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Myths And Reality

By Aarya Jha

“It was a dark, stormy night.”

“Oh my god! Aashvi! Why do you have to start every story like that?” Zoi exclaimed from behind her cushion. Her long, hazel-brown hair was up in a messy bun and strands of hair fell on her face. “You know I hate horror!”

“Oh, come on Zo,” Aryan nudged her playfully. “Why to fear when you have me here?”

Zoi rolled her eyes as everyone laughed. She and Aryan had been dating for only five months, but since they had been friends first, it felt like they had been together for years.

Zoi, Aryan, Aashvi, Caspian, Makena and Eshaan had met at the university. Zoi and Caspian had been best friends from high school, though. They were all in marine courses – Marine Biology, Marine Engineering, Marine Sciences and Marine Ecology. The six became roommates and their friendship blossomed. Now they were inseparable.

“Anyway,” Makena said in her I-am-talking-everyone-better-shut-up tone. “What are we doing tomorrow?”

The six were in Laconia, Greece. Zoi had somehow convinced them to come here for their summer holidays. While the USA was amazing, nothing could beat home. “Hey, I was wondering…” She started.

The others turned to her, and she put down her cushion then continued, “We’re in Laconia, you know.”

Everyone but Eshaan looked confused. He grinned and his brown eyes glittered. He was handsome like that. “Pavlopetri!”

Everyone looked at each other and instantly knew. They were going exploring.

The weather was pleasant. Everyone had brought the prettiest summer attire and had bought some from Greek markets. The girls had all decided to wear crop tops today.

Zoi was dressed in a white ruffle-sleeve crop top with blue denim shorts and canvas sneakers. Makena had decided on a lavender crochet midriff top with a white circle skirt and beige sandals. Aashvi had on a cold-shoulder yellow top with blue denim and Vans.

The boys looked dashing as well. Aryan was wearing a green Levi’s T-shirt with white shorts and leather sneakers, Eshaan was sporting Louis Vuitton with canvas sneakers and Caspian decided, after careful deliberation, on a turquoise casual shirt together with white trousers and sneakers.

“We could probably go swimming at Pavlopetri. It’s open to visitors. Vatika bay is an hour away from our hotel, and it’s early, so you all want to have breakfast first?” Caspian asked, fixing his blond hair in front of a mirror in the boys’ room. Eshaan shoved him and started to set his black hair. Caspian swore at him and sat on his bed. “There are a ton of places we could go to- “

“No,” Zoi interrupted. “We’re going home.” She smiled. The other stared in confusion and she giggled. “My home.”

Aryan’s face lit up. “Let’s go,” he said eagerly. Everyone nodded and let Zoi lead the way. Half an hour later, the six were standing outside the Nikolaou residence.

Zoi’s parents were waiting and welcomed everyone warmly. Her mom had prepared traditional Greek dishes, and everyone dug in. After breakfast, they sat down with Zoi’s father to talk about their plans.

“Pavlopetri, huh?” Her father said thoughtfully. “Let me tell you something. Until recently, Pavlopetri was thought to be a myth, just like Schlonoia. “

“King Nikos’ kingdom?” Zoi asked. She turned to her friends to explain. “During the time of the Olympian Gods, there was a particular kingdom in Greece famous for its army. It was led by Generals Arsenio and Cletus. They were demigod children of Ares, God of war and Olympia, Goddess of law and order. Their king was a son of Lord Zeus, God of the sky and King of the Gods, called Nikos Scholonis. His kingdom was gaining too much power, which frightened Zeus and he destroyed Schlonoia with his lightning. His power was so strong that the land broke away from the Greece mainland and ultimately sunk. Pavlopetri’s story came much later, but since it was known by more people, Schlonoia was forgotten.”

Everyone was silent. Caspian broke the silence, “It’s a myth, though. Right?”

“Maybe not. If Pavlopetri is true, maybe Schlonoia is real too,” Makena interjected.

“We have a new adventure nonetheless,” Aryan clapped. “There may be something around the Pavlopetri ruins.”

Eshaan got up. “Let’s go then! What are we waiting for?”

The six reached Vatika Bay and changed into scuba gear. They jumped in from the boat and explored the sunken city. All that remained of the city were ruins of walls, buildings and tombs, but that did not faze its beauty. For explorers like the six, the submerged city was like treasure and motivated them to at least try to find any evidence of the existence of Schlonoia.

“This way,” Makena gestured in ASL, American Sign Language since they were underwater and couldn’t speak. The six had learnt it for various reasons – Aryan’s cousin and Makena’s brother were deaf and could only communicate this way, Aashvi and Zoi were overachievers and learning the language was an easy feat for them and Eshaan’s best friend was hard of hearing and conveyed her thoughts this way. Caspian had learnt it for his ex-boyfriend’s sister, and it was a big reminder for him, but he had tried his best to move on, and everyone respected him tremendously because of that.

“Are we allowed to wander off?” Aashvi motioned.

“Probably not. But no one’s paying attention to us right now. So, we should take this opportunity,” Aryan beckoned everyone away from the ruins.

The six swam amongst the little fishes and coral for a little while and then came across a seaweed patch. The plants were at least three feet tall and beautiful green with blue tints on them. Aashvi was holding Zoi’s hand because she wasn’t the best at swimming for a longer period when suddenly, her hand jerked, and she was pulled backwards. She struggled and this caught the other’s attention.

Zoi’s leg was caught in the seaweed, and she was being pulled in. She tried to swim away from the plant, but it was stronger than her and she fruitlessly struggled against it. All five rushed to her aid, but Aryan reached her first. He grasped one arm while Aashvi grabbed another and they both tried pulling Zoi away while Makena and Eshaan worked to get her leg out of the seaweed.

Caspian swam in front of Zoi and tried to calm her down. He had known her the longest, had helped her through countless panic attacks and was there when a psychologist diagnosed her Cleithrophobia.

He took her face in his hands and yes, she was having a panic attack. Zoi’s attacks were silent – she froze completely, experienced shortness of breath and her hands trembled. He snapped in front of her face to get her attention and signed: We’re okay. You’re okay. We’ll get through this. Deep breaths.

Slowly, she calmed down and the seaweed’s hold on her leg loosened. Aryan pulled her in and hugged her tight. He could feel her deep breaths and if they weren’t underwater, he would’ve kissed her right then.

“Let’s continue,” Caspian signed to everyone.

“These caves are so pretty!” Zoi whispered. It seemed the right thing to do. Gasping or shouting seemed like they would ruin the ambience of the caves.

The caves the six had emerged from the water in probably had a name, but none of them was aware of it. The walls were tinted aquamarine from the water’s reflection which made it look like gems were engraved on the walls. The six were standing on uneven ground with shallow water lapping at their feet. They sat down on jutting rocks to rest for a while.

“Are we sure the kingdom actually exists?” Eshaan stretched. “We’ve been underwater for thirty minutes.”

“It may not,” Zoi admitted. “But it’s still fun exploring.” Caspian looked at her. She looked fine now. That’s how Zoi was, one-second thrashing around, the next calm as undisturbed water. “Why don’t we go inside the cave?”

“I’m tired, and Aashvi looks exhausted. You four can go,” Makena said wearily.

The caves were dark, but the gem-like hues from the water’s reflection provided enough light for them to not get lost.

Aryan clasped Zoi’s hand as they explored the caves and Eshaan cringed to Caspian behind them. He tried his hardest to stifle his laughter.

“Come on, guys. You’re adults,” Zoi called out and the boys burst out into laughter. It echoed throughout the cave and shook the walls.

The four walked for a little while and then emerged into a huge room-like structure. It looked man-made. Tall pillars supported the ceiling and remains of stained glass lined the walls. Remnants of stone furniture were scattered everywhere.

Zoi tip-toed through the mess with wonder in her eyes. “Wow,” Eshaan murmured and walked behind her. The other two followed.

“Look, there’s writing here,” Caspian pointed to a broken slab of stone.

“Here too.”

“Maybe they’re all pieces of the same slab?” Zoi wondered.

The four scrambled to get stone pieces with words on them to put them together. It felt like a puzzle.

Η Σλόνια, το μεγαλύτερο βασίλειο της εποχής του, πέθανε εδώ.

Οι πολίτες του άφησαν την τελευταία τους πνοή στο όνομα της Σλονίας.

"Χαίρε, Σλόνια!" Φώναζαν καθώς τα σπίτια τους τυλίγονταν στις φλόγες.

“Slonia, the greatest kingdom of its time, died here.

Its citizens breathed their last in the name of Slonia.

"Hail, Slonia!" They shouted as their homes went up in flames,” Zoi translated.

“Slonia?” Eshaan asked.

“The word probably couldn’t be written properly, or the historians changed its name for glamourizing purposes. We’ll never know,” Zoi shrugged. “Anyway, this is more important. It proves that Schlonoia or Slonia wasn’t only a myth but reality, in some way or the other.”

“We should tell people about this, shouldn’t we?” Aryan asked.

“You know, if we do, they’ll probably storm this place and destroy its beauty in the name of exploring. Schlonoia can remain a secret, can’t it? The kingdom isn’t bothering anyone,” Caspian turned to Zoi. “It’s forgotten, right? Even Greeks barely have a remembrance of it now. Although the world may not know about this place, we will. And to be honest, what else matters?”

Zoi nodded slowly. Eshaan checked his watch and frantically said, “We gotta go. We can’t swim in the dark. We must go right now.”

Eshaan ran the way they’d come, and Caspian followed him. Before Zoi could take a step, Aryan pulled her in and kissed her.

“This way, you can remember this place with a smile on your face.”

Zoi scoffed and laughed as the lovebirds left the caves.

*A few years later*


“Yes, darling?”

“Please tell me a story. The one about the Greek city!”

“Okay. It started out when we were in university…”

By Aarya Jha

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