The oil lamps belched soot, staining the temple’s ceiling black. Their flickering flames caused shadows to dance upon the thick marble columns. A lone figure sat on the cold stone floor facing a statue of Apollo. She did not see the man enter the temple. She did not have to.
“You’ve returned,” she said. It was not a question. “When you visited before, Chares of Lindos, I said you had but one opportunity a lifetime to ask a question of the great Oracle of Delphi. Have you entered Hades and returned to this world?”
“No, most sacred one. I still draw breath during my first, and only, lifetime.“
“Then why do you now disturb me?”
Though the Oracle deemed it unnecessary to face her visitor, Chares nonetheless shifted uncomfortably on his feet. He scanned the cavernous room as if looking for anyone to help him address the Oracle. Finding no one, his eyes settled on his hands clasped in front of his toga.
“When I came here last,” Chares said, “I asked if I would ever achieve greatness for myself and for the Isle of Rhodes.”
“How did I respond?”
“You said I would use my engineering skills to build a colossus renowned the world over and remembered for eternity. This colossus would put Rhodes on the map, and thousands would see and revere it. You said it would protect us by raining down fear on our enemies and would be like the sun, welcoming our allies with golden warmth.”
“Has my prophesy come to fruition?”
“Yes, most sacred one. Your ability to cast back the veil of time and peer into the depths of the future knows no bounds. I built what you predicted, an enormous statue. I call it the Colossus of Rhodes. It stands 70 cubits high and straddles the lone entrance to our harbor, casting its gaze on all those seeking to enter. I am celebrated throughout Rhodes and the Greek isles for my ingenuity and craftsmanship. I have enough work to provide for my family, and my place in history is secure.”
In one fluid motion, the Oracle rose to her feet and spun to face Chares. She wore the same style white toga draped across her left shoulder and breast, cinched at the waist with a golden rope. No sandals adorned her feet.
“You sought out the gift bestowed upon me by the god Apollo. You witnessed the fulfillment of my words, which brought you honor, wealth, and sealed your legacy. Yet here you stand, seemingly unsatisfied. Explain yourself.”
Chares glanced up at the Oracle but quickly returned his gaze to his hands. She remained as attractive as when he visited last, but he could not let that distract him. His concern was too great.
“Most sacred one, I designed the Colossus of Rhodes to be male and anatomically correct… and nude.” Chares paused and seemed to shrink into his toga where he stood.
“Are you here to entertain me by expounding on the size of your creation’s member, or do you have another question for the Oracle of Delphi?” Despite her serious tone, the Oracle’s eyes shown with barely contained amusement. This was lost on Chares. His eyes remained downcast in reverence and nervousness.
Taking a deep breath, Chares now rushed his words. “I installed no water source. No aqueduct runs to the Colossus, and it has no means to draw water from the sea. Yet, every time a ship enters our harbor, the Colossus passes water on it. My question is this, must your prophecy be so literal?”
Finally looking up, Chares saw the grin across the Oracle’s face. He had his answer.