Vignette 12: Write from the perspective of a slave or very poor citizen of Pompeii. Perhaps he or she views the eruption as a chance to start over, a clean slate. Perhaps he or she is driven by duty or obligation to put their life on the line for a master or employer. This vignette should take place during and possibly after the eruption.
The rumbling in the distance was omnipresent and never really a cause for concern to Ada Nor did the subtle movement of the earth underfoot give her pause, as she hurried through the narrow lanes. She had a task to complete and was in a hurry. If she did not return quickly with vegetables from the market, there would be hell to pay. She had just emerged from the winding streets into the open areas surrounding the farmer's lands when she sensed a sharper buckle in the ground. Almost enough to make her lose her balance, but she was used to these tremors and adjusted her balance without breaking stride.
Her mind was on Master's mood. He was short-tempered today. Quick to anger. These were days she dreaded, for it was impossible to tell what trangression might set him off. If she could get back with the vegetables, she might yet avoid the lash. He could be jovial and generous with praise. Those were the days she lived for. It was only when she was on these solo errands, her mind free to wander, that could she admit to herself that she loved her mercurial Master. Even when he was angry, she did her best to please and appease him. If only he could see the love in her eyes. But he saw her only as chattel. A beast of burden. No better than his favorite hunting dog, sent to retrieve his catch.
It was while she was lamenting her station in life, her place in society that kept Master from seeing her as someone worthy of his affections, that the largest tremor she'd ever experienced knocked her to her knees. As she stood again, she became aware of new sounds. The noise rose slowly at first. Alarmed voiced cried out behind her, as people in the narrow lanes streamed out of the low buildings. The noise quickly crescendoed as those same buildings began to shift and crumble. Stones fell and people screamed and ran, pushing each other. And over it all, another sound like thunder and waves crashing combined. She'd never heard it before, but she recalled her grandmother describing it from the days when the volcano was active.
But it couldn't be that. The volcano had been quiet these many years. Nothing more than the occassional belch of sour-smelling smoke or tumble of rocks had been seen in ages. As she turned toward the mountain, the cloud of ash streaming skyward was mesmerizing. She became aware of people running toward her, away from the small town she'd just left behind. It seemed her haste to get to the farmer's stall had saved her life. If she's still been in between those small, crowded buildings she would surely have been crushed or trampled.
As she stood, rooted in placed by fear and amazement, the noise grew and the ash plume began to drift toward her. Only remembering Grandmother's stories made her feet finally move. She remembered nightmares about suffocating in the ash after one night of listening to those stories. That nightmare had stayed with her, giving rise to her greatest fear; not being able to breathe.
Having a bit of a head start over the villagers now running toward her, she knew she had to get out of their way. With a quick glance at the ash again, she ran off the path, away from the direction the cloud was drifting. She stopped some minutes later, with a stitch in her side, to rest against a tree and look behind her. The side of the volcano was alive with flames. A river of fire was racing downhill toward the only home she knew. Her Master...her love...was there and she wanted to race back to save him. As she gathered her strength and nerve to turn back, she heard anguished screams from the people. Maybe Master had fled? Would she be able to find him? Was it worth risking her life?
As these thoughts raced through her mind, new thoughts came from some deep, secret place in her mind. If she continued on, away from the crowds, might she find a new life for herself? She had the money Master had given her to make his purchases. She could make her way to a new town. Give herself a new start. Maybe a new name, someplace where no one knew her as a servant. Maybe then, somone could see her as worthy of love. She'd have a chance for a family.
Chasing on the heels of these unbiddden thoughts were thoughts of her disloyalty.
The fires raged in the village, lit aflame by the volcano’s sudden eruption. The impact threw her down onto her hands and knees. She rose with tears in her eyes and ran onwards, bare feet pounding against the dirty ground.
Ada’s solitary tears became gasping sobs as the smoke filled her lungs. Despite her masters inability to love her she felt it impossible to leave him.
Against her own judgment, Ada turned back towards the crumbling world behind her and paused for a moment. Her wide eyes looked out on the city, which stood tumored with frantic citizens that piled over the ground and spilled onto the beaten streets.
Overhead, a thick layer of falling ash shrouded the sky in darkness; feeding on the heavy smoke that spiraled through the air. Miles away from her, rows of buildings crumbled and fell creating a skeleton of a city that had been alive only moments before. Faint ghosts of light shone down from the flames that lined the city casting shadows into the streets.
She took a deep breath, managing only to pull the contaminated air into her lungs. Staring out at the wreckage, her eyes seemed empty, and the smoke allowed each deep breath to fill the void inside her, burning as it passed her throat.
Ana sprinted down the street. She moved rhythmically in order to avoid the licking flames that scoured the ground beneath her feet. Her small figure became a phantom amongst the shadows of the empty streets, slinking past the crumbling buildings.
Her chest heaved, sucking in the heated atmosphere that seemed to cut through her lungs like sharpened knives. Step after step the road ahead seemed to elongate. The distance between her and her master seemed to multiply as the flames increased.
As she became increasingly wary, her steps slowed, though her heartbeat quickened and each movement became an intricate dance played between the thin border of danger and the struggling steps of safety. She trembled as the fire grew, ending just inches from the tip of her bare toes.
Ada slowed as her head began to feel faint from the heat. As her feet lost their footing, Ada stepped back into the inferno, which licked the toes on her left foot. This pain woke up the instinct to keep running to water, where she thought she could be safe. She took another look over her shoulder to see if anything had made it through the volcanos wrath, but everywhere, the clouds of ash and smoke blocked her vision.
With the death of her master rolling about in her mind, for the first time Ada felt shamefully free.