Ian D Smith's Roman Holiday Blues

Roman Holiday Blues

My first visit to St Peter’s Square was cut short by a volcanic eruption. I’d been remembering a scene from Roman Holiday at the time, the one with the Mouth of Truth.  First the ground shook. Then Princess Anya pointed to the purple sky.
     “Hurry up,” she shouted.
She hooked her bag over her shoulder but was pushed back. It was beyond belief that a volcanic eruption could spoil a spring day in St Peter’s Square while the pope was taking open air mass. But the princess forced her way through the crowds with her head down and I followed.
     “No time to spare,” she said.
Outside the square, drivers were abandoning vehicles and sprinting towards the scene. I kept my camera rolling and walked as fast as I could. Our hotel was already empty by the time we dragged ourselves back. News travelled quickly, and the staff had switched off the elevators and aircon, and simply left.
In our room, I pulled the curtains back and opened the window to let some air in. I collapsed on the bed, but the princess had bundles of energy. She leaned over the camera and blew away dust.
     “Everything appears to be okay,” she said, inspecting the delicate mechanism.
I plugged in a charger and flipped out the camera. The princess sat beside me.
     “Now!” she said. “Press Play!”
I stared at the screen. I was amazed at the clarity and detail. A burning cloud of gas floated at great speed over the hills and ancient buildings. Darkness descended and the leading edge struck the pope.  His expression was not one of surprise. He raised an arm to bless humanity. Then the thousand degree heat exploded his brain like a coconut in a vice. His gown flickered and curled and vaporised. His skeleton shone and was rendered black. At the moment of carbonisation, his eyes remained open.
     “That will be the end of the fairy tale,” said the princess.

*Ian D Smith says ” I was born in Manchester and now live in Wiltshire. I hold an MA in Creative Writing, Goldsmiths.”

NB  This piece first appeared on IS&T on 2nd September 2010, but for some reason had vanished from our archives.  Posting it again, with apologies to Ian D Smith for the mysterious disappearance.  HI

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *