north americaeurope


the last lament of the sun
shamir nandy
page 05:09

Gally ran up to her, and hugged her. He was four, and still stumbled over the simplest of words. Sometimes Lucia wondered if perhaps there was something wrong with him – although he seemed the most intelligent of children. He would always know when Lucia was upset and temper it with a hug. He would know when she was happy, and would try and wring favours out if it. No matter how well she hid it, Gally always knew. She only wished he would have started talking a little sooner. No matter, the sooner they understood language, the sooner they knew how filthy the world was.

Lucia gently disentangled herself, and headed out to the portico, but even before she stepped out she could hear the noises of the crowd. Rome had been sealed for three days now - not all that many - but as always, the poor would grumble (“All they need is an excuse”, her mother would say) and the merchant class would complain about trade. Lucia by no means favoured the indolent upper class, but she really didn't know much else. Leaning out over the balcony, she seemed to smell smoke in the distance. It was still early morning, but she could have sworn the west of the city seemed brighter than it should have.

“Mother?” She asked, turning. The floor was empty, except for Gally valiantly trying to reclaim one of his sandals from a mute serving boy. Lucia laughed, the Nubian was one of the few who actually loved Gally, as far as she was concerned. It was a pity about his tongue, if he still had it maybe Gally would have learned something. Lucia frowned. She tried to recall the Nubian boy's name, but couldn't. For some reason she couldn't put her finger on, that bothered her. She went in to eat, and between playing with Gally and enjoying her meal, the hours passed.


For a moment, Lucia lost sight of who she was. What she remembered, and what she had become, didn't seem to be at the same person at all. Her memories almost seemed like a dream. Except, they couldn't be. The only dreams she had anymore were nightmares, so this must have been the truth. Lucia sat down, momentarily overcome by her past. She still couldn't understand how she lived, before… this . Every moment of her life seemed wasted, every second she was bored was a second she had lost forever now. Even the moments she spent sleeping, she cried over. Half her life, blown away in unthinking slumber, and now she had to spend the final days of it in dread and desperation.

She tried to wipe her eyes again, but stopped halfway. She didn't have any more tears to wipe away. The time for crying passed by an eternity ago. The time for fighting, she lived through, and triumphed. This is the time for remembering, and for understanding. After that... she knows what comes after. She doesn't have to say the word, but she likes the taste of it against her lips. It feels like… like emancipation. She can feel freedom, but that isn't the word that struggles across her broken lips.

She pauses for moment. Another thread in the unravelling tapestry of her mind snaps, and Lucia falls back into herself.


Lucia spat again, she couldn't stop spitting. It was an irritation, nothing more. But she couldn't help but noticing the coiled strings of yellow tissue in her spit. Ever since she stopped Caius on the street last night, to ask him what was happening. When the sun had dipped below the horizon, the west had still stayed lit. She didn't know why at first, until he told her they had fired the merchant's quarter. He had coughed on her, and she had thought nothing of it. In a city like Rome , people are always coughing.

And she asked why they had burned it, and he didn't' answer. He grew quiet, and there was a panicked look in his eyes – liked a caged animal. He only said there was worse, they had seen barbarians – Visigoths! Visigoths outside the walls.

Lucia laughed at him. The Visigoths were at war with the Ostrogoths, and both tribes had been conquered, along with all of Germania , hundreds of years ago. True, they rebelled, and as quickly were silenced. Her father had done exactly that before he left for Britanica. It was impossible that the barbarians were here. Cauis had just laughed hollowly, and looked guilty.

That night, Lucia's mother returned. She had been at the house of a ‘political friend' the night before, and she came back that night with stories of the slaves rioting. Not that she believed it, but it was excellent fodder for her campaign.

Lucia dined with them that afternoon, they drank, they ate, and pleasured themselves. A few of them had brought young girls, or boys, with them, and discreetly, but still obviously, they had made use of them. Lucia didn't begrudge them their pleasures, but when they joined for their late evening meal, she became unsettled. Not a few of them were coughing, but that didn't disturb her. With the candles lit, the light in the room was orange, not yellow. And they all knew it. “The Poor Quarter is burning, they said” and “Serves them all right”.

Lucia quietly put Gally to bed. He struggled against her, but he always did. In the end, he lay down and let sleep take him. Lucia spit again into his chamber pot, and cursed her health. Shrugging it off, she snuck out through the back looking for Caius. He lived but two streets over, and always had the latest gossip.