To my friend and confidant,
It is in the first months of our new ruler Titus that I relay to you the events of the past days.
A preface then, for the annals of history. In this era, the great ruler Vespasian, whom gave to us the beloved Colosseum, and waged relentless war on Jerusalem, now rests at peace. His son Titus, whom led the great campaign, sits ably upon his father’s former-throne; the first such monarch for our great land. However, I digress, for there is a much more sorrowful, earth-shattering matter– in the most literal of senses– that I must convey.
As you may recall from our discussion several nights past, I had theorized on a principle of scientific-mathematics. Perhaps speculated is the more apropos term. We ruminated on the true effect of those fateful, “earth shakings” some fifteen years ago. Thus we proclaimed, however humorously over our pipes, that these and the recent tremors of the earth were related. As this was your final night in the villa, you thenceforth left with fortune, avoiding the coming onslaught.
I must go into greater detail by returning my thoughts to an earlier time. In doing so perhaps I may better explain my meanings. You remember, of course, that we spoke of the quaking experienced for they days whilst you were within the villa. We also spoke heavily on the false beliefs of the townsfolk that giants had returned once again– awoken from their slumber, as it were. We furthered conversed on the topic of the aristocracy, ourselves included, whom regarded the phenomena as a mild nuisance. Finally, we settled matters of reconstruction over a pipe, in which you wished me good fortune in the villa’s restoration. As an overseer of the great ville of Pompeii, I set to work immediately. As it were, however, disaster loomed.
I will relay, in best of detail as I can, the events of the wrathful days succeeding your departure:
After exchanging formal pleasantries and seeing you out, I returned to rest myself heartily for the tasks of the next days. I awoke with an early sun the next morning, as is an honorable man’s time. The dawn was quiet, more-so than I have heard in many, many years. I remarked to myself on the subject, gathered my thoughts and materials for the day, and made for Council with excellent time. I made preparations for my presentation, then with readiness, spoke to the Council of amendments to the ville. With a hearty welcome, they approved my plans, and adjourned. I thanked them as they filed from those opulent halls, and left hastily with them.
On my way toward the harbor, the great mountain loomed over me as I strolled, but I thought only of the preparations to be made. Then, the eerie silence I spoke of before, overtook me. It was then, as the great God in the sky that shines its warmth upon us was just overhead, that the ground shuddered once more. In the past it has been but a triviality. On this day though, the earth trembled as if up-heaved in a fit. I was knocked to the ground, helpless. My scrolls spilled about. I righted myself while the ground pitched and rolled as though I stood on the deck of some seaward-ship amid a terrible storm. It was then that a sound by the rivers of hell emitted from that great, distant mound that reached skyward.
I stood terrified upon the earth that rose and rolled beneath me. I gazed outward at the great mound, saw nothing. I was unsure what had transpired, but time would reveal that the great tragedy had yet to unfold. Though I was fearful of what might happen next, the earth stilled. Silence befell the ville.
I hastened to my dwelling, passing confused peasants and passersby. Each wore more confusion or concern than the last. When thenceforth I reached my door, I entered and cast my belongings on a table to clutch my pipe. I set myself at the table, hoping to recollect my nerves. Only after ruminating on the events and consuming a bottle of wine, did the vile feeling begin to churn within my soul.
I set to work on my reconstruction prints hoping my wits would return, and after a fashion, I heard passersby speak bits beyond my windows. I pieced together more of the events presently unfolding.
It was said that great plumes of steam rose from the sea beyond the harbor. With concern and curiosity abundant, I laid my plans at rest and rushed for the harbor in defiance of that slow, ethereal churning. It was then that I saw the steam; it rose heaven-ward from a boiling ocean. I swear by the Gods I saw the water froth above a rising darkness beneath the surface. The sea became shallower, lighter; as though its floor rose with each passing moment.
Then, an approximation of seven hours after my fall, and the first tremblings of the day, a second, great explosion shook the earth. This time it was as frightening as any could see. A cloud of smoke and steam rose high into the air and unfurled outward and upward, like the limbs of some great pine. It blended darkness with light, emanated steadily outward as I gaped in horror, frozen in time.
I chanced a look seaward, aghast. Ships burned while their men rushed to put fires out. Others forced their sails upward, fiercely attempted escape. They fought vainly against wind that prevailed at their bows, and forced them further inland.
Driven by the wind, the cloud widened. My wits returned, forced me ’round on-heels, and back toward my dwelling. Glowing embers, and heavy, fiery stones rained upon the ville with the wrath of the Gods’ spite. I rushed to collect my things but ash filled my lungs. My bosom heaved and I heard strikes upon the thatched roof. A glance out my window revealed the ash piling atop the people still frozen in terror. I grabbed what I could, and fled to await an end to the uproar.
The next bits are vague. I remember little. As my feet quickened the rest of me from town, the peasants and passersby I’d encountered before remained motionless. Frightened, they stood open-mouthed. I rushed past with nary a word nor thought but to continue forward. I must have run farther and faster than even the greatest of Olympians.
I made my way toward Napolis, barely passing much further from the villa’s out-lands, before I collapsed in exhaustion. As fortune had it, I was happened upon by a traveler with horse and cart bound for Napolis. He pressed upon me the privilege of transport which I graciously accepted. Weary and frightened, I relayed the events that had unfolded. The traveler, floored by my recollections, told me he had seen the great cloud rise, and had hoped to find all fleeing as I had. We saw nary another soul until we reached the borders of Napolis.
We made our way through Napolis where I met with a learned council whom took me in for an evening. I slept without rest, and awoke earlier than usual. I stepped outside to feel the earth shake violently once more. It lasted mere moments, but felt as though days passed.
My eyes hastened to the direction of the villa: smoke darkened the sky. I hurried to higher elevations for a better view, and as I neared the top of a hill, a terrible sight greeted me. Great, darkened swaths of smoke had been joined by plumes white and red. The villa burned out of control!
I stared outward with more remorse for having fled so hastily than as I have ever felt. The earth trembled once more and again I was toppled, but scrambled up with it still trembling beneath me. It was then that I saw a monstrosity the Earth had created.
In the far off reaches of the sea was a spectacle I feel words might never do justice to; a wall composed thoroughly of water, and taller than that of the beloved Colosseum or any structure I may recall, headed inland from the harbor.
A messenger appeared beside me upon the hill and spoke, but his words were silence to me. I was taken by fear and awe. When he turned to follow my gaze, his face took on the same vacancy of mine. In a moment, the wall was gone. The small plumes of smoke near the harbor, which I supposed were ships, were snuffed out, drowned. The messenger, lost for words, mirrored my silent sentiments.
When the shock had worn off, he relayed word from the ville’s Council that a great, failed exodus had been attempted. Those that remained now surmised that those who had remained through the night were lost. Panic and sorrow were rampant among the survivors. The ships and harbor had burned as I had presumed, and the winds, fires, and clouds of smoke and ash had most escape.
It is now in my conclusion that I tell you I fear for the worst of our small ville. It is now days past, and the refugees of Pompeii wander aimlessly among its ruined outskirts. The town and its inhabitants are buried beneath earthen-ash. Its council, or what remains, is confounded at what to do. We’ve called a meeting in the noon to plan a reconstruction, but it is suggested that we rebuild at a further location, away from the great evil of Vesuvius. Perhaps when the time is right, it will swallow us all whole, but for now I only wish to apprise you of the events that have unfolded.
An acquaintance in time,