Pompeii - Inspired By A Song

This is part of the Inspired by a song competition, based on Pompeii by Bastille.
Some key lyrics:
Eh-eh-o eh-o [4x],

I was left to my own devices,
Many days fell away with nothing to show,

And the walls kept tumbling down,
In the city that we love,
Grey clouds roll over the hills,
Bringing darkness from above,

But if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like,
Nothing changed at all?
And if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like,
You've been here before?
How am I gonna be an optimist about this?
How am I gonna be an optimist about this?

Eh-eh-o eh-o [4x],

Oh where do we begin?
The rubble or our sins?
Oh where do we begin?
The rubble or our sins?

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1. Tremors

 

Villas lined the paved streets as horses attached to carts trotted along the wide street stretching across the city. Shouting filled the space and the sun glared down at us all, the morning already blisteringly hot. Just past the houses, I could see Vesuvius looming down at us, its dark shape silhouetted against the harsh blue of the sky. Despite the heat of the day, I shivered at the power of the natural giant.

I stood, gawping, for a few moments whilst my uncle, a powerfully built man, in body and voice, boomed at a townsperson about some business or wager. It was only when a glamorous tourist dressed in a cloth of silk, pushed past me, I meekly moved and collided with an older man with a lined face and long beard. Angrily, he turned towards me, though he seemed more angry at the ground than at me.

“Only arrived in the last week?” he spoke with elegant latin and the question was so common and polite, but I felt wary, even though my uncle was close by. I nodded, only having arrived a week ago, noticing that his dark eyes were flashing. “You wouldn’t know. The earth... they say it is furious. The gods are punishing us. Look, child at the sins that surround us! Every so often, Pompeii will shake. The tremors they call it: not as peculiar as one might think, they are frequent in this region, however. This time it is different. They say.. they say they have seen smoke rising from the mountain. They say this city will be destroyed, but then what we fix first? Oh, but where do we begin? The rubble or our sins? They say...”

They say a lot of things, my friend,” Uncle looked less than friendly, but smiled and steered me away from the man down the pavement. As he led me into the villa, he scolded me for speaking to such a man who looked like a slave, undeterred by the fact the man spoke to me.

“Such men litter the streets nowadays,” Uncle spoke sadly, “Determined to create death and destruction because they are unhappy with change. Nostalgic, for them, nothing is ever as good as it used to be! But I say: bring the new!”

I nodded, wondering how I could have ever even considered the man’s words. As I was lead upstairs by a servant, my aunt greeted me warmly and showed me my bed, a constant stream of gossip cascading from her mouth. I was pleased to be here but lonely, having been sent here by my mother for the summer to get out of her way whilst she cared for my newly born sister. Telling me that her brother was a good man, she sent me here to my uncle and aunt, who’s children were grown now and had barely seen my when I was younger. Because their children were adults, I was left to my own devices, treated with more respect and given more freedom than at home. However, I spent my time sitting in the olive garden, the trees hanging over a small stone seat creating a patch of dappled sunlight, frittering the days away pondering and observing the daily life of the bustling house filled with servants and visitors, either friends of my aunt or here to do business deals with my uncle. Many days fell away with nothing to show for myself as I am naturally quiet. Today was different though, I realised as I sat on the cool stone. Today I had real things to think about. First and foremost: the man.

What did he mean by: Our rubble or our sins? Why were the gods angry? I felt shaken, as though the glass had shattered on the perfect world I had envisioned around myself. Being reasonable, I knew that the empire was never perfect, but would the gods really punish all of us for the few that had sinned? I felt as though a permanent question mark sat atop my head, and as my Uncle rushed past me, he chuckled and said I looked serious for my age. I have always been a worrier, an analyser. Words swirled in my head: “This time it is different... the city will be destroyed!” A sickening feeling of dread rose up in my stomach and I hoped that when that happened - I mean if - my uncle, aunt and I would be at my house when they visited my new sibling and I travelled back home. What was I thinking? The city would not be destroyed!

Suddenly, a sound like drums filled the sky. My uncle’s voice shouted: “Eh-oh eh-oh! Another tremor!”

He sounded so casual, so normal, but terror filled my heart and I cowered down in the soft grass, my arms over my head, waiting for the ground to stop trembling. Almost comically, an olive dropped onto my head, but I barely cared. It felt like the world was ending, and the man’s words seemed completely true to me then. As it gradually came to a stop, I knelt, feeling cowardly. It had only been about thirty seconds, yet I had acted like the city was falling.

Pushing my fear out of my mind, over the next few weeks I grew used to the once terrifying tremors. They were, as my uncle explained, no danger and I was perfectly safe. In the town, I listened for talk of them, but people only laughed and joked, never really discussing it unless it had just happened. Part of me was reassured by this. If the people of Pompeii, an intelligent, wealthy population of thousands, believe it to be safe, why on earth am I worrying?

Weeks passed by smoothly until I barely cared about the mountain at all. However, part of me knew everything was about to change, in those next few days.

Oh where do we begin? The rubble or our sins...?

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