Merge changes from master into Kitch

Thomas Kitchen authored
revision 52138218c7b98f0a62e27326023dbbd49cc20df2
### Welcome to GrammoWriMo!!

**12/08/14 Update**
Hello GrammoWriMo-ers,
I want to thank those of you who have contributed extra text to our GrammoWriMo group novel. In the last week we've increased our word count by around 6,000 words, bumping it up to around 36,000 total. With the additions of the short stories from our Short Story contest, we'll have a really great, complete novel. Thank you!

You can continue the GrammoWriMo fun by entering our [Short Story contest]( and our [Create our Cover design contest]( Congratulations, also, to Gayle, who is the winner of our Name this Novel contest. The winning title is: Frozen by Fire!

-Ann at Grammarly

**11/29/14 Update**
Hello GrammoWriMo-ers,

With a little over a day left in GrammoWriMo we have about 26,000 words in our GrammoWriMo group novel. Let's finish strong and try as hard as we can to meet our goal of 50,000 words during the month of November! We can do this! Keep writing!

-Ann at Grammarly

**11/19/14 Update**

Hello GrammoWriMo-ers,

I wanted to give a quick word count update: we have a total of approximately 17,000 words in our GrammoWriMo group novel right now. This is a great start, but let's keep going! Those of you who haven't written yet: now is the time. Let's do this!

-Ann at Grammarly

**11/17/14 Update**

Hello GrammoWriMo-ers,

I hope you all had a wonderful, productive writing weekend. I want to take a minute to thank our awesome Vignette Moderators, who are working hard to encourage conversation, approve text, and troubleshoot any issues they run into. Hats off to you, moderators!

Writers, please remember to allow moderators to approve text submitted to your vignette. Our moderators are very active and will get to any text awaiting approval as soon as they can.

Thanks for making this an amazing GrammoWriMo so far. We're more than halfway through November, so keep it up!

-Ann at Grammarly

**11/14/14 Update**
Hello GrammoWriMo-ers,

I wanted to let you know that we just opened our first GrammoWriMo contest of the year, our Name This Novel contest. Click the link to enter for your chance to win cool prizes from one of our sponsors, Scribophile!

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to their vignettes already. I know the Penflip platform can be tricky sometimes, but everyone seems to be figuring it out and helping each other. Feel free to email me if you have any questions.

Have a great weekend of writing!

-Ann at Grammarly

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### **11/7/14 Update**
Hello GrammoWriMo-ers,

You all should have received your suggested assigned writing day via email on Thursday. Just to clarify, you can write anytime, but you'll receive an email reminder to write on your assigned day.

Please also make sure you're adding your text to the correct vignette. A few submissions have been made to the Example Chapter, and I'm a little worried that some text might get lost in these early days. Find your vignette number, add your text, and wait for your moderator to approve it.

Thank you! I hope everyone has a productive and fun weekend of brainstorming, writing, and general good times!

-Ann at Grammarly

**11/4/14/ Update**
Hello GrammoWriMo-ers,

I wanted to clarify something about the writing process. Each vignette group should write independently instead of waiting for other groups to finish first. Each vignette will be it's own "mini story," and after they're all completed we'll integrate them together in the editing process. That way everyone can write at the same time, but our edits will ensure that the novel will read like a novel instead of a collection of short stories.

Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you!
-Ann at Grammarly

**11/3/14 Update**
Hello GrammoWriMo-ers!

If you scroll down on this page, you can see that I added individual chapters for each vignette. These chapters are where you will write the actual text of your vignette after you're finished brainstorming in your discussion group.

Once your group is ready to write, go for it! Later this week I will also send out a loose writing schedule that you can follow if you would like to write on specific days.

Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you!
-Ann at Grammarly

**11/1/14 Update**
Hello GrammoWriMo-ers!
It looks like brainstorming is off to a great start. There are some very exciting ideas being shared in the Discussion groups, and it looks like a great novel is taking shape.
If you have any questions about the writing process, your vignette group, or GrammoWriMo in general, please don't hesitate to email me at I'm happy to help make this process easy and fun for everyone.
-Ann at Grammarly

**10/30/14 Update**
Hi Everyone,
I apologize for the massive influx of emails you received today about the new discussion groups. If you would like to change your email notification settings, go here:

Now that the groups have been created, you shouldn't receive any more email updates about them. Thank you again for being part of GrammoWriMo!

-Ann at Grammarly

Hello, GrammoWriMo-ers! Here are your GrammoWriMo updates:**

- We just finished creating the vignette assignment groups. You will receive your vignette assignment along with your orientation packet either today, October 30, or tomorrow, October 31.

- The first week of November is set aside for brainstorming with your vignette group. Use your vignette Discussion board to talk about characters, themes, plot points, etc.

- We need vignette moderators! Moderators will approve text within vignettes and guide the group discussion. If you would like to be a vignette moderator, send an email to

As always, get in touch with us using the Discussion feature in Penflip,
[@GrammoWriMo]( on Twitter, on Facebook,
or email:

Thank you!

Hello, GrammoWriMo-ers! Here are a few GrammoWriMo updates:**
- We're extending the sign up period until Monday, October 27 in hopes of gaining a few more writers at the last minute. Tell your friends, family, and colleagues about GrammoWriMo and send them the sign up link:

- Our group novel will be composed of many smaller story vignettes, each focusing on different characters, scenes, perspectives, and more. We're developing themes for the story vignettes right now, so if you have any ideas about what our group novel should focus on, please share them using the Discussion feature. We'll assign vignette themes to groups of writers after the sign-up period closes.

-Have you checked out our contest sponsors yet? Learn more about them at:

Get in touch using the Discussion feature in Penflip
@GrammoWriMo on Twitter on Facebook


Thanks for signing up for #GrammoWriMo!
Writing starts in November, but over the next few weeks we'll post updates on the writing process, schedules, and guidelines here and at [](

For now, feel free to do some background research on our group novel theme, the destruction of Pompeii, on our [Research Links page](

Stay in touch with GrammmoWriMo on [Twitter]( and [Facebook](

- Brush up on Markdown:
- Learn about Penflip: [](
- Talk to a person:



It is already past three in the afternoon and the people are beginning to stir after their afternoon rest. A cart drawn by two tired looking mules approaches the Central Baths on Via di Nola through the Nola Gate. A few shop fronts still have their awnings down against the glare of the afternoon sun dipping on the western horizon. The entrance to the baths is brightly lit and the yellow and blue frescos on the walls facing the street, dance in the light. The walls of the houses facing the street are windowless and this practice lends a sense of protection and security to those within the walls. Usually, it is quiet enough at this time of day for one to discern the sound of the many household water fountains, but today it is eerily silent.

“Where are the people? Wake up and drink your fill at the fountain of this blessed wine. You will find no better. Neither here, nor anywhere else in the Empire! Come, Christians and citizens of Pompeii alike.”

“What fountain are you talking about? The fountains have dried up overnight. What do you know about it?” An old woman shuffles along after sweeping in front of her door. ‘Mad Christians! They are everywhere now-a-days and have pinched the ritual of Bacchus and claim it as their own.’ She aims a swiping blow with her broom at the legs of the offending mules and they skid on the cobblestones.

“Woah! I come in peace, Old Woman.hoa!” The mules are steadied and the wagon comes to a stop at the door of the baths. "I come in peace, Old Woman."

“You are too early for the cliental at the baths. They will not arrive before the business of the day has been concluded. Come back just before sunset.,Thea gentleman addressing the driver of the cart holdputs in. He takes the reigns of the mules firmly in his tanned hand.
“Why don’t you take your cart to the Via Consolare.? It will be safe to leave it there. You may visit one of the temples or if you please, one of the many places serving refreshments. This ash that Mount Vesuvius has been sprouting the past few hours has left me parched and I am keen to wash the dust off me. I hope it stops soon as I have a business to attend to and everyone seems to be on edge today, for whatever reason I do not know. Even my dog is hiding under the stairs and would not come out with me this afternoon, as is his habit. ”

“I came to do business, Si,r, and I am in a hurry to settle the business before dark. Others might wait till the people are sated with food and drink to negotiate business deals, but that is not my way. I do more business in one day than some merchants do in a week.”

“Only ill can come of driving a business deal without regard for the comforts of the client. Hungry people do not fare well when confronted with figures and decisions.”

“To the contrary, Sir. I am sure that the prospective clients are all well fed and rested, if not in their beds, at least in the arms of their mistress.” With a wink, the reigns are expertly whipped out of the restraining hands and the driver swings from the seat.

After much heckling by those present, Euseno got the merchant to divulge that the secret to the best full bodied white wines there are to be found in the region, and indeed, the whole of the Empire,, is the tried and tested method of the grapes being stomped by the feet of maidens, instead of using winepresses. Served with the usual carafe of water fresh from the spring fountain, it makes for an excellent thirst quencher; a very welcome libation during the many hot days still being experienced during the month of August. The merchant only has one wagon left of amphorae of wine and wants to sell them to the highest bidder before sunset. Someone enquires who his master is and where the vineyard is that he is speaking so highly of as they all know one another and every inch of the Pompeii viticulture region.

“Didn’t I see you yesterday at Herculaneum? You were selling wine outside the Forum where Emperor Titus was being received. You then also said that you only had this one consignment left to sell ...!

“No. It could not have been me ...-

Before the driver could stop him, Euseno was on the wagon and lifted the tarpaulin covering the cargo. “Here!” he said in triumph. “It is the same seal that was on the flagons being sold at Herculaneum: ‘Vesuvinum’. You still assured me that it was from a private winery just outside Pompeii, on the lower western slopes of Mount Vesuvius. Hence, the name: Vesuvius and vinum* combined! I thought it was a silly name and it stuck in my mind and it had a kick like a mule. It did not agree with my stomach and I prayed to the goddess Caca all night!”

“You are mistaken, sir. I have never seen you before.”

“Are you calling me a liar?” Turning to the ever growing crowd, Euseno, threw his arms wide in a gesture of including everyone in this conversation. “Have I ever knowingly lied to anyone, especially to someone belonging to the honourable and ancient guild of winemakers?”

“Yes, you have.” And a few others in the crowd join in with this confirmation of his guilt.
“You sell water only flavoured with wine at your tavern and the women are, therefore, not as comely at your caupona as at other establishments.”

Ribald after ribald remark beset the innkeeper and he beats a hasty retreat before the crowd can accuse him of more serious crimes against his patrons.

“Tell us a bit more about this blessed wine of yours?. If it kicks like a mule as Euseno attested, then I would buy the whole consignment from you.”

“Thank you, Sir ...”

“I am Gaius et Quintus and I deal on behalf of my master, Quintus Poppeus.”

“Well, Gaius et Quintus, I will be happy to give you a taste of the wine before you buy. As luck would have it, I have a wineskin of wine right here with me. Now all we need is to find a goblet and I will pour you a fair measure for you to appreciate.” With a smile, the stranger produces the wineskin straining at the seams and awaits the inevitable clamour for a sample of the wine. Soon there is many a wine cup extended by the onlookers, eager to avail themselves of the offer of free wine.

“And might I enquire as to your name, Sir?” says Gaius et Quintus as he wipes the tears from his eyes at the strength of the very agreeable wine.

“I am Flavia Lucia Augusta, but you may call me Flavia Augusta.” Lucia waits for the usual reaction of astonishment from the crowd.

“But, you are a woman!”

“That I am indeed,” says Lucia and drapes the toga she has been wearing in a tighter flourish over her shoulder.

“And you are wearing a toga ...” The people drop their eyes, each with their own thought.

“Yes, astute Sir. It was cold this morning on the road and, therefore, I took my late husband’s toga to keep me warm. I did not think that the citizens of Pompeii would mind the error in dress code as all can see that I am a wine merchant and not a prostibulae as my hair is not dyed yellow, red, or blue.” It took the crowd a while to join Lucia in laughter and some good natured banter is exchanged.

“Does that mean that we can get the wine at half price? You do not have a guild to pay dues to,” asks a cheeky fellow at the back of the crowd.

Lucia looks expectantly at Gaius et Quintus. “It seems to me that you have already drummed up a demand for this wine and it would be prudent of me to make you an offer. Shall we retire to the taverna across the road were we can continue to discuss our business?” He does not wait for Lucia’s answer as he deftly weaves his way through the people, accidently spilling some of their wine still undrunk in their cups.

“Tell me, Flavia Augusta: why are you in such a hurry to sell what by all accounts seems to be the best wine you have produced in years?” Gaius leads the way into the dimly lit taverna and indicates to the young woman behind the counter that he wants two goblets and a carafe of water.

“Well, Gaius, where do I begin? Yes, it is the best wines I have produced in years. Last year’s crop was the highest yield I have had since my late husband and I have planted the vineyard at the base of the mountain. Yesterday, during the festival of Volcanalia, my sister, who serves at the temple at Herculaneum, told me she had a dream that my wines will be served to kings thousands of years from now. I did not know what to make of it and thought that she meant the new religion of Jesus of Nazareth would flourish.”

Gaius bursts out laughing and reaches for the wineskin that Lucia had placed on the table between them. “Mark my words, that cult is just another fancy that will soon blow over. But that doesn’t answer my question. Why are you in such a hurry to sell your stock? If you would be prepared to wait for a year or two, then the wine would be even better in quality.”

“I woke up yesterday morning to a noise in my cellar. Some of the amphorae had burst open and the wine had spilled out on the floor. It was extremely hot in there. I do not understand why this is so. I decided to bring the wine to town and to sell it off as soon as I can, before losing everything. Since my husband died last year soon after the harvest was in, the hard work of pruning and tending the vines has left me exhausted. I intend to leave for Cape Misenum tomorrow morning. I have friends there and it is not as crowded as Pompeii. One cannot move in this town during the summer months. All of Rome seems to take their vacation here during the hot month of August.”

“Yes, it can get pretty crowded here during August. It will be cooler across the Bay of Naples. You will like it there.”

“Well, could you make me a fair offer for the wine, Gaius? I must get back to my house and prepare the evening meal. I have left my slave, Jucista, in charge of the kitchen.”

“I need to confirm the price with Quintus Poppeus as we would need storage place for the wine. I still think that it would improve with age. Why don’t you return to your home and come and see me this evening? I will have an answer for you. Here are a few gold pieces as payment in good faith. Then you can stay overnight in town and make arrangements early next morning for your passage to Cape Misenum.”

“I would rather not travel at night. May we agree to meet here tomorrow morning after you had your breakfast? It will give me time to make arrangements at my house for the tending of the vineyard and the household chores, before my departure. I am already packed and am keen to get away as soon as I have my purse. Do not disappoint me, Gaius.”

Lucia gathers the toga from the chair where she had dropped it when she had entered and drapes it over her right shoulder before stepping out into the road. On impulse, she hands the clasp with the three black pearls, which normally held the toga in place, to the old woman who was standing outside the door eavesdropping on her conversation with Gaius. “I have a feeling I would not have any use for it anymore after today. May it bring you luck.” A sense of finality comes over her, akin to the day that her husband had unexpectedly died of a heart attack.

The ash in the air makes her cough and she draws the material over her nose and mouth. "Look at the mushroom cloud above the mountain. Nothing good will come of this. The god Vulcan was not appeased at the Volcanalia festival held yesterday. Before I depart tomorrow morning, I will bring special offerings to the goddess Opi during the Opiconsivia festival."
Lucia turns away from the dispersing crowd and strides to her wagon, which stands in the street. She checks the cart and fixes the tarpaulin, then gives the weary mules a pat.

The sky is darkening earlier than usual. The ground shakes for a few moments. Murmurs of unease ripple through the crowd as they each return to their business, preparing to finish up before nightfall.

Lucia climbs up onto the wagon seat, coughs once more, gestures her farewell to the remaining onlookers, and with a "Giddyup!" rides down the road.

Suddenly, the ground shudders violently, and Lucia grasps the reins desperately in an attempt to stay upright.

[*Vesuvinum (combining Vesuvius and the Latin for wine, vinum]

There seems no facility to format the text, eg to justify the paragraphs. Also, I had to use double space between the paragraphs, i s o the function of paragraph spacing. It makes the text look "untidy". Furthermore, the 'spell and grammar check' supplied by GRAMMARLY does not function the above script.
*** 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

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.
# Lonely Sailor

The stench of rotting meat greeted him at the docks. He also quickly noticed the awkward silence of the usually busy city. The two mixed together created an uneasy feeling in his being. He docked his Daisy at the port and stepped down into a grey mud. Apodemio the Traveller, as his name suggests, was fond of travelling to faraway places on a constant basis. His baptismal name proved his future fate of being a traveller and because he travelled so much, he became fondly known as not simply Apodemio but as Apodemio the Traveller. Owning a fleet of boats, a few caravans and some donkeys and horses, Apodemio was able to travel to anyplace from the next village to the nearby towns and cities. He also loaned travelling vessels to his fellow countrymen and operated this as a business.
Here, Apodemio came to Pompeii, a place blessed with his frequent visits, to pay tribute to a friend and to do some business. The walk from the dock to the nearest residential area was a bit lengthy so it would be a while before he would gain sightings of human life. From the distance he walked, Apodemio had a strange feeling of uneasiness; the place was too quiet. Despite the distance, he would hear the humming of the crowds asunder. The grey mud-like substance relieved his fears in no way neither did the stench which although resembled dead animals, had a distinctively more pungent smell. Apodemio tried to ascertain the ordour’s origin, but to no avail. He knew what dead animals smelled like because in his hometown, there was always some stray dead animal on the roadside due to careless behavior. Be it a month old, or two, this smell was too intense to be that of animals. As he approached closer, it became almost unbearable.
Upon entering the city, Apodemio saw two men. His heart raced faster than his stallion and his speed boat combined. The two men were seated at the foot of an anvil, one with a hammer and nails near him and the other with a few battered shoes up for repair. The two men were covered in the grey mud and seemed frozen. The stench was evidently stemming from them; they had been dead, minimum three weeks. Apodemio instantly gazed around and noticed the emptiness of the city. The uneasiness that he had felt was wholly due to this. He walked around the mud and debris of ruins. All around were dead bodies of seemingly unsuspecting people, many of whom were caught frozen while engaged in various activities.
At the sight of a totally destructed city, sorrow panged Apodemio’s soul. All these people were dead, everyone, even… the thought literally seized him in his spot…Glaucus too was gone. Apodemio had travelled for two months after he last saw his dear friend. He had promised to visit him earlier, when Glaucus fell ill from a terrible flu. Apodemio’s promise was stunted when he got an opportunity to travel to the Caribbean. He had told his friend of this once in a lifetime occasion and was responded with a knowing understanding. He was grateful at Glaucus’ temperament and promised to bring him a token from his trip, besides, Glaucus had assured him that he was recovering fine.
Dreading what he knew to be reality, Apodemio managed to walk the path ot his friend’s little cottage. Oh how he wished he had not taken that trip, how he wished he was there for and with his friend, how he wished….Glaucus was there to walk the path with him. In his remorse, he wished many things even that Glaucus, if he had to, would die of the flu instead rather than this horrible death. Approaching the cottage, Apodemio could discern nothing; all was covered in gray mud. He knew however, the exact spot where the house was because he had been there so many times.
As he climbed the four concrete stairs, he began to sweat profusely, as if his sweat was competing with his heart beat in a race. Shaking hands dusted the dried mud off the doorknob and pushed it open. As if giving him no time to prepare, the body of his friend greeted him. Glaucus was sitting upright on his favourite chair, facing the hills, a spot he admired dearly. He looked peaceful with a pipe protruding off his half enclosed lips and hands well placed on the armrest of the chair. He seemed to have died peacefully. This alone gave a bit of consolation to Apodemio who knelt beside his friend and wept bitterly.
His heart was filled with sorrow which flowed through his tears. After sobbing fir an extended period, Apodemio decided that his mourning would do nothing for his friend. He went to the back, sourced a shovel and dug a hole in the backyard. After hurling Glaucus over his shoulder, he placed him in the hole, facing east, his friend’s favourite direction; he was buried facing the hills. With courage overcoming great difficulty, he heaved shovels of muddy sand over the body and placed the small package that he had brought him over the burial site. Apodemio then placed his last respects to his friend and left the now deserted city of Pompeii.
On his return to the boat, he had decided to pay tribute to this once beautiful city full of beautiful people. He thought shortly and decided that he would name his next boats Pompeii, in honour of the lost city and Glaucus, in honour of his forever friend.

# Vignette 1

The sunlight slips through the curtains wrapping me up in cozy warmth. I move slowly one of my eyelids but it seems too heavy. I decide to stay here a bit longer but the noise that comes from the kitchen won’t let me enjoy the peace of sleeping.

In some weeks the harvest time will come. I love the aroma and the sight of our blossoming olive trees so beautiful and peaceful. This year we couldn’t hire many men to do the collection of fruits but my father believes we will be able to do it. My mother and I will have to check that the leaves are removed and the olives are properly washed to take them to the trapetum. She always advises me to be sure that additional oil is kept to go to the temple. I can’t tell her I lost my lunula, the amulet given for my protection! My mother will be furious if I tell her I've lost it. It's my only protection from evil forces, like demons and, worst of all, the evil eye. But I'm sure I'll find it before too long, and my mother will never need to know it's lost.

The noise from the kitchen doesn't get any quieter, and I can still hear it no matter how much I try to cover my ears, so I sit up, resigning myself to the fact that I'll actually have to get up. Covering a yawn with my hand, I pad out of the room, heading towards the kitchen where I know the others will be. I adjust the neckline of my tunic as I go, hoping to hide the fact that my lunula isn't hanging around my neck.

As I enter the kitchen, I feel the earth below me tremor. My heart drops and the first thought that comes to my mind is that this is an effect of loosing my lunula. I shake my head and realize that I'm being paranoid. After all, Pompeii is known for it's tremors. This was normal.

Looking around, I notice that there are extra members in the kitchen today. This explains the unusual amount of noise.
"Hi uncle Alanzo, aunt Livia!" I acknowledge them and take my seat at the table where fresh cheese and hot bread are presented to me by my nonna and I look at her gratefully. This is not a regular breakfast.

I look at them, my dear ones, and I'm grateful to be here in this wonderful place surrounded by love. I look at my mother and she looks back at me...something is wrong. Her look is swamped in sadness. I have never seen those remorseful eyes before. I try to ask her what is this all about but before I could say anything she tells me: "My pretty little girl, it's your birthday...your last birthday here...please try to understand us". She starts crying while everyone's faces turned white, red and then white again.

My slice of bread and cheese stilled halfway to mouth as my head shot up. There were few possibilities: it was my fourteenth birthday, and many girls were betrothed and married by fifteen!

"But I've barely started weaving my _tunica recta_" I stuttered. Aunt Livia knew how much trouble I was having with that blasted loom..

"Sweetheart -" Papa began, as my beloved Mama turned into his arms and began to weep.

The words were cut off as another tremor rumbled through the house, far stronger than the first. My uncle and I dived under the table, Mama and Aunt Livia clutched the solid outer doorframe, and Papa raced to protected the _lares familiares_, the small statues representing the gods who cared for our household, while plaster rained down from the walls on all sides. My hand automatically reached for my _lunula_ - it wasn't there, of course, but Uncle Alanzo held me close while gripping the dancing table with his other hand.

We stumbled outside as soon as we dared, still wobbly and choking on the dust, each one of us staring toward the apparently placid Mons Vesuvius. It was the feast of Vulcanalia as well as my birthday - what could this mean?

My little brother Claudius, must have seen me reaching for my lunula by reflex.
”You lost your lunula! This is your fault!” he said with a look that made me realize he probably knew where it was, otherwise why would he say that i had lost it? Wouldn’t he have said i wasn’t wearing it?
Everyone turned and looked at me. ”Ah, um, It’s not …” I stammered. I turned to my little brother “what did you do with it?” I yelled at him. “Give it back before something else happens!”
“Claudius” my mama says, “Do you have your sister’s lunula? You know how important it is, give it back to her.”

"N-No, mother, I... I don't have it!" And then Claudius started to run out of the house, thus proving my hunch that he has something to do with the loss of my lunula. Everyone else was calling out his name, but to no avail - he was gone like a wild horse. So, I decided to chase after him, but not after another tremor hit the ground, causing me to lose my balance and stumble to the floor.
I was now in the main road, shouting out Claudius's name, but it was all hopeless - he had hidden himself well somewhere in Pompeii. As I continued my search, the unexpected suddenly happened - the great mountain Vesuvius spewed out a dark tower of black cloud from it's peak. The tremors intensified; pots were falling down from everywhere, stalls suddenly collapsed without warning, people were panicking and running around in circles. What if the loss of my lunula is connected to this very, very, very bad omen?
an say anything she tells me: "My pretty little girl, it's your birthday...your last birthday here...please try to understand us". She starts crying while everyone's faces turned white, red and then white again.

My slice of bread and cheese stills halfway to mouth as my head shoots up. There are few possibilities: it is my fourteenth birthday, and many girls are betrothed and married by fifteen!

"But I've barely started weaving my _tunica recta_" I stutter. Aunt Livia knows how much trouble I'm having with that blasted loom.

"Sweetheart -" Papa begins, as my beloved Mama turns into his arms and starts to weep.

The words are cut off as another tremor rumbles through the house, far stronger than the first. My uncle and I dive under the table, Mama and Aunt Livia clutch the solid outer doorframe, and Papa races to protected the _lares familiares_, the small statues representing the gods who care for our household, while plaster rains down from the walls on all sides. My hand automatically reaches for my _lunula_ - it isn't there, of course, but Uncle Alanzo holds me close while gripping the dancing table with his other hand.

We stumble outside as soon as we dare, still wobbly and choking on the dust, each one of us staring toward the apparently placid Mons Vesuvius. It is the feast of Vulcanalia as well as my birthday - what could this mean?

My little brother Claudius must have seen me reaching for my lunula by reflex.
”You lost your lunula! This is your fault!” he says with a look that makes me realize he probably knows where it is - why else would he say I've lost it? Wouldn’t he have said I'm not wearing it?
Everyone turns and looks at me. ”Ah, um, It’s not …” I stammer. I turn to my little brother. “What did you do with it?” I yell at him. “Give it back before something else happens!”
“Claudius,” my mama says, “Do you have your sister’s lunula? You know how important it is; give it back to her.”

"N-No, mother, I... I don't have it!" And then Claudius starts to run out of the house, thus proving my hunch that he has something to do with the loss of my lunula. Everyone else calls out his name, but to no avail - he's gone like a wild horse. So, I decide to chase after him, but not after another tremor hits the ground, causing me to lose my balance and stumble to the floor.
I'm now in the main road, shouting out Claudius's name, but it's all hopeless - he has probably hidden himself well somewhere in Pompeii. As I continue my search, the unexpected suddenly happens - the great Mount Vesuvius spews out a dark tower of black clouds from it's peak. The tremors intensify; pots fall down from everywhere; stalls suddenly collapse without warning; people are panicking and running around in circles. What if the loss of my lunula is connected to this very, very, very bad omen?

I shake off the thought and sprint down the road. Lamenting at my missing lunula will not get it back. I must find Claudius - he knows where it is. I hear my mother calling my name from afar, but I keep running. Must find Claudius. Must find Claudius. What if something happens to him? What if something has already happened to him? What if he is hurt?

I run faster still.

I try to remember where he usually hides with his friends. Outside the bathhouse were they like to hear the echo of their voices as they sing, or by the market where they usually like to toss rocks at the goats and see them buck in the enclosures. The Market is closests, and I run in that direction as fast as I can. People are already outside now looking over at the Mons Vesuvius. The sky is starting to darken, and more people are coming out into the street to look at the dark cloud that is rising.

I don't stop to look, I only find that my legs carry me faster towards the Market. The road now is starting to fill with the chatter of people as they start to talk and some are now praying. "Claudius!" I start screaming at the top of my lungs. I no longer care about he Lunula and I find that tears are now running down my cheeks.

I'm no longer sure if I am crying because Claudius is missing or because my father just told me I was being betrothed. All I want to do now is find my little brother and hug him. Hold him tight and take him back home. I can't find him I can't see him, and more tears rush down my face. "Claudius!" I scream once again as the animals in the market start to look of fear. Their eyes wide, the goats pulling on their leashes. The horses are now restless as their owners start to lash them to keep still.

The sound of birds now flocking as the ground shakes again scares me. There have been tremors as long as I can remember but never this long. I feel the ground now shift below my feet and I fall, my hands hit the dirt next to the enclosures. I feel as my knees scrape and my tunica is now soiled with straw and mud. I sit up on the floor. Looking around as people start to pack up their stores and belongings.

Cyprian one of the hands that works for my father during the harvest sees me as I fall and comes rushing over to me. "Little bird, be careful," he cries out as he leaves the fence he was mending to come by my side, leaning down and lifting me back to my feet.

I try to clean my tunic but my hands are so dirty they only smudge the dirt more. Cyprian takes some water from his goat skin and pours it over my hands as he helps me clean them. The dirt is washed off as well as some of my blood. "Cyprian, have you seen Claudius, he ran off and I need to find him."

"Ah yes, I'd just saw him running in that direction." He points in the direction that is further into the market. "But why? Why is he running away from you?"

"It's hard to explain, Cyprian. But I have reasons to believe that Claudius had make off with my lunula."

A rush of cold water pours over my hands as Cyprian drops his goat skin. He has turned pale. "This is a bad omen, it's evil. It certainly is."

"I can't afford to lose him, Cyprian, not now. My family cannot lose him now. My family... I... We just can't..." I started to sob. Cyprian stood still, very close to me but seems not sure what to do to console his master's beloved daughter. Finally he sighed and whispered, "Listen, precious, why don't we just pray to the gods? They must be able to bring Claudius back, not just alive, but safe. Come on, here's my bulla. Let's hold the bulla and join hands as we send our humble request to the powerful gods of our ancestors. May they grant him safety and guidance..."

I tried to stop crying, but couldn't. And even as I nodded to Cyprian and joined my hands to pray, I felt the dread rising in my heart. The tremors below my feet seemed to be getting stronger and stronger.I tried to concentrate on my prayers. But couldn't. My eyes just wandered around, trying to spot my brother. But instead of him, they saw shock and terror, on every face. And then I noticed, it wasn't just me who was crying there.

**Vignette 1: Write from the perspective of a peasant citizen of Pompeii living his or her regular life leading up to the eruption, and then witnessing the eruption first hand. (We will submit this vignette as our official Guinness World Record attempt, so please make sure you contribute to the story!)**
# 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!"


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 11

**Vignette 11: Write from the perspective of a widow who lives alone in Pompeii without family or many friends. Perhaps she feels differently about the eruption than other citizens do, or is more accepting of it since life has already ‘passed her by.’ Or, maybe the chaos is a wake-up call to start living in the moment instead of reliving the past. This vignette should take place before and during the eruption.**

I wake too early yet again. Peeking through the dark auburn curtains I see nothing but the dark, I mutter a curse and turn to sleep again -- but there is the faintest streak of gray across the sky beyond my window. I might as well get up.

I don’t hear any birds chirping yet from the plain tree in the courtyard. It’s going to be a long day indeed, and I’m not looking forward to it. Well, it’s probably for the best . The Feast of Vulcan is only two days hence, and already people are trickling into the city: some to sell, some to buy, some to entertain, some to be entertained. The sooner I can get to the market to buy stores, the better, and I need to buy for a week so I won’t have to fight the crowds later. A woman on her own should plan ahead. Being on my own for so long has changed me.

I break my fast with the scraps from last night’s dinner, and carefully don my second-best robes. I’m far from reaching my dotage but my joints are starting to stiffen a bit in the earliest mornings.

‘Hercules! Hercules, you naughty boy, where are you? Hercules!’

My neighbor’s little girl is apparently up too early as well, still hollering for her lost puppy. My dream with my husband had always been to have a little girl of our own. After his death, that dream of course shattered. I wouldn’t think the stupid mutt would have the wherewithal to toddle off somewhere on his own, never mind disappear for -- what? Three days now?

‘Hercules!’ the little girl cried out

What a ridiculous name for such a tiny dog. Really?

I step outside. ‘Hush, girl! There are still decent folks abed!’

She sticks her tongue out at me. ‘Must be why you’re awake.’

I have a sneaking suspicion she’s one of the children who take pot-shots at me sometimes from around corners. As long as their parents all know that I’m a good woman who makes an honest living, I don’t much mind. She sometimes reminds why I truly almost appreciate that i don't have a child. The Whining, the crying, the obnoxious banter. I enjoy my peace, but at the same time dread it.

I squint up at the mountain, still barely lit by the growing dawn. I detest that hill, squatting over the town like a fire-breathing demon. I came here so long ago, as a very young woman not much more than a girl, but I have never gotten used to living in the shadow of such a great beast. Even living on the outskirts of town as I do, the mountain is unavoidable.

My faint memories of home are of wide blue skies and flat, open plains. I remember lying on my back, staring up at the heavens which reached from edge to edge of my entire vision. Unfortunately I also remember the wars, and the deaths of my closest family, friends, and the slave ship which brought me here.

In the end, I should be grateful. While my ugly face kept me from the life of ease I might have had if I could have lured my master into my bed, the man treated me well and had me trained as a midwife. He found me a good husband amongst the slaves of his household. While my husband may not have given me children to care for me when I am old, he was kind enough.

And when he died too young, I found his last gift: a small horde of coin, gotten somehow or another, so within two years I was able to buy my freedom and work for my own gain. Now the bread is running out and the material for cloth is scarce. I wonder sometimes if maybe i should have died in the eruption. I have prayed to my God about how thankful i am for each beautiful day. Is it really such a blessing anymore for him to leave me dreading every morning? I still want a child, but out of Wedlock it could not occur and i cannot see myself marrying another man. Arranged marriage at first with my beloved Timothy, but i grew to love him. I am now too old to be arranged for marriage so i truly must accept my ongoing never-ending loneliness.

I cast my glance back at the mountain, wondering why I’m feeling so maudlin today. Despite my best efforts I cannot feel affection for its glowering face.

* * *

The Forum market is a fair walk from my small room, but the morning is blessedly cool and quiet. Few people are stirring yet, and for some strange reason there doesn’t even seem to be many animals, either. Lost in my own thoughts, my mood continues to worsen, making my head ache. All through my life i have bottled away my happy memories, for my only memories that have kept me alive is fear, and loneliness.

Fortunately there are a few shops already open for business -- including, I am glad to see, my particularly favorite stall, run by Felix. Poor Felix has not been fortunate as his name might suggest; his face is even uglier than mine and he walks with a jerking limp. His wife is a horrible shrew whom I’ve fortunately only run into a handful of times, and only once did Felix summon me to help birth a small stillborn daughter. My skill in handling not only the difficult birth and unfortunate result, but also my ability to handle his quarrelsome yet heartbroken wife, earned his respect; his recommendations to friends and family have earned me a good reputation and improved my business. For a woman with few friends, his friendly face is always a welcome sight.

‘Valeria!’ Felix’s misshapen face breaks into a large grin. ‘You’re certainly up early this morning.’

‘The mountain growled at me. Then that brat next door started hollering for her missing dog, and after that I decided I might as well beat the rush this morning.’

Felix laughs at that, and I finally have to crack a reluctant smile myself.

‘Well, good thing you’re early, because I set a few things aside for you in the hopes that you would be.’


‘Yes, indeed! I have that fresh birthwort you were asking for, and….’ He holds out a small cloth pouch, his excitement palpable.

Carefully I take the bag, and peer inside. Poppy seeds! How did Felix know my small stash was running low? I look up at him, and this time I smile in earnest.

‘Thank you so much, Felix. Truly.’

He gives a small bow, like a magician who had just performed a baffling trick, and adds a large wink. I have to laugh at his theatricality, and he beams at the success of his efforts.

‘You are a wonder and a blessing, Felix.’ I grin at him.

‘I do try.’ He packs up my herbs and medicines into my basket for me as I hand over a few coins. I can ill afford the extra expense but I have a sneaking suspicion that Felix habitually undercharges me, so I certainly don’t begrudge him the silver. Besides, at least two women I had birthed successfully a year or two ago are nearing their time again, so I know funds won’t be short for long.

By the time I leave Felix’s stall more shopkeepers open up the doors for business. I spend a pleasant hour or two haggling over dried fish and cheese and fruit and bread, and eying wistfully some lovely fabric too rich for my blood. Maybe if the next lady I birth pays me well I can afford a new robe.

As the day becomes warmer I finally start to head home. I stop by a caupona on the way for a quick lunch of sausage and libum, but I don’t linger. By the time I reach my door my early morning start and the growing heat are making my head ache, and I gratefully lay down on my cool bed for a hour’s respite.

I awake and the afternoon is late and the day is warm, I have slept much longer than intended. I am thirsty and my head still aches, unusual, and I hope I am not becoming ill. I arise, rinse my face and drink a horn of cool water and make an offering at my simple lararia, nothing more than a niche in the wall really, nothing like the elaborate shrine in the home of my master, where I dwelt before the passing of my husband.

I do not dwell in the past as my mind is strangely unsettled. I think a bath will restore some peace to my mind and some vigour to my weary bones, I look to my pocket, I can spare the coins. I gather my basket and make for the Forum Baths.

There are no demands on my time this day so I stroll at my leisure, preparation for the Feast is well underway and everywhere there is activity. I look to the fire-breathing dragon and feel no more at ease than I had this morning.

I enter the baths through the women’s entrance on the far side of the building. As I emerge into the apodyterium I look for a trustworthy slave to tend my belongings. I see Amica, a slight, pretty girl who has tended me in the past, I wave her over and greet her with a smile “Good afternoon Amica”, she bows her head in acknowledgment and helps me disrobe, the marble is cool beneath my feet and immediately soothing. I make my way into the tepidarium, and as the warm water rises to meet me I feel my body relax, I sit back, close my eyes and submerge my body deeper into the soothing waters. The chatter among the women is of the forthcoming Feast, of new robes and jewels. Of parties and play.

Chatter I have no concern with. The Feast is for the wealthy and those with little regard for their own dignity. No doubt the revelling will degenerate into little more than an excuse for debauchery and debasement, as is the habit of those who come to Pompeii. I well remember many a pretty slave girl returning to the quarters her clothes and pride a tatter. And those with virginity for the taking were most desired. I am at once thankful for my fortune.

Before too long a quiet but anguished moan escapes the women seated beside me. I had not noticed her when I entered, she is a small, petite young woman her hair twisted into the fashionable, low chignon at the base of her neck, her face beautifully made - a wealthy woman and pregnant. The look on her face tells me she is in some discomfort.
I turn to face her, and instinctively take her hand “My name is Valeria, maybe I can be of assistance. I am a midwife”. A small gasp escapes her lips and she grips my hand tightly. “It is not yet my time” her voice is shaky and her eyes fearful. “Your first child” I inquire and am answered with a vigorous nod of her head. “Well let’s get you out of this bath”, I smile reassuringly and signal to Amica for assistance. We raise her up and she leans on me as we emerge from the bath, I notice her baby appears to sit quite high, yet she is experiencing contractions. I fear the worst, that the baby is breach.

Amica informs me her name is Primilla and she is newly arrived in Pompeii. “Take some deep breaths and try to straighten” I gently prompt, again the look of fear but she breathes deeply and steadies herself. As Amica assists her to dry and dress I quickly retrieve my robe and dress also.

Primilla has a large bundle with her and I carry this to the portico as she continues to grip my arm for support. “I shall accompany you to your home” .

She looks at me in earnest , “I am newly arrived in Pompeii, my husband is not yet arrived. He is traveling from Naples and I have not yet secured accommodation”. I look at her somewhat astonished, a woman traveling alone, while not unheard of is nary common. But a pregnant woman traveling alone, without husband or mother or attendant is uncommon. I am suspicious, and this must show on my face.

“Please”, she begs “do not abandon me in this strange city, I have money I can pay for your services”.
I am in a quandary as to what I should do. I clearly cannot leave her alone, but to where shall I take her. My home? And I fear she will not be able to walk the distance. I feel her body contract against mine and she again leans heavily against me. “We shall go to my home, can you walk?”. She nods.

As we pass through the Forum and past the market the sun is setting over the city and the stall holders are packing away their wares. I see Felix as he is leaving the square, “Felix!” he turns and as recognition dawns on his face he rushes over, raising Primilla’s arm across his shoulder and bearing most of her weight I am relieved.

Felix looks at me enquiringly “Valeria?”.

“Felix, this is Primilla, I am conveying her to my home, where she must rest”, I looked across the girls head and gave Felix, what I hoped was a look to still his questions further. We continued in silence, carefully making our way through the now crowded streets, everyone was out enjoying the cool of the evening. As we approached I heard the children again calling for that damnable Hercules!

“Let’s take her through to my bed”

She is panting heavily as we lay her down. I dampen a cloth and wipe her brow. And leave her to rest, and so that I may make a tincture of the poppy I had only than morning bought from Felix.

Felix looks concerned, “It is not usual for you to bring your charges into your home. What of the woman’s family?”

“I am uncertain. I encountered her at the baths, and in her condition could not leave her. I fear the baby is breach. She is in great pain and the contractions have begun. I do not foresee an easy birthing”

“But what of her husband” Felix entreats, “She is a citizen is she not”.

“I know not her story. Thank you for your help Felix. I must tend her needs now”.

As Felix leaves he promises to call tomorrow on his way to market. And I make the necessary preparations.

When all of a sudden, there was a boom outside. Looking out of the deep dark gray sky I saw before me the clouds roll in. The heat outside started to rise, I didn't know what to do, as I saw the woman before me in pain. In a panic the floors underneath me started to shake, pots from the shelfs started to shatter. I opened the windows seeing the city skyline and the volcano shaking. Then everything around here seemed to slow down, she remembered that this happened to her before in a dream she once had when she was younger with her husband. Then all of a sudden she hear a scream snapping out vision to reality. Looking behind the woman was screaming, and hollering gripping on the chair in pain. She thought to herself, knowing that if they were both to live to escape Pompii and help the woman deliver the baby.

I kneel by the bed. ‘Primilla, look at me!’ I command. Gasping, her eyes fly open. She is terrified.

‘I am a professional. While this might be your first birth, it is not mine. But you have to trust me and do as I say, all right?’

She nods, calmer for a brief moment before another contraction contorts her face in pain.

Carefully my fingers explore her distended belly. Nothing under my hands felt right! The baby was definitely breech, but the contractions were barely a dozen moments apart and speeding up. There was no time to turn the baby, certainly not without help.

Think, Valeria!

I grab every bit of bedding I can find in my apartment, and come back to Primilla’s side. I grab her hand and call her name. “Can you sit up for me? Come on.’

She doesn’t hear me at first, so I start to pull on her arm. Finally she understand and inches her shoulders off of the mattress. Quick as lightening I stuff as much padding underneath her as I can, so at least she’s reclining now and not flat on her back.

I mix a glass of wine with every concoction and decoction I have -- to lessen the bleeding, to ease her contractions, to encourage the baby -- and make Primilla swallow every bitter drop. Finally, for good measure, I carefully spoon out a few grains of the fresh poppy seeds I acquired this morning (only this morning?). In between two violent contractions I manage to get her to chew the precious seeds.

Finally I pull out my last bit of assistance: a small stick bound tightly with a leather thong. ‘Open your mouth one more time.’ Her jaw is clenched too tight. ‘Primilla, open your mouth!’ By sheer dint of will, it seems, her teeth separate enough, and I work the stick between them.

‘Bite down hard. It’ll help, I promise.’ There is nothing in her eyes that resembles gratitude, though; only pain and fear.

I need help. Even one extra pair of hands right now would be invaluable. I step out of my doorway… and step into chaos! Even though night is falling nothing can match the blackness of the mountain. My eyes are dragged upwards to the very summit, which was vomiting an evil-colored of smoke.

People were rushing past me. I see a neighbor boy and grab his arm. Shocked, he starts to yell but then whirls around and sees me.

‘What’s going on? Is everything all right?’

‘Didn’t you feel the earthquake? And look at the mountain!’

‘Why the rush?’

‘Well, it’s the festival today, too.’

‘Look, boy. I need help. I need water, and can you ask your mother to come? I can’t leave my house, I have a client in labor here with me.’

He looks confused.

‘Go! There’s a piece of silver in it for you!’

That does the trick, I think, as the boy dashes off down the alley. Hopefully he’ll come back, if only for the silver piece I can ill afford.

I can less afford to lose a client, though! Even if it turns out she can’t pay me, I’ll be out less than I would if I damage my reputation by losing her. I’ve lost many women, all midwives do. But to take a stranger into my home only to fail her at the end -- well, best not to think about that.

Primilla screams and I turn around in haste. All I can hope is that the boy does come back with help. I don’t have enough water or towels, so I’ll have to do what I can alone.

I examine her again, massaging her belly firmly in an attempt to straighten out the baby. The child is desperate to be born , it seems! It is stubborn, too, and it refuses to turn. All I can do is keep trying.

Finally, at long last, the poppy seeds begin to work their magic; Primilla’s body sags between contractions although her teeth never lose their grip on the bit of wood.

Hours pass, it seems. My fingers become numb from their efforts but I’ve learned through long practice to keep them working no matter what. I feel each contraction throb across Primilla’s stomach a bare second before she groans violently against the bit, and my thoughts wander.

I am sorry, yes, that I never had children of my own. My husband more than did his duty but never with any result. Yet, for all my longing, a small part of me is glad; I have helped too many women endure such agony to bring a life into this world -- and too many women of those did not survive despite my best efforts. And look at me now! When that accident took my husband, how would I have survived with brats to feed? I would not have been able to buy my freedom, and I would not have been able to establish myself and my career.

Finally, I take a chance and I step out of my doorway again, but this time into a world that seems dead. The boy never returned , and the street is heavy with darkness and an unnatural heat. I take another chance and hammer at two neighboring doors, but my neighbors are either gone or don’t deign to answer. All I can do is try to make it through the short summer night until Felix returns in the morning, I think.

I return to Primilla, but her eyes are glazed and she barely responds to the cool towel I press to her brow.

‘Promise… me….’ In astonishment I look down at Primilla’s newly focused eyes. She has spit out the bit of wood and looks at me pleadingly. She grabs at my arm. ‘Take care of my baby.’

‘Hush. Don’t talk like that! I’ll get all of us through this, I promise!’

But I know by now I’m lying, and from the look Primilla gives me as I offer her back the stick, she knows it too.

Finally, in the darkest hour of the morning, one tiny foot emerges. I reach past, trying to find the other foot, but the baby is wriggling desperately. Again and again that second foot eludes my grasp. I am soaked in too much blood.

Then, for one short moment, the baby stills; by some miracle I find the second foot between my fingers… and I pull.

I left the house to see what was happening, it was dead silent outside all the animals around gone, people gone, the life of nature gone. Before my eyes I saw the red heat coming slowly from afar. I ran back in where the woman laid, more calmly than before looking at me with tears.

"You should go, save yourself, you have a life to live." she took a deep breath going on,"Why should I live if my husband could not come to me, he is probably dead, or left me for his own life."

I looked at her confused, grumply as I snapped back at her,"I am the one who should die, this world is a place of disgrace, why should you die when you would have a life to live on with your child.

She looked at me smiling, as the tears rolled down she screamed one last time, as her last breath as she whispered in the wind. "Take care of Luna" her hand that was gripping the chair loosened as it dangled.

An hour later passed, and she held in her hand the little girl. I looked at her, imaging around me my husband looking down at the little girl. The vision fading, as i repeated "Luna"


It is silent. There is not a sound of feet on the ground, there is no sound of people rushing, of breathing as they carry all they can manage away from this home to a new home. How far will they have to go? As I tune into the larger space around me, I can feel the rumbling. It does not reach me as a sound just a steady vibration that greets my toes as I walk slowly down the side of the mountain, away from my village. I am not leaving, just descending into the valley so I can watch. Someone has to be able to tell what happened here. Maybe it will be nothing. Perhaps the legends we have heard are not true. Maybe the watchers of the past did not tell the true story of what happened. Did the Mountain spirit chase them, make them run as fast as they could, dodging around rocks and trees just as nimbly as they were, a dance of a runner leading and an evil spirit trying to attach to them and thus be dragged along, until the runner was dragged down. The ones far in the lead left to tell the story. Perhaps that was not true at all. We can never know unless someone stays here and watches and waits. I will not be a runner. What would I run to? Who would be there? With my husband gone to speak to the mountain, I would have no one. He may return. I will watch for him until the mountain spirit reaches out for me. The air is still and warm. It feels like nothing will ever come down from that mountain. The rumbling sounds come back to my attention, they are fainter now, but still distinct. I feel the motion as I walk slowly down the mountain. I am bringing one thing with me. It is a bowl, made from wood that my husband brought to me when we got married. I think I have used this bowl everyday of our marriage. Today, I will crack the nuts I have gathered for when my husband comes down the mountain. I know he is not coming, but a faint hope keeps me alive and in a state of readiness for his return. Some dust is falling. Should I run? Should I watch?
# 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 14

**Vignette 14: Write from the perspective of a tourist exploring the ruins of Pompeii. What thoughts and feelings do they have? What questions do they have about the eruption?**

The first thing Octavius felt in the morning was creaking. Slow, rigid creaking of wood, and the harsh slap of water against the walls of the ship carrying him back to the lost city. The sensation curled up his spine and Octavius' eyes rolled open, looking up at the ceiling, which had ornate wood designs carved by hand. The boat lurched and Octavius sighed, rolling over in his bed, which was nailed to the side of the massive boat he had commissioned to take him on his journey.
Octavius stumbled out of his huge bed, feeling tired and anxious. The sound and smell of the ocean assualted his senses as he got dressed. He was coming back to Pompeii, a lost home he had escaped ten years before.

After he dressed and ate, Octavius had gone up on deck to see the view. The fresh salty air woke his senses and he looked around at the other people on deck. He had noticed the change in the other passengers and crew as soon as they could see the volcano in the distance. Every person on board the creaking ship had become quieter, more withdrawn. The reality of the trip started to sink in. People were going to see for themselves what happened to their beloved city. Look for loved ones missing since the fateful day. Octavius sighed and reached into his pocket. The bracelet was still there. It had been a part of him since he left Pompeii. Since he left _her_ behind. He squeezed the bracelet tight before he pulled his hand out of his pocket. He had to see for himself. He had to know what happened to the owner of the bracelet.

Taking in a shaky breath, Octavius pulled his gaze from the view of the volcano and once again slid his gaze over the other passengers. A woman, pressed against the railing of the ship, her shoulders slumped, caught his eye. Her long golden curls hung passed her waist and a shawl was wrapped tightly about her upper torso. He could see only the side of her face, which was angled downward, staring into the depths of the sea rather than the heinous view in the distance, but it was evident she was crying. Though he preferred to keep to himself, a strange pull seemed to beckon him to her. He knew that if she was traveling to Pompeii for the same reason as himself, to see what had become of a loved one after the horrible destruction, that she was in desperate need of being comforted. With one final glance about the deck, Octavius straightened his stance and strode slowly toward the woman. He stopped a few feet short of her and gently cleared his throat, not wishing to startle her. The woman’s head lifted slowly and vibrant blue eyes settled on his. A lump formed in Octavius’ throat at the sight of her tear stained cheeks. As her eyes searched his, a slight crease in her forehead, Octavius suddenly found himself at a loss for words. He’d approached the woman with the intention of offering comfort, but now that he stood before her, the words didn’t seem to want to form themselves.

Octavius handles the bracelet in his pocket as he gazes into her eyes, lost in the blue that reminds him of the glazed pots Lucretia threw and glazed in her small shop. The sea disappears, and the scent of the salt air fades, replaced by the narrow streets of Pompeii. He visits the street vendors, poring through their merchandise, looking for something for her, something to give her today, something with which she might remember him. He finds a necklace, a simple chain, with seven jeweled beads strung on it. He catches the attention of the vendor.

"Could you add another bead onto this necklace?" Octavius asked.

"But that would throw it out of balance," the vendor responded, pointing out that the middle bead featured red jewels, as opposed to the clear jewels of the other six.

"Perhaps you could add another red bead in the middle," Octavius said. "Then, there would still by symmetry."

The vendor shrugged and agreed to do it. After a brief discussion about the price, Octavius paid, thanked the vendor and left, sliding through the crowds to get to Lucretia's house. Tonight, he would tell her about his business opportunity in Palermo, and give her the necklace. He didn't know it at the time, but she would give him her bracelet, and make him promise to return to her one day.

He releases the bracelet, and the city fades from view, and he finds himself back on the ship, rocking and lurching towards the port. Looking around, he doesn't see the woman with the golden curls. He asks those standing near him, but none remember seeing her. Leaning against the rail, he gazes out over the water as they pull in for a landing.

Refugees and tourists crowd the port, some looking to travel the area, others trying to find a way to go on with their lives. Octavius had heard of the devastation, rumors and tall tales of levelled cities and mass casualties, but until he walked down the ramp of the boat and looked into the eyes of the refugees and other people who had already visited the area, he hadn't believed much of it. What had the gods wrought on these people? Blank stares greeted him at every turn, hollow eyes and bowed shoulders. An agent at the edge of the town offered horse-drawn wagons to rent. Octavius order the servants to load his luggage, then paid the man, but told him to wait as he strode back into the crowd, looking for the golden-haired woman. Walking all the way back to the boat, no one, not even the captain, could recall even seeing her on board, let alone after they disembarked. He made his way back to the wagon, and told the driver to head out.

The ride from the port inland was short, and Octavius occupied himself by staring at the sky. Grey and choked with smog, nothing like the clear blue he remembered, and staring up at it felt smothering. He was so used to the freshness of sea air after his days on the ship, and his time spent living on the coast in Palermo, that this desolate grey was terrible and terrifying. Nothing else was like this. He thought of the woman, with her golden hair and blue eyes, like the blue of the sky he is missing, and he wondered what had happened to her. She had vanished like smoke in the wind, as if she had never been there at all. Maybe she was a spirit of the lost, he thought, and shivered even in the heat.

When the driver stopped, all Octavius could do was stare. There had been a city there once, and now Pompeii was a black plain, with nothing but soot and ash and a few glowing rivers of lava. The gods had brought down their fury upon this place, and now only the dead were left, trapped beneath the dried blood of the mountain. The great beast itself was still belching smoke into the air, but it had come to rest. Octavius clenched his hand around the breacelet in his pocket, and only the feeling of the beads biting into the soft skin of his fingers kept him from collapsing to his knees. Somewhere below all that was Lucretia, and all hope was lost. He understood now what had possessed those in the port, what force it was that had drained the life from their eyes and left them hollow, like dead men walking. The mountain had buried the city into a single mass grave, and all life had simply gone away, as easily as snuffing a candle.

"The lava is still flowing, Master," the driver called from the cart. Octavius had not notcied himself walking away, and now he turned back. "It's not safe."

Octavius swallowed. "I must look," he said. "For something, some trace."

"The city's buried."

Octavius only shook his head and ignored the driver's incredulous look, and set out across the desolation, eyes darting the earth below him to the horizon and back, again and again.

As he walks, the remnants of the mountain looming in the distance, he covers his mouth and nose with the sleeve of his tunic, protecting himself as much as possible from the dust he kicked up as he walked. Still, the acrid taste filled his mouth, burning his nose and throat. His eyes watered, tears rolling down his face, but he continued to focus on placing one foot in front of the other, plodding forward, until his feet simply refused to move, and he fell to his knees in the dirty ash.

He pulled the bracelet out of his pocket and gazed down at it, almost unable to see it through his swollen, watery eyes. He didn't know where in the city's layout he was, he didn't know if he was anywhere near Lucretia's house. All he knew was that he shouldn't be here at all, that there was nothing but death to be found here. Death for the residents, and for any that came to look for them.

"You should not be here," a voice said from above him. Octavius could not bring himself to look up at the speaker. "Octavius," the voice said. "You should not have come."

He realized that he recognized the voice, that it was that of the girl he'd left behind. It was the voice of Lucretia. He closed his eyes and bowed his head. The ash dissolved beneath him, casting him forward to slam into the large stones of the road like a bag of meat. He lay there a moment, trying to rectify where he was and from where he had fallen. Rolling slightly and looking to the sky, he saw nothing but clouds and the sun. A fellow pedestrian paused and helped him to his feet, checking to see if Octavius is okay, and then advising him to watch his step in the future. Octavius stared at the man for a moment then nodded. Another passerby handed him the small wooden box he’d been carrying.

Octavius looked down at the box in his hand, at the ornate carving on the lid and smiled. He was on his way to Lucretia’s. He thanked the men for helping him, told them he would be more careful, and strode off, marveling at the storefronts and homes as he passed. He waved to the book dealer on the corner as he turned down Lucretia’s street. Five houses down, he ducked inside the vestibulum and knocked on the wooden door. A servant let Octavius into the house, and led him into the atrium, where Lucretia sat on a stone bench reading a small book in the fading light, her golden curls hanging down her back. As he entered the courtyard, she looked up at him and smiles. Her face fell as her eyes took in the wooden box in his hand.

“So soon?” she said.

“I am sorry,” Octavius replied. “This is an opportunity on which I cannot pass. The timing is poor, but sensitive.”

“And so you bring me gifts to placate me as you leave?”

“I bring you this as a promise,” he said, handing her the box. “I must leave, but it is only temporary. I will come back.”

She held the box in her hands, staring down at the brass latch and hinges, and at the intricate monogram on the lid. “Why can’t I come with you?”

He shook his head. “My benefactor has extended a generous offer to me, but to me alone. I cannot impose on him.”

Lucretia nodded, undid the latch, and lifted the lid of the box. Her breath caught in her throat as the sun, now just barely visible over the edge of the atrium, glinted off the gems. “It is beautiful,” she said, setting the box on the bench between them and holding up the necklace. Octavius took it from her hands, and she turned away from him slightly so that he could drape it around her neck and clasp it in the back. She stood up and led him to a mirror where she admired the necklace. A small cloud of dust particles disturbed by the sudden movement dance in the afternoon sun.

“It is beautiful, Octavius. I shall never remove it.”

He leaned down and kissed her on the cheek. “It was made for you. Eight gems, two in the middle a bright red.”

Lucretia’s smile faded again. She turned and looked up at him, her face serious. “It is beautiful, and I will keep it as your promise, but how do I know that you will remember me?”

“Why would I not?”

“Are there no women in Palermo?”

“I suppose there are,” Octavius said, hold her hand in his. “Do you not believe, though, that the gods themselves brought us together? None can match that.”

“The gods may decide to test you while you are away, to tempt you away from me.” She slid the beaded golden bracelet off her wrist and pressed it into the palm of his hand.

“My mother gave me this bracelet just before she died,” she said. “Keep it with you wherever you go, and think of me. The gods brought us together and take you away from me now, but I believe they will bring us together again.” She looked up into his face, her bright blue eyes holding his for a moment, and then kissed him on the lips, a tear rolling down her cheek.

A servant entered, lighting the torches as the afternoon sun faded. The brazier at the middle of the atrium flared, an ashen smoke billowing out of the stone enclosure, knocking the servant backwards to the grass, and startling Lucretia. She looked up at Octavius and the color drained from her face. Even her eyes seemed to fade.

“It is time for you to go,” Lucretia said. Wiping tears from her eyes, she turned and disappeared into the house.

Octavius saw himself out, bracelet clutched tightly in his hand. The smoke from the brazier tore at his throat and stung his eyes. Smoke and ash poured out from the doors and windows of the house opposite Lucretia's, then from every house on the street. His legs buckled. He fell to his knees in the middle of the street. As the smoke flowed and swirled around him, darkening the sky, a fine film of ash coated his skin. Tears rolled down his face and the buildings in front of him blurred and faded.

“It is time for you to go,” Lucretia said again, from in front of him this time. He opened his eyes, saw nothing but the vast field of swirling dust and smoke, the evil mountain off in the distance, and howled at the gods. He had once believed them just and righteous, meting out punishments to fit the transgression, but nothing done in Pompeii could have warranted the complete erasure of the city.

Unless it was his own transgression. He should have come back sooner. Maybe he should never have left. Maybe this punishment had been meant for him and the other survivors, not for the residents. They have moved on to the next life, unconcerned with this realm, while he and those that still live can do nothing but mourn. He buried his face in his hands, trying to rub the tears from his eyes, but only increasing the inflammation.

A hand, soft and feminine, reached down and stroked his face. At her caress, the burning in his throat and eyes faded, strength returned to his legs.

He stood and looked into Lucretia’s eyes, holding up the bracelet for her to see. “I promised,” he said.

She smiled, though the tears still flowed down her cheeks. “There is nothing for you here anymore,” she said.

“I don’t believe that,” he said. "Come with me this time."

She shook her head, the rings of gold hair shaking. "I cannot."

"Then I will stay here with you."

“The gods will bring us together again,” she said, “but not yet.” She caressed his face again, her hand trailing down his cheek to his shoulder, his arm, and then his hand. She closed his fingers around the bracelet and pushes the hand back into his pocket. “It is time for you to go,” she said, caressing his face again.

Octavius closed his eyes and reached his hand up to touch hers, but found nothing but his own face. Opening his eyes, he saw nothign but the desolate plain. Clutching the bracelet again, he turned and walked back the way he had come. On the return trip, the smoke and ash did not sting and burn his airways or his eyes. The heat from the lava flow didn't affect him. His servants, when he arrived back at the wagon, claimed that the dust rose up around him, but would blow past him, as if diverted by the hands of the gods themselves.

"Did you find anything?" the driver asked.

Octavius shook his head, told the driver to turn the wagon around, so they could head back to the port. "All I have to remember her is this," he said, pulling his hand from his pocket. The servants gasp. They had seen the bracelet, and don't recognize the object Octavius now holds in his hand. He looks at it, the long chain, strung wtih eight jewel-encrusted beads, the middle two a vibrant red.
# 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 wipe the sweat away from my eyes, the sun beat down on my head. How can the sun be so inconsiderate? I've been climbing for probably close to three hours and that stupid star just kept burning, heating my hair so much that I wish 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 (kind of) 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 pompeii 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.
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 Pompeii 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. Although 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 whose 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. It 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 16

*Hello everyone, your friendly mod Jared (wjw42) here! Let's get writing! Our topic:* **Write from the perspective of a criminal who is in jail during the eruption. Do they see it as an opportunity for escape? Do they resign themselves to this end?**

[Make sure to discuss recent changes here!](

Look at real Pompeii jail cells [here]( and [here](

Read more about the volcanic eruption [here]( and [by watching this really cool video](

Story plan (so far, can be changed):
-Character Name: Lucilla Felix (?)
-Written in scroll ✓
-Backstory ✓
-In mostly underground prison in Pompeii when Vesuvius erupts ✓
-Most problems are avoided because of the protection of being underground ✓
-Screams from other cells (what going on!?), Lava starts to seep in ✓
-Sees it as a chance to escape, escapes with some type of damage ✓
-(More adventures outside.)

Most likely,
-Her roomate should die.
-Her family should probably be dead, already, too.
-She leaves this scroll as a record of her family, so they are not forgotten, and she leaves it in a library or something. It is ambiguous if she survives or not.

*And start writing below!*


This scroll tells the story of my last day in prison. I had been in prison for almost seven years before I escaped. I've lived in Pompeii all my days, but they have not treated me well. The days seemed to turn into weeks and into months without me taking notice of the sunrises and sunsets. We couldn't tell much anyway since the prison cells were mostly underground. I didn't care much either. My days were consumed with thoughts of my demise and my children. Just like that, for seven years.

All I was doing was trying to provide for and protect them. They were still young when I entered this place, although by now they will be grown up into young men and women. Thinking about the days before everything fell apart, as a single mother with no family around, every day was a struggle. Wondering if each meal would be my children's last. Wondering if anyone would want to buy my body anymore. Waking up hopeful each morning, only to be met with the fact that likely there was no hope. But getting out of bed, anyway. Putting on a smile anyway. Covering my bruises, concealing my pain. Loving my children in such a way that they didn't didn't know the truth. The ugly reality. And I didn't know how much longer I could play this game. Or what would happen when my mind told my body that it simply couldn't take it anymore. And when I believed it.

The day that I "believed" is still a blur, a whirlwind. He hit me, there was a knife. He was a military General. I knew I'd get caught. That there was no longer any use in trying to hide. But I still tried. Later on that day more of his kind found me tucked away in a closet, with my four children shielding me from the eventuality of what I had done. I had killed a man. It didn't matter that he was trying to kill me. It didn't matter that if I had stayed with him his anger would have carved me up into a thousand pieces. I was a woman. And I had killed a man. An important man.

And then the earthquakes came. We had earthquakes a few times a year, but never so often as these. A day was filled with two or three. So there I sat, listening to the earth as it kept quaking. We did not know what was going on in the city, but I felt something was wrong. Could my actions have brought about this? Did I anger the god by shedding the blood of a vile man? Slowly, the thoughts that consume me shifted from "Will I ever get out?" to "Will I ever get out alive?".

We were on the outskirts of Pompeii. If you could reach it, the tiny hole they called a window had a view of the whole city, with the large mountain to its left.

"Vipsania, anything special?" I called to my roomate, who was tall enough to see through the hole.

"Nothing much, Felix." My full name was Lucilla Felix, but everyone called me by only my surname. With a name that meant "luck", I sure didn't have any.

"It's the same city as ever. I don't know why you are so worried, the guards told us everything was fine."

But she didn't understand. She had no family, no friends, and no other ties that binds her to the life outside the prison cell. As I sat there, again diving deep into my emotions, the earth shook like it never had before. But not only could I feel it, but I could hear it too.

"F... Feli... Felix...." she could barely, breathlessly articulate. "Vesuvius... exploded. Jupiter's wrath is upon us."

Emotions flooded me. I needed to do so much - save my family, my friends, even myself - yet there was so little I could do trapped in that cell. We could only sit, wait, sit some more, and watch as the sky grew darker. Or rather, Vipsania could, as I sat there, only knowing what she could tell me. Hours that felt like years passed. The thick, black clouds rolled over the city until they met us.

Suddenly, black and grey ash shot through the hole. The room grew hot, cramped, the air unbreathable. The ash covered Vispania's face and got in her eyes and mouth. She screamed, but I didn't know what to do, then-

Darkness. The hole had been plugged up by the ash. It settled, and it was only slightly easier to breath. Moans came around from the different cells in the prison. I reached out for Vispania but I couldn't find her.

"Lucilla!" she screamed. I didn't even know she knew my name. I grabbed her and hugged her tight. "My eyes... they feel as if they are on fire! Help me." But like before, I could not do anything. I felt so hopeless, so alone, meandering in the dark void.

Again, we waited hours again. We sat on the floor, she crying out of pain, me crying out of fear. We had seen and gone through so much, yet the waiting was
Topic: **Write from the perspective of a criminal who is in jail during the eruption. Do they see it as an opportunity for escape? Do they resign themselves to this end?**

Grammarly mods, a note:
If a chapter title is needed, I think a good one is "Unbroken" or "Lucky".
-wjw42, Vignette 16 mod


This is the story of my last day in prison. I had been in prison for almost seven years before I escaped. I've lived in Pompeii all my days, but they have not treated me well. The days seemed to turn into weeks and into months without me taking notice of the sunrises and sunsets. We couldn't tell much anyway since the prison cells were mostly underground. I didn't care much either. My days were consumed with thoughts of my demise and my children. Just like that, for seven years.

All I was doing was trying to provide for and protect them. They were still young when I entered this place, although by now they will be grown up into young men and women. Thinking about the days before everything fell apart, as a single mother with no family around, every day was a struggle. Wondering if each meal would be my children's last. Wondering if anyone would want to buy my body anymore. Waking up hopeful each morning, only to be met with the fact that likely there was no hope. But getting out of bed, anyway. Putting on a smile anyway. Covering my bruises, concealing my pain. Loving my children in such a way that they didn't didn't know the truth. The ugly reality. And I didn't know how much longer I could play this game. Or what would happen when my mind told my body that it simply couldn't take it anymore. And when I believed it.

The day that I "believed" is still a blur, a whirlwind. He hit me, there was a knife. He was a military General. I knew I'd get caught. That there was no longer any use in trying to hide. But I still tried. Later on that day more of his kind found me tucked away in a closet, with my four children shielding me from the eventuality of what I had done. I had killed a man. It didn't matter that he was trying to kill me. It didn't matter that if I had stayed with him his anger would have carved me up into a thousand pieces. I was a woman. And I had killed a man. An important man.

And then the earthquakes came. We had earthquakes a few times a year, but never so often as these. A day was filled with two or three. So there I sat, listening to the earth as it kept trembling. We did not know what was going on in the city, but I felt something was wrong. Could my actions have brought about this? Did I anger the god by shedding the blood of a vile man? Slowly, the thoughts that consume me shifted from "Will I ever get out?" to "Will I ever get out alive?".

We were kept on the outskirts of Pompeii. If you could reach it, the tiny hole they called a window had a view of the whole city, with the large mountain to its left.

"Vipsania, anything special?" I called to my roomate, who was tall enough to see through the hole.

"Nothing much, Felix." My full name was Lucilla Felix, but everyone called me by my surname. A surname which, when translated, means "luck". I never really liked that name. I was far from lucky.

"It's the same city as ever. I don't know why you are so worried, the guards told us everything was fine."

But she didn't understand. She had no family, no friends, and no other ties that bound her to life outside the prison cell. Yet I could only sit there, trapped in my self-loathing. And then the earth shook like it never had before. But not only could I feel it, I could hear it too.

"F... Feli... Felix...." she could barely, breathlessly articulate. "Vesuvius... exploded. Jupiter's wrath is upon us."

Emotions flooded me. I needed to do so much - save my family, my friends, even myself - yet there was so little I could do trapped in that cell. We could only sit, wait, sit some more, and watch as the sky grew darker. Or rather, Vipsania could, as I sat aside, only knowing what she could tell me. Hours passed that felt like years. The thick, black clouds rolled over the city until they met us.

Suddenly, black and grey ash shot through the hole. The room grew hot, cramped, the air unbreathable. The ash covered Vispania's face and got in her eyes and mouth. She screamed, but I didn't know what to do, then-

Darkness. The hole had been plugged up by the ash. It settled, but it was only slightly easier to breath. Like the ash that filled our cell, moans from the other prison cells filled the air. I reached out for Vispania but I couldn't find her.

"Lucilla!" she screamed. I didn't even know she knew my first name. I grabbed her and hugged her tight. "My eyes... they feel as if they are on fire! Help me!" But like before, I could not do anything. I felt so hopeless, so alone, meandering in the dark void.

Again, we waited for endless hours. We sat on the floor, she crying out of pain, me crying out of fear. We had seen and gone through so much, yet it was the waiting that seemed
the worst. Hours would pass by with no activity, but you knew something would happen. Something you could not prepare for. Always helpless.

We waited. I had no idea what time of day it was, it was continually dark for us. The only thing that permeated the silence was the screams of others. So many others. I had no idea how many - dozens? Hundreds? All locked behind a veil of darkness, no way to escape. The screams were contstant and unceasing.

But slowly the screams loudened. Something was different, something in the severity of the sound. I looked to the hallway. Only very faintly I could see the iron bar door again. A glow grew brighter, from the right side of the hall. Had a guard come to save us? The screams discounted this. And then I heard it, from down the hall. *Liquid fire.*

I had heard of it before, coming from deep beneath the ground. It was red, hot, and it had to be deadly. The glow was brighter still.

Vispania's cries grew even louder. "We are going to die, now, aren't we... aren't we Felix?"

I knew we didn't have much of a chance, but I had not given up. This was a time, not for death, but for freedom! I frantically began searching my mind for ways of escape.

As I desperately scanned the room, I noticed that the latch on the door was not on the sides, but at the bottom. I knew these metal bars were not particularly strong, and if it were heated just hot enough...

"No," I told her with a confidence I had not felt in years. "We are going to escape."

Soon, the liquid-fire made its way to our cell, but much slower than I had anticipated, and the metal bar was starting to glow at its touch. I could see already that the bars were starting to mangle. As the molten rock would flood our cell, it would heat up the iron door hot enough to bend.

I looked for something to protect my hands, but in the darkness, I could not see anything suited for the purpose; only a clay bowl and some broken pieces of pitcher which the quake had knocked over lay on the floor. I had to think of something. And quickly.

I pulled up my robe and made an incision on the hem with my teeth. And I tore off a rather large piece of cloth with a loud ripping sound. I tore it up further into six pieces.

I tied the bigger ones over our mouths, covering the noses. I threw the rest onto the floor and squatted over it. I realized I was close to bursting, as I had been kept busy since the initial tremor.

"Vispania, here, quickly, tie these around your hands!" I gave her two of the dripping pieces of cloth. I tied the remaining around mine.

"Grab onto the bars! We cannot touch the floor for much longer!" I made it easily, but she, having trouble seeing clearly, was slow to finally secure herself. The heat was becoming almost unbearable. The metal had better soften quick, or else we would be burned alive. As it started to glow, I pulled with all my might, and the door opened! Thank the gods! We would be saved! We forced the door all the way open, but our next problem was waiting for us. The molten rock had flowed down the length of the hapast our prison cell.

"We have to climb as far as we can, Vispania!"

"I know, but the bars stop here! We cannot go any further!"

We had to jump. Further than I had ever before. But we could not wait any longer. She was scared, I knew, but the longer we waited the further the jump. "Go, Vispania, hurry!"

She jumped, but only barely made it. "Felix! Now!"

I rushed over to where the bars stopped, and looked over. There was no way I could make it. She was even taller than me, so how was I supposed to escape now?

"Felix. Now. You have to! For your family."

Somehow, for some reason, I jumped. I flew. Like never before. I was escaping, I was free! Or almost, until a pain soared through my left foot. I had made it, but my bare foot was not so lucky. Felix, the unlucky girl with the unlucky foot.

Vispania screamed my name and rushed to pull me out of the molten earth. I told her I would be fine, that I just needed to wrap my foot, but I wasn't so sure of myself. And while everything was telling me to stop caring, to sit there and rest my foot, to be buried in that prison - I knew I had to escape, for my kids. They were my only hope, my light in the darkness that smothered that prison cell. They kept me alive.

By the glow of the liquid red rock, we barely made it to the door. I was limping so badly you could barely call it walking anymore. I shook the door. "It's not opening but it's not locked. There's probably something on the other side."

We both pushed as hard as we could, and it budged a little. "Okay, Felix, we're onto something. Just a couple more pushes."

Every push moved the door just a bit more. But it wasn't enough. "The liquid fire. It's getting close again. We must hurry."

We both pushed with all our might, each time moving it some more, but it moved too quickly toward us. We had opened it just enough to let my tiny frame slip through, but Vispania was too tall to fit.

"Here, I can hold it open. Felix, just go. To your family. Save them."

I shook my head. "No, I will not, no, I *cannot* just leave you here!"

"We'll never make it out before the fire finds us. Please, just go. Don't fight it."

We both pushed against the door and it opened that few inches yet again. I made my way to the opening. Hesistantly, I stepped my foot outside, but I couldn't do it.

"Vispania, I will not leave you here! We-" Whatever I would have said was drowned out by another of the thunderous roars that enveloped the prison. The mountain must have exploded again. It was not as large as the previous ones, but it still made my heart race. I heard something fall from the other side of the door, and suddenly we were being thrown outside. The quaking earth must have shifted something that was blocking our way. No one had to die just yet! We looked at each other with relief, but not for long. I could see why the door had been jammed. Rubble and ruins were everywhere. Grey ash covered the ground and the sky matched its color. Thick clouds bellowed from the mountain, which now was sporting a rather large crater at the top, from the explosion I assumed. In the distance I could even see some rocks spewing from the top.

I looked around - there were people everywhere, running from the terror that was Vesuvius. Screams of the citizens filled the air, or at least that which wasn't filled with ash or smoke. How would I make it into the city? Would I ever see my children again? Were they already-

No, I couldn't think like that. Not now. They had been keeping me alive, and now it was my turn to save them.

"Vispania, how will we get to my family? I would never make it if went on foot."

She spat out some ash that had found their way onto her tongue. "With all these people running away, there must be some abandoned cart around here. We can figure something out."

We ran up to the main street the prison was right by and saw, just a few paces away, was a cart with a small, but healthy horse. How lucky was I! Maybe my name was for me.

I turned around, ready to congratulate us on our success in freedom, when the unthinkable happened. Quickly, suddenly. She was on the ground. Still. Lifeless. The smouldering black rock was still rolling away from her.

I stood there, as still as she was, unable to comprehend what had just happened. We had just found the cart, we were going to be free! Destiny had called us to escape!

But apparently it had only called me. A larger rock flew past me. Another hit the cart. I came to my senses. Another rock flared by. They were getting larger. I checked the cart. The wheel was torn to shreds. One came smashing through the prison roof. I cut the cart from the horse. More rock fell. I fumbled onto the back of the horse. More rocks. I pulled the reigns. Rocks. They must have been from that last explosion. Rocks.

Going into the city was harder than I thought it would be. Not that I was really thinking anyway, I just wanted to save my family. Unless they had already left the city. It was likely that orphanage had moved them out days ago when the earthquakes started. But what if they hadn't? What if they didn't make it because I selfishly saved myself instead? Was it wrong to save myself?

Was it wrong to save myself with a dagger? Everyone else thought so. He was military, he was a man - he was important, and I was not. Are the less important less entitled to life?

"No," I said audibly. I was entitled too.

"No." I would not abandon my children.

"No!" They would not die today.

I whipped the reigns and we raced into the city. We ran past grey ash, flying rocks, more rubble and ruins. Pompeii was being destroyed.

And yet the horse raced on. He was braver than I, probably. He never even knew me and he was ready to face death with me.

The closer I got to the heart of the city the harder it became to breath. The air was filled with as much ash as the city was with bodies. Surely they hadn't just died of suffocation? Why did it look like there was no struggle? I seemed to be the last one in the city. The last one alive, that is. Blocks ago I stopped seeing any more people running. They were all still now.

Finally I found the orphanage. I walked inside. My foot still hurt but my body somehow forgot that as I searched for my children. I looked around.

"Empty," I said. Not one soul, alive or dead. Everything was covered in ash, but neat. Where were they now? I looked around some more but found nothing. Defeated, I walked back to the front. There was a small notice on the desk there. *Gone on trip to Neapolis. Returning at the end of the Month of Agustus.*

They were safe! Tears filled my eyes, but soon they became tears of rage. Why had the orphanage not told me!? Wasn't I their mother? Their only piece of family they knew? I should know where they are at all times! If I had known I would have never come back to this ruined city! I would be safe! I would be free! Yet they somehow captured me again. Imprisoned, behind bars and under ash.

I wiped my cheeks. Self pity was not the way out of here. Courage was. I could still be with my kids. I hobbled as quickly as I could outside to the poor horse, covered in a black layer of ash. I dusted him off the best I could and we made our way back out of the city. We rode, even faster than before. This little buddy was one of the bravest souls I ever knew, man or beast. We rode and rode, past burning house and crumbled ruins. The ruins so great and the evening approaching, I couldn't even tell which street was which. Or had that knowledge left me after these seven long years?

I heard a large rumble. Another earthquake. I glanced back. The mountain had not erupted, but it was bound to soon. Suddenly, the horse jumped up on its hind legs and sent me through the air backwards. I was bruised, but nothing had broken. The horse seemed fine, just startled. Even the brave horse was scared now. Slowly, I got up.

Even after all these years, not all of Pompeii had left my mind. And I remembered. Right in front of me. It couldn't be. I limped across the street. Down the stairs. To the door.

I turned the knob. Unlocked. I walked in. It was almost how I had left it. It was covered in ash, yes, but essentially the same. This was the room that had changed my life just seven years ago. Had it really only been seven years? That was a lifetime ago, and yet here I was, still the same. Small. Frail. Bruised.

But there's a key difference between old and new me. I may be bruised, but I am not broken. I came a long way to get here. I leaped. Burned. I saw her die. Torn. I made it to the ashen city. Choked. I was thrown to the ground. Bruised. But never broken. I made it so far to be with my family. I made it here. And I will make it back. I will be with them, whether in this life or in the next.

Now, I sit here, writing the story of my freedom on this wax table. I hope, somehow, that it will be preserved until the next person finds it. By then the city will be ruined, covered in ash, and these people forgotten, but I may not be. I may not see another day but my memory will. Through my children or this tablet I will live on. Fate brought me here, and it will bring me back.

I just heard the mountain erupt again, this time larger than any of the others. The room is growing hotter, like a wave of heat has hit the city. It must be much worse, even deadly, above ground. Once the air has cooled again I hope to make it back. I am not sure where my trusty horse is, but I can expect nothing good. With my lame foot, it will be hard to travel, but I can make it. All I know is that I am lucky. I was lucky to escape the prison, I was lucky to find that horse, and I'm lucky to be down here while the buildings above me burn. I am lucky.

I am Felix
# Vignette 18
(this is where you write your contribution to vignette 18.. welcome vignette 18 writers!) ------- your moderator is Beth aka 'sigh-.-Ptobeornottobe9'

**this is the assignment for vignette 18:
""Write from the perspective of a newcomer to Pompeii in the days before the eruption. What do they think of this city built at the base of a volcano? Do they want to stay?""

kudos to those who found their way here. *(here's a link back to 'discussions' of vignette 18)

Hi Beth! I found my way here :)
-Ann at Grammarly sure & save what you write: the save button is the 'disk button' to your right.

******start story HERE:

He wiped the sweat from his brow as he reached the ridge. He had originally planned to enter Pompeii through the port gate, but he had been worried that there would be someone who would recognize him still up, or just getting up. His former master had sent him to the port often enough that many of the fisherman would recognize him. Many of them knew that he had been sold to a nobleman in Stabiae. That had been where he’d started his journey.

Normally the journey from Stabiae was a short one, but as it was well after dark when he’d started the journey, he’d actually gotten lost. Once he’d found his way back to the road, there had been a few other people also on the road. Not wanting to be seen, he’d stayed away from the road. Once he’d decided that the port gate wasn’t going to work, he’d had to think about which gate might actually be a good place to enter the city. He’d decided that even if there were people out, they would be less likely to know him at the gate closest to the mountain. He’d rarely been in that area of Pompeii.

Tertius estimated that he was close enough to the city. He would wait to slip in at first light. There would be many people coming into Pompeii tomorrow for the festival of Ludi Consualia, no one would notice him amongst the crowds. Tertius settled down on the grassy slope, it was far more comfortable than many of the stone floors he had slept upon. He pulled his cloak tighter around him.

As a matter of habit, he went through his plan again. There was no need really, he had thought about nothing else for months. And now finally it was a reality. He could actually taste the anticipation in his mouth. By sundown tomorrow it would be done, either that or he would be dead.

Tertius felt the ground beneath him reverberating; hoof beats! Were they already after him? He pulled himself into a sitting position and scanned the horizon. Although there was no visible moon, the sky was illuminated by a red glow.

The riderless horses thundered past him, so close that Tertius had to roll out of their path. They didn’t even notice him, they appeared to be in a state of panic. They galloped past, nostrils flaring and whinnying. Some of them had saddles on; these were not wild horses. In a few seconds they were gone. Tertius blinked and shook his head.

Tertius lay down again, and closed his eyes. He pushed the mystery of the horses out of his mind as he went over his plan again. There was a deep cavernous rumbling from the ground, and this time it wasn’t from horses.

Tertius awoke in the morning. and ate some figs. he thought about his entry to the city. he knew about an opening into the city, that was not a gate. it was a small opening near, the dye and weavers booth on the mountain edge of the city. he decided to head that direction, and while on the mountain side, grab a few grapes from the vineyard.

he awoke to a clear normal day. the rumblings of last night almost a forgotten dream. time to get a move on. if he hurried he could get to his entrance to the city at a time when no one would probably notice him emerge through the small hole by the weavers stall.

grapes. ah, grapes. that one looked ripe enough. he managed to gleen a handful of grapes. and not much futher on he found the entrance he was looking for. a bit over grown. a good sign. no one else was bothering to use the entrance. he slipped through, pausing and listening, and carefully peering through before he stepped out into the open, and sure enough he was by the weavers stall, and the dyemaker's booth. he noted a few grey smudges on some cloth and wool drying in the wind. it was curious to him. freshly made cloth and newly dyed wool, with grey smudges here and there. he new it wasn't dust. he had just dusted himself off, after emerging from the small hole he had crawled through. . he did not mention it to the workers at the stall. who were busy chatting about laying bets as to what the oracle would say about last night's rumbling. (they laughed: would it be a good omen or a bad omen? they had suspicions that the oracle made statements to merely favor the next on coming feast day)

*later the merchants would of course notice the greying of their cloth, who could miss ash falling from the sky at 6 inches an hour, (but this is not part of our story) let's follow Tertius as he makes his way through this day, his first at the city.

Tertrius chose the cobbled path closest to him. It would take him on a longer route to his destination, but was easiest to slip into without being noticed by anyone in the stalls. He could simply slide behind the stalls and casually saunter into the path. He had but put one step forward when someone called out.

"Hey you."

He froze. He dared not look behind. His head was covered under the cloak and was certain he was well covered. He took one small step, trying to ignore the caller.

"You there. Can you help me with this bundle? I need it loaded on my cart. I'll pay ."

Some money was always a plus. Tertrius turned around slowly, trying to catch a glimpse of his caller before the caller saw him. The caller's accent was different. He didn't seem to belong around here. To his relief it wasn't someone he knew. And he was anyway busy bending over the bundle.

Tertrius walked briskly and bent over, keeping his face as hidden as possible. The bundle loaded, he grabbed the coins off the merchant's palm and hurried back on his way. That was close. Had it been someone he knew, everything would have gone awry. He ambled up the steep path that led uphill before going down again. As expected it was deserted except for a couple of urchins he passed by. This alley was mostly taken by slaves. The affluent citizens avoided it. Yet, he stayed close to the backs of the houses, in the shadows. The houses were mostly in shambles on this side of the city. And the rooftops were covered in a thick layer of gray. A sudden gust of wind blew some of the dust from the street onto his face. He screwed his face in disgust as his tried to cover himself with his palms. When the gust had settled, he dusted himself again. He brushed his lush hair that was terribly matted by now, trapping that dust close to his skull. He didn't recall so much dust here from his last sojourn. He picked up a little dust from his shoes and felt it. It wasn't just a fine poweder. It felt more like ... like...

"Tertrius... focus," his mind rebuked him, "You're not here to analyze the cleanliness of the city. Remember your purpose."

Shaking himself, he stood straight for a moment, then resumed his walk along the alley. Few steps ahead the alley approached a bend and began its journey downhill. He stood there looking down at the city. Streets lined with large villas. One of which was his destination today. Beyond the villas were orchards and meadows. Flowers and fruits. Strangely no animals were grazing in the meadows that day. They were usually always crowded with sheep and horses. Anyway, that wasn't his concern. Beyond the city limits was the azure blue sea. Wisps of clouds dotted the skyline that met the sea at eternity. How he had imagined his life sailing those seas, living his adventure. But everything had gone wrong. And all because of that one man living comfortably in that villa. Tetrius clenched his teeth and balled his palms into a fist. He felt the dagger hidden securely under his cloak.

The ground trembled beneath his feet, but Tertius was becoming used to the movements--they gave him comfort. It felt as if the gods were walking with him. A warmth filled his chest, urging him forward. Tertius grinned. If the gods wanted him to complete this mission, how could he possibly refuse? He stepped into the path leading downhill. He still had to figure out which of those villas to enter. That was a daunting task. Especially with the celebrations going on, there was a lot of movement. He needed a day atleast to stake out the area and make his final plans. There could be guards he would need to avoid. There would be fences. There could even be dogs. He didn't want to enter the wrong house and then get caught without his task accomplished. Once he was done, he didn't mind anything - not the flogging, not the gallows. Not even being flung to the lions.

Another minor tremble shook the pebbles free from the path below him and they rolled off downwards. Some came under his feet, making him slip. He fell down and skidded few feet before managing to stop himself. Scraped and bruised, he brushed off more dust from his body. What was all this? He turned around and gaped at the mountain rising above everything else. Smoke seemed to be rising through its top. He wasn't entirely sure what that was. A fire in the woods? The towering mountain cast a huge shadow over the town below. He had seen it even from afar when out in the sea. That time it had mesmerized him. It looked like a protective father and the citizens its children. This time however, he Ignored it, and turned forward. The trembling had stopped. It was easier to walk now, though the loose pebbles were still causing his leather sandals to skid.

Tertius sat down at the edge of the path. He expected his target to be out enjoying the festival of Ludi Consualia, and he intended to stay where he was and wait for the man to return to his villa. A hour or two later Tertius was rewarded for his patience. A man was walking down the path toward him. Tertius recognized his stiff gait, and, when he got a little closer, the scar on his left cheek. Tertius had given him that scar, many years ago. His target had arrived at last. He pulled his hood farther down over his face and watched as the man turned onto the path that lead up to his villa. The forth villa down, Tertius noted.

Once the man had gone inside, Tertius stood up and brushed himself off. A thick layer of flaky gray dust fluttered from his clothing to the ground. Tertius looked around and noticed that all the things around him, the rooftops, the streets, even the people walking were covered by a film of gray powder. Tertius knew that it hadn't been as bad as this a few hours ago. He looked up at the mountain that earlier had been surrounded by smoke. It was now a very different scene.

The cloud of gray smoke rising from the mountain was unusally larger than it appeared a short while ago and seemed to be spreading sideways. This gargantuan cloud of smoke had now cast a pall of deep darkness all over Pompeii making it harder for Tertius to see. By now, it was evident to Tertius that the gray powder which he noticed all along his journey was ash falling from this cloud. The ash was now falling at a much rapid rate, covering up the ground around him quickly. People were running in panic all around him. They all seemed to be headed towards the port, in hope to escape this impending doom. Some of them were holding pillows and thick quilts over their heads as a protection from the falling ash and stone.

Tertius realized that if he stood there any longer it would be impossible for him to move, let alone accomplish his task. He knew that the chances of people identifying and capturing him amidst this chaos was very bleak. There was some light in the alley from the torches that people were carrying to navigate their way towards the port and Tertius started running towards the entrance to his target's villa. While expressions of terror spread across the faces of people around him, a wicked smile spread across Tertius's face. "Vengeance will be sweet", he tought, as he came closer the villa. The gaurds near the entrance, were nowhere to be seen. They seemed to have panicked and escaped too. Hoping that his target Lucius hadn't made his way out already, Tertius drew the dagger out from under his cloak and boldly entered the villa.

He had only taken a few steps when he saw five people rush out of the villa carrying pillows over their heads. It was Lucius, with his wife and his three kids. Lucius and his wife were both carrying torches, and Tertius's dagger gleamed brightly in the light. They all stopped in their tracks. Lucius's wife took a few steps back and drew the kids closer. They all seemed pale and frightened. "Who are you? What do you want? Are you here to rob us?", Lucius asked, in an anxious tone. Tertius stayed quiet. The ash was coming down more rapidly than ever. "No", he replied. Lucius didn't seem to have heard what Tertius said. "Please take whatever you want. Don't hurt my family", he pleaded. Tertius was more perplexed. Lucius didn't seem to recognize him at all. Was it because of all this chaos? or does he really have no recollection of me?, Tertius wondered.

Tertius was fifteen years old when his world fell apart. Lucius had taken away from him, his father Antonio, the most important man in his life. Antonio was working as a slave under Lucius, when he was falsely accused of robbery and executed. Although Tertius was only a young boy at the time, he was exceptionally strong and smart. He stalked Lucius and made a failed attempt at attacking him at the market when Lucius was out doing some business, giving him a deep gash on his left cheek. Lucuis's men tried to catch Tertius, but Tertius had managed to escape. Even after all these years the wound of his father's death had never healed and Tertius was able to escape from his owner's sight to come to Pompeii to exact revenge.

Lucius and his family stood there petrified, partly by the sudden encounter with a strange dagger yeilding man, but mostly by the terror of the rising ash cloud behind them. The ground around them was now covered in about ten inches of ash. Time was running out and Tertius realized that he had to quickly make a decision if revenge was more important than his own life. Tertius took two steps towards Lucius and looked straight into his eyes. "You killed my innocent father and I wanted to kill you in revenge. But, if I do that I will leave your kids with the same pain that I went through. I'm a better man than you are, so today I will let you live. God will punish you one day for all your sins", he said and put the dagger back in his cloak and ran back out into the alley, blending with the rest of Pompeiians headed towards the sea.

.... In Pompeii, ash blocked the sun by 1 p.m. and the people tried to clear heavy ash from rooftops as it fell at a rate of about 6 inches (15 centimeters) an hour.

*As the earthquakes become more violent, perhaps Tertius questions whether the gods are with or against him

who else was traveling on the road to pompeii? was anyone arriving for the next festival?
where merchants coming and going? between Naples & pompeii? the port & pompeii?

# 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. Being youngest in the family she was alwasy loved and pampered. She had beautiful brown eyes which captured everyone's attention.

Cacaullus -- her best friend she had there. Cacaullus lived next door. They use to play and eat together. They wandered in the streets of pompeii, 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 spellbound any man in pompiee. 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. 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 she 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 inncoent 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 relatioship 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."
Sarni was a young, vibrant girl and being the youngest in the family she was always loved and pampered. She had beautiful brown eyes which captured everyone's attention.

Cacallus was her childhood friend. He lived next door. They use to play and eat together. They wandered in the streets of Pompeii, and beside the river from morning to evening. They use to swim and fish.

Sarni grew up to be very beautiful woman and with her brown eyes she could spellbind any man in Pompeii. Her flawless black hair 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 for miles around, but Sarni had always been in love with Cacullus. She never told him about her feeling as she was waiting for the right moment.

She 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.

Cacallus has also loved Sarni. He loved the way she smiled when they were together. He loved her for the innocent soul that she was. He was also waiting for the right moment but the earthquake messed up everything. In the aftermath of the earthquake what Sarni needed was not a relationship but a friend. He kept his emotions in check and was waiting 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."

That's what Cacallus always felt like telling her but the time never seemed right. Maybe today was the right. His mind made up, Cacallus was going to tell her today. Suddenly, the ground shook. It was just like Sarni had felt earlier. She felt to the ground. Cacallus quickly helped her up.
"Are you fine?", he inquired worriedly.

"Yes, I am fine, this is what I was talking about".

"But this often happens, don't be worried. Let me take you home".

They were quite accustomed to minor earth tremors in the region. Cacallus could not understand Sarni's concern.

Sarni had a hard time sleeping, she would again and again relieved the earthquake that took everything fromm her. Every now and then, she felt an earth tremor. Indeed she was quite accustomed to the tremors but this time it felt different and dangerous. She silently prayed to the gods to keep her safe.

The next morning she made her way as usual to the market. However, she couldn't concentrate. She could not complete some of the nets. They were due from last night. Some of the customers were angry with her. Around mid-day Cacallus came to seeh her. He knew she must still be worried. Even during the nights there had been many tremors. He could not sleep as he was worried about her. He reached her spot only to find an unpleased customer leaving angrily.

"Sarni, are you okay"?. He asked her softly taking both of her hands in his.

"No, I'm not. I feel like I am going crazy. I so want to get out of here."

Cacallus was silent for a while the he said: " So lets go".

"Are you serious? I am not joking!"

Cacullus took her face in his hands and told her: " I am always serious about you. Tell me when you want to leave."

"As soon as possible".

"Fine. Just give me two days. I wrapped up everthing here. I have a friend in Velia. We can go there".

These two days were so long. Also there have been many minor earth tremors. However, the only one that was worried about it seemed to be Sarni. Sarni prepared her things and impatiently waited for Cacullus. He should be here any moment.

Cacullus was finishing some business and was making his way to get Sarni. Suddenly, the ground shook violently. He felt to the ground and hit himself on the head. Black clouds began appearing in the sky. He suddenly realized as he heard a loud noise that these were not clouds but smokes. The Mount Vesuvius was in eruption. That is why they had been feeling those tremors for the fast four days. He quicky made his way to Sarni's. He hoped that she was fine.

# 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: 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.

# Vignette 9

**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.