“You think this is some kind of joke?” the man roars, tearing the sheet from his sweat-slicked skin.
“I assure you, sir, I find nothing amusing about this.”
He scoffs, hissing like a teapot about to boil over. With gritted teeth, he advances on me, each step thundering through the ground of the Fornication dreamland. “I paid you for one more night with the woman I loved, not to watch her murdered again before my eyes. What kind of twisted f—!”
“It was not my doing, sir.”
Red flashes behind his irises as hot as fire-lit coals. The muscles beneath his button-up harden only a second before his arm swings back, preparing its devastating blow. But before he launches it forward, I summon the darkness.
The shadows in the room swell. The Fornication dreamland, once vibrant and red, becomes nothing more than a black void. A haunted forest in the dead of night. A graveyard with no moonlight.
The man freezes. His eyes roam over the darkness and suddenly, he’s whimpering like a scared child.
“Leave,” I growl, flicking my hand toward the door.
The path outstretched before me clears, leaving just enough light for him to scramble for his escape, his ape-feet catching on themselves even as he tumbles down the hallway, the door slamming shut behind him. He will think of this day for years to come, but me? I forget about him nearly instantly.
The only thing on my mind is Mnemosyne. She is making a laughingstock out of me. Since Layal, each client I’ve allowed passage into my dreamlands has found their slumber ripped apart by every trauma that has ever ailed them. I’ve tried ignoring her taunts. I’ve tried convincing myself that surely, she’s just feeling restless, and eventually, she will relent and find some other hobby to pursue, but this has gone on long enough. I will not suffer her meddling any longer. My reputation is at stake.
I stand amidst the darkness like a queen riding on a throne made of black clouds, roiling with rage, anger rippling off me like black flames. Mnemosyne has made it clear that as long as she’s free, she will do whatever is in her power to make my business crumble.
The only question I have is: why?
I would never proclaim friendship with the Titan, but Mnemosyne and I spent ages trapped in Tartarus together. Naturally, I thought we had at least some sort of kinship. I’ve racked my brain for weeks trying to understand why she’s doing this to me though, and still I have found no viable reason.
Enough guessing. Enough sitting idly by as she torments my clients and myself. Today, it’s time I find out why she is tormenting my work. No more letting her mess with Melinoë.
Today it’s time for Rebel and I to confront the Titan of Memory.
Fortunately, she and I are closely linked. After all, one cannot truly ever separate dreams from memories. If I focus, if I search the reach of my shadows, I can find her.
And so, I reach. I close my eyes, projecting myself out into the world to scour every dimly lit chamber, every moonless night. I search all of the places where monsters love to hide: abandoned buildings, gothic castles, and all of the places where death and morbidity linger.
When I don’t find her in the shadows, I change tactics. It’s not fair to call Mnemosyne a monster just because of her vendetta against me. Truth be told, Mnemosyne is more complicated than good and evil, for she is everything: every thought, every experience, every sensation. Mnemosyne is the burning love of first-time lovers and the crashing heartbreak of love’s loss. She is the hope of a bright-eyed child and a man’s lifetime of exhaustion. She is all of the moments of inspiration and lust and sorrow and embarrassment.
And where would someone like that go? Someone who has seen everything, who is weighed down by all of humanity’s conflicts and victories and histories? Where would she go for a moment of reprieve? It’s hard to say exactly. Were she mortal, she’d have every reason in the world to seek out my services. I can see it now, the wise and effulgent Mnemosyne, stripped free from her Godly white gown in exchange for gray sweatpants and a loose-fitting hoodie, kicked back in a beanbag chair in the Acedia dreamland without a care in the world.
Actually, as absurd as that mental image is, there just might be something to it. I mean, what better way to hide than to be in plain sight? What better way to rifle with my dream illusions than to always be just on the other side of the wall. And with Mnemosyne’s power, even if I had walked right by her, she’d be able to alter my memory, making me think I’d left an empty room.
“That sneaky, brilliant b—”
I push past the bedroom door, sending it crashing against the wall before it ricochets shut, as I storm into the Chamber of Dreams. The seven doors beckon me, a mocking test to see if I really can find her. But I am done with this game. If Mnemosyne is ready to face me, then she will allow it.
“Mnemosyne!” I roar, voice echoing up the golden arched ceiling. “Let us be done with the games. You wanted my attention, well now you have it. Show yourself.”
As I suspected, the door to the Acedia dreamland creaks open. I pump my fingers into fists before marching to it, Rebel scurrying along the wall and landing gently onto my shoulder as I enter. Mnemosyne is exactly where I anticipated, wearing the exact gray outfit I had imagined, making me realize that the image must’ve been planting, a small clue that Mnemosyne let past whatever mental barriers she’s put up inside my mind.
She peers over her shoulder at me, drink in hand. “For sixteen turns of the moon, I’ve been here,” she says, a sly smile playing at her lips. “Your mind is less nimble than it once was. You used to be so attuned to my presence.”
Like a wolf, I circle her, taking a wide berth. “I knew it was you, I just didn’t realize you’d be bold enough to stowaway in here.”
“Did you not? I am nothing if not bold, my dear Melinoë. Though, perhaps you’ve forgotten me more than I’d imagined. Cute pet,” she says, a finger outstretched at Rebel.
On reflex, I stroke Rebel’s head, her fine hairs as smooth as a newborn’s head. “Why have you come, Mnemosyne? Why do you insist on meddling?”
“Meddling?” She stands so swiftly that her drink splashes at the edges of her glass, spilling over the side and plopping to the ground. The rage that had burned in her eyes a moment before sizzles out when she notices the mess, and instead, she strolls back to the bar, licking the edge of her glass.
“I thought it obvious why I have come,” she says, pulling a bottle free from the rack. Filling her glass first with the clear, stringent liquid inside, she tops it off with the sweet orange juice from the mini-fridge beside her. “We were companions in Tartarus. Now that I am free, I thought I’d say hello.”
I stare at her, calculating as she knocks her drink back in one-two-three swigs.
“No,” I say finally. “This was not a friendly hello; you’re lying. If you were seeking my companionship, you wouldn’t have hidden away for weeks, waiting for me to piece it all together. You would’ve knocked on the front door and said Hey, Melinoë! I’ve missed you. How have you fared? So tell me, Mnemosyne, why have you really come? Why have you been tampering with the dreams I’m giving my clients?”
Without warning, Mnemosyne slams her glass atop the bar, shattering it in her hand. Blood pools on the counter, coalescing with the spilled alcohol and shards of glass, but she seems to hardly even notice.
“You just left me there to rot,” she says, shaking, her words spitting through gritted teeth. Ever so slowly, she turns her gaze on only me. “Never once did you think to come back for me, or to send word that you were all right. But then, when I finally manage my own escape, you can understand how surprised I was to find you here in the lion’s den.”
Mnemosyne twirls about the room, her arms up high, blood dripping down her left wrist as she signals to the room around them.
“How long did it take?” she asks, and I can see the hurricane of rage she’s barely containing. “How long did it take for you to forgive him?”
A scoff. “Zeus, of course! What was it? Was it the home? The promise of a fruitful business? Could you just not cope out there on the streets, so far away from Daddy?”
Each question hit me like a new assault, and the shadows in the room responded. They inched down the walls, across the floor. They crept from underneath the bar and the beanbag, from beneath each bottle of whiskey and rum and vodka on the shelves, until the room was cast in opaque gray. I did my best not to black everything out entirely, but there was only so much I could do to control myself or them.
“It wasn’t like that,” I manage to say.
“Oh, was it not? Are you not back on Daddy’s side, living under his roof, as if you two were thick as thieves, lapping up everything he promises you?”
“No, he’s not—”
I catch myself, reining in the words just before they leaped over the edge of an argument not worth defending. Defending Zeus would be pointless, and quite frankly something I could care less for anyways. Since my return, I’d had little to do with him anyway. But this, this feud with Mnemosyne, this is different. She, I care about. And if I want to reach a place where we are able to coexist again, let alone a place where we might someday be friends, I will need to choose my words carefully.
Relaxing at the thought, I reel the shadows back where they belong, and I start at the beginning. “When I first arrived in the mortal realm, I realized I was no one.”
I tell her everything, even the bits that haven’t been shared with anyone else. Not just the story of how I came here, of the nights I spent homeless, of finding Rebel and then employment, and finally finding housing at the OA, but I tell her of the journey. I recount the moments that I realized I didn’t know what I wanted to do, or what I was even good at. I share with her my excitement for Dream A Little Dream and All Nightmare Long. I confess to her that I forgave Zeus, but only because I was tired of him having that power over me.
But the point I make more than any of the others:
“I truly am sorry, Mnemosyne. I didn’t mean to abandon you, but you’re right. In leaving, I did. And I became so caught up in my own path that I completely forgot about yours. That is a terrible thing to do to a friend and I am sorry.”
By now, Mnemosyne’s hand has healed, the mess has been cleaned, and we are each holding a glass of our own. She sips at hers, a calm quiet about her, but though words fail her, she is nodding, letting me know she understands.
“Now that you’re here,” I say, testing the waters. “You’re more than welcome to stay. You could take this room, even. If you’ve been enjoying it.”
A slow, humorous smile. “You are more generous than most would know. But unfortunately, I cannot stay long. Although I enjoyed my time here while it lasted, there are other conflicts that need my attention.”
“With the other Gods?”
I fix my mouth, prepared to caution her against anything too foolish, but at the raise of her eyebrows, I know better than to continue.
Mnemosyne finishes her drink before standing from her stool. “Before I go, I owe you an apology.”
“It’s all right—” I start, but Mnemosyne waves me off.
“Not one of words, words are meaningless. No, I owe you an apology in the form of memories.”
Cautiously, I appraise her, fearful she might be talking about altering my mind again in some way. “What do you mean?”
“I will seek out the clients of yours whom I’ve deterred. I will change their recollection of how things went with you while they were here. I know it is not much, and some of them might not return still, but it is the least I can do.”
I take her hand in mine, soft and warm. “Thank you, Mnemosyne. And good luck.”
“The same to you, Melinoë.” She turns to walk out the door, but before she makes it a step away, she spins back to me with a final thought, her eyes on Rebel still perched at my shoulder. “You know, I remember a time when all beings spoke, even ones like your lovely pet.”
“Really?” I say, glancing at my shoulder. “Do you think it’s still possible?”
Mnemosyne shrugs. “Perhaps. If you know the right beings.”
“And which being do I need to know?”
The smile that grows is lopsided but wicked. “Why, me, of course. But now is hardly the time for a trip down memory lane. I’ll be in touch.”
And before I can demand anything more, with a flick of her hair, Mnemosyne strolls out the door.