Rome III: And A Great Plague Did Fall Upon This Land

Micah Osler, copy editor

Loyal readers: for the next several days, I’ll be in Rome, doing stuff and probably eating, too. This is where I’ll write about stuff I did and also, probably, stuff I ate. There will most likely also be anecdotes about my inability to learn even basic Italian and the loudness of mopeds.
Note: for the edification and excitementification of my readers, I have seamlessly blended some fictional details into this otherwise-truthful account. See if you can find them all!
Our trip to the Colosseum began just like every other day trip we’d taken. We skipped down the sidewalk, happy as could be, the sun glowing in our respective hair and burning our respective skin a healthy, painful red. We meandered down cobblestone streets and tree-lined boulevards, laughing and singing songs and stopping occasionally to dance gaily around a Maypole.

Little did any of us suspect the… terror that was to come.

We arrived at the Colosseum and waited in line, passing the time by telling lighthearted jokes and stories to the amusement of all involved. Time flies when fun’s being had, and so we were inside the monument in the blink of an eye!

Oh, how great it was! Through the ancient stone hallways we frolick’d, twirling this way and that through exhibits of ancient Roman signage and obese families from Maryland, ignorant – blissfully so! We viewed the great bowl of the stadium from above, taking plenty of photos, and once our appetites for ruin-viewing were satiated, we satiated our actual appetites with Lo! a tin of Pringles and some bottled water on a stone bench in the ampitheatre’s cool basement.

After we had taken our fill of Colosseum-related revelry, we made the decision to walk back home. Oh! that I could change that now – that I could convince us to start on the path homeward e’en 20 minutes earlier – but the past, alas, is finished.

We wandered outside and, delusional with joy, toddled off along the first street we saw. We passed bus-stop and tobacconist, stop-light and counterfeit handbag salesperson, and the scenery seemed nothing out of the ordinary.

Yet, a creeping fear came over us all as we walked those streets with more and more trepidation. The tall buildings that hemmed us in blocked the GPS on Father’s cell-phone, and Mother began to fret that perhaps we had turned the wrong way – we had been ten minutes without seeing a land-mark of our neighborhood.

The dread built as we continued on. Rome’s streets, seemingly filled mere minutes before with hundreds upon hundreds of kindly passers-by, became barren seams in a Godless desert. The sun beat down upon our wearied shoulders –

And then, no longer! For, just as we reached a public map that told us, once and for all, that we had gone the wrong way, the skies darkened to the hue of Vulcan’s deepest chambers, and a Rain – a steady, pounding, bulbous rain – burst forth as the heavens collapsed above us.

We ran to a nearby grove, on the edge of an abandoned church, and there we waited for the squall to pass us by. Father said that it was just a passing storm, a summer-fancy of the Gods, and that it would soon be gone and that our great day could continue. The rain fell with a steady thud, and for a few minutes, I naively believed that Father knew the will of the Fates.

CRASH! the thunder above us rang! The squall had become a squall no longer; it was now a Thuder-Storm, that hideous illegitimate son of Benjamin Franklin and Aqua-Man! Beseechingly, I asked Father and Mother if we could move from the grove we sought shelter in to the Church.

“Ay, my son,” Father replied. “’Tis but a summer squall. She’ll pass us by, given time.”

“Do you see not?” I replied. “’Tis no summer squall! It has, dare I say, become a storm! And we must run forth – forth, from its reach, to liberty from imminent death!”

But Father moved not. Mother was no more sympathetic to my tormented calls. And so there we waited, the lightning striking all ‘round, shivering as the wrath from the deadened sky changed us into sopping rag dolls.

And soon, the sky darkened e’en more! A deep hollow crash came from the road-way to our left; ‘twas not the cry of thunder, but a Hail-Storm, emerging forth! The stones of the North rained with a righteous fury, and I said unto my family:

“Cover your neck and the base of the Head, all of you! This Hail is a wily beast, and he will yet claim us as his prey!”

And yet none followed my pleas.

In time, the Hail stopped, and thunder’s bellow resumed its cacophony.

“I say yet again,” I said yet again, “we must seek shelter within the sanctuary’s walls! For the Rain shall continue until we have all perished!”

“None shall perish this day,” Mother replied.

And so we waited on, as if pleading with Jove to bring upon us another plague. And yea! One did come. For from the fruitful clouds did fall down a rain of Frogs, and of Tad-Poles, and of other such Pond-Beasts, beating upon the trees and making a sickening emanation as they whacked us upon the Head, and upon the Shoulder!

“Run! Is your vision yet obscured? This is no mere afternoon drizzle of Frogs! This is wrath from above! The Fates have deserted us; we must make our own luck!”

And again, I was ignored. Brother had even the tenacity to pick up a frog and take it as his own and bestow upon it the name Wembleton! He shall rue that when Wembleton drains the blood clean from his throat while he lays sleeping, thought I.

The sky, already the color of blood sausage, changed its hue once more and became dark as wrought iron, with nary a star nor moon to brighten its charcoal visage. The Frogs became a downpour, and then suddenly ceased, and Light-Ning crackled a mere two cubits from our hiding-tree, and suddenly in the sky appeared, in a glowing disc the color of flames kissing the Damned, the horned fiend Mephistopheles himself!

“QUIA TENEBRAE SUFFOCARE VITAE A TERRA TAMEN!” spake Mephistopheles in strangled voices, and the sky did rend, and a great Crashing came upon all, and Daemons and Spirits Evil did dance their terrible dance upon the earth!

It was then, I recall, that Father allowed us to seek refuge inside the church.


Things I Made Up:

-We ate Lay’s, not Pringles.

-Technically, the street was more like a barren desert, not a Godless desert.

-Lizards were in the Rain of Frogs, and I suppose they’re not technically Pond-Beasts.

-I have more than one brother.

-The older of my two younger brothers actually named his frog “Sir Wembleton Dexter IV of Wilkinshire”.

-The demon’s name was Phil, not Mephistopheles.