“Is that how you really feel?”

It is the final earthquake. The cat, watching from Misenum, sees tephra hanging in the air, lapilli of memories. I send a messenger: Pliny, old friend, hurry.

“I guess so.”

The words collapse into the space between our bodies, pyroclastic. The messenger turns back; Pliny’s ships are useless. The door opens on a small tsunami in the Bay of Naples.

I turn my face up to wait for rain. The ashes fall lightly on me.