I, Tawdrius is an X meets Y sort of flash fiction for today. The idea came to be while I was waiting for a bus, and the story I wrote in my head on the bus was much better than this one. However, it’s here in its 700 word glory for you to make of it what you will.
Tawdrius the scholar looked up from his scrolls. He could hear the town crier calling the latest news. Surely he’d got it wrong. Tawdrius stood up, but was prevented from leaving by the entry of his cousin, Prunella.
“You’ve got to stop him, Tawdrius. This has gone too far!”
“Wh-w-w-what has gone too far?”
“Surely you’ve heard? He’s going to proclaim himself a god!”
Tawdrius sank onto the nearest lounger.
“Taligula? A god? Well, it won’t make m-m-much difference w-w-will it, surely?”
“He’ll be able to do anything he likes then!” Prunella wrang her hands and paced. Tawdrius shrugged his tunic straight.
“Wh-w-w-what do you expect m-me to do any-w-w-way?”
“Surely you can stop him. He’s gone too far this time.”
“Grandfather! He knows nothing.” Prunella’s scorn was vitriolic. “He still thinks the palace works the way it did when Nixius was in charge.”
“W-w-well, he got his comeuppance in the end.”
“Not without people doing something to stop him. Good people. People like you.”
Tawdrius held up his hands. “I’m just a simple scholar. I’m w-w-writing the family history, nothing m-more.”
“You could write it so that people understand, so they don’t believe the lies he feeds us.”
“The people know, they understand. They can see wh-w-what’s going on.”
“The people don’t see! How can they? They only see what he’s doing to them. Did you hear what that stupid adviser said the other day? ‘Cancel all the clean air programs because people get sick in clean air.’ As if!”
“People can’t afford to get sick. Not any m-more.”
“Well, there you are then. And Mercenius in charge of the drains and sewers – he’s the one that blocks them up with his horrible slurries!”
“M-m-mercenius is a capitalist, and wh-w-w-at Taligula likes is someone to oppose the anti-capitalist liberal left.”
“People who oppose filth and disease are not anti-capitalist liberal lefties. They’re decent human beings. You oppose it yourself!”
“I do wh-w-w-what I can.”
“Well, do something now!”
She swept out in a flurry of satin. Tawdrius recognised the lingering perfume and wondered how she could afford it. What could he do, anyway? Taligula had swept into power, set about destroying all the decent things Iberius had done before him, undoing decades of solid growth in the economy, and blaming the economic downturn on rebel factions and imagined foes in the far parts of the empire—parts that Taligula could hardly name, let alone place on a map.
Prunella was right, though. The ordinary people were suffering the most. If he wasn’t careful, Taligula would cause an uprising. And all those toadying hypocrites he surrounded himself with would place the blame on the educated classes. Of which Tawdrius was one. Tawdrius suddenly wished he hadn’t had so much dinner. Not that he ate much, with his delicate constitution, but still.
What could be done, though? While Taligula was in power, he had absolute right to appoint these idiots to high positions. The one good thing was that as they were so obviously idiots, every inane proclamation they gave was laughed at by the populace and dissected line by line by the Senate. They fed their interpretation through the taverns, so the lower classes got the message. It was a system that worked, despite Taligula.
There was no way of ousting Taligula from power, unless he did something so heinous that the Praetorian guards took him away in the night.
What might cause them to do that?
Tawdrius thought hard.
When Taligula’s horses won the chariot race at the games—a win that was, shall we say, manufactured by the other competitors—he declared they should live in splendour in the palace with him. That was followed shortly thereafter by the declaration that they were gods.
It was one more step towards declaring himself a god. The populace finally had enough when he declared his daughter would be his next wife.
The Praetorian guard took swift action, arresting Taligula, his former wife and family, Mercenius and a dozen other hangers on, and bustled them through the streets at the dead of night to the Praetorian headquarters. In the melee, Taligula suffered a fatal accident.
Such a shame.
The question was, who on earth would sort his mess out?
© J M Pett 2017