The Roman Soldier

The Roman Soldier

For a few moments, Claire lingered at the group from the hole. She kept staring at the boy, who was now one again silent because his story was finished. Over. That was the end. Shaking her head, she forced herself to walk on, to catch up with her parents and Dylan. Headphones still in his ears, Dylan glanced apathetically at the casts, paying more attention to his music that to the lost lives represented here. Their mom and dad were talking to each other and laughing. Laughing? How could they be laughing in this place? Sometimes, Claire didn't understand them at all.

To the left, the normal plaster casts started up again. Claire shivered, a little thankful. No more creepy skeletons.

Unlike some of the recent bodies, this man was alone. He stood up straight, with no expression on his face. His clothing appeared more elaborate than all the other people's, and he held a long stick in his hand. Because of his appearance, Claire expected this man's voice to be harsh and commanding, but it was just as emotional as the boy's.

If the captain hadn't stationed me outside Pompeii's gate that day, none of this would have happened. But all because of one scandal, I wasn't allowed to patrol outside of Rome anymore.

I was on the alert because of the earthquakes the past few days but had been assured that this was a common thing for Pompeii.Ugh. Stupid Pompeii.

On the fourth day of the earthquakes, the trouble started. Things became a little strange. Early that morning, an elderly lady was exiting the gate. She walked up to me, a few rocks in her hands. Shaking them, she was repeatedly chanting, "The danger comes today." This I ignored, because there are always a few weirdos in a town.

That afternoon, the rumblings became louder and louder. They were more violent, too. Before long, people were pouring out of the gates. It was my job to control them, so I started yelling and waving my arms, but to no avail. They were screaming, hollering things about fire and the world ending. Curious, I turned in a circle. What I saw was like nothing I'd ever witnessed before.

Liquid flames were falling from the mountains, accompanied by black smoke and ash. The whole city was running for their lives in different directions, causing absolute chaos and confusion. At this rate, they were going to assure that nobody escaped. Once again, I tried to control the citizens, but they only continued screaming and ignored me.

I saw horrible sights that day. I saw a couple of young girls suffocate, holding hands and whispering to each other the whole time. I watched as a mother tried to comfort her children, only to die for her efforts. Many men dropped to the ground before my eyes, coughing and choking on the black ash. And all because they wouldn't listen to me.

Although people were coughing and choking all around me, I hadn't really noticed the air getting thicker. But suddenly, I was staggering with the weight in my lungs. I could feel the black ash coat my throat, taking its death grip. My face burning red from lack of oxygen, I looked up from where I sat on my knees and saw a man. He was young, maybe twenty, and thin; obviously malnourished. Noticing my uniform, he reached out towards me, wordlessly asking for any help I could offer.

Coming from a class of guards and soldiers, I had the instinct to despise this kind of person. The man that was weak enough not to feed himself, let alone his family. "Garbage," my family and friends said of this class, "good for nothings; weaklings." But as I gazed into this man's eyes, so alone, so helpless, and yet still hanging on, something changed in me. That quality so vaguely called compassion, that I had so rarely seen practiced, found a spot in my heart.

Ignoring my own respirational collapse, I crawled across the road to this man's side. With the grip of a person soon to expire, he grasped my hand and whispered hoarsely into my ear an impossible task.

"Find my daughter." And then his hand fell limp, and his big, gray eyes closed.

In the moments after the young father's death, I sat beside his body, unconsciously denying this fool's errand. Impossible! How could I find one girl, who I had no physical description of, in a town being taken by the gods? I couldn't do this.

But I would die soon anyway. If I was to do one good thing in a lifetime of sins, it would have to be now. With a wheezing cough, I stood and turned to face back into Pompeii.

It was hell. Fire fell from the sky, and the persistent, choking smoke and ash didn't go away. But neither did my resolve. I was determined to find this girl before either of us dropped dead. Turning in a circle, my eyes desperately searched down each street. Crowds, hundreds of people, but which one was the girl?

A hit on the back sent me turning on my attacker. A child was kneeling on the ground, frantically gathering the things she had dropped. Jewelry, coins, small paintings were all thrown into a large clay pot.

"Where's your parents?" I asked.

She glared at me with hateful, mistrusting eyes. Hateful, mistrusting eyes that glittered a familiar light gray. She replied, "I don't know."

"Your father sent me to find you."

The girl didn't answer. She was taken up in a fit of coughing, and she leaned over, her hand to her mouth. Trying not to look at her pain, I switched my gaze to the mountains that had doomed us all. The wave of fire that promised death creeped towards us. Without thinking, I lifted the daughter onto my shoulder and sprinted in the other direction. I ran all the way back to the city gate, where her father's body lay. Gasping for the toxic air, I gently sat her on the ground. She didn't move, so I made my way across the chaotic street, back to my post. There I stood, by the Pompeiian gate, until the end came.

Just a little note, the daughter was based on a cast I read about of a girl carrying a pot full of valuables. I wasn't sure I could write her whole story so I just included her here. Well, we are coming to an end of the citizens. Basically, that just means I am running out of casts to tell about! If anyone who would like more knows of one and could like email me a picture or describe it to me I would be happy to write their story. Otherwise, thanks for reviewing, only a dew more chapters to go.