Story Go Round 11/29/2009, #4

Roman Holiday

The sky was gray with ash. The mountain rumbled again while she turned to flee — but first one heel broke, and then the other, then she twisted one ankle, then the other and was finally reduced to a military elbow crawl through the nettles and blackberry thickets.

Was that really a necessary trip?” asked the familiar voice of my older brother Tiberius.

“Silence you great oaf lest I decide to kick you in the backside.”

My brother is always saying stuff like that. He thinks he is the boss of the world, and the sad part is that he actually is the boss of at least this half of the world.

But when my heels aren’t broken, I can kick his ass. “Don’t you see all that ash in the sky?” I asked him instead of kicking. I would have to replace my shoes soon or this half of the world was doomed. “Do you suppose the gods are trying to tell us something?”

“Yeah, buy a pair of sneakers.” My brother has no idea how bad my image would be if I reduced myself to a pair of air jordans or some such.

Half-Empresses of all the world DO NOT under any circumstances ever appear in public without heels.

Or make-up.

So that left me with one very unappealing option: I had to ask Tiberius — that wibbling moron — for help.

I found Tiberius exactly where I thought he would be. All one had to do was follow the scent of cheap booze and the empty laughter of well-paid go-go dancers. We’d spent the afternoon pleasantly enough, down at Davidicus’s tavern and grill, whiling away the hours with Persian margaritas. I admit, I do enjoy Tiberius’s sense of sophistication at times. Not all the time, though, as he behaves. Layabout. But none of us were prepared, on this day, for the rumbling and the ominous sounds that began late in the afternoon.

Suddenly the mountain sent up a huge gout of flames and smoke. A moment later a rumbling roar reached my ears. “Tiberius, you idiot!” I shouted. “We have to leave now!”

He just laughed. I tried to stand, and couldn’t. Looking down at my wine, I saw my reflection, eyes glazed. Poison.

I couldn’t look away. I felt like I was falling, falling, into the reflection and out the other side. I was in the wine-world, watching myself from a distance, my brother’s laughter still ringing in my ears.

I saw her — me — sitting at the table (fabulously dressed, if I do say so myself). I watched my brother lead her away from the café, and into the panicked streets, smiling.

She was drugged, but looked happy, somehow. The heavens boiled as they strolled towards the mountain. I rather envied her.

My brother cackled evilly, and I watched her giggle along with him, until they finally disappeared together into some... contraption. Nothing I recognized.

I couldn’t help but be pissed at my brother, though. Now I might have to break his foot. With my broken heel.

If I ever got the chance.

To get that chance, I’d have to find them — us — again. I’d have to de-drugify myself, which could prove to be difficult. I realized this when I tried to lean against a wall and fell right through.

I was in the wine world, I didn’t exist in the real world anymore.

This was going to be difficult. How does one escape the wine world? I wracked my brains for possibilities, and it finally hit me – Bacchus! This was Bacchus’s realm, and maybe he could help me.

I began the summoning ritual. Stripping off my clothes, I knew, could bring him faster, but I didn’t need to just bring him, I needed him to obey me.

And for that, I had to be an empress.

I couldn’t be the Empress in the Emperor’s new clothes, that was cliché.

That damn idiot brother of mine was leading me uphill towards the volcano. Did that jackass think it would be a virgin sacrifice?

Then the volcano blew, rocks fell, and everyone died. Except me, in the wine world with Bacchus. Who had somehow acquired a chocolate rabbit. Wine and chocolate, I could live with that.