The busy port town confused Xenophon. He barely made it to the docks in time, but he saw that the old man was still on dry land. He slipped closer, pushing through slaves and citizens alike. Five phroureo, city guards, nervously herded the old man onto the ship. He did not appear to need so many guards. He did not appear to need any guards.
The old man wore a filthy toga. His feet were bare and blackened with dirt and red clay. His beard was long and untrimmed and, like his hair, was too dirty to be called white any longer. Even from several meters away Xenophon could see the gleam of madness in his once shrewd eyes. The only bit of pomp about him sparkled around his neck. It was a glowing, cloudy crystal of unusual angles that made up a trapezohedron, of sorts, though it was difficult to count the sides. There were an additional five phroureo on the ship; it seemed strange that the frail old man would warrant such precautions.
He did, Xenophon knew now: Socrates must die.
The guards greeted Xenophon as he came aboard the sturdy trading ship named the Conium. The ship was loaded with books, papers, and pamphlets. Every copy of everything Socrates had ever written. It was an impressive collection; a pity that it all had to be destroyed.
The island had no name, not that any still living knew. It was an ancient place of sepulchers and mausoleums, long uninhabited and an ode to another time. The buildings were strangely shaped and reminded Xenophon of the stone around Socrates’ neck. They shared its lack of angles.
They walked through the abandoned city, the phroureo ringing Socrates and alert for any danger. Their footsteps intruded upon the silent streets, until they reached a large temple.
The trial of Socrates was to begin.
Xenophon stood before the assembled group, on a dais of sorts in an enormously large chamber. Socrates sat on the floor, his leathery fingers playing with the stone around his neck. A snail of drool slipped from his open mouth. The three sailors and Xenophon sat on stone slabs that were heavy with cold.
“Socrates, you deserve death for you crimes. But your deeds grow far fouler,” Xenephon said, following the script he’d been given. “In the war against Sparta, you unleashed He Who is Not to Be Named. One man in four lay dead, including Pericles himself, after The Tongueless Void strode through our city. At the time, we blamed your pupils Critias and Alcibiades; they were put to death. We now know otherwise. ”
Socrates looked up. His eyes flickered wildly and his voice was distracted. “I will obey the god rather than you,” he said.
It was suddenly very quiet. The sound of the sea filled the room, crashing to the shore with the rhythm of a heartbeat.
Xenophon looked at the guards. They looked as uneasy as he felt. “Recently, we discovered an ancient tome in your possession detailing matters too horrible to speak of,” he continued. “You not only refuse to acknowledge our gods but seek to introduce new, terrible replacements–”
Socrates started laughing and stood up. He suddenly didn’t seem so old, so frail. “New gods? New gods? These beings are older than Greece, older than Olympus, older than Time itself. New gods? You are the only guilty of worshiping new gods.”
“As I say, you admit to the guilt yourself,” interjected Xenophon. His voice was shaky and he had grown pale. The tension in the room was at pre-storm levels. “You are sentenced to death.”
Socrates laughed again. “You have doomed me to death? Is that what you think? We are all of us doomed to die. All of us.”
Something wet splashed at Xenophon’s leg. He looked down, uncomprehending, at the vast stretch of steel-cold sea water filling the room. There was something wrong with the murky liquid; it was dark and oily and frigid beyond description.
What happened next, Xenophon did not know; he panicked and splashed out of the temple, no longer interested in the madman’s trial. He stopped at the entrance to the temple, stunned and shaking. His mind refused to accept the hideous reality before him. The stars were bright in the day sky, shifting as if they were the plaything of some cosmic being.
The entire island was sinking. Buildings crumbled or sank sideways into the sea. The air reverberated with a musical tone that rung heavily in his ears. Strands of whip-like darkness writhed through the churning water like ethereal tentacles.
Xenophon was shoved in the back as the guards pushed past him. They jumped into the greasy, broiling water and swam towards the ship, but Xenophon knew better. Their fate had been written the moment they’d stepped foot on the island. This, he thought, this is uncaring mayhem on a scale meant for the stars.
The water was up to his shoulders now. His body was numb and dying, but it was his mind that truly suffered as a repugnance, so great and so vast, crawled jaggedly from the temple and spread over the island. Xenophon felt something in his mind snap. Bizarrely, he thought of the books still on the ship. Who would know of Socrates and his great menace without the repugnant record of his writing? Then the cold sea water reached his neck and drove all such thoughts away. Doomed, he thought. We were all doomed when we set foot on this island. No, when we arrested Socrates. No, not that either. We were doomed the moment we were born into this cold, uncaring world.
After consuming the Greeks, the horrible isle R’lyeh and its horrible creature sank horribly back into the sea. It was not seen again for many generations. Left only with the works of Socrates’ pupil Plato, the wicked prophet received an undeserved reputation of greatness. The puzzled Athenians sent out search ships but nothing save for a few waterlogged timbers from the Conium were ever found. The only hint of their fate was legends of a sunken island, which came to be called Atlantis.
Ahimsa Kerp has lived on four continents, but is currently writing, drinking beer, and getting rained on in Portland, Oregon. His stories have appeared in .ISM, The New Flesh, and the Cthulhurotica anthology and his travel writing can be found on BootsnAll, the Matador Network, and Art of Backpacking. His novella “Blades of the North” will be published as part of the mosaic novel “To Baldarin Motte” coming in June 2011.
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