But, the men in the dim light were not amused. Nor bemused, either! They said I had been seen, pausing in the agora, to hear that ancient, bearded man, that Socrates, sowing his sedition! They wanted to know what I had heard.
I said I'd only paused a moment. I'd other matters on my mind, wanted to get back to my own home. I was not aware that Athens had restricted travel!
And then, I swear it is hard to say it--two of them grabbed me and the other felt me up--put his hands all over me! What were they looking for? I demanded. Then, I pleaded, Did they know who I was? That I was Thebes' own queen?
They laughed. Horrible, Hadean laughter! They said they knew more about me than I did! It would come out in time! And they winked at one another. And, evil flashed in their dark eyes.
"What had I heard the old fool say?" they asked. "Who?" This Socrates! I asked them to unhand me and I'd tell them. They twisted my arm behind me. "I am not a young woman," I cried. "Have you no mothers of your own?" They laughed again and twisted harder.
I told them what I could remember--eked it out against the pain: I could not so much remember what as how he said it. I'd never heard Greek spoken so well--precisely. One argument succeeding perfectly upon the other and leading to another even more refined. It was something about the need to keep the channels open. Not to be afraid to speak one's mind, to see where thought might flow. It was something about not censoring oneself because of fear of who was listening. Something about the need to be fearless in the face of tyranny. Not to be a fool and provoke trouble; but to stand one's ground and use one's mind with subtlety. It was a kind of music how he said it!
They let me go then. They said I'd best be quiet if I knew what was good for me! They said they knew things about me--things I didn't know--that would disgrace me and destroy my kingdom. They said I'd better watch myself--even what I thought!
They laughed their evil laugh again, and let me wander down dim corridors, alone.
3. A Persian speaks
Of course I told them everything! You would, too.
They were roasting me alive! I smelled my burning flesh! I heard the sizzling sound! I vomited. They smeared my vomit in my face and laughed.
I did not know this "Socrates." I'd never heard of him! What was I doing in their holy city? Persian "scum" like me?
I told them again: I was a poor man in my village. A sheep-herder. One day, marauders fell upon me, sold me into slavery. I'd escaped. I'd wandered, stowed away on a boat. Found myself in Athens.
How did I know Greek, they wondered? How had I survived?
I confessed: a prostitute had taken pity on me.
Who was she?