Hayward Fault Line Winner
All roads lead to Rome.
Centurion Dominise used to say that all the time. We believed him of course but his repetition still got under my skin. The military cast lots beneath my windows often, or hung around the steps leading to the Senate Chambers.
"We know Dominise," I used to shout at him. "Who could forget your little motto with you reciting it every five minutes?"
He reddened as the men laughed and slapped each other on the back.
All roads do lead to Rome. From every part of the world. Once a ship lands on the continent, its passengers turn this way like sheep.
I glance nervously toward the horizon. Who will my enemies send next? What do they seek? What do they suspect? I know they are out there. Watching. Waiting.
I can see the grandeur of this city and I want to pull it close, hold it and keep everyone else away. My soldiers spy on me from lowered lids and I often hear them whisper.
What is it Dominise means when he says all roads lead here? Who does he expect? What information does he gather for them as he pretends to serve me?
This morning Rome's white columns reflect the newly risen sun. I hear the cries of slaves, horses, carts and men. All seems peaceful. Normal. But then I bend my ear a bit closer to the earth, listen for the hidden sounds.
My lady seemed distant last night, was slow coming to my bed. What secrets does she share with my men? What ardor do they show to her? And her to them? No one can be trusted. Janus perhaps, but he alone.
He has promised new strings on my fiddle this morning. Taut. True. I can almost feel their keen vibration as they anticipate my bow.
My plan is ready. I will send Janus to Sicily when he arrives. A reward, so to speak. For his loyalty. But the rest of them? Tonight they will get drunk on my wine. Bloated on my beef. Dizzy from my plump grapes. They will lounge on my couches and whisper their disgust for me.
I will climb to my chamber and play a little tune for them.
I will pause midway through my ditty so I might listen for them to cry out as they become aware of the dancing shadows from the blood red sky. Then I will play them back to sleep and keep them locked forever in my house, in my service and in the hungry corners of my heart.
First published: November 2005
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