Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Obamapei's Last Day

It was a beautiful fall day with clear cerulean blue skies overhead. The people of Obamapei went about their normal routines, unmindful of the odd rumblings and venting heard all across the metropolis and environs. They had happened before in the past few months and nothing had come of it.

The Sybil Hilliratus had sounded the warning just a few weeks ago from atop the mountain that looms over Obamapei. She had seen signs and portents that fellow soothsayers Gallup and Zogby had dismissed. “Doom is upon Augusta Obama, the portents are there!” She was ridiculed for her prognostications and eventually driven beyond the line defining the city’s boundaries by Augusta Obama himself. Still some claim to hear her cackles of doom and the dogs howl in protest.

As afternoon waned into evening the strange noises were heard more and more while foul smelling Ayers waftd, but people kept going about their business. Even as the wrights were going off true, no one seemed to notice. Even when it was whispered that August Obama had shouted down his own grandmother when she wanted to leave the city. Down in the port, ships loaded and off-loaded unmindful of the gray pallor surrounding the high mountain.

In the center of the city, off the main plaza stood the town’s Temple of Vesta. Inside one of the Vestal Virgins fretfully watches the hearth fire flicker and dance, no matter what she does the fire is determined to go out. Gathering her toga about her legs to let her walk more quickly she comes to a decision. Summoning a younger priestess, her voice commands the girl, “Keep the fire going while I seek better answers.” Thusly she strides out of the cement and marble Temple looking for the Vigil commander.

All the while the trembles and rumblings are heard more frequently. In the flickering light of torches strides our priestess, strands of auburn hair starting to fall loose from her bun while she navigates people on the streets who seem to be Bacchinal followers they stagger so. They are not drunk, just the ground is shifting but they are unmindful since the priest Zogby still see nothing wrong in the near future. Finally she reaches the Vigil post and walks right past the trooper guarding the door. As he turns to follow her, she is already inside demanding to see the commander.

Amid the clatter of roused troopers demanding to know who by Janus she is, the din awakens the commander. As if the strange noises had not kept him up and at his post instead of spending time with his vigorous wife, he rises from his bed already dressed in tunic. He is a grizzled veteran of twenty years in the Legions and his position to command the Vigil is meant to be a honorary retirement posting, but instead he has set about mending his troopers’ slack ways. He walks in still putting on his lorica, he see the woman standing there and he recognizes her station and duty. “Priestess should you not be guarding the flame in the Temple?”

“Tribune, the signs are there that terrible times are fast approaching.” All sound in the post ends abruptly, a priestess has spoken. They all are now listening. Glancing left and right to see she has everyone’s attention. “In the temple the flame is guttering, no matter what we do to keep it going. And on my way here, where I should have heard some animal noises, there are none. They have abandoned the city. I fear we are too late to abandon our beloved city, but by Vesta we must try.”

Rubbing the stubble on his chin, the Tribune ponders and weights the words of the Priestess Pallin. The thought of talking to Augusta Obama to declare an evacuation lasts a second before being discarded. It is his duty to maintain order in the city, not Augusta and arguing with that obstinate Carthaginian is usually pointless.

“Falco, take your squad and get our families and dependents moving outside the city.” He looks to Pallin for clarification and she understands. “Move them away from the mountain, people visiting the temple earlier today had mentioned the animals on that end were already gone while they sought protection from Vesta.” Tribune Canaris nods, “Away from the mountain Falco. Now get and save our families.” As Falco and his squad depart, the Tribune looks at the other troopers. “Lets start with the people closest to the mountain and get them moving. Runners, pass my commands to the other posts that they are to start evacuating people. Tell them to keep it quiet and orderly. They are to travel light, knock silly things to the ground. If they complain, give them my name. And leave Augusta Obama to me. I will explain things to him.” Canaris looks skyward. “Juno willing,” he prays.

So the evacuation starts as the Vigil troops spread out through the city, first chivvying the people closest to the looming disaster on whose slopes they had raised grapes. And as Tribune Canaris predicted, some tried to take the family treasures with them and had to be forcibly disabused of those notions. All the extra training was paying off as they kept their cool and no one was needlessly speared. Priestess Pallin had gone back to her temple, gathered up the priestesses, and departed her temple and beloved city after saying one more prayer for deliverance. As she left, the fire finally went out. Tribune Canaris found himself in a shouting match with Augusta Obama that stretched for hours. All the while the foul smelling ayers thickened and the rumblings were replaced by louder booms. From a villa perched on a lesser hill three stadia away the Sibyl Hilliratus stared at the mountain and cackled again.

And then before the shouting match between Augusta Obama and Tribune Canaris could reach its fourth hour, as Sol started to peek through the gray clouds that seemed to have replaced the mountain, all such disagreement was brought to a sudden halt. With a stupendous roar, it exploded sending a tumbling roiling fast moving ash cloud that engulfed all of Obamapei, leaving no survivors save those the Vigil managed to rescue. And the Sibyl Hilliratus continued to cackle gleefully as the man who had tossed her out was dead somewhere down there in the new necropolis that was Obamapei.

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