Vignette 3: Paint a literary portrait of the scene during the eruption: What does it look like? What does it smell like? What sounds does one hear? What are the animals doing? How is the natural world responding to the eruption? Think of this vignette as a bird’s-eye view of Pompeii during the eruption.
Aside from a low, faint rumbling that was thought to be nothing more than the vibrations of a passing truck, or the snoring of an inconsiderate spouse, or even a small earthquake, the townspeople of Pompeii had little warning disaster loomed.
August lacked in mercy, so was its heat blooming with miracles. Miracles could be counted, when one peered at the dead fishes in Sarno River, and get perplexed to watch the springs, the wells, and the aqueduct dry up. Vines on the tender slopes of Vesuvius lost their spirit. There were minor quakes to remind the citizens of their unfavorable destiny ahead. Some had fortunately understood the call. They were glad, for pricked are only those who seek the rose!
Regretful! Remorseful, were these daring souls! Despite the thundering indication of the impending overflow of magma from the heart of Vesuvius in the Morning, they had stood stout. Little did they care about improbable dangers that were then engulfing them ‘velocius quam asparagi conquantur’! Midday saw fire and smoke romanticize and then…VESUVIUS ERUPTED FINALLY AFTER A LONG, LONG KIP!
Within seconds of the eruption, ash, fire, and chaos spewed from the gaping hole torn into the mountaintop and rained down upon the unsuspecting population below.
Thus, appeared a mushroom cloud of pumice particles high up in the sky, kissing the heaven, where soon these departing souls would arrive. Blues grew scarlet red. It seemed the devil himself was counting their last minutes. The air bristled, shivered, cowered when the explosion’s power conquered. And along the shivering, the citizens had wrinkles for a moment, as if one had slapped them for their foolishness. Ash showered upon Pompeii, and this showering seemed to continue forever. In a matter of minutes, panic pervaded the streets. One stooped, another ran, while still another watched this glorious genocide with sheepish eyes. Ash covered the entire city, so sooner that no one had time to recollect where to find a shelter. Those who could, prayed desperately. And those who couldn’t, played desperately a game of final breath.
Then, molten lava began a destructive, undiscriminating sprawl through the streets, devouring all within its path. Nothing was safe; houses, roads, playgrounds, even a woman who’d suffered a broken leg during the initial chaotic rush to flee. Using bloodied elbows and forearms, she’d dragged herself for nearly a mile until exhaustion left her unable to move, and she’d watched, helpless, as the steaming sludge approached and eventually consumed her, inch by screaming inch.
The thick, black ash loomed ominously over the once bustling city. Men, women, and children alike all shrieked in fear. Clean air was becoming more and more scarce, as the black clouds of debris fell to the earth. The streets were full of people trying to escape, praying to get out of this catastrophe alive, clinging to life.
Dark...Everything went dark! The sun has disappeared and there is barely anything visible through the thick clouds. The smoke was descending quickly onto the town settled at its base. The birds had been long gone for hours, even days. The animals on the outer city had felt the vibrations deep in the earth with their worn paws and claws. The leaders helped the young and old to safety far away from the erupting mountain, but no amount of walking or sprinting could get them away from that toxic hell.
Grass was trembling under the force of the earth's stress. The rocks of the crust were bowing and shaking while molten lava shot from the depths of the volcano.
Were citizens used to panicking? Were they accustomed to hear an "Obscurum per obscuris" explanation of the situation? Apparently, the officials assigned for this petty job, were much obscured. Assuring those miserable citizens, seemed this time, the worst thing they had ever got their corrupt hands on. The Roman Statesman consoled those wild, confused citizens, "_No harm shall threaten us. No son shall cry seeing his mother in terror. No father shall hold his daughter's hands and say 'Brutum fulmen'. No wrinkled person shall begin losing his breath. Not now, my men. Not this hour, my brothers. Not today, my sisters. Never should that fate be a menace, my children_!"
"_CARTHAGO DELENDA EST, CARTHAGO DELENDA EST_…”, a long sob carried in through the air. Somewhere at a distance, a jostle was heard. The grunts died soon, leaving except one in dilemma. No sooner did that Statesman speak another word of solidarity than those men who had been maintaining their composure for long, engaged themselves in strides of fear. Strides to make out what that ruffle meant. And to their dismay, it didn’t take long!
Breaking the ramparts, came a quite crimson slurry. Some were gazing at the graffiti on walls, perhaps for the last time. Graffiti seemed to enliven them with their glories, their past that had made way for this present meretricious town. Several hundreds of frightened souls rampaged through the streets. The crimson slurry appeared ocher, then dead white, and finally an infernal red! Accompanying the slurry, was an overshadowing smoke. The smoke was strange in a way. For there were floating pyroclasts amidst suffocating odor, which rained over the landscape as a spider infests over a bare corner.
“_Father! Where is my brother_?”, a little boy gasped.
The father didn’t have the prowess to stop. He never looked back at his son. And another woman comforted the boy, “_Hush! Your brother will be safe. Your father is seeking him_.” Her lie was obvious. She knew that she had lost her stout and brave man back a while, when their house had been torn apart in pieces as the earth shook fiercely, shattering his dreams, his will to survive.
Nevertheless, he tread on, only to find out being crushed by a rumble of pyroclasts. And he was never seen again. Maybe one day, he will rejoice again. Sooner he may see his sons and his beloved wife in solace where he has trudged on to. Blessed are those who reconcile!
Vesuvius hadn’t become gluttonous. That was clear when in late afternoon, another explosion came high spirited to make the terror surreal. Higher above the mushroom, appeared dew drops. The dew drops were harsher. Pumice stones, pyroclastic rocks, much larger in size, much heavier in weight captivated everything below, as a tornado does when its eye infuriates. A new decoration seized the city as volcanic ash covered the once prosperous land in a thick crust. Buildings too were miniscule when ash collapsed them within minutes. Pyroclasts crated the earth. Fragmented rocks were after people running for their short lives.
Vulcanalia was meant to deafen the prospects that gained momentum at this time of the year, prospects when people could find themselves growing excessively helpless witnessing conflagration of their lands, forest they deemed. All they could, was crowning Vulcan in bonfires; sacrificing fest fishes upon the crown; baking tunics under the glad divinized sun, even working with a tiny candle all day long. Their efforts had undoubtedly failed. No amount of pleading could protect them that day.
"_Juno, save us from the might of your son, Vulcan!!_", screamed a hag in a debilitating voice. She was one of those most reputed hag in Pompeii's outskirts. Going through the pain of being separated, or specifically being deserted by her children, and spited by her grand ones, had consolidated her. And there she stood, weak, frail, crazy altogether with what she hailed. No one could justify her anguish in a right mind. So there was none left too.
"_Aloha! what devil had undone its wings? What! Are those stings?_", her shrill cry went through the smoke.
Beside her, stood another unaccounted helpless man whose tamed serpent had just slithed into her robe and stinged her in dire straits. And she was seen, smirking at her fate. Probably, she was more than blessed then, to be stung, to be confessed, to be relieved of all her pain. Staff of Asclepius had healed her soul!
Serpent's tamer was nowhere in the sight. His intuiton might have urged him to leave his tamed snake, for amidst tremors, surely fright shook even Mercury's staff. A fright that made stinging obvious than healing. Mercury wanted their fate...his vengeance didn't abate!