Vignette 9: Write from the perspective of a builder who is just finishing his architectural masterpiece when the eruption occurs. Does he try to save his work? How does he react to the destruction?
Carmelo wiped his damp brow with the back of his hand and gazed up at the brilliant blue, cloudless sky. The ferocious August Mediterranean sun glared down onto the back of his head. He was standing on the edge of a building site. Sculpted stone columns majestically held up the roof of an ornate new building. Overhead, a gull from the nearby harbor circled aimlessly. Four slaves worked a huge block of stone into place on the new steps leading up to the building. The new library would soon be finished. In all his years as an architect, Carmelo had not created a building as beautiful as this. Pompeii Public Library was to be his greatest masterpiece. From his point of view, the library was to be a tribute to the most beautiful women he had ever met.
Gone but never forgotten.
Carmelo fought back tears as he thought of his beloved wife, Lavilla, and daughter, Julia. The library was indeed to be a fitting tribute; Lavilla and Julia had both loved to read, and had been patrons of the new library before their passing.
The library had been commissioned by the Council. Carmelo remembered the destruction of the old one. Seventeen years ago the gods had been angered, and had punished the citizens of Pompeii by moving the earth and destroying most of the town, including the local library. Carmelo’s masterpiece had been sixteen years in the making. This was to be a new start, both for Carmelo and the local population. The townsfolk had become obsessed with drunkenness, gluttony and debauchery in recent years, and a library would provide both information and literature to rescue the morals of the decadent people.
Carmelo wiped his brow again and adjusted his toga slightly. He sighed and turned to the building site foreman.
The foreman and all other workers seemed to be working diligently he knew. But the progress of the building felt still too slow to him. Carmelo was conscious of becoming more restless and impatient with his workers as his masterpiece neared completion.
"It must be because I'm impatient to see it complete. It must be just that."
And yet, he couldn't altogether disregard a weird feeling that he had since past several days felt rising in his heart. A feeling almost of dread.
But what was there to be scared about? The library building was almost complete. And its magnificence was already being talked about all around. He, and his genius, was being talked about. Then what was he afraid of? He had achieved what he had dreamed of.
Only a few more months. Just a few more months. And then, his creation would make his wife and daughter immortal. They will live for ever. And he with them.
Even as his brow remained frowning, a smile stretched out on his lips at that thought. But the very next moment, the memories of his lost wife and daughter drowned that smile in tears. He blinked them away quickly and shook his head to pull himself back to the task at hand.
Carmelo took his chisel into his hands to carve the tribute stone in honor of is wife and daughter. when he looked up he noticed some workers talking, or at least listening. Listening to one man. "Back to work!" he shouted in a harsher voice than he intended. "what's going on there?" Bastista, a stone worker came over. "The new one, Salavatore, is telling us about Jesus". "That story again!" Carmelo said. " I am tired of hearing it." "Preach on your our time, this is the counsils time". The men scattered and went back to work. Carmelo went back to his stone. He thought about when he saw this Salvatore in the street. He had a crowd around him. People were listening. Hesisn't want to get to close. The man was taking a risk. Rome didn't like the people, followers of the fishemen they called themselves. But one thing kept bothering him. Salvatore kept saying you will live forever in God's kingdom. In happiness. Carmelo was hoping his wife would live forever in this building. Generations would know them by this stone that would stand for a thousand years. But would it? Just then the mountain grumbled again. Were the God's angry? Should this library have been a tribute to Jupiter? Was he placing his love for his family before his love for his god? The stone cutter said his God loved all people. He didn't talk about demands for temples and sacrifices. Carmelo realized he had listened to Salvatore more than he thought. He had known people in the city who had converted. The summer crowds, the vacationers, had brought stories with them. Stories that devote people believed and suddenly changed. Changed beliefs to what Rome says is superstition and punishable. Carmelo started to lose his vision f the stone. He stopped working. He went to speak to Salvatore.
Sweat lingered on his brow as he stepped down the steps towards where Salavatore was working. His mouth moved to utter words, but the shaking of the ground stopped him. A large boom was heard far off in the distance. Carmelo looked up towards Vesuvius, smoke was billowing from its top. The earth continued to shake as thicker smoke began to fall down the sides of the mountain.
This is what many had feared would happen. He himself had never believed the day would come. The mountain had rumbled before. It had even spewed a little smoke, but never this much. Never had it rumbled and shook the ground as hard as it was doing now.
Later that afternoon, as he was leaving the construction site, he heard a man's cries from afar. He turned to the direction of the sound and saw that the man was restless; running to and fro in the street. Some of the passers-by moved out of the man's way or avoided him as he was about to grab them.
"Listen, please! Anyone!" The man cried.
Curious, Carmelo walked closer toward the street.
"We have angered the gods, we have angered the gods." The man gestured wildly. "They would come to punish us. The earth would crack and out would come fire." The man walked closer to the on-lookers; near where Carmelo was standing. The man looks at each of the on-lookers searchingly until his eyes rested on Carmelo.
Carmelo suddenly felt an overwhelming feeling of dread. Is this a warning? Is this what he was scared of? Despite the man's looks being harmless, Carmelo found the man's words ominous. The man walked slowly towards Carmelo. Feeling a cold chill down his spine, Carmelo quickly turned and walked away.
He took refuge under his labor of love. His wife and daughter looked out towards Vesuvius. Following their line of site he watched as the smoke continued to bloom over the mountain. Suddenly an ooze started to burst through the clouds of smoke and down the sides of the mountain. Carmelo looked up at his wife and daughter. Neither looked worried, but how could they, they were only stone now. Lavilla had always warned that the mountain might one day reclaim what we had stolen from it.
Screams began to fill the air. Down below the site of the library people were running towards him and away from the mountain taking its revenge. Carmelo would have a head start if he wanted to run from the monstrous mountain, but he didn't want to leave his wife and daughter once more. They could be together now if only Carmelo had listened to his dear Lavilla.
"You were right my darling. You always were."
There was no answer. He knew she would tell him to run and live, but he was tired of it. There was nothing left for him on this Earth. Soon he'd be reunited with Lavilla and Julia. Together they'd be happy once again. Here and now he'd be able to leave this with them. Both of them would protect him in their embrace. He knew this now.