In the darkness Alan felt his naked body caressed by a warm breeze, its scent sweet and a little musky. His flesh was quickened by the gentle massage of the light wind and passion was awakened in his loins by the sensual pleasure of it. He thought of Houris' fingertips lightly stroking his body as he laid there in the darkness behind his eyelids, his sleep having taken him to the Moslem Paradise.
No. Not Houris. Nymphs. Sylvan nymphs with deep black eyes and thick hair as glossy as a raven's wing.
Not the Moslem Paradise.
Alan opened his eyes, seeing first the great burning white orb of the sun overhead, flinching, shielding his eyes and then looking about. It was a fertile place, so green and rich, scented with chlorophyll, damp loam and thousands of flowers and herbs in countless variety. Eleusis this had to be for the Christian Heaven was sure to be a sterile and cold place compared to this!
And no Moslem had built the marble temples he saw arranged about him so precisely, their great Doric columns confirming the builders to be not mere Roman imitators of the ancient Greeks, but genuine Greek architects and artisans.
Raised on one elbow, Alan looked about him and he saw that he was not alone. Here and there he saw children playing and warriors dallying with sweet ladies either draped lightly in shining white so sheer he could easily see the outlines of their perfect bodies beneath or utterly and unashamedly naked, as too were some of the warriors who fought no longer. Great muscular men, not with brutish hands and brows, but obviously men of high intellect and with hands though strong certainly endowed with grace and artistry. Alan saw not a single brute among them, and the children he noticed playing about the manicured gardens were as sweet and innocent looking as cherubs. Each one a beautiful Cupid.
Before she spoke, Alan was aware of the woman's approach from behind him although her footfalls on the sweet spring grass were lighter than the kiss of a butterfly.
"May I fetch you some wine, good sir? Perhaps some bread and cheese or some fruit?"
Her voice was as sweet as a flute softly played at sunset. In each word that she uttered Alan could almost hear tiny bells jingle. He turned to answer her and for a moment could not speak, so enthralled was he by the utter feminine beauty and charm that was hers. No mere woman, but a nymph was she. Soft, sweet and almost childlike, yet utterly woman, and that womanly beauty was so absolutely revealed by the diaphanous material that one might think was intended to conceal her nakedness.
"I have no need for coarse food as long as I may feast upon the beauty of your sapphire eyes and the sight of your rich auburn hair cascading over your ivory shoulders." It was an incredibly over romantic thing for him to say, Alan knew it even as he spoke, yet the words seemed to come to him naturally as he gazed upon the Eleusinian nymph. "And would that I could have but a taste of your sweet lips I would never again have need of such a crude refreshment as wine."
"But this," she said, indicating the pitcher she held, "is the very nectar of the gods."
"One kiss from you would be worth more than a gallon of that elixir."
"Then so be it."
And with that the ageless nymph lightly dropped to one knee, bent forward, and gently, briefly pressed the Cupid's bow of her moist, soft lips to his. Alan in that brief instant felt a greater satisfaction than after a full night of the greatest lovemaking he had ever experienced on Earth.
"I think, kind sir, that that one kiss may perhaps have only whet your appetite."
Her smile was not mocking, but certainly one of pleased amusement.
Alan showed bewilderment on his face until her eyes directed him to that which she noticed, oh so fleetingly and with great delicacy, and then he looked down not only to notice for the first time that he was indeed completely naked, but also that he was quite ready for very social intercourse.
"There is no shame here in Eleusis, good sir. This is a place where the natural is respected and embraced. It is not shunned and called evil, as I am told some regard nature and what is natural." The nymph gave a lovely little laugh and surprised Alan by touching him lightly, only for a moment, with the very tips of her soft, delicate fingers. "And I think you are quite handsomely...virile."
"I cannot," she said, almost sadly, anticipating his question. "There is someone here you must first speak to before..." she searched for just the right phrase and then continued, "before you can take your pleasure in Eleusis."
"And who is that? Certainly not Saint Peter!" Alan almost laughed at the unintentional pun. "I thought only in the Christian Heaven one needed permission from another before enjoying oneself."
"It's not that you need permission, sir. Here in Eleusis we only wish to be sure that you do indeed enjoy yourself and we know that what a newcomer thinks he wants is not necessarily what he truly wants most...or for that matter needs."
"So who must I speak with?"
"Although few suspect it," came a deep baritone voice from behind Alan, "it is I of whom the lady speaks."
Alan quickly rose to his feet, even more conscious of his nakedness now that he stood before a man. Or was he a god? He was massive, with wide shoulders and a muscular build, tanned a deep rich brown by years, perhaps centuries under the sun above.
"And you are...?"
"No one you might expect to meet in this place let alone to be a personage of some authority."
His smile and good humour were infectious. His lips below the thick woodland brown mustache and above the luxurious curling beard were full and sensual.
"Well then," Alan said with happy resignation, "what shall we talk about?"
The man (or god?) laughed. It was a hearty, deep sound that thrilled the heart in Alan's chest.
"Good for you! No protests. No whining. You have been told the rules of the game and you are willing to play like a true sportsman. Eleusis welcomes you, master Alan."
He thought briefly to ask how it was that his name not given was yet known, then he figured that if indeed this was the Eleusinian Fields it would have been a foolish question to ask.
"All right then," the great man said. "Speak quickly and without thought. Answer me with as little waste of words as is for you possible."
"I am ready."
There was a mischievous twinkle in the great man's earth brown eyes.
"Were you a great hero of Greece who would you be?"
"Fertile but maddening," Alan replied without thought, as instructed.
"What of Deineira then?"
"Wonderful but misguided. She would be the death of me."
"Half-sister and of divine parentage? Too upper class for me."
Again the twinkle, like a shiny silver star, shone in the great man's eyes.
Alan did not this time answer immediately. Hylas?
"Quick! Answer me, lad! What about Hylas?"
"Yes. Hylas. Sweet, devoted and rational."
"Lover and friend."
"Sensual pleasure personified. Hylas more than Megara or Deineira or even Hebe knows how best to please me and make me happy."
"So then," the great man said, "were you Heracles it would be Hylas that you would most wish to spend eternity with?"
"Is your question fair?"
"Quite fair, good sir. Quite fair."
"But if I had at first answered Achilles..." Alan began.
"Yet you did not. You answered Heracles, and obviously not entirely ignorant of these things you must have known deep down inside why you chose Hylas above the rest when you spoke."
Alan looked into the good humoured face of the great brown man before him and noticed for the first time something protruding from the thick curly hair on his head--two somethings to be more precise. Small rounded horns.
"You tricked me," Alan said with a smile. "And you are right. One would not expect Pan, the god of lust, to be a man of authority in Eleusis. Would you not be more at home in the Arcadian hills?"
"I do love Arcadia, young man, and roam there often, even to this day, but given the state of the Earth in this age I am often better off here in the Eleusinian Fields. And please do not be so unkind as to believe as so many ignorant souls do that lust and the pastures are all that I hold dominion over. Remember, man, that the name given to me means 'all' and 'everything'. There is much more to me than a throbbing phallus and a herd of goats!"
"I meant no dishonour to you, Lord Pan."
"None taken, young sir."
"But you are a trickster, and you did trick me," Alan insisted.
"A trickster I may be. Consider my sire! But trick you? I did not." Pan placed his great, strong hand lightly but firmly on Alan's shoulder and looked down into his green eyes with bemusement and compassion. "Gaze into your heart, son. A Megara or a Deineira, even a Hebe, you would dally with, but for a Hylas you would abandon your most golden quest. Is it not so?"
"Hylas? But Hylas is a..."
Alan awoke with the word on his lips but he did not even dare to whisper it alone as he was, in the dark.
Certainly Pan (or his subconscious?) had tricked him and the old goat had only been pulling his leg.
"That's what I get for reading all that Greek mythology when I was a kid," Alan muttered to himself in the dark, dismissing the dream which even Jung, not to mention Freud, would analyze to death if they could.