By Grace Wakeling
Screams and cheers fill the air. I can feel excitement rushing through the stadium, encompassing everyone here with me. The blazing sun causes our faces to redden, but the Olympic games are too exciting to miss out on for the sake of a pesky sunburn.
But suddenly, a massive, black, smokey pillar bursts forth out of the hillside in my peripheral vision. We all exchange the same worried look but then attempt to ignore the cloud because, I mean, it’s the Olympics.
After only an hour, though, the stadium clears. It becomes obvious that we should be evacuating Pompeii as quickly as possible. Panting hard, I rush back to my house to pack my essentials, but at this point, breathing has become difficult.
Somehow, by 3 o’clock, snow is falling all around me; I have never seen snow before. Gasping for air, I turn back and forth in utter confusion. A pungent odor abruptly hits me and causes my entire body to convulse. I gag. Some sort of deep, primal instinct tells me that I need to get out of here as quickly as humanly possible. Screams echo through the streets and all around me from a distance.
I learn fast how difficult it is to run when my lungs are full of foreign soot and pumice. After approximately twenty seconds of running, I’m practically forced to stop and focus on wheezing in a few short breaths before I can continue. As I attempt to begin my vital departure again, I hear the muffled and distressed cries of little children.
I manage to stumble over to the source of the calls despite being nearly blind due to the seemingly impenetrable smoke surrounding my city. I dig through the incredibly thick layers of ash until my hand touches fingers. Pulling with all of my remaining strength, a child emerges from the ruin, and we work together to find her sister.
The other child is stuck in a tar-like substance that covers the entire floor of their home. I tell the first girl to run while she still has a chance of escaping, but she insists on staying by my side until her sister is safe. With respect for her loyalty, I climb down into the ashes and tear the sister from the sticky floor that is preventing her from moving.
As soon as she is unlatched from the tar, she runs. She and her sister have left me here alone with no way to get myself out of this plastery muck. Covered in soot, I look around in desperation only to notice two figures to my right who must have been the parents of the young girls.
Frozen with a look of utter dread and horror, they stare at me. Completely unable to move and barely able to breathe anymore, I realize that I am looking at my own future. Trapped here as a frozen statue until somebody comes back for me. Would I even live to see that day? Or have I been condemned to eternal fossilization? As I worry about my uncertain fate, a different kind of darkness slowly surrounds my peripheral vision and envelops me.
This darkness feels different. It feels like I may never see light again. I can no longer even move. I cannot breathe in either without feeling a stabbing sensation in my lungs and throat. All I can do is hope for a stranger to take pity on me the way I did with those young girls. All I can do is hope someone finds me. Soon.
Photo Credits: https://www.sea.museum/2017/09/06/eruption-day-pompeii-79-ad