Devour (A short story)

This story takes place in Imperial Rome.
   For a fortnight, I have not been sleeping well. I awake shuddering, sweating and much to my dismay, sobbing as though I myself am only a youngling desperate for my mother, for safety. As I lay on the hard wooden bench in the wagon, I pull my long black hair around me, for comfort, as though I am not truly alone in this vast land. As though I have not just lost everything I care for- my mother, my father, my baby sister, and my grandmother: As if I don’t know who I truly am nor what my purpose in life is anymore. To live in Puteoli with an Uncle I have never met, is all I know. I shall become a slave there, for that is what is to be done with orphans. People say that I am the lucky one, the chosen one, for all who perished that night, that dreadful, dreadful night; I was the only one to survive. Yet what they don’t see is that all did perish that night, though I may still live in body and mind, dead am I in soul and heart. As I drift off to sleep, the massacre play starts its first act. The play recounts the events in order and true to its details.
                       I jerk up, darkness and smoke coming from everywhere and yet nowhere at all. To     breathe is hard, for the smoke is very thick. I stand and race for the front exit, only to come to a sudden halt. Blue and orange flames block every entranceway leading to safety, and to family probably already outside, fretting about me. I stand frozen with fear, until I feel the agonizing pain as the dancing flames engulf me. A vase of flowers stands nearby. Screaming in pain, I douse myself with the water. My long hair is only slightly singed but, I can tell that my face and arms are badly scarred. In a vain effort, or so I believe, I try to climb out a nearby window. I tumble down into the bushes, causing me to scream in deep agonizing pain again. Later I learned that the rest of my family perished that night.
   This time when I awake, it is morning and I do not have to sleep anymore. The wagon driver, Spartacus, continues on for some time before asking, “How was your night? I did not have to stop and awake you, as I normally do, due to your unrelenting nightmares.”
    “They stay unrelenting,” I proclaim, “they are just getting more secretive, as if they do not wish anyone to disturb them during their performance! How much longer shall it be before we reach Puteoli?”
    “Not much longer than a day’s ride at most.”
    Late that night we reach Puteoli and there is a blue moon high in the sky, reminding me of the blue flames that once devoured the things near to my heart. When we reach my uncle’s house, a large estate, I step out of the wagon and slowly make my way to the door. I reach out and lightly knock on the grand carved door, as though a brutal death sentence is waiting just behind it. I begin to worry that no one heard me, but then the door swings open. A face as kind, sweet, soft, and gentle, as a baby’s stands in the doorway, staring down at me. I start to say my name, but he quickly holds up a hand and says, “I know exactly who you are my young Mariua.”
   He invites me in after he pays Spartacus. He introduces himself as my Uncle Nicoli. He tells me how sorry he is for my loss and what is expected of me. This is to walk to the forum each day to collect the goods necessary for that day’s meals and to occasionally help clean the house, as he only has three slaves, including me. Each slave is treated with care, as family, gets their own room, and even, once the age of twenty-five, has the choice of freedom. Nicoli then showed me my room. It was a small but, comfortable room on the west side of the estate.
As he told me those expectations I began to feel at home. I know that from now on I will never have that horrifying dream ever again; of that I’m sure. This is my home now and I am no longer alone. I am no longer afraid or lost. I know who I am and what my purpose in life is again. I am part of a loving family once more. I will move on with my life. Nothing can stand in my way, now that I have found loving hope once more.

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