Chapter 1 : Carthage
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You told me once that people are like cities. The first time you set your foot there you are in awe of the bright lights calling you like sirens, of the wonders that hide around every corner, of how alien and foreign and new and promising everything is. Then you start learning the names of the streets and finding your way without a map. Things lose their sparkle with time, but at least they become more familiar. The scent of the city becomes the scent of your skin, and then, the city is yours.
I let you roam in my streets endlessly, drawing the map of my city, and you trusted me enough to let me explore the seedy underbelly of yours. We became sister cities of a sort when you gave me the keys to your city and pledged eternal allegiance, all in hopes that I would do the same. You wanted to conquer my city in that peaceful way, but I would not surrender. And for a time there was a truce, because though my city was not under your reign, at least it was under no one else’s.
So I should have known, when you saw him standing on my battlements, the flag of the stag flapping in the strong eastern wind next to that of the doe, his coat of arms and mine merged into one, that this meant war and you would come for me.
If you couldn’t have me, then no one could.
You were never spoilt as a child; your parents could never afford it. No, not too little money; too little love. But you always acted spoilt that way, somehow. What was yours, was yours. Like a child who would rather break his toy than give it to someone else. I always wondered how this came to be.
If my city was not yours, never yours, then it ought to be destroyed. No one was to rule over it if you were not to. Soon you would declare your holy war, and I would wait on my highest turret to see your attack.
You would be methodical about it. You were always practical, calculating. Thinking one step ahead of everyone else and forming intricate strategies for things to go your way, even though they rarely did. Always planning a new strategy when things did not go your way, planning the one that would bring you revenge.
You would take your time with me; gather your army of one and camp outside my walls, planning your last and best stratagem. And I would wait, standing defiant on the bastions next to my patron saint, predicting all your moves and daring you.
Be merciless and take no prisoners. (This isn’t about that after all, this is about destruction). Burn the crops in my fields, saw my earth with salt and make it barren. Uproot my trees and slaughter my herds, and let their blood appease the thirst of the scorched land. Then waste no more time, charge. Command your army of one to invade the city (my city, the one you had pledged to protect), tear down the walls and pillage my temples. Burn it to the ground and drag the corpses of my defenders outside of my city’s walls, and let them fester under the sick yellow sun; call the vultures to come, there would be a feast.
They would answer your call and tear the flesh away to uncover the bones, white, dry, imperious. The sky would weep at the sight of this atrocity, shedding tears of acid that would corrode the bones. Their last shred of glory, that of unexpected and reverential beauty, would be lost too.
Not his bones, though. His body would not be among those of the ones who fell for me. This city would be no second Troy for you; he would be no Hector and you would not be the Achilles who would drag his lifeless body around the walls of the city still under siege, ridiculing him in death because you couldn’t do it in life. There was a time that you would have dreamed of that, but not any more. This time you would want him to remain unscathed, and stand on the smoking ruins of my city and cry for its destruction. You finally decided that in order to hurt him, you would have to hurt me. Does that mean you thought he truly loved me?
On the smoking ruins you would stand too, and you would cover me with the shroud you had carefully woven for me, letting him watch from afar, because this is what it was all about. He once saved your life and so you could never kill him, but perhaps you could uncover my face once again and for the first and last time you could make him watch you claim my lips, because you may be human, but you were still a man. If you couldn’t have me, then no one could. Not even you.
This would be no Troy; this would be Carthage.
I waited, standing on the battlements of the city that still stood whole and proud; waited for you to come and deny the man who held my hand the very hand he held. If you couldn’t have me then no one could and you would rather lose me altogether than lose me to someone else.
When you didn’t come, I wondered if it was because you loved me more than I thought, or not enough.
A/N: "Carthago delenda est" roughly translates as "Carthage must be destroyed" and is how Cato would always (to the point of absurdity) finish his speeches in the Roman senate. He got his way eventually, as Carthage was burned to the ground. I hope he was happy.
I'm really not sure about the tenses in this one - I had a strong impulse to write it in present tense. Do you think it would work better?
Thanks for reading, and reviews are more than welcome! Pretty please? :)
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