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Blood Lust — Just a Bad Dream by Mike Fenton is a historical piece about Augustus Caesar and one of his most terrifying visions...Just a Bad Dream
by Mike Fenton
[Although based on actual people and events, this story is awork of fiction.]
“Ah, never to have married, and childless to have died!”—The Iliad, a favorite quote of Augustus Caesar
There had never in memory been a colder summer than this onein the seaport city of Baiae. The wind clawed facesmercilessly with its cold fingers, and everywhere Gnaeuswent, he could see people wrapping themselves in thickcloaks.
In fact, it froze him to the bone to see one particularlydecrepit crone, sitting in a walkway on one of the morenarrow streets of the marketplace, crying out for bronzepieces.
Gnaeus took a moment to flinch away in disgust. “Damnbeggars,” he muttered.
He strode away purposefully, glancing back at the old man.“Those eyes,” he caught himself saying for no particularreason. He shook himself and continued.
Gnaeus ‘Alani’ Lamia had something to deliver—held in asmall, unobtrusive bag in his hand. He gripped it andsmiled to himself. Cold weather or not, there were justsome things you could never cool.
Gnaeus had just entered the upper-story room of the smallvilla with his package, fully aware of the curious stares ofseveral slaves that passed him on the way. He dismissed itas of little consequence.
He may have been a “nobody,” but he was expected.
Sure enough, sitting at a bench—apparently asleep—was thesolicitor of this favor. Julia.
Gnaeus almost didn’t recognize her, and his first impressionwas apparently one of a man losing his way. His thick,curly eyebrows shot up, and he nearly asked where he was.
Julia turned at the sound of him entering and smiled in away that both thrilled him and terrified him. She gesturedin a way that was casu l and suggested a coyness belied byher complete lack of clothing. It suddenly occurred to himthat this was the same woman he had met the day before—now,merely disguised by her nudity.
“Ah,” she purred, “you brought the wine.”
He hesitated for a moment, evidently thinking that theywould be interrupted at any moment. The possibility didn’tseem to bother her.
“If you’re waiting for payment,” she added, somewhat wryly,“you’re going to be disappointed.”
“I thought you were alone,” Gnaeus softly commented.
“I am alone,” Julia remarked. “And, as you can see, I havenothing to protect me.” She winked at him and added,“Maybe you can be a man and make sure no one tries to takeadvantage of me.”
Gnaeus had a brief moment to appreciate the situation. Herehe was, holding a bottle of wine in a private room with abeautifully-built, young, naked woman—and she was coming onto him. He grinned and approached, nearly forgettinghimself.
“Uh—” Julia started, looking back over the table she wassitting just behind, “set the bottle over here. We’ll havesomething to drink, first, yes?”
“Oh,” he remarked—suddenly looking about as thoughtful as astatue—while Julia giggled.
The old man shivered, pulling his cloak around him moretightly. He continued holding out his hand to strangers.
“Just a few bronzes,” he would beg. Some would scowl andfling a few coins at him, some would turn away in disgust,but most of them would simply glance his way uncertainly—asif trying to settle some doubt—then quickly move on.
Thurinus would always pull away in sudden terror at thosemoments—moments just before recognition was surelyimminent—then sigh with relief when they moved on.
That was his real name, of course. The one he was neverashamed to call himself in this farce he called life. Thiswas his real fate—not the fate his mother had tricked himinto having.
He didn’t want to rule the world—he wanted his truedestiny. To be a grimy, stinking beggar.
“Please,” Thurinus begged an old woman, “just a bronze ortwo?”
A young man came along at that moment and kicked him in theface. “Stop bugging my aunt, you disgusting old man!”
“Thank you, Sir,” Thurinus thanked the young man. “Ideserve no less.”
“Damn right!” the young man barked. “Come on, Auntie.These beggars make me sick!”
Julia was straddled on Gnaeus’ naked lap, oddlyintrospective. Normally, she would be howling like a cat.
Something was bothering her, today. Maybe it was thesuddenness of the chance encounter that had brought Gnaeusto her. Maybe it was the cold weather. Maybe there weretoo many things on her mind, lately.
Maybe it was her old friend Phoebe, staring from behind theedge of the door.
“Hey, Phoebe,” she called out. “If you like staring somuch, why don’t you come in and get a closer look!”
“Damn!” Gnaeus muttered. “Someone’s watching?”
Julia chuckled to herself as she heard Phoebe running backdown the stairs and turned Gnaeus’ head back toward her, soshe could kiss him.
She had another odd moment while in one of her moreexplosive bouts of pleasure to think about warmer summers—when her thoughts would turn to simple pleasures of beingyoung. She was never allowed to run and play with otherchildren—she had made a game out of spying on other wealthynobles or stealing their favorite possessions when theyweren’t watching. She always thought fondly of those times—especially whenever she would get caught and have to bepunished.
The punishments were always the sweetest memories.
“Fuck!” Gnaeus cried out, giving way to a shuddering orgasmof his own.
Julia reached out for the bottle, using it momentarily tokeep herself propped up, then taking a long drink, whileGnaeus fought to catch his breath—snuggling his facebetween her breasts.
Thurinus was momentarily blinded by a sudden reflection,then realized it was just sunlight glinting off of coinsbeing hurled his way. He collected the coins into a cup,thanked the man who had thrown them, and sat back againstthe wall of the shop.
It had been a long day, but it wasn’t over yet. He couldstill sense the hunter in his mind. Especially at theseslow times in the day.
He suddenly found himself running through the forest, justahead of a much taller young man in hunting clothes. Heleaped over a stream and found a horse. The old man easilyclimbed onto the horse and spurred it onward, but the youngman continued to keep pace.
“Octavian,” the voice called out.
Just at that moment, the horse threw him, and he fell to theground with a heavy thud.
He looked around and saw a huge snake slithering his way,and he cringed backward in terror.
A young woman looked down at the old man, flinching insurprise as she gazed upon him.
“Oops!” she exclaimed, suddenly giggling. “Sorry, old man!”
Thurinus continued looking up at the young woman’sretreating form, giving no hint in his face of thediscontent in his mind.
Julia and Gnaeus were sitting at the bench, swapping thebottle back and forth till it went empty. She looked intothe bottle, and chucked it away, disappointed.
“Empty?” he asked.
“Yep,” she answered, a little unsteady. “All in here.” Shepatted him on the stomach, then began caressing him.
“So,” he remarked, “you really went through that wine.”
“You too,” she said.
“Yeah, but you knock it back pretty good.”
“You might not have noticed,” she said, gesturing around,“but I like the finer things in life. Nothing is too goodfor Julia Lucius Paulus Agrippa Octavius Caesar the fourth.”
Gnaeus seemed doubtful while Julia laughed.
“And besides,” she added, running her fingers through hishair, “I was given a choice.”
“Yep,” she replied. “Wine or a husband. Grandpa didn’tlike the choice I made, so he made it again for me.”
“You’re married?” Gnaeus asked, a little alarmed.
Julia sighed and answered, “That’s right. I’m being very,very naughty.”
Gnaeus groaned as Julia snickered.
“Don’t keep fighting me, Octavian,” the voice called out.
The old man looked around again, finding himself in theforest. Now, he could see the young man was really a youngwoman—so athletic and graceful that she gave him theimpression of being a man.
“You can’t hide from me forever, you know.” The voice wassoft and seductive, like a lover.
Thurinus cringed in horror, seeing the woman’s ice-cold eyesglide right by him—her face like the face of a statue.
He had always prided himself on giving a very sereneexpression, but this woman’s calm was enough to shatter hispretense to shards. His exterior serenity gave way like anelephant on a glass bridge.
“No,” he muttered. “I don’t want to be that man—notanymore!”
The woman twisted toward him like a bird, suddenly spottingits prey. She smiled and lunged toward him in a swiftmotion.
Thurinus gasped as he suddenly realized he was back in themarket square. He was out of breath, and people werelooking at him strangely, so he slowly calmed down and wentback to begging for coins.
Later that day, Julia and Gnaeus were lying in a bed, onceagain spent from ardent intercourse.
“I don’t normally do this,” Julia confessed, “but this hasbeen a damn good day. I just want you to know that.”
“I don’t normally do this, either,” Gnaeus also confessed.“It would have been perfect, too, if I hadn’t bumped intothat beggar on the street.”
“Yeah. For some weird reason, I can’t get him out of myhead.”
Julia started laughing again.
“That beggar,” she explained, “is my grandfather—theemperor. The mighty ruler of the world. Augustus,himself.”
Thurinus was returning to his home, just as daylight wasturning to evening—he could never bear to be alone atnight. It wasn’t so much the darkness, as what he expectedwas lying in wait for him.
Just as he thought of it, he was suddenly there again.
The dark forest. The manly woman with the cold eyes. Thosecold hands—somehow, he could never avoid thinking aboutthose hands.
He opened his mouth to speak, but was suddenly incapable ofspeech.
“I’ve caught you, Octavian,” she said. “Now, you’re mine.I’m going to keep you until the end of time. Body andsoul.”
Then, for some strange reason, a fear welled up inside ofhim so incredible that he could swear his body was moving ofits own will. He witnessed himself rip himself away fromthe strange woman and somehow escape from her.
Some logical part of his mind told him he was a fool andthat he might actually enjoy being captured, but everyinstinct in his body prodded him onward.
“You can’t hide from me, Octavian!” she called out. “It’suseless. I can always find you, later. You are going to bethe ruler of the world, after all!”
Thurinus hurried himself through the evening streets, as thedream faded from his mind.
“You won’t find me,” he muttered to himself. “No way.Never.”
“So,” Gnaeus asked, “why does he dress up like a beggarevery year?”
“Something to do with a dream,” Julia replied. “I don’tknow. Lots of people have asked, but he never says why.”
“A dream, huh? He’s afraid of a dream?”
“He’s afraid of lots of things. He’s nuts, you know.”
Thurinus came to the door of his home, and was greeted bythe strange woman. A numbness crept over him, like beingencased in ice, as she stared at him.
“I told you it was useless,” she said.
“I know,” he said. “But I couldn’t help myself.”
“It was Fate. Your days are numbered. Soon, you will bemine. And so will your family.”
The fear returned again. “My family?”
“Of course,” the woman responded, a little smug. “You arethe disease—and, now, they are all infected.”
“Even my—” he tried to say it.
“Even your precious little girls.” The woman laughed in hercold way and vanished into the night.
That summer was cold beyond anyone’s expectations. Up inthe mountains, it was said that there was snow in September.Thurinus was back to being Augustus, but the cold neverquite left him. He couldn’t escape the dream—though hestill had to try.
[Suetonius writes that Augustus was very superstitious up tothe day that he died and that he exiled his daughter andgranddaughter in vain—Julia the Younger even had a child,despite the fact that she supposedly had no male company ofany kind.]