The Helm of Mythos by Daniel de Lacroix
This story is an anecdote, or recounting of the events, surrounding what the media called at the time, ‘The mystery of Joe Common’. What is about to follow is a summary based upon the notes from Joe Common’s black journal and other pieces of writing that he kept during his lifetime and especially details about his recent life up until the moment of his disappearance.
Mr. Joe Henry Common was as banal as his name. Worked as a dock worker in Vancouver, kept to himself and played a little bit of guitar in his spare time. Joe was the last person anybody would think that anything interesting would happen to. But somehow, as if destiny walked right up to him one day, the most unusual thing occurred to this most commonplace person.
It was a normal Monday complete with everyone’s indifferent attitude to the beginning of the work week. Mr. Common was busy unloading some cargo at the dockyard when he was approached by some representatives of the estate of the late Sir Arthur Schliemann. Mr. Schliemann was a renowned historian and archaeologist who had recently passed away and had no children of his own nor any close relatives alive except for Joe Common.
Now Joe had only heard of his name a few times growing up, and did not have any relations with Arthur. Actually, they never met, and he had no relationship with any of Arthur’s relatives who had also come to their deaths rather early in life. So, as it came to pass, the inheritance fell to him. Not only did he receive a considerable sum of money, but the late Mr. Schliemann also had a small estate in Greece that came as part of the inheritance.
As anyone would expect, Joe quit his job and packed his bags for Greece. The estate was located a few miles outside of the village of Paranesti in Northeastern Greece. When he arrived, he found the manor to be quaint, with a subtle beauty and serene quality emphasized by the way it was nestled between a rushing stream and the rugged mountains.
Inside the house, he found antique furniture and all other comforts of home. The late Mr. Schliemann kept a large and comprehensive library, with many old fossils that any book dealer would salivate at the mouth for. There were also lots of stacked boxes around the house with various articles that he would enjoy and find lots of time to investigate.
He decided to take a look down in the basement. This place was like a museum. Many of the items were part of Arthur’s most prized and personal collections. He had several armour stands that were decorated in various types of ancient regalia inside a large glass case. One of the sets of armour attracted his eye the most. In particular there was a very old helmet in surprisingly good condition, with only a few spots of weathering.
The label beside the armour read: Greek Thracian Bronze Helmet approx. 500-400 BC. There was a slight metal plume that ran along the middle of the helmet. It had flaps that went down to protect the sides of the face and ears, as well as a billed peak much like a baseball cap. The most distinctive feature was that it had a pair of golden wings on the sides of the helmet. A rare and wondrous item indeed.
As Joe described in his journal, his curiosity got the better of him, and he couldn’t help but pick up the bronze helmet to take a better look at it. He found the helm to be fairly heavy, and when he turned it over to look inside he found a strange note tied to a string. The note read as follows: Careful with the Helmet!
Joe, at first, thought it strange that Arthur would write a note to others to take extra care of the helmet. He even proceeded to inspect the other pieces of armour on all the stands, but no note was found inside any of them.
Perhaps that particular helmet was more valuable than the other pieces, and he should put it back right away on the armour stand, but for some reason he just couldn’t put it away yet. The feeling of the weathered bronze as it rolled along his gentle fingers seemed to give him a sense of familiarity, a sense of another place.
Whether it was natural temptation or amusement is not clear, but what is known is that Joe placed the helmet upon his head and looked into to the glass casing to see his reflection. He smiled and laughed in spite of himself, throwing up his arms as though he was some triumphant hero or great nobleman of antiquity.
He began to feel a sensation over his whole body that was warm and tingling. A minute later he began to feel dizzy and nauseous. He attempted to take off the helmet, but no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t remove it. The room began to spin around him and he felt his pulse rising and his body go completely numb. Like a whirlwind, and with a flash, he disappeared into thin air.
Now, this next part of the story may seem strange, oddly mysterious or just completely unbelievable, but according to his journal, Mr. Joe Common said that when he came back to consciousness he found himself in the middle of a field, and, after further travels, he discovered he was still in Northern Greece, but in a different time.
He continued to travel, meeting people along the way. Joe wrote of his observations and that at first he was obviously a bit scared and everything felt very strange and foreign to him, yet he didn’t seem to stand out in an odd way to the ancient Greeks. Everything he did appeared to be normal and the most curious thing of all was that he could understand their language and speak it back to them in the same accent. Speaking with various people, he found out that he was in the region of Thrace, which is the northeastern most area of Greece.
Mr. Common went on to say that he began travelling south to the city of Athens where he met a man by the name of Thucydides, an Athenian general who also wrote history. He apparently got into a discussion with the general, who went on to tell Joe about his views on politics throughout the lands of Greece. Thucydides believed that the relations between nations were based upon might rather than right. Joe agreed and, remembering for a moment the future, he thought to himself, not much has changed.
Thucydides continued saying he had an interest in developing an understanding of human nature to explain behaviour in times of crises such as plague, massacres and civil war. Though Joe didn’t agree with the general that man should depend solely on leadership to run the government, they both felt that often people will turn on one another during a crises due to the self-interest that permeates throughout society.
A short time later after meeting Thucydides, Joe returned to a room he had rented at a local inn. He sat on the bed and decided to take off his helmet. When he did so he began to experience the same nauseous feelings he had before in the basement of the Schliemann estate. The next thing he knew,he was once again in the present day, except that he was not inside the manor but knee deep in water in the large stream near the homestead.
It was later that he wrote in his black journal everything that happened to him and that he would never tell another soul because he knew no one would believe him. However, something urged him to keep a diary of all that had transpired.
The dilemma for him now was if he should put the helmet back on or not. Who knew where he would end up next? Would it be the same time and place as before? Or should he put the helmet back on the armour stand and forget anything ever happened.
But something made him feel homesick for ancient Greece. He felt alive there. He couldn’t help but feel a strong urge to plunge back into that strange world that felt more raw and real than the modern world into which he was born. So without another moment’s hesitation, he placed the bronze helmet upon his head and disappeared like smoke in the wind.
Mr. Common wrote that he ended back in ancient Greece, but this time it was several decades before his first teleportation, or at least that is what he called it. He arrived just outside the gates of Athens and, after a while of walking the streets, he came upon a pottery workshop owned by a man named Brygos. Joe said that he was ecstatic when he saw the painting work that Brygos had done on the vases in the shop. Not only did he paint vases, but he also made and painted many fine drinking cups and bowls.
The high quality and realistic depictions of the figures were so expressive and precise. Brygos had developed a name for himself as he was the only one at the time to create red-figures as opposed to the traditional black-figures of his day.
Soon after, Mr. Common wrote that he was so inspired by the vase painter and his work that he decided to purchase a lyre and learn how to play. He began to form a friendship with Brygos and other fellow artisans that hung around the shop, and people began calling him by the name of Orpheus. He went on to say that his skill with music improved considerably and soon developed a reputation throughout Athens and other Greek city-states as a great singer and musician.
Joe (or Orpheus) went on to say that the helmet didn’t always send him back and forth through time when he took it off or put it on, since it was somehow dependent upon his mood or desire to teleport. He could control it through his ‘will’, he said.
Mr. Common apparently returned to the present time to record these events and his thoughts. And these were the last entries in his black journal, which was left in the top drawer of his office desk. He also left a cryptic note on top of the desk that read: “I am off to join the Argonauts. They will need my inspiration for the adventure. I am going now and shall never return. Goodbye.” He even signed it with the name Orpheus.
After some time when it was obvious that Joe had stopped paying his bills or contacting his friends and surviving relatives, authorities went to the estate to find this peculiar note as well as his black journal. The authorities searched the estate and then greater Greece, but they couldn’t find any evidence of his whereabouts. It was as if he had just disappeared into thin air. Also, quite curiously, the authorities never found any writing from the late Arthur Schliemann regarding the helmet or how he acquired the object.
Everyone, not surprisingly, thought Mr. Common had gone completely crazy and perhaps was still out in the world somewhere. Or that something bad had happened to him and his body hadn’t been found yet.
However unlikely it is that these events occurred (and it is very possible Joe Common went insane), relatives, colleagues and members of the public couldn’t help but feel that maybe it was possible that some ancient artifact did possess the ability to teleport someone through time. And that maybe there was still much that the human mind could not comprehend or had yet to discover in this world.
About the Whistler Readers and Writers Festival:
The Whistler Readers and Writers Festival started in 2001. Each year the three-day event brings world-renowned authors to Whistler for workshops, panel discussions and readings. The intimacy of this festival with its focus on events for both readers and writers makes it unique. For more information visit: whistlerreadersandwritersfestival.com