As I sat there quietly, listening to the muffled echoes of the street in front of the hotel, sipping my rum and trying not to fall asleep, I kicked my feet up onto the wall that separated me form the thousand-foot drop to the Mediterranean Sea below. The wind whipped and whirred up the cliff, but by the time it had arrived to where I was sitting, it was merely a woman’s fingertips that gently caressed my cheeks.
I thought about a lot that night. I thought about her. I thought about the ocean. I thought about the poor souls 2,000 years ago that were trapped for centuries by the explosive volcanic blast. But it was too much, at least for the amount I’d drank.
I was in the most beautiful place in the world. What was the point? To sit? To think? To bother myself and wonder what the future held in store?
No. Not that. There was no point, so I quickly shut off my brain and began taking in the sights around me.
The clouds above the mountain were gingerly drifting down from the atmosphere. They reached the peak, but did not stop. They continued rolling down its sides, barreling down onto the towns below. “What would it mean now?” I thought.
As I sat, drank, and continued to be lost in thought, my mind began dozing. The grip I had on my small glass began to weaken. My eyelids weakened as well. As they shut, I drifted away.
When I awoke, the earth was shaking around me. The ice in my glass was rattling from side to side. I slid up in my chair and looked around to see people coming to their balconies, looking out to see what was causing the commotion. I twisted around in my chair, and that’s when I saw the fingers of light flickering up from the side of the mountain. The roars and groans from the earth were so deafening that I had to cover my ears, dropping my glass in the process.
The lights from the earth grew brighter and brighter, as gas depots and transformers began exploding across the bay. House by house, block by block, the lights began systematically shutting down. But, as the darkness finally consumed the town, a powerful explosion rocked the earth all the way to the horizon, and the night sky lit up as though a second sun was coming up from the giant rock that protruded from the earth’s surface.
In an instant, a gigantic plume of smoke, ash, and dust lifted up from the top of the mountain, pushing with it the clouds that had just settled on its sides. The cloud grew and grew, and then began spreading out into the sky as it simultaneously fell back down to earth.
The people staying at the hotel were now crowded along the short wall that overlooked the bay. They had come down from their rooms to look out over the sea at the poor, helpless town of Naples what was now being engulfed in a plume of hot ash. A modern Pompeii, right in front of our very eyes. The old town, directly above it, would be lost again, only having recently emerged from its 2,000-year tomb.
I wondered where we would go from here. Would the small town of Sorrento would be lost as well, crumbling into the sea as the cliffs began to descend into a watery grave?
And then I awoke. My glass still rested firmly on the arm of my chair, so I picked it up and finished off its contents. I looked up and saw the twinkling lights of Naples across the bay. The clouds still gently kissed the top and sides of Mount Vesuvius. It was all still there.
I got up and walked over to the bar in the hotel. My vision still danced around my head, but I was relieved to be back in the real world – with real alcohol. The tuxedoed barman poured me another glass of rum that I gulped down before he had even finished pouring, and I walked outside, heading back towards my room.
The liquor was finally taking effect as I undressed and walked over to the window to look out at the city one last time before I laid down to sleep. And then, without warning, the earth began to shake.