Lucia, the daughter of the richest
family in Pompeii, disappears one night. The mystery goes unsolved and life
moves on. The lives of Pompeii's citizens intertwine: Ibis, a prostitute
running the whorehouse owned by the Aedile, a city official, gets murdered by
his wife Lucy. Lucy falls in love with Narcissus, the most treasured gladiator
in Pompeii. The Aedile's daughter, Julia, marries Rust, the man suspected to
have murdered Lucia. Maro, Lucia's slave, holds the families together and
eventually discovers Lucia when she reappears in Pompeii twenty years later,
and as a witch.
The events in Pompeii converged and
lead to its ultimate, inevitable destruction. Only Lucia can help the city and
save lives. In a ceremony requiring possession by a god, murder, and
necromancy, Lucia discovers what is going to happen. But not everyone manages
to get away.
Dying in Pleasure brings to life
the long dead city of Pompeii, showing its citizens as vibrant, eccentric
pleasure seekers. History, pain, violence and ritual blend in a pansexual orgy
that is both exciting and extreme from beginning to end.
LUCIA REFERRED to
her patron goddess as Father.It was
more respectful, a gesture insisted upon to mirror and mock Lucia’s upbringing:
the Roman father is the family’s absolute authority.His power is unquestioned.The lives of his family are to do with as he
wishes.In essence, he is the god of the
Lucia howled in
rage on the hills; it wasn’t a wholly unique incident, but it wasn’t uninspired
by Rust and Maro either.Lucia had grown
accustomed to venting her rage in loud spectacles in nature.Her Father was pleased and Lucia could hear
Her approval.She liked Lucia to
explode: to remain pent up, repressed, and quiet not only kept the emotions in,
it kept her power in.
Lucia wanted to
wander the fields and find Father in the wilderness, but she was nervous to
stray too far from the villa.On the
edge of the woods, now darkening in dusk, Lucia could smell Bacchus out there;
He was running toward her at full speed, like an animal galloping toward its
prey.She could hear blood engorge His
Penis, and the sound was a storm in her ears.If she stepped into His wilderness, He would fall upon her.Father would think the action, the willingness
to enter the realm of another god, as disloyalty, a kind of cheating, and give
Lucia up to His angry hunger.
opposite direction, Lucia started on the road back toward the city, to the
necropolis she had visited during the night.The trip had been fruitless—the dead shrinking in terror from her like
beaten dogs.She was used to fear, but
nothing this intense or reckless.The
dead were insulting in their terror, shrieking silent obscenities at her.Rather than taking it badly, and snuffing out
what little power their trapped souls possessed, she walked away silently and
Lucia returned to
the entombed urns, and felt them quake from her approach.Normally, having received such hostility and
unwillingness from the dead to be helpful, Lucia would respond with threats and
violence.Perhaps seduction was more in
In the language of
the dead, Lucia said, “Don’t be afraid.I need your help.”
In their language
(with Latin accents from the freshly deceased, who still retained memories of
Latin), they replied in an overlapping, echoing gaggle of sounds: “Keep away.”
“I only want to
speak with one of you.”
whimpered dusty, silent heaves.
“One of you
approached me.One of you has been
haunting my dreams.One of you brought
me back to Pompeii.I want to speak with
her.If you help me find her so I can
speak to her, I will do you no harm.I
swear by my Father.”Lucia, of course,
didn’t use the term Father to the dead—she used one of her goddess’s real name,
the name in the language of the dead.It
made the dead shake, the necropolis stones tremble.Her seriousness startled them; she was
trapped by her oath, and they knew her Father would make her keep it.
They had no choice
really but to answer her, for by refusing would bring her wrath down upon
them.They echoed and reechoed, chanted
one word which became for them a plead for peace: Ibis.
Repeating the name
to herself, Lucia let Ibis bring her to her.There was a small entombment on the east side where the dead poor
lodged.The tombs were less than tombs,
less than places for remembering, inhabited by people who were hardly regarded
in their lifetimes; but these were ghettos for ashes also thought too powerful
to allow in the city, or cast aside in a rubbish heap.Dead beggars, madmen, slaves, whores, and
gladiators there trembled at Lucia’sapproach.Her voice thundered
Ibis and the souls swept aside as if by a blast of wind, leaving Ibis alone to
face her.Invisible, but a clear, solid
form to Lucia herself, Ibis stood facing this woman she knew in life only as a
through Ibis’s formlessness and forced the soul of the dead prostitute to
assume a physical form.Only so Lucia
would have something to look at and speak to.Even Lucia preferred to have a face when having a conversation: Lucia
treasured the luxury of normalcy and insisted upon it whenever dealing with the
dead—no matter what pain it caused.Ibis
winced in the cramped confinement being in her former shape.
“Tell me what you
moved, and Lucia knew it would require a few moments for Ibis to accustom
herself to her form again.She sighed
impatiently: she had no patience for the dead, and their suffering, struggles,
and pain angered and annoyed her.At
first, speaking with the dead had been a horror.Repetition made it an annoyance, and
sometimes Lucia wondered if her severe irritation was only self-protection.
especially bothersome to Lucia.In form
and in formlessness, Ibis was stained as murdered souls are.
“Help.Julius,” Ibis said with trembling lips.She spoke not normally, but in a shrieking
rage.The stones quivered.
Lucia sighed.“Julius who?”
“What’s wrong with
“I have no time to
be running errands for you,” Lucia said.
“I have been
begged by more pathetic souls than you and if you annoy me more I will
“Then why speak to
me at all?” Ibis asked.
She advanced on
Ibis but Ibis didn’t move.Lucia found
herself staring closely into the pained face struggling to hold itself
together.Lucia could see how Ibis’s
pale cheeks swarmed in flesh colors like millions of bees.There was even a small buzz of energy.It was more disturbing that Ibis didn’t
flinch.Lucia wasn’t accustomed to
seeing the dead this close.Lucia arched
her eyebrows.It was rare to find a dead
soul with the ability to think quickly.“You brought me to Pompeii for a reason.I thought it was for something more important than carrying messages.”
“I didn’t bring
you,” Ibis said.“You came on your
own.You wanted to come home.”
Lucia opened her
mouth to argue, but couldn’t find anything to say.She felt shame, as it was entirely possible
it was true.
Ibis said, “Help
Julius.Something horrible will happen
“I don’t care
about the Aedile.”
Lucia stepped back
as Ibis began to cry.Ibis’s tears were
would not be enough to move Lucia.She had
heard more virulent entreaties and extinguished these souls who asked for
less.But as Ibis cried—an unusual
occurrence for a soul—the other dead echoed her “Something horrible”.Then it became a chant of “horrible horrible
horrible”, not just in this necropolis, but all over Pompeii. As if all the
dead were chanting to Lucia.
This had never
happened before, and Lucia felt afraid.
Lady Ristretto spent the beginning
of her career writing under her real name and as a playwright. She has a BA in
English from UCLA and an MFA in playwriting from Southern Illinois University,
Carbondale.Her plays were produced in
Illinois and Texas, and her most popular work, Wonderland in Alice: The
Uncertainty Principle was produced in New York off off off Broadway.
Her first book, Dying in Pleasure,
had been a full length play that was rejected as her thesis play: the
professors on her committee felt it was too misogynistic and violent for
undergraduates to stage. Always stubborn and obsessed, Lady Ristretto spent
years rewriting the play into a novel and has recently published it as an ebook
on Amazon and Nook. Lady has recently become obsessed with cricket and deeply
wishes America would form a formidable team which is worthy to compete in the