The hustling, bustling marketplace hummed with the stink of humanity. Shoppers chattered, laughed, snorted, squealed, chortled, chuckled, jeered, giggled, babbled, prattled, shouted, screamed and yelled at each other. Traders glared, glanced, scrutinised, ogled, scanned, frowned, gossiped, analysed and shot insults at each other as they competed for attention and profit. Thieves dodged, dove, clasped, scampered, scuttled, snatched, clambered, clutched, crept, plucked and wove through the hordes of people as they fondled their precious gains. The wares were ranging in quality, price and purpose. There were the cloth merchants, selling wool and linen, dyed with colours from peacock blues and greens to dark, rich reds to bright oranges and yellows to deep purples, all embellished with intricate patterns and designs. There were the cobblers, with boots, slippers and sandals covering the whole spectrum of colours, made from leather, wood and cloth. Some were even plated with gold. There were the potters, selling a range of items from household goods such as plates, honey jars and serving bowls to more decorative objects, vases, and figurines, all painted with different images. There were the food vendors: fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, cheese, olives, pastries, seeds, grains and an array of wines sent into the air delicious scents, which interwove with the fragrance of the spices to form an enticing cloud of smells that beckoned any passers-by to the wonders of the market.
Through it all, Zaccheus watched. There was a bubble of quiet around him, as though he exuded an aura to muffle the vigour and delight of the people. In reality, his bubble was not under his control. His bubble was a bubble of whispers. A bubble of rumours. A bubble of spite and perhaps even fear. Yes, he was feared. There was a deadness in his hazel eyes, of one who has seen too much. His olive skin was perfect, too perfect, glowing and fresh. It was marred only by a small white patch under his right eye. His hair hung like an ominous black cloud from his scalp. Lithe limbs swayed lazily, giving the impression of nonchalance, though those who had seen him before knew that at any moment he could snap and whip concealed items from the pockets of unsuspecting people. His ears were sharp, open, forever analytical, his lips thin and dry. People dreaded the opening of those lips. Zaccheus always knew the darkest secrets of those he disliked, probably those he liked too and had a habit of revealing them at the most devastating times for the victim of his exposure.
"It's him again."
"Oh no, not again. Do you remember he told everyone about my sister's failed attempts at seducing his brother Adelphos?"
"I didn't know that. What set him off?"
"She insulted that philosopher, Socra-something. He just launched verbal throwing barbs at her out of the blue. She hadn't even realised he was there."
"Hey, let's go look at the cloth stall by the temple. He doesn't go to that end of the marketplace."
Zaccheus scratched the mark under his eye. Apart from that nervous habit he gave no outward indication that he had heard the exchange. He had become used to the comments over time. The offending remarks. After all, he knew there was some truth in them. He'd realised how odd he was when he'd realised that other people had the ability to forget.
He perched, as he usually did, at the base of a statue of Athena. Often the philosophers would congregate here. The goddess of wisdom called to them, despite the fact that some denied the existence of the gods. At least, that was what he liked to think. He supposed he wasn't old enough to have any real world views, although age was not something that he often defined himself by. He was disappointed at the lack of philosophers today. Usually he would listen to them, learn from them, however today there were none. Piece by piece, he was beginning to understand the world around him. Things they said just made sense. Most of the time, anyway. There were certain ideas that he couldn't even begin to believe. They were ridiculous, nonsensical. Zaccheus found he enjoyed discarding these nonsensical ideas and recalling the ones he thought wise. He was no philosopher, mind, he didn't have the creativity for it. No, he was a discoverer. He looked at the world around him and saw it for what it was, not what it could be or should be. He could not create knowledge, the very idea of it frightened him. He would leave that business to the philosophers. He would utilise his knowledge. These philosophers, they sat and they thought and they told others what they thought but they never actually did anything. He would take on that role, the role of someone who did. Now that would make a fine future.