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The Angry Mountain by Samantha Memi


I was making a sesame seed loaf in the kitchen of our lovely new house in Pompeii. My daughter, Serenata, was playing on the floor and making goo goo noises sucking bits of straw. Just as I was thinking how wonderful life was I felt a rumble which shook the house. There’d been a few rumbles of late. They said the mountain was getting angry. We’d all noticed the ground had been shaking for some days, but this rumbling was stronger and seemed to be lasting longer than the others. I looked out of the window. Smoke was coming from the top of the mountain. I hadn’t seen that before.

One of the reasons we bought the house was for the views, and the mountain had always looked so serene before. There was another Zeus almighty shake. The whole town looked as if it would topple over. People came into the street to see. Then suddenly the top of the mountain blew off. I nearly shat myself. Zeus! You’ll never believe the noise a mountain makes when it explodes.

I grabbed up Serenata and ran through to the workshop where my husband Lucius was making horseshoes.

“Oi,“ I shouted, “didn’t you hear that bloody mountain explode?“

“I warned them,“ he replied, “mend your ways or the gods will get angry.“

“Well I’m mending my ways right now, let’s get out of here.“

“I’ve warned them for years, death and destruction will come. But no one would listen. Now their promiscuity will kill them all.“

“And us as well if we don’t get out soon.“

“Just as soon as I’ve finished these shoes for Cornelius Apulias.“

“Bugger your bloody shoes! We’ve got a mountain exploding.“

Then came a clanking on the roof. I looked outside. Bits of burning rock were falling, setting houses alight. I looked at the mountain, a huge column of smoke rose from it. We couldn’t escape. We’d be burnt to death by falling burning rocks. I remembered I’d left the oven alight, but I couldn’t be bothered to shut it down. Serenata in my arms started crying.

Then the roof started to collapse and dust poured in. That made Lucius get his ass in gear. We covered ourselves with a couple of his leather aprons and ran out into the street. The air was full of dust and tasted of sulphur, the street was full of people in panic. I tripped and fell. Someone stood on me, kicked me in the stomach. Lucius pulled me up. A burning rock hit my daughter in the face. She screamed. I tried to cool the burning spot with my spit. We ran. People and horses were milling everywhere. Everyone was terrified. My daughter’s painful screams in my ear didn’t allow me to hear anything else. I could hardly breathe. I turned to Lucius. I wanted him to take Serenata, she was getting heavy on my arm, but I couldn’t see him. I called but with everyone shouting I knew he couldn’t hear my voice.

I got out of town. Everyone was making for the boat huts near the shore. Then I realised Serenata was no longer crying. She was limp, her eyes staring, her mouth full of dust. I clung to her as we entered one of the boat huts. We would be safe there. I found water and washed Serenata’s face and cleaned the filth from her mouth. I held her and kissed her as if love alone would give her life. I watched as people came crowding in, hoping Lucius would be with them. Then the dust wallowed in, and everyone panicked. It was grey, thick, got into your eyes and nose and mouth. It was stinging and sour. I tried to carry Serenata to air, but too many people were pushing to do the same. I fell. I couldn’t get up. I couldn’t lift myself. People stepped on me, on my daughter, whom I clasped to my side. Dust fell, it covered me. It piled on top of me. Darkness came. I waited.

I stayed there for 2000 years. Then a small hole appeared, light entered, and white plaster flowed in. I escaped.

I search for Lucius and Serenata. I know their spirits are here somewhere.

The mountain is still there, in the distance, waiting. All around it I see buildings, people. Why are they living here? Don’t they know the anger of the mountain? Will we never learn?



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