Lit Mag Short Fiction

All Roads lead to Rome

My father once told me that all roads lead to Rome.


He is like that, full of secrets and wisdom unknown to the rest of the world.


Unwanted, in these sorts of times.


Perhaps they just don’t want their heads getting too heavy. To save space for only what they need.


I asked my father once if his head was heavy.


He laughed, and that too was a mystery.


The walls of the bomb shelter seemed to get closer every day. The cold was unrelentless.


Why was he laughing?


How was he laughing? Through burning lungs, the next thing to go after red fingers?


He told me that knowledge should never feel heavy. That it is in fact freeing.


I brushed upon it the very same day in one of my books.


The word was enlightenment.


I read it, and read it and read it again.


Light did not come. Neither did warmth.


But I did learn how to spell it. My brain is the same as it always was.




That’s another word I found.


Today, I asked my father what Rome looked like.


His gaze was fond behind his glasses, his words coming out muffled through his mask.


Images of glittering marble and water, fresh as rain slipped into the dying air. Temples of gold and silver sprung up from the dirt.


I heard the dead leaves crunch beneath my feet. Saved every breath I didn’t need, knowing the magenta gas was right behind us.


Knowing where it is, without ever batting an eye.


We have the trees for that.


They stare, mesmerized by the oddity in the sky, like a toddler with a bug.


They stare so long, some of them start to cry.


Paying no mind to us. No mind at all.


The ground was sticky from the rain. I stared at my boots, muddy rubber, for the rest of our walk.


And wondered how this could ever lead to Rome.


Perhaps dad was right. Enlightenment is freeing.


Because now I know wherever we are going, there will be no Rome in sight.


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