Pan was bored. Bored with all the thousand nymphs of Arkady, bored with Arkady itself. For three millennia he had lived apart from mortal kind, but was at last ready to join them once again.
He knew he must change his appearance, which could frighten people. Using his divine powers, he transformed his lower body from it’s goat-like form into that of a mortal man. A well-endowed man, of course, but mortal. His short horns were hidden in his long, dark brown hair. He looked at himself in the sacred pool, smiled and vanished.
* * *
Aeneas Panetti was a straight-A student, a gifted musician and very popular with the young ladies at Pemberton College. As much as he was admired by the females at Pemberton, he was hated by the males. Even Tom Weathers, the star quarterback of of the Pemberton Panthers, had vowed to “get the little bastard” after Aeneas had stolen away Bev Hawley, his girl and head cheerleader. In fact, Weathers had begun organizing a group of athletes who had reason to want Aeneas out of the picture.
One late afternoon Weathers and two friends waited for Aeneas in the wooded campus commons he used to get to his dorm from music practice. They were confidently hidden in the tall rose-bushes on the side of the path as Aeneas entered the commons. When he was near his adversaries, they jumped out and surrounded him.
“Okay, lover boy,” he sneered, “We’re gonna teach you a lesson!”
“Very well,” Aeneas replied calmly, “But you should know you may have bitten off more than you can chew!”
Every time they tried to grab him, he moved away so quickly they couldn’t touch him.
“Stand still, dammit!” a frustrated Weathers exclaimed. When he tried to punch Aeneas again, the smaller man’s agility kept him from harm. The trio was astonished, and that’s when Aeneas attacked with precision kicks worthy of a Shaolin.
“What the hell?” Weathers yelped as he was sent reeling from the nimble feer of Aeneas.
“Ow, dammit!” yelled another of Weather’s men. First one, then the other ran off, leaving Weathers alone.
“Where the hell did you learn to fight like that?” yelped Weathers as he lay on the ground. It’s like getting kicked by a horse!”
“Or perhaps like a goat,” laughed Aeneas, “Get going or you’ll get more!”
Weathers got to his feet and left in rather a hurry, without another word. Aeneas continued his journey with a smile, whistling a very ancient tune.
It was whispered among the young ladies of the school that Aeneas was the campus Lothario and that even the faculty wives were not immune to his charms. In fact, the first year he was a student at Pemberton, it was rumored that Dean Evers’ divorce was the result of his wife’s affair with the untiring Aeneas, and possibly two others as well. One young thing left a suicide note after a brief affair with him.
Each semester, Aeneas was there for the arrival of new students, particularly the prettiest young women. He carefully watched the girls disembarking from taxis and family vehicles, and as usual, he chose the most beautiful to assist with her luggage.
“That’s a bit heavy for such a pretty thing as yourself,” Aeneas smiled at the most beautiful of the latest arrivals at Pemberton, “Let me carry your luggage.”
“No, thank you,” the young woman replied as she brushed past him. He quickly followed.
“But Miss, they seem awfully heavy for…”
“I said ‘no, thank you,” she said with a grimace, and continued toward her assigned dorm.
Aeneas was amazed at her rebuff and began to feel something very mortal. He ignored the other girls and walked slowly back to his own dorm. Once in his room, he looked at himself in the mirror.
“I’m still young and certainly handsome,” he boasted, “What just happened? This never occurred before!” Aeneas moved to his desk and sat down glumly.
As the weeks past, Aeneas tried to engage the new beauty in conversation. He found her in the campus cafeteria one morning before class.
“At least tell me your name,” he begged.
“You can call me Cypriana,” she finally replied.
“A beautiful name for a beautiful woman,” the persistent suitor exclaimed, “My name is Aeneas. Would you like to go to a movie with me this evening, Cypriana?”
“No, thank you,” she coldly replied, “I’ve heard of your reputation with other women here at Pemberton, Master Panetti.
“But don’t you believe that people can change?
“Not you,” countered Cypriana, “I think it would take a most unusual event to soften your heart.”
Aeneas left the cafeteria, dejected. “I’ve never felt this way before,” he murmured, “What’s happening to me?” He began to wonder, could it be love this time and not lust? Impossible, he concluded.
As time passed, Aeneas saw how practically all the other males on campus became infatuated with Cypriana. Not just students, but faculty members as well. Aeneas began to have feelings he’d never experienced before.
“What’s wrong with me?” he moaned, “I think I’ve fallen in love with her!” And he felt another new emotion – jealousy. Every time he saw another male talking to her, he began to seethe with anger. He stopped seeing other women entirely.
At last, after several weeks of sulking in his room, he decided to confront her one more time. The semester would soon end and he feared she might leave forever. He found her sitting on a bench in the campus commons and approached her.
“Cypriana, I must talk to you.” She started to get up. “Stay, please,” he begged, and she sat back down. Aeneas sat down beside her. Her nearness excited him and he could barely speak. “Dear lady, I’ve never felt about any woman before as I feel about you. I – I think I love you,” he declared.
“Do you truly love me, Master Panetti?” she asked.
“Yes, oh yes, beautiful one!”
“And would your heart break if I told you I don’t love you in the least?”
“W – what?”
“Would your heart break just like all the many, many female hearts you’ve broken here at Pemberton?
“Yes, but why…”
“You can never have me, you prideful puppy! Don’t you know who I am? My name isn’t Cypriana although I am sometimes called The Cyprian. No, you can never have me, but you shall always remember me with longing and a broken heart!”
“But – but…”
“Look at me, Master Panetti,” she demanded, standing up before him.
As Aeneas gazed upon her, she seemed to change before his eyes. Her beauty became almost blinding and at last he recognized her – she was no more a mortal than he – this was fabled Aphrodite herself, one of the powerful Olympians. Before her, he was nothing – almost as insignificant as a mortal man.
“I have come to teach you a lesson, Master Panetti, for you have had your way through your limited powers, with far too many women here. You have precipitated broken hearts, divorces and even a suicide – and that I could not abide. You shall be punished, Master Panetti. You will return to Arkady and your nymphs but you shall love me forever – a love that will never be returned, a longing that can never be satisfied. Do you understand?”
* * *
The valley and forests of Arkady rang with the songs of exotic birds, the humming of insects and the laughter of nymphs at play. The pipes of Pan were silenced. He sat upon a log, longing for the immortal Aphrodite, who he could never have. It was many centuries before he began to take an interest in the nymphs again and to play sensuous music on his pipes. But even then, her beauty haunted him.
Copyright (C) 2013 by John Bliven Morin