The doomed wall

It was an icy evening and I just had a funny feeling, the North Sea was a brutal place and I couldn’t determine if I was seasick or scared.  Our boat rocked with the wind in peculiar synchronisation.   

I was afraid.  The long storm swelled tightly over the horizon and rain stomped the deck.  The approaching hills of green turned into a landslide of liberated russet mud in surreal dawn light.  My fear was unrelenting like the storm, but why was I afraid?  I had an ominous feeling that I’d return to Rome a different man, if I was to return at all.

I was sent to investigate the sudden disappearance of hundreds of our Roman soldiers in northernmost Albion.

This strange northern land wasn’t home – I belonged in a villa miles away in Rome.  I already missed the balmy summer nights, vibrant olive trees, succulent food and sweet wine.   I was to be stationed in dreary Albion for the next year.

I sat lonely and homesick inside a tattered wooden hut on Hadrian’s Wall, my new home.

I rose on my first morning, where Plautius the Centurion briefed me on the mysterious disappearances.  “We’ve had several freakish accidents – Septimus’ Century was obliterated in a snow storm, in the middle of summer.   The snow melted, with no bodies to be found.”

“One month ago, the ground opened up – fifty Roman souls lost.   Even a week ago, a whole Century contracted a strange skin illness and died suddenly, while the local Pictish natives were immune” whispered Plautius.

I was terrified.  “I’ll get to the bottom of this; don’t worry” I lied profusely.

The next day, I walked along Hadrian’s Wall with a few of Plautius’ men.  We passed a small pond, sat and ate bread.   I was relieved – nothing untoward so far.   Suddenly, a soldier screamed that the sky was raining fire.  To my horror, shards of fire fell everywhere.  I ordered the soldiers to scramble; the smell of burning flesh filled the air.  My instinct was to jump into the pond.   I held my breath forever.   When I came up the screams stopped, and the surrounding area was all ash.  The only things left were metal helmets and me.   Something abominable was afoot.

The next day I unwillingly started my next investigation with another sentry.  We moved in single file, looking out for danger.  We came to an unfinished part of the Wall, stopping in front of a shallow bog.  One-by-one we entered the bog, but each man was pulled forcefully under the bog as if it were a deep abyss.  I was last to enter and retreated just in time.  Another group lost.

What was happening?

That sleepless night, I summoned up enough courage to walk the Wall.  I encountered a little Pictish girl – what was she doing here at night?   I went closer, holding a dagger in my hand because I strangely felt I needed to.   The child was chanting one of those sad Celtic songs the natives were so fond of.

“Hello Roman, how are you?” she sighed in broken Latin.

I drew closer and saw the ethereal face of this ruddy little girl.

 “You know, your people don’t belong here” whispered the girl. I had nothing to say, but I did feel a rush of guilt.

“Search your heart, soldier – you’ll know what I mean – you don’t belong here.  We mean you no harm, but nothing good can ever come of a force invading innocent people.  As you are defying what is pure, so your people are reaping a commensurate grim fate” explained the girl.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“The One your people first killed when you built the Wall,” uttered the girl.

Heavenly Jove – was she a spirit?

“I’m sorry, I wasn’t here when they built the Wall” I exclaimed – hardly believing I was having this conversation.

In an instant – I knew Nature was conspiring against us Romans- we were imposing ourselves and acting contrary to right principles.  I pondered my previously unshakeable views of the Empire.   

Next day, I asked for immediate dispatch back to Rome.  I lied to my superiors that the Picts are a brutish race that we’ll never conquer.  We Romans never went further north. 

In reality it was not that they were brutes – it was the simple Universal explanation of the little girl to me- defy Nature and it will defy you.  It was I who halted further expansion north.

 Indeed I returned to Rome a different man – the Empire won’t last in Britain and it is doomed furthermore.  Any empire or force acting contrary to Nature, will find the full fury of that Nature directed against it – and all evil empires are doomed now and for all time.












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