Aquaphobia

Aquaphobia

(Fear of water)

Robert Allen Rippy was a lifeguard at a public swimming pool in Nebraska. He was 6’2”, blond, and worked out three hours a day after work. Although he was 20 years old, he still liked being a lifeguard. When he was eight years old, he had almost drowned in this same swimming pool when his cousin jumped on him from the edge of the pool and the force of the blow caused him to sink to the bottom of the pool. Fortunately for him, the lifeguard who was on duty had seen the incident and immediately jumped into the pool to save the young boy. The lifeguard grabbed hold of Robert and carried him to the surface. CPR was applied and young Robert’s life was saved. Now, in some cases such as this, some people might be reluctant to get back into the pool, but Robert was not mentally affected. After the lifeguard suggested that Robert stay out of the water and rest, the young boy did as he was told (Robert always obeyed authority figures),but when the time was up, he went back into the pool. His cousin, however, was banished from the area for the rest of the summer.

Most of the people who used the pool were parents who had dropped their kids off, so that the parents could have some time to themselves. There were also some senior citizens who would occasionally come by to use the pool or laze out on the deck chairs. Robert was always solicitous towards the older people and would get after any of the kids who may have gotten too boisterous. Robert would also come to the pool an hour before opening just so he could get some swim time for himself. He felt that it helped get his body limber and that he would not have to worry about cramping before the public arrived.

One sunny morning in May, Tammy Lynn, his 19 year old girlfriend came to visit Robert at the pool. Tammy Lynn had been dating Robert for a year and she didn’t mind that Robert did not have a full time job. She knew how much Robert enjoyed working there, and because their relationship was in its “honeymoon” stage, she didn’t nag him about getting more stable employment. She also didn’t come to the pool very often because of her pale skin, which she considered one of the disadvantages of being a redhead.

“Hey, boy, how’s it going?”

“Tammy Lynn! What’s up?”

“I thought that I would come down and visit. It’s so hot today, and I thought that I would do some swimming.”

“Really? Do you have suntan lotion?”

“Of course I do. Can we talk for a few minutes?”

“Sure, I’ll be right down.”

Robert was happy to see Tammy Lynn but he was a bit curious about what she wanted to talk to him about. He walked over to the lounge chair where Tammy Lynn had settled and sat next to her.

“So, what did you want to talk about?”

“Before I tell you, would you please rub some lotion on my back?”

Robert picked up the plastic bottle of suntan lotion which Tammy Lynn had set beside the chair and squeezed some onto his hands. He slowly started with Tammy Lynn’s shoulders and worked his way down to her waist. By the time that he was finished, Tammy Lynn had still not told him what she had wanted to say.

“So, what’s up?” he said to her as she was turning around on the chair to face him. Tammy Lynn took her time, but she finally told him why she had come down to the pool.

“My parents are nagging me again about going to college in the fall, but I told them that if you weren’t going to go, then I wouldn’t go either.”

“Oh, Tammy Lynn. I thought that you had told them that I was thinking about going but that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to major in.”

“I did tell them. My daddy said that that was irrelevant. He didn’t care if we went to the same college as long as I went. He insisted that I send off for some brochures from some colleges. He compromised a bit by saying that they didn’t have to be from out of state, but I should at least try.”

Robert thought about it for a moment and then said,

“That’s not really a bad idea, Tammy Lynn. At least if you write to the colleges, your dad will see that you’re willing to give it a try. When you do get them, we could both look them over and decide how we want to go from there.”

“I guess that you’re right. I’ll do it under protest though! Well, now that that’s decided, I suppose that I should do some swimming.” Having said that, Tammy Lynn stood up and walked to the low end of the pool. She wasn’t adventurous enough to just run up and jump in though; besides running in the pool area wasn’t allowed. Robert smiled at her, then returned to his tower.

The first two brochures arrived in July and Robert and Tammy Lynn got together on one of Robert’s days off. It was a hot and humid day so they decided to sit out on the shaded porch and shared a pitcher of iced tea. The first brochure was from the local community college. Tammy Lynn wrote to them since they were only a two year college and she thought that it might pacify her father. Robert knew that the community college had a swimming pool but he wasn’t sure if they had a swimming program. Within a week, they had received brochures and applications from three institutions. Unfortunately, none of them had a swimming program and Tammy Lynn quickly lost interest.

“Bobby, what do we do now? Dad is going to insist that I chose a college and I don’t want to go if you’re not going to be with me”

“Well, I’ve been thinking about that and I think I might have a solution, but I don’t know if your father will go for it.”

“What is it? Tell me.”

“Well, I checked on my computer and I did find a place that offers a great swimming program, but it’s in California. I have some money saved up that my grandfather left me and he stipulated that if I went to college, I could receive the money before I turned 21.”

“California? But that’s so far away! I don’t know if my father would be willing to pay that much and, even though he likes you, I don’t think that he would trust us alone like that.”

“That’s the thing! If we find a program that you would want to get into, then we could get into the dorms. It’s not like we would be living together and we would see each other every day. It wouldn’t hurt to ask him, but before we do, we have to find something that you would want to study.”

Tammy Lynn thought about it for a minute and then asked Bobby,

“Does this school offer a nursing program? Mom is a nurse and if I tell them that that’s what I want to train for, maybe they’ll let me go.”

“As a matter of fact, they do have a nursing program. I could bring the brochure over tonight and we can spring it on them then.”

“Alright, let’s do it! I’ll tell Mom that you’ll be coming over for dinner tonight and we’ll tell them then.”

“It’s a date!”

Robert came over for dinner exactly at 6 o’clock since that was the time that Tammy Lynn told him to be there. Tammy Lynn’s parents liked Robert a lot and felt that he was a good match for their daughter. When everyone had finished dessert, Tammy Lynn’s father asked Robert if he had any plans for college. Tammy Lynn knew that this was her father’s not so subtle way of hinting to his daughter, but she had decided to let Robert bring up the subject of California. She looked over at Robert and gave him a nod of her head to indicate that this was the time.

“As a matter of fact, I have Mr. Quincy. At first, I was thinking of going to school here in order to be close to Tammy Lynn, but, unfortunately, none of the schools here have a swimming program. I did find one college that has a program, but it’s in California.”

“California? That seems a bit far to go for a swimming program. How can your parents afford that?”

“Ah, that would seem like a problem, but my grandfather left me some money in his will and it stated that if I went to college, I could get the money before I turned 21. That should get me through a semester or two and my parents said that they would help out.”

“I heard that it’s expensive in California. How will you live?”

“I can save money by living in the dorms and, since I won’t have a very heavy load at school, I could get a job to help with my expenses.”

Mr. Quincy then turned to his daughter and said,

“What will you do with yourself if Robert goes to California? I hope that you don’t think that this lets you off the hook.”

“As a matter of fact, daddy, I think that it’s a very good idea. In fact, I’ve looked over the brochure and have decided that I want to go to California also.”

“WHAT! Girl, do you realize how much that will cost? Have you even decided on a major, yet?”

“Yes, I have, daddy. I’ve decided that I’m going to be a nurse. This school has a very good nursing program and I could also live in the dorms and get a job.”

“I’m not having any daughter of mine living in a co-ed dorm!”

“Not all of them are co-ed, daddy. This is what I’ve decided and if you won’t let me go, then I’ll refuse to go to any colleges here!”

Before Mr. Quincy could say another word, Mrs. Quincy chimed in,

“A nurse? How lovely! Herbert, I think that we will discuss this later. Now, Tammy Lynn, are you sure that you would be able to deal with all of the injured and sick people that you would have to help?”

“Oh, yes, mother! I’ve visited you a couple of times at the hospital and I didn’t get nauseous once. And there were some very bad cases, so, yes, I know that I could handle it.”

With that said, Mrs. Quincy gave a little smile to her daughter and said,

“Would anyone care for some more iced tea?”

By the weekend, Mr. Quincy gave in and Tammy Lynn applied for an application on her computer. By the beginning of August, both Robert and Tammy Lynn had been accepted to the school. They would have to be in Los Angeles by September 1st.

By the time that they had both finished their second year at the university, they had both saved enough money in order to rent an apartment together. When Tammy Lynn’s father found out that they were living together, he was VERY unhappy, but his wife managed to calm him down by telling him that she felt that Robert was an honorable young man and could be trusted.

Robert was doing very well in his swimming, had gotten a job as a lifeguard at Santa Monica beach and was working on a degree in sports medicine. As much as Robert enjoyed being a lifeguard, he knew that it wasn’t something that he could do for the rest of his life, which is why he went into sports medicine. It also was helpful that Tammy Lynn was earning a degree in nursing so that if either one of them had a problem understanding something they could go to each other and discuss it. Over all, they both felt that they had made the right decision in their choice of school. It’s true that sometimes their schedules conflicted, but it was always a joyous occasion when they discovered that they had two days in a row off together. When these rarities did occur, they would take turns deciding what they would do for entertainment. Robert usually chose a day at Venice Beach, a movie, and dinner. Tammy Lynn would choose either a museum or a visit to Hollywood’s tourist spots. The first time that she got to choose, she opted to go to Anaheim and spend the day at Disneyland, even though it put a strain on their budget, Robert agreed to it because he wanted to make Tammy Lynn happy.

And so the next couple of years went by without any problems. Graduation Day quickly arrived and so did Robert and Tammy Lynn’s parents. The couple had a two bedroom apartment, even though they shared the one bedroom and had made the second bedroom up as a guest bedroom. Robert insisted that Tammy Lynn’s parents take the guest bedroom and Tammy Lynn and his mother could share their room. Robert’s father had died of a heart attack while Robert was in his third year at college, so Robert insisted that it would be no problem for him to sleep on the couch since it would only be for two days. The weather on Graduation Day was warm without being humid. Tammy Lynn was more excited about graduating than Robert was, but then he had prepared a surprise for later in the day. Robert’s mother was proud of him and would occasionally say out loud that she wished that Robert’s father could be there for the special occasion since Robert was the first member of the family to be a college graduate.

Since the graduating class members were called in alphabetical order, it meant that Tammy Lynn would receive her diploma before Robert. Five minutes after having received her diploma and finding a seat, Robert’s name was called. Tammy Lynn smiled as he walked up to the dean and got his diploma, but instead of shaking his hand and walking off of the stage, Robert turned and faced the crowd. He cleared his throat, tapped the microphone, and looking at Tammy Lynn, smiled and began to speak:

“This is a great day for all of us and, in some cases, even more for those who have come to see this. I would first like to thank Dean Standish for allowing me to say a few words, even though I am not a Valedictorian or on the Dean’s List. Gosh, I thought that this would be easy but…Tammy Lynn Quincy, will you consent to be my wife?”

The crowd was at first quiet, but then Tammy Lynn, with a slightly stunned look on her face, rose from her seat and yelled, “Yes! I will!”. Her parents, after getting over their shock, smiled and hugged each other. Robert’s mother was crying tears of happiness. Robert left the stage and quickly walked over to Tammy Lynn and the couple kissed for a seemingly long time, so much, in fact that the Dean walked up to the microphone and said, “May we continue now, Mr. Rippy?” The couple broke off, blushed and Robert waved at the Dean to show that the ceremony could continue. After the ceremony, when the couple and the two families were all together, Robert took a small box out of his robe’s pocket, got on one knee and knelt before Tammy Lynn and placed a diamond ring on her finger. Everyone in their vicinity clapped and wished the couple all happiness. Tammy Lynn’s father insisted that they all go out to dinner to celebrate both of the happy occasions. He also insisted that he would also pay for dinner, “since I’ll be paying for the wedding also.”

After much discussion, it was decided that the wedding would be held in Los Angeles on December 20th. The date was chosen so that Tammy Lynn’s parents could be at the wedding when Mr. Quincy was able to take a week off for vacation. Since Robert’s father had taken out a life insurance policy on himself for $500,000 and left his wife as his beneficiary, money was not a hindrance for his mother to not be able to attend. The couple’s mothers, in fact, flew in together so that they could help Tammy Lynn with all of the arrangements that needed to be taken care of. The most exciting day for the trio of women was when they all went to pick out a wedding dress. While Tammy Lynn was in the back trying on a dress, Mrs. Rippy asked Mrs. Quincy if she knew where the couple would be spending their honeymoon.

“Yes, well, I told Tammy Lynn that they should go to Hawaii, but she said that everyone goes to Hawaii. She and Robert talked about Tahiti, but hadn’t decided on that for sure.”

“Yes, I think Tahiti would be a lovely place to go on a honeymoon.”

“Robert also mentioned Bali, but I, personally, think that that is too far from civilization.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that. Besides, at a time like that, I think that a couple should have as much private time as possible. Oh, here comes Tammy Lynn.”

After three hours of trying on dresses, the three women finally agreed on a dress that wasn’t too lacy or too extreme. That taken care of, they went and had lunch. When they finally arrived back at the apartment, Robert was waiting at the door for them with a big smile on his face. Tammy Lynn was in such a happy state that she almost didn’t notice her fiance standing there. When she finally saw him, she said,

“Well, don’t you look like the cat that swallowed the canary? What’s happened?”

“I was offered a great job today that I won’t have to start until the new year. It’s in Denver, Colorado.”

“Denver? What is it?”

“I’ll be an assistant doctor for the Denver Broncos. Isn’t that great?”

“Did you accept it already?”

“No, of course I told them that I would discuss it with you first. I’ll be making $50,000 a year and they will pay my traveling expenses when the team has away games.”

Tammy Lynn thought for a minute, then told Robert that he should accept the job, if that was what he wanted. He frowned when he heard the last part of the sentence, but then told her that Denver had great hospitals and that it shouldn’t be hard for her to get a job in one of them. Tammy Lynn decided that he was probably right and went over and gave him a big kiss. Both Mrs. Rippy and Mrs. Quincy discretely left the room.

The wedding day was blessed with beautiful sunshine but it also had a nip in the air. The day before there had been the tail end of a rain storm, but that would not have any effect on the next day’s affairs. The wedding had taken place at an Episcopalian church and Robert thought that he heard a choir of angels singing when he saw Tammy Lynn being led up the aisle by her father. The glow of her smile shone through the diaphanous veil that covered her face. Time seemed to stand still for the couple as the ceremony proceeded. When it came time for the couple to exchange vows it almost became impossible to hear them over the sounds of the two mothers tears of joy. After the ceremony ended and the couple had been pelted with rice, everyone headed to the hall where the reception was to be held. As a joke, Robert and Tammy Lynn decided that they would bring a little something different to the party; instead of the traditional bride and groom on top of the cake, they had the groom in a pair of swimming trunks and a top hat and the bride was in a nurse’s outfit wearing a veil. At first, the mothers were appalled, but when Tammy Lynn’s father let out a loud laugh, the women joined in the frivolity. Three hours later, the pair had changed their clothes and were followed out to the limousine that would take them to the airport.

As soon as the plane was on its way to its destination, a hostess brought the newly-weds a bottle of champagne. Realizing that there was a newly-wed couple on board, the rest of the passengers applauded them. The pilot even sent his congratulations over the PA system. After an hour, when everything had settled down, Tammy Lynn and Robert fell asleep in their seats while holding each others hands. Two hours later, they were awakened when the hostess told them that the plane was getting prepared to make its landing in Honolulu. This was to be the first leg of their journey. They would spend their first night together in a hotel, and on the 22nd would continue their excursion.

When they arrived at the hotel, laden with leis, they checked in and were escorted to their room. The next morning, since their flight would not be leaving until five o’clock that evening, the couple went poolside and relaxed. Robert, of course, hit the water as soon as they had staked out their chairs. Tammy Lynn eventually joined him and they splashed around like a couple of children. They were even, once, warned by the lifeguard about their antics and they both laughed. Tammy Lynn insisted that they get out of the pool when she saw a waiter put a couple of drinks on their table. Both of them were really not heavy drinkers, but they felt that they couldn’t refuse when they saw the elaborate umbrella and fruit topping the glasses. After finishing their drinks, slowly, they went to their room and changed for lunch.

“Wouldn’t it have been nice if we could have had our lunch brought out to the pool?” Robert said.

“I don’t think that they would do that. Besides, you would have just wolfed the food down and jumped back into the pool,” Tammy Lynn teased.

“Come on, you know me better than that. Once a lifeguard, always a lifeguard. I would have waited an hour before jumping back into the pool.”

“I know, dear. What should we have for lunch?”

They arrived at the airport two hours early as suggested by the airlines. Robert had acquired a nice new layer of his tan, while Tammy Lynn had a slight touch of sunburn on her nose and arms. It wasn’t bad enough to make the rest of their trip unbearable, but she swore that she would be more careful at their next destination. Eight hours later, their plane made its landing. In order to get to the next leg of their journey would require a car rental. The selection of cars was not that great, but they did manage to find something that would get them to where they needed to be. They managed to get to the resort early in the morning. They went to their fourth floor room, put their luggage down and took a short nap. By noon, they were rested enough to go on a walk through the surrounding town. They found a small cafe, ordered lunch, they went looking for some souvenirs. By the time that they returned to the hotel, the tropical sun had worked its way through their skin. They went to their room and changed into their swimwear and went down to check out the hotel’s swimming pool. Robert dipped his hand into the water and, deciding that it was just the right temperature, stood up and dived in. He called out to Tammy Lynn to come and join him. She thought it over and, laying her sun hat on a chaise lounge, slowly took the few steps into the shallow end of the pool. She eventually submerged the rest of her body into the water and swam over to Robert. Robert splashed her and she splashed him in return; soon they were behaving like a couple of children. After fifteen minutes, Tammy Lynn got out of the water and walked over to the chaise lounge. She searched through the big straw bag that she had brought with her but couldn’t find the lotion that she thought that she had packed. She was about to head back to their room when Robert walked up to her.

“What’s the matter? Where are you going?”

“I forgot the suntan lotion.”

“Sit down, I’ll go and get it since I have the room key.” He had tied it on a string and wore it on his wrist. “I’ll be back in a couple minutes.”

Robert had just entered their room, when he noticed that the birds which had been thrilling near their hotel, were silent. The air even felt different. He stepped out onto his balcony and looked towards the ocean. It took him a split second to recognize what he was seeing; a giant wave which seemed to get bigger the closer that it got to the shore. He come out of his state of shock, ran back into the room and headed for the stairs. He had barely gotten halfway to the next floor down, when he felt to his knees when the tsunami smashed into the building. He quickly stood up and, keeping his balance by holding on to the walls, he rushed up to the top of the building. He ran over to the edge of the roof and saw umbrellas, chairs, carts, small thatch houses and some people being carried away. He started to scream because he was looking down on the side of the building where the swimming pool was located, and saw only swirls of dirty water pushing further inland. The only sign of what might have happened to his new bride was the sight of a straw sun hat being sucked into a small whirlpool. When he felt a tremor shake the building again, he walked back to the head of the stairs and started his descent. He was on the first step going down when a rush of debris filled water came crashing up towards him. He unconsciously turned around and ran up the stairs to the roof, hoping to outrun the water, even though, in his mind, he felt that he should wait for the water to catch up with him so that he could join Tammy Lynn in death. The rushing air created by the force of the tsunami almost knocked him over when he pushed through the rooftop door.

Three hours later, when the water started to recede enough for him to climb the stairs down to the ground floor, he walked down in a state of shock. Amazingly enough, when he got to the lobby area, which was covered in debris, he was met by a man with a Red Cross band on his arm. The man led him out of the lobby into the mud-filled street where a make shift ambulance was sitting. As Robert was being handed up into the vehicle, he looked around to see if his wife, either dead or alive, was anywhere in sight. He didn’t see her and so he silently sat down on the wooden bench which was in the back of the truck.

Robert was met at the airport by his mother and his in-laws. Robert’s mother silently walked up to him and hugged him to herself, trying to control her tears. Tammy Lynn’s mother looked like she was ready to faint, but her husband held her up and stroked her hair. There was no need to wait at the luggage carousel since all of Robert and Tammy Lynn’s possessions had been swept away by the tsunami. Robert carried a medium-sized bag which contained the clothes that he had been wearing during the catastrophe and had been donated to him from one of the relief organizations.

September, and the new school year had started, when Robert arrived in Denver. His mother had stayed with him in Los Angeles after he had returned, afraid that he may do harm to himself because of his loss. He assured her that he wouldn’t do anything so desperate, so she went back to Nebraska. Tammy Lynn’s parents had stayed for a week, hoping against hope, that there would be some news about their daughter. They had to return home without any news or her body.

Robert had moved into a one bedroom apartment near campus. He was shown around the campus by the dean himself, who, knowing about Robert’s story, felt that it was his duty to help the young man acclimatize to his surroundings. Even when the dean showed Robert the natatorium, he gave a slight smile but there was no light shining in his eyes whenever he saw a pool.

He had been in Denver a week when he decided that he would go back and check out the pool area. He thought that he would swim a couple laps before going to bed. He walked over to a bench, took off his sneakers and his sweatsuit. When he was ready, he walked up to the edge of the pool, took a deep breathe and froze. Before his eyes, the calm, blue water in the pool changed into a swirling mass of gray water filled with debris. Robert stood there, reliving the trauma that he had experienced in that small Pacific Island resort. Without realizing it, Robert’s teeth began to chatter and his legs went weak. In a slice of time that he thought had disappeared, he saw himself back on the roof of that hotel, looking down and seeing a straw hat sink into a whirl down to a watery hell. His head started to spin and fearing that he too would become just another piece of flotsam, he tried to slowly walk backwards from the edge of the pool. When his vision cleared and all that he saw in front of him was the calm water of the swimming pool, he walked back to the bench, put on his clothes and shoes and walked out of the building. Robert went on to be a very good doctor for the Denver Broncos but never went near a swimming pool again. And if he ever sees a person wearing a straw hat, he turns around and walks the other way.

Anthropophobia

Anthropophobia

(A fear of the company of people)

Jeremiah Ellsmore Ford, or Jef as he was called by friends and family, was a very shy man. He was 5’9”, had mousey brown hair, gray eyes, and, instead of thick glasses, wore contact lenses most of the time. At the age of twenty-one, he had decided that he would work only in a position where he did not have to deal with people face to face. He had made this decision after having undergone a very embarrassing situation in his senior year in college. One of his dorm mates had discovered that Jeremiah was still a virgin and the insensitive boor had posted this fact on his Facebook page. The day after the notice had been posted, Jeremiah found himself being gawked at everywhere he went. He found out about the posting when he was in Biology class and a fellow student had slipped a copy of it on his seat. Jeremiah took one look at the posting, turned a bright red, and gathered up his books and backpack and fled from the auditorium. Unfortunately, Jeremiah liked to sit in the front row, and so when he ran from the auditorium, his embarrassed expression was there for all to see. As he clumsily ran through the auditorium doors, and nearly knocking over the TA, he heard the roar of laughter from the other students. Later in the day, Jeremiah had gone to his professors and asked them to allow him to complete his courses through his computer. Most of the professors were understanding of Jeremiah’s situation, but one was not. This was Mr. Blackmore, Jeremiah’s psychology professor. He told Jeremiah that he shouldn’t be ashamed of his “condition” and that it would be better for him to face his tormentors instead of allowing them to see that they had won. Jeremiah reluctantly agreed and once he confronted his dorm mate about the posting, the posting disappeared. Jeremiah graduated and then applied for a job at a Tech firm. Since his grades were so impressive, he was allowed to work from his one bedroom apartment. He only had to make occasional appearances at the company, but when he did, he was not required to be there for very long and any face to face meetings were kept to a minimum. With this solution in place, Jeremiah may have known quite a few people but he did not have to physically interact with them.

One day, Jeremiah received an e-mail. This, of course, was not unusual since Jeremiah spent most of his day on his computer, but this message was listed under Spam. Jeremiah, like most people who received spam, usually just deleted it without bothering to read it, but for some reason unknown to Jeremiah, he actually opened it. Maybe because the head line seemed to speak to something within his soul, Jeremiah opened the message. The head line had read: Meet the girl of your dreams! Now, Jeremiah usually saw a head line for these mating services as a waste of time, but on this day, Jeremiah’s usually reserved sense of curiosity got the better of him. He clicked on the message and was amazed when a rainbow swirl of colors lit up his screen and was almost immediately replaced by graphics showing a wide range of pictures of smiling women. Suddenly, words popped up in large print: ARE YOU LONELY? CAN’T SEEM TO FIND YOUR SOULMATE? WELCOME TO CUPID’S HAVEN, WHERE WE GUARANTEE YOU THE MATE OF YOUR DREAMS! TO CONTINUE, CLICK ANY KEY. Jeremiah clicked a key and after the lettering faded away, a questionnaire came up on screen. The introduction on the questionnaire said: This service offers you a chance to meet the person of your dreams. Answer all of the questions as truthfully as possible. None of your personal information will be shared with any other businesses or corporations. Once you have sent in your questionnaire, your information will be entered into our database. Photographs of three possible candidates will be sent to you, and you may choose one. If the first choice does not work out, you will be able to make a second choice from the remaining choices. The cost for this service will be $100 (one hundred dollars US). In the unlikely event that you are not satisfied with any of your selections, your money will be refunded to you. If you agree to these conditions, then click AGREE. Jeremiah thought about this for a moment and then thought “What the heck!” and clicked AGREE. He was then prompted to the first question. By the time that he finished answering the questionnaire, and at the end entered his Visa information, Jeremiah felt like he had just run a mental marathon. He clicked Enter and waited to see if he would receive any results. Just as he was getting ready to sign out, a ring emitted from his computer and pictures and brief biographies of three women appeared on his screen. Surprised that he had received three candidates so quickly, Jeremiah slowly studied each picture and then read their brief biographies.

The first candidate was a fairly nice looking brunette named Alicia Goldman. She was 27 years old, had a PHD in Molecular Physics, graduated from MIT, and worked at the University of Rhode Island. Jeremiah thought that she looked a bit stern from her picture and so he checked the stats for the second candidate. Her name was Althea Williams, had blond hair, was 26 years old, and had her PHD in Chemistry. Jeremiah was impressed with her looks and her brains, but, before making his final selection, he checked out the final candidate. Her name was Miranda Chu. She had long dark hair, was also 26 years old, and had her PHD in Veterinary Medicine. Jeremiah did find her attractive but, since he had an allergy to cats, he decided that she would not make a very good prospect. He imagined that no matter how well-dressed Dr. Chu would be on their date, he was also afraid that she would have a pet which would aggravate his allergies. With all things taken into consideration, Jeremiah decided to choose Althea Williams as his first choice. He clicked on her picture and a small screen popped up which had Althea’s phone number, e-mail address, and best hours to phone. Jeremiah wrote down the information, logged off of his computer, and sat back in his chair. He wanted to plan out how he would approach Ms. Williams: would it be more personal to phone her verses e-mailing her? What would he say to her and where would they go on their date? Since Jeremiah was a shy person and also a very meticulous person, he wanted to make sure that when he finally did contact Althea Williams, he wanted to make sure that nothing would go wrong. After thinking about it overnight, Jeremiah finally composed an e-mail to Althea which he felt comfortable with. After waiting a few minutes in anticipation for a quick response, but not receiving one, he went back to his work site. Three hours later, he was finished working on his project for the day and checked his e-mail one last time. He was reasonably happy to see that Althea had responded to his message. She agreed to meet him for dinner the next night at the restaurant that he had suggested. Just for his own satisfaction, and to make sure that he was not dreaming, Jeremiah copied the e-mail, taped it to his screen, and logged off. Once he was logged off, he got out his cellphone and called the restaurant to make the reservation.

The next morning, which was a Friday, Jeremiah checked his messages to see if he was needed at work, and seeing that there were no important messages, he grabbed his car keys and went out to get some flowers for his date. While he was out, he also decided that he would look into getting a suit for that night. Most of the clothes in Jeremiah’s closet were either too leisurely or too out of date. Jeremiah, being such a low-key sort of guy, actually gave a full smile when he saw himself in the full length mirror at the store where he found a suit that made him look presentable. He also decided that he should get a haircut since it had been a month and he felt that he was looking a bit shaggy. After getting everything done that he needed to get done for his date, he went home and took a shower. When he had gotten home, and before taking his shower, he laid the suit out on the bed, admired it for a minute, and checked his computer, fearing that Althea might have changed her mind. There was a message for him from Althea, but all that it said was: “Shall we take my car or yours?” Jeremiah replied that he would pick her up in his car and that he had already checked MapQuest for directions to her apartment.

At 6:45 that evening, Jeremiah parked his car outside of Althea’s apartment complex. He checked himself in the mirror, grabbed the bouquet of flowers that he had bought earlier, and walked up to the entrance gate. He found Althea’s apartment number and pushed the buzzer. Despite the distortion of the speaker, when Althea answered the buzzer and rang him in, Jeremiah filtered out the noise and fell in love with what he perceived would be her real voice. Althea opened the door and told Jeremiah that she would be ready to leave in one minute, and exactly sixty seconds later, she told him that she was all set. Jeremiah appreciated a woman, or any person for that matter, who was exact.

“May I ask which restaurant are we going to be dining?” Althea asked Jeremiah as she locked her apartment door.

“Ah, yes, er, I thought that we would go to one of my favorite spots. It’s called Sadko’s; it’s a Russian restaurant and it has a roaming balalaika group. I hope that you like Russian food and music.”

“Oh, that does sound interesting. I can’t eat borshch because I’m allergic to beets, but I’m sure that they will have something else for the first course.”

“Yes, they do. They make a very good shchi, which is a cabbage vegetable soup. Would you be able to eat that…that is, if you want it.”

“No, that sounds fine to me.”

Fifteen minutes later, Jeremiah was parking his car in the parking lot. He quickly got out of the car and ran around it so that he could open the car door for Althea. She thanked him and, in what was a major deal as far as Jeremiah was concerned, she put her arm through his arm as they walked up to the valet station, gave the valet the key, and walked into the restaurant. The maitre d’ recognized Jeremiah, picked up two menus and escorted the couple to their table. The maitre d’ told Jeremiah that their waiter would be with them shortly and wished them a good evening.

“Good evening, gospozha, my name is Alexandr and I will be your waiter tonight. Would you care for anything to drink?”

“Da, pozhalista, butilka mineralnye vody.”

“Khorosho.”

“You speak Russian? I’m very impressed.”

“Yes, well, some of my company’s clients are Russian and I decided to learn the language. I ordered a bottle of mineral water if that is alright with you. I don’t drink alcohol.”

“No, mineral water is fine with me. I only drink wine and that is only for special occasions.”

“Have you decided what you would like? If I may, we could order a plate of mixed pirozhkis for our appetizer.”

“That sounds very good. I have tried potato pirozhki at a colleague’s birthday party and they were very good.”

The waiter arrived with the bottle of mineral water, poured it into their glasses and set the bottle on the table. He then took their order and left. Jeremiah slowly lost his shyness and by the time that their entrees had arrived, he and Althea were speaking to each other like old friends, not that that was the purpose of the date, but it helped. Soon, the small balalaika orchestra came to their table and started to play “Dark Eyes”. Althea said that she recognized the music and asked Jeremiah what the words meant. He told her that it was about a man who falls in love with a girl with dark eyes, which is considered a sign of great beauty in Russia. Althea smiled and Jeremiah felt, for the first time, that he might be falling in love. By the time that the meal was over and they were getting ready to leave, Jeremiah felt sure that he would be seeing Althea more often.

Jeremiah gave the valet a nice tip when he brought the car up for them. When they were inside the car, Althea looked over at Jeremiah and thanked him for an enjoyable evening. He said that it was his pleasure, but didn’t say anything else because he felt that it might be presumptuous on his part. They finally arrived back at Althea’s complex, but, just as she was getting her keys out of her purse, they heard a threatening voice.

“Give me your money, both of you, or the bitch gets it!” Jeremiah saw a man about 6’1”, dressed in black, wearing a ski mask, holding a gun to Althea’s head. Jeremiah did nothing since he had never been in this sort of situation before. When the shock finally wore off, he tried to bargain with the man. In the meantime, Althea, who was a foot shorter than the man, struggled to get out of his grip. This only made the robber more angry, and Jeremiah quickly took out his wallet to give the man what he wanted. He grabbed the money from Jeremiah, loosened his hold on Althea only so that he could grab her purse. However, Althea, who know some defensive moves, tried to back jab the robber in the face with her elbow. Unfortunately, her jab was ineffective and angered the robber. He raised the gun and shot Althea. He then turned around and ran down the street. Jeremiah bent down to Althea’s body, and realizing that she was most likely dead, fell on his butt to the sidewalk. A neighbor who lived in the complex ran through the gate and saw the tableaux. She got her cellphone out of her robe pocket and dialed 911. The police and an ambulance were at the scene within twenty minutes. While waiting for the police to arrive, the woman went back to her apartment and brought out a blanket for Jeremiah. She was a nurse and her instincts kicked in; she knew Jeremiah must be in shock and that a blanket would be a comfort.

When the police arrived, it took a while for Jeremiah to come back to reality in order to answer the officer’s questions. Since Jeremiah’s car was parked in a secure area, one of the officers gave him a ride home. Jeremiah got out of the officer’s car, walked up to his front door and let himself in. When he got inside, he slowly stumbled over to his couch and laid down. The next thing that he knew was that it was morning. He got up from the couch, and like one of the undead, walked into the bathroom, got undressed, and stood in the shower for a moment before slumping down in the shower and crying.

It was one year after Althea had been murdered, and in all of that time, Jeremiah shut himself off more and more. Her killer had not been captured in that time and so Jeremiah felt less safe on the rare occasions when he did go out. He had also taken his name off of the list as a client for Cupid’s Haven. He began to lose weight because he would immerse himself in his work and forget to go out for groceries. In fact, it got to the point where when he did notice that he needed groceries, he would order them from a local store and have them delivered. One time his boss came by to see why he had missed an appointment to come into the office and was appalled to see the way that Jeremiah was living. He found empty food cartons and soda cans lying everywhere and Jeremiah looked like he had not shaved in a month. Jeremiah gave him some lame excuses for missing the appointment, and since his boss knew about the murder, he told Jeremiah that he would set things up so that if Jeremiah was required, he could just do a teleconference instead of trying to make an effort to come in. His boss also managed to get a promise from Jeremiah that he would clean up his apartment. He said that he didn’t want to see Jeremiah become a hoarder or read in the newspapers about Jeremiah being found dead under a pile of trash. Jeremiah promised that he would clean himself and his apartment and with that reassurance, Jeremiah’s boss went back to his office.

That night, with a heavy rain storm howling outside, Jeremiah had a dream. In his dream, Jeremiah found himself all alone on a small island, with only his desk, chair, and lap top computer. He wandered around the island for a while, gathering some fruit and berries that he found in the jungle which rose up about a half mile from the shore. With his arms loaded up with some bananas, a fallen coconut, and some berries which he “sensed” were not lethal, he walked back down to the beach, ate a banana and turned on his computer. He logged in and began to work on a contract, when he noticed a blinking red light on the bottom right hand line. He had never seen such a thing before and, at first, was not sure what it signified and what he should do about it. He decided to pull his cursor down to it and hit enter. When he did this, his screen disappeared and he found himself on a video conference with his boss.

“Jeremiah,” his boss said, “we have a surprise for you.”

“Wha, what is it?” Jeremiah said in a quiet and surprised tone.

“You’ll have to come in and see.”

“But I’m on an island. How can I get there? I’m not even sure where I am.”

“Just touch the screen.”

This made no sense to Jeremiah and he was reluctant to do it. As he was getting ready to turn off his computer, in the background he saw Althea. He was shocked to see her, but it was too good to be true and so he touched the screen. The next thing that he knew was that he was standing in his boss’s office. He looked through the door and saw Althea starting to turn towards him. She had been looking out of a window, which Jeremiah saw was dark and had occasional flashes of lightening. He started to run towards her, but when she turned to face him, he saw her clothes had gun shots in them. He suddenly stopped and, from the left, a shadowy figure stepped out, raised a hand holding a gun and fired at Althea. At that moment, hundreds of people suddenly appeared and went to surround Jeremiah and they were all yelling “Surprise!”. Jeremiah began to panic as the people crowded in closer to him. He also noticed that each person was holding a gun in their hands. Total fear gripped Jeremiah and he suddenly found the strength to push through the crowd and make his way back to his boss’s office. The computer was still on and he could see the waves breaking on the shore of the island. The moment that he got up to the computer, he touched the screen and found himself back on the beach. Unfortunately, the people in the crowd, led by his boss, also touched the screen and appeared on the island. After his boss appeared, the mysterious gunman appeared. Jeremiah found himself surrounded by hundreds of people and they were all pointing their guns at him. Jeremiah flailed his arms around and managed to clear a path towards the ocean. He had splashed out to where the water was coming up to his thighs when he found his feet stuck in the sand. He was slowly sinking and the crowd was following him into the water. He tugged at his feet as hard as he could, but he lost his balance and fell into the water face first. Jeremiah struggled and tried to put his hands on the sand in an attempt to keep himself from drowning. During his struggle, he felt the whiz of bullets speeding by him.

Suddenly, Jeremiah sat up in his bed with sweat pouring from his body. A bolt of lightening lit up the room and the boom of the thunder shook the glass in his windows. Jeremiah got out of his bed and walked into his bathroom, turned on the light, and stared at his face in the mirror. He got undressed and took a shower in an effort to calm his nerves. After drying off, he did not put his pyjamas back on, but put on a sweatsuit and went to his living room. He debated with himself, but he finally decided to turn on his computer. It was four o’clock in the morning and Jeremiah, as he always did when he first logged on, checked his e-mail. There was nothing of major interest so he logged in to his work station. An hour later, he was starting to feel tired and, not wanting to go back to sleep, he went to the kitchen and made himself a pot of coffee and made two pieces of toast. He finished eating the toast, poured himself a cup of coffee and went back to his computer. For the next few weeks, Jeremiah did not have any more nightmares, but it took him a while before he could fall asleep.

A month later, Jeremiah had just logged on to his computer when he almost fell out of his chair. On the bottom right hand line, a red light was blinking! He slowly moved the cursor over to the light and waited for a message line to come on to let him know what its function was. When the message came on, it said “office line”. Before clicking onto the light, Jeremiah took a slow breath in and let it out. He clicked it on and a video screen came on and Jeremiah saw his boss’s face. When his boss saw Jeremiah’s face on screen, he yelled “Surprise!”. Jeremiah’s face turned white, he fell out of his chair, and started screaming. His boss was shocked by Jeremiah’s reaction and tried to calm him down, but then suddenly, people that he worked with, in spirit, came through his door yelling “Surprise!” and “Happy Birthday!”. This was too much for Jeremiah.

Jeremiah is semi-happy now. The interns and doctors treat him very well, but they never leave him alone in crowds or let him use a computer.

Chapter 47 Excerpt

Chapter Forty-seven

After Levitsky had finished with his conference, he had the Babble brothers brought to his office. Levitsky felt that he had made it clear to the Secretary and ministers what their assignments were to be and what the consequences would be for disobeying him would be. He had just poured himself another cup of coffee when his secretary brought the brothers in. All three of them, in their own ways, tried to exude an aura of confidence, but Levitsky could smell their fear. “So, gentlemen, I hope that you all have good news to report to me.” The brothers looked at each other, then Warren spoke up: “I’m afraid that we haven’t heard anything yet. They have been told that they are to report directly to us upon a successful completion of their mission.” “I suggest that you call them and tell them that they are to have their missions completed within the next forty-eight hours or they will be terminated.” The way that Levitsky said this made it clear to the brothers that if their assistants failed in their missions, the brothers’ memberships in the Temple’s organization would also be terminated. All three of them assured Levitsky that the assignments would be carried out on time. Levitsky told them that he was to be notified as soon as they heard from the assistants. He then told them to return to their hotel and wait for the calls. After the brothers had left, Levitsky phoned Van Hesse. “Have you heard from Harper, Porter, or Djovic yet?” “Not yet, but I have told them what to expect if they fail.” “I’m afraid that we may have to go to a Plan B. The financial part of the Plan has been put into play and I will not accept any excuses for failure on your end. I think that I will have to bring in Rabisu.” “Rabisu? Not to say that your decision is wrong, but do you really think that it will come to that? Let me talk to them first before you have to resort to calling in Rabisu.” “You have 24 hours before I call in Rabisu. I would hate to have to give him your name as well as the others. Once the Plan is started there will be no turning back. The other brothers and sisters will be notified about their duties; you are to take care of the problem there and I am going to have the Babbles sent back to LA. When they get there, they are to be put under house arrest until their assistants report success, otherwise they will become useless to us and they are to be sent to the cells at Summer’s Place. Is that understood?” “Yes, of course. I will see to it.” “Make sure that you do.” When Van Hesse hung up the phone, he sat back in his chair, ran his hands over his face, then looked up the phone number for Sandra Harper. Invoking Rabisu was only resorted to as a final option.

Anthophobia (Fear of Flowers)

Anthophobia

(Fear of flowers)

The legions traveling with the Emperor Hadrian and his lover, Antinous, were beginning to despise this trip that the Emperor insisted making. The sun of Greece was, like the embodiment of the god Apollo, shooting his arrows of heat and causing the vision of the Romans to blur. One soldier in particular, Flavius Claudius Tibero, however did not mind the heat at all. He was a large man who never complained but always sought to encourage his fellow soldiers by telling them jokes or leading them in a song. It was due to these qualities that the Emperor kept Tibero around him while on his various journeys throughout the Empire. The Emperor raised his head from the scroll that he was reading at that moment and, noticing that some of his men were slowing down, called for a rest stop near an olive grove. The men cheered the decision and rested where ever they could find a bit of shade.

It was at this moment that Tibero removed his helmet and wandered into the grove to look for a place to relieve himself. He had just found a place 100 feet away in order to relieve himself. He was halfway through this process, when a breeze came up and suddenly Tibero found himself in a terrible bout of sneezing. His eyes began to turn red and his nose began to run, all the while trying to control the stream from his manhood. Finally, sensing that he was losing the battle, he started to run back towards the road, but just as he came in sight of his fellow soldiers, and the Emperor, he fell over a root from one of the olive trees and fell face first with his bare buttocks exposed to all. Several soldiers had heard the commotion coming from the grove, but when Tibero fell to the ground in such an embarrassing condition, all the birds in the surrounding trees flew away, frightened by the loud roar of laughter coming from all who saw Tibero.

Tibero, however, did not get angry at the laughter of his fellow soldiers, but rose from the ground, and with a sheepish grin, said

“Who among you has not at one time or another been rudely interrupted when Nature has called? Sadly for me, Zephyrus decided to play me for a fool this time.” Having said this, Tibero looked up and shook his fist at the invisible deity and called out, “I’ll return such insult in kind, you mark my words!”

The soldiers only laughed louder. When the laughter started to die down, the Emperor called out to Tibero,

“And how shall you seek your revenge on a god, my dear Tibero? Shall you hold your breathe and seek to outdo him in your loosening of hot air?”

“No, your Majesty, but I shall wait until we get to Delphi, find his temple and go fart in his stony face!”

“I, for one, would never dare to insult a god, my friend. Maybe you should seek his help instead of his anger.”

“But, your Majesty…”

“No buts, my dear Tibero. While we are in Delphi, all of you shall honor all of the gods. Understood?”

All of the soldiers, including Tibero, nodded their assent, but under his breathe, Tibero muttered, “We shall see who makes who a fool, godling.”

After having their midday meal, the Imperial party resumed their journey to the holy site of Delphi where the Emperor wished to consult with the Pythia. The Emperor and his group were returning to Rome after traveling through the rest of the Empire on what would be considered as a goodwill tour. Before returning to Rome, however, the Emperor, who was an enthusiastic traveler and lover of all things Greek, wished to visit all of the sacred sites of the Empire with the final, and in his eyes, the most Holy of Holy Sites, Delphi. The countryside in this part of the Hellenes was very beautiful and the Emperor’s lover insisted on this route from Athens, where they had landed in Greece, as the most scenic and safest road. Three hours after Tibero’s “unfortunate accident”, the Imperial entourage arrived at the Holy Site. The streets were crowded with vendors and other tourists, some of regal lineage and some who were representatives for such personages who were of such a distrusting nature that they refused to leave their countries in other people’s hands. There were even peasants among the crowds, leading sheep or goats to various temples as offerings to the gods that they had come to seek answers from, or to be more precise, from the god’s priest. The crowd, of course, made way for the Imperial parade, mouths gossiping or gaping as the Emperor rode past them. On occasion, a cheer would go up from some of them and the Emperor would give them a smile and wave. Most of the people in the crowd wished the Emperor well, especially after having gone through the reigns of some not so likeable Emperors. The last Emperor who had made a visit to the Hellenes, without having martial ambitions, had been Nero and he had been barely tolerated.

When the Imperial entourage arrived at an estate on the west side of the complex, the soldiers took their positions while the Emperor’s servants brought in all of the baggage. Tibero and nine other soldiers were on the first shift at the entrance to the estate, which belonged to a Greek olive oil merchant who had done very well since he had a monopoly of his product throughout all of western and southern Greece. The merchant, his family and servants were not at the estate since the merchant had decided that he would conduct some business in Sparta while the Emperor was in Delphi. The merchant had no problem lending his estate to the Imperial party since he had been well paid for the privilege. In the meantime, the Emperor and Antinous staked out their personal quarters. Once settled in, the Emperor sat in the merchant’s office and spent his time going over petitions and other business which related to the running of the Empire.

Tibero was standing at the front gates of the estate, growing bored, when an old woman walked up to him. Tibero instantly became alert and commanded the old woman to stay where she was and inquired what she wanted.

“I am the High Priestess Xenia and I have been summoned by the Emperor to make an appointment for his meeting with the Pythia.”

Hearing this, Tibero called for another guard to stand in for him while he escorted the High Priestess into the Emperor’s presence. The fact that the woman had come alone surprised Tibero and he asked the woman about this. She told him that everyone who came to Delphi recognized her and that it would be sacrilege if any person laid a hand on her.

“If everyone who comes here recognizes you, why did we not?”

The old woman looked at Tibero, gave him a slight smile and said,

“You Romans may be rulers of the world, but you never see the people you rule as people. You see them as commodities.”

Tibero thought about this as they walked towards the steps leading into the mansion, but, having thought it through, simply shrugged his shoulders. He did, though, think of another question that he wanted to ask the old woman while she was there.

“If I may ask one other question, Holy Mother? Is there a temple dedicated to the Anemoi in Delphi?”

“Yes, there is, but why would a soldier be interested in a Temple dedicated to the wind gods?”

Tibero, who had been thinking about how he would repay Zephyrus for playing such an embarrassing trick on him, especially in front of the Emperor, told the Priestess that he was inquiring on behalf of his family who were farmers. Tibero felt no guilt in lying to such a holy personage, but his desire for revenge was stronger than his sense of piety. The priestess accepted Tibero’s explanation and told him where he would be able to find the temple. She also told him that it would also be a good idea to make offerings to the goddess Chloris, who was the goddess of flowers and the wife of Zephyrus. Tibero stiffened slightly when he heard this since he had always had an aversion to flowers since he would go into violent sneezing fits whenever he was around them. Finally, they arrived at the door of the mansion and Tibero told the guard who the woman was and why she was there. The guard saluted the old woman and escorted her inside. Tibero then returned to his post, waiting for the end of his shift so that he could put his plan in action. An hour later, the old priestess made her way out of the house and, as she came up to Tibero, she turned to him, smiled and told him to remember to make the proper offerings to the god and goddess. Tibero thanked the priestess for her advice and directions and when she was out of his sight, said in a low voice, “Oh, don’t worry old crone, I’ll be sure to give them all that they deserve.”

Tibero was finally finished with his shift and he went into a building set aside for the soldiers as a barracks and dining hall. Some of his friends saw him and invited him to go out with them; they had directions to a wine shop which was attached to the temple of Bacchus. Tibero asked them where it was and when he heard that it was close to the sanctuary of the wind gods, he agreed to go with them. After finishing his meal, and having not received any commands from the Emperor, Tibero and his friends headed for the wine shop. When they arrived, they were met by a priest, who was also the proprietor of the shop, who greeted them waving an ivory wand over each man’s head as he entered and a girl who placed a crown of ivy leaves on their heads.

“Welcome, glorious soldiers of the divine Hadrian! Come and drink! Enjoy the beauty of the maenads who are here to entertain you! May the god bless you with his insight! Welcome, welcome!!”

Laughing at the sight of the so-called ‘maenads’, each of the soldiers took the hand of a girl who walked up to them with jugs of wine and sat at a table. Tibero enjoyed himself, but did not let himself get too drunk, so that he could find a way of slipping out of the shop discretely and making his way to the sanctuary of Zephyrus. After drinking two small jugs of wine, Tibero got up from his couch and started to make his way to the door of the wine shop. One of his friends called out to ask him where he was going, so he turned around, smiled and roared, “Out to piss so that I may pray more to the god!” His friends, on hearing this, returned his quip with shouts of laughter and “Aye, to the god!”

When Tibero got out to the street, he leaned against the wall of the wine shop for a moment in order to get his bearings straight. Once the fresh air revived him, Tibero walked down the street towards the sanctuary that the priestess had told him about. It didn’t take him long to find the temple that he was looking for. There was only two torches lighting the fairly small temple, but Tibero managed to find the statue of the god that he was seeking. To the side of the statue of Zephyrus, there was a niche which held the statue of the god’s wive, Chloris. At first, Tibero was a bit reluctant to get too near the statue when he noticed that there were some flowers lying on the goddess’ altar, but he took one of the torches and noticed that the flowers had dried up, so he put the torch back into its holder and advanced a few steps towards the god’s statue.

“So, you find my malady a source of amusement, do you? Well, let me be the first to return the favor.” Having said this, Tibero turned his back to the statue, lifted his robe and let loose with a loud and long fart. Completing his mission, he lowered his robe and, looking over his shoulder, laughed at the statue of the god and took a step towards the temple door. He was almost out of the building when he heard the sound of a wind blowing and, suddenly, a loud voice echoed from the statue.

“Beware, o little man, for your sacrilege! Know that when you return to the land of your birth, I shall revenge myself upon you by using your biggest fear for my weapon!”

Tibero was shaken to the core when he heard this and ran out of the temple as fast as he could. He ran all the way back to the wine shop and grabbed a goblet from one of the women dressed as a maenad. He found an empty couch and, with trembling hands, gulped down the wine. One of his fellow soldier’s noticed Tibero when he ran back into the shop and staggered over to his couch,

“What, o Tibero, has happened? Surely you can not be frightened of the night? Or did some Greek boy try to bugger you while you pissed?” The soldier and his friends laughed out loud when he said this, but Tibero was not listening to them. He took up a nearby jar of wine and drank it, but his hands were shaking so much, that he spilled most of it. Tibero decided that it was a waste of his time trying to get so drunk that he would be able to forget the god’s curse on him, that he got off of the couch, said farewell to his friends and went back to the barracks. Tibero had some difficulty getting to sleep, but eventually, the wine worked its magic, and Tibero fell asleep. The wine had also the additional benefit of making sure that Tibero suffered no ill dreams. The next morning, Tibero was rudely awakened by the captain of the guards, who pushed Tibero off of his cot and unto the floor, telling Tibero that he had ten minutes to report to his post. Tibero looked up at the captain with blurry eyes and throbbing head and slowly rose from the floor and went outside to dip his head in a barrel full of cold water. The horrifying scene from last night was forgotten for the moment and Tibero quickly dressed and ran to relief the guard at the gate. Later in the morning, he was chosen to be one of the soldiers who would accompany the Emperor and Antinous to their meeting with the Pythia.

Two days after Hadrian’s meeting with the Pythia, it was decided that the journey would continue and head back to Rome. At the docks of Delphi, men were loading up triremes with stores and souvenirs for the short trip across the Ionian Sea towards Rome. The Emperor had also decided that since their voyage would bring them close to the isle of Ithaka, that they would make a short pilgrimage to see the sights of the land of the hero Odysseus, who the Emperor and Antinous admired for his wisdom. Tibero was of two minds about returning to Italy since he remembered, after the wine’s fumes cleared from his mind, the words that the statue of Zephyrus had spoken to him. The side trip to Ithaka was, in a way, a relief to Tibero since it meant that his life would be prolonged a while longer. As the ship left the port, Tibero stood at the rail and looked out at the blue waters and then checked the sails to see what direction the wind was blowing. Since the wind was blowing towards the West, Tibero started to sweat since Zephyrus was the god of the west wind. Tibero’s fear was abated when the isle of Ithaka was sighted and the party made land without incident.

Three days later, the imperial flotilla set sail from Ithaka and headed for the port of Brindisium. The sea was relatively calm, the sky was a bright blue with an occasional cloud, and the wind was perfect for this time of year. Tibero tried to keep his mind occupied by shining his armor and sharpening his sword. The Emperor and Antinous stood at the prow of the ship soaking in the fresh sea breeze and chatted. As Tibero stood up to buckle his sword back on, a seagull flew over head and screeched. The seagull had been carrying something in his bill but when he called out, it fell down and landed at Tibero’s feet. Tibero might not have noticed the object since it made no sound when it hit the deck of the ship, but Tibero had looked up, for some unknown reason to himself, and saw the object gently floating down and was a little surprised when the object landed at his feet. It was a single poppy. Tibero stooped down and picked it up gingerly and shivered. A soldier who had been standing nearby at the ship’s rail saw Tibero pick up the flower and noticed that his comrade had turned deathly white.

“What is it Tibero that causes you such fear? Surely, one flower will do you no harm?”

Tibero looked at the soldier, recognized him as one of the men who he had been at the wine shop with, and said,

“Don’t mock me! While in Delphi, I…” but he was reluctant to tell his friend what he had done at the god’s temple and what the god had said to him.

“What? What happened in Delphi?”

“Never mind. All that I will tell you is that a god told me that I would be slain by my biggest fear, and flowers have always been a torment to me. This poppy is no mere flower and this was no mere chance that it landed at my feet. Poppies, as you may know, are the flower of the god Morpheus, the god of sleep and dreams. I see this as an omen.”

“Oh, do you now? And how could you have offended Morpheus?”

“It was not Morpheus who I offended,” Tibero said quietly. “Morpheus is usually, like Mercury, a messenger of the gods and I see this as a fatal reminder.” Having said this, Tibero walked over to the railing, and waiting for a favorable breeze, dropped the flower in the sea. He watched the poppy drop on the top of a wavelet which carried it away, back towards Greece. Ten minutes later, the sound of the military trumpet called out “Assembly” and the soldiers proceeded towards the prow of the ship where the Emperor and his entourage were standing.

“My friends and fellow soldiers, I have called you all to thank you for your loyalty and patience while we have been on this pilgrimage throughout the Empire. I know that it has been over a year since many of you have seen your families. I know that it has been a while since many of you have yearned for the pleasures of Rome (loud cheers). Our journey is nearing its end and I, your Emperor, wish to let you know that this time together has been a great joy to me. The captain has told me that we shall be arriving in Brindisium within the hour. When we arrive, we shall make a slight detour to my villa outside of the city and you all are to be my guests at a feast which I have made arrangements. The day after, we shall head for Rome and when we arrive, it is hoped that the Senate will arrange a triumph for you all. I have sent orders that this is to be done and that there shall be games arranged for a full month. Each man of you shall also receive ten gold denarii as a bonus for your loyal service.” When the soldiers heard this, all throats let out a loud roar of joy and the men turned to each other and clapped each other on their backs. This caused Tibero to forget about the poppy and he joined his friends in a toast to the Emperor. The soldiers dispersed and gathered all of their armaments and other possessions. The captain of the guards walked up to each decurion and let them know what order of debarkation their groups would be in. Tibero’s group would be the last group to debark from the ship once the Emperor’s ship docked.

When the Emperor’s ship docked at the pier of Brindisium, there were people rushing up and tossing rose petals at a path that they thought that the Emperor would walk. The people were held back by soldiers from the local garrison while a welcoming committee waited at the foot of the gangplank. The leader of the welcoming committee had brought his young daughter with him; she had been brought so that she could present the Emperor and Antinous with crowning wreaths of olive leaves. The first rank of the soldiers who had traveled with the Emperor walked down the gangplank and the committee members stepped back a few paces so that the soldiers could keep in formation. The Emperor and Antinous came down the gangplank side by side after the second platoon had disembarked. The Emperor and Antinous stopped a few paces in front of the welcoming committee and, with some nudging from her father, the girl stepped up to the Emperor, who, with a smile on his face, lowered himself so that the girl could place the wreath on his head. Antinous did the same thing and the girl curtsied and ran back to her father. After this, the man gave his welcoming speech which Hadrian listened to very patiently. Some of the soldiers, however, were not as patient and they started to cough softly, lift a leg as if trying to get the blood to flow back into it, or to swat at an imaginary fly.

As a soldier himself, the Emperor was aware of his men’s unease but politeness dictated that he give this official his attention. Fortunately, the man’s speech did not last too long and the Emperor thanked the man, told him that they would be going to the Imperial villa outside of town, and be on the road to Rome on the following day. The party then proceeded to march through the crowd which had gathered, which delighted Tibero and his group who had had to wait on or at the foot of the gangplank while the Emperor was greeted by the local dignitaries.

With eyes straight ahead after his group of soldiers were in their formation, Tibero did not notice the rose petals which had been strewn by the town’s inhabitants. When he did see them, he clenched his teeth and managed to stay in formation. He was glad when the Imperial party had left the boundaries of Brindisium and were on the Via Appia heading for Hadrian’s villa. He breathed easier when he decided that maybe Zephyrus was preoccupied and had forgot about him since he was still alive. Even when marching through the rose petals, he had not been affected which was a relief. When the party arrived at the villa, Tibero stored his belongings and was ready to go see if he could get something to eat from the kitchen, but he was stopped from his goal by the captain of the guard.

“Tibero! You are to report to the Emperor immediately!”

Tibero was shocked by this command and so he asked the captain why the Emperor asked for him.

“I do not know and I would never dare to ask! Now, quickly, man!”

Tibero started to jog towards the villa with more than the heat of the day causing him to sweat heavily. He stopped at the doorway of the courtyard and told the guard that he had been summoned by the Emperor. The man said “follow me” and led Tibero through the courtyard and into a wing of the house where the Emperor met with officials. When Tibero entered the room, he saw the Emperor and Antinous laying on a couch sipping some wine which had been made on the grounds of the villa.

“So, Tibero, I have been informed that you may have insulted one of the gods. Is this true?”

“Yes…but, your Majesty, he started it!” Tibero felt foolish using such a childish excuse but it was the only thing that he could think of at that moment.

“And, if I may ask, which god did you dare to insult? Jupiter? Mars? Who was it man!”

“Zephyrus, your Majesty.”

“Zephyrus? What has the wind god done to you that you dare to commit sacrilege?”

Tibero then proceeded to remind the Emperor of the incident at the olive grove while they were on their way to Delphi. The Emperor looked over at Antinous and, at the same time, they both laughed out loud. “And by what means did you commit this sacrilege,” the Emperor said while trying to look at Tibero with a stern face.

“Well, your Majesty, when the High Priestess came to see you at Delphi, I asked her if there was a temple dedicated to the Anemoi and she told me. That night I went with some of the men to a wine shop which happened to be near this temple. After being at the shop for an hour, I got up to pretend that I needed a pissorium and, instead I went to the temple. While there I gave the god some of my own wind. However, when I was leaving the temple, the god spoke to me.”

When Hadrian heard this, he sat up from his couch and asked Tibero what the god had said to him. Tibero told him and the Emperor sat for a moment thinking over what Tibero had said. While waiting for the Emperor to decide his fate, Tibero shuffled his feet and stared down at the ground. Finally, the Emperor spoke.

“Since our party was able to cross the sea to Brindisium safely, I shall not inflict any lashes on you for your misdeed. However, you are to take a horse from my stable and ride down to the town where there is, I know, a small temple dedicated to the Anemoi and pray for the god’s forgiveness. As an additional punishment, you are also to take a bundle of flowers and put them on the altar of the god’s wife, Chloris.”

“But, my lord,…”

“I will not hear any buts from you Tibero. I shall have my dear friend Antinous here accompany you and make sure that you perform everything that I have commanded. You leave in fifteen minutes.”

“Yes, Majesty.” Tibero then left the room and headed to the stables reserved for the members of the Emperor’s cavalry to choose a horse. Tibero had had some experience riding horses, but it had been a while. He chose a brown filly with a white star between her eyes. Antinous met him at the front gate of the villa with a smile on his face.

“Come, Tibero, try not to be so gloomy. We should only be gone for an hour and it is, after all, your own fault for provoking a god, no matter how minor.”

“I know, my lord, but this would not even have happened if the gods had not afflicted me.”

“Now, are you railing against the other gods too, Tibero?”

Realizing what he had said, Tibero told Antinous that he had learned his lesson and that he would never complain about his lot in life again. Satisfied with Tibero’s answer, Antinous tried to cheer the soldier up.

“Perhaps after you have made your amends, we shall be able to find you a woman to bring you some relief from your dark mood. I’m sure that the Emperor would not object if you brought her back to the villa.”

“Thank you, my lord. That would be nice.”

The trip back to Brindisium flew by quickly as Tibero found that the Emperor’s “boy”, as he was referred to by the soldiers, was a very good companion. Tibero, for a quick second, thought that if he had had the same leanings as Hadrian, that he would have hoped to find a comrade just as amiable as Antinous. The smell of the sea eventually reached the men’s noses and Tibero fell slightly behind Antinous since he knew where the temple to Zephyrus and Chloris was located. They went through the small town square and then turned their horses up a side street for about a half mile. Antinous halted his horse when they reached the site and he looked at Tibero, waved him to get off of his horse, and pointed to a small stall situated at the right hand side of the entrance. At the stall, a young priestess sat on a stool and sold flowers to incoming worshippers.

Antinous said to Tibero: “Remember, don’t be stingy with your offering; the Emperor wishes to know that all of the gods favor him.” Tibero blanched when he saw the priestess, who had heard what Antinous said, get up off of her stool and present him with a large bouquet of roses with some irises interlaced in between each rose. Tibero took a cautious step towards the priestess, then stopped to test the wind, to see if it was blowing from the direction of the flowers. Since he did not start having a sneezing fit, Tibero held the flowers at arms length and asked the priestess how much they cost.

“Three dinarii, kind sir.”

Tibero reluctantly handed the priestess the coins and walked into the temple. Once inside, he stopped for a moment so that his eyes could get adjusted to the weak light coming through the slits carved in each direction which represented each of the four Anemoi. He turned to the left, which represented Zephyrus, the West Wind, and saw the statue of the god and that of his wife. He quickly stepped over to the altar in front of Chloris, placed the flowers in front of her statue, and made a quick bow of obeyance to her. Then, the moment that Tibero had not really been looking forward to; asking Zephyrus’ forgiveness. Tibero was not the sort of man who forgave an insult, no matter who it came from. He looked up at the statue’s eyes and was about to reluctantly ask for the god’s forgiveness, when throughout the temple, a small earthquake shook the building and which was followed by a strong wind. Tibero fell to his knees in fear and was about to pray for the god’s forgiveness when he heard that terrible voice echo around the stones again.

“So you think to avoid your fate when I still see pride in your heart. Go, little man, and accept your destiny.” Hearing this, Tibero leapt up from the cold stone floor and ran out of the temple. Once outside, he jumped on the horse that was waiting for him, which was a bit difficult since the earthquake had caused the horse to become skittish. Tibero whipped the hindquarters of the horse without waiting for his companion to join him. The horse flew down the cobbled street and was in the square in little time. At that exact moment, a strong gust of wind came out of the west and the horse rose up on his hind quarters and Tibero fell off of his back and hit the street. The horse skittered and also fell to the street and landed on Tibero’s body. Tibero had been knocked on the head when he fell and was starting to stand up when the horse knocked him back down and, due to the horse’s weight, killed Tibero. When Antinous arrived on the scene, he found the horse wandering around the square and Tibero’s body lying in a field of rose petals, which the people who had greeted the Emperor and his party, had tossed in his path. Antinous sighed, got down off of his horse, captured the other horse and placed Tibero’s body on the horse’s back.

An hour later, Antinous returned with Tibero’s body at the villa. When the Emperor was informed about what had happened, he ran out to make sure that Antinous was not injured. Satisfied that Antinous was not harmed, the Emperor asked him for more details as they walked back into the building. After hearing Antinous’ story, the Emperor sighed, looked at his lover and said,

“I guess that your little joke in Delphi back-fired.”

A year later, while the Emperor and Antinous were traveling through Egypt, Antinous fell into the Nile River and drowned.