The deep violet blackness hid any predators that might hide in this cave. I scooted back until I reached the cracked rock walls, which rubbed against my back. I looked around, hoping for some light so that I could see what dangers lurked here.
I could hear my breathing, hard and rapid. I tried to slow it down. In the background I could hear a slight whisper of footfalls and breath. I couldn’t tell if it was walking towards me or away from me. I was alone.
My fear ratcheted as strained to hear the steps. It stood in front of me and I could feel its warm breath in my face. I reached towards this thing and felt soft fur on its legs. When I looked into its eyes, the yellow eyes, I knew it could hear my breath and my heart beat.
It roared. I screamed. I tried to scoot back farther, but I was trapped between the thing and the wall. “Mommy, mommy, mommy,” I cried, my voice pitched higher.
I could feel it shake me as I tried to escape and kick.
“Hush, hush, shhh,” a soft voice whispered in my ear. “Wake up. Wake up. You are safe here.”
I came to in the darkness. A small candle was in her hand, my aunt was now my guardian. “Hush,” she whispered, as she gently stroked my face.
My heart calmed. The beat in my head became fainter. I was in the real world, a world where my parents had been killed for being rebels to the Roman government. They had been thrown in the gladiator’s ring and in front of my very eyes they had been eaten.
When I had been released in the streets, my aunt had found me. We had run from Rome. Still the nightmares haunted me. The panther who had eaten my parents was a metaphor in my dreams. One day I would come back. I would kill Caesar and sack his cities.
“I promise,” I whispered to the six year old child in the dream.