.
She turned her blue eyes back to me as she fumbled with the skirt of her white dress. “Clymene.”
“Clymene,” I repeated. “The famous one.”
And she had become famous, at least for a time, before she faded from the minds of mortal men. But she was never far from my thoughts, especially not now. I returned to the bank of the Nile where I had first met Clymene. I thought it best I began trying to find her where our story started. If the rumours were true, if she was still alive. Whether she was mentally stable or not, I had to find her to try to placate her rage. I didn’t feel guilty about leaving Clymene, nor did I feel guilty about not reaching out after the death of our son, Phaeton. But I didn’t want a scorned and vengeful nymph hunting me down for the rest of my time on Earth, as reports claimed she would.
I glanced at the sun. I knew my steeds would be pulling that great star as I watched. It made me feel better knowing they were still doing their job, even if I couldn’t be there with them. I shook my head. I couldn’t have my anger towards Zeus surfacing as I was searching for Clymene. It would cloud my thoughts.
I walked along the riverbank, dressed in a pristine white and gold suit, until I came to a small wooden hut covered in moss and ivy. Clearly, no one had been there in years, but I recognised it as the place Clymene had called home when on Earth. It was the small house in which she had raised Phaeton and our seven daughters.
I made my way inside, careful not to brush up against the damp, dirty walls. I didn’t know what I expected, or wanted, to see as I entered. Perhaps I hoped Clymene awaited me, alive and sane. There was nothing like that in the house. I walked around and went into each individual decaying room. It was completely barren of any form of life, just as the entire surrounding area. I hadn’t seen or heard a single animal since my arrival at the bank of the Nile. It was odd considering that when Clymene had taken up residence there, birds were forever singing and flying by, and fish jumped in the river.
I presumed that the lack of living things around was a consequence of what mortals were referring to as global warming, climate change, and deforestation, but something in the back of my mind was telling me that the cause might be a little more sinister. I had heard stories in the past of explosions of Pharmakeia, poisonous magic, being used in times of great distress, rage, or insanity. Its effects included cursing the surrounding land so that nothing natural could survive there for long. If that was the case, then the stories I had heard of Clymene being driven to insanity by her desire for vengeance may well have been true.
The walls and floorboards creaked loudly as I turned and made my way out of the house. I had barely taken three steps out of the decaying structure when I saw someone quickly walking away, a cloak and hood covering them. Clearly, they did not wish to be known.
“Wait!” I shouted my command. The figure stopped and turned slightly, their hood keeping their identity concealed. “Do you know of Clymene?” They did not respond with words. Instead, they turned once again and began running, which gave me my answer.
I had no interest in chasing after them, but I did desire information. If they had it, I would not let them get away before telling me. Thankfully, given that we were close to Egypt, the sun was shining in the sky, its beams shooting down and hitting my skin, imbuing me with its power. I slowly channelled the energy of the sun through my body, releasing it through my hands, careful not to overdo it. My hands began to glow and dispelled a golden light. The temperature surrounding me and the mysterious figure rose to a heat most mortals would not be able to bear. I stopped when I saw their run had slowed to less than a walk, a stumble, really.
“Are you going to talk to me now, or do I need to make it hotter?” I shouted. I could make it hotter, hot enough to melt the flesh from their bones if necessary, but I didn’t want to. If I channeled the sun to that extreme, it would leave me burnt out for days, not to mention the smell of melting skin was disgusting.
“I’ll talk!” they called back to me, their voice raspy and female, clearly in need of a drink.
I walked leisurely from the house to the edge of the Nile where she had stopped. As I approached, she removed the black cloak she had been wearing. It was a woman with pale skin, dark hair, and eyes the same blue as the river by which we stood.
“Clymene?” I gasped. My eyes widened as I looked at her in awe.
“No,” the woman said, her voice an exact replica of Clymene’s. “I’m her twin. I’m sure she mentioned me.”
“Asia.” She was another of the three thousand Okeanides. The mortals often confused Asia and Clymene in their stories, and now it was clear why. If they stood together, they would be mirror images.
“Correct.” She sighed. “Why are you here, Helios?” We had never met, but there was hostility to her voice that told me that she knew what I had done to Clymene.
“I’m looking for Clymene. Do you know where she is?”
“She died, Helios, only months after you abandoned her. Her heart broke after Phaeton died. She held on for a while, thinking you would return to console her, but you didn’t. So she let the grief take her.”
I looked at Asia, but she wouldn’t meet my eyes. Not to mention her story seemed a little too rehearsed. She was lying to me. “Asia, please. Tell me the truth.”
“That is the truth. My sister is dead.” Her response was a little too fast and harsh for me to believe.
I began drawing from the sun again and raised my glowing palms for Asia to see. “Please don’t make me force you to tell me the truth.” I genuinely didn’t want to hurt Asia. I had caused enough harm to her family, but I refused to live my life on Earth worried about Clymene turning up in a fit of rage. The air around us quickly began to heat again. Sweat poured from Asia’s brow as she began breathing heavily.
“Fine,” Asia gasped as she wiped her forehead. “Stop, just stop!”
I lowered my hands and stopped drawing energy from the sun. It was starting to tire, and I was glad she had broken first. The temperature returned to normal, and I gestured for Asia to tell me what she knew.
Asia glared at me, and I couldn’t help but look away for a moment. She was too similar to Clymene for my liking. “After Phaeton died, Clymene was heartbroken. As I said, she did wait for you to come and comfort her, and when you didn’t come back, she did, in a way, die. Clymene shut down entirely and became obsessed with finding a way to punish you for letting her son die and leaving her for so long. She became obsessed and even began practising Pharmakeia as even your granddaughter, Medea, used that for revenge against a lover. As she attempted more powerful Pharmakeia, it went wrong, and she accidentally cursed this land. Nothing natural could survive here. It was then that our father got involved. He brought her back beneath the waves and forced her to give up her quest for vengeance. After a few hundred years, she claimed she had managed to forgive you and had let go of the past. Our sisters and I didn’t believe her, but our father did, and he let her be from then on. Since then, Clymene has travelled all around the world. Wherever she goes, one of us is there, watching from a distance, making sure she doesn’t fall back into bad habits. I, however, remain here, watching and warning people from staying too long here as the Pharmakeia is still affecting all living things. When I saw it was you, I decided not to warn you. You deserve whatever pain you get for what you did to Clymene.”
I glared back at Asia for her last comment, but decided not to press it further. I did not need to feel guilty about Clymene. As a Titan, I had bigger things to worry about. “And where is Clymene now?”
“You needn’t worry about that,” Asia said. “She is happy and sane. Seeing you would only damage her.”
“Where is Clymene now?” I repeated, my tone harsher this time. I needed to at least see Clymene again. I had to see for myself that she was well and was not going to pose a threat to me in the future.
Asia sighed again. “At the moment, she is in Ölüdeniz, Turkey. But I do implore you, Helios, do not go and see her. It took a long time for my sister to move on from you. I would hate for her to relapse.”
I ignored her plea. “Thank you for your information, Asia. You may go.”
“I said you can go,” I interrupted. Asia narrowed her eyes at me and took a deep breath. She turned angrily from me and jumped into the Nile, allowing the current to take her.
I sighed heavily, allowing a wave of relief to wash over me. At least I knew Clymene was alive. I hadn’t driven her to take her own life as rumours had suggested, and Asia had said she was doing well. Now all I had to do was to see this with my own eyes, and I would be free to live my life.