A piece in response to ‘Close your eyes and imagine you are somewhere.  What do you feel like?  What can you smell or hear?  No visual descriptions.’


I am at Pompeii as Vesuvius erupts

I hear the rumble at the same time as I feel the ground vibrating and shaking.   At first I do nothing.  I am trying to work out what is happening.

I hear screams and feel people running past me brushing against me.  They are breathing deeply and encouraging others to run with them.  Some are shouting for their family members, some are crying.  Children are shouting for their Mothers.  More screaming, fear in all the voices.

Then people start to cough and I find that I am wretching and struggling to breathe.  The air tastes foul.  It smells of sulphur.  I turn into my house for some water.  It tastes fresh and clean.

I try to keep my eyes and mouth closed to keep the swirling dust out.

Then I realise that I am running and shouting too.  Where is my daughter Carolina, my son Stephano, my husband Donato?

The dog is barking.  I can hear the fear in his bark.  I unleash him.

I hear Donato calling me.  I shout back and we find each other.  Donato has Stephano with him and I scoop my son up squeezing him to me, burying my nose in his hair, smelling his sweet boyish sweat and kissing him while holding Donato’s arm tightly.  “Mamma,” he asks, “what is happening?” “” I don’t know, I reply.  “Donato, what is happening?” I shout.

“It must be the mountain,” he says, “we must get away.”  “But where is Carolina,” I demand, my voice full of fear.  “She is with your Mother,” he tells me, “Grandma will look after her.  We must get away now.”

I fill a bottle with water, grab some money, some fruit.  I fill a bag with our valuables.  “Come on,” shouts Donato.  I can hardly breathe, we must go.  And we three run away from the direction of the mountain towards the sea.  We know the path well so can run at first while we are on familiar ground.  I feel my chest tightening, the air is full of ash and I still try to keep my mouth closed.  We are fumbling along now more slowly.  There are many other people going the same way so we soon find ourselves being swept along with the crowds.  Soon we are out of the town and stumbling across the fields but the air is still thick with dust.  When will we reach safety?

Stephano screams and falls to the ground letting go of my hand.  Now I am screaming as I feel about to find him.  “I have hurt my foot Mamma,” he says, “I tripped over a stone.” “Can you walk?”  I ask.  His father picks him up and carries him as we move ever forward.  Is it my imagination or is it getting hotter.  I am perspiring and I can feel that Donato is too.  I try to open my eyes but the pain is intense as pieces of ash and earth hit me in the face.  Donato is coughing.  He slows down to catch his breath and Stephano starts to cough as well.  The branch of a tree hits me and I let go of Donato to stop myself from falling.  I am screaming  for him and he has turned back to help me when the fog of ash intensifies and we are all coughing and can only lay on the ground, hug each other and try to breathe…………….

Mary Armitage


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