Theresa Wang

A Socratic Solution

"Do you mean to tell me that if I agree to meet you at the sunken gardens tomorrow night then I am guaranteed an "A" in my freshmen seminar?" I asked incredulously.

"Weh, weh," cackled the gnarled old man.

"What do you mean, ‘Weh’?"

"I thought you spoke French," the old man said, looking down at an old and faded scroll which appeared to have been penned in some sort of red ink.

"Oh," I said, sudden realization dawning, "I do. Are you perhaps trying to say ‘oui’?"

"Yes, that’s it…weh, weh," replied the old man.

"I don’t know," I faltered, "Somehow this seems to go against the honor code somewhat…I mean, even though the professor is a bit of a slave driver, I don’t know if I’d feel right using this method to get around all those thousands of papers and projects he expects us to do in such an impossibly short amount of time."

"Weh, weh, I see what you’re saying. But I do feel obligated to warn you that an opportunity like this only comes along once in a lifetime."

"Well, even though this goes against all my instincts, I could really use that "A"…I’ll do it!"

"Alright then. On the stroke of 1600 BCE meet me at the Sunken Gardens."

"Wait, what do you mean 1600 BCE?"

"Oh, my mistake. I meant 1600 hours. No, actually, I meant 400 hours."

"Ok, then, I guess I’ll see you then, Mr…" But, he’d somehow left before I’d even gotten my question out.

Well, as you can imagine, I was a bit nervous about violating the sacred honor code of my beloved college. But, as they say, "All’s fair in Greek and Roman Private Life." At least this meant that I wouldn’t have to type that dastardly story for the class. Really, you’d think that that was our only class from the amount of work the professor assigns! Well, enough of that, I said to myself, as I hurried back to my dorm to write yet another paper for yet another class.


"Oh gosh darn it!" I exclaimed as I glanced down at my watch. I’d completely forgotten about my 4 a.m. rendezvous because of all the fun I’d been having at the sigma sigma sigma party. Well, if I didn’t bother to change, I would be able to make it on time. So, bidding my friends a hasty adieu, I took off for the Sunken Gardens.

The moon was my only guide as all the lights on campus had somehow been extinguished. I managed to make it to the Sunken Gardens in record time, but when I arrived, breathless and flushed, the old man was nowhere in sight.

"Drat and zut!" Had I gone through all that trouble for nothing?

"Now, is there any need for that kind of language?" A voice slithered from the darkness.

"Eek!" I shrieked, stepping back in surprise, "You frightened me."

"Oh, so sorry, I only thought, well, you know, this being the mysterious rendezvous it is and all…I thought I’d set the mood with a little bit of drama. I am rather inexperienced at this sort of thing," said the old man in a chastened tone as he stepped out from the shadows.

"Oh," I said quickly, "it was very well done. I’m not usually this jittery, but what with the midterm paper and all, I’ve been a bit stressed lately."

"Perfectly understandable," said the old man, "but that will all be over soon."

As I watched, his twisted and shriveled hand snuck out from the draped sleeve of his cloak and pointed at a spot beyond my line of vision. Suddenly, bright flashes of light shot out from his extended index finger, jumping out into the darkness and blinding me momentarily. Gusts of wind swept over me, swirling and twirling in riotous ecstasy. It was over as suddenly as it had begun, but when I regained my vision, I was no longer standing in the Sunken Gardens, and the old man was no longer by my side.

I took in my surroundings with a mixture of apprehension and curiosity. For one thing, it was no longer nighttime. In fact, it looked more like it was about 4 p.m. in the afternoon. The Sunken Gardens had been replaced by groves of olive trees and what looked to be a temple, or, no, wait! It was the Corinth Oracle! What?!! The Corinth Oracle?!! That would mean that…NOOOOOO! I’m actually doing the assignment for my freshman seminar. (Note: The editor will be severely punished for not catching the Freudian slip in that last sentence. The author would like to replace that last sentence with the following.) Time travel was possible and I had managed to travel back to ancient Greece! It’s a good thing that that frat party actually required Greek dress, I thought as I glanced down at my chic white Doric chiton. As I did so, I noticed an ant crawling onto my appropriately Greek-looking sandals. With a swift movement, I killed it.

"Ah!!" cried a man who had appeared suddenly at my side, "That ant was housing the soul of my poor father! You’ve just killed him."

With that startling comment, the Greek ran off into a nearby group of olive trees. I had forgotten that the Greeks believed that the soul was reincarnated in a new body and reborn on earth. I was so busy dwelling on this idea that it had not occurred to me that I had actually been able to understand the man. Whatever had enabled me to travel through time had also endowed me with the ability to understand Greek! Amazing, I thought to myself. If only learning all languages were this easy. Since I was able to understand Greek, I decided to take advantage of my situation and explore the oracle. The only problem was the Greeks’ attitude toward women being outside the home. I wracked my mind for some way to establish my bona fides. In a moment of brilliance I came up with an idea; I could pick some olives and pretend to be selling them as a girl from a poor family. Those coming to the oracles always wanted something to offer to the gods. This ruse served my purpose quite well as I was able to observe the comings and goings of the oracle. Most people seemed pleased with the results of the oracle.

I would have been happy to spend the rest of the day in this manner but I was getting a bit tired. I decided that it would be a good idea to attempt to sneak inside the oracle to get some rest (the narrator has requested that this hare-brained scheme be attributed to heat stroke or exhaustion). Well, with stealthy steps, I snuck in while one man was asking the oracle a question. I explored the oracle with the lightest tread, looking for a likely place to take a nap. Alas! There appeared to be none in sight. After a long while, I was almost ready to give up. I sank to the ground and leaned back against the wall, thinking to take a short break before resuming my explorations. However, as I leaned back, the wall began to give away. Before I could regain my balance, I found myself falling headlong into a dark abyss, otherwise known as the tunnel which connected to the basement of the oracle. I landed with a soft thud and wisely decided to take a few moments to allow my eyes to adjust to the darkness. As my breathing slowed, I became aware of an echoey voice somewhere inside this chamber. Finally, my eyes became accustomed to the darkness and I could just barely see a figure crouched directly under the spot where the altar would be. With sudden clarity, I realized that the crouched figure was a priest, and he was talking into a tube which connected to the altar room. These people were cheating! There was some sort of vent under the altar, which enabled the priests to hear the people’s questions, and they, in turn, could speak through the tube and pretend to be the gods giving an answer to the people. If only the William and Mary honor code enforcers were here right now, I fumed silently. Then, as I reflected on the events of my day, I realized how hypocritical it was of me to condemn others for violating the honor code when I had been quite willing to do so. In a fit of misguided courage, I leapt up from where I had been sitting and ran over to where the priest was crouched. With a quick judo chop, I knocked him unconscious and took over control of the talking tube.

"I am the goddess Athena and I condemn all oracles as being frauds. They are not the voice of the gods and are only here to trick you mortals."

I heard a loud gasp from above.

"Yes, that’s right. Your ears are not deceiving you. Spread my message throughout the lands. Let no Greek ever put his or her trust in an oracle. That is all. You may go."

The sound of scurrying feet followed my proclamation. I sat back with a sigh of satisfaction. Now, I felt that I had somewhat redeemed myself for violating the honor code. Just as I was enthusiastically patting myself on the back, my vision blurred and my eyelids began to close without my volition. Again, there was the sensation of wind rushing past me, and then it all faded to nothingness.


"Wake up! Wake up!"

"What?" I muttered drowsily, "Is it already time for class?"

"Actually," replied my professor, " the class is just about to end."

At his response, I sprang to attention. I glanced about sheepishly at my classmates who were all staring at me.

"Well, now that we have everyone’s attention (distinctly angry glance in my direction), the assignment for Monday will be to write a paper on oracles in ancient Greece."

"Oh my gosh!" I exclaimed, "I just had a dream about that!"

"I have no doubt you did," said my professor dryly.

"But no, really, I did," I protested weakly. Accepting defeat under the glare of my professor, I filed out of the room along with the rest of my classmates. As I was leaving the building, someone jostled my arm causing all my books to spill onto the sidewalk. I bent down quickly to gather them. Then, I stood up and turned to walk back to my dorm. Before I had taken many steps, I felt someone tapping on my shoulder. When I turned around, there was no one there. But, on the ground in front of me was a book which had a picture of the old man from my dream on the cover. The title of the book was The Biography of Socrates.