Hellenic Vacation

The Adventures of Phillip Part 1

I dozed lightly on the deck as I heard the boatman call that we were coming into dock. At last, a real vacation. Anything to get away from the farm, really. Let me tell you, the farm may be small, but the work is large. But a few weeks in sunny Heliopolis would definitely leave me refreshed. I enjoyed the heat of the sun, inhaling the cool, salty Mediterranean air as we pulled into the harbour. I do use the word harbour in the loosest sense though, because this rickety dock and smattering of huts couldn’t be mighty Heliopolis. I stepped onto the shore, eager to savour the pleasures of the city which no doubt lay just down the road, but instead of having the porters disembark my luggage, the boatman began to pull away. 

I called after him, but there was no getting him to turn back. The bastard. The gods would carry out my revenge. If there was one thing the Greek pantheon was good at, it was revenge. Despite having no luggage, I resolved to continue to the city on foot, picking my way through the small village, my nose wrinkling at the scent of woodsmoke and horseshit. There was no one around, not a soul to be seen, and then I heard a voice.

“Help! Help!”

Heading toward the commotion, I met a man standing beside a fence who, despite his continuous pleas, didn’t seem to be in any danger. “Please sir,” he said, “Help me. Satyrs are attacking my poor horses!”

“Satyrs. Really.” I couldn’t help myself. This wasn’t the age of heroes, where satyrs and nymphs wandered the earth. This was the golden age of Greece, where we celebrated science and reason, and had given up believing in childish things. Clearly he’d drunk a little too deeply of the brew of Dionysus. “Another time, perhaps. Can you tell me the way to the city?”

“Please! I’ll give you money, everything I have, just save my horses!” I could see he wasn’t going to let up, but the prospect of earning a few coins appealed to me. Things in Heliopolis were expensive, I’d heard, so a little more walking around money couldn’t hurt. It’d ease his mind as well, and maybe I could get some damn directions.

“Fine. I’ll go and rescue your horses, just make sure you’ve got that money ready.” I strode past him into the field, wondering if he might give me one to ride afterward. Riding would be much faster than–I stopped. There, in the field, harassing a horse, were two satyrs. Goat legs, horns, hairy chests and long, luxuriant hair, these creatures of myth were taking turns hitting it with clubs for no particular reason. I was struck dumb watching their cruel frolics, like two hornets harassing an ant. One of them spotted me in the tall grass and, grinning, began to run over, no doubt intending to play his game on my head. I wasn’t able to think straight until his first blow rang my ear. Mythical or not, something had to be done.

Drawing my dagger (I always keep one, ever since  my father and I got run out of a town when I was a boy) I thrust it into the satyr’s chest. It didn’t defend at all, but fought on as though it were nothing. On my third thrust, the light went out of its eyes, but there was no evidence of pain or fear, only mindless bloodlust. Was this what satyrs were really like? The question would have to wait, because his partner was advancing on me. A single blow to the throat put him down, the spray of blood staining my tunic. I had never killed anyone before, though…When I thought about it, I wasn’t sure I had yet. After all, satyrs aren’t really people, it seemed, just creatures, like oxen or sheep.

Pondering this question for philosophers, I made my way back to the man. “First, I’d like to apologize,” I said. “There actually were satyrs in your field. Now, about my money…”

“Of course, of course,” he replied, handing me a small bag of coins.

I hefted it and smiled. “Good man. Now, I’m off to Heliopolis, I assume it’s just up the road?”

“Heliopolis?” He looked confused.

“City of the sun? The gem of Egypt?”

“Heliopolis is very far from here. This is Helos.”

Helos. The ass end of Sparta, where even the Spartans don’t like to visit. Vacation officially ruined.

Jim Tigwell is a freelance writer currently pursuing his Master’s degree in philosophy at the University of Waterloo, specializing in philosophy of social media, games, and professional ethics. He is the creator of Concept Crucible, a blog focusing on applying philosophy to everyday life. You can find him on Twitter as @ConceptCrucible, or on Steam.






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