January 23rd, 41 AD
I knew this passage as well as I knew the hallways in my own home. If there’s one thing I’ve always been it’s a history buff, and various histories of leaders, tyrants, despots, an the like had always interested me. This was where Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus, known to many as Caligula, had been murdered. Much of what I saw at that moment had been lost to history, as Palatine Hill had been greatly reduced in our time, but I knew where I was as I had studied this place intricately, taking in old texts and pictures, as much as I could find. It only took stepping into the main thruways and passages to gain my bearings, but doing so wasn’t wise since as I’ve seen with each trip thus far I arrive in my same, sodden pair of swimming trunks that I constantly wear when I wade among the waves.
But this was it. This was the spot where Caligula would be murdered. I didn’t know it was the day before until much, much later, as I didn’t want to move for fear that someone would see me. It was an unreasonable fear to say the least, but it still kept me from revealing myself. I don’t know how long I remained hidden in the nook I’d found, but I heard many people come and go, and each time I felt it was safe I peered out, marking the time by the fading light that could be seen here and there.
I didn’t know how much longer I could wait at one point as I had to relieve myself, I was hungry, and I was terribly thirsty. But when the next day dawned I heard what sounded like a single person making their way down the passage, and I couldn’t help but look out. Thankfully he didn’t seem me, but I could see everything. The handsome, arrogant-looking young man that I saw was quite haughty, dressed in finery and seeming to care little if anything for anyone else.
He cared however when he saw the small mob of people step into the passage, blocking the direction he was headed. I have no idea what was said to them, but I was waiting for the bloodbath. You wouldn’t believe it though. It almost didn’t come.
I kid you not. The people that history has stated would assassinate this young, arrogant man that had grown so far out of control was alone, outnumbered, no doubt outmatched, and yet he stood before them as though he was invincible, as though he could back them all off with a glare. And whatever he said to them in the next moment seemed to work, as they looked among each other with unease, their eyes flicking nervously back and forth as he spread his arms wide, as though inviting their swords.
And they did nothing.
I have read the histories, I know of the atrocities that Caligula committed, and I know that near the end he was reviled by just about every person under his rule. And yet as he raised his voice yet again, they stood aside. Not a single sword lifted against him, not a single person charged. Do you know why? History is imperfect, that’s why. It is what it is because we as human beings tell ourselves that this is what happened, this is what was written, and this is what we must believe. These people that would have gladly slit the throat of their young emperor had somehow been cowed by him and were moving aside to let him pass. I couldn’t let that happen.
On weak legs exhausted from standing or crouching for a day or more, I stumbled out of hiding, clad only in my urine-soaked swim trunks and listing from one side to the other. I called out in my own language, which of course none of them understood, and motioned for Caligula, miming a stab at his back as he stopped and actually looked at me with what seemed like utter contempt as well as disgusted amazement. It’s an odd combination to see on any face so that’s the best I can do. But as I approached the people seemed undecided on what to do, so I showed them.
Really, that simple, I showed them. I took advantage of the moment and grabbed up a sword from someone that didn’t know how to react, and I approached Caligula at a shambling run that he should have been able to easily avoid. Maybe he thought I was weak, that I couldn’t do it, or maybe he thought me a fool. But the sword plunged into his guts all the same, and despite the fact that I had to let go before dropping to the ground (I was that exhausted), he’d had only a split second to realize what had just happened. So had the people behind me though.
I laid on the floor as I heard the sound of steel entering flesh over and over again, the screams of the dying emperor somehow music to my ears as the realization that I’d done this kept ringing in my mind. I’d saved the history that must have been a lie all this time. Of course when I felt the first sword go into my back that feeling went away pretty quickly. By the third stab my body was already going into shock, and by the fifth I don’t remember anything other than slipping into dark, black hole that seemed to swallow me and carry me along like a drifting tide.
(to be continued)