Last Hours

Last Hours

"Why do these people look funny, Daddy?" a little girl asked, inching closer to her father. She stared, wide-eyed, at the plaster corpses around her in the Pompeian museum. Claire smiled, though she knew she probably looked just as awe-struck as the little girl.

Looking over at her brother, Claire rolled her eyes. So typical. Dylan was plugged into his MP3 player, oblivious to the history around him. Their dad was all about taking pictures on this trip, and Claire groaned as another flash filled the hallway. Claire, however, was determined to get as much out of Pompeii as she could. She scurried about, pointing and wowing at artifacts.

"When Mount Vesuvius erupted, a blanket of about nine feet of pumice and ash covered everything in Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabiae. Eventually, the bodies of all the citizens deteriorated, leaving empty cavities in the hardened debris. Archaeologists are now able to fill these cavities with plaster, which, when solidified, gives us a perfect cast of the victims in their last positions," a tour guide was saying as Claire stopped and peered through the glass wall.

The cast of a woman curled up in a ball sat on a table. In a futile attempt to keep the noxious gas and ash from the eruption out of her lungs and eyes, she had covered her face with her hands. As Claire stared into the empty, beige eyes, she imagined this woman's story.

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Alone. That's all I've ever been. From the moment I was born, I've been alone. My mother was dead before I had even opened my eyes to this cruel, lonely world. Of course, my father was never around, and none of the other children wanted to befriend "the orphan." An only child, I grew up bitter and strong.

By the time I was thirteen, Father had come back home to marry me off. A handsome dowry he could get from me, he said. A might pretty one, he told the men. Worth quite a pretty penny, too. Or so he thought. The man he pledged me to took me in the night, and my father never saw a cent. Jonathan was his name, and three months after we were married, he got himself killed in some kind of gambling spat. And so I was alone again.

I was in my cottage kneading dough when I heard the rumbling. At the time, I didn't give it much thought; this horrid town saw earthquakes all the time. The constant shaking continued for three days, and on the fourth day came the tragedy.

A huge cloud hovered over the city, black as night, bigger than a giant, dooming us all. I had just been to the market, and was carrying home my good when it began to rain fire. Red hot stones fell from the sky, burning my skin and setting my food afire. The oblivion surrounded me, thick, dark ash, filling my lungs, stinging my eyes. Coughing, I sank to the ground, covering my face. The effort was wasted, though, for I kept coughing until my breathing stopped. I died alone.

Okay, I promise some of the other stories will be better. With this woman, I felt the need to tell all of her story, so the readers would understand her last statement, "I died alone." I think with the other corpses, I will tell only of their last minutes. R&R!!

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