We had another earthquake. There have been a lot recently and they have been getting more violent now, almost as if the gods are unhappy with us. If so, I hope it was not because of the apple I stole. I couldn't afford to buy it, I'm a servant and barely survive under the "care" of Cassius. I mean, it went to good use. Considering my brother was dying, I was sure one apple would be okay. Apparently not. Livia says she would have done the same, but that has no effect on me; she can stroll into her kitchen and ask a servant for anything she wants. I wish I was wealthy like her.
Aurelia comes to me today as I was waiting for my bathtub to fill with water and she brings a theory with her. She has done lots of reading (which makes sense, considering she works in the library most of the time) and says that it is possible (but very unlikely, she reassures me as I gasped), that Vesuvius will no longer be dormant. I am scared. Where would we go? Would we even be alive? What will happen to our money and the gladiator fights? Will all the ones I love die? I must speak to Tatiana.
I worry. Of course, nobody but Livia and Tatiana believes me. Myself, Livia, and Tatiana are very close, and we completely trust each other. I answer many questions from Livia as I draw water for her bath.
"When will it erupt?"
"A few days, if I am correct."
"Will we have to leave?"
"Of course, if it erupts. Ash will rain down upon us and squash us like ants. Red-hot molten lava will cascade down the mountain and pour into Pompeii...that's what the scrolls describe of previous eruptions." I recall.
"Aurelia, we have to evacuate the city!" she exclaims as she undresses and steps into the bathtub. She sinks beneath the bubbles and sighs. "But nobody listens to a few girls."
I have not heard from Aurelia nor Livia for a couple days now. Cassius, Livia's father and gladiator owner, has insisted on keeping me busy with more chores than usual, such as scrubbing the floors and statues of the gods.
I let out a sigh of relief as I see Livia quickly moving down the hall, fear in her eyes.
"Livia!" I whisper-shout. Her head whips towards me, and relief spreads across her face.
"Tatiana, we must leave here," she says hurriedly.
"Wait, what? Why?"
"Aurelia has a theory. She predicts that Vesuvius is to erupt."
A million questions flood through my mind.
"How does she know?"
"The earthquakes and tremors have been getting worse. She says it is to erupt any day now."
"Well...there is a chance that it won't erupt, right?" I ask hopefully.
"Well...yes. But I still think we should leave."
"Tatiana!" Cassius' booming voice yells through the halls. "Saturn's head must be polished!"
I bid Livia goodbye, but before I leave, she flashes up a signal: her pointer, middle, and ring fingers pop up. I nod. Tonight, we will meet in the gladiator arena.
I pull my cloak tighter around me, attempting to blend into the shadows.
"Where are you headed to?" Octavia, my dresser, calls.
"Just for a walk. I need to breath fresh air." Just as I finish my reply, the ground shakes violently, and everything in the house shakes. Ancient pottery fall off shelves and crumble the minute they hit the ground. Octavia rushes to my side and shoves me none too lightly under my bed. For 5 minutes we said not a word, but listened and waited for it to be over. Finally, the earthquake stops.
"Livia, I am not sure that you should be going any-" Octavia starts, but I have already left the room. I must meet Aurelia and Tatiana.
"But we must leave now!" Livia exclaims. We have been in the arena for 10 minutes, and we have not yet come to a conclusion.
"Livia, I may not be right. Let's just stay in Pompeii. Nothing can destroy the house." I reassure her. Livia's eyes round in dismay and she looks at Tatiana hopefully, but she shakes her head.
"I'm sorry, Livia, but I have to agree with Aurelia. We will stay."
"Fine. But don't say I didn't tell you to leave." Livia spins dramatically and exits the arena. I exchange a look with Tatiana.
"She'll get over it," she says, and I nod. All I can do now is hope that I am wrong about Mount Vesuvius.
I awake to the morning sounds of Pompeii: busy traders babbling, horses clomping by, and cheers, booing, and clapping coming from the arena. I think that today is the day of the champions; the day where the two strongest gladiators face off. I do hope that Titus wins. He is the nicer of he and Marcus. Once, he handed me a piece of bread as he saw me gazing at it. I gave it to my sick brother.
I dress and prepare myself for the day. But as I am about to step out of the domus, Cassius stops me.
"Where are you off to, servant?" He questions, and spit flies from his mouth like sparks from a fire.
"The fight. I hear that Marcus is to win," I say, and I know it was the right remark; Cassius owns Marcus. He straightened himself.
"Ah, yes. He has not failed me yet. But if he does...he will have wished he did not," he grumbles, and struts out the entrance of the house.
It is about noon now, and the volcano has begun to release a few puffs of smoke. I fidget in my seat but say nothing, resuming my focus to the gladiator fight. It isn't looking well for Titus, and I feel sorry for him; Marcus is ruthless.
Vesuvius lets out a few low rumbles, and this time everybody but my father looks up in shock. He is intent on the fight. I stand up and scan the seats for Aurelia and Tatiana: I spot them just outside of the arena, leaning in to watch. Chatter once more forms, but the volcano does not like to be interrupted. The ground shakes more ferociously than it had ever done before, and without warning, ash shoots up from the volcano, forming a dome over top of it. As the volcano erupts, chaos does too. I rush to the exits, trying to steer clear of the swarm of people. I only have one thought in my mind: find Aurelia and Tatiana.
And then the ash begins to fall.
The ash is like snow, but black in color. I see children shrieking in delight and babies giggling. I know better.
"Come, Tatiana," I say as I grab Tatiana by the wrist and drag her out of the way of the crowds. "We must evacuate."
"What about Livia?" she asks, whipping her head around to look for her.
"She will meet us outside of the city. We must leave now!" A man steps on the heel of my foot, and I gasp in pain, but keep going. People begin to run towards the buildings, and Tatiana pulls me to follow, but I refuse.
"The ground is beginning to tremble. This is no earthquake, Tatiana. The buildings will crumble like sand. Our only hope is to leave."
The ash is thicker now, and it coats everybody in a black dirt. It falls to the ground like snow, and Pompeii begins to become blanketed in it.
The ash has become much thicker and heavier. With every minute it enlarges in size, each flake bigger than the next as it falls from the sky. Aurelia and I finally make it to the border of the city, and we race up a hill nearby, out of breath.
"We made it," Aurelia breathed, and I smiled. But what about Livia?
"I still think we shouldn't have left Livia behind," I say, my worry growing.
"I hope she makes it."
I knew we could only hope.
I am forced along by my father, and I know that we desperately need to leave Pompeii. The tremors in the ground have gotten worse, and buildings are beginning to crumble, some chunks falling on top of people, knocking them unconscious. I had to look away.
"Livia! We must get to Felix's cellar!" Cassius says as he ushers me along. I try to protest, but it is no use. My father is a stubborn man.
We do eventually make it to the cellar, and I hope dearly that it will hold through the ash. But Aurelia had said something something about the ash hardening, and I fear that she is right. My father has led me to my death. I sink slowly against the wall, shoving my face in my hands. There are about 50 people here. I clutch my emerald necklace, knowing it would be the last thing I was to hold.
I worry for Livia. She has not come yet.
Aurelia and I sit atop the grassy hill, searching the slowly crumbling city. Livia has not returned; I fear for her life. Hours have passed. I glance into the distance to look at Vesuvius, and gasp. Lava has begun to spurt from the top and roll down the large volcano. From here, it looks to be moving slow as molasses, but when I told Aurelia that, she shook her head.
"It can range from 6-30 miles per hour. I bet it's going about 15 or 20 now."
We did not talk anymore.
One last person enters the cellar, and Felix begins to shut the doors for the final time. I sit up. I will not allow myself to die down here without a fight.
"Livia, what are you doing?" Cassius yells.
"Goodbye, father," I say, and kiss him lightly on the cheek. I then dash out of the cellar, and the yells of protest are drowned by the rumbling of the volcano.
The cellar doors shut.
I look back and see lava, on about 10 yards away. My eyes widen in fear and I run faster than I ever have in my life. The lava nips at my heels, and I almost collapse in pain as a drop lands on my heel. I can feel my skin blistering.
I see the gates that mark the exit to Pompeii, and I run even faster. But the lava does too.