Welcome to Sunday Scribbles!
Today marks week 46 of the 52 week writing challenge!
The prompt for Sunday 19th November is ‘Ruins’:
This weeks attempt is based on my visit to Pompeii a few years ago. I had fun looking through the hundreds of pictures I took to find a featured image. My only regret is I couldn’t wander around as much as I wanted to, because the tour guide caught me when I tried to sneak away!
‘Why do we have to visit old ruins?’ Cassia complained. She flung her long hair over her shoulder and wiped a hand across her sweating brow. Ahead of her, her tour group wandered through the blistering sun and along sandy paths.
Her mother stopped to let her catch up. ‘This is an important part of history.’
Without her usual high heels, Cassia’s mother had to look up to see her, but at least she could keep up with the group. Cassia sighed as her father joined them. He plonked a large straw hat on her head and smoothed her fringe behind her ear.
‘One day soon, you’ll have to choose a career,’ her father said. ‘This could be it!’
‘Shouldn’t I be focusing on maths instead?’ Cassia replied. She tilted the hat upwards and stared at the ruins around her. ‘I’m failing that, and I’ll be even more behind when we get back.’
‘Maths is boring!’ her father said with a grin. ‘Ask me what grade I got!’
‘Dad, I know, we’ve been through this a dozen times,’ Cassia replied with a groan. ‘I don’t need to hear it again. I don’t want to.’
She crossed her arms and stalked ahead to lean against a pillar as the tour guide droned on about volcanic eruptions.
Cassia watched her mother glare at her father before she walked over. ‘Surely it’s not that bad?’
‘You said I’d get to hang out on Capri and watch for celebrities!’
‘Come now, did you really think we’d take you out of school to do that?’
Cassia frowned and looked away. ‘I guess not.’ She sighed and gestured to the ruins. ‘I guess I thought that, for once, we’d get to go somewhere I’d be interested in. With dad it’s always old ruins and historical sites.’
She watched her father grin as he snapped another photo, and wished she was that enthusiastic about something.
‘He just wants to share his passion with you,’ her mother replied.
‘I know, but sometimes I wish he’d take interest in mine.’
Her mother gave her a pointed look. ‘I’m sure he would, if he knew what they were.’
Cassia sighed and pushed away from the wall as the tour group moved on. The comment stung, but she didn’t have it in herself to deny it. All her interests were superficial, fleeting. Learning the piano, dance, robotics. Nothing held her attention for more than a few weeks. Whatever her passion was, Cassia didn’t know it yet.
A chill wind swept through the ruins, and Cassia shuddered. Her spine tingled and her arms prickled with goosebumps. She gasped as she caught sight of a strange figure in blue silk down a path to the right. Entranced, Cassia stepped away from the tour group and entered the alley.
‘Please stay with the group,’ the guide called out. Cassia blinked, spell broken.
Her mother beckoned her over. ‘What was that about?’
‘I thought I saw something.’
‘Well, they say these ruins are haunted,’ her father said from behind her. He looked thoughtful. Her mother shuddered.
Cassia rolled her eyes and patted her mother’s shoulder. ‘Yeah, I don’t think so.’
She stalked forward into the group and hid in the middle. The tour guide spoke of baths now, but Cassia’s mind was on the figure. Old fashioned clothes, straight out of a history book. Was it the ghost of one of the woman who died here?
‘It can’t be,’ Cassia said to herself, but then she caught another glimpse of blue in a side street. She had to find out.
She glanced at the tour guide. He watched, engrossed, as her father spoke with wild gestures towards the carved pillars. Her mother was sympathising with a woman in high heels who’d just climbed Vesuvius. They were all distracted. The perfect time to slip off. Cassia crept up to her mother and reached a hand into her bag. It closed around the guidebook they’d bought, and she pulled it free. No one noticed. She’d have to warn her parents to be more careful later.
As the guide turned to lead the group around a corner, Cassia snuck away down a side street. She clutched the guidebook in her hand, turned to the page with a map, and spun around as she reached a crossroads. The walls, the cobbled streets, they all seemed so familiar, but Cassia knew she’d never been here before.
‘Where do I go from here?’ She looked at the map. ‘Baths to the left, and amphitheatre to the right.’ But what Cassia wanted to know couldn’t be found in a guidebook. ‘Where did that woman go?’
A flash of blue caught her eye to the right, and Cassia hurried after it. ‘Amphitheatre it is,’ she muttered to herself as her trainers scuffed along the floor through a maze of ruins.
When she caught up, the woman in blue stood at the top of the ruined amphitheatre looking over it with tears in her eyes.
‘Are you all right?’ Cassia asked. She approached and placed a hand on the woman’s shoulder. It went straight through. Eyes wide, Cassia took a step back and stumbled on the uneven stones. From her place on the floor, and rubbing her back, she looked up as the woman turned.
‘Do not be afraid,’ the woman murmured. She glanced over the stadium with a sad smile. ‘You and I used to be friends.’
‘But I’ve never been to Italy, let alone Pompeii,’ Cassia replied. She stood on shaky legs and kept a wary eye on the woman. ‘All my friends are in England.’
The woman pointed across the ruins. ‘We used to live in those houses, on the edge of the city. You and I dreamed of a good match. Well, I did. You wanted to be a gladiator.’ The woman’s face twisted into a grimace.
‘What’s wrong with that?’ Cassia retorted. ‘Women can fight!’
She placed a hand on her hip and gestured at the ruins, then retracted her arm, cheeks flushed, when a couple passed by. She must look like an idiot, yelling and gesturing at nothing.
‘That I do not question, but girls of wealth need not. You would have risked your life for no reason!’ the woman replied, and then she scoffed and said bitterly, ‘Not that it mattered. We all died anyway.’
Cassia blinked. ‘I don’t know what to say. I’m not the person you knew.’
‘No, you’re not,’ the woman replied with a bitter laugh. ‘She was feisty and sure of herself. You’re a mere shadow of her. As ruined as the ruins of our home.’
‘I’m 17! How am I supposed to know what I want?’
‘Look inside yourself,’ the woman suggested. ‘Why do you think you can see me?’
‘You were sent to help me?’ Cassia asked hesitantly.
‘No, I’ve always been here. You’re here to remind yourself who you are. I was a part of that, once.’
Cassia looked around. The ruins shimmered with memory. Familiar streets clouded her mind, streets where she’d chased boys with a wooden sword as a girl. A grand stadium, steaming bathhouses, and the cries of gladiators as swords clashed in the arena. A young girl, so much like the pictures Cassia had of herself, saying, ‘One day I’ll be like them, Papa.’
She shook her head and stared at the ghostly figure. ‘Helena…’
Helena smiled. ‘Yes. You remember?’
‘A little. It’s a blur. Flashes here and there. Why have I been reborn?’
‘Perhaps your grand dreams made it so? I never had any, and look at me.’
‘But I don’t have any,’ Cassia replied with a frown. ‘I have no idea about anything.’
‘Then live the life we never had the chance to in Pompeii. See the world, try new things, and even if you fail, never be afraid to live.’
Cassia blinked. It was a good idea but it would be lonely on her own. Suddenly her friends back home seemed superficial, and the pop stars they worshipped trivial.
‘Come with me?’ she asked the ghostly figure of her once best friend.
Helena shook her head. ‘I’m stuck here, bound to the stones which became my tomb.’
‘Sorry,’ Cassia said. She looked around. The haunted echoes of children’s laughter filled the streets. ‘I can’t believe it came to this. We used to be so happy.’
‘Do not dwell on the past, my friend,’ Helena said. She sat on the ruined steps and sighed. ‘Day in, day out, it’s all I do. Go. Live.’
Cassia bit her lip, then said, ‘I’ll visit. Tell you of my adventures.’
Helena smiled. ‘It’s more than I could ask for. Till we meet again.’
Cassia nodded and turned away. Her feet took her back along the ruined streets towards where she’d last seen her parents, but despite the twists and turns she’d taken to get here, she didn’t look at the map, not even once. As she strode along the streets, taking in the ruins that had once been her home, an idea came to her, a flash of inspiration. She caught sight of her mother up ahead and jogged to catch up as the tour group entered the gift shop.
‘Where have you been?’ Her mother asked, flustered and relieved as Cassia rejoined the group.
‘I wanted to see the amphitheatre,’ Cassia replied. She glanced around the shop and her eyes settled on a notepad. ‘Just going to grab something.’
She ignored her mother’s stare of disbelief, and picked up a notebook and pen.
‘Need something to take notes?’ her father asked. ‘You’d have to be around to listen to the tour guide for that.’
‘I’m going to be a travel writer,’ Cassia replied with a proud smile. ‘You take me to enough obscure places, after all.’ It wasn’t as exciting as a gladiator, but she’d see the world, make the most of life, and every year she’d climb the steps of Pompeii to tell Helena of her adventures.
Her father smiled. ‘Well. All right then. What’s inspired this?’
‘I met a ghost,’ Cassia replied, face blank.
Her father stared at her. Her mother’s face paled. ‘You know your mother’s afraid of ghosts, Cass! Don’t tease.’
‘You mean like you did earlier?’ Cassia replied with a grin. ‘Better leave then, before she comes back. Come on, we have to climb to the top of Vesuvius before it gets too hot!’
As they entered the air conditioned coach and took their seats, Cassia opened her new notebook and scribbled, ‘An inspirational trip,’ at the top of the page. Underneath, she began to write everything she remembered about Pompeii before the eruption. As the peak of Vesuvius appeared in the distance, a thrill ran through her and she smiled. She couldn’t wait to see what the past had to show for itself this time, and was eager to share its stories with the world.
Thanks for reading!
One of the MC’s of my NaNoWriMo project is a reincarnated King Arthur. As a result I’m pretty interested in past lives and how these memories emerge right now. It’s fascinating to read about! I’m definitely writing something to do with Ancient Rome and Ancient Egypt at some point, because aside from King Arthur, these are my favourite time periods.
Next Sunday’s prompt:
The prompt for 26th November is ‘Stars.’
If you try next weeks prompt yourself, let me know how it goes. Post your attempt on your blog on the 26th November, and leave a link in the comments so I can read it 🙂
If you can attempt the prompt in less than 140 characters, you can also #sunscribbles on Twitter. I’m super interested to see what you all come up with 🙂