“I dream because my life is never going to be this, and I yearn.” A work of creative fiction that strikingly finds an author imagining the afterlife thoughts of Roman general and statesman Lucius Cornelius Sulla…
by: James Bychowski
I’ve experienced this ancient sort of wonder in dreams — I only feel it when I sleep. It’s a sensation of heaven. I’m out in a desert staring up at mountain range and on it is an enormous ancient Greek temple that was built by giants, actual gigantic men.
I’m small, I think to myself, but part of this. I’m with the gods. I have no fear and there are no ghouls swimming around in my head. Everything is earthly, but pure.
The arid wind of the ancient world is cool. It comforts. There are flowers on hillsides in between rocks and spiny bushes. I hear the earth, the mountains, the sand ticking against boulders. The sun is gold and lights the edges of terra with revelation. Everything is gigantic and spectacular, and I’m human, and I revere God just because I am — I really do exist! I tell myself that I’m actually ancient, which then prods me further into reasoning that this is authentic, entirely real. I can sense the gods in their palaces on the tops of mountains and God himself with his arms out over the galaxies. I dream because my life is never going to be this, and I yearn.
As I drift away from the Gods, I’m defeated, still bound to the ghouls now once again swimming in my head.
The glimpse comes, and it disappears, and I can only remember that I’d dreamt it.
We’re all one through our blood over all time.
Some of us actually do, whereas most of us only witness. Whether doing or witnessing, we all know something about everything that has ever happened because it is in our blood. It lives in blood. I’m not talking about knowing the psychology of who did or who witnessed. I mean the events and time and sounds and scents and visions. Psychology is obviously an individual thing. Only what has happened is shared.
I wanted to understand something, so I imagined the cerebrations of a dead man, a man in the afterlife who’d held supreme power while alive, a man who had slaughtered for the glory of Republic, a man who had unapologetically butchered for Divinity. Now, you can say that I imagined what he might say, or maybe I just pretended I was him, or maybe I am him, or maybe we’re all him, which leads us back to the point: We’re all just one being. We’re all just doing the same thing, and we all experience everything that everyone has done as if we’ve either done it ourselves or witnessed others as they did it. There are memories of things that we or others have done in our time, but we also have these generational memories that are passed forward through blood. I suppose that what has been done to let blood throughout time is what this whole thing is about — that’s what I’m trying to understand. The slaughter, man. The hatred, the violence. The red glow of massacre. Virility, not impotence. Blood.
LUCIUS CORNELIUS SULLA:
“After it all, this Vesuvian outrage, the principle survives even though the hatred itself has cooled and now rests with exhaustion. When I look into the faces of citizens, I understand that what withstands and grows is the copper-tainted vampire. The petals of delicate field flowers are snuffed because to be strong is to murder. To rule, one must kill with calculation and without regret. There are lies that heat human beings. A black force will always master. The Gods need us. They thirst. Those ideas in your head are simply their veiled suggestions which you use.
There are some of us who have been dropped and distributed into this madness for comical purpose, but I, like most, am malicious. I am a being with eyes and nose. I am one of you, a starlight in conscience. And I need Gods, and Gods need blood, your blood. Life does not proliferate. Death turns the fire. I said that I did this for Rome, to restore the Republic, but this was a misstatement. I used pontifical revelation to slake the appetite of divine superintendence, nothing else.
With this inspiration, I, Lucius Cornelius Sulla, a patrician by birth but a demi-monde by life, drove my armies. I stood with armored men flanked by lictors. The escorts held fasces and axes on their shoulders as an emblem of Venusian gratitude, for I seduced women to pry open my barriers. And I used Her sanction to turn my slaughter on citizens, to cleanse a Republic corrupted with the filth of kingship.
I then dictated as Felix because our blades must never need to be drawn again against citizens infixed with noble weakness. Blades are to be used with a singular purpose. We must let blood only to appease divine insistence. Thusly so, men will never see a need to anoint themselves king because only the Gods need blood. And we must give them blood. We must. The Republic must emphatically stand above all, and it does this with blood offerings. And, as a staff raised that can be snake or fulcrum, do not tell me of descendant dictators just because I lit the passage. I did this once, so it would never need to be done again. Do not ever pretend to be me. I will see. I will know.
The ghosts have stripped me of depravities in death, and with their antagonism in life I murdered hundreds of thousands of you, oh men lit with starlight. Without the ghouls, I would have miscarried the insistence of the Gods. Now think about that, citizens. Think about that!
The petals of the field now flit delicately thus, and they do so in a time that now quietly rolls. A space has been cleared. And the Republic is honored and nourished because I, Lucius Cornelius Sulla, filled the Tiber with Italian revolutionaries. I clogged the waterway with Samnite corpses. And it was I who made the heretical homes of Roman patricians drip Hell from their butchered bones. I rid the world of these Marian profligates, these usurers and their baths of Orata.”