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  • Writer's pictureHugo Earnshaw-Saran


Updated: Mar 21, 2022

8 PM, November 4th, 2029

My birchwood mailbox creaked open, and I was surprised to see a black mysterious letter, wrapped in a red bow. I carefully untied the ribbon and opened the envelope.

There, I found a gleaming white letter inside, written in cursive with silver ink. It was in English with a Greek translation below. It read:

Dear Dr Henry,

We have heard special, intellectual things about you. For your sake of scientific likings, we would strongly advise you to join our special facility located in Athens, Greece.

We have prepared an intriguing proposition just for you. Please find us at DaVinci Gelato (Plaka Selllei 4, Athina 105 58.) Ask for Ionia.

We shall be expecting you,


I took my phone out of my pocket and booked myself on the next flight to Athens. Well, wouldn’t you?


Thirty-six hours later, I found myself standing in front of the DaVinci Gelato in Athens. Bright sunlight lit up the empty, narrow street. I hadn’t eaten any breakfast and was feeling hungry, so I went into the gelato store to have something to eat. As I finished eating a giant scoop of green tea ice cream, I asked a waiter wiping the table next to me for Ionia.

“Ionia is not here,” the waiter said without looking up. I glanced at my watch. I had been travelling for over a day, without an ounce of sleep. My patience was running low.

“My name is Henry Phillipoussis and I am looking for I-O-N-I-A!”

“Oh, do you have anything to show me?” he asked quietly.

I pulled out my business card, showed it to him, and he nodded.

“Please, follow me.”

He led me to a giant freezer in the back of the store and opened it to reveal a painting.

I gasped in awe and my jaw dropped. “The Mona Lisa?!”

“It’s just a copy,” the waiter said with a shrug. “Spin it anti-clockwise.”

I did as he said, and it opened to reveal a dark, metallic passageway. He gestured for me to go first. I looked into the darkness and then back at the waiter - but he had vanished. I cautiously walked down the creaky stairs. Motion sensor lights guided me down to a huge laboratory. Given the direction that we were going, it must have been under the Cave of Acropolis.

“Ah, Dr Henry, we have been expecting you,” a deep voice boomed.

I was shocked to see a centaur emerge out of the shadows. He was tall with thick hair like black ink that flowed into the air. From the waist up, he was a human in a lab coat; from the waist down he was a black horse with glistening metallic hooves.

“My name is Cecrops. I am the Chief Scientist of this laboratory. You are Dr Henry Philippoussis, aren’t you?”

My mind exploded like a nuclear bomb at seeing the centaur; how could this be true? Was I dreaming? How could this happen? For years, I thought my studies were to help others understand the schools of thought in ancient Greece… a way to understand the wisdom and courage of the mythological ancient Greeks and Gods. But seeing one of these mythical creatures in the flesh made me wonder if this meant that they were not myths. Could this mean that Poseidon, Zeus, Hades, Athena, Aphrodite, Apollo, Artemis were all REAL?!

Questions for Cecrops were racing to the tip of my tongue. My questions got there all at once, but my mouth was blocked by amazement. I went to open my mouth but nothing came out.

“Hello, anybody in that big, busy brain of yours? Yes, Henry. We are real. Would you like to feel my mane? Dr Henry Phillippoussis?” Cecrops waved in front of my face.

“Yes, that’s my... full name,” I stammered. I decided to pass on petting his mane as I wasn’t sure I would be able to keep it together.

“We have no time to waste. I assume your presence here means you’re willing to accept this mission,” the centaur said. “Is that correct?”

“Uh…” I was trying to work out what was going on, when all of a sudden I started feeling hands grabbing and holding me.

“Don’t worry, this won’t hurt a bit,” the centaur said softly as he puffed some gas into the air and everything went dark.


I woke up. The sound of the air conditioning buzzed and hummed in the background, which made me feel pretty relaxed considering I had just been ambushed and knocked out by someone who was half man, half horse. Everything around me seemed to be coated in a blindingly bright silver. As my eyes adjusted I realised I was still in the lab. What is this place for and who are these scientists? I wondered.

The centaur, Cecrops, and a few people in white lab coats were eyeing me curiously. What are they looking at? I wondered. I felt my blood pumping faster than usual. I clenched my fists and felt power surging through my fingers. Cecrops came closer and inspected my arm. I glanced down at it.

Why was I so… muscular?

“The experiment worked!” he announced. “It’s time.”

“Hang on a minute here,” I interrupted, finally finding my voice, “What experiment? What’s going on?”

“We pumped up your muscles using Strengthener 509. Have you heard of it, Dr Henry?”

“I’ve heard rumours about it, but I’ve never seen it. Doesn’t it give you…”

“...Super strength and stamina?” Cecrops finished my sentence. “Yes. Yes it does. Now, are you ready to get to work and save Ladon?”


Cecrops pulled a controller out of his pocket and clicked a red button. Holographic images appeared in front of us.

“As you know, humans have been destroying the world by causing global warming,” he started saying. “Not only is it affecting nature and humans, it is also affecting mythical creatures. Do you know who Ladon is?”

“He’s a reptilian beast with one hundred heads that are wrapped around the Hesperides tree,” I replied, remembering my Greek studies. “He protects the tree from any strangers that try to steal the golden apples. But that’s in mythology...are you saying that Ladon actually exists?”

Cecrops looked me straight in the eye.

“He exists. They all exist. And it is up to us to decide their fate.”

I remembered walking past the Parthenon that morning and thinking that I had seen the Cretan Bull. Maybe I hadn’t imagined it after all. If these creatures were real, then I guess I had to be ready to do whatever it took to save them. I had read and studied ancient Greek mythology for most of my life, and now that I knew these amazing stories and creatures were real, I couldn’t imagine letting any harm come to them.

“See this?” Cecrops said, pointing at a 3D image of a giant tree. “That’s the Hesperides Tree. The tree remains strong...but at the expense of all life around it. Including its protector, Ladon. We need you to go and retrieve the dragon and bring him back so we can heal him.”

“Why are you putting all of this on my shoulders?” I said, slamming my hand on the table in frustration. It instantly snapped in two, and I realised that I needed to get my new super strength under control as soon as possible, and definitely before I went to visit my parents. Christmas would have a very different vibe if I kept smashing furniture by accident.

“Why didn’t you use the Strengthener 509 on yourself?”

Cecrops raised an eyebrow. “Use it on myself?” he said quietly. He laughed softly. “Why would I do that?” His face turned more serious. “I mean...I’m giving you, a human, the opportunity to have superior strength. It wouldn’t be fitting for me as Chief Scientist here to take those opportunities for myself.”

He watched me carefully for my reaction. What he said made sense to me, but he was definitely acting a little weird. I clicked a pen I was holding and it shattered.

“Ok, tell me the plan.”


Seeing the Hesperides Tree for the first time took my breath away. It glowed with a life force that words - including mine - could never properly describe. It was big - I mean, really big and imposing, but also warm and magical. The golden apples looked juicy and delicious, like they were straight out of a fairy tale. And I love apples. My tummy rumbled. I was tempted to go and knock one off the tree, but I wasn’t about to sacrifice myself just to try what would probably be the most delicious apple in the history of humanity.

I shifted my eyes to a tree close by. Golden particles were floating from it towards the Tree of the Hesperides. It was almost as if the Hesperides Tree itself was magnetic; attracting life and energy through its roots and branches. The smaller tree was slowly decaying, its branches becoming limp and depressed. And it wasn’t just this tree - it was all the trees surrounding the Hesperides Tree. I could see golden energy flowing through its roots as it pulled life out of its neighbours to grow more golden apples. Does that make them even more juicy? I wondered. I really had to stop listening to my stomach.

I was crouching in a spiky bush, about fifteen metres away from the Hesperides Tree, waiting for Ladon to fall asleep. He was enormous. Each one of his heads must have been ten or fifteen times the size of me. I was pretty sure I could handle him after being powered up by the Strengthener 509, but I wanted to wait for him to fall asleep, just to be on the safe side.

I could tell Ladon was sick. Ladon was usually black, but in Cecrops’s research it showed that if he got sick, he would turn green. Sure enough, his scales had a green glimmer. Almost all of his heads looked like they had shrunk and gone limp like the branches on the decaying trees around him. I felt a little bad for him, even though he had devoured a lot of human flesh over the few thousand years he had been alive. After all, he was just doing his job guarding the Tree and its golden apples.

It was my third hour in the bush, and I was not in my comfort zone. My foot fell asleep. I tried to shake it to stop the pins and needles, which is not an easy thing to do when you’re crouching inside a spiky bush, trying to avoid detection by an angry, legendary dragon.

Thankfully, Ladon was finally falling asleep, so I could make my move. I crept out of the bush and tiptoed towards him. I moved silently across the short grass like a panther sneaking up on its prey, careful not to step on dry leaves or trip over a stray twig. As I got closer to the tree it hummed like a singing bowl from far away.

Once I was close enough, I pulled out the tranquilizer dart gun that Cecrops had handed me right before I left the lab. I took aim at one of Ladon’s many necks, my heart beating faster by the second. I pulled the trigger and saw the dart flying towards its target. He flinched, and one of his heads dropped down. His breathing became slower and heavier.

It wasn’t until he started snoring that I was sure he was truly knocked out. I grabbed one of his legs and, using my new super strength, I pulled him completely off the tree and started to lug him towards an open space. Even with my Heracles-like strength, it was still difficult to move him. I hoped it wouldn’t be a Sisyphean task.

Once it was done, I called the lab. “I’m done with my mission. We’re ready for pickup.” Moments later, we were zooming back towards the Da Vinci Gelato.


Ladon was in the centre of the lab, still asleep and encased in a large containment vessel. The scientists had attached tubes all over him that were connected to the Heal-O-Graph 970, which was a special piece of technology that heals the wounded. Cecrops told me that it was developed by DaVinci - as in Leonardo DaVinci, not the gelato!

“Why do you think we named it the DaVinci Gelato store?” Cecrops said with a smile.

Its monitor showed Ladon’s heart rate and oxygen levels were normal. “The Heal-O-Graph was made to give a special mixture that contains adrenaline to mythical monsters with health issues,” Cecrops said as he observed the peaks and troughs that the green line on the screen was drawing.

“Aren’t there risks associated with giving too much adrenaline to such powerful creatures?” I asked.

Cecrops smirked and turned away. “We have ways of keeping that under control.”

That didn’t exactly answer my question. “Has this been tested on other-” I started to ask, when suddenly we all turned to look at the containment vessel. We had all estimated the healing process would take twenty to ninety minutes. We were only twenty minutes in when Ladon woke up.

Crunch! Pzzz… “He’s starting to make cracks in the glass!” one of the scientists shouted.

Everybody turned to look at me.

“Why are you all looking at me?!” I exclaimed.

“Well you’re the one who got strengthened by the Strengthener 509!” one of the scientists cried, pointing at me as he began to run away from the Ladon’s cage.

“Hey, I’m still adjusting to my new super strength!” I said, defensively.

The examination vessel and the monitors on the Heal-O-Graph 970 exploded, sending angular glass fragments all across the lab. Everyone dropped to the ground, covering their heads. Shattered glass was all around us.

Ladon stood up and roared with every single one of his hundred heads. The deep thunderous sound of his roars burned through the lab, and into my skull. “Oh no,” I mumbled to myself, “What are we going to do?!”

“Aren’t you the scientist with the most experience after Cecrops?” Another scientist asked in fear. “Doesn’t Ladon have some sort of weakness?! I thought you were a Greek mythology expert!”

“Well what will you do about it, Cecrops? This only started because of you!” I asked loudly. There was no answer; the only sound was of Ladon sniffing.

“Cecrops? Cecrops!” Where was he? I looked around the lab and saw nothing but scientists under the rusty remains of the lab. CRUNCH! The ceiling was cracking; a giant hole revealed gleaming sunlight.

I heard wings unfolding and flapping.

Ladon was escaping!


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