The Youth’s Struggle

The Youth’s Struggle by Deolu Adeleye

I can’t lift this anymore…

That was his only thought…surprisingly, his only existence. Funny how 30 minutes can cause one to forgo all once-considered ‘important’ thoughts, hopes and dreams for just one: relief…he couldn’t help but chuckle to himself.

I can’t lift this anymore…

The commander knew something was wrong ahead…for some reason, the procession had stopped. Not again…

With the weight on his back and shoulders bearing down on and nearly crushing him, he looked around…beside him, two others were carrying similar ones; he couldn’t see clearly through all the blood and sweat on his face, but he was sure they were grimacing under theirs as well.

Suddenly, he realized that not only had he stopped seeing properly, but he’d also stopped. As a result, the procession had stopped behind him. For some reason, his body seemed to disobey, or at least ignore, his brain’s orders to move. Not good, not good! The procession stopped for no one…no one! Not even the injured! If it ever stopped…scratch that, it was the job of the commander to make sure that never happened, and he didn’t perform with kid gloves either. His worst fears were confirmed when he heard the commander’s scream from somewhere behind him carry above the bustle of the procession:

“Ready the whip!”

This was the third time, today. Definitely didn’t look good on his résumé…

As if things couldn’t get any worse, his body proved they could: it, without his permission, authorized a full system shutdown. He collapsed with a huge wallomp!, with the load still on his back of course…try as he did, his body didn’t respond; the coup d’état was complete. Get up! he argued. Do you want that whip tearing your back again!? On thought of the whip, his body shifted a bit, as if in response, only to fall back. Damn the whip! We quit! And right on cue, the commander began his way towards him, as if he’d been monitoring his inner conversation.

And his whip was ready…

The commander was drawing closer, and his stubborn body still didn’t budge: it was way past its limit. Ordinarily, that would be excuse enough for someone else, but the commander? He expected you to break the energy conservation laws and get energy from nowhere!

Move! Shift! Budge! Please! Help me! Help me…

Closer…closer…time seemed to slow down, more and more with each step. The whip dangled in his hand, brown and stained with what must have been the flesh of thousands over decades…the whip was practically a legend itself. He continued to strain against the weight, hoping that something would just happen, a miracle of some sort…nothing so far…

And then it happened; the unimaginable! You know, the kind of stuff you only see in movies, or while pixies are spraying their dust in your eyes and masquerades are dancing around you as their king…yeah, that kind of unimaginable…

For some reason, he just stood there. The whip still dangled in his arm, bouncing forward provocatively, as if angry at its wielder for denying it another meal and deciding to forge on if it only it had its own legs…but the commander? He just stood there…

…and then their eyes met. The bloodied, sweat stained face of the youth…the scarred, battle-worn, death-riddled face of the elder…

…their eyes met…

No, that wasn’t the unimaginable. What happened next, however, was: slowly, the commander sighed, removed his gaze from the youth, looked around, and did the following:

Pointing at one in the procession with no burden, he said, “You! Help the fool…”

Mercy? From him?! No way!

Everyone froze. So startled were they at this once-in-a-blue-moon scene that the blue moon held their gaze so! The commander obviously didn’t like being stared at like that, you could say, because he suddenly jarred, “What are you waiting for?! An invitation?! HELP…THE…FOOL!!!” Quickly, movement resumed, but everyone knew they’d just witnessed one of those moments that was worth a story on anyone’s deathbed…

The youth felt relief as the load began lifting…and for the third time in the same day, he grimaced…

He’d failed, again. As his weight became even lighter due to his current help meet, he couldn’t help but feel like a failure. He wanted to do his parents proud! He wanted to be seen as strong, enduring and unflinching till the end! He wanted to be Superman! Alas, the image of him that’d be forever on everyone’s mind was of the ant that couldn’t bear his burden alone. He felt crushed.

The commander couldn’t help but pity the fool. Wasn’t his fault after all: he’d specifically complained to the queen that he didn’t want anyone green working on this particular food raid. As he spat into the road side, he remembered his simple motto that had kept things running smoothly in the colony for years, and had just been reaffirmed by the day’s events:

During food raids, never trust an amateur ant worker!

 

© Adeleye Adeolu, 2011. All Rights Reserved. No part of this story must be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the author’s permission.

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