Rome – Home

They say all roads lead to Rome. To most people, that’s nothing more than a trite bit of humor from a defunct empire boasting about its greatness. To some, though, it’s a truism and a promise. To some who walk the byways time has forgotten, all roads still lead to Rome, imperial and grand. To those wanderers, the past is home more than the now. He was one of those wanderers, in his rundown junker of more rust than whole steel with a tape deck that clicked and refused to play B sides. He hadn’t meant to find his truth in the old words, hadn’t meant to become a wanderer who swore to a code forgotten. But here he was with his sunglasses on, his car pointed north and SPQR emblazoned on his forearm as an oath. Turning his gaze on the girl in the passenger seat, he smiled. She was a client, one of the lost. The Empire was now home only to those as lost as it was. His glance at his mileage. Not much further now. Probably that intersection there. The crossroads had power, even in ancient times. That was his gate today. Soon, they would both be home

Father

The boy sat at the base of the mountain and watched the eagles flying overhead. He wished one of them would come down to speak to him, but they never did.

“Who is my father?”
His mother laughed and pointed to the sky.
“See the eagle that flies there? Once, years ago, an eagle swooped down and carried me off. He is your father.”

The boy stood at the edge of the field, watching the cattle. There was a lone bull in the distance, large and proud. The boy wished the bull would come and speak with him, but he never did.

“Who is my father? Is he really an eagle, Mother?”
She had lifted him up to see over the fence.
“Do you see the bull in the field, my son? Once, long ago, a bull carried me off on his back and I stayed with him for many nights. He is your father.”

Mother and son lay together in the field, watching the clouds soar by.
“Mother, how can my father be an eagle and a bull at the same time? Who is he really?”
She pulled her little boy close and pointed at the sweeping expanse of blue.
“Your father is the sky, little one. And like the clouds, he can change his shape.”
“Will I ever get to meet him?”
“Someday. But he watches you every day. You can be certain of that.”

Immortality

 The man stood on the bridge with the sunrise behind him. This day was a long time coming, this day when he would leave everything he had ever known. Slowly, he raised his right hand and gazed at the miniature portrait he held with gentle fingers. To never see her again. It would be a tragedy, but it was no longer a tragedy he could avert. He tucked the small painting into his jacket and let his gaze fall to the still waters below him. No one would know him, could know him. Not if this plan was to succeed. But there would be peace and he would have his works. He produced a small vial and looked it over, almost dispassionately. Then he uncorked it and drank the yellow fluid. It tasted vile and metallic, and burned its way down his throats until it settled in his gut like so much lead. But it was lead no longer. It was gold and life and the future. Tucking the vial back into his pocket, the Count of St Germaine turned and strode down the street out of one life and into another

Shoes

A little stack of shoes on a fragment of cloth. Each one patched and buffed leather with cardboard pasted to the bottom and painted black. A young girl stood with her hands wrapped in tattered mittens, her hair under a stained cap. Tuppence, she asks. Just tuppence for a pair of shoes. Tuppence to feed her family, to keep a roof over their heads. Tuppence. Please, sir. Just tuppence. The air was chill, the night coming fast. She bundled the shoes back in their cloth and tucked her scant coins in her pocket to run home.

Heroes

Today was one of the stories no one ever tells because there are none who would believe save for those who bore witness. We were pressed by the rebel forces, penned down behind our meager fortifications of fallen trees and farmer’s fences. Shots rang out on all sides and a haze filled the air. That was when I saw the figures step in to fill out our ranks. They were clad in blue, same as my own Massachusetts regiment, but these men were a breed apart. The man beside me put a hand on my shoulder and grinned at my surprise, for he was my own great-grandfather, decades gone to his rest. Bolstered by the numbers of this greatest generation of soldiers, we rallied. I swear to you, the sound of horses was in our infantry charge and I saw a tall man astride a white horse in the vanguard, his saber raised high. The rebels broke and ran, leaving the day to us. But none will ever believe, I fear. Even now as I commit it to paper and ink, it sounds like a flight of fancy. But I will never forget.

Volcano

Sparks arch into the air
Fire in the sky
The ground is shaking
Not a star can be seen

A cloud of ash
The roaring sound
Magma coursing
People running in the streets

City on fire
The sky is aflame
Sails of ships struck through with holes
The harbor in chaos

A silent city
People walk the streets
Among ruins and murals of yore
Pompeii and Herculaneum

Flame

    She watched as the stripped the colors from the old statues and wept. Why were they doing this? These people weren’t from here. They didn’t know, didn’t understand. They had never seen the nymphs of the forest or the satyrs frolicking in a field. But they imagined that they had. They had read Herodotus and Homer and Pliny and dreamed that they had stood atop Olympus among staid and stolid gods of dignity and refinement, relegating their fatal flaws to mere misdemeanor and rendering their colors to muted silence. She pulled her shawl tighter around her shoulders, wondering if her family would ever come back and set to rights what had happened. Would they hear her silent tears or sense the bitter anguish? She took up the poker once more and checked three small brazier before her. They might remove the colors, these foreigners, but they would never extinguish the flame