It was the year 79 AD. All was very noisy in the city of Pompeii. Traders were trading, and the merchants were selling, everyone was out and about in Pompeii, except me. Just then, my seven year old sister came running into my room.
“Jack, Jack, wake up, we are going to the forum!” she looked at me with her big brown eyes, curiously awaiting my decision.
“Rose, do I really have to go, I mean, it’s really pointless for me to go, you always get everything anyway.”
Rose hesitated to answer, “Fine then, it’s your loss, and why do you have to be such a rude brother all the time!” She looked as if was going to cry.
Then, she left, slamming the door behind her with such a force my room shook so hard the plaster in my room cracked a little. Finally, I got out of my bed and left my room heading down into the kitchen and out into Pompeii. You see, our family was never rich or poor. My dad was a banker, and my mom worked in the vineyards around Pompeii, so it worked out pretty well. As I stepped outside, heading to the non- desired forum (to me), I saw the beautiful blue sky above me, and in the background, I saw Mt. Vesuvius towering above Pompeii. As I walked in the promenade heading to the forum, I began thinking of Vesuvius, wondering what would happen if the volcano ever erupted, I didn’t like the thought of people dying because of the eruption; I flushed the thought from my mind. When I got to the forum, I saw Rose, Mama, and Papa shopping. Papa came over to me and in his stern voice told me “Glad you could join us Jack.”
As we were walking home from the forum, I felt shaking, when I looked, I wasn’t the only thing shaking, pots were braking, trees were swaying, then, I heard a deep groan in the earth, then it stopped, people were screaming with fear, mama and papa were hugging each other, Rose was crying sadly, but when I looked at myself I too was shaking and crying with a scared impression. I asked Mama what it was and she responded with “It was an earthquake Jack”.
The next morning, when I woke up, and looked through my window at Vesuvius, what I saw deeply scared me; it was a small covering of ash over Vesuvius, which had not been there the day before. I quickly hurried outside to look what the reaction of the city was. I was so surprised that nobody seemed to care. Not one bit! Was this a natural thing? Had it happened before? So many questions were running threw me I felt sick. I decided to take a walk on the promenade with Rose since my parents were at work. As we were walking towards the promenade we passed by the amphitheater. We heard the crowds laughing inside at the hysterical acts that were being performed. I had only been there once with my friend Tommy. Actually, at the thought of Tommy, I started going to his house to invite him to the promenade. So Rose and I started making our way through the wide streets of Pompeii. Tommy lived on the nice side of Pompeii; he had a beautiful house on a hill that sat high above the city. Tommy’s parents were well known in Pompeii. Tommy’s dad was an architect and his mom was a designer bringing the latest fashions from all over the world to Pompeii. As Rose and I entered the nice side of Pompeii we saw the bakery’s bread, sweet and decadent the loaves are with some fresh grape jelly grown fresh in the vineyards of Pompeii, are mine and Rose’s favorite snack. My stomach grumbles, so we stop at the bakery and buy some bread and the jam for Rose and I, and some for Tommy. Finally, we reach Tommy’s house and we knock at the door. Tommy comes out and eyes our bread and jam. When I see him do this, I ask him.
“Would you like to go with Rose and me to the promenade and have a snack?”
Tommy responds very quickly, “Sure”. And we went off down the hill into the gates of Pompeii. As we approach the promenade Tommy ask me,
“Are you scared?” in an unfamiliar tone of his.
“Of what” I ask curiously.
“Of the volcano, of the earthquake, of everything that has been going on, it’s unnatural of Pompeii to be acting so calm, the volcano will blow.” Tommy says very calmly but I know there is a sense of fear in his words.
I feel Rose get closer because she is scared, yet curious of our conversation. “Of course I am Tommy, who wouldn’t be, everybody is scared but nobody wants to show that kind of fear. It is too early to know if it is going to actually erupt. So I wouldn’t be too sure about it erupting.”
I respond back to him in a calm voice, but I too can hear the fear in my voice. Just like that, the thoughts of Pompeii being destroyed, people dying, scares me entirely. We have a completely silent snack. After we finish, Tommy asked if he can stay at my house, he goes on telling me his parents are gone.
When the three of us get home, it is around six-o-clock in the evening. Rose goes to her room, Tommy and I go to my room. We get ready for bed because we are exhausted from the walk in the promenade. But I can’t go to sleep because my mind is entirely on the volcano. The thought tiers me out and I drift off into a dark sleep.
I wake up with a start, Tommy is screaming at me. “Get up Jack, Get up!” Then, I realize what he is talking about, the room is shaking, the house is groaning, the plaster is falling; the shingles on the roof are sliding. This is an earthquake! I rush out of the room with Tommy; we grab Rose and quickly run outside. The smoke over Vesuvius is getting higher by the day. I decide it is best to go to the sea gate. We all run through the streets of Pompeii and quickly get to the sea. Then the earthquake stops. As we go through the city, not very many houses are destroyed. We rush to meet my parents at the bank. I give them a long hug and start crying, frightened by the day’s events. We return home to find most of our belonging broken or on the floor. We pick up our belongings as quickly as possible and we all sleep in the living room frightened that there might be another earthquake.
Leaving Tommy, Rose, and me at the house, my parents went to work. I go to the window and open it revealing clean air and a blue sky. At about noon we decided to go walk to the sea gate and fish. But when we walked outside, the sky was gray and the air smelled briefly of smoke. There was no sign of ash or any sort of indication that Vesuvius had erupted. But as the week went on I started becoming more and more sure that what Tommy had said about Vesuvius soon to erupt is becoming reality.
That night I began thinking about what Tommy had said and about the earthquakes, what if Vesuvius was soon going to erupt and were we all going to survive. I drifted to sleep at the question.
People are screaming. I wake up with a start. Tommy and Rose rush to my bedroom, grab me and we start running. Running as fast as possible to get past everyone running our way. Whole crowds are screaming, ash is raining down very quickly .The earth smells burnt and smoky. The earth hisses and cracks. Then a loud red boom lights the skyline. I am thrown forward on the impact of the very large blast most probably from Vesuvius. I quickly get up followed by Rose and Tommy. Rocks, ash, pumice, bits of lave burn our skin bringing us to the ground. We have just enough strength left to get us up and run. Run for our lives. I look back and see all of Pompeii in ablaze. The forest is on fire, houses are crumbling; is this the end of the world? We race to the sea gate with a hope of escaping the chaos of Pompeii but find the street heading to the sea gate is unmovable with people. The sky is flashing with red and gray, the earth cracks with red steam, which I assume the red glow is lava. Then the sea gate crumbles leaving the three of us helpless against the forces of Vesuvius. The only sensible thing to do is find my parents. Where are my parents? Have they forgotten about us? Have they taken a boat out of Pompeii? I will never know. I wake to the reality of the chaos by a bit of lava hitting my cheek. My head is covered with ash. We need to leave Pompeii as quickly as possible. Rose and Tommy follow me toward the promenade through the forum, past the amphitheater, and out into the forest. Fires have already lit most of the forest. But there is a small river two miles from Pompeii where the fires must stop. What we saw greatly discouraged us, we saw that both sides of the river on fire. That the water was black and steaming, that the earth was covered, with four feet of ash and pumice, that the sky was getting darker with ash and lava, and that the burn marks on our skins were horribly red and scarred. We had no other choice but to cross the river, get even farther from Pompeii as possible; we find a hill with a flat rock, partially covered with ash. We climb on it and fall into a very deep sleep waiting for tomorrow, for an absolution that wouldn’t come.
This is too hard for all of us, we probably won’t survive the eruption anyway, I thought. Then, I fell asleep.
I wake up and find just what I had imagined, ash still lightly falling from the sky, Mt. Vesuvius, and Rose and Tommy, my responsibilities, right there next to me. They were probably thinking or hoping that the eruption will never had happened, and wake up in Pompeii’s bright and brilliant mornings, that they would be safe and sound in their beds. My stomach grumbles with hunger. Then it hits me. What and how will I feed Rose and Tommy? I am the oldest, fourteen, Tommy, the second oldest, at twelve. So it is my responsibility to take care of them. And care I must. I dig through the ash and find a few rocks. I see a flock of birds in the distance and begin throwing the rocks at them. One goes down. As I get closer, I notice that the bird is a duck. I bring the duck to our camp area and find Rose and Tommy sitting on the rock examining me closely. I need to start a fire, so I ask Tommy and Rose if they can get some firewood so we can start a fire. They look uneasily at me and Tommy, sad and looking exhausted says, “Isn’t it already hot enough out here?” He was right, though. The temperature had increased dramatically. This morning I would have said it was about eighty degrees Fahrenheit but know it seemed about 100. But we still needed a fire to cook our duck. Tommy and Rose set out to collect some firewood and came back tired and sweating with a pile in their hands. I set it down in a pile and start a fire with rock sparks. Then I set the duck on top and let it cook for about an hour. We sat down eating very quickly to tame our wild hunger. When we finished our duck, we notice that the day has gotten so extremely hot that fires were beginning to come to life again. One, coming very close to our camp burns the rest of the standing trees, leaving nothing but charcoal and smoke.
We enjoyed the company of one another even under the circumstances. Rose and Tommy got along pretty well, with the occasional fight over who was going to collect wood. And Tommy, Rose and I got along at a decent distance between our fights. Every day it was the same routine get up, find food, (which took up most of the day), one of us looks for precious water, and go to sleep tired and hungry only to wake up the next day with that same hunger that cannot be tamed.
After about a week of the off and on and off showers, Vesuvius had been quiet, at least until now. Tommy, Rose, and I were out hunting for anything edible to fill our starving stomachs when we heard the groans as we did in Pompeii as we were returning from the forum. We looked at Vesuvius and instantly knowing what would happen. Vesuvius blew with a fiery blast, the same as it did in Pompeii the day of the first eruption. The three of us ran, ran farther and farther until I tripped on a rock bringing Rose and Tommy down with me. Then, everything went black.
I woke up and found ash, black rocks, pumice, and burns completely engulfing me in both themselves and pain. I got up, stretched, and woke up Tommy and Rose. They woke up very groggy and hungry. But there was no more food as far as the eye could see. All the surrounding area was a very big open area with nothing in it. We all looked at each other and knew what we had to do. We had to go to back to Pompeii. The journey would be long and dangerous. The only problems that popped into my head instantly were: Where is Pompeii? And will it still be standing? The chances were slim, but I must take them.
We all decided it was best to leave our camp immediately due to poor conditions in the weather and our health. With nothing left to gather, we started for Pompeii. I had lost all sense of direction though, so the three of us just walked and walked through a black haze. The earth was still filled with ash making it very difficult for Rose to walk. Tommy and I were also having trouble especially when we went into deep ash areas that had about nine feet of ash. Finally, Rose couldn’t take the walk, so I put her on my shoulders.
As night approached, we settled in an ash bank for the night and quietly waited for tomorrow for something that would cheer us all up, but we all knew that that wasn’t going to happen. I soon drifted off into a dark sleep without a dream, without food or water, without my parents, without Pompeii. I awaken at dawn, but I am surprised Rose and Tommy are up also, standing by a burnt tree, talking. I walk over and find them discussing which way Pompeii would be. They both decide to go east, so I follow them. For the next few hours we all stuck to a strict direction until we came across the river we had passed as we were running out of Pompeii. Then Pompeii was only about two miles away! I started running very quickly with Rose and Tommy right behind me trying to catch up with me. Beading with sweat we arrive in Pompeii, or at least its ruins. What we saw was just ash, a few bricks, and nothing more. We walked all that way just to find this. I started crying because I found nothing, people died here because of Vesuvius, all of this was the volcano’s fault! I kick ash in my fury and throw bricks in Vesuvius’s direction. But then I remember Rose and Tommy. I then feel very foolish and childish. I had absolutely no idea what to do so I start walking at a direction in hopes of finding help, finding somewhere for myself, Rose, and Tommy to stay safe in, away from the heat, away from the memories of Pompeii.
As helpless as we were, I know we are to find food and water soon or we are going to die a painful death. I dig and dig through the thick ash on the ground looking for rocks that I might be able to kill birds with. I look at Tommy to see if he has found any rocks and I find he is not there next to me like he was before. I look and look until I find him lying on the ash covered earth with his rocks next to him. He is pale and very skinny. When I feel his pulse, there was none. Tommy was dead. And it was all because of me. He was my responsibility and I failed him by letting him starve and dehydrate. I start digging a grave for Tommy when I too feel dehydrated and staved due the digging of Tommy’s final resting place. I put Tommy in and let him rest.
With Tommy gone there was nothing for Rose and me to do but wait for death. But I couldn’t let that happen to my little sister. She has her whole life ahead of her and I don’t want to let her down like I let Tommy down. I get up with the rest of my strength and head towards Rose, grab her arm, and we just start walking to the ocean to see if we can find any fresh source of water and dine on shellfish. Every day we waited for our rescue, we counted the days, and we counted the nights for our rescuers to come, but we soon lost out faith in ever seeing civilization again.
Water rushed at my feet in the cold waters of the ocean by the sea gate in Pompeii’s ruins exactly one month after the eruption of Vesuvius. Plants were beginning to spring new life, the sky was blue again, the air was clean, but most of all, Rose was right there with me. At about noon, we heard a noise. Almost like a chariot. Actually, it was a chariot. Rose and I raced up the hill to find two Roman soldiers right in front of us ready to attack. They put their swords down and one told us, “You both survived this by yourselves?”
I responded silently “Yes. My sister and I and our friend Tommy, who passed away.” It was very hard to say those words at the thought of Tommy lying in the ash, never to take a breath or ever to see his parents again. Then it hit me and I told the soldier “What took you so long to come to our rescue? People died here while you were just waiting in your city to just hear about this.” Then I started yelling at them, “You knew people would need rescue and you didn’t come. You knew people were going to die and nobody was here to bury them!” I fell to the ground and started crying. The soldiers showed care and compassion to us and offered to take us to the neighboring town of Naples, which had not been destroyed.
We got on the chariots of the soldiers, looked into the sunset, and looked back to what was already the end of Pompeii.