Herakles' insanity: a short story

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Herakles' insanity: a short story

Postby Quintus Aurelius Orcus on Sat May 14, 2005 11:43 pm

Salvete

The following story was written by yours truly. It is about Herakles and his insanity that leads to the death of his wife and children. I used most of the elements in the myth, except I didn't really reveal any time period orso. The only real time reference I mention is when I refer to the battle with the Minyans. Put into modern context, the same Minyans could be symbol for a gang, King Thespios as a kind of priest and Herakles as a schizophrenic and homocidal killer who kills his wife and children during a episode. Ofcourse that is one interpretation, but I stick to the mythological interpretation where Herakles is driven insane by Hera and kills his family. It's just a draft and since its the English translation of the story, I do would appreciate any feedback (doesn't matter if it is bad). For my fellow country-men, I will post the original version at the Belgica forum. Enjoy.
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Herakles’ insanity

Night. Herakles has trouble falling asleep. He lies in his bed next to his wife Megara. He feels restless. He doesn’t know why he feels like that. There aren’t any enemies in the vicinity and the Gods aren’t near either. So why does he feel like that? He knows that his children and the children of his half brother are sleeping in their rooms not far from his bedroom. Herakles lives a typical Hellenic house unique for its time. He doesn’t feel like staying in his bed all night long. So he throws his sheets away and sits up straight on his bed.
He rubs with his hands through his hair, not fully understanding why he can’t seem to fall asleep. His wife and children doesn’t have any problems with it, so why does he suffer from insomnia. It’s the third week in a row that he can’t sleep. Three weeks with about 3 hours of sleep tops. That is not much, even for a guy like Herakles. All humans need at least 6-8 hours of sleep a day to function properly. If a person sleeps less than 4 hours a day, for several weeks, it will be physically and psychologically exhausting – even for a half god. The fact that Herakles hasn’t slept much in more than 3 weeks shows in the chores he has to do around the house. He has been neglecting them. Anyway, Herakles thinks that by taking a walk through the streets of the city would do him some good. He thinks that the fresh air will do him some good and help him fall asleep. Fully dressed, he leaves his home. He wonders the streets at a normal rate. He doesn’t want to do any physical labour which he knows will only make sure he has more trouble falling asleep than usual.
He has even prayed to the Gods Hypnos and Morpheus to help him out in the sleep department. He brought them sacrifices, burnt incense in their honour. Up and till now with no success. His mind starts to wonder whether he did something wrong in bringing the sacrifices and saying the prayers. He has honoured the Gods in the ways it’s was thought to him by his mother and people in the community as they were thought by their parents. He has thought his children the same things that were thought to him when he was young concerning the Gods and how to honour them. What did he do wrong that made the Gods upset with him? Slowly he get the feeling that he’s been followed. He looks behind him and is just in time to see some shady figures disappearing into the darkness of the night. He decides to follow them, but they keep eluding him. For a half god who has superhuman abilities, he doesn’t seem to be able to catch his enemies this time. Every time he sees them and is about to catch them, they elude him one more time and show up behind him only to chase them again. It’s like he is chasing phantoms. It’s insane. It’s the definition of insanity all over again for him. Doing the same thing time and time again and expecting different results. Every time he catches up and traps them in an alley, he doesn’t find them anymore.
After spending half the night chasing ghosts, he returns home discouraged of his defeat. He knows that the same ghosts he has been chasing half the night are following him, but he doesn’t have the strength to chase them again. He only wants to return home and protect his wife and children from his enemies. Plus, he has no weapons on him since he left them at home. On his arrival, he goes straight to the bedroom. There he picks up his sword and bow to protect his family from the ones following him like predators. Than, he goes to the central room of his house that has no roof. He looks up to see a clear night sky with a crescent moon in its final phase. He sits down on a bench. There he waits for his stalkers to appear.
He waits. He keeps waiting until he falls asleep for a little while. When he wakes up again, he sees his stalkers right in front of him, standing in the dark.
‘Show yourself! I want to know with whom I’m dealing with!’
Herakles stands up - in a defensive manner. The raves come into the light of the moon – and Herakles sees that his stalkers are Minyan soldiers – like the ones he killed in the battle between the Thebans and Minyans. This gives him goose bumps. The last thing he expected was to be confronted by the souls of the enemies he had slain. He knows souls can wonder around on Earth, but this confrontation goes to far, even for Herakles. Adding this to the insomnia, and he is totally freaking out. Normally he would know what to do in these situations, but because of his lack of sleep, he panics and attacks the souls – something that is ludicrous – because ghosts are beings that have no corporeal body - so they can not be wounded by corporeal weapons.
He shoots first 8 arrows in the director of the soldiers. Those 8 arrows had proved their use, because 4 soldiers fall down on the ground. The remaining 2 want to run, but are pursued by Herakles. He grabs them and smashes their heads against each other and throws them on the ground. He grabs his sword with his left hand and has the intention to kill them as penalty for invading his home and threatening his family. But before he could swing his sword at them, a unknown, powerful and invisible force hurls Herakles against the wall. Too bad for Herakles he couldn’t see the face of the enemy who did this to him. He looks at the soldiers and watches them standing up again and morphs into in the children of Iphikles, his half brother. On that moment, he loses consciousness.
The next morning he is woken up by his half brother and his nephew Theseus. Iphikles is little older than Herakles, but Theseus is younger than Herakles. He’s 16 years old and grew up around Herakles. They are shouting at Herakles in the hope waking him up
‘Herakles! Herakles! Wake up!’
‘What in the name of Zeus has happened?’ Asks Herakles with a confused gaze in his eyes. It hasn’t sunk in yet with him what really happened last night. The last thing he remembered was seeing how 2 Minyan soldiers morphed into his 2 nephews. He tells this to his brother. He and Theseus listen and look at each other – not fully knowing what happened and Herakles doesn’t seem like much help either since he seems to hallucinate.
‘hmm, we haven’t seen any soldiers, nor did we find any tracks of them.’
‘If they were here, we would have found tracks of them that they have left behind.’ Tells Theseus to his cousin. It was Herakles who trained Theseus.
‘That can’t be. I killed 4 of them before I got my ass thrown against the damn wall?’ Herakles wants to sit up straight, but both his brother and cousin are stopping him from doing that. He notices that something is terribly wrong here. Although they don’t not really know how to tell him the terrible news, Herakles stands up. At that moment, he realizes what transpired. He sees his wife and 3 kids laying dead on the ground. He rushes to their aid
in the hope that it was nothing more than a bad dream. When he picks up his wife in his arms, he sees that they each have 2 arrows in them in a way that would be fatal to any human.
Tears are running down his cheeks, he’s crying over the loss of his family. He has lost his wife and kids over night. Feelings of sorrow and mourning soon make place for anger and hatred. He wants to know who has done it. He pulls the arrows out of their lifeless bodies and studies them in the hope to find whoever was responsible for this massacre. The arrows somehow look familiar to him, but he can’t put his finger on it where he has seen it. Slowly the realization that he could be responsible sinks in his thoughts. He notices his arrows laying there on the ground. He rushes to his own arrows in a effort to compare them and in the hope that he wasn’t responsible for what happened. They are a exact match. This is to much for him to handle. He falls down on his knees, realising that he was responsible for the massacre – something he had feared since he woke up. He starts to cry again. The feelings he’s experiencing ranging from sorrow to guilt and remorse. Although he’s still not clear what really happened and why he can’t remember killing them except killing those soldiers - he knows that he’s the killer of his own wife and children. And that he must pay the price for it.
His half brother and his cousin Theseus are watching Herakles - not fully knowing what to do next. The only thing they can do is to convince Herakles to go into voluntarily exile. While they are thinking what to do next, Herakles is considering taking his own life. He notices his own sword not 5 metres from his position. For Herakles it is pointless. The magistrate is on his way, as is the father of Megara - his father in-law and the grandfather of his children - who happens to be king of Thebes. He rather dies by his own hand than by the hands of ordinary soldiers. He takes his sword and is ready to kill himself when Iphikles stops him. Theseus was in another room trying to talk to the children of Iphikles to find out from them what happened as they are eye witnesses. Iphikles knows to convince to go into exile and to let him be purified by another king, let’s say king Thespios. Than he can go to the Oracle of Apollon the Bright One and ask the Pythia how he can repent for his crimes.
Herakles lower his sword. He leaves the house, to never look back. He is going to king Thespios, a friend of Iphikles. He can purify Herakles so that he can visit Delphi. There are still questions to be asked concerning the death of 3 people, answers the Pythia surely can give them. He can still ask what truly happened that night, but deep down Herakles already knows what happened. Due to lack of sleep, he went insane and couldn’t separate fiction from reality when the hallucinations began. So he felt threatened by and subsequently killed the enemy soldiers who were really his own wife and kids whom he killed.
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valete optime

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