Vignette 17: Write from the perspective of a citizen or group of citizens who are emerging from the ruins of Pompeii after the eruption. How do they feel about their ruined city? What steps do they take to move on?
As she ascended from the ruins, tears descended her once rosy cheeks. Aeliana fearfully gazed around and took in her ruined surroundings with puffy, dusty eyes; everything was shattered, nothing seemed to remain in one piece. As she gazed into the distance with not even a flinch of hope, Aeliana heard what resembled a weak cry for help in the distance. As if being shocked back to life, she turned frantically, trying to discern the origins of the sound. The sound was shadowed by a grey hand struggling under some rumble. Aeliana hurried to the assistance of what turned out to be a body of a slender female covered in grey dust. She immediately embraced the figure tightly. Amidst the dust she had recognized the unmistakably black curls of Camilla; she would know her sister even if she was a pile of ashes. Camilla returned the embrace in gratitude of seeing her elder sister. Tears flowed down the faces of both girls out of happiness upon reuniting with each other and grief for the dreadful fate of their poor city. What was once a lively and prosperous place was now impoverished in every possible way.
The girls held onto each other tightly as they made their way through the rubble in search of some hope. While walking cautiously, they were searching through the rummages with the hope of finding some life. Aeliana gave the news to her sister about the demise of their parents, which was followed by silence from the duo. Until something cracked, this caused them to stir and look quickly in its direction. There, something erupted from the ashes, and their mood immediately altered; just the fact to find another life bud from a disaster, made them smile amidst the tears. They started walking in that direction, while shouting out, "Hello, who is it?", since that person could not be identified.
A faint voice made them twitch their eyebrows and nod their heads since they could not believe that fate would allow such a thing after all that this individual had put the city through. There was a pause in their steps, but out of humanity’s sake, they walked towards him to help him get up by removing the wreckage over him. He appreciated the help, and for once, he wore a smile, and said, "thank you!"
The girls could not believe their ears. They raised their eyebrows and looked at him with a sneer as if he had just used insulting language.
The individual, after dusting off the powdery residue off himself, looked at them and got agitated upon seeing their reaction. "What! Have you never heard someone say thank you to you, before?" he said out loud with a flustered look pasted on his face.
Camilla held onto her sister's hand, but then broke loose after seeing death face to face. She thought, ‘what could be worse than this?’, thus said bluntly, "We never really liked you, Mr. Levii."
Felix grunted as he put his hand over his bald head and rubbed it around to check for any bumps. He used to love his clean-shaven head, and in the better days would make sure to oil it well, and keep it clean and polished. Today, with so many precious lives lost, he was just happy to be alive.
"I realize what I did to you and this neighborhood was not appropriate, but someone had to be the bad guy," he admitted while kicking the debris around him. "I have lost all that I had earned, and looking at my age, I don't have many more years to get back to earn a lifestyle that I enjoyed living," he said with remorse.
"You two" he pointed towards them, “on the other hand, have a whole life ahead of you." he said sarcastically.
"Oh, for God's sake! Let's have some harmony," Aeliana said loudly while holding her dirty partially bleeding hands to her ears.
"Look at those corpses," she said pointing towards them, "they are not yet cold, and we are talking about a lifestyle" she mocked at Felix, and walked right into his nose, and while staring at him, "You have to straighten your ways or else…" she paused while continuing to look into his eyes.
Camilla started sweating because she knew her sister had no plan after "or else" so to continue the gruesome scenario; she locked her lips and put her hands on her hips as if showing authority.
Seeing both the sisters in such control, this 60 plus old man bowed down, and apologized.
Both were alarmed to see him in tears, and crying profusely by ranting off his life and various incidents which were actually a shock to them. They had always thought of him as a horrible man, but never knew his past until now.
The sisters looked at each other and patted his shoulder lightly as if consoling him.
"We all need each other at this hour of the time, Mr. Levii" Aeliana gently stroked his hand, "let's unite, and not curse each other," she said with tears in her eyes.
Seeing her elder sister's eyes moist, Camilla came and hugged her from behind, "I agree. Let's get out of here, and try to find help." she said while looking around with the hope to find someone, anyone, any living creature.
Just then, a whirling sound was heard. Mt Vesuvius still had some fury to send across, as dark clouds of ashes were racing towards them. The trio got scared and fled towards a partially-fallen roof. As they took cover, they found slain bodies and Camilla shriveled and shrieked at the sight of it. She made an effort to run away, but her sister was quick to hold her, she tried to resist. Surprisingly, Felix jumped in, "Shut your eyes" he ordered while seizing her other arm.
The clouds went past them and left them huffing and puffing for air as they coughed firmly in a coarse and stark manner in order to remove the arsenic from their lungs. Their clothes were covered with the ashes, and they could not find a clear patch on their body to clean the powdery residue over their closed eyes.
"I can't see a thing" lamented Camilla while blowing air from her mouth towards her eyes in an effort to clear off the debris over her lids.
During her moment of temporary blindness, she could have sworn she felt things that were unwelcome, all over her body. She felt a tingling sensation in her toes which seemed to run up her legs and transferred into a crawling creature, or was it a grasp of her own kind of creature? Ants, spider or human, Camilla did not care to find out at this moment as all she desired was her ability to see. The endless compliments she received about her big brown eyes came to her mind as if taunting her if she were not to ever regain her eyesight or was it encouraging her to work harder at ensuring she did? She would take the latter option; she needed her eyesight back but also, she needed her big brown beautiful eyes. Her compliments were nothing compared to the "eternal luminous projection" of her sister's. She had secretly envied better quality compliments received by her sister on her eyes but at this moment, all she wanted were her own eyes, low quality or no compliment, did not matter at the moment.
Camilla brushed her lid frantically with strength and determination, for what seemed like a dreadful eternity, before she saw a glimpse of light amidst her ash-covered surroundings. In no time, she had her full eyesight back although the place looked a little bit fuzzy to her.
To her left, Aeliana, who seemed to be in a similar plight, was squinting as if to distinguish her sister's figure from that of Mr. Levii. As if to assist her, He asked; "are you girls ok?" Aeliana nodded affirmatively in his direction and waited from a verbal response from her sibling. As if sensing her sister's expectations, Camilla answered, "I think we escaped this second bout of death's rage."
At this point, after each regained their full ability to see, they only looked around themselves, felt hopeless and sighed indication of such. "What next?" the question was more directed at herself than to her sister or new-found friend. For the first time in her life, Aeliana did not have the answer. Or as it so, because could this even be called "life"? Would life continue to be or did it already cease before these creatures rose from total ruins? Were they living, or were they just dying slowly.