A female centaur gallops through the forest, notices my presence and stops. She looks in my direction and trots toward me. She takes a few more slow steps as she approaches me and stops. A little confused, she looks at me. I sit atop a part of a sculpture, in the remains of a ruin that once must have been a temple. I sit a bit lower and look up.
"Who are you," she asks?
"Karel," I answer.
She stands a few meters in front of me shamelessly, with no clothing to cover anything. A beautiful woman's body with long blond hair on top of a white horse's torso.
"What about you?"
"Carina, where are you from?"
"What are you looking for in the realm of mythology?"
"I'm looking for a Goddess."
"Don't you have Goddesses in that Western culture of yours?"
"No, we only have one God, and worse yet, it's an old man with a long beard."
There is a brief silence, her eyes gliding over me inquisitively, it must have been a long time since there have been any outside visitors.
"A Goddess, yes, a Goddess, we've got a lot of them. Are you looking for a particular one?"
"The Goddess of love."
“Yes, Aphrodite, do you know where I can find her?"
"Why are you looking for her?"
"Just to ask a bit of information about love."
"Aphrodite has different appearances and names. In addition, she also holds various positions. She is Goddess of love, Goddess of beauty and Goddess of fertility."
"Oh, I’m interested in all of those. If I can unlock her secrets, I can fantasize beauty, and my fantasy can grow into reality and be loved."
She passes me on the left and, looking around, steps into the ruins.
"This was her temple, where she was honored."
I jump straight from where I am sitting and walk with her into the ruins.
"Yeah, that much I knew. I came here hoping to find her, but look what's left of it."
"That's how all of mythology perished. Modern man is more interested in the Internet, his phone thing and games than in his deity. No one who knows where the Gods have gone."
"You mean I made the whole trip for nothing?"
"I'm afraid so."
She turns away from me, peddles around and looks deep into the forest.
"Come on, jump on my back, I'll take you to Cheiron."
A bit embarrassed, I point to a big block of ruin stone lying on the ground with the intention of getting her next to it. A fifty-year-old doesn't jump on a horse like a twenty-year-old. And that horse is half woman, too.
She gallops forth with me on her back, this is worse than the funfair. What do I hold onto? I grab her loin with both hands, but her long hair waves in my face. With one hand I try to free myself from that tickle when suddenly, she makes a rather sharp left turn and I am launched straight forward like a projectile. I violently smack to the ground. That was a hard blow and I need a moment to gather myself. She comes back, smiling triumphantly, bends over and reaches out her hand to me.
"Glad you managed to shake off a guy?"
"Apparently, you've never ridden a woman before?"
"I have, but not like this. Some reins would come in handy."
“I’m not one to be reined in by anyone."
"Right you are, neither am I."
I look for a suitable step and crawl on her back again. She binds her long hair into a ponytail and holds it in one hand at the front of her chest. She's trots slowly now, fortunately, as a walking pace is enough for me.
"Who is Cheiron?"
"An old wise centaur, lives as a hermit."
"With a long white beard?"
"Just like our God, back to square one I guess."
In the distance I can hear hoof-stepping rapidly approaching, turn to the direction where the sound is coming from and notice a unicorn trotting in our direction.
"Carina, Carina, you're running with a human on your back."
"Met him at the temple of Aphrodite, I'm taking him to Cheiron."
“This human seeks the secret of love."
"Will you go to that old hermit for that?"
"Cheiron is very wise, I'm sure he can help."
"I'm going with you, I'm interested in the secret of love too."
Like a tourist on horseback, I do site-seeing. Beautiful fairytale scenery, enchanted trees and mythological rock formations. A rather open landscape with a tree here and there, but the journey then proceeds through a forest. Centuries-old trees with shrubs, plants and beautiful flowers in between. Large flowers, small flowers, and they fill the air with a delicious smell as if the whole forest is a lady who has just spent hours getting herself ready. Carina and the unicorn only just fit side by side on the little road we're walking on. Suddenly, something flies by my nose. Investigating, I look around and to see what it was.
"A human, a human," I hear whispered from all sides. Zoom, zoom, all manner of things are flying around me but it's going so fast that I can't see what it is.
"You're a human," I hear to my left.
I turn my head. At the height of my shoulder, about a meter away, a very small female is floating in the air. Her almost transparent wings flutter so fast that she hovers in the air like a hummingbird
"Yes, what about you?"
"We're fairies," I hear to my right.
I spot a second, and a third, a fourth; I am surrounded by flying female creatures on all sides. Two fairies fly to my hat and I can feel them pulling it off by head by the brim. Quickly I press my hat against my head with my two hands.
"Girls, girls, I know you barely know of clothing, but that doesn’t mean I have to end up half-naked on horseback here."
"How did you as a human being end up here?"
"By fantasizing and dreaming a lot."
"How will you get back to human land?"
"When I put money before love, I’ll sucked right back."
Carina stops and I slip off her back. The fairies are very playful, one is on my shoulder, two on the edge of my hat and several are floating around me, Carina and the unicorn.
"So what are you doing in the realm of mythology?"
"I have come for the Goddess of love, I want to know her secret."
"Gods speak in riddles, that won’t get you anywhere."
"Is that so? Never met a God before, so I wouldn't know."
"You're too late for that now, the Gods have all been replaced by action heroes, idols and media figures."
Inquisitively I walk around in the elven forest. The trees are truly enchanted, it's like they're alive. Like little birds, fairies flutter around everywhere. On a thick branch, just above me, a few fairies frivolously trickle along in the direction I'm going. At the end of each branch, they jump into the air and flutter to the next branch. Some fairies ride on the back of the centaur and the unicorn. Clearly, they're not used to having a human visit them.
"May we come with you to Cheiron?"
"Yes, of course, I love your company."
I want to get back on Carina's back and look for a suitable spot. The fairies giggling from all sides embarrass me. Can't help it, girls. That horse lady’s back is as high as my shoulders. A tree bends a thick branch next to Carina, invitingly waiting for me to step on it. Carefully I step onto the branch, while holding one of Carina's shoulders with one hand. The branch slowly lifts me up and I crawl on her back. With flying fairies around us, one on my shoulder and one on my hat, we continue our journey.
The last part of our journey is quite a bit uphill. The cave in which Cheiron lives is situated on a higher plateau. There are no more trees, just a few shrubs, grass and flowers. The whole valley we came from stretches behind us as we climb higher and higher. At the entrance of the cave he is already waiting for us but looks very stern.
"Carina, you know I'm very attached to my solitary life. Why do you bring this human to me?"
"Grandfather, this human needs your wise counsel. He seeks the secret of love."
The fairies have landed and are sitting on the back of the unicorn or in various spots on me and Carina. Cheiron really does look very old. His white beard is so long that it hangs down to the ground. With a slightly threatening posture, he steps around our group. I let myself down on the ground, sitting on his granddaughter's back like this doesn't feel very respectful. Despite his advanced age, he is still a head taller than Carina and now stands in front of me.
"Once you've unlocked the secret of love, what are you going to do with it?"
"Then I'll go home and tell everyone."
"That's very stupid of you."
He turns away, turns his ponytail toward me and stares into the distance.
Stupid of me? Why is that stupid of me? So many people long for love! Once I have discovered the secret, I want to shout it from the rooftops. Am I missing something here?
He turns around and talks to me again.
"Mankind is not interested in love. No newspaper is sold unless it's full of misery. No movie is successful unless it has blood, intrigue or infidelity. People think they can do without war, but they strive for drama and need to be in conflict with someone else. They must be able to win, be right and satisfy their ego. They let themselves live through the eyes and beliefs of others. If you speak about love, you will become yet another cult leader or guru with a multitude of followers who idolize you, while the rest of the world will crucify you. Love is within everyone's reach, and if you sincerely long for love it will reveal itself to you. So many have gone before you - do as they did, remain silent and take it to your grave."