Museum of Antiquity, Episode 3
(My parents gave me a book years ago called the MUSEUM OF ANTIQUITY. It was 944 pages, bound in leather with gold leaf imprinted on the cover. Inside were magnificent illustrations, covered in tissue to protect them from the acid in the paper. It was like taking a voyage, or stepping into a time machine. While growing up I spent many rainy days or sunny Saturday afternoons…traveling and exploring in antiquity as far as the edges of the page. Sometimes I wondered what it would be like if the book could transport more than your imagination. What if the MUSEUM OF ANTIQUITY appeared in your neighborhood like…a traveling museum? What if a book’s power was like magic. What if you could wander from chapter to chapter like walking from room to room? So let’s wander…a bit…ready? Let’s wander into the dark and changing hallways of the Museum of Antiquity…ILLUSTRATED.)
Down the dark hall
There is magic in this place. You are walking down the hall in pants, shirt, nikes, and a light coat, and in a second you are transformed into a patrician wearing a toga. It is as if the exhibit is deciding what you should wear. Your clothes seem to fade in and out from one style to another, as easily as light can bounce off a mirror.
Sometimes you see other other people. They are always distant, always far off down the hall. Some are men and women of ancient life. Some are men and women who have visited the museum before. You see one bespectaled man in 18th century clothes and a bowler hat. He looks like a student, scribbling notes in a leather backed book. You try to stop him to ask directions but he is of reach. You try to talk to him, but it is like attempting to catch a firefly for he draws you deeper and deeper into the darkness until he blacks out into nothingness. You start your journey in a typical hallway of a museum, with its shiny floors and marbled bannisters and pillared doors, and now you stand in the interior of a great villa. You walk through an atrium, the interior part of the house with a skylight to the open starlit sky. You stumble upon a peristyle, an open garden surrounded by a colonnade. You can hear crickets in the air. The plants are well tended, and you stand in the moonlight and listen to voices from inside the villa.
You hear a conversation.
“You are a fool to think that Hercules Pius can be bested by a mere secuteur.”
“Brother, I find you have a lot of opinions but you never back it up with a bet.”
“Mother! Jacus wants to bet me that my gladiator can’t beat his man.”
There is footsteps. A woman’s voice speaks out: “They are just copper toys made from copper tin. Put your toys away and go to sleep.”
The voices are nothing more than children playing with their toys before time to bed. It is a story repeated over and over no matter the time or age.
You are distracted from the conversation when you feel a tug on the leash. Watson takes a moment to do what dogs do. He comes out from the garden with what you imagine to be a smile. He sniffs the air.
“Yes,” you whisper kindly down to the dog. “Yes, yes, yes, it’s not the park. Consider it an extended walk. Let’s leave.”
He tugs on the leash once more and you walk back into the villa and out the door before you are seen by the slaves. It is on the street that
you come upon a body.
There are many bodies Most of them on page 51 – 52.
[Remember we are in a book.]
“…lays a third woman. She appears to have been about 25 years of age, and to have belonged to a better class than the other two. On one of her fingers were two silver rings, and her garments were of a finer texture. — One arm is raised in despair;…”
“The forth cast is that of a man of the people, perhaps a common soldier…he is almost colossal ize; he lies on his left arm extended by his side, and his head rests on the right hand, and his legs drawn as if, finding excape impossible, he had laid himself down to meet death like a brave man.”
This is the portend to what is to come for the residents of this great house. Death comes to us all, and sooner for those who lived at Pompeii. You realize that you are there at that moment in that time. However, you are caught between pages. You see life before the volcano blows its top, the living near the edge of night, and you see the aftermath in front of you on the cobblestones. Book dust floats about you. It enters your pores. It goes up your nose and down your throat. You choke on it, and then wonder if it is book dust at all or the ashes of Pompeii.
Would children fight over toys if they knew what the future held?
(This concludes episode 3. Look for Museum of Aniquities Episode 4, titled: “Small things that make life sweet.” )