Brutus

I shiver and pull my cloak closer, the ragged fabric barely staving off the cold wind. Dead leaves and twigs hidden beneath the thin snowfall crunch under my feet. The falling snow rapidly fills in the footprints behind me. A labyrinth of trees surrounds me, the rough bark of the weathered oaks forming an impenetrable barrier. Because the jagged branches of the trees, devoid of any sign of life, cover up the stars and the moon, the light from the torch in my hand barely scratches the surface of the night.

Standing beside me is Caesar, his hand outstretched. He wears his Roman centurion battle gear: golden armor plates, an olive branch helm, and a red cloak. I see the dusty torch light reflected in the gold, but Caesar himself seems to radiate an exuberant glow, filled with vitality. I give him the torch, glad to let him lead me.

Caesar gestures for me to follow. He leads the way through the forest, weaving around trees and under branches. The snow deepens with every step I take, but he pushes ahead. I brush aside frozen vines and step over gnarled roots as I follow Caesar’s light.

We reach the mouth of a cavern. A jagged outcrop hangs above us, and chunks of snow fall from the edge. The black void in front of us swallows up the torch light. I’m thankful for the shelter as we enter the cave, but the hardened stone below my feet emits a piercing coldness sharper than the howling wind outside.

Suddenly, Caesar stops. He turns around and sneers. With a swift swipe, he extinguishes the torch. Behind him, a massive serpent appears. Its glowing eyes bathe the cavern walls in a malignant blue light. The serpent flicks its tongue, exposing rows and rows of white fangs. It twists to look at Caesar, who points at me. In silent acknowledgement, the serpent slithers toward me. I stand, paralyzed, as the jaws of the snake close around me, and Caesar is laughing, laughing, laughing…