Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? Entry #32

September 14th, 2009 by Wordsman


“Come on,” Jack said.  “We need to get back on the subway in order to return to the hotel.  The nearest stop is a bit of a walk from here.”

“How much is ‘a bit?’” Matthew mumbled, but apparently the subject was not open to debate.  Jack quickly trotted away from the Circus Maximus, showing no signs of fatigue from his earlier exertions, forcing Matthew, who both showed and felt plenty, to hurry after him.

As they speed-walked, Matthew reflected on the fact that “nearest” is a truly dubious word.  For example, Proxima Centauri is, as its name suggests, the nearest star to our solar system, but it would still take more than a lifetime to get there.  Coincidentally (or perhaps not), this was about how long Matthew felt it was going to take for them to reach the subway station.  Jack kept walking and walking, never slowing, only barely stopping to look before crossing streets.  The storefronts and apartments they walked by seemed hardly to change at all.  Matthew tried to ask how much farther they had to go several times, but Jack never responded.  Matthew assumed that his friend was lost, which was unfortunate, because until they ran into some sort of landmark, so was he.

Even a person who wasn’t desperately searching for something recognizable probably would have spotted that, though.

“Stop!” Matthew shouted.  Somewhat to his surprise, Jack did stop.  “What the heck is that?”

Jack peered over in the direction that Matthew was pointing.  “Isn’t that a section of the Aurelian Wall?”

“No, not that,” Matthew said irritably, shifting the orientation of his finger slightly.  “I know that’s part of the Aurelian Wall.  I’m talking about that!  The huge pyramid sticking out of it!  Wait, how do you know what—”

“Well, let’s just take a look at the guidebook, shall we?” Jack suggested brightly, pulling a small but thick book out of his jacket pocket.  He started rapidly flipping through pages, completely ignoring Matthew, who was repeatedly asking him when and where he had purchased a guidebook.  “Aha, here we go!” he announced a minute or two later.  “What we have here is the Pyramid of Cestius!”

“So what is it?” Matthew asked eventually, more than a little concerned that the answers were coming from Jack and not him.

“The pyramid was built around 12 BC, as a tomb for Caius Cestius Epulo, who was praetor, tribune of plebs, and a member of the Septemviri Epulonum.  It was built during a time when Rome was going through a fad for all things Egyptian, which explains the choice of a pyramid for a tomb, though whether its relative steepness is due to influence from the Ptolemaic dynasty or the pyramids of Nubia is unclear.  Roughly three hundred years after its construction, the pyramid, along with many other existing buildings, was incorporated into the Aurelian Wall for the sake of expediency and to save money.  During the Middle Ages the tomb’s origins were lost; many came to believe that it was the tomb of Remus because of its similarity to the pyramid-shaped tomb of Romulus, a belief that was supported by Petrarch.  The tomb’s true nature was rediscovered in the 1660’s during excavations carried out by Pope Alexander VII.”

“Oh,” Matthew said.  It took him a while to digest all the information that his friend had just spouted out.  It took him even longer to wrap his head around the fact that Jack was not only capable of reading and pronouncing things like “Caius Cestius Epulo” and “Septemviri Epulonum,” but also that he appeared to be capable of understanding them.

“We’d better keep moving,” Jack said, pocketing the book and gesturing for Matthew to follow him again.  “The subway stop isn’t far now.”

“Wait, we’re just going to leave?”

“You want to stay?” Jack asked.  “There isn’t really anything else to see here.  It’s just a pyramid.  The burial chamber is sealed off, so you can’t go inside.”

Matthew stared at his friend, profoundly perplexed.  Matthew did not want to stay; the problem was that he could not understand why his friend agreed with him.  Conspiracy freaks are supposed to go absolutely nuts over pyramids, claiming either that aliens taught the Egyptians how to build them or that the Egyptians taught aliens how to build them.  And the existence of the supposedly debunked rumor that it contained the final resting place of Remus should have made it all the more enticing for a man who had just spent the past couple of hours hunting for the Lupercal.  The burial chamber may have been sealed, but Matthew would have thought that that would stop his friend from trying to get in about as much as his common sense would have, which is to say not at all.

“You’re not Jack, are you?”

Jack nodded.  “But the question is,” he began, reaching down into another, surprisingly deep pocket of his jacket and whipping out a gray hooded cloak, “who am I?”

“Oh,” Matthew said, sounding a little disappointed and bored.  “This is a dream.”  He walked over to the pyramid and punched it as hard as he could.  No pain.  “Yup.  Dream.”

Matthew woke up immediately.  He was in the bed of the small hotel room that he and Jack were sharing.  Now that he was awake, he could see several reasons why the dream should have been obvious from the beginning: the Circus Maximus had its own perfectly good subway stop, his friend never would have worn a jacket on such a warm day, and every single person he had passed on the street was wearing either a toga or a full set of centurion’s armor.

He glanced over at Jack, who was sleeping in the cot they were taking turns using for the night.  He made a mental note never to go near the Pyramid of Cestius.  Sure, it had just been a dream, but he didn’t want to risk a repeat.  Once was unnerving enough.

Posted in Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? | 1 Comment »

One Response

  1. Gramma F Says:

    Glad the Wordsman is back. Hope he has a boffo (old Variety slang)ID for the Gray Man.

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