It was almost midnight. I was lying in my bed. Calliope was lying on my couch. We were both wide awake and fully dressed, waiting for Apollo to take us wherever we were going. Calliope and I both assumed it would be someplace only one of the Twelve could teleport. So we were both surprised when, instead, we felt Apollo summoning us.
We answered the summons together and found ourselves in a storage hangar with Apollo and Artemis. A glance at the kinds of items and vehicles stored there told me we were in Athena’s menagerie on Olympus. It was where she kept all the creatures she created until they grew too big and had to be moved to new homes in the stars. Pegasus had lived here until Athena gave him to us. Draco and Leo, the dragon and the giant lion who guarded Callisto and her son, had begun their lives here, too.
“Not bad,” I said. “Hidden in plain sight, and surrounded by friendly monsters.”
“This isn’t the meeting place,” said Artemis. “Once we summon the person we’re going to summon, things are going to move very quickly, so you two need to do whatever we tell you right away and not ask questions until we let you know it’s safe. No interruptions, no speaking out of turn, no jokes. Got it?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Absolutely,” said Calliope.
“Get in that chariot,” Artemis ordered.
Calliope and I obeyed. It was a very roomy chariot, and it wasn’t hitched to anything. I wondered where we were going and what was going to be taking us there. The harness was for a solitary beast the size of a horse or an ox, but given our location, there was no telling what was going to fill it. Recognizing the gravity of the situation, though, I didn’t even consider voicing any of these questions.
“Go,” Artemis said to Apollo. He left, and, in a flash, returned with Pegasus. Pegasus nickered a friendly welcome to me and Calliope as he immediately trotted to the front of the chariot and maneuvered himself into the harness.
“Now,” said Apollo. Pegasus stood still as the twins met behind the chariot and took each other’s hands. They both wore their best Grave and Stoic faces, but I could see the faint twitching around their eyes and hear the pounding of their heartbeats. They drew a deep breath in unison. Before they could exhale, a bent, haggard, hooded crone appeared between them and the chariot with her back to us. Artemis took the crone’s wrinkled, papery hands while Apollo slightly lifted her hood and studied her face for a brief moment. Satisfied, the twins hurried the crone into the chariot. They silently situated her in the center, with me and Calliope on either side, Apollo in the rear, and Artemis at the reins.
“The Great Bear,” I heard Artemis whisper, though no one outside the chariot could’ve heard it. Pegasus walked, then trotted, then cantered down the wide hall that ran through the center of the hangar. A door opened for us and closed behind us as soon as we’d passed through it. Once outside, Pegasus spread his wings. He lifted himself and the chariot as he galloped down the runway, taking full flight just as we reached the edge of the plateau that the castle was built on.
Olympus disappeared below us as we flew higher and higher into the night sky. After awhile the constellations stopped looking like points of light and started looking like the crystalline structures that they really were. I don’t know what to compare them to. House or even palace implies an earth structure built on a foundation. Ship implies a vessel that its inhabitants can move at will. Island implies a land mass that you live on, not a dwelling that you live in. Each of these dwellings moved along a cyclical course set by the god or goddess who built it. Only that god or goddess could alter the course or decide who entered or exited the dwelling.
We were rapidly approaching the constellation that Artemis had created a couple of years ago as a refuge for Callisto, the huntress whom Zeus had taken Artemis’ own form to rape and impregnate. Callisto’s home sailed between Athena’s constellations, Leo and Draco, made in the form of the monsters they housed. As Callisto herself had requested, her own constellation was in the shape of a giant bear.
Artemis steered the chariot toward the bear’s mouth. It opened for us. Pegasus went in and touched down smoothly on a translucent crystal runway as the bear’s mouth shut behind us. He came to a halt before a set of tall, heavy, clouded double doors.
The crone in the center of the chariot threw off her hooded cloak. Her back straightened and her skin rejuvenated. Her hair went from stringy and gray to thick, opulent, dark blonde waves. Her dress changed from dingy brown rags to an adamantine silver gown with a high slit down the side revealing a shapely leg and possibly the most perfect ankle I had ever seen in my life. And still, my eyes were pulled like a magnet to her impossible face. I wondered how I could ever have seen any of Zeus in the twins when this woman was unmistakably the source of their beauty and their power. Her left eye was the sun, her right eye was the moon, and her mouth was the stars. Which I knew didn’t even make sense. But for a moment, I felt like I understood why Hera hated Leto more than any other object of Zeus’ lust.
“I take it you didn’t summon me to tell me everything’s safe now,” she said.
“No,” said Apollo, his manner as cool and matter-of-fact as hers. “We never would’ve summoned you at all, but we think you’re the only one who can help the Muses with something.”
“And we’re tired of letting Zeus keep our family apart,” said Artemis. “This constellation is safe. No one knows you’re here, and if anyone found out, Athena could release Draco and Leo. The choice is yours, but I really hope you’ll choose to stay here.”
“I can’t say ‘yes’ just yet,” said Leto, “but I won’t say ‘no’ right away either. I will say that it makes me so happy to know you have Athena. And I take it she doesn’t object to you and Callisto? I will get to meet my grandson while I’m here, won’t I?”
“Callisto isn’t my lover, and Arcas isn’t my son,” said Artemis. “He’s actually our half-brother. Long story.”
“I think I can piece it together,” said Leto. She was calm, but her countenance confirmed to me that the Knight of Justice complex ran deep in this family’s blood.
“Anyway,” said Apollo, “if we could go inside.”
“Right,” said Artemis. “Wait here,” she said to Pegasus. We exited the chariot and approached the frosted crystal doors. I could make out the form of a sentry, probably male, on the inside. I guessed it was Arcas, Callisto’s son, who should be almost two years old and thus a fully grown man by now. Artemis placed her palm on the doors. I could see a pattern of starlight pulsating on the inside. The sentry moved and the doors opened for us. The tall, bearded sentry was very attractive, but looked the same age as Aglaea, around 35ish for a human. This surprised me since the offspring of gods and nymphs usually don’t age that much. Then I realized that I recognized this man, and that he wasn’t Arcas.
“My Lady,” the sentry nodded to Artemis. “I see you’ve finally persuaded my Lord Apollo to join us. Welcome,” he said to the rest of us. “May you find safety and healing within these walls as the rest of us have.” Safety and healing. It was an interesting choice of words, I thought, and made sense given the atmosphere of the room. I’d been here when Artemis had started the foundational construction, but the place had clearly undergone a lot of work since then. It felt nondescript and sterile, but in a calming way, not threatening or imposing. Like the space was designed for a lack of stimulation in a good way.
“Not here for a meeting, actually,” said Artemis. “Please get Callisto. This is urgent.”
The sentry nodded and left the expansive vestibule through a door to the right. I glanced at Apollo. He didn’t seem the least bit surprised or disconcerted about any of this. “Was that who I thought it was?” I asked.
“Ganymede,” said Apollo. For Leto’s benefit, he explained, “Around twenty years ago, Zeus abducted him and made him his ‘cupbearer’. I helped him escape and kept an eye on him over the years, but he never fully recovered from the trauma of being snatched into the sky by a giant eagle. And, you know, everything that happened after that. I offered him his own constellation a few times, but he kept saying he didn’t want to be alone. So last year I asked Artemis if he could live here since he’d have plenty of company.”
“Why didn’t I know any of this?” I said.
“Their safety is in their secrecy,” said Artemis. “We only tell people who need to know.”
“What did he think you’d been persuaded to join?” asked Calliope.
“Nothing,” said Apollo.
A door opened on the left. We expected Callisto to come from the other side of it, but instead, we were greeted by another familiar face. “Io!” I exclaimed.
“Thalia! I never imagined I’d see you here, or any of your sisters!” she cried as she rushed toward us. She threw her arms around me and Calliope. She looked to Artemis. “I hope this doesn’t mean…?”
“We’re here for something else today,” said Artemis.
“You live here, too?” said Calliope.
“Yes, with my husband and my son,” said Io. “My son has grown into such a wonderful young man. My husband loves him as his own, and the circumstances of his birth don’t seem to have had much of an effect on him.” Those circumstances being Hera having turned Io into a cow, Zeus having impregnated her in that form, and Io having been pregnant for three years until my sisters and I returned her to her own body. “I’m going to tell my son you’re here,” she said. “Please don’t leave until he’s had a chance to pay his respects.”
“No promises,” said Artemis.
Io ran out the same way she’d come. “How many people live here?” I asked.
“You don’t need to know,” said Artemis.
“What do they all think we’re here for?” asked Calliope.
“I’ll tell you later,” said Apollo.
Another woman came in the door through which Ganymede had left. I was sure I didn’t recognize this one. She paused and bowed to Artemis. “Welcome,” she said to us. “I’m Europa, a servant of the Lady Artemis. Shall I show our new neighbors to their quarters, My Lady?” she asked.
“Only one of them at the most is staying,” said Artemis. “We’re just waiting on Callisto.” The woman nodded, moved on, and went out the door Io had come through. So that made at least six people living in this constellation, assuming Arcas had moved into the smaller one Artemis had built for him next door; otherwise it was at least seven. And none of them seemed at all surprised that Artemis had brought three new people.
“Please tell me this isn’t some kind of resistance military compound,” I said.
“It’s not,” said Artemis. “Where would you get that idea?”
“Because Athena has access to it, and the common denominator I’m seeing here is ‘people who have a reason to hate Zeus’,” I said.
“Athena doesn’t have access to it,” said Artemis. “I do.”
Finally a door opened and revealed Callisto, brought by Ganymede. Her smile was warm, welcoming, and genuinely happy. Without waiting for any pleasantries, Artemis said, “Please take us to an unoccupied room as far away from any occupied rooms as possible.”
“This way,” Callisto beckoned, leading us through the door to the left.
The hall we entered had a much lower ceiling than the massive vestibule. The transparent wall to our right revealed a solarium (or lunarium?) with a garden. No, ‘garden’ sounded too structured. The place was landscaped to look like a peaceful woodland clearing. A woman I didn’t recognize was holding a small child’s hand as the child toddled through a stream. A man was leaning against a mossy boulder, holding a book in one hand and petting an elderly, sleeping hunting hound with the other. I did recognize him. It was Endymion.
To our left was an opaque wall occasionally interrupted by a door. Eventually, Callisto opened one of the doors and invited us in. The door closed behind us, and the room started moving upward. I felt like my stomach wasn’t keeping up with it.
“This definitely wasn’t here when you first built the place,” I said to Artemis as I hung on to the walls.
“Hephaestus & Son have donated some labor here and there,” she replied.
The room stopped moving. We went out the same door into a hallway that, based on the view, was several floors up from where we started. Callisto led us to a room in the hallway and silently motioned for us all to seat ourselves on the large, velvet floor cushions. “Anything else?” she asked Artemis.
“Make up an empty apartment for one, please,” said Artemis. “When you’ve finished, wait for us in the lunarium. I’ll want you to show our new guest to her quarters.” Callisto bowed, left, and closed the door behind her.
“I can soundproof the room if you need me to,” said Leto.
“Might’ve been a good thing to know before we walked this far, but go ahead,” said Artemis.
Leto waved a graceful hand in a circle over her head. A faint light appeared along the base of the walls. “Now,” she said, “why are we here?”
“We believe the Muses have memories hidden in their minds,” said Apollo, looking at said Muses rather than at Leto. “We can’t go to Mnemosyne because we think she’s the one who hid them in the first place.”
“I see,” said Leto. “Do either of you have telepathic powers?” she asked us. “Mine aren’t strong enough to get into someone’s mind without help from that person.”
“Mom can talk to us in our heads, but we don’t do it with each other,” I said.
“Have you ever tried?” Leto asked.
Calliope and I looked at each other. “I don’t remember,” we said in unison.
“Who wants to try first?” said Leto. Calliope raised her hand.
We sat there in total silence for about an hour. Leto and Calliope sat across from each other and held hands with their eyes closed. The twins and I just watched. Finally, Calliope opened her eyes and exclaimed, “I’ve got it!”
She told us a brief recap of her two missing days, highlighting the parts Apollo and/or I had witnessed. “At first I thought the retrieved memory was incomplete,” she said, “because an important conversation about the tournament was missing, but then I realized maybe we never had it at all.” She gave me a forced smile.
“Oh, yeah, I didn’t get a chance to tell you about that until today,” I said. “Or yesterday now, I guess.”
“That makes sense, because I distinctly remember not having that information now,” said Calliope. Her face and tone were calm, but I knew she felt betrayed. I hoped she could understand that I was only trying to follow Athena’s orders and keep everyone as safe as possible.
“Do you think this is a process you can duplicate at will?” Apollo asked Calliope.
“Probably, but I don’t know how to describe it at all,” said Calliope. “Leto, do you think you can search Thalia’s mind with both of us together?”
“Easily,” Leto said.
“Wait, how much of the inside of my mind are you two going to see?” I said.
“I won’t look any place you tell me not to,” said Leto.
“Okay,” I sighed. “Let’s give it a try.”
I took Leto’s hand with my right and Calliope’s with my left. We all closed our eyes. I laughed.
“We need silence,” said Leto.
“I’m sorry, this is just funny,” I said. “I can’t help it.”
“If you have to laugh, laugh inwardly,” said Leto. “I need you to direct all your energy, both active and receptive, toward the inside of your soul.”
“Got it,” I agreed. I felt another giggle coming on. I made it reverse direction toward the back of my head instead of the front of my mouth.
Suddenly, the giggle was a raft in the shape of a giant pink flower, and Calliope, Leto, and I were riding it down an impossibly blue river surrounded by psychedelic pastoral scenery on both banks. Rainbow-colored sheep grazed in literal emerald pastures under a sky as blue as our river. Sparkling pastel pegasi flew in a V formation overhead. A fish popped out of the river, pursed its lips like a fountain, and showered my face with water. I laughed as I slapped the fish back down to the river.
“Is this what it looked like for you?” I asked Calliope.
“This is nothing like my trip,” Calliope said with nervous bewilderment. “We’re inside your mind now.”
“My mind is AWESOME!”
“Stay on task,” said Leto in a way that totally didn’t remind me of her son. “If something was going to be hidden here in a place you’d never look, what would that place be?”
“Heeeeeere, fishy, fishy, fishy,” I said as I dipped my hand in the river and wiggled my fingers. A kitten with fins swam up and nibbled them. I picked it up. It hissed and shook itself dry. Then it pawed at my wrist, demanding more petting.
“Catfish!” I said with pride as I stroked its fuzzy flippers. “I’m totally going to get someone to make me one of these in real life. I need one. Calliope, don’t I need one?”
“You need to find your latent memories,” said Calliope.
“Look,” I said. “I can make the catfish sparkle. It’s sparkling.” It made a fish face at me and let out a tiny mew. I booped its widdle nose because I was physically incapable of doing otherwise.
Leto snatched my kittyfish from me and threw it back into the river. “I’m understanding Apollo better by the moment,” I deadpanned.
“Find something boring,” said Leto.
I shook her hand. She was not amused. Boy, did I know that look.
“I’m serious,” said Leto. “And you need to be serious, too. Look around and find something you don’t want to look at.”
“You look around,” I said. “There’s nothing boring in here. My mind is a beautiful, vibrant, flourishing place full of light and laughter. Everything is awesome.”
Calliope came over and rested a hand on my shoulder. “Thalia,” she said, motioning behind me, “look.”
There was a replica of my comedy mask as big our Museum. It was a perfect replica except for the colors. It appeared to be built out of solid rose gold, and it was covered with randomly-placed gems and splashes of color as though a million paint bombs had exploded on it. My jaw slowly dropped and my mouth slowly turned up as I glazed upon it in rapture. “That is the most perfect thing I have ever seen,” I said.
“I wonder what’s behind it,” said Calliope.
“Who cares?” I said. “Look at the front of it!”
“If that’s what you want,” said Calliope. “Why don’t you stop the raft and we’ll just look at it for awhile?”
“No,” I said, suddenly overcome by a sense of panic. “I know what you’re doing. It’s not going to work.”
“I’m not trying to do anything,” said Calliope.
“You’re trying to trick me, and you suck at it,” I said.
“For Fate’s sake, stop being such a child,” said Leto. “Are you always this irresponsible?”
I stopped the damn raft.
“Irresponsible?” I said. “Are you friggin’ kidding me? Bitch, you are the last person who has any business lecturing anyone about responsibility. And what in Tartarus do you know about children? You didn’t even raise yours.”
“My children made their choices and I honored them,” said Leto. “They gave themselves up. What was I supposed to do?”
“I don’t know. You could’ve stopped them. You could’ve hid them better. You could’ve found a hiding place they wouldn’t want to leave. You could’ve friggin’ let yourself get captured with them,” I said.
“They let themselves get caught to prevent Hera from finding me,” said Leto. “If I’d given myself up, their sacrifice would’ve been for nothing.”
“You weren’t afraid of Hera. You were afraid of Zeus,” I said. “You knew what he was, and you let your children grow up in his house under his guardianship.”
“They were strong,” said Leto. “They killed their first monster when they could barely walk. I trusted that they could protect themselves and each other.”
“THEY! WERE! CHILDREN!” I shouted.
“Yes,” said Leto, “and children are resilient. They adapt.”
“Oh, yeah, they adapted,” I said. “Your daughter was a virgin for almost a thousand years, and your son can’t manage to nail down a functional, lasting relationship.”
“Don’t you talk to me about my son!” said Leto.
“Why not? I know him better than you do,” I said. “I was the one who chased off the bullies when he was a nerdy adolescent, who gave him a place to run away to when he needed it, who smacked him upside the head the first time he tried shapeshifting to get to second base, who was there for him the first time someone broke his heart, who-”
“You two have an odd relationship,” Leto interrupted me. “How do your children fit into this?”
“What the-? Oh, yeah, them. And don’t change the subject. Did you ever find out the real reason behind your kids’ little killing spree?” I said.
“I tried,” said Leto. “I begged them to tell me what was wrong. I offered to go back to Olympus with them, but they wouldn’t hear of it. If you know them as well as you say, then you know how infuriatingly stubborn they can be. In the end, I had to take them at their word.”
“No, you didn’t,” I said. “You knew. You had to know. You knew what kind of man their father was. You knew how he became their father in the first place.”
‘If I’d gone with them, do you think it would’ve stopped?” Leto cried. “What could I have done? What could anyone have done? And you know I couldn’t take them with me. They’d been given a place in his court. They were his most prized trophies. You don’t leave Zeus until he decides he doesn’t want to keep you anymore.”
There it was. The solution to everything. “But you did,” I said, calmer now, more of a cool angry than a hot angry.
“I’m the only one who has,” said Leto. “I’m the Goddess of Hidden Things. That’s the whole reason I’m here, remember? To help you find a hidden memory that you could probably find yourself if you had the fortitude to sift through whatever rubble your mother hid it under.”
“I think you’re mad at me because you know I’m right,” I said. “And I think you really do wish there was a way you could make everything up to your kids, but as far as you know, there isn’t one. And, yeah, there probably isn’t. But I have an idea on where to start.”
“I’ll listen to your idea after we find your latent memory,” said Leto. “I got it wrong, didn’t I? Your mother didn’t hide your memory behind something dull. That was just for Calliope. She hid yours behind something dark. This isn’t a mind that’s never known darkness. This is a mind that’s known darkness from the beginning, and needs an excessive amount of light to cope with that knowledge.”
“I had a very happy childhood,” I said.
“But, from your conception, your mother imbued each of you with a particular knowledge,” said Leto. “Your knowledge of laughter would be incomplete without a knowledge of tears. Show me that part of your mind, and I’ll accept the possibility that you have any business whatsoever telling me how to ‘make amends’ to my son and daughter.”
“Okay, then,” I agreed. “Let’s get off this raft.”
But we already had. I wasn’t sure when or how, but we’d moved to solid ground and were now standing at the foot of the giant mask.
“Okay, then,” I said. “Let’s see what’s behind this mask.”
I looked up into the mouth, but it was completely dark inside. I stretched my hands as far as I could, grabbed the lowest part of the mouth, used the chin for a stepping stone, and pushed myself in.
I landed in the middle of a house. It was a simple house; nothing huge, nothing tiny. It would’ve been quite pleasant except for the fact that everything in it was destroyed. A table was split down the center, fallen in a jagged M-shape. Broken pottery and glass littered the floor. Ripped cupboard doors swung sadly on hinges revealing utterly barren cupboards. Poison bubbled and oozed from a cracked bowl set on the floor. Molds and rusts rotted the walls, floors, and ceiling.
A wall torn as if with giant claws revealed a bedroom. The bedroom held a shredded mattress splattered with blood and stuck through with dozens of knives. Nearby, a charred battleaxe was stuck in a cradle.
I was stuck in place. I couldn’t breathe any more than I could move. This vignette was exactly what Leto had predicted. None of it reflected my own experiences. My childhood in Hades truly had been a happy one. I’d spent my whole life surrounded by sisters who loved me and looked out for me the same way I loved and cared for them. I’d somehow been fortunate enough to escape the kind of attention women at the Olympian court received all too often. Even smart, careful, powerful women like Calliope. This wasn’t my life. This was a deeply-imprinted knowledge of human suffering that, like Leto said, had been a part of my soul for as long as I’d existed.
“Go past it,” said Leto. I wasn’t startled to see her and Calliope on either side of me, though I hadn’t noticed them arrive.
“I can’t see any way out,” I said. There were heavy chains on the only door, and the windows were covered with bars.
“It’s your mind,” said Leto. “Make one.”
“Oh, sure,” I said. “I’ll just make one. Maybe I’ll cast a growth spell on that mold and it’ll rot through the walls faster.” The mold started expanding, growing inward from the corners toward the centers of the walls and ceiling. A thick smell of death filled the room.
“Make it stop,” Calliope choked.
I picked up the cracked bowl on the floor and poured out the poison. “Or I could summon the ghost of whatever pet this was for. It’s probably out for revenge.” I threw the bowl at the outer wall. It smashed and joined the rest of the shards on the floor. “Whoever did that,” I waved toward the bedroom “probably killed the dog because it saw too much. You know what? I’ll bet it was the baby. The dog must’ve caught her making a suicide bomb in her crib and gone after her with the axe.”
“Thalia!” Calliope cried.
“Oh, come on,” I said. “Obviously that’s not what happened. If a bomb had gone off in here, you think the walls would be standing? This place couldn’t stand up to a sparkler.”
A sparkler appeared in my hand. I used the sparks to make a crude drawing on the wall before they went out. “Thalia, stop it! That’s not funny!” said Calliope.
“Your mom’s not funny,” I said. “Wait, that doesn’t work. We’re sisters. Too bad Apollo’s not here. Then it’d be funny because it’s true.”
The sparks on the wall burst into flames and spread to the rest of the structure. The fire sped along the floor and formed a ring around the three of us. It burned (or rotted, I couldn’t quite tell) through and sent the three of us tumbling down a long, dark, empty hole.
As I fell through the darkness, all I could feel was relief. The sights and smells from the nightmare house were gone. The emptiness of the tunnel was a welcome respite. We kept falling until even the flames were out of sight. Then we hit solid, smooth ground.
“Lights?” I said.
We were in the middle of a circular room illuminated by nine torches. Under each torch was a keyhole. Under each keyhole was a name. Calliope. Clio. Erato. Euterpe. Melpomene. Polyhymnia. Terpsichore. And there, right before Urania, was Thalia.
And there in my hand was a key.
“This place is in my mind, too,” said Calliope. “It was behind the place I don’t like to look at. Go ahead. Turn the key.”
I did. The key hooked into the wall. I pulled on it. A square meter of wall fell away. There were dozens of little boxes, all locked. I scooped them up and dumped them on my lap. “Let me guess,” I said to Calliope. “Your lost days were in one of these boxes?”
“They were,” said Calliope. “I picked the one that looked newest. It turned out to be an accurate guess. Opening it was exhausting to say the least, so I didn’t try any more. Leto thinks I can find my way back here without her help now.”
“If need be, you two can probably help each other,” said Leto. “And the rest of your sisters.”
“What about the keyhole at the bottom?” I asked. “Is some kind of evil clown jack-in-the-box going to jump out at me if I open that?”
“I don’t remember seeing a keyhole at the bottom,” said Calliope. She came over to get a closer look. I pointed to the bottom of my cupboard where, in fact, there was a keyhole. “Let me try mine,” said Calliope. She moved down a couple torches to the left, opened her cubbyhole, and scooped out an armful of little boxes. “I don’t know how I missed this last time,” she said.
“Maybe they need more than one of us,” I said. “Let’s give it a try.”
“We probably have to do it at the same time,” said Calliope. “On the count of three.”
We both held our keys in position. Together, we counted, “One. Two. Three.”
We put our keys in the locks and gave them a turn.