Merge changes from master into alvinkatojr

Alvin authored
revision 1e6617c90026018c21d98a6a2370fd5dfa09d086
Contents
About.txt
chapter13.txt
vignette-17.txt
chapter2.txt
chapter3
vignette-4.txt
vignette-46.txt
vignette-5.txt
vignette-68.txt
vignette-79.txt
vignette-8.txt
vignette-9
About.txt
chapter1.txt
vignette-1.txt
chapter2
.txt
vignette-10.txt
vignette-11.txt
vignette-12.txt
vignette-13.txt
vignette-14.txt
vignette-15.txt
vignette-16.txt
vignette-17.txt
vignette-18.txt
vignette-19.txt
vignette-20.txt
sarno-river.txt
cycles.txt
chapter2
*** Vignette 2

Vignette 2: Paint a literary portrait of the scene before 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 signs of volcanic activity? Think of this vignette as a bird’s-eye view of Pompeii in the days leading up to the eruption.

When everything is about to change, the air becomes still. The sky turns a non-descript color of grey and people throw themselves into normalcy with a sense of purpose usually reserved for special occasions. They'll walk through town and wave brightly to familiar faces, laugh a little too loudly, and buy a loaf of bread for dinner. All the while, they understand that their reality will soon shift ever-so-slightly from its axis and life will never be the same again.
They feel it in the air, and so do I.
It’s still dark when I awaken. I unfold my wings reluctantly and flap them about to warm myself up. The people will be out soon. I fly about, determined to satisfy my cravings for a morning worm. I spot a few still basking in the cold night air and scorn their foolishness as I eat. Some animals are far too easy prey.
I rise into the air and survey the half-completed re-construction of the city. My father told me that a couple years ago, right before I was born, an earthquake shook Pompeii, one much bigger than all of the little ones that occur so often. It destroyed many important structures, including homes, temples, and bridges. Even the roads broke apart and had to be repaired. Since that day, many people have moved away, and only some have stayed to help rebuild Pompeii.
I swoop over the city and perch on a rooftop. Many people are already up, getting water from fountains in the plaza. The sun is rising, and the shops are beginning to open. I catch whiffs of baking bread and hear the mounting sound of noisy chatter. Merchants are wheeling their carts into the streets. Children are running about, chasing stray dogs and other birds that are too stupid to stay out of crowds. Homeless families are huddled in street corners and alleys, hungry and empty-eyed, being passed by as if they did not exist.
I know many of them are tired. Yesterday was the festival of Vulcanalia. The people lit bonfires in celebration and sacrificed fish and other small animals to Vulcan, the god of fire. At the beginning of the day they began work by the light of a candle. As was tradition, they also hung their clothes out under the sun. Last night I picked through the remains of the sacrifices and came up with some nice dinner.
A young boy dressed in rags, perhaps six or seven years of age, darts through the crowds. I see this scene every morning. I know what he is doing. I know what he will end up with. And I pity him. He attempts to mix in with the crowds as best he can, staying near motherly-looking figures. He has his eye on one fruit stand in particular. The merchant handling the cart turns around to help a customer, and quick as a wink, the boy sprints to the cart, snatches an apple, and spins around to run when he is collared by the burly-looking merchant.
“You again!” the merchant snarls, holding the boy by the ear and grabbing the apple. “I told you to stay away!”
“I only want some food, sir,” the boy whimpers. “I haven’t eaten since yesterday morning and I’m hungry.”
“I don’t care if you starve to death! That’s no excuse for stealing, y’ little no-good thief,” the merchant growls, he was not the kindly type, “Now stay away or I’ll really get you!”
The boy nods pitifully. The man shoves him, and the he quickly makes his getaway, probably to tackle another food cart.
The sun is rising steadily now. The temperature, although higher than before, remains chilly. I fly into the shade of some trees and watch the hustle and bustle of the city.
Smoke wafts about me as I sit underneath the blanket of leaves. It is the temple, and the people of Pompeii are coming to worship Venus. She is the god of love. I know, because I have managed to fly inside; the walls are coated with paintings of all colours, and there are marble and bronze statuettes abundant. The people are bringing incense and oils of all kinds to honour her, and to ask for her presence as the city is being rebuilt. But I have a feeling she will not be here for long.
Mount Vesuvius stands tall above the city. I pick up my wings and fly again, towards the volcano, beating against the air and letting the wind guide me - a mutual agreement of sorts. The air is clear as the city beneath me fades away, and the land stretches out in front of me. Shouts and bellows from merchants and whining children have ceased, and the cry of nature is stronger. I do not resist it, and continue on to the mountain.
I let out a squawk - the squawk so many humans seem to hate - knowing that here, alone, free, there is no one to hear me but Vesuvius. And she does not hate them. Vesuvius understands. We understand each other's solitude.
I cross the landscape, the trees, the grass, the roaming animals, and I finally look below me. I see Vesuvius, and she seems troubled. She is screaming and gulping, afraid and confused. I squawk at her, but this time she doesn't respond. She simply continues on with her cries, her cries at nothing. Panic surges through me.
Something is wrong. I have never witnessed a scene like this before. And there is more to her cries, she seems angered.I circle my friend over and over as I watched her choke out loads of smoke into the lights sky. I remember what my father told me once before. He talked of the earthquake, and how Vesuvius remained calm through the destruction. But today, I have a feeling, she is ready to cause one of her own.
I don't know what to do. So I fly back. Maybe I can get away from it this way. Maybe Vesuvius will calm down. I don't know. But I do the only thing I can. As I fly, I look below. I see people, foolish people. They are going about their work as if nothing had happened, as if nothing will happen. But how am I better off than them? How will my knowledge help me? If Vesuvius destroys everything, the only thing that will separate us, is this knowledge that we will die together.
Still I can't just fly by and do nothing. How can I help them? What can I do? Maybe a warning signal for all to hear, a loud caw perhaps? I know that seems futile - I am but a bird - but I will not just fly by and do nothing. Looking around I see a few of my brothers nearby. Some are collecting food for their nests; others are teaching their young to fly. Do they sense what is happening? Flying over I call out to them, telling them of the danger that awaits their families. No one responds. I call out again, louder, as I fly over the town. Surely the townspeople can hear me. Maybe they will note my odd behaviour and wonder. Still no one pays any attention to my cries.
Looking down I see the young boy huddled in a corner of a house ruin. Maybe he can help and he can warn everyone! The little boy is crying softly, his small hands cluthing his stomach as if in pain. I watch him for a while and then fly and rest near his feet. Giving a caw I see him look over at me. Calling out to him again I begin to tell him of Vesuvius' anger. But he only smiles and gestures for me to come closer. My cries have been in vain. He doesn't know what is about to happen. Pompeii is its usual self, stuck in its usual routine.
But out there, Vesuvius is stirring. I've seen it.

The air is becoming thick and humid, and the hot ground offers no respite for those forced to grovel in the dirt. These peasants may be the only ones to have any real sense of what is about to happen, but their ravings have as much effect as my cries; they are simply ignored as noise.

The higher born, however, are typically unaware of what goes on outside their thick stone walls. The women are dressed and tended to by their many slaves, their hair twisted and pinned tightly. Amongst the colonnades, idle gossip and laughter echoes as servants share stories from the amphitheatre. Affairs of business are discussed in the atrium, the chairs tucked neatly in one corner as the sun begins to climb and the air begins to burn.

I pause a moment to listen, hopeful that amongst these people of influence and their advisers, someone may have the wit to know what to do.

"So tell me, where have you travelled from?"

"From Naples; I hope to return in the morning, but I have further business to attend to this day. Your hospitality is most generous, Lucius, I know it is not customary to invite guests to dine so early in the day."

"It is customary in this house to break bread with those who bring us such beautiful things. To have brought us this dining table and chairs with not so much as a scratch after such a journey; well, it would be rudeness indeed."

"Your kindness will not be forgotten. I might say, your frescoes really are delightful. Your artist must be commended on his stunning portrayal of Minerva."

"Thanks indeed; I really must show you our statue of Bacchus in the triclinia at lunch, it is quite a thrill to see. Incidentally, cook is preparing fish in genuine Pompeii garum; I assure you, it is quite the delicacy in these parts."
He pauses for a moment in thought; I pray that he has sensed a change in the air or a tremor underfoot. He beckons to a nearby slave that stands holding an amphora.
"Send for another batch of that wine, my boy." He turned to his companion, confiding; "We rather drank our house dry at the festivities yesterday and it would be a shame indeed not to enjoy that sweet nectar once more."

It was clear there was no hope to be had here. As I lift my wings to continue my search, I lift the weight of my heavy heart as well, and almost cannot fly away. This is going to be a sad day indeed.

I circle the town, resting on each roof, listening for someone, something that can alert these people. But it is all in vain. The only cries to be heard speak of hunger, a thing to fear, of course, but not today. I do not know what more I can do.
Looking skyward, I see that the sun has reached its zenith now and will soon begin to fall. I take to the air once more, rising higher than ever before. The wind is stronger here and I am buffeted about, but I am able to view the whole town, with Vesuvius rising above.
I drink it in; every home and shop, each temple and theatre, each soul a tiny speck. Does our smallness make the loss less significant? I cannot allow myself to believe this. The same air I breathe out is breathed in by those poor souls below me. The same sky above, the same earth below; the same capacity for love. That must stand for something?
Desperate, I fly again to Vesuvius' gentle slopes. The ground is warmer now, her fury intensifying. I coo a gentle lullaby, hoping to soothe her fears, knowing that no help is coming. What more can I do?
It has been a long and hard morning, and my wings are tired.

Perhaps I could rest here awhile?

* * *

It happened suddenly, eerily. The sudden calm before a storm - before nature unleashes its rage upon its unsuspecting victims... but even then there were signs unknown to the inhabitants of the city but commonplace among the peasants and farmers who practised agriculture near the mountain.

A strange disease had been wiping off the sheep one by one with no external signs or symptoms. Its end result was a calm death that gave impression of a natural euthanasia that involved nature weeding out and culling bad breeds to prepare for a purer breed and generation.

In response to nature's change of hand, some farming communities had slowly began shifting away from the vicinity of Mount Vesuvius' fertile slope, abandoning their fields temporarily with plans to return after the season of bad luck had been abetted by a sacrifice to the gods. But this was the only the case for the poor families who had little or nothing to lose to in the migration.


Larger families whose entire livelihood was based on the vast produce from their lands looked at the situation as more of a sheep/animal infection and opted to stay behind to safeguard their interests. Their pilgrimmage they said, would be effective once they had the 'tangible' in this case financial returns to offer as a worthy sacrifice to the deity that kept their city safe.

The clouds themselves held telling signs that to the untrained eye may have been easy to miss. The massive migration of a flock of birds from the slopes and areas surrounding Mt Vesavius gave the impression of soon to come downpour even in the midst of wonderful sunshine. The repeated migration of birds and failure of the clouds to release torrential rain had become such a popular event that the locals had come up with a term for it: 'sunshine clowns'. The older generation whose multittude of years had given them access to archives of history of the years passed mockinlgy referred to the birds as "false rain prophets" and as thus the migration become a meaningless phenomena especially to the inhabitants of the city whose architecture made them immune to torrential downpours.
cycles
# Cycles

Everything. Every particle of dust. Every molecule. Every cell of every creature that has ever been. Everything from all epochs of universal time has been riding the wave of death and life—of destruction and rebirth. The universe itself is beget of ultimate collapse.

An entire planet of life was nearly annihilated when sixty six million years ago, from the depths of space, an icy rock plunged to the Earth. The interstellar boulder had travelled thousands and thousands of space miles, spewing off millions of crystals of ice and dirt and metal as it blazed through the solar system. When it entered the atmosphere, the additional friction melted massive amounts of rock, water, and metal sending gaseous compounds into the thin shell of sky. Catching the light from the sun, the comet-cloud burned like a torch, turning the sky blinding white. The coment punched a sharp hole into the Earth’s crust sending millions of tons of debris into the atmosphere and choking off the sun.


Whether on the scales of geologic time or the blink of time that is human history, the give and take between life and death.
vignette-10
# Vignette 10

**Vignette 10: Write from the perspective of a mother who is separated from her children during the eruption. Does she search for them despite the danger around her? Does she eventually try to save herself?**


I could tell something was happening, but I didn't know what. Mothers just know. I assumed we had upset the gods, and they were punishing the town. I had no idea what would become of our precious city.

My eyes shot open in the dark. This was different. The last few days were only tremors. This was much more than that. The earth shook violently again. It was time to rise and check on the children. My husband slept soundly, so I decided to let him rest for now. I walked past the children's bedrooms and found them sleeping soundly, although I couldn't figure out how one could sleep through that last violent shake.

It would be breakfast soon. I left early to go down to the fountain and take water. By the time I arrived back home, the sun was coming over the horizon and everyone in the house was starting to rise as well. I prepared breakfast - bread, cheese and some vegetables that were left - before calling everyone to eat.

Chatter at breakfast was minimal. Everyone was tired of the shaking. It was disturbing the animals, and it made it more challenging to get work done. However, it did no good to complain about it, so they tried to act normal.

After breakfast, my two boys left for school. My husband would have some people over to discuss business and he headed to the atrium to receive them. I took my dear Lucia, the youngest of my three children, with me to do some spinning. While I couldn't explain why, I was more happy than usual that she could stay at home with me. I suppose it had to do with the bad feeling I had had since I woke up.

My little Lucia is only 8, so I guided her while she spinned her wool. Once she had gotten started, I began spinning a thread on my own. We worked like that quietly for a while, until around noon one of our slaves entered the room. I had to calm her down before she could tell us what she had seen, so distressed was she. Apparently, a large dark cloud had risen from the mountainpeak in the distance. Marcus, my husband, and his guests were still discussing what this meant. The slave had come here on her own, so I told her to go back and wait for news from my husband.

Lucia overheard most of the conversation and was afraid. Maybe she would simply have been curious under different circumstances, but the shaking of the earth these past days had her on edge. I calmed her down and distracted her by continuing with our work.

The slave returned a little later with a message from Marcus. The men he had been meeting with had returned to their own homes to check up on their families. While the large cloud was unusual, he was confident we would be perfectly safe if we just stayed inside. I felt uneasy about this and wanted to take a look at this cloud for myself, but I didn't want to scare Lucia. She was continuing spinning what looked like a fair amount of yarn. She seemed to have gotten the hang of it. Her forehead was wrinkled in concentration, eyes fixed at the spindle, giving her an almost cross-eyed look, and her mouth lay open.

'Lucia,' I patted her shoulder gently, thinking up a quick excuse, 'You're doing really well with that yarn! I just remembered Aurelia wanted something off me, I'll just go to her. Is that alright?'

'But she's coming by for dinner isn't she?' She looked questioningly at me. Aurelia was our neighbour and good friend. Along with her clan, she joined us at our dinner banquet. Her daughter Camilla is 9, close in age to my Lucia, so naturally they're very close.

'Yes, of course dear. I just wanted to give her something. Won't be long. You carry on, you're doing so well!' Lucia put her head back down and carried on, addicted. I hurriedly left the room and went out into the courtyard. Usually, on a plain summer's day such as this one, I could see the tip of Mount Vesuvius. This had been the case, the past couple of days but now, it lay hidden amidst a thick dark grey cloud. I felt my insides fill with a sense of impending doom. The pine tree shaped cloud was large, and beginning to edge over some of Pompeii.

'Cecilia,' I turned around, my husband was walking out into the courtyard.

'Marcus, we have to get the boys. Just look at that cloud!' I couldn't help but let out a hint of panic in my voice. The grounds beneath us gave a sinister tremble. Marcus held me and looked down at me authoritatively.

'It's been like this since the start of August,' he began. He looked puzzled, as if unsure of what to do next. I felt I couldn't override his decisions, but a little hint may be easier on his ego.

'Have you spoken to Gauis?' I asked. Gauis was Aurelia's husband, he was in the business of building and maintaining the temples in the area. If anyone knew how the gods were feeling, it would be him.

'No, not since the other day. I should speak to him.' He decided, 'I'll go now.'

'And Lucia and I will stay here? Should we not take the boys out of school?' I asked.

'Cecilia,' Marcus gave me a stern look, full of disapproval of my exhibiting a mother's instinct, almost as if it were petty and unnecessary. 'I will speak to Gauis, if he felt it necessary to take Atticus out of school, I'll reconsider.' And he walked out, his toga billowing out behind him. I returned to Lucia, she was still spinning.

I tried to continue our spinning as well, but neither of us could concentrate. My boys—were they frightened at the cloud? Were they looking at the mountain with their classmates? I felt a surge of frustration with Marcus as panic rushed through my veins. I settled myself down enough to smile reassuringly at Lucia, but inside, a dark cloud loomed large and heavy. It enveloped every thought and feeling, suffocating and thick. I knew I could not simply sit here and do nothing. Even moments of terror have a way of changing the course of our lives. This was one of those moments.

______________________________________________

It had already been four hours. The tremors had grown more intense, and my heart was crushed by panic. Lucia had gone to fetch us more water, but hadn't come back for a long while. _Such is the way of children,_ I said to myself, and assured myself that she met a friend on the way and had stopped to chat, even though my legs screamed at me for standing still. I wanted to speed out of the house and search for her immediately. I wanted to go and get my boys out of school. I wanted to take my family and flee far from this place. I wanted the tremors and the clouds and the terror to stop.

I peaked my head outside and saw the cloud had grown thicker, blacker. It was closer to the city, stretching itself out farther and farther by the minute, yet never growing thinner. This was too much. I felt it in the fires of my dreams, I heard it in the wind. Even if Gauis says that this is nothing to worry about and the gods aren't angry, I know they are. I know that if I don't move now, if I don't find my children and escape now, something will take hold of us. I don't have to be a mystic to see the danger here. _I need to find them. I need to save them._

As my mind became consumed by my mission, I called out to a slave to continue with the dinner preparations. My legs lifted and fell faster. My eyes frantically searched for Lucia among the throngs of crowded people. I finally made my way to the fountain. She was not there.

"Lucia! Lucia!" My voice resounded through the streets. Other mothers were scattered through the crowd, also calling out for their children with hoarse voices. Some of the men were scowling at us, some mocking us, some looking just as terrified as we. Somewhere, I heard a child crying, but the voice was not Lucia's. "Lucia! LUCIA!"

"Mother!"

I turned my head towards the direction of her exclamation, searching the faces to my left.

"Mother! Over here!"

A small hand stuck itself out through an opening in the crowd, followed a little head of black hair and a body in street clothes. "Lucia!" I run over to her and pick her up in my arms, sighing with relief.

"Mother, what's wrong?"

"Everything is going to be alright, dear," I reply. I don't want to worry her and quickly try to compose myself. Now that I see the response of the others in our neighbourhood, I make up my mind. Surely Marcus can't continue to ignore it! We have to leave and I'll convince him. I know that while he disapproves of showing too much affection, he also cares much for our children.

"Come, we're going back home," I tell Lucia. She protests that she didn't get enough water yet, but I dismiss it. "We'll do with the water we already have, alright?"

I am calmer while we walk back. I am still worried about the boys, but at least I have Lucia beside me. But my calmness doesn't last long as the grim, dark cloud hovers over the city and then starts to fall down. For a moment I stop, staring at one of the grey flakes I caught in my hand. _Ash.._
Lucia seems to have picked up on my anxiety -and of course she also sees the ash- but I firmly shush her and pull her along, walking twice as fast.

Making our way through the crowd proves to be a difficult challenge, but I am determined to arrive safely with Lucia at home.

"Mother, what is that falling from the sky?," Lucia asks.

I pretend not to hear her - mostly because I do not want to answer her question - and keep pushing through the crowd, walking faster with every step. I can see the house just ahead, and I am hoping that Marcus has returned home with the boys after finally agreeing to take them out of school.

We finally reach the door, and I push it open. "Marcus? Lucius? Philo?," I call out as we walk into the house.

"We are here in the kitchen," Marcus calls out.

I rush into the kitchen, still dragging Lucia behind me. She is now out of breath and trying to understand what is happening around her. I pull her into my arms once we get to the kitchen and rub my hand across her back in an effort to comfort her fears.

"Marcus, the ash is getting thicker. What are we going to do?," I ask him softly. The children have experienced enough. I don't want them to hear the fear in my voice, too.

"After speaking with Gauis, I have decided it is best that we depart from Pompeii immediately," Marcus says.

Lucia looks up at me with big eyes. I can see the fear beneath their beauty. Lucius, the older of the two boys at 14, looks at Philo, 12, and teases, "I told you not to make that graffiti on the side of that wall near the fountain! Now you made the gods angry, and we have to leave our friends!"

I could see where this was going, and I knew I had to put a stop to it.

"Lucius! You do not talk to your brother that way. This is not his fault," I chastise. "Boys, we do not have the time to behave this way. We must move quickly. We must stick close together and not lose anyone."

Marcus looked at each of us, one by one, as though he may not have much time left to spend with us. He finally takes my hand in his and leads us toward the door. Looking back at our home - the place we built our life and our family - one last time is sad, but I know we must press forward.

Marcus pushes open the door, looks back to make sure we are prepared and steps out into the crowd. We are close behind him as we move forward, and I keep one eye on the children as we follow. I can't be seperated from my family again.

The crowd is moving slowly as Marcus pushes through. It seems like everyone has decided to leave the city, and I wonder how many of us will actually make it. Will we have enough time to get away or will the ashes consume us?

So many thoughts are racing through my mind as we make our way through the crowds. Suddenly, the sound of an explosion followed immediately by screams. The crowd panics as we all turn to see where the noise came from and how we would be effected by it.

The fear I was feeling only intensified when I saw the source of the explosion. Mount Vesuvius was shooting fire into the air. The crowd became extremely unsettled and confusion set in as people became seperated from their families and friends.

Chaos was intevitable as everyone scrambled to find a place to hide. I looked to Marcus and was shocked to see him exhibiting signs of panic. When he noticed my stare, his look turned official again, and he instructed us to keep moving.

We picked up the pace, but, as we did, I could feel the temperature heating up, and I was afraid we would not make it. I turned to look back once more. The scene before me was like nothing I had ever seen. Chaos. Turmoil. Terror. I turned back to Marcus and followed him out of the city.
vignette-12
# Vignette 12

**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.
vignette-15
# Vignette 15

**Vignette 15: Write from the perspective of an archeologist unearthing the remains of Pompeii. How might it feel to discover these ruins? **

I wiped the sweat away from my eyes, the sun beat down on my head. How could the sun be so inconsiderate? I had been climbing for probably close to three hours and that stupid star just kept burning, heating my hair so much that I wished that I wore one of those stupid tiny umbrella hats.

As my glasses began to slip from the sweat behind my ears, I saw it, and they fell into the dirt next to my feet. I didn't take the time to wipe them off before I put them back on. What I saw nearly made me scream.

I guess I didn't know fully what to expect, I had read the articles and studies by others, looked at all the pictures for probably too long, getting super nerdy over history. I knew what I would see, and I thought that I was prepared, but actually seeing it was... terrifying.

The open mouths, arms out in front of faces, trying to stop the onslaught of hot ash that tore at skin. These people were not just preserved by this ash, they were seared by it, tortured by it. The ash did not preserve them, it took them as prisoners of its conquest.

This city was not owned by its people anymore, nor was it truly owned by any person. I know this because of the dust attacking my lungs. Nature had taken its territory back from these people. Forces of nature were more real (and probably more powerful) than the gods that the people of pPompeii had worshipped. Nature has no consideration for the life that it has created. It demands to be felt, to be paid attention to, it's like a teenage girl, only it can hurt people over a larger area.

After the initial startling effect wore off, I realized that what was spread out before my eyes at the excavation site was a gruesome and morbid time capsule. The destroying ash had perfectly preserved the ancient city and its people, just as it had been, minutes after the eruption. And there were parts that were yet to be revealed - mysteries of private lives that I and my fellow archeologists were to discover. Though I was, as always before a dig, excited at the prospect of the secrets about to be unearthed, here at Pompeii there was something slightly holding me back. I was not simply excavating tombs of old kings - I was, in a sense, intruding on the personal lives of individuals who had never thought to be so molested. Kings prepare tombs with the hope of someone seeing them - whether that be the gods of their religion, or an archeologist years into the future. The citizens of Pompeii had no such ambition.

As I walked into the site, along the crumbling large cobblestone of the streets, toward the yet unexplored area of the ruins, I gazed up at the looming Vesuvius, and felt a tinge of fear. The smoke, the flames, the heat, the ash - I could imagine it all, coming in a deathly cloud, claiming everyone in its path. If you were a poor citizen in the center of the town, there would have been no escape, and you would probably have guessed it. What must it have been like to be staring down inevitable death in such a way?

I shook my head to dispell the horrifying vision. TAlthough the volcano was still active, with its most recent eruption in 1944, we now had enough technology to determine when the next eruption would be, and to know to clear out fast enough if it should choose to blow. We would be prepared. Those buried beneath the ashes hadn't been.

Pillars from temples halted abruptly at odd angles as they stretched towards the cloudless sky like a hundred jagged fingers. It was no hard task to envision the glory that had been so many years ago. The corpses we would be uncovering had once walked with lively steps through the same forum in which I now stood, and haggled in the marketplace beyond, of which was left no more than a barren square. If I died now, I pondered, would I have wished to have my body exhumed, years after, and studied as a specimen? It was a kind of invasion of privacy.

The more I thought about it, gazing at the surrounding ruins, the more I decided that it was, mildly, a pleasing thought to be able to contribute to the learning of history by being a scientific specimen. And so, as I smiled and walked down to my collegues working in the excavation site, I hoped that those who'se secrets we were about to discover wouldn't mind too much. They, though unknowing and unhearing, were about to become a part of history.

I climbed back up the hill to my accidental discovery, realizing no one had seen this part of the necropolis. The partially uncovered remains lay at the top of a windy hill, and ash and sand cascaded down the side into pockets of black in the green hillside. This layIt was far from the official excavation site.

Looking at the mummified bodies, I thought of the thousands of tourists who, with their feet and their hands, added to the destruction Vesuvius poured on Pompeii.

I faced the modern day ethical dilemma; to tell my colleagues and the Italian Culture Ministry of the new discovery or to keep it secret. Through the work of grave robbers and archeologists, ancient and modern, much of the unearthed city lay bare to weather, thieves, and tourists with their money and donations for restoration. As an archeologist, I am a professional grave robber. I should start the process of uncovering and excavating and looting to give the world the newest horrified skeletal expressions of the necropolis and gold jewelry to grace the museums of the world.

Or, I thought, I could leave the deceased in their sacred grave.

Many of the world’s experts had already agreed to withdraw, but I now possessed the power to be famous, or I possessed the power to be respectful.

I pulled the folding field shovel out of my backpack and concealed the horrified remains with ash from the hillside. Some cuttings of green, grassy turf made a wind-proof cap along the top of the grave.

The mountain’s presence loomed over my finished work. I straightened to stare at the gaping, rocky face. These ancient, doomed people worshipped the gods of the mountain; made sacrifices to the mountain. The mountain answered with its nature; the natural Vesuvius.




vignette-20
# Vignette 20

**Vignette 20: Write from the perspective of a blind citizen of Pompeii. They can be from any class or walk of life. They might experience the days leading up to the eruption differently than other citizens, and they will certainly experience the eruption itself differently than those around them.**


Sitting at the markets was the best part of the day; it was here that Sarni made her living. Even blind, she was still the best hand at weaving, her nimble fingers working over the nets to repair rents and tears for the fisherman. Day after day, she would walk her way to her spot on the stones, waiting to receive her customers, to give back the nets that she had finished and to carry home the ones she was newly given.

The rich smells occupied her as her hands worked steadily and her unseeing eyes cast back and forth. She guessed at the pungent spices that wafted her way but they were hard to determine with her location being so close to the fish hall. Still, the fish mongers had small pots and braziers set up and sold hot seasoned samples of their wares to those shopping for their household. Business was brisk.

Today felt different, but Sarni could not exactly say how. The air felt heavier, if that were possible, and she could feel the press of it against her skin. It felt like a storm was coming but the sun shone warm and loving high above, proof that the gods watched over them. She could hear the chatter and murmur of vendors and customers alike, the market packed with slaves and owners, business of every sort being discussed between the walls of the Macellum. Her fingers worked over the tough cords that made up the net and enjoyed the caress of the warm morning sun. Her place by the wall was advantageous. By the time the heat of the afternoon arrived, she would be in the shade and still be comfortable.

Sarni allowed the familiar sounds of the hum the market made in the morning to flow in, and felt her fingers move quicker through the intricate twists of the net, when a rumble shook through her, something deep that was not a sound per say, but more of a vibration that caused Sarni's entire world to shake, the half finished net tumbled to her feet landing in a pile of soft fiber. She waited, expecting to hear shouts from those surrounding her, but no one made a sound, only the continued sounds of people selling and buying their wares.

"Maybe it was simply my own imagination" , she told herself, but something in her gut told her that it was so much more than that, something had felt sinister. ** The recent tremors reminded her of the tremors leading up to the Great Quake during the anniversary of Augustus about 13 years ago. ** The priests said there was no reason to be alarmed though, so she prayed to the gods that they were right.

She felt around for the fishing net she had been working on when she felt a pair of leather sandals.

"Salve Sarni!"

She instantly recognized the voice. It was Cacallus, her longtime friend. When so many abandoned her after she lost her sight from being hit on the head during the Great Quake, he stuck with her. She had lost her shop, her livelihood, and was near broke. Cacallus would get her food from the nearby Thermopolium.

He still brought her treats from time-to-time, even though now she didn't need the financial help

"I brought you an extra special treat today, Opimian Vintage!" Cacallus exclaimed.

"You are too kind Cacallus, but how can I ever repay you?" Sarni asked.

"Don't worry about it amicus, it only cost an extra 15 denarri," Cacallus answered.

"15 DENARRI!!!" Sarni cried, "that's nearly a week's wages for you!"

"Don't worry about it, you deserve it."

"Why do you waste your money on me? You need to save up and leave the city. Go to Roma, or Syracuse or Alexandria even! Just leave this place like all the other smart people, Pompeii is well past its prime for trade after the Great Quake," she said.

Cacallus paused for a minute, and although Sarni could not see his face, she could imagine that he had on a small smile.

"Leave you behind in the city? I fear the both of us would become fearfully lonely."

Sarni replied with a humorless laugh, "You would never be lonely, Cacallus. You are far too friendly for all of that."

"No matter," Cacallus said, "Pompeii does after all have the best wine, I'd be lost without it."

His words caused Sarni to break into a fit of laughter, a rare occasion for her, after the accident, it sometimes felt as if the ability to laugh had left her in the same blow as her sight. If anyone could bring a laugh to her mouth, it was Cacuallus though. Her heart was full when he was near.

The faint scent of melting wax reached Sarni's nose, signaling the beginning of the Vulcanalia Festivities. Sarni began to feel around her surroundings so she could stand up.

"Let me help you," Cacallus insisted.

"Thank you," Sarni replied.

"We'd best get to the temples, the sacrifice should be starting soon," said Cacallus as he helped Sarni up.

Sarni didn't know why, but she had always hated these festivals. There were so many in such a brief period of time. In fact they had just had one two days ago. But there was something else, the way they had been celebrated for the past several centuries seemed heretical. After all, they were supposed to sacrifice a human to repay the gods for their generosity in keeping all of our souls on Mother Earth, but now they just throw a few small animals and fish into a big bonfire and call it good. She felt that this would have been evident as not being a good practice after the Great Quake and the Great Fire of Rome, but there was no change.

"And who knows? Maybe we will go back to the old traditions like you always go on about. Watch out though, maybe you'll be the first sacrifice," Cacallus snickered.

Sarni couldn't help but smile, but she still had a feeling of dread hanging over her.

Since losing her sight, Sarni's other senses seemed to work better than others. Those senses, combined with her sense of intuition, which she had always trusted, made that dread thick today. She tried to keep that smile on for others. She didn't want her mood to affect them.

"Maybe I'm just imagining it," she thought to herself. But her sense of smell was picking up an unusual scent as well. "I think maybe I should tell someone," Sarni whispered softly.

"What did you say"? Cacallus asked gruffly.

"Nothing. Nothing", replied Sarni quickly.

She didn't want him to worry and mostly she didn't want to worry herself.

"Oh well, come on then," he said.

They both walked in silence to the temple each preoccupied in their own thoughts. Cacaullus couldn't help but wonder what was worrying Sarni. He has known her long enough to know when she was hiding her thoughts. He knew better than to press her about it.

With passing minutes, Sarni felt the danger more and more. Just as she was about to confide in Cacaullus, she realized that they had reached the temple.

She never liked the new sacrifices because she preferred the original one where humans were sacrificed. It made more sense that way. That was the way the elders did it. It was the only way to truly satisfy the gods. Today, she didn't even notice the sheep that was sacrificed nor did she complain to Cacaullus about it the way she normally did. She was just lost in the lingering sense of danger. She didn't even realize when the ritual was over. By then, Cacaullus was really worried. As they left the temple, he took her aside and asked her what was bothering her. Sarni was initially hesitant, but she finally gave in.

"It's just that I can feel that something is wrong. I don't know how to explain this to you. I can just feel it," Sarni said.

"What do you mean?", asked Cacallus.

"I just feel it -- the smell, the air, everything. Do you feel it?"

"No sorry. I don't feel anything different. Maybe you are just imagining it. Come let me walk you home, we'll walk by the Sarno River. I know it always calms you".

Sarni reluctantly agreed but she knew that her senses were not deceiving her.

They went back for her nets and started for her place. She lived near the Sarno River. Sarni was a young, vibrant girl. B, being youngest in the family she was alwasys loved and pampered. She had beautiful brown eyes which captured everyone's attention.

Cacaullus -- , ther best friend she had there. CacaullusHe lived next door. They use to play and eat together. They wandered in the streets of pPompeii, and beside the river from morning to evening. They use to swim and fish.

Sarni grew up to be vary beautiful woman, with her brown eyes she could spellbouind any man in pPompieeeii. Her flawless black hairs resembled the clouds over the mountain on a rainy day. She had dimples in her cheeks when she smiled. Sarni was nothing short of the most beautiful woman. B for miles around, but Sarni had always been in love with Cacullus. She never told him abiout her feeling as she was waiting for the right moment.

But sShe never got her chance. The earthquake took everything from her; her family, her friends, her house and her eyes. Now she lived just in a small house close to the river for fresh water and also far from civilizations for peace and freedom.

Cacaullus has also loved Sarni. He loved the wasy she smiled when they were together. He loved for the inncocent soul she was. He was also waiting for the right moment but earthquake messed up everything. In the aftermath of the earthquake what Sarni needed was not a relationship but a friend. He kepts his emotions in check and waited for the perfect moment again. Cacaullus was always worried about her. Given her condition, it was easy for her to be injured and there was no one close by to help. He has often expressed her fear to her. She would just reply: "I place my trust in the Gods."

"I will stay with you always, Sarni. I will keep you safe."

vignette-4
# Vignette 4

**Vignette 4: Paint a literary portrait of the scene after the eruption: What does it look like? What does it smell like? What sounds does one hear? How is the natural world responding to the effects of the eruption? What are the animals doing? How is the plant life responding to the change? Think of this vignette as a bird’s-eye view of Pompeii after the eruption.**

_Still more....not finished!!! *******

The sun rises as it does every morning, but the shadow it casts takes on a very different shape today. Gone are the tall buildings that had created the perfect squares and hallways of light. Gone are the walls and the fences, which had once created patterns of dark and light on the lush green grass. Gone are the feet bustling to and fro, casting the elongated shadows of their owners as they busily start a new morning.

The sun rises today to a stillness, a flatness, a grey nothingness.

The earth is silent. No noise has been made since the eruption. Insects buried themselves deep within the earth or scuttled away. Birds flew away to find new homes. Other animals fled before the eruption. The humans that didn’t escape are buried beneath feet of ash along with their domesticated animals. All plant life was destroyed when the ash rained down and heat enveloped the city. No life will be sustained here for many years to come.

In the aftermath, Vesaevus; its summit considerably changed and its slopes completely denuded of vegetation, looms silently over the desolated land. Tendrils of smoke can still be seen rising from its gaping maw. For miles around, only a thick, dusty greyness peppered with chunks of rock can be seen.

Apart from the few people who sift through the ashes looking to recover lost possesions, not a single speck of colour or movement remains to be seen. I am sure that some few of these searchers will be looters looking for things of value, anything that will turn a profit. Always there are people like this who seek to profit from the devastation of others. It turns my stomach to think of such an enormous loss of life, all life - animal, vegetetable, mineral.

To think of all those lying dead beneath the rocks and ash, surrounded by the everyday accoutrements of their lives, never more to partake of earthly delights, fills me with such a melancholia that I believe will reside in me for the remainder of my days.

As I stand here on the highest point of Pompeii, Castellum Aquae, I can see that the upheaval has also changed the course of the Sarnus River so that Pompeii is no more on the river or the coast.





[Info... The writer Statius was about 34 years old when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD and may have witnessed the eruption. The landscape was already unrecognisable when he wrote, ‘Will future generations believe, when crops and these now deserted places once more thrive again, that cities and peoples are buried below and that ancestral lands have disappeared, having shared in the same fate? Not yet does the mountain-top cease to threaten death.’ (Silvae 4.4.78–85)

During the 79 AD eruption the mouth of the Sarnus River and the shallow bay to the south were filled in by volcanic deposits, which pushed the coastline of Pompeii outwards by more than one kilometre.

Similar to the Egyptians, the Pompeiians life was devoted solely to the practices of their religious beliefs, aiming to appease their many gods through offerings, rituals and sacrifices to maintain a civil and plentiful society. Vulcan, god of forge, fire and blacksmiths , was one such god whom the people of Pompeii and Herculaneum sought to appease him with the celebration of Volcanalia through the sacrifice of small fish on the 23rd of August .
Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.

Vesuvius has a long historic and literary tradition. It was considered a divinity of the genius type at the time of the eruption of 79 AD: it appears under the inscribed name Vesuvius as a serpent in the decorative frescos of many lararia, or household shrines, surviving from Pompeii. An inscription from Capua to IOVI VESVVIO indicates that he was worshipped as a power of Jupiter; that is, Jupiter Vesuvius]

.

The irony of this is that the Romans were extremely interested in predicting the future, and they had a range of ways to detect what they saw as the approaching wrath of the gods. They were adept, for example, at observing 'portents' in the shape of strange sights and sounds, or unusual births.

... there were warnings of the eruption of Vesuvius.

Even in these terms, there were warnings of the eruption of Vesuvius. Earthquakes in themselves counted as portentous, and the historian Cassius Dio, writing over a century later, reports repeated sightings of giants roaming the land. This was a bad portent indeed, given that one standard explanation for the volcanoes of south Italy was that, when the gods defeated the rebellious giants and brought peace to the universe, they buried them beneath the mountains, and that it was their stirrings that caused the eruptions.

But while the ancient imagination doubtless conjured up giants in plumes of gas from fumaroles (vents from which volcanic gas escapes into the atmosphere), the earthquakes that Pliny described so casually were more than just portents. Current thinking, however, had not yet caught up with their significance. We know this because, by an extraordinary coincidence, the philosopher Seneca, advisor to the emperor Nero, wrote a discussion of the scientific causes of earthquakes only a few years before the eruption.

Seneca's treatise on the causes of natural phenomena included an entire book on earthquakes, and at the time he was writing, the news was coming in freshly of the catastrophic earthquakes in Campania of AD 63, which caused extensive damage to both Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Seneca writes that he regarded it as likely that earthquakes in different parts of the world were interconnected, and even that they were linked to stormy weather, but he draws no link with volcanic activity. Indeed, he goes so far as to reproach the landowners who were deserting Campania for fear of further earthquakes.








vignette-5
# Vignette 5

**Vignette 5: Write from the perspective of a temple priest before the eruption. He’s trying to connect the volcanic activity with a god, or maybe even experiencing a vision related to the eruption. Make this vignette as mystical as you like.**
Agrippina stood up from the bed and wrapped a fine satin shawl around her statuesque body.
"I cannot do this, Marcus. The gods have not spoken to me yet."
Marcus Sempronius also stood up from the bed and pulled his toga around his body.
"Agrippina, Caesar orders it! The festivities are in less than a month, we need to keep the people quiet and in a proper festive spirit."
He laced his sandals and stood up.
Gripping her chin in his large hand, he spoke slowly, "This is not a request; this is an order, Agrippina. Do not disregard it."
"But we do not dare to ignore the gods, Marcus. They will exact a terrible punishment."
"Caesar is our ruler. Do it."
He planted a kiss on her mouth and left.
It was quiet in the temple. The smell of incense was soothing, transporting Agrippina to a higher plane. Her spirit was raised up there, but the gods were still silent. They would not speak to her and tell what the white smoke rising from the mountain top meant. She became upset due to the fact that she did not know what the smoke meant. She was also upset since the gods stayed silent.
She knew that they would never speak to her again, not since she had given in the sin of flesh with Marcus. But it had been impossible to resist his will and his charms. Mostly, she could not resist his power. He was the closest man to Caesar himself....the captain of his guards. Having Caesar's protection had its advantages; there were unsuspected luxuries in her house. She was favored by the most important and richest patrician families to bless their houses.
But there were also the orders. And now, just half an hour before she should speak to the people and give them the message of the gods, she was standing there, in the perfect silence, and her spirit heard no messages.
The gods were silent to her forever, but Caesar was not. He had given an order... an order she would have to follow.
"Oh, powerful and immortal gods, speak to me! Tell me your meaning. Tell me, why you are sending the white smoke. Is this your sign of contentment? Or of displeasure? Are you favorable to the festivities? Oh, immortal gods, speak to me!"
There was a waft of wind, and one of the bowls of incense started to spread scented smoke around Agrippina. She inhaled it slowly. Was this the message? Was this the answer?
It was the closest communion to the higher power she had experienced, so it had to be true.

She turned around and opened the doors. The crowd was there, waiting in silence, their eyes affixed on her.
"Joy to the people of Pompeii, for the gods have spoken! They are sending their joy and blessing upon each and every one of us. They wish peace and prosperity on each and every one of you. Receive Caesar's festivities with joy in your hearts. All is good upon the blessed land of Pompeii!"
She walked quickly back into the temple, not able to stand there and face the cheers of the crowd.
She had lied. In her heart she knew that she had lied. The incense was now all burned out, sending only black smoke in the air.
"Black smoke...the gods are angry! Oh, Marcus, my beloved Marcus....what did you do? What did you make me do?"
That night, Agrippina could not sleep. She felt hot, as if the sun was burning her. She threw away the light sheet covering her, but rivulets of sweat still broke across her spine. The heat seemed to increase, almost to an unbearable point.
Agrippina stood right up and walked to the window, letting the cool night air soothe her. The white smoke still came out of the Vesuvius.
"Gods, speak to me now! I beg you to speak to me now! There is still time...I can still make things right...But speak to me!"
Only silence reigned supreme and her spirit was not touched by any higher being. Perhaps all was lost. Agrippina walked back to bed and decided to take a few drops of valerian in a cup of wine. Valerian was the favored plant of the gods, bringing sweet dreams to the troubled spirits. Sometimes, they would favor her with visions. Agrippina hoped it would work this time.
She lay down in bed and closed her eyes, waiting for that special feeling. The feeling between waking and sleeping, when the spirits of the departed could be seen in with the mind's eye and the gods took human form.
It was a soft sensation of floating....until she felt the horrible choking feeling. The air was a wave of heat, burning down her nostrils and chest. She sat up in bed, coughing and heaving. Little by little, the horrible feeling of breathing pure fire was gone...but her peace was shattered. Was this the gods' punishment for lying? Or was it something worse...a sign of things to come?

She tried to get some sleep but the images of fire and the fear remained, making any attempts futile. She wanted to speak to Marcus about the vision. At first sign of light she went to him.
"What is the matter Agrippina?" he asked stirring. Her dishevelled appearance aroused him in a way he knew was not appropriate for this meeting.
"I had a vision, oh Marcus it was horrific" he motioned for her to sit on the bed with him.
She sat down and launched into the explanation. He absently caressed her arm as her worried words washed over him.
"I am sure it was nothing to worry about. Maybe it is just you worrying about your sin. You have no idea what this vision is referring to." she shook her head. He was right, she didn't but she had a feeling it had something to do with the white smoke.
"It was a warning I know it. Maybe we should leave?" he just laughed at her. She thought he'd be more understanding. She didn't know what else to say so left without another word.

During the sunlight hours men, women and children all came to her asking after the wishes of the gods. Agrippina told them the white smoke was a blessing or the preparations for the Vulcanalia festival were being well received by the god Vulcan and the white smoke was his contentment; like a wise and weathered old man smokes his pipe. She didn't disobey the orders she was given, keeping to her designated role to the letter. Mindlessly, she conversed with the fathers and mothers and thanked the children for the little gifts they kept bringing her, for the Gods. She congratulated the expectant little faces, looking up at her eagerly, eyes brimming with the desire to please. She encouraged them to pray and trust the priests' words and the Gods' blessings, despite her own treachery.

She placated the people of the city with soothing words that slipped from her lips; words that were lying, ugly, black and choking. For Agripinna knew that if she spoke to them of her fears about angered gods and black smoke that they would be the last words she would ever speak.

Each night; since the first vision of breathing fire, burning and of the suffocating feeling she’d awoken with; Agrippina was tormented by similar visions. Some of her visions and dreams were clearer than others; where the fires burned hotter, the cloying fear made her sick, black smoke stole air and smothered daylight, the screams were louder, and she was surrounded by pain. In the worst ones, she could see the innocent faces she had lied to during the day ; rosy cheeks covered in ashes, contorting in pain and desperately trying to breathe through the burning engulfing their small lungs. She recoiled helplessly in front of the accusations swimming in their betrayed eyes, of how she lied to them, of how she could have saved them, of how she could have taken pity and killed them herself to spare them such unbearable agony. Trashing around in her bed, she was unable to escape the sounds of their laughter turned into mangled cries of horror, the acrid smell of their skin boiling or the vision of their flesh melting in the hellish rings of smoke and fires enveloping her entire world.

She awoke from each vision screaming, lungs gasping for air and long limbs struggling in her sheets.

Agrippina tried to tell Marcus again that what she saw was a warning. Eventually she stopped trying to tell him because each time he laughed her off and told her she had nothing to worry about, what she saw was nothing and if it was something it was just the guilt and worry that came with her sin, of sleeping with him.

Agrippina spent most of her days in the temple, her statuesque form bowed and praying to the gods and to Vulcan in particular. Her words not just a prayer for answers but an appeal and a plea for her visions to not come true or to be a lie and for life and peace.

The time she didn’t spend praying or tortured by nightmares in her sleep she spent amongst the people. Despite her visions she remained dignified as she walked through the cobbled streets letting the sounds of laughter and preparations for the coming festival wash over her. Agrippina was a striking woman who stood out from the dirty clothes of the citizens who spoke to her and asked for advice. She was tall and held herself in a way that welcoming, it was her duty to her people to help them when she could even if she lied about the smoke. Her long hair of mahogany ringlets was twisted and pinned and hanging loose all at once. Intelligent slate eyes observed everything and everyone, trying to imprint it all on the walls of her mind.

Days passed and she glided from temple to city to Marcus to sleep to nightmarish visions. She prayed. She listened. She placated. She lied. And a hollow feeling began to seep slowly through her as with each day the realisation that she couldn’t do anything, with her fears or her god given visions, crashed over her violently again and again.

***

She barely slept instead watching the moonlight dance around the room. A naked Marcus passes out in exhaustion beside her. She just lay there unmoving as the moonlight dance faded, candles flickered and were extinguished as the dance of a new sun dawned. Agrippina knew that outside night transitioned into day the townspeople and villagers would be preparing for the day ahead. Hanging out cloths, lighting fires in their ovens, catching small animals or on the shore and in boasts fishing for small fish, both to be engulfed in the bonfire flames as sacrificial offerings to Vulcan.
The day of the Vulcanalia festival was finally here.

**
***
People woke and gathered their things. Agrippina slid from the bed after Marcus left, she remained still and quiet between the time he woke and the time he departed, she bathed and dressed in her festival fabrics. She joined the temple in their celebration of Vulcanalia and praying to great god Vulcan. Agrippina could almost see the people and communities gathering in the Pompeii that rested outside the temple doors. Kneeling, head bowed and hands clasped she closed her eyes. Her lids shuttered the light and her vision went dark. Form the dark shapes began to form and she could see the people of Pompeii and those in the villages and towns beyond beginning the celebrations.
Agrippina left her temple and the other priests to their prayer, slipping out into the city of Pompeii. The worry she carried from her now nightly visions of fire and pain was now her constant companion an invisible cloak that itched all her senses.
She flits from gathering to gathering and celebration to celebration. Sometimes she joining the people of Pompeii in their games and sometimes leading them in their prayers to Vulcan; asking for fertile fields, successful harvests and for their grain and food to be safe from destruction by fire.
As the day flowed on, the sun moved across the skies overhead and the great Mount Vesuvius began casting dark abyss like shadows across Pompeii.
Agrippina’s worry dissolved as a sense of foreboding enveloped her. She talked with the people, listened to their worries and helped them as they lit their bonfires. The small animals and still-live fish that had been caught in the early hours of the morn were thrown into the fires as sacrificial offerings to the Vulcan. She watched as each sacrifice was engulfed by hot flames, any sounds the small creatures made were cut short as they died and joined the wood that fuelled the burn. She flinched remembering the screams from her visions as each small bodies crackled and burned. Closing her eyes all she could see were men, women and children being smothered and burning their screams echoing every corridor of her mind.

**

Her vision that night was both better and worse she screamed and gasped in her pain like those around her but this time her pain suddenly stopped and peace seaped through her body. When she woke she looked around her knowing without any doubt in her mind that this was the last time she would sleep here.
Today was her last. Today she would die.

***
She felt the earth quake. It had been quaking on and off for weeks, like it was both angry and sad and knew what was coming.
Agrippina was with the orphans and children who had noone. She felt the world shake, the barest moment of silence then sound exploded. She saw Mount Vesuvious erupt. rock and earth flew out from its top, the sky darked to pitch with smoke. The children were screaming and she stayed with them. Mount Vesuvious's top, its new mouth, glowed a molten blend of orange and red and started spewing ash. The air around Agrippina and the people of pompeii grew thick with hot ash and something poisonous.
It was chaos.